Dozens of UH medical students paddled out from Magic Island Saturday afternoon to scatter the ashes of those who donated their bodies for the school’s Willed Body Program.

Families of 157 Hawaii residents who willed their loved ones’ bodies to the medical school last year gathered at Magic Island.

It was the program’s largest honoree class.

“It’s an opportunity to continue to teach, despite the end of their life,” said first-year medical student Mike Brigoli from Ewa, “so we learn all about the body’s functions, physiology, anatomy, we learn about the disease process because you accumulate that throughout your entire life.”

The brother of a donor, Roy Harano from Kailua, said “Actually, I heard about it long ago, but I didn’t know my brother has actually filled out all the forms and had wanted to do this until he passed. And his passing was pretty sudden, so when we found out, I didn’t expect all this. This is so beautiful, the way they honor you to the very end, and I’m so grateful that they do something like this.”

For those family members who wished it, the students paddled out and scattered ashes and placed flowers in the ocean while bagpipes played.

This was the second time for the New York family of Glenn Emanuel, who was the son-in-law of two of the donors. He said “For us, giving forward, not having death be the end of things is something to both my relatives who donated their bodies and they want to make sure kept giving beyond.”

“When we get to interact with patients this way, when somebody makes such a huge gift, we actually get to interact with their entire life,” said Brigoli. “We’re getting to know who they are and what they’ve been through, so that’s a huge part for us.”

Earlier in the day, families received the ashes of their loved ones in a ceremony at the Manoa campus that included music, chant and hula.

To learn more about the Willed Body Program, click here.