My aunt was an organ donor and so, the day she died, her organs were harvested for medical science. I suppose there must be people who list, under "Occupation," "Organ Harvester," people for whom it is always harvest season, each death bringing its bounty. They spend their days loading wagonloads of kidneys, whole cornucopias of corneas, burlap sacks groaning with hearts and lungs and the pale green sprouts of gall bladders, and even, from time to time,
the weighty cauliflower of a brain.
And perhaps today, as I sit in this café, watching the snow and thinking about my aunt, a young medical student somewhere is moving through the white museum of her brain, making his way slowly from one great room to the next. Here is the gallery of her girlhood, with that great canvas depicting her father holding her on his lap in the backyard of their bungalow in St. Louis. And here is a sketch of her the summer after her mother died, walking down a street in Berlin when the broken city was itself a museum. And here is a small, vivid oil of the two of us sitting in a café in London arguing over the work of Constable or Turner, or Francis Bacon
after a visit to the Tate.
I want you to know, as you sit there with your microscope and your slides, there's no need to be reverent before these images. That's the last thing she would have wanted. But do be respectful. Speak quietly. No flash photography. Tell your friends you saw something beautiful.