I sigh and look at the remains on the table in front of me: a pile of bones, muscles, ligaments, and organs. They are signs of dissecting, learning, and integrating knowledge. At the end of the semester, the cadaver still looks like a human being, but it takes more effort to see it. The teaching it has provided is finished. It waits to be returned to the body donation program to be cremated. If the family chooses, the remains will be returned to them.
I have for decades traveled this journey: beginning with an untouched cadaver, working through successive dissections to identify the structures making up the body, and then reaching the end. As much as I love this journey, I still wonder what it all means. What is the sum total of these parts? The cadaver seems less and less a human being as we progressively move toward deeper and deeper structures. We lose something along the way. What do we gain?
Ironically, this time in the semester often falls around Easter. For all of the parts of the Passion story that inspire so many people, I find myself thinking most about the burial, the empty tomb, and the first realization that Jesus’ body was gone.
When the students are not here, the anatomy lab is completely quiet. It is just me and the cadavers and the soft background noise of the airflow system in the lab. I wonder about these cadavers and the lives they led before their journey brought them here. I wonder who waits for their remains, and I silently thank them for allowing us to learn a little more from these lives.
In the biblical story, I wonder about the stillness that followed the beatings, the Crucifixion, and Jesus’ death. What was that time like for the women who cared for Jesus’ body? For the disciples? ...1
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