Eulogy for the Body Donors

Brendan (College of Medicine)

A gift is something, willingly given, that demands no repayment. In my view, the donation your loved one made is perhaps one of the most pure forms a gift can take: the giver cannot be repaid by any means except by using their gift to help others. I offer my sincere thanks to you and your family, as well as my condolences. One thing I feel like I owe to you and your family, is an explanation of what exactly this gift means to me. Your loved one had a heart. In the past it was capable of being warmed, broken, filled with courage and fear and kindness, was set on things, changed, ached, steeled, heavy, light, open – but now it is at rest. Whenever I think of a heart, either because I hear the beat of a patient’s through a stethoscope, or see a diagram of one in a textbook, I am reminded of the first heart I ever saw. In all likelihood, this First Heart belonged to your loved one. It is a perfect prototype, realer than any picture or 3D reconstruction, whose dimensions and substance is chiselled into my memory and will be for the rest of my life. In this sense, the First Heart – this purest of gifts – that your loved one gave still beats, in my chest, in your chest, and in the chest of everyone I will ever meet.

Traditionally, medical students attend a funeral ceremony at the end of each year to lay the bodies of those who donated their bodies to our anatomy education to rest. It was cancelled because of the pandemic last year. I wrote this eulogy and a few people told me they liked it, so I thought I’d share it.