Sunday, March 23, 2014

To the beret-wearing gentleman...

I started this post with something as trivial as me wanting to inform you that I am in the process of applying for a new job and that I am quite nervous etc, etc. I then thought about what picture to post and in searching for an image for this post on my imminent job interview, I came across this one...

Upon seeing this image (of the central nervous system (CNS) which includes the brain and extension of the brain, the spinal cord and all its extending nerves) thoughts immediately took me to the corridors of my university's School of Anatomy and my anatomy practicals there. One interesting fact I remember learning about the CNS was that the brain has its grey tissue (or grey matter) on the outside with the yellow central fibres on the inside, but the spinal cord is the reverse. If you were to slice the cord transversly (right across) what you will see is a butterfly-like shape, made of the grey tissue with the light yellow colour surrounding it. Just perfect. The last 10 or 15 centimetres is called the cauda equina or horse tail, as that is exactly what it looks like.

One day, whilst putting on my white lab coat, before entering the cool, aluminium lined anatomy lab, I was approached by an elderly gentleman wearing a woollen houndstooth beret. He asked me to direct him to the place where he could sign up to 'give his body to research' . I was completely taken aback. Bringing my thoughts back to his smiling, wrinkly face I walked with him to the school's office where he was greeted with a cup of tea and a wad of papers to fill in. He thanked me with a nod of his head as I walked away.

These days, I still remember the smell of the cholorform, my eyes stinging from its fumes , the leathery touch of human tissue long since detached from its soulful owner but labelled to be reunited and eventually buried with the rest of the body. Out of respect to its owner I have posted this image, in all its perfect beauty. Thank you to this person who so kindly and so generously gave their body to be studied by students and teachers. And, thank you to so many others like this human being for their unselfish and considerate act. Most of all, thank you to the beret-wearing gentleman, as in my mind you are the face of all those years I studied anatomy and my love of research.

I died last night.

I was driving in the left lane on an Australian road, minding my own business, when a car came screaming at me from the opposite lane. I swerved, missed it and felt very fortunate that it did not hit me. I then approached the object that was causing the oncoming traffic to drive into my lane. Just ahead of me I saw a small trophy. I could not believe it was this trophy, so insignificant, that was reaping so much havoc. And then as I passed the trophy, car after car unknowingly crashed into me. I saw the drivers’ faces, aghast and in disbelief. I realised then the inevitability of the moment: that I was going to die. And when the cars crashed into me, one after the other, after the other, I expected to hear a deafening crush, but there was none. I expected pain, but there was none. Looking up I felt myself floating above my vehicle and ahead of me were those who had died just before me, but by other means. I saw them moving forward and upward with their beautiful multicoloured gowns trailing behind them. I momentarily thought of my family whom I had just left behind. And I though to myself, it’s okay. It’s okay. They’ll be fine. My heart leaped and I moved forward to join the colourful angels. I felt so content.

Interpreting this, I know that this dream is not about me dying, per se. It is about some part of my behaviour that is dying. And that is a good thing. I am changing the behaviour that ties me down, that makes me beholden to others. I realise that there are things I can let go of, things that are as insignificant as that trophy. I can cut back on these insignificances. It's okay. I don't have to always be running everything so tightly and on schedule. It's okay. I can trust my family to do things for themselves sometimes. They'll be fine. I need to trust in myself and follow that which makes me happy, makes me content. And then I will join the happy angels, in all their glory, that have come before me. I know I will.

Until next time,


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