Donating “to science”

In my ear­ly teens, my fra­ter­nal grand­moth­er, in her ear­ly nineties, died. There was no funer­al, just a memo­r­i­al ser­vice. Non­nie had giv­en her body to sci­ence. I had no idea what that meant exact­ly, and I did­n’t ques­tion it. But it seemed like a good and hon­or­able thing to do.

About twen­ty-five years lat­er (1996), my father died. He, too, had giv­en his body “to sci­ence.” We all knew ahead of time that Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty would receive cus­tody of his body when the time came. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Dad died while vaca­tion­ing in Flori­da. So the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mia­mi got his body.

At this point, I under­stood bet­ter that what this meant was that future doc­tors get a hands-on anato­my les­son. Although I assumed that such stu­dents went about the dis­sec­tions with a bit more respect than what might be found in a high school class dis­sect­ing frogs, I also assumed that it was all very anony­mous. A year or so lat­er, Dad’s cre­mat­ed remains were returned to Mom and were interred in a grave.

About a year ago, Mom (Anne) passed. We all knew ahead of time that she had donat­ed her body to Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty. They were called. They took care of every­thing. It was a bless­ing to not have to urgent­ly deal with any details of a ser­vice or funer­al. A memo­r­i­al ser­vice was held.

Sev­er­al months lat­er, my old­est sib­ling received a let­ter from the instruc­tor of Human Gross Anato­my at the Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine — North­west. From the letter:

Your beloved moth­er bequeathed her body for use in anatom­i­cal edu­ca­tion. Anne’s gifts to my stu­dents, myself and our fac­ul­ty and staff are many; her gift of “self” is the most pro­found gift that any per­son can give. We have learned much and con­tin­ue to learn from Anne. Your moth­er will touch the lives of the thou­sands of peo­ple that we serve.

This let­ter was an invi­ta­tion to the school’s annu­al Ser­vice of Thanks­giv­ing & Remem­brance of Our Donors. Four of Anne’s chil­dren attend­ed this ser­vice. It was pow­er­ful and mov­ing. There were prayers and read­ings. But there was also the oppor­tu­ni­ty for the four stu­dents who worked with Mom to tell us what they learned.

When they men­tioned Mom’s bro­ken arm, my broth­er told the sto­ry of how it broke and what hap­pened in the hospital.

There were six donors being hon­ored that day. Twen­ty-three stu­dents educated.

Anony­mous? I do believe that all 23 stu­dents will always remem­ber with grat­i­tude the name of the donor he or she worked with.

Mom & Dad gave tire­less­ly to so many peo­ple all their lives. And beyond.

It is my under­stand­ing that though the IU School of Med­i­cine — North­west is the only school that holds such a ser­vice, the respect, rev­er­ence and grat­i­tude exhib­it­ed by the stu­dents we met that day are the norm.

More info can be found at the Anatom­i­cal Edu­ca­tion Pro­gram web site.

Here I go…

I’ve been mean­ing to start blog­ging for sev­er­al months.

The enter­prise begins with engi­neer­ing pro­vid­ed by my son, Rick. He can be found at Rick is sup­ply­ing the serv­er space, answer­ing my queries, and doing I know not what with the nuts and bolts. Thanks, Rick!!

Any­one who reads this blog and Rick­’s blog will no doubt learn quick­ly that Rick and I have some fun­da­men­tal dis­agree­ments about some impor­tant stuff. Yet some­how we man­age to get along. As read­ers of his blog know, Rick is a fine young man. I am the proud father.