Donor Remembrance Ceremony

Yesterday was a special day. I was part of the committee organizing a memorial service for families of body donors for our Gross Anatomy class. For months, we put together the program, the logistics, the theme, RSVP, food, decorations, and etc… I was head of the RSVP committee, the main contact for the families and friends of the donors. My partner worked with the Deans and faculty members of our school. All together, so much work went into the management and organization of the whole ceremony. I was glad I played a significant role in the service, specifically acting as the liaison between the class and the families. I had the closest connection with the donors’ families, since everything is kept mostly anonymous for privacy and we will never know who our cadavers were.

The night was a big success. The event took place at the Wang Center, a beautiful center on West Campus. In the back, so much food littered the tables, everything from fruits to muffins and munchkins to Sole Mio garlic knots to amazing bit-sized sandwiches. Yes, it was quite a random assortment of refreshments. The bulk of the ceremony featured speeches, musical performances, and student reflections. And boy do we have a multi-talented class, whether it was acapella singing, the string ensemble, serenades, or guitar jamming. I almost felt, untalented and inadequate. The last time I played my fiddle was over 4 years ago, when I tried out for the orchestras at NYU and got trampled on by better, more sophisticated players. I’ve played in the orchestra since I was a wee child in the 3rd grade and well into high school. Then came college, and I was not that talented anymore. So I gave up and pursued other things, like being pre-med and a crazy runner. However, I was very happy to see the spectrum of talents in our class. People are able to pursue their passions while in medical school, maintaining their sanity and favorite pastimes amidst hours of classes and coffee runs.

I was very happy to see our Dean of the School of Medicine, Dean Kaushansky, make an introductory speech on behalf of our class. Well, I was also happy that I stayed in contact with him throughout the preparation months and got him to speak at our event. He’s a very cheery man, and he really anticipated this event because in his years as a medical student and physician at multiple institutions (UCLA, University of Washington, and recently UCSD) he never experienced a memorial service for donors. I was very glad he was so enthusiastic to make an appearance and share this experience with us. Together, we will be beginning our medical career here at Stony Brook.

The front table displayed beautiful vases decorated with a navy blue ribbon. We decided to make the theme a flower ceremony. Each member of the class walked up with a white carnation and placed the fragile flower into each vase, while Canon In D was playing in the background. It was a memorable and beautiful procession. I was the first to go, since I was up front with the families, so I had to set the example and not be the usual klutz I am.

I was most touched with the families. We made a record since the commencement of this ceremony 6 years ago, with 8-9 families, totaling over 40 members – children, young adults, mothers, fathers, in-laws, husbands, wives, and many loved ones. I introduced myself to everyone of them, sharing my love and appreciation. Looking around the audience, they were truly touched by the performances, the speeches, and our deep gratitude. The ceremony was emotional particularly for them, and I feel for them. At the end, when we presented the vases with overstuffed white carnations as gifts, they expressed their hearts to us. I was moved myself, for their tears were of sadness, longing, and hope. The anatomical gift meant a great deal for us medical and dental students, and we put our soul into this service for the families. I was glad I met them personally, shook their hands, and gave them my biggest smile yet.

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