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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Teachers (07/12/04)

TITLE: Dead Man Talking
By Linda Germain


The room was ice cold. Most of us were trembling behind those masks, huddled together like baby chickens in a sudden storm, hoping for a little warmth and support. I was eager to learn. I was terrified to learn. It was my first autopsy.

The seasoned pathologist showed no signs of pampering our shivering group of student nurses. For him, it was another day, another diagnosis. For me, it was a pivotal moment that colored my spiritual and emotional development. Sometimes knowledge confirms a truth. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

We were naive students, shocked into maturity by the daily reality of disease and trauma. The goal was to comfort, assist, observe, and certainly to invest us in the preservation of life. That day, deep in the bowels of the hospital, we were in new and unfamiliar territory, a discomfiting place concerned with probing for answers to questions left at the door of death.

There were two teachers in that morgue. The jaded and somewhat gruff doctor performing the post mortem, and the man lying on the stainless steel bed whose only cover was a huge, round and very bright light. He was about 30 years old and movie star handsome. I could not take my gaze from his incredibly curly eyelashes. Maybe he was just asleep.

Desperately, I wanted there to have been a horrible mistake and someone would say, “Oops, he is in the wrong place.” That thought had an intense grip on me, as it must have on the other novices, because there was a collective gasp when the pathologist picked up his scalpel and began what to him was routine. I am not sure any of us exhaled until the procedure was over and we could escape for fresh air and even a few tears.

Teacher number one, with his scientific bluntness, showed us in ten minutes what some never learn in a lifetime. He presented absolute and unwavering evidence that cigarette smoke goes into your lungs, but it does not come back out. Black tar replaces pink, healthy tissue. Then with a swift but thorough examination, we saw how little alcohol it takes to affect the liver; an organ better served not struggling to filter the toxic liquid.

I cannot remember the cause of this young man’s demise, but the signs of distress from imprudent decisions were already apparent inside that fearfully and wonderfully made human. Smoking and imbibing will eventually demand payment, but in the meantime, there may be years of protracted suffering from emphysema, heart disease, cirrhosis or alcoholism. That warning generally falls on deaf ears.

The other and probably more significant thing I learned on that illuminating day was from the young cadaver himself, who only a few hours before had been a warm, loving father and husband with life cursing through his veins.

Knowing from scripture that once we are born our spirits never die, I wondered where he was. Was he standing before God at this very moment? Was his name in the book of life that my grandmother harped about all the time? While his body was providing medical enlightenment, where was he?

The deceased, oblivious to anything happening on this planet, made a resounding impression. He taught me the journey through life could certainly halt with a sudden jolt, and with no time to prepare. Still, it eventually ends for every living thing.

Seeing him lying there, stopped in his earth tracks for good, triggered an awareness of eternity I had never felt before. Over the years,countless deathbed dramas never failed to make me wonder, “Where are you now? Are you with Jesus?”

Today I would add, “And is that where you intended to be?”

Member Comments
Member Date
darlene hight07/19/04
Nice entry! Very powerful reminder
Marina Rojas07/20/04
Wow, this was a riveting inside look at something that I never before wanted to look at, much less through spiritual eyes. You have taught me that the hearts of medical personnel can go much deeper than "skin deep"---your article has opened up a new avenue to God's teaching lessons of spirit learning to me.
Lynne Gaunt07/20/04
Your story is facinating. My husband went through a similar course at med school and I remember pondering some of these same questions. Its not often that we think about the eternal destiny of strangers - a good thing to consider while they are still breathing. Thanks for making me think. Well done.
Lynne Gaunt07/20/04
Great title too.
Randy Chambers07/20/04
“I cannot remember the cause of this young man’s demise, but the signs of distress from imprudent decisions were already apparent inside that fearfully and wonderfully made human.” --nice sentence. I think you did a great job with this.
L.M. Lee07/20/04
oh my...this was certainly not what I expected to read, but what a great conclusion!
Karen O'Leary07/20/04
Thank you for sharing this story. Good job!!
John Hunt07/21/04
Extremely well written, innovative adaption of topic, a very interesting read. Great job!
Michael Isaacks07/22/04
This was a great and sobering article. Thank you for sharing a story some would be afraid to share or read.
Phyllis Inniss07/22/04
Great article. I wish a lot of young people could read this. It would bring home to them in a most poignant way what harm they can do their bodies.
Karen Treharne07/25/04
This is a powerful story Linda with a powerful title. I can just barely imagine how you might have felt and how this would have made you ask such questions. Thought provoking and well-written. Thanks for sharing.