Mom’s Last Gift: Donating Her Body to Science

Instead of being buried or cremated my mother donated her body to science, which in this case meant Brown University Alpert School of Medicine. Last night we went to a ceremony there in which the first year students — who have been working on the bodies all year — thank the family and friends of the donors for this gift.

It was a very moving ceremony and not just for the families and friends. At one point they read off the donors’ names one by one and with each one a student placed a flower in a vase that went from empty to overflowing. (See picture)

Afterwards there was a reception where med students came and talked to the families. This was really the most moving and unexpected part of the evening. It became clear that these aren’t just cadavers for the students. They are very much people who the students learn about as they examine the bodies. One woman told us her donor was a construction worker and she could see how the strength he got doing that was still evident even in his 90 year old body.

While the students don’t know much about the person they work on beyond a first name and maybe a few other details they knew a lot about them. They used the words “humbled” and “in awe” frequently when describing the bodies. One student even said he sometimes would just hold the person’s hand which made me hope he worked on my mother.

Mom would be so happy to see how much people were still learning from her. We told the students about mom and especially her famous last words, “Holy Shit!” and gave them the pins with those words which we had made up for her memorial service. They loved them  and I watched them showing the pins to other students who were also clearly delighted. Talking to the students it became clear Brown’s med school clearly has an emphasis on public service which I found touching and knew mom would love (perhaps it’s why she donated her body there). This ceremony was a great public service to me and my family.

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For Alice P.

In Memory Of George Sykes

So they decided to number the days
God gave you. Lined them up and out
to a finite end, give or take the consequential
few. Days that could have swum by at
close to the speed of terror.

But, gauging the accuracy of science
and capricious life,
you paid no attention.
Death is no failure, no surprise.

Hope is an irritating thing,
doubt and desire gnawing
at the cluttered parts of your mind.
You did not succumb to it.
You just lived.

 

I originally wrote this for my Uncle George but, in keeping with the times, I am re-purposing it. No, same purpose just another time.

Creative Commons License
In Memory of George Sykes by Constantine von Hoffman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Is this the worst ad placement ever?

hanger

Probably not, but it’s still impressive.

It’s a winner!

penguin-seal

E-mail services will tell people about their STD or your death

Can’t bear to break the bad news to your last partner that you’ve given him/her/them a gift that keeps on giving?

A public health Web site called Inspot.org has put the trend of e-cards, e-mail, and e-vites to a unique purpose: the e-postcard that notifies you that a past sexual partner came down with a sexually transmitted disease or infection.

Instead of an e-card, is this called a VD-card? And yes, if you get one it is definitely too late to install virus protections.

Using what may be the ultimate drop down menu, the sender can choose from a list of sexually transmitted diseases and whether to disclose his or her name. Inspot.org will automatically send a list of local health resources to the recipient.  If you don’t remember the person’s name, what are the chances you got their email address?

And just in case that STD turns out to be terminal, another service lets you notify all your online-only acquaintances of your demise. A web site with the great name of SlightlyMorbid “lets customers create and maintain a secure list of important online friends who need to be notified in case of a crisis, or even death.”

At the most basic level, this service is designed to give people a place to consolidate their personal online contacts. Enter email addresses, handles or names if you wish, update them as needed. Once your account is set up, the site will generate a certificate with simple instructions for a trusted third party. Put the certificate with your important papers, or give it to whoever is designated to handle your affairs in an emergency. If there is an emergency, your trusted person can use those instructions to send a notification message, or trigger messages you’ve written yourself.

The one-time fee for the service ranges from $10 to $50. Premium members get to write “custom ‘last words’ messages … private email messages to each friend that you compose and store on the system in advance.” And, speaking of slightly morbid, the site offers a 20% discount for members of the military.

If you can’t think of what to give that special someone, gift memberships are offered.

CoffinTalk: Where the funeral trade hangs out online

You knew it was out there, right?

Coffin Talk bills itself as a message board for funeral directors, mortuary science students, and those with a morbid curiosity. It is sponsored by PushinDaisies.com, “a mortuary novelty shop.”

I love places like this.

BTW, have you read The Undertaking: Life Studies from The Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch? Amazing. Simply amazing. A great book.

Happy almost Halloween!

Death is the hottest trend in marketing

Oddly enough, sports leads the pack in making a buck by showing how to truly be a die-hard fan.

It started a few years ago with the advent of coffins with sports logos on them but mere licensing wasn’t enough for one soccer/football team. Next month, the Barcelona-based Primera Liga club — aka Espanyol — will open a repository for 20,000 fans’ ashes at their new stadium Cornella-El Prat. “The columbarium will occupy 1,000 square metres over three floors in a corner section of the stadium. There will be 5,000 niches available, each capable of holding four urns.” The team expects to make $6.9 million over the next 15 years from this. As gruesome as this sounds, it has to be noted that sports teams didn’t come up with this idea. They are simply responding to demand from the fans.

It is a tribute to the marketers everywhere that an increasing number of people want their brand identity known even when they are forgotten. Thus, the Hello Kitty headstone.

Sorry, but I think Kuromi is more brand appropriate.

Coffins and urns are clearly the co-branding channel of choice here. A gentlemen in Illinois pre-ordered a Pabst Blue Ribbon casket. Look closely at the picture and you will see he has a fondness for more than just PBR. This should make for an interesting discussion should he ever arrive at an AA meeting.

If you cannot find the brand of choice, contact Creative Coffins in the UK which offers a line of customized (or “bespoke”) coffins. Some of their offerings:

More after the jump…

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Pringles can designer is buried in one

Fredric J. Baur died May 4 at Vitas Hospice in Cincinnati. Baur, 89, had designed the Pringles potato chip packaging system for Procter & Gamble in 1966. Baur’s children said they honored his request to bury him in one of the cans by placing part of his cremated remains in a Pringles container in his grave in suburban Springfield Township.

There is no truth to the rumor that Pringles are people. Nor are they soylent green.