Sunday, May 23, 2010

Graduation: Wishing to Remember

Well, as my father used to say, it's all over but the shouting. The majority of members of my entering class are now, and ever will be, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. For all of us who were present at graduation, it was truly a triumph -- everything we've shared and suffered together has paid off in spades. It's hard to know where to begin this morning, because at one point yesterday I thought I must have gathered enough material for a week's worth of posts, and it may just turn out that way.

Two things, however, are perched at the forefront of my mind and it's probably best to start with them. One advantage of being an usher at these ceremonies is, you usually have your selection of the best seats. In my case, I was able to choose one right next to the steps that led onto the stage where hooding was to take place. As a result, I had the privilege of shaking hands with every one of my classmates as they passed by.

With each, memories of our first year came unbidden. Sitting in lecture with a future colleague who initially wanted to be a family doctor. Since then, he's come to love psychiatry with a passion that rivals mine, and we've formed a warm and lasting bond. Three with whom I spent long hours bent over a cadaver and so many others whom I've touched and who have touched me in OMM lab. In some cases, we cast aside formality like crumpled paper and hugged and kissed freely. I wouldn't have been anywhere else in the world.

Near the end of the ceremony, my classmates stood to take their osteopathic oath and I stood with them off to the side of the auditorium. I couldn't have sat at a moment like this, my legs wouldn't have permitted it. We've gone through too much, shoulder to shoulder, to merely be an observer. Like Stephen Hopkins, delegate from Rhode Island at the Continental Congress, who wished to remember the faces of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, I wanted to see the faces of my friends as they spoke. I, too, wished to remember.

As family members gathered round during the reception that followed and I was introduced to parents and siblings, it felt unusually familiar, almost as though I was meeting members of my own family for the first time. And it only makes sense, since coming to medical school for me, has been like coming home. Later, as I walked to my car, one of my classmates passed with his fiance, and he waved a roll of nondescript cardboard in the air that could have been photographs or a movie poster, but it wasn't. "There's one of these with your name on it, don't forget," he said with a grin.

It was his diploma and he's right, there is.

(Photo by the author, copyright 2010)

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