The Anatomical Drawing

I was talking to Christina, my partner, the other night about donation of organs and other remains for the common good. Should I donate my organs? This would mean that in case of brain death, doctors would ‘terminate’ me slowly, while transferring organs to needy people. It might mean that my death would be somewhat less solemn and devoted for my loved ones. But my answer is Yes.

Should doctors also be allowed to take not only organs, but also other parts; say the cornea. Hm. Well. Yes, again. But then, should I donate all the rest of bodily remains to science. I don’t know. I really don’t know. But the question reminded me of a beautiful little story by the Danish author Peter Seeberg, The Anatomical Drawing. I tried to translate it, so here goes:

The Anatomical Drawing

When you cut me up, dear colleagues, he wrote in the accompanying letter to the declaration of donation that he had prepared for the Faculty of Medicine and the municipal hospital in Århus, then do me that posthumous favour to look after some things that I have wondered about while I was alive.

See if there above and over my heart is a darkness after a welding flame. I have often felt as though there was. It is the shame that has burnt its way into the heart, not over great crimes, but over all the minor offences that are the most humiliating of all. And it begins already in childhood. And never stops.

Yes, I may have died of shame, even though I have lived long.

See if there through my brain, from the forehead to the back, might be an indication of a ballistic trajectory of a bullet, shot at close range. I have never been hit by such, but I have feared to be hit – like my father was – and I ask you to examine if such enduring obsessions leave any trace. Why else do we live? See also if there is a constriction on my neck caused by the influence that my fear of being executed by hanging must have produced. Yes, I have always believed that there must exist offices that would not hesitate to execute me, and have good reason to do so.

See if there in the wall of my stomach or in my small intestine might be a so-called rubber band pen that I swallowed at the age of about eight in rage that I could not spell my own name. It has never come out; perhaps it was wandered off to other locations in my body, as there have been cases of.

See if my hands at the utmost moment have assembled in a friendly round shape as though they would embrace my loved one. Then it would be a sign that my body has not been ungrateful.

See in my eyes, do not search for me, but examine me with the instruments at your disposal, if there is not a small flock of people pictured in there, the ones I have not been able to forget.

When you can see no more, then I contend that I really am dead.

Take your notes, whether you can confirm or refute my suppositions, and attach them to the case.

Draw what you can, measure what you can.

But first and foremost: Whet your knives, lads, that you do not mess things up.

Translated from: Peter Seeberg, Udvalgte noveller, Gyldendal: København.

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