We have just been as an ecumenical and multi-faith team to the service to give thanks for the people who have given their bodies for medical education, research and training.This year over 450 people who have died donated their bodies to Schools of Medicine and Anatomy in London and the South East.
Southwark Cathedral was packed out with family and friends of those who have died – many having to stand around the pillars and at the back.
I was there with my colleagues. Rikke was representing the Lutheran Church as well as Imperial. We were joined for the first time by our Buddhist colleague Karuna. We all sat together with the other Chaplains for the simple but very moving service. The key event is the singing of a beautiful funeral liturgy composed by John Taverner. During this medical students slowly carry a large basket of flowers through the congregation and lay it at the foot of the altar. The students also walk passed tables full of photographs of those who have died.
The bodies are used to teach anatomy to medical and dental students. When this is over, after one or two years, Chaplains conduct funeral services.
Donation in this way is a very generous act, without which it would not be possible to educate and train doctors. It also makes great demands on family and friends who have to wait for such a long time before being able to lay to rest the remains of people they have loved.