July 24, 2014

The Last Post at Menin Gate

Mark Yost reports from Ypres, Belgium how a longstanding ceremony honoring the fallen is losing its solemnity in Crowding Out the Memories

I first started coming to the Last Post ceremony in this tiny town on the French border in the mid-1990s. There were maybe 200 people who would gather each night beneath the Menin Gate, the Reginald Blomfield-designed monument reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe, that was dedicated in July 1927 to forever remember the almost 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died near here between 1914 to 1918 but have no known grave.

The ceremonies were much more solemn back then. The local police would stop traffic.

 Meningate Lastpostceremony

I can remember Belgians—mostly elderly people—would come out of their narrow little houses along St. Jacobs Street, which runs perpendicular to the Menen Road, the main thoroughfare to the front during World War I. They'd stand on their front steps and quietly honor those they probably never knew who had gone off to defend their little town, which the British called "wipers," never to return.

It was truly a moving ceremony, made more remarkable by the fact that Belgians had been doing it uninterrupted since July 2, 1928 (except, of course, in the early 1940s, during the Nazi Occupation). On July 9, 2015, Ypres will host its 30,000th Last Post.

At precisely 8 p.m., a three-man honor guard from the volunteer fire department comes out in its dress uniforms and plays the trumpet fanfare known as "The Last Post," a bugle call in the British military that signals the end of the day. "The Last Post" is also often played at British military funerals and other commemorative ceremonies. Some nights, veterans groups laying wreaths at the Menin Gate will recite a stanza from Laurence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen":
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

When I came back here with my son in 2010, momentum was already building for the 100th anniversary on July 28, 2014, but the ceremony had lost some of its solemnity. …when I returned again in early May this year, just a few months ahead of the 100th anniversary, the crowds had grown even bigger…..

But bigger isn't always better….

"The roads are getting too crowded," a waitress at Ypres's 't Klein Stadhuis, The Little Town Hall, told me.

"It's too much," said the bartender at the Ypra Inn, a faux British pub on the corner next to the Menin Gate. Most nights, in the hours leading up to the Last Post, the pub is overflowing with British tourists quaffing pints and snapping selfies.

Too much, indeed.

Youtube video of the ceremony filmed by a Dutch tourist 2009.  Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines plays The Last Post here  on Remembrance Sunday ]

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink

The Last Post at Menin Gate

Mark Yost reports from Ypres, Belgium how a longstanding ceremony honoring the fallen is losing its solemnity in Crowding Out the Memories

I first started coming to the Last Post ceremony in this tiny town on the French border in the mid-1990s. There were maybe 200 people who would gather each night beneath the Menin Gate, the Reginald Blomfield-designed monument reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe, that was dedicated in July 1927 to forever remember the almost 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died near here between 1914 to 1918 but have no known grave.

The ceremonies were much more solemn back then. The local police would stop traffic.

 Meningate Lastpostceremony

I can remember Belgians—mostly elderly people—would come out of their narrow little houses along St. Jacobs Street, which runs perpendicular to the Menen Road, the main thoroughfare to the front during World War I. They'd stand on their front steps and quietly honor those they probably never knew who had gone off to defend their little town, which the British called "wipers," never to return.

It was truly a moving ceremony, made more remarkable by the fact that Belgians had been doing it uninterrupted since July 2, 1928 (except, of course, in the early 1940s, during the Nazi Occupation). On July 9, 2015, Ypres will host its 30,000th Last Post.

At precisely 8 p.m., a three-man honor guard from the volunteer fire department comes out in its dress uniforms and plays the trumpet fanfare known as "The Last Post," a bugle call in the British military that signals the end of the day. "The Last Post" is also often played at British military funerals and other commemorative ceremonies. Some nights, veterans groups laying wreaths at the Menin Gate will recite a stanza from Laurence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen":
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

When I came back here with my son in 2010, momentum was already building for the 100th anniversary on July 28, 2014, but the ceremony had lost some of its solemnity. …when I returned again in early May this year, just a few months ahead of the 100th anniversary, the crowds had grown even bigger…..

But bigger isn't always better….

"The roads are getting too crowded," a waitress at Ypres's 't Klein Stadhuis, The Little Town Hall, told me.

"It's too much," said the bartender at the Ypra Inn, a faux British pub on the corner next to the Menin Gate. Most nights, in the hours leading up to the Last Post, the pub is overflowing with British tourists quaffing pints and snapping selfies.

Too much, indeed.

Youtube video of the ceremony filmed by a Dutch tourist 2009.  Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines plays The Last Post here  on Remembrance Sunday ]

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink

July 23, 2014

"Bye, babe. I hope I call you."

Brian Sweeney's last words preserved in 9/11 museum.

