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Is That Deductible? "Dad, Fire, & Cultivating Gratitude"

Nov 27, 2023

A Busy Month

The past month has been incredibly busy and filled with emotions for me.

The month began with a tragic event: my dad's passing due to the effects of Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam in the 1960s. His health had been declining over the past year, allowing our family to gradually grieve and prepare for his death. However, the finality of his passing was still very difficult, even though our faith-filled hope provides some comfort, knowing that we will see him again on the other side.

At the exact moment of his death, another major incident occurred: my house caught on fire.

The Fire

During my dad's last hours on Earth, my wife and I were by my mom and dad’s side. However, our son, who was at our home, urgently called us during this time, informing us that our home was on fire. Without hesitation, we swiftly got into our car and made the 20-minute drive back home. Upon arrival, we discovered that the fire department had blocked off all roads as they worked diligently to contain a fire that had originated in our neighbor's garage.

We actually have two properties in close proximity - our personal home and our guest house. Both properties were damaged by the fire, but fortunately, there were no injuries. Most of the damage to our belongings was to my personal property and memorabilia contained within my garage, which is attached to my home. Thanks to the swift action of my local fire department, the fire was contained within the garage and did not spread to my heavily wood filled home, which was built in 1870. Sadly I had recently decorated and organized my garage, which serves as my man cave. We keep all our shoes and coats stored there, so as winter settles in here in the Midwest, it wasn’t great timing. I am grateful that my new Range Rover was not inside at the time. Unfortunately, our neighbor's garage and the vehicle inside were completely destroyed by the fire.

All of this happened just two days before our journey to Kenya for a CME trip and an evening speaking engagement that I had in Chicago at the Lawndale Christian Health Center the night prior to our flight.

Despite the challenges and hardships, I did not cancel my clinic schedule for the next day (in part because I would be away for 2 weeks), and I managed to push through. Meanwhile, my wife diligently connected all the dots regarding our insurance policies for both dwellings, arranged for ServePro to conduct their initial intake, and essentially organized everything to ensure a smooth transition before our trip abroad.

My Dad’s Memorial

My sister and I, my mom, the funeral home, and the church worked together to arrange my dad's memorial service, which took place two days after our return. Thankfully, my dad's passing had been anticipated as he was in hospice care, allowing us to have discussions about his preferences and plan accordingly. I had the responsibility of writing his obituary, and we made sure to incorporate his input into the planning of the memorial-funeral. Even more powerful was the "celebration of life" service that was held for him 6-8 weeks prior to his death. It served as a prequel to his memorial, allowing him to enjoy his friends and family while he was still alive, essentially celebrating his life in his presence. It was truly remarkable and special!

My sister took charge of managing the family logistics and taking care of my mom while my wife and I headed off to Kenya.

Ellen and I had meticulously planned this safari trip for over a year, as it was a shared experience we had longed to enjoy together. Despite the recent events that had taken place a few days earlier, we consciously took deep breaths and decided to detach ourselves from home for a few weeks to immerse ourselves in our dream adventure. In a separate post, I will delve into more details about our incredible experience. However, I can confidently say that the trip not only met but exceeded our expectations!

On evening prior to our morning plane departure in Chicago, I delivered a keynote message to a group of doctors at a conference on whole person care. Just a few hours later, we were on our way to Africa!

I reviewed my eulogy for my father's memorial service on our return flight. Less than 24 hours after returning, I went back to pound out some work at the clinic.

A few days later, we had an amazing memorial service for my dad's life, which included a 21-gun salute. As he had requested prior to his death, I delivered his eulogy-attempting to communicate a narrative the distilled over 70 years of his life into a few pages of script that would honor him among those who were present. Despite being an ordinary and uneducated man, my dad possessed incredible emotional intelligence and his life was defined by love. His memorial service was a beautiful reflection of his life well lived!

My White Knight

He was my stepfather who entered my life at age 3 and forever altered the course of both my mother's life and mine--rescuing us from the hard life that lay in front of us. His unwavering love and support made anything seem possible for us. My mother, who was only 15 when she conceived me, had faced a difficult upbringing with physical abuse from her parents. She then endured domestic abuse in her first marriage, but was courageously was able to escape that toxic relationship. By the time she met my step-dad, she was doing her best just to survive and make ends meet as a single working mom, with me by her side. Retrospectively it was clear that my mom and I were destined for a path that included the downward cycle of trouble with the law, alcohol & drugs, and social dysfunction that had characterized the rest of our family tree. My mom was determined to forge a better future for us, but she had very little resources and support to accomplish this. The odds were heavily stacked against us!

But when my step-dad entered into our lives, he created a space of peace, love, security, and endless possibilities for our family that is difficult to put into words. As a result, my mom gradually left her factory job, obtained her GED, and went on to become an RN. Meanwhile, my dad, who also worked in a factory, never placed any limits on my ability to dream and always encouraged me to believe that "I could be anything," despite our modest working-class lifestyle. Thanks to him, I was able to rise above the challenges and pursue my dreams. I went on to attend pharmacy school and then medical school, all because of the loving & safe foundation he provided and the support he offered.

