"He's an excellent specimen," says the professor.
"You're really good at this" say my lab partners as they decline to do anything but watch.
And they're right. I am good at dissection.
It unnerves me how easily I slip into a clinical mode,
how interested I am in the structures revealed by the scalpel.
And Mr. Bill is an excellent specimen.
I don't want to lose sight that what lies in front of me
was once a sentient being, alive and purring.
So I named him.
And I apologize, and thank him.
And I talk to him as I learn from his remains.
And so do my lab partners.
He must have been a good hunter, says Dennis.
I hope someone loved him, says Mai.
Mr. Bill probably took down squirrels, says Jenny.
We aren't callus. We handle him gently.
I imagine that Mr. Bill is in some beautiful meadow
full of mice and squirrels and other fun things.
I imagine that he has friends.
I hope he knows that he mattered.
That because of him, there are six future nurses who have a better understanding of how bodies work.
And that we promise to pay his gift forward by helping people with what we learned from him.
I picture him sunning himself, basking in a contented pile with Ursa, Mr. Steve, Stumpy and Miss Puppy.
Then I go to work. And then home.
And Duncan and Lulu rush to greet me. As I snuggle them I say silently
"This is for you too, Mr. Bill".