Finals are over and I woke up before 6 am anyways. Inching along in the regular morning commute traffic I realized not all of the world was experiencing the relief my classmates and I were feeling. Over coffee this early morning without school responsibilities looming, I chatted with a good friend. We followed a meandering conversation to a conclusion that while neither of us believes in a strict duality (that happiness requires sadness to be truly felt); there was something to be said for understanding stark contrast. This was along the lines of how good it felt to have “left it all on the track” regarding finals. We studied hard after a marathon of studying hard and the relief of reaching a break and the satisfaction of doing our best was something we felt uniquely as soon-to-be-second-years.
I have been piloting some ideas of a movement class at a nursing home. The staff and residents have been very supportive as I work out how to integrate ideas from my dance background, teaching experience and medical knowledge to do some good. Some days it’s incredibly inspiring and some days I worry if I’m getting through. Today my students were vibrant! Full of energy and vitality when just last week they seemed so tired. With my own load lightened from completing finals and their attention and articulate responses it felt like it was all coming together. While we were dancing in wheelchairs and hospital beds I noticed two solemn attendants wheeled an empty gurney into the hall behind us. A quiet weight settled into my chest. A few minutes later the gurney, no longer empty, lead a procession of what seemed to be almost every staff member on the floor. Along with the gravity of the situation I felt incredibly grateful to be in a facility that honors a person’s passing with dignity and respect rather than trying to hide it. I felt my duty to honor the passing of this person I didn’t know was to invest even more in the people right in front of me. With a stark contrast of life and death I felt the profound importance of teaching bodies to feel and move again while honoring one that will never be capable of feeling or movement again.
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Kaitlin Parks is an Elsevier OnCampus Ambassador and a first year medical student at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.