To Dean Douglas

To Dean Douglas: medic, instructor, volunteer, father, husband and friend. With so many commemorating your extraordinary life in service, one can’t help but think of the countless times you honored those who went before you with the bagpipes you played so well.

Two years ago, when my medical school class gathered to honor those who had donated their bodies for our learning, you agreed to play for our procession. You said you were honored to watch us pay tribute with our music, our words, and our art. So today I use my words to pay tribute to you.

Two years ago I held in my small, unsteady hands

A heavy black microphone and spoke in my small, unsteady voice

Of life. Of how each of us is made of uncountable specks of light

That shimmer away and into the world like glittering dust,

And even when our bodies cease to breathe and our hearts cease

To beat, those little specks still shine, stuck to things we touched

And places we passed and other people left behind. Yours

Are not hard to find.

I see your glow in the bright, uncertain gaze of the student

Who doesn’t know where to stand when the woman rolls screaming

Into the hospital, shirt stained with blood, but he knows to grab warm blankets

And he does. I see it in the sweating hand of the medic holding that woman’s hand,

Withstanding the crushing grip of pain and worry of a young mother

Whose child is yet unborn. I see it in the harsh white of the spotlights

In the operating room when they calmly retrieve

That most precious cargo. In the blood-metal sheen on that scrap of bullet

That traveled through the air through her skin and into

Her womb to nest right next to

That tiny human hand and its even tinier human finger.

In the pearly tears of Grandma and Friend and Aunt when they

Learn the woman they love and the new child they’ve yet to meet

Are just fine. In my own sleeplessness-shadowed eyes later

The next morning when I pause in the mirror to think what a wonderful line

Of work I’m in before brushing my teeth.

In the hot dogs and bagpipes, Queen songs and bald jokes,

So many sparkling flecks throwing so much light into so many eyes

Reflecting and reflecting and reflecting

Until trying to find them all is like staring into a swirling galaxy

Of stars.

“We are all of us little specks of light, gathered together

And pressed so tight. Good night.”



Caitlin Li

I was born and raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina and attended Vanderbilt University for my undergraduate studies. I was heavily involved in Vanderbilt’s fencing club and musical volunteering at the Vanderbilt hospital before graduating in 2015 with a degree in biomedical engineering. I want to become a physician to help people pursue happiness in health and am honored and excited to study medicine at the USC School of Medicine Greenville.

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