‘Jules, This is Brian’

The 9/11 Museum’s main exhibit is a by-the-minute walkthrough of the events of the day in question, housed in what was once a sub-basement of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Shortly after beginning it, one encounters the following artifact: the final recorded words of Brian Sweeney. The visitor listens to them by using a telephone mounted on the exhibit’s wall.

Sweeney was a 38-years-old aeronautics consultant and former Navy fighter pilot. He left this message on his wife Julie Sweeney’s phone at 8:59 a.m. on September 11, 2001:

Jules, this is Brian listen, I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked. If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times, same to my parents and everybody, and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there. Bye, babe. I hope I call you.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 PM | Permalink
Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

No trust fund for my kids

Philip Seymour Hoffman leaves his entire $35million fortune to his partner because he didn't want his three children to be 'trust fund kids'

Philip Seymour Hoffman rejected his accountant's suggestion he set aside money for his three children because he didn't want them to be 'trust fund' kids, according to new court documents.  Hoffman wanted his estimated $35 million fortune to go his longtime partner and the children's mother, Mimi O'Donnell.  Hoffman also said that he wanted his son to be raised in Manhattan, Chicago or San Francisco.

The Oscar-winning actor, 46 was found dead in his Manhattan apartment in February from a drugs overdose.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:32 PM | Permalink
Categories: Estate Planning and End of Life planning

July 21, 2014

"Are ya'll sure he's gone?"

Wife's outrage after unconscious vet was pronounced DEAD at VA hospital :  'They said his soul was gone':

A woman in Kentucky is demanding answers from a local VA hospital after she claims her husband was erroneously pronounced dead.
According to Jennifer Dunn, doctors at the Lexington VA Hospital assured her last week that her husband, Danny Dunn, was no longer among the living.
The wife was given her husband’s time of death, but when she went into his room to bid a final farewell, she found Mr Dunn with a strong heart rate and blood pressure.

 Vet Danny Dunn Pronounced Dead

It all started last Thursday morning when 46-year-old Danny Dunn, an U.S. Army veteran, was discovered unconscious by his wife in their Central Kentucky home.
The former soldier was rushed to a hospital in Harrodsburg and was later airlifted to the VA Hospital in Lexington, where medical personnel pronounced him dead.

'I said, "Are ya'll sure he's gone?" and they said, "There's no pulse, ma'am, he's gone,"' Jennifer Dunn told LEX18.

In accordance with her husband's end-of-life wishes, Mrs Dunn made the decision to take him off life support, but she quickly discovered that Danny still had vital signs.  As of Monday, the 46-year-old veteran was very much alive, and according to his wife, apparently growing stronger.

‘He squeezed my hand when I asked him to,’ she said. ‘He opened his eyes when I asked him to. And he grabbed my hand.’

The Dunn family now want the ailing husband and father transferred to another hospital for treatment.

You have to wonder what the demoralizing effect the scandal of the Veterans Administration and all these stories have are on our veterans and their families.    They dishearten  me.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:30 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

Imagine if you lost your child and watched their bodies treated like this

The final indignity: Horror as bodies of MH17 crash victims are lined up on side of dirt track, tossed into dumpster trucks and carted off to morgue train after being left in 85F heat for three days

 Mh17Bodies Rubbish Truck

As if the heartache couldn’t get any worse, families of MH17 victims were today greeted with the most undignified scene imaginable – their loved ones in black body bags being lined up on the side of a road and thrown into the back of rubbish trucks.

Almost 200 victims were piled high in the sweltering heat on eastern Ukraine before being carted off to a refrigerated train after their passenger jet was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

For three days the 298 victims of the attack were left where they fell, in a field near the village of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine which is controlled by pro-Russian rebels, widely suspected of shooting the plane out of the sky on Thursday afternoon.

Over the weekend a chaotic clean-up operation finally began, where bodies were wrapped in black plastic and lined up along the roadside before being heaped onto dirty trucks to be taken to the train at a station nine miles away. In a further blow, it was claimed the refrigeration on board the carriages has not been working.

A chorus of outrage has been building over the treatment of the bodies, which victims' relatives have called 'degrading' and 'inhumane'. Today rebels promised that the train would be allowed to move on in the afternoon so the bodies could be examined by experts and eventually sent home.

 Mh 17 Bodies Lined Up On Road

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 AM | Permalink
Categories: Desecration of corpses, graves

July 20, 2014

In the "grimmest of graveyards" appalling behavior by pro Russian thugs

Graveyard of desecration: Grave robbers. Ghoulish tourists taking pictures on their mobiles. Corpses left to rot:  Ian Birrell sends this shocking dispatch from the grim crash site.

For this is the grimmest of graveyards. Here on the gentle rolling hills of eastern Ukraine, beside an abandoned Soviet-era poultry farm, lay the innocent people whose lives were extinguished so suddenly in an explosion at 33,000 feet on Thursday afternoon.

