Last Day of Anatomy

My last cut on our body was across the top of his eye, cleaning away the mound of fat resting in his orbits. Just like how it began, in the end there was no ceremony or ritual. I made my last cut, named off the nerves and muscles surrounding the eye, took one last look at our body, and closed up the black body bag.

In the past 6 weeks, I have gotten to know this man better than he could have ever known himself. I, along with my anatomy lab partners Zach and Katy, separated the various layers of muscles that once helped him walk, hug, write, laugh and cry. We held in our hands his lungs that once filled with air, his heart that once pumped blood, and his stomach that once digested food. We split his kidneys in half, opened his bladder, and cut into his genitalia. His skull was sawed 3 ways and his face separated and divided in two. The brain felt like firm tofu in my hands – cold, dense and rigid.

While we came away knowing what this man was made of, we still had no idea who he was. What was his name? Did he have a wife and children? What did he like to do? Did he have any regrets? The pathologist, after showing us the clogged bronchioles in his lungs, pronounced that he had died of pulmonary embolism. “It was a quick death,” he said. And just like that, our mystery man had an identity. He was no longer just our body. He was the guy who died of pulmonary embolism.

They say that anatomy is a privilege. I say that anatomy is both a privilege and a joy. It is a joy of learning in such an intimate manner. It is a joy of marveling at the intricacies and beauty of the human body. And it is a joy of truly appreciating the lives of those who donated their bodies for us to benefit from. The guy who died of pulmonary embolism. Whoever you are. Thank you.


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