Monday Morning Moment – Prairie Doc Rick Holm – A Life Well-lived

Photo Credit: Prairie Doc, Facebook

Today an old friend has been on my mind…Rick Holm. He died yesterday, March 22, 2020, of pancreatic cancer. He died at a very young 71.

[Yesterday was also the 5th anniversary of the death of Kara Tippetts…also so young when she died…also a life well-lived. Never met her yet she had a huge impact on me, writing about her here.]

The news of Rick’s death hit me hard. With our whole world dealing with the impact of the Coronavirus, we know we may be facing our own contracting of the illness or, worse, the death of people we know and love. That was the overlay of this news for me.

It’s been almost 40 years since Rick and I shared the same space. That’s Rick with the pipe and red suspenders in the image below.

I was the cancer nurse specialist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Rick was a resident in the internal medicine program of Emory Medical School. Then he went on faculty at the same med school. We saw each other almost every day, not only because of working in close proximity, but because we were also across-the-hall neighbors of an old apartment building on the bus line between Emory and Grady. He gave me the great gift of his friendship.

Rick called South Dakota home. He introduced us to a culture new to us in Atlanta, resorting to his quasi-Swedish accent to tweak a conversation that went too serious. He had such a gift for putting people at east. I think it was because he genuinely cared for people. He found them truly interesting and celebrated them. His smile was as warm and generous as his heart.

As “hall-mates”, we would often join forces on parties and suppers together with friends. Those were sweet days of growing in our professions and sorting out all kinds of world dilemmas. The image above was taken after one of our many Saturday mornings spent at breakfast at Horton’s 5 and Dime near Emory University. We would linger, over coffee and the newspaper, doctors and nurses, and talk about work, politics, and relationships. We had great times together.

Once we were both working together on an obesity task force as so many of our patients at Grady were at risk for obesity-related diseases. We were a group of young doctors, nurses, nutritionists and researchers. Rick was our muse – keeping us both on task and, at the same time, entertained. I think we all gained weight, working over pizza and pasta.

After so many years at Emory/Grady, Rick was one of the grand eligible bachelors. Then he met Joanie…and it was all over.Photo Credit: Facebook, May 2019

It was 1981 when Rick and Joanie left Atlanta for South Dakota. Rick felt moved to finally enter practice outside of academia, and he wanted to give back to the state that gave him his start in life and medicine. I would leave Atlanta a few months later for a teaching job in Connecticut. It didn’t seem we would ever see each other again, and sadly, we didn’t.

As Facebook does sometimes, a post about Prairie Doc popped up “randomly” on my home page. There was that familiar smiling face of Dr. Rick Holm. Prairie Doc® Media is a project of the Healing Words Foundation which endeavors to enhance health and diminish suffering by communicating useful information, based on honest science, provided in a respectful and compassionate manner. The Foundation engages a variety of media outlets to provide science-based medical information to the greater South Dakota region.” This mission statement or vision sounded just like its founder.

I messaged Prairie Doc to reach out to Rick, and in a few days, he answered back. Below is an excerpt on his life – “Joanie, South Dakota, happy, pancreatic cancer, chance of a cure and wonderful kids”.

There is tons more to say about this ordinary extraordinary man Rick Holm, but I’m going to leave it now..with his website (for his TV and radio offerings, his blog, and his book).

Photo Credit: Facebook, Prairie Doc, December 2019

His book is like having Rick across the table from you…with a cup of coffee and, seemingly, all the time in the world.

You will be missed, Rick. Thanks for leaving so much behind for us in the wake of your journey.

Life’s Final Season: A Guide for Aging and Dying with Grace – Richard Powell Holm

TEDx Brookings – The Danger of Fearing Death – Richard Holm – 12 minutes of video of Rick telling his stories and teaching us how to live well.

Video Tribute of Dr. Rick Holm – Prairie Doc Facebook Page

Obituary – Dr. Richard Powell Holm

4 thoughts on “Monday Morning Moment – Prairie Doc Rick Holm – A Life Well-lived”

  1. Debbie,
    It is so nice to hear from you. You really painted a beautiful and true picture of Rick. He lived life to the fullest and didn’t change a bit from the Atlanta days. He loved people and demonstrated it daily. I feel like the luckiest person alive to have spent the last 40 years with him.
    He loved the Atlanta days living next door to you. So many great potluck parties!
    How are you?

    1. Oh Joanie, I thank God for knowing Rick…even if it was only spotty over the last many years. It was fun for me to be “in the room” for his falling in love with you. You were perfect for him, and his love for you right to the end was beautiful. Last night I found you on Facebook, and then got “to know” you and your family a bit better by clicking on each of your kids’ Facebook pages. What a great family you have. So gifted and loving and fascinating. Rick called them “wonderful” and I can see what a blessing they are and will be to you. Thanks for commenting on here. I will be praying great comfort for you. We often think and say, “Well done” to the one who goes ahead of us in death. I want to say also to you, Joanie, “Well done”…in all you did to help Rick finish strong. Much love.

  2. Debbie, beautiful tribute to your friend from the past, Rick Holm.

    It is wonderful to see Rick’s influence in South Dakota as a physician writing a column that was published by dozens of newspapers throughout the Midwest….many of his readers
    expressed their love for him in response to his obituary.

    Obviously, Rick’s unique ability to love and care for people was present even as far back as his times as a resident at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. Your tribute beautifully expresses this time — how you, as an Emory clinical nurse specialist on the oncology unit, got to know Rick and be positively influenced by his life (as I am sure he was influenced by your life!).

    Thank you for sharing. I think this tribute speaks to me because it brings me back to those same times when you and I were friends and roommates in Atlanta.

    1. I grew so much in those years, as you know. Rick really did reflect how life is meant to be lived with great joy and deep regard for people. I am so thankful for knowing him. And so thankful for your friendship, yours and mine. Forever.

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