Death is Part of Living

My friend and I have been comparing notes about what we want done with our remains after we have passed on from this Vale of Tears. She has a life insurance policy she has earmarked for her funeral and burial. I don’t. She was planning on the whole nine yards. I’m not. What I have been wanting to do is make arrangements to donate my body to science and I got a step closer to it today. She’s even become interested in the concept.

I was in my office where I was supposed to be (Annual Competency time, you know—part of the Tears) when the phone rang. It was my friend’s daughter with some information she thought I would be interested in. She was right. First, she told me the name of a program she’d found through the nursing home she works for. It’s known as Genesis and is located in Memphis. She’d talked to a nice lady there who is sending her a packet with information, forms and a DVD. I googled it and looked it up. The site is attractive and low key. The people all look happy.

After filling out the forms, mailing them in and getting approval, all you do is wait (as far as they are concerned). In other words, you go about the business of living but you have made your arrangements not only to dispose of your body after death but you will continue to perform a service. I plan to make them wait a long, long time. But none of us is assured the next breath. Not to be morbid but it’s true.

“But I’m an organ donor!” That’s fine. You can be an organ donor and still donate the (true) remains to Genesis. You get a card to carry with you detailing your plans. Let’s pretend I’m the deceased.

As soon as I have breathed my last, Genesis is contacted along with donor services (I want to be both). If my death is anticipated, Genesis can be phoned prior to the moment. There is someone on call 24/7, weekends and holidays.

If the family wants me at the memorial service it must be held right away and no one is allowed to view me because I’m not embalmed. That’s according to Tennessee State Law. If the service is held later on, I’m not there but that’s okay, too. I don’t know it. Genesis provides $600 to pay for the memorial. The money has to go directly to the church or funeral home or it can be donated to my favorite charity.

The arrangements for transportation are taken care of by Genesis. So is the death certificate. If I’ve moved and am coming in from out of state, that step takes longer than if I’m still a resident of Tennessee.

“Our Genesis donors are very precious to us, and are accorded the utmost respect and dignity during their stay with us.” The procedures are done in an operating room environment and are usually completed within a year. At that point, Genesis cremates me and I’m either sent back to the family or, if they don’t want me, I can be interred in a mausoleum in Memphis and my resting place will be marked by a plaque with my name, birth date and date of death.

The MERI (Medical Education & Research Institute) is non-profit program to educate physicians. The fact that it refers to a “donor’s participation in educational activities” makes it sound as if I’m doing something useful after I’ve died and I truly believe that to be the case. Why lie in a grave somewhere when I can be amazing some medical student in Memphis?

There are a few exclusions but I don’t think any would apply to me. They are:

  • donors with communicable diseases including, but not limited to, HIV, hepatitis, active syphilis or active tuberculosis for the protection of our staff and the thousands of physicians who come to the MERI each year;
  • children under the age of 18;
  • persons who are extremely obese.
  • I know the last two aren’t me and I hope none of the first one could develop.

    In my googling, I came across some other information. There is an extremely interesting book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach. She has written several other books on similar subjects. I read a couple of chapters of this one online and I’m thinking about ordering it.

    As a footnote to this post, this evening I got a distressing email about my sister in the Great Northwest. She had been moved to rehab today but had to be rushed back to the hospital this afternoon with an internal bleed. She was unresponsive. I was out gardening when the message came. I called the sister who had sent it and she had a little more information to share but none of it was good. I was already planning this post and I intend it in no way to be disrespectful. If you are a praying person, please pray for my sister.

    Another note, the emails are flying fast and furious. The latest one says she “is breathing on her own, apparently is not as critical as it seemed. She has not lost as much blood as previously thought, it’s probably an upper GI bleed from having stopped one of her medications when she went into the hospital.” Isn’t technology wonderful? We can communicate in a few seconds what just a few years ago we’d either had to call or telegraph.

    7 Responses to Death is Part of Living

    1. susan August 20, 2008 at 5:43 am #

      Your Sister has been and will be in my prayers, Tommie.

      Sorry not to post regularly, but please do know that I read your entries weekly.

      Hugs and prayers to you and your Family,


    2. Tommie August 20, 2008 at 5:53 am #

      Thanks, Susan. I got up early and hoped to have word of her condition but nothing since before I went to bed. I’m glad I didn’t stay up waiting!

    3. Fruitloop August 21, 2008 at 1:56 am #

      Glad to hear that it seems not to be as bad as the hospital thought, with your sister. XOXO
      The Genesis thing sounds neat; thanks for keeping us informed.


    4. Angela August 21, 2008 at 11:39 pm #

      I am a praying person and I am praying for you AND your sister.
      Sending you luv from Texas 🙂


    5. Tommie August 22, 2008 at 5:51 am #

      Thank you, Floop and Angela. We need all the love and prayers we can get. And it’s working! She is better and they are talking about moving her to rehab—again. I can only hope it isn’t too soon.

    6. Barbara Wear March 23, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

      Thanks, friend! I didn’t realize you could be an organ donor as well. I’m sending this on to Tony and Lisa. I talked with Lisa last night. She was fine with the idea. Love you!

      • Tommie March 23, 2009 at 7:21 pm #

        To me, it makes perfect sense to do this. After death, you are still of benefit to the living. Both as a donor and a cadaver. Plus it makes it so easy on the family. There is no expense and they are spared the stress of a “viewing”, etc.

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