A surgeon with a soft human touch
Dr. Clifford Misso passed away on June 4 in Melbourne, Australia, at the age of ninety eight. He had fulfilled more than the Biblical span by almost 30 years.
Those who knew him closely and more so in that extended span, could vouch that till almost the last years he had led a strong, full life.
Dr. Clifford Misso was a surgeon with a soft human touch. He had a skill in his speciality and a mind that related to his patients, their feelings and fears, even often to their interests. This I know for a fact, for on three occasions he was the surgeon who operated on my father. I first met him at this time – though it was much much later that I came to know him better as a friend. He was one of the galaxy in the medical field in the fifties and sixties of the yesteryears in Ceylon - much consulted for his skills and recognized.
Dr. Misso left our shores with the general Burgher exodus, post Independence and emigrated to Australia, one would say for the sake of his family. They settled in the State of Victoria. There he faced a new way of life for many were the professional problems and adjustments he had to face initially. He accepted these as challenges and overcame them. I observed this when, in 1991, I holidayed in Australia. My father was no more – but remembering how Dr. Clifford Misso used his surgical skills to alleviate and make more comfortable, my father’s aging years, I wanted to meet him again, show my appreciation and give acknowledgement. So one evening having telephoned and arranged a date and time, I was driven by my brother to his suburban home in Beacon Street, Glen Waverley to pay a social call. We found our host, garden hose in his hand, watering his plants – something probably he would never have had the time or the necessity to do in Sri Lanka.
At that time Dr. Misso’s wife Verna was in a Nursing Home and his family had moved away. So he was alone. I vividly recall that evening and discovered not only the medical man I had earlier met in hospital rooms and beside his patients’ but a man with wider interests and a knowledge of the classics and history, archaeology, archives and with a profound philosophy of life.
We sipped sherry and nibbled on asparagus sandwiches which he himself had made especially for us, in a Sri Lankan-Burgher way, rolled in a cheese spread. The hours slipped by, so full, and interesting was the evening. I never saw Dr. Misso face to face as such, again.
From that visit however developed a mutual rapport – nay a friendship which spanned the years that followed. We built up a regular correspondence or he would post, or have a friend of his visiting Colombo, carry to me simple little gifts – a book, a novelty pen, even a tube of “whiting” eraser for my use in typing. Birthday cards, Christmas greetings, came regularly from him even though I was remiss at times.
At a certain point in my life when I was President of the Dutch Burgher Union of Ceylon, Dr. Misso encouraged me to take up a social welfare programme which he in Australia was involved in. Words of advice, encouragement and commendation found a place in his letters.
The years went by and latterly the exchanges grew fewer and far between for Dr. Clifford had turned into his nineties and was beginning to get slower and feeble. He ended his days in the Cabrini Nursing Home in Ashwood, Melbourne. I close these memories with the words of a verse by Sir Walter Raleigh, during his last hours, found in his Bible, after his death :
“Even such is time, who takes in trust !
Our youths, our joys and all we have
And pays us but with earth and dust;
Who in the dark and silent grave
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days.
But from that earth, that grave and dust,
The Lord shall raise us up – we trust.”