Several human victims were still stuck in their seats. Others were mangled, mashed and hideously manipulated. I saw a leg, a battered trunk, a twisted hand reaching out from the grass and things more gruesome than I ever want to recall.

In a burned patch of grass littered with charred debris lay five crumpled corpses in a heap. Nearby were boarding passes, a smashed computer, a school book, piles of clothes, a box of chocolates – although bizarrely, two bottles of duty-free whisky had survived.

One can only imagine the terror with which these 298 passengers plummeted to earth – should they have been unfortunate enough to have still been alive – after their passenger plane was seemingly struck by a powerful military weapon.
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There are many circles of obscenity around this mass murder, almost certainly caused by a missile fired by crowing pro-Russian rebels armed, funded and trained by Moscow. But perhaps the ultimate insult is that even in death these poor people were denied dignity.

So their devastated and dishevelled bodies were left in the baking summer heat, exposed to the elements for three days while uniformed goons with guns stole from their suitcases and then stopped international observers trying to solve the mystery of their deaths.

'Mr Putin, send them home, send them home, please': Grieving mother begs Russian leader to return her son and girlfriend as MH17 bodies are discovered in train carriages 9 miles away

The grieving mother of an MH17 victim today begged for his body to be returned - as reports emerged of corpses being carted away in the night and piled up in train carriages in a rebel-held town.

Silene Fredricksz and her husband Robertt begged Russian president Vladimir Putin to ensure the safe return of her son and his girlfriend.  The two, Bryce Fredricksz, 23, and Oehlers, 20, were among the 298 victims when the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down over Ukraine on Thursday and among the 192 Dutch victims of the disaster - almost two thirds of the total.

Holding a photograph of the two loved ones, …..She said: 'They were 23 and 20 years old. They are laying there somewhere on the floor. I don't know where they are.
'I want to arrange their funeral and I can't. I don't know where they are. I want them back. I want my children back. Look at those people. They're beautiful.
'They have to come back. Mr Putin, send them home. Send them home. Please."

 Dutch Couple Victims Ukraine Aircrash  Dutch Victims: Bryce Fredricksz (right) and Daisy Oehlers (left)

Outrage has been building over the treatment of bodies at the site, as pro-Russian rebels loaded as many as 196 bodies onto trucks and hauled them away, while at the same time holding back international observers.

 Separatists Block-Investigators Armed separatists refuse to allow investigators  access to crash site.

Separatists Said to Have Seized Control of Crash Victims’ Remains

KIEV, Ukraine — Pro-Russian separatist militiamen have seized custody of the bodies of about 200 victims of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday, and rebels continued to limit access to the crash site in eastern Ukraine, blocking the work of experts even as hundreds of untrained local volunteers were picking through the wreckage with sticks.

Ukrainian emergency responders, working under the watchful eyes of armed rebels, had recovered 196 bodies from the area where Flight 17, a Boeing 777 carrying 298 passengers and crew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed and burned on Thursday afternoon.

But the responders were forced to turn the bodies over to the separatists, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said at a briefing in Kiev on Sunday. Mr. Lysenko said officials believed that 38 of those bodies were taken to the morgue in Donetsk, a regional capital that is controlled by separatists.
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Large groups of searchers were working at the crash site, near the village of Grabovo, for the first time on Sunday. Coal miners and people in civilian clothes walked through wheat and corn fields, looking for those bodies that were still missing. Bodies were placed in black plastic bags and laid along the side of the road in matted grass.

It was the first day of mass searching, a full three days after the plane was shot down.
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In a statement on Saturday, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, whose country lost 193 of its citizens aboard the plane, urged the speedy return of bodies and expressed outrage at the lack of control over the site.

“Swift recovery of the victims’ remains is now an absolute necessity and our highest priority,” Mr. Rutte said in the statement. “I am shocked by the images of completely disrespectful behavior at this tragic place. In defiance of all the rules of proper investigation, people have evidently been picking through the personal and recognizable belongings of the victims. This is appalling.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:52 PM | Permalink
Categories: Desecration of corpses, graves

James Garner RIP

London Telegraph James Garner: an actor of gentle gallantry  The star of The Rockford Files and The Great Escape was a reminder of a bygone age.

James Garner, who died on Saturday at the age of 86, had a career that shuffled from TV to film to TV and back to film with the relaxed, unflappable gait of a cowboy – the type of role he was initially and really always associated with, from his first successes in the series Cheyenne (1955-7) and Maverick (1957-62). As a standalone film star, he caught some good breaks early on – starring opposite Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn in William Wyler’s terrific second adaptation of The Children’s Hour (1961), and as part of the whopping alpha-male line-up in The Great Escape (1963). There, his part as Flight Lt Hendley, the American in the RAF able to procure everything from cameras to ID cards, even threatened to steal the movie away from Steve McQueen. (McQueen was allegedly envious of his strapping co-star’s screen time, and “that goddamn white turtleneck” he was always wearing.)

