My Day At The Morgue
I’m currently on a path of remembrance.
Doing research for my WIP (work in progress) is bringing up all sorts of memories. These memories have helped to mold me into an author that isn’t afraid of toeing the invisible line between horror and suspense. Today’s Murderer’s Market post takes you back to my first time – at the morgue and seeing the dead.
At the age of sixteen, life was before me and I was trying to decide which of its varied paths I should take. Believe me; it wasn’t filled with necessary gooey emotions. Instead I was trying to be logical about my choices. At that time, I’d already completed biology and its dissection requirements; I’d seen how people react when it came to dead animals, but nothing could prepare me for my field trip to the morgue at the local hospital.
Remembering significant events help to bring things back into focus.
It was a small group of us, I believe between ten and fifteen high school students. Our teacher at the time had arranged for this great trip; the purpose behind it, I’ll never be able to recall, but the scent of what I can only guess was formaldehyde was overwhelming as we walked through the swinging doors. On the metal slabs were several nude bodies. All of them had been donated to the school for science.
I shivered at that thought for not only were students eyeing the dead in strange curiosity, but then there were also several medical students “working” on them.
The professor giving the tour took us first to an old man who’d died from lung cancer. She showed us his heart, and his lungs. But for me, what I saw was his face. Immobile, still, ashen. Even now, I can still recall every line, every wrinkle of this man. He will never know how seeing him there changed my life.
We then moved on and viewed more body parts, including the washing out of the bowels (for southerners or those familiar with pig chitterlings, it looked just like that. The students had a white bucket and were pulling them out of there to clean them, one by one).
They say that things in life prepare you for later events. Looking back, I can say this is true. Before then, I’d never encountered a dead person. No one close to me had ever died; I’d never understood what wakes were or even attended a funeral. This setting though was void of all emotion. The poor man was reduced to a mere object to be studied – no name, no history, nothing.
After this trip, my interest in law began. Somewhere I made the connection that we all should have a name. I’m not supposing that this elderly man was a victim of a crime, but for me, the crime was to act like he was not human at all. Sure, to work in the medical field, maybe there has to be a little disassociation (especially during dissection), but for me, I always and continue to wonder about his backstory. With that conflict and the value of life, I jumped into studying theology – trying to find meaning of life through religion, and thus, figuring out a way to understand the value of life, as a mere forethought to death.
I didn’t scream, cry or have nightmares. I didn’t pass out. And for an uncomfortable situation, I didn’t joke about the situation either because for me, we were in a place that was almost sacred; a place where the deceased rested, and where their last wishes were to be consummated.
Since then, I’ve experienced more death than I’d prefer, but whenever I think about “him” I recall an old man that didn’t have a name.