Personal Column: The Morgue
March 9, 2016
During the summers, I intern in a necropsy lab performing autopsies. Death is so often viewed with intense sadness and pessimism, however, dealing with death on a daily basis has taught me to do the opposite. Each day I face a new circumstance and a different range of difficulties, from the physical challenge of removing a heart to the emotional strain of seeing someone who passed before their time. I consistently focus on being as sympathetic as possible to pay my respects to the deceased, each time ensuring their eyes are closed and thanking them for their service in my head.
Then a month after starting the internship, I saw something that made me begin to dread the next time one of those large white bags would come rolling in on a gurney. It rolled up on a gurney like every other body and, identical to every other time, I went through my mental checklist of identifying the body. First verifying the full name was identical on every document and matching on the identification bracelets around his wrist and ankle. Then double checking the family’s consent for the autopsy, but after going through the drawn out process, something seemed off: He was in his late 20s and that was far too young to be in front of me. I was in shock for days and found myself constantly thinking about my own mortality. If someone in the prime of their life could so tragically pass without warning, how was I supposed to maintain a peace of mind knowing that the same could very well happen to me?
About a week later on a Saturday afternoon I babysat my seven year old cousin. She was the polar opposite of my entire demeanor at that time, bright and bubbling at the simple sight of goldfish crackers.
I asked her how she could be so happy, and she replied, “Well if I’m not happy, then you have a bad day, and then other people have a bad day too.” I turned her comment over for a while and came to the conclusion that being sad over death forever would not lead to any good. No one would want the people around them to be sad for long. They would want them to remember their happy and fruitful lives, and all the good that occurred in them. I hold onto that to this day. Yes, everyone grieves a loss, but in the end it’s those smiling moments that you remember. Truly honoring those who have passed means holding onto the memories and setting aside the fear.
With help from David Lisbonne, Staff Writer.