During moments like these, I find myself reflecting on the divine intervention that brought my stepdad into my life. I am humbly grateful for the profound impact his love has had on me. What truly stands out in our story is not my dad’s wealth, education, fame, power, or wisdom, but rather the love he unconditionally bestowed upon me. It's truly remarkable how the power of secure, unconditional love can transform a person's life. Dad, I want to express my heartfelt thanks for providing me with that love throughout all these years. My life is a testament to his enduring love.

Now, to answer the question we often ponder in this post: Do any of these qualify as a business expense?

Is That Deductible?

  • Fire At My Homes: My separate home-owner’s insurance policies will cover the damage to both of my dwellings, and each will include an deductible for the insurance co-pay. My personal dwelling insurance is paid by our household. However, our guest house is structured in an LLC and the insurance is paid by the LLC, and thus all expenses and deductibles paid for fire damage repairs to the guest house dwelling will be covered by the business.

  • Speaking & CME: My speaking engagement in Chicago and the CME trip to Africa was a deductible business expense.

  • Loss of My Father: My dad’s memorial service, etc. was not a deductible business expense. My parents had made plans for this process and fortunately had funds set aside to cover all of this. I will be responsible for helping my mom re-organize her finances and assets as she gets used to living on a single income. We’ll work with her tax professional to help make sure it is all completed in a tax efficient manner.

So as I wrap up this post, in the context of Thanksgiving, I am mindful of the importance of maintaining an attitude of gratitude in my life. Hardships and difficulties will arise at times for all of us, but we do have control our thoughts and interpretations of life experiences. In the midst of troubles, I choose to humbly take the path of focusing on the scores of things that I have to be grateful for every day.

Cultivating Gratitude

Thus to conclude, I thought it would be good to give you a few reminders that despite the various hardships you may face, it is still possible to embrace an attitude of gratitude in your life. In order to cultivate this attitude, I invite you to consider the following practices that are uniquely challenging for you due to your demanding healthcare world where the pressures of patient care and professional responsibilities can be overwhelming.

These are practical tips that I regularly use, and I believe will help you to cultivate and embrace gratitude, fostering not only your own resilience but also creating a ripple effect of positivity in your healthcare environment.

  1. Start Each Day with Gratitude:

    • Begin your day by reflecting on three things you are grateful for. These could be personal, professional, or even small moments from the previous day. This simple practice sets a positive tone for the day ahead.

  2. Express Gratitude to Your Team:

    • Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of your colleagues, nurses, and support staff. A culture of gratitude within the medical team promotes collaboration, teamwork, and a more positive work environment.

  3. Celebrate Patient Success Stories:

    • Take a moment to celebrate the victories, no matter how small, in your patients' journeys. Recognizing progress and positive outcomes can shift focus away from challenges, reminding you of the meaningful impact you have on lives.

  4. Create a Gratitude Journal:

    • Keep a gratitude journal where you jot down daily or weekly moments of gratitude. This reflective practice not only helps you recognize the positive aspects of your work but also serves as a valuable resource during challenging times.

  5. Express Appreciation to Patients:

    • Incorporate gratitude into your patient interactions. A simple "thank you" or a note expressing appreciation for their trust in your care can enhance the doctor-patient relationship and contribute to a more positive healthcare experience.

  6. Mindful Moments in Busy Schedules:

    • Integrate mindfulness practices into your routine. Whether it's a brief meditation, a mindful walk, or a moment of deep breathing, these practices can help you stay grounded and appreciative amidst a hectic schedule.

  7. Reflect on Learning Opportunities:

    • Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Instead of dwelling on setbacks, focus on the lessons they offer. This shift in perspective can turn obstacles into stepping stones for personal and professional development.

  8. Gratitude Rounds:

    • Consider incorporating "gratitude rounds" into your team meetings. Encourage team members to share moments of gratitude or positive experiences, fostering a supportive and uplifting team dynamic.

  9. Connect with the Purpose of Your Work:

    • Remind yourself of the deeper purpose behind your chosen profession. Reconnecting with the impact you make on individuals and communities can reignite a sense of fulfillment and gratitude.

  10. Lead by Example:

    • As a physician, your attitude sets the tone for the entire healthcare team. By embodying an attitude of gratitude, you inspire those around you to adopt a positive mindset, creating a more harmonious and supportive work environment.


In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, cultivating an attitude of gratitude is not just a personal wellness strategy; it's a powerful tool for enhancing your quality of care and your well-being. By incorporating these tips into your daily life, you can foster a mindset that not only improves your resilience but also contributes to a more positive and compassionate healthcare experience for everyone involved.

If you are looking to start the year with some coaching, I invite you sign up now for my SimpliMD coaching 4-pack. I’ll help you holistically move your career forward.

If you are looking for more balance in your life, I invite you to also check out my free new e-book entitled “Job Stacking: The modern approach to work-life balance