My Mom: Whole Body Donation, Memorial and Scattering Ashes

My Mom: Whole Body Donation, Memorial and Scattering Ashes

It has been five years since we scattered my mom’s ashes at sunset on Anna Maria Island, FL. There isn’t a day that goes by she isn’t in my thoughts and I don’t think that will ever change. She is so much a part of me. She taught me almost everything. If she didn’t know how to do something she would find someone to show me. So when it can to planning her memorial I was at a loss, but it was beautiful and exactly her.

Mom’s Memorial

Mom had just finished renovating her house: new floors throughout, new kitchen, painted her room, etc. So very exciting! However, everything was still packed when she went in the hospital. I thought I it would be great to have her house ready for her when she got home, so I unpacked everything. I set up her kitchen and completely decorated in her room with all her new lines. However, I didn’t know at the time she would never come home and see it.

So, I decided to have an open house at her home to show everyone what a wonderful job she did. It was potluck. I wasn’t up for cooking. I made it late afternoon so we could walk down to the beach and scatter her ashes at sunset. Everyone was quite shy about sharing, so I played a recording of my mom telling one of her favorite family stories. We were all laughing by the end.


Order of Service

“Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croche


“To Mom” read by Melissa Fox-Austin, daughter



Scattering Ashes

Quite Reflection

Closing Words

Back Story:
Before my grandmother died in April 2001, my she decided to be cremated to save costs and to save my mom her burial spot. However, my mom thought and thought and decided it was too expensive to be buried. She would be cremated, but heart in hearts she really wanted to donate her body to science.

When my mom was pregnant with me she had been wrongly and mistakenly diagnosed repeatedly. She went through tests after test. The doctors accused her of just being fat or emotional and to suck it up. Even though she had a lot of symptoms. They accused her that it was all psychosomatic. Finally, after miraculously giving birth to me, she went to a Lakeland Regional Medical Center (no Lakeland Regional Health) that specialized in figuring out difficult cases. She literally presented herself in front of a board of specialists—Remember House?. When they decided it wasn’t their specialty they left the room. Finally, someone figured out my mom was suffering from Cushing’s Disease. My mom had a tumor in her adrenal gland. At the time my mom was 28 and they think she was suffering from the disease for about 5 years. Doctors, students, and staff came and studied her. They took photos. She was included in journals and medical books. And they saved her life.

Thirty-three years later, when my mom entered hospice care she told me she could donate her body to science. And I made it happen. We didn’t have a lot of time to search all avenues. however, our hospice counselor did find two options. The one we went with was Science Care. Mainly because they would take my mom even though she had one round of radiation. It was surprisingly simple. We had an interview and filled out an easy questionnaire. They accepted my mom and they took care of everything thing else.

If my mom donated her body to science, how did we have ashes?
Well, whatever is not used is cremated and I choose to have her ashes returned to me and they came via USPS. We still had a memorial. We still scattered her ashes. She got to help medical research and education projects, such as cancer research, Alzheimer’s research, nerve research, and training surgeons on the latest medical advancements. Finally, there was a tree planted her in honor at the one-year anniversary of her donation through the National Forest Foundation’s Trees for US program. I hadn’t remembered the tree endowment at the time and when I received the letter I cried.

I know whole body donation isn’t for everyone, but it was exactly the thing that gave her peace. She always wanted to be useful. She always wanted to take care of others. This gave her peace of mind and it enabled me to full fill her wishes. And we were still able to have a memorial where were able to say goodbye.

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