Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Grace for the dead and the living

Not long ago I was talking with our daughter, Hannah, about the use of bodies in medical research. We were discussing the Bodies Exhibition which is touring the world at the moment. Personally I find it abhorrent to exhibit real human bodies as a show, especially for money. I think it's a gruesome demeaning of the image of God to make a spectacle of dead people and make a profit from it. I said, "Just think, those bodies once housed someone's father, brother, sister, aunt, child. Could you go to gawp at the corpses of your parents?"
She could see what I meant, but her scientific mind, which is full of wonder at the incredibleness of creation and all that God has made, and rightly so, made her say, "But it's important that we study the body so that we learn how it works - how else can we help the living? You've got to admit that it's fascinating."
I agreed, of course, but I still revolt against the idea of the Body Exhibition.

Aunty Grace has died. Actually, she was a cousin, or married to my grandfather's cousin, but everyone called her Aunty Grace. She was in her hundreth year. She stipulated in her will that she wanted no funeral, no fuss and wanted her body donated to science. She was a Quaker. Such a lovely person, always thinking of others; interested in them and not herself, even up to her last days. Hannah loved Grace and loved visiting her, often writing to her as well. She was looking forward to attending her 100th birthday party in September, which was in its tentative planning stages.
The interesting thing is that Grace was moved from the residential rest home in the north of England two months ago to a nursing home over the border in Scotland, where she was given beautiful care until she died, and because she was no longer in England, a different legal situation regarding bodies of the deceased kicked in. Previously her body would have been sent to Newcastle University Medical School, but now, although not that far away from Newcastle on Tyne, the laws in Scotland stipulated that her body had to go to a Scottish medical school. So, God willing, that is what has happened.

Here comes the punchline: Hannah has accepted an offer from Newcastle Medical School to study bio-medical sciences, and possibly medicine later.
I told her about Grace's passing this afternoon and during the course of the conversation, she suddenly realised what a good thing it was that Grace had been moved to Scotland. Hannah might have been faced with the prospect of dissecting her own relative. God is gracious to the dead and the living.

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