book review - Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab
Sometimes topics surface in multiple times in one’s awareness. The same subject appears in odd angles. Recently it has been, well, I know it sounds odd, cadavers.
I studied in nursing school back in the late 70’s. I was fascinated by the body and health. I find myself thinking about going back, now that we are living 4 blocks from one of the best medical schools in the state. The class I liked the best was anatomy. We spent all semester with our alley cats and one day took a field trip to the anatomy lab at the state medical school to become acquainted with cadavers. It was amazing. I loved seeing the inside parts of the body all arrayed in front of us. To be able to touch the organs and see how nicely they fit together, to see the connections between bone, ligament, tendon and muscle is simply awesome.
Alley cats are easy to come by, but people are different. It makes one wonder about the path that body traveled to wind up open on the table for students to immerse their minds and hands in.
So, I’m cruising the free book shelf at our marina for something good to read when I come across Body of Work by Christine Montross She’s a poet, turned doctor, and she filled this book with reflections, history, psychology and an intimate look inside the process of dissection. She did a wonderful presentation about a topic that not many people like to think about. She wrote especially respectful words about what it means to donate one’s body for study. Some medical schools even have ceremonies honoring the donors after the dissections are completed and the ashes are returned to the families.
After enjoying a good read about an odd topic, other pieces started to pop up. I chatted with both a retired funeral director and a retired anatomy professor. Then there was this article in the local paper this week about a new embalming process that renders the body flexible and not as toxic. Weird stuff, I know, but it’s all making me think about my own carcass.
I wouldn’t mind if I was out on a table someday, for a new doctor to explore. Where do I find the paperwork?