Tag Archives: death

Donating your body to science

Recently my friend RHC proudly showed me his “full body donor” card. He carries it next to his driver’s license, to be sure that in case of his sudden death, his wishes are carried out. Yes, he wants to offer his body “to science”.

RHC and I have known each other for decades, long enough to experience some losses and to have discussed aging, death and funerals. A few months ago, he mentioned his intention to donate his body. I asked who knew about it. He said he had told his brother, but had made no specific arrangement.

I told him that was not enough. A potential “full body donor” needs to make an arrangement with a hospital or medical school.

How do I know? Several members of a local family have donated their bodies. One survivor mentioned it to me at the time of a death – she supported her husband’s decision and regarded the donation process as a convenience. Cremated remains would be returned to her in a few months.

The teaching hospital to which the body was sent holds a memorial gathering annually. Families of body donors are invited to join in honoring the deceased and receiving public thanks from the hospital. Some people find comfort in this.

Why am I putting this in my blog?? Because some reader has probably thought about body donation, but not gotten around to making arrangements. If you Google “full body donation + your state”, you will find all the information you need. Or maybe you’ll decide against it, and can put the issue aside.

While we’re on the subject, have you taken care of the other things every adult should do in order to make your passing easier for your loved ones? Is your will up to date? What about medical care directives? Have you left, perhaps informally or in a codicil to your will, information about where to FIND your important papers?

Does this sound morbid? It’s not! Steps you take to help your family in the future will probably make you feel good.

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“The Sea” a novel by John Banville, 2005

This book was recommended to me by a young adult relative. He was supposed to have read it for a college course in Irish Literature. But he didn’t… I think it would be more appreciated by older readers, but I can understand why it was part of a course. It’s so good!

The Sea is about death and memory. The author looks back on childhood as “the time of the gods”, a time of struggle to understand incomprehensible surroundings and mysterious people (adults). Several deaths frame the action. A pair of twins die when the author is vacationing with his family by the ocean. The story is narrated from the other end of life, just after the narrator’s wife has died (horribly) from cancer. 

The twins seem mythic – girl and boy, voluble and silent, normal (whatever that means) and abnormal (in contemporary terms, handicapped). The narrator seeks them out, fascinated by their upper class status and the vast differences between their family and his own. The twins’ deaths are incomprehensible, shocking, unexplained. Probably all death seems that way to a 13 year old. 

Enough detail is supplied to convince us that the wife’s death is brutal. The narrator, suffering, revisits the scenes of his childhood relationship with the twins and their family, without knowing why he does so. He drinks to excess, almost to death, and is pulled back into life by his companions – daughter, stranger and old, old acquaintance. 

Work makes this novel “work”? The writing is beautiful, and I don’t usually say this about authors whose vocabulary exceeds mine. The descriptions of people and settings are detailed and sensual. And the author “closes the loop”, linking beginning and end. Careful writing. I will look for other books by John Banville.