Just Making It

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m in my first term of med school, after six years of taking prep
classes at night school. I was a philosophy major in college and
worked while deciding what I really wanted to do. Being in med school
is a lot harder even than I thought it would be and it is taking every
moment of my life outside of class just to stay caught up. I know my
maturity helps, but aging brains don’t compete as well. The problem is
this: we used cadavers for anatomy that had been donated by
volunteers. Mine was named Grace. Now that we’ve completed
dissecting the med school wants to have a funeral, a real one, for each
of the forty cadavers and any family who want to attend. They’ve
schedule five hours for the event and are encouraging all of us to
attend. No disrespect intended, but I feel like my schoolwork and
study time are more important.

Just Making It

Dear Just Making It:

Disrespect intended or not, you should attend the funeral of any
person whose viscera you’ve disemboweled and whose muscle and
sinew you’ve deconstructed. It’s about more than respect; it’s
honoring the contribution that Grace made to your education by
donating her body to the school.

Attend. Sit near an exit. Stay open to the possibility that you may be
moved to stay longer than you think you have to spare. But if not, after
an hour, make a show of consulting your watch and then slip out
quietly. Write a card for whatever family Grace has who may attend;
and ask that it be sent to her relatives. Be very sincere about your
appreciation for her willingness to be a teacher as the last act of giving
in her life. Thank them and let them know that she was treated with
respect throughout her time of service. Explain what drew you to want
to be a doctor and generally give them the feeling that the world will
be a better place because of her donation and your learning
Part of becoming a doctor is learning compassion. This is an excellent
chance to practice it.