Life, stated simply
Delivered September 2015 at the Anatomical Donors Memorial Service.
Life, stated simply, is the process describing the effects of time on an organism. It is at once the transformation and the transformer of our world, with its subjects both the movers and the moved, the stone and the sculptor. Cast against the cosmos, life seems uncertain. With billions of years and trillions of miles of darkness, the light of life flickers faintly. Our time is ever fleeting.
But we try to make of it what we can.
For my part over the past few years I have been pursuing a PhD here at the University in biomedical engineering. My research has looked into improving methods of health monitoring so that doctors and nurses can rapidly assess situations, so that patients can receive better treatment, so that families can reunite with families, and friends can reunite with friends. The role of an engineer is to make possible the efficient use of our time as it’s ultimately the only currency we trade in. The whole point of my career, indeed the whole point of the medical enterprise, has been to add just a bit more to the human experience, to give us all just a little more time.
To add but a single minute to all the lives on earth, we would add millennia to the human story. In that single minute is over half a trillion more heartbeats – fluttering with a child’s anticipation, pounding with a teenager’s uncertainty, and panging with an adult’s grief. In that single minute is over 100 billion breaths – 50 billion liters of air filled with words of kindness, of strength, of consolation, and of love. In that single minute stomachs may grumble, ears may ring, tears may flow, and choirs sing. In that one single minute is the entirety of human life spread across the whole of humanity. Though this one single minute might not mean much to the billion year history of the universe, to you and me and everyone else, it can mean everything. And it’s made possible by our combined efforts, from the (hopefully) hardworking scientist to the truly selfless individuals who have brought us here. Together we celebrate life and today we commemorate theirs.
This gift of life, this one little grain of sand in the vast black sea of creation, finds its way to our shores, adding to our hourglasses, and giving us that one extra minute. That one extra moment with a loved one, that extra smile from a stranger, that one extra pause we take to enjoy the breeze of an autumn day.
So to everyone here, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your charity, for your perseverance, and for your resolve to leave this world a better place. And I would love for each and everyone of the friends and family to share a minute of your time tonight telling me about the lives of your loved ones. As for the rest of us, we have been entrusted with invaluable gifts and tasked with a noble cause: to add that one extra moment to all of our lives.
And I am hopeful to see what we make of it. Thank you.