While I attended optometry school in Philadelphia, students worked on cadavers for our Head & Neck Anatomy class. I was apprehensive about how I would react to this new experience, but intrigued at the same time. My group was assigned to an 80-year old woman who was covered by a thin white sheet.
As I stood at her left side, I noticed her uncovered hand. It looked exactly like my grandmother’s hand – shriveled, marked by age spots, calloused and worn. In that instant, I saw her differently. She was no longer a cadaver, but someone’s mother, wife, sister, grandmother, daughter. She had loved and lost, hoped and dreamed, laughed and cried. A part of the human community, she mattered.
With a respectful air, I drew down the sheet and started the dissection. When I cut through the layers of muscle to the blood vessels, I paused. The branches of the arteries and veins were quite delicate and beautiful, laid out with a precise purpose in anything but a random, haphazard way. In that moment, I knew that I was in the Presence of God, and that all of Creation lay before me.
I was in the presence of holiness. In the most unexpected and humble of places, I experienced the interconnectedness of the human race.
I will be forever grateful for the gift that the nameless woman offered to those of us in the class.
I named her Grace. Circles of Grace.