Botanic name: Brunfelsia bonodora (syn. B. australis, B. latifolia)
On Tuesday I received my invitation from the University of Wollongong for the Annual Ceremony of Appreciation; each November the Vice-Chancellor of the University invites the donors and their families to this ceremony.
The donors of course are the body donors, the invitation gives a brief explanation of the reason for the ceremony;
People who donate their bodies for medical and scientific research make an invaluable contribution to the advancement of medical knowledge The University of Wollongong is greatly indebted to our donors and their families who have supported our Body Donation Program.
To acknowledge our profound gratitude and respect for this most special of gifts, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings warmly invites you to attend this year’s annual Ceremony of Appreciation, to be held at the University, and to join him afterwards for refreshments.
I was unable to attend last year and I’m not sure if I can get there this; it’s an unusual ceremony, there is no religious influence, very simple. The V-C welcomes the guests makes a very short speech and then hands over to a senior medical student for the final part. In 2010 when I attended the student was a young man from America, who felt that because of the unavailability or it may have been prohibition of working on real bodies; only using computerized simulated corpses, he was unable to understand the human body properly. And so he had decided to come to Australia in the hope of becoming what he called a full doctor.
At the end of his talk he then proceeded to light a candle, not an ordinary wax candle but a large eternal candle (obviously a gas candle). Each year a new everlasting candle is added and the flame from the previous year lights the new one symbolizing the continuity of life. To the mount on which the candle will burn is added the names of those who have died and whose bodies were received in the year just past.
Everybody then adjourns to the gallery and the gardens adjoining the University Hall Foyer for refreshments, which are plentiful and delightful in all respects.
The University keeps track of every stage, of every part that the body goes through until such time as it is no longer of use. Sometimes, with a good corpse it can be up to eight years other times one or two, but however long the University keeps a tag on everything and at the finale the remains are cremated, and if the ashes are not wanted by any surviving relatives they are placed in a special wall devoted to body donors at the ‘Lakeside Memorial Park’
And Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow? This is the plant and flower symbol of the program.
8 thoughts on “Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow”
I hadn’t realised you had already written on this topic. Yes, I agree that it is a wonderful programme and the University handles it with great dignity and sensitivity.
A wonderful program. My grandmother donated her body for medical science. She had saved all of her records, and my father has the letter the school sent where they talked about how helpful it was to have all of the data discussing issues and treatments with the subject. A truly useful offering to one’s posterity. Thank you for this article, Brian.
Thank you Lauren, it has always been my wish for as far back as I remember for my body to go to a med school when I’m dead. I used to like to picture me at the end devoid of skin; just the bare skeleton all screwed up together with a tea cup holder twisted into my skull dangling from the ceiling in a school room and my bones jingling melodiously in a gentle breeze.
Sadly that will not now happen 🙂
A timely reminder of a truly useful program. Thank you, Brian!
Thank you Lauren, I think I shall be reprising this post each year, and when it stops you’ll understand why 🙂
A worthy program. I don’t hear of many of these in the US. Lots of talk about needing organ donors, but little after that.
It’s always been my wish for as long ago as I can remember for my body to go to a University Medical School to be chopped up and bottled. I had hoped that they would keep all the bones and wire them together drill a hole in top of the skull to afix a cup hook and leave me to dangle and jingle in front of the class for all time but alas they no longer do that.
I must admit I did have trouble with the War Office and our children but when Dopey Daughter went to Uni she had to carve up corpses during her first year, and she came to realize the importance of such donations and is now quite proud of my decision I believe, and brought her mother and siblings around to my way of thinking.