They are your first patients
we were told.
And like with later patients,
with them we shared discovery,
struggles and triumphs.
I learned from each and every one,
so much, so generously, each and every day.
But unlike any other patients
I will ever know,
when I was with them
I was in the presence of extraordinary grace
and giving. And in those moments
when the sky was darkening outside the windows
and the rest of the city was going home to rest,
while I was still in the anatomy lab,
the top of this medical tower,
wracked and worrying, questioning everything including myself,
feeling the enormity of expectations, the size
and weight of my task ahead, and then, if I could just
lift my eyes and look around me
and allow myself to feel the tremendous gift,
the confidence they had in me that I could learn,
could grow and soon become knowledgeable enough
to care for others. Faith in their own sense of purpose,
faith in me that I could keep the fruits of their gift growing.
And it was that gift that kept me on,
that gave me the strength to find success.
And when I think of what I’ve learned,
how far I’ve come already,
one experience stands out among the rest.
Because unlike any other patients, I will ever meet
these first patients taught me more
than I ever could have imagined there was to learn
about the purpose of giving and
the graceful art of gratitude.
Author’s note: This poem was written for and read at the Anatomical Donor Memorial Service hosted by Michigan State University on Sept. 20, 2013.