Years after death, body donors cremated at Ho Chi Minh City university

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Teachers and students at Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University pay their respects to 44 body donors at the latter's funeral on Saturday. The donors' families are to the left. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

A funeral for 44 people was organized at the Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University Saturday, several years after their deaths.

These are people who donated their bodies for eduacation research at the university, where they are referred to as "silent teachers," the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Sunday.

Starting from 1993, the anatomy department at the university has received more than 17,000 letters from people donating their bodies after their deaths and nearly 500 bodies.

Le Van Cuong, head of the department, told the donors' family at the funeral that their deceased relatives had "always been appreciated by teachers and students at the school as a treasure. They were silent but they have taught us a lot."

Nguyen Huu An, a second year student, said "These people are all familiar to me. I met them twice a week. They have taught me a lot, not only medical knowledge but about devotion to good causes."

"Today I feel like saying goodbye to my relatives," An said at the ceremony.

Families of the donors who were invited to the cremation said that amidst their grief, they were proud that the lives of their departed loved ones had been extended for good purposes.

Le Trung Kien, the sister of Le Thi Trung Duc, one of the donors, burst into tears as she was given a medical donation medal.

Kien said the family only knew of Duc's intention to donate her body when she died three years ago, but they respected her wish.

"My sister has done a brave and meaningful thing. For the past three years, we did not think that she had died, but that she was living and devoting (her life to a cause)," said Duc's brother Le Trung Chanh.

Vo Kim Hoa felt the same about her husband Hoang The Hung.

She said she has also promised to donate her body to the university, but he had gone first. The couple did not have children. He worked as a guard and she a cleaner at a local primary school.

Hoa said her husband had told her: "We only have these bodies that are valuable. We can donate them to do something good for the society."

Hung died in 2008.

"As I saw my husband still being helpful after he died, I'm not scared of death anymore, I can still be useful after that."

Nguyen Thi Thuy Hang's husband from Binh Duong Province signed the donation papers the day he knew he had liver cancer. He said he hoped his body could help doctors find out how to save sick people like him.

Hang has visited the university every month for the past two years. "Anytime, I feel like he's working there."

Nay, his sister, said she used to worry that his soul would not transcend as he was not buried with proper rituals.

"But that's not true. I believe my brother is at peace now as his wish has been fulfilled," she told Tuoi Tre.

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