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. A snapshot of her life.
In that moment, 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.
I knew I was in the Presence of God, and of Holiness. All of Creation lay before me.
In the most unexpected and humble of places, I felt at One with the human race.
I will be forever grateful for the final gift that this woman offered. In her death, she taught us about the miracle that is life.
I named her Grace.
Circles of Grace. Sacred Ground.
Thank you, dear lady, for you.
May you rest forever in beauty and in peace.