Goodbye, Walter: A Love Letter to My Cadaver

Here it is…my “Goodbye, Walter” blog post.  I thought I would write it more like a letter to Walter, as I have many things that I wish I could say to him.  I tried to make sure it didn’t come off too creepy, but when you’re writing a letter to a dead person, that is kind of hard to do.  It might be a little too artsy for you goons, but here it goes…

Dearest Walter,

The time we’ve spent together over the past few months has been wonderful, but I’m afraid it must come to an end.  We knew this day would come.  I must move on with my life, and you must move on, too.  We will never see each other again, but I will never forget you.  You have taught me so much, and I am eternally grateful.  I would never have made it through med school without you.

Many people do not understand the bond between us – the bond between a med student and their cadaver.  You are the one who taught me about the human body.  And whenever I think about the body, it will be yours that I see.  Your huge biceps, your leathered skin, your giant heart.  Your body still seemed so full of life, even though yours had already ended.  You still had so much to give, so many secrets yet to share, and you shared them with me.  You gave me your body – your complete self, and you didn’t even know me.  What a tremendous act of love.

I know things about you that you never even knew yourself, and yet I don’t even know your real name.  I don’t know where you lived or what you did.  I don’t know what your favorite color was.  I know so much about you, yet so little.

You were a hard worker.  Even after you were dead, you still had work to do.  I like to imagine that you were a farmer, and that’s why you had such impressive muscles.  I think maybe you were an arm-wresting champion.  It makes me laugh when I think about.  I know you were married.  I could see the indent left on your finger from a long lifetime wearing a ring.  I wonder if your wife is still alive.  I bet she misses you.  I hope she knows how much it means to me that she let me have you.  I hope you had kids, and maybe even a few grandkids.  I think you would have been a great grandpa.  I can picture you giving your grandchildren rides on your shoulders.  You had big shoulders.  I wonder if you ever saw the world.  Did you live here your whole life?  Was there anything left undone?  Did you have any regrets?  Why did you donate your body to me?  What would you say to me if you could?

Oh, Walter.  I hope you know how much I love you.  How grateful I am to you.  You are not forgotten.  You will live on.  Whenever I see a patient, you will be right there with me.  You will be in my mind, in my thoughts, and in my decisions.  Thousands of patients will benefit from my knowledge  – the knowledge I acquired from you.  You have been a teacher, a study partner, and a friend.

It feels like you are dying today.  Dying for real.  But you are not dying, are not dead, not really.  Goodbye, Walter.  Your work is done.  Rest in peace.

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About emilyehoward

My name is Emily, and I am a first year Internal Medicine Resident in Phoenix, Arizona. I live with my husband Nicholas and my daughter Anika. And I hope you enjoy my blog!
This entry was posted in Doctor, Health Care, Medical Student, Medicine, Osteopathy, Physician and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Goodbye, Walter: A Love Letter to My Cadaver

  1. Allison says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. When are you going to Ireland? maybe I could join you guy there for a weekend!

  2. Karen says:

    That was beautiful Emily!

  3. littlevest says:

    I thought that was really cool Emily. I have no desire to go to med school but I’ve always loved shows like Grey’s Anatomy and CSI and stuff because the human body is SO fascinating! What a blessing to be able to get an up close and personal experience with all the inner workings of God’s most beautiful creation!

  4. Mom says:

    I wish his family could read this.

  5. Northernskeptic says:

    Hello Emily

    I lost my Dad three months ago and since he donated his body to the local university I’ve been wondering how it is for those that may be learning from him. I have had some anxiety over this and reading a more technical story wasn’t helping, then I found your letter reposted on KevinMD. Your letter to Walter was so touching it helped me and actually brought me to tears (on the bus home no less). I miss him but knowing that there are people like you learning from my Dad means so much to me. Thank you I hope Walter’s family sees this too and takes the comfort that I did from it.

    Nathan

    • emilyehoward says:

      I am very sorry for your loss. Your dad must have been a very wonderful person, as evidenced by his body donation even after he was gone. I think a lot of families have a hard time giving someone they love so much to a bunch of strangers. I cannot even begin to express how moved I am by such people! Thank you so much to you and your family for giving him to students like me! I am so glad you found comfort in my letter to Walter. It really means a lot to me to be able to say thank you.

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