The anatomy memorial service was this afternoon. As far I could tell, there were no families there — I don’t know if that’s a common occurrence or just because the date got switched around a lot this year. Several of my classmates read poems or short essays. One theme that came up over and over in the student readings was the difficulty of knowing the body so intimately and the person not at all. I understand the need for privacy, and knowing too much, especially at the beginning of the course, would have made it even harder to do what we had to do. Over the course of the year, as we got to know each other, we got to know her as well: she had severe scoliosis, blue eyes, pierced ears. Something of her past medical/surgical history as well: a hole in her skull for trepanning, a stent in her inferior vena cava, no gallbladder. But knowing the little things would have provided a little closure. What was her occupation? Did she have children? Grandchildren? How old was she? What language(s) did she speak? Did she live alone? What did she like to do in the evenings? I don’t mean to sound sentimental, but the relationship with the cadaver is such a unique one — intimate strangerhood — that I can’t help but compare her to my grandfather, who was a donor as well. Presumably, she had a family as well.
Looking back, I don’t really know how I got through anatomy. I detested lab; dissection never came naturally to me, and the phenol made me tired and cranky. I still can’t recall the goalpost labs without wanting to throw something at a wall. There were good moments, though. My group was perfectly amazing, and those friendships are the best thing to come out of lab — better even than my actual knowledge of anatomy, which is tenuous at best.