As a Christian, I don’t believe in ghosts or in mediums who can communicate with the dead. The Bible actually warns against such people in the book of Leviticus. For those like me who have grown up in the church, we understand that once this earthly body is dead, the soul lives on, whether that be with Jesus Christ in heaven or an eternity in hell. There is no staying behind on earth to console your mourning family members after your passing to assure them you are in a safe place. With that said, I can explain how my encounter with a dead man spoke into my life a new view on life itself, and it has nothing to do with a psychic’s intervention.
This last spring I enrolled in a human anatomy class at college. The instructor let us know from the first day that we would be working with human cadavers, and warned that if someone was uncomfortable with this, they should probably drop the class. Not the best way to start a semester! It’s not that I hadn’t seen a dead person before. I’ve been to few funerals and seen a body at the nursing home I worked at, but my exposure to death was very minimal. In this class, not only would we be in a laboratory with three cadavers twice a week, but we had to study and poke and prod to learn the different parts of the body. Of course I was apprehensive!
A few weeks went by in lab where we studied from models and charts and skeletons. But finally the day came when we walked into class to see two large metal carts pulled out from what looked like a huge filing cabinet, each with a large black bag and its contents lifelessly resting on top. The smell of formaldehyde was overbearing. I instantly felt dirty as soon as I walked into the room. Students all entered the room quietly and took their seats. Everyone, including me, tried putting on a face of total calmness about the situation, but the tension sensed in the room was undeniable. I’m sure everyone was nervous.
To make things worse, my instructor stands up and gives a fifteen minute “introduction” to the cadavers, telling us how to care for them, to respect them, and what to do if we start getting sick or light-headed, noting that it is not uncommon for these things to occur. She ordered us to gather around one of the cadavers as she slowly unzipped the black plastic revealing the body underneath. Before I caught my first glimpse, I leaned myself back on one of the desks. I didn’t want to get caught in a fainting spell. The first thing I saw was his face. I was startled to see that most of the skin had been removed to expose the underlying muscles. The rest of the body was the same way. Each bone, muscle, organ, and vessel was in clear view and just a touch away. It all seemed so unreal. Sure, I have seen a dead body before, but not the underlying parts. I was almost relieved to see the body in this state. It made the body seem almost inhuman, since most of the outside surfaces we see every day had been removed. But that’s still not to say that my mind was anymore at ease.
As my instructor started walking us through the different parts of the cadaver, opening up the chest cavity, pulling on tendons, bending joints, my mind started to race. I have always loved biology. I loved learning how everything works in our bodies so we can do the things we do. But until this moment, it was never truly real to me. We all know that the heart uses veins and arteries to pump blood through our bodies, but its easy to take for granted how amazing it is until you actually see it in its true form.
It was at this point I went from being amazed, to somewhat scared. It was at this point I learned my lesson from this cadaver. For the first time in my life, it really clicked with me how human I really am. As I looked at the body and all of its delicate tissues, I realized that that’s exactly what I was…flesh. Nothing about this body I’m in is eternal, and that thought scared me. It’s easy to think that what we look like on the outside is who we are. It’s easy to think that our bodies are invincible and nothing could go wrong with them. But I had proof lying right in front of my eyes that the body I am occupying at the moment is not forever. It’s not going with me when I die, because it is the physical body that dies, not the actual me. The real me is the soul that resides in a physical form for the time we are given on this earth. My body does not make me who I am, but its my soul, which is eternal. And in seeing how fragile the body really is, and how many different parts could go wrong at any time, I realized for the first time how fast and easily life on this earth can end.
This lesson to me was not all doom and gloom. I think human fragility is something we will all discover at one point in our lifetime in one way or another, whether it be through personal injury or disease, or through the life of someone else. I feel privileged to be exposed to such a great experience at such a young age. I have a different view on life because of it, which many people my age don’t have because they still think they’re invincible. Life on this earth is going to be short, and nothing physical will come with you when you die, including your body. But if you’re heaven-bound anyways, you won’t care if you’re leaving your old body behind. It’ll do no good where you’re going anyways. Not a bad lesson to learn from a dead guy. Check out “What a Dead Man Taught Me – Part Two – Evolution in the Church.”