How does one eulogize the family patriarch? Since my father’s passing on Dec. 17, 2021, I have remained silent, speaking neither at the memorial nor at the spreading of his ashes. But with what would have been his 60th birthday fast approaching, the time has finally come for me to deliver my own valediction regarding Johannes Andreas Giede: a faithful husband, generous father and grandfather, unwavering believer, and model physician.
Johannes was born on July 2, 1962, to Kurt and Elizabeth Giede. Eventually, “Joh” was joined by a brother, Christopher, and a sister, Marlis. In 1985, my father married my mother, Naomi Banman. Dr. Giede emerged from UBC medicine in 1988 as a GP; in 1999, he graduated again from his alma mater as a psychiatrist. I was born and adopted in 1990, my brother following in 1991. Save for Kurt who died in 2005, all of Johannes’ immediate family survives him.
From his first breath until his final one, Johannes was insatiably generous. Life was meant to be shared to the fullest, not out of a sense of self-aggrandizement, but because our Creator commanded that, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” And Dad knew that he had been given an abundance of gifts as well as second chances. He believed that his talents for healing and teaching, as well as the compensation these provided, were for helping others.
Joh’s first experiences in medical school were on the other side of the bedrail due to his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which he diagnosed. Having been a patient in crisis, Dr. Giede could not help but feel empathy in his practice. In his personal life, Dad spent countless hours struggling with the deepest questions of faith - theology, ethics, morality, world religions - sharing his findings through teaching and preaching with the faith community he served for decades.
This is not to say that there was never conflict in Johannes’ inner and outer circles. Dad was energized by stress as well as confrontation. This served him well when anyone attempted to do harm to his staff on the third floor by getting physical but as dueling had been outlawed before his birth, Joh could not always best the apparatchiks of Northern Health. Again, it easy to mistake these episodes for egotism but Dr. Giede did it to advocate for his patients and staff.
In many respects, if there is a criticism to lay at my father’s feet, it is that he was a man out of time, which also happened to be his favorite R.E.M. album. To say Johannes was a strong personality would be the understatement of the century. The sheer inertia of his life, as well as his scathing wit, could put off his “betters” quite easily. But for him it all came back to what he knew to be the truth: that the use of one’s talents was how one would be judged at the end of all things.
And so, like many heroes before him, the walls of ever changing expectations began to close in around Dr. Giede. The role of physicians had, from psychiatry to surgery, completely changed. No longer were they to be experts in their field with a sense of ultimate responsibility for a patient’s well-being. Instead, they were just employees providing a predetermined set of services monitored by non-clinical staff. In short, medicine had become no country for old men.
In the last year of his life, Johannes was cut off from the places in Northern Health where he had made the biggest differences, as well as most of his income. Meanwhile, ever since his booster shot, he had begun to feel numbness in his hands, which was not disclosed to us until after his death. On the eve of Dec. 9, 2021, he collapsed at home and was rushed to his place of work with what was later determined to be a massive stroke. Eight days later, he died.
There are no words to describe the sense of loss felt by Johannes’ family, congregation, and the thousands who knew him as a psychiatrist. But, tragic as his death was, all who knew my father also know he would forbid our despair. May God help us all to live up to his example.
Nathan Giede is a Prince George writer.