‘Toward Wholeness’ is a poem created by Tod Marshall, Washington State’s poet laureate. Marsahall created the poem for the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine’s Inaugural White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 18, 2017.
The beautiful sounds, of course, are not to blame: metastasize, lymphoma,
tragic sibilance of sarcoidosis, the magical ease with which a word
as brutal as Tumor can be shaped with lips, teeth, and tongue. Consider,
though, the fear of hearing those words, of cutaneous melanoma,
or a pharmaceutical, Zithromax, Cisplatin, or even the phrase, “We’ll start
immediate aggressive treatment.” We know that knowledge and music can bond
in a lucid union against fear, a first singing toward making things whole, sound,
or at least better. Yes, white cloth may have been a way to reveal the sprout
of bacteria, and yes, the word heal, to make whole, is the reason for which we gather:
to see, to hear, to know something so well that the doing becomes what we call love.
Each day, as we rise to broken bodies—physical, communal, political—we can try to move
toward a first singing of wholeness that causes no fear, no harm. Remember,
as the whitecap on a wave reveals nothing of the water’s purity or depth,
and the white feathers of an osprey tell us little about the grace of its flight.
Today is beautiful plumage, an honor. Tomorrow, your gentle
actions, the music of your listening, will bear out the virtue of a coat’s threads.