**warning. description of a cadaver set up. viewer discretion advised.**
To walk into a room and see human bodies on a table is absolutely humbling. It’s unforgettable; it’s a little appalling. It is human. My eyes wandered to the paper lying superior to his skull. “Thomas, 81, Vice President, Stroke Victim.” A recognizable mass of muscles, nerves, bones, and connective tissue was halfway covered by a thin, yellowed sheet. We looked at the nerves and identified the muscles. Then she took off the minimal washcloth, exposing his face. Only then did I feel nauseous. It set in. This was a man, laying out on the table. These bones represented a life. His skull was cut so the brain was easily accessible. We passed it around, noting its irregular consistency. Here originated all of his thoughts, dreams, aspirations. His personality, all his stored memories, the sights, smells, and tastes he experienced – all of it – lay sitting in our hands. Next was a woman. She was 74 and died of lung cancer. We passed around her lungs, which were far from firm and covered in black spots. A tumor of some sort lay in her liver, and globules of fat attached to many of her visceral organs. She had only one kidney and was a transplant recipient. Her hair was curly and brown. Another man had a knee replacement surgery, and we were able to see the metal parts inserted by lifting up his flesh. All three of these humans lay on separate tables, skin removed, just bodies.
Physically, they were all incredibly unattractive. Tendons were stringy and muscles were brown. In some cases, fat particles covered many parts of the body. In each case, the bodies had no skin. From a first year student’s perspective, races were undistinguishable. There was no white, no black, no yellow, no red, no olive, no freckles, no pale, no tan, no burns, no scars. None was better than the other. None seemed superior. The woman who had lipids attached to her organs? She was no better than the other ones. The man who seemed physically fit? He was just as human as the other bodies in the room. They were bodies. Height, race, eye color, weight, abilities, etc., were not accounted for. Simply, they were human.
Today, I didn’t learn new muscles or nerves. I didn’t learn how to overcome the smell or how to prepare for a lab. I didn’t learn those things. Instead, I relearned the value of a human life. Each body represented a life. Their lives contained identities like brother, sister, mom, dad, aunt, friend, grandfather, etc. Maybe other titles too, like musician or athlete. These humans had dreams and lived lives. They had jobs, and they grew up somewhere. Maybe they had kids. Maybe they changed their major three times. Maybe they went on a mission trip. Maybe they spent many days feeling worthless or alone. Maybe they were the person to make everyone else laugh. Maybe they were really good at physics. Everyone has a story of some sort. The papers above their heads gave their name, age, occupation, and reason for passing. These were once humans.
Sometimes, I think we forget we are all human. We are all made of the same things deep down. We are all broken; we are all sinful. We’re not better than anyone because of the color of our skin or the number staring back up at us from the scale. You are not better than anyone else. You are not less than anyone else. You are you. You are a human. Everyone around you is a human. Love these humans. When it comes down to it, we are solely intricate creations of muscles and bones and tendons and neurons and nerves and organs in desperate need of a Savior. Love the humans around you and adapt a perspective of humility and awe as you watch life progress.