 James-Garner 1

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Garner was almost too good-looking for his own good, a throwback to the Rock Hudson age when square jaws were bankable. He was a natural co-star for a specifically wholesome brand of leading lady – it’s telling that he worked twice with Doris Day (in the 1963 double bill of Move Over, Darling and The Thrill of it All) and three times with Julie Andrew

The man every woman in the world was just a little bit in love with: He was Hollywood's most amiable star - but James Garner's brutal childhood gave him a core of steel

A lifelong smoker — he even continued after undergoing open-heart surgery in 1988 — Garner had suffered a stroke six years ago. Over a six-decade career that included more than 50 films, he had made acting look so natural and effortless.  As tributes were made to him last night — particularly in praise of his under-stated style — perhaps the  veteran arts critic Clive James put it best, describing the super-articulate Garner as ‘every sane person’s favorite movie star… though tall and handsome, he was never remote: he had an air of belonging down here with us’.

Permanently harassed and frequently roughed up by villains — especially as private eye Jim Rockford — Garner played flawed heroes with whom audiences could relate.  And he was a refreshingly different kind of star off-screen, too. Shy and self-effacing, Garner was the classic plain-speaking Midwesterner who moved to Hollywood but never fell for its puffed up, underhand ways.
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Garner’s love life was very different from most of his libidinous co-stars, too. Married only once, he remained with Lois, his wife of 58 years, until the day he died — and never once attracted any accusations of infidelity. The couple had one child, daughter Greta.
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In his 2011 autobiography — which the typically modest actor waited until he was 83 to produce — he revealed a deeply troubled childhood in Depression era Oklahoma.His father, Weldon Bumgarner, ran a hardware store-cum-post-office on a country road. The family — including James and his two older brothers — lived in the back of the shop, which didn’t have indoor plumbing. His half-Cherokee mother died when he was four, probably during a botched abortion, Garner believed.
Then the family shop burned down  and Garner’s father, a feckless  alcoholic, became a carpet layer. Often arriving home drunk, he would expect  his three young sons to join him in rousing sing-songs. If they refused — literally — to sing for their supper, they were beaten.
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Finding it increasingly hard to cope without a mother figure, he split up his children and sent them to live with various relatives, eventually reuniting them when he remarried six years later.  His NEW wife, a redhead named Wilma, terrorised the boys. She would hit them with willow switches she had made them cut down. James was treated the worst.  ‘Whenever I did anything wrong she’d put me in a dress and make everyone call me “Louise”,’ he recalled. At 14, he finally snapped after years of violence. Throwing his stepmother to the ground during one of the beatings, he began to throttle her — convinced she would kill him if he didn’t kill her first.
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Garner won two Purple Hearts  (America’s oldest military medal) when he was wounded twice, first  in the face and hand by shrapnel  from a mortar round, and later in the buttocks from ‘friendly fire’ from a U.S. fighter jet.
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Back in the U.S., he eked out a living helping his father lay carpets. Having never considered acting, he might not have got into the profession but for a complete accident  At one point, he had worked as a petrol station attendant with a  man called Paul Gregory, an aspiring theatrical agent, who observed that Garner’s rugged good looks could work well for him in Hollywood. Some years later, Garner was  driving through LA when he spotted a sign for ‘Paul Gregory & Associates’. On impulse, he went inside.
Sure enough, his old colleague was now a theatrical producer and got Garner a non-speaking part in a 1954  Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, a play based on a novel, The Caine Mutiny (the story of shipboard conflict aboard a World War II naval vessel).  ‘I had no lines and I had trouble staying awake,’ Garner said. But  he claimed he learned to act from running through lines with fellow cast members and watching them — in particular Henry Fonda — perform each night.  ‘I swiped practically all my acting style from him,’ said Garner, as self-effacing as ever.

Randy Barnett remembers Remembering Maverick: The Garner Files – A Memoir

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink
Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

July 19, 2014

Rogue funeral director in Massachusetts stashed remains of more than 50 people in storage unit

Cremated remains of 40 people and 12 bodies found 'stashed in storage units by rogue funeral director' who operated without a license for six years

The bodies of 12 people along with the cremated remains of 40 deceased and one dog have been discovered in storage units allegedly connected to a rogue funeral director.  The gruesome discoveries emerged on Thursday after authorities spent months investigating Massachusetts funeral home director Joseph O’Donnell.

 Rogue Funeral Director Joseph O'donnell

The bodies were kept at a storage unit in Weymouth while individually packaged remains were found at a location in Somerville.  The Suffolk District Attorney's office is now talking with families to try to identify the remains, The Boston Herald reported.

O'Donnell, 55, was arrested in April for allegedly scamming an elderly couple out of $12,000 in burial expenses then keeping the money when he went out of business.

O'Donnell had also been under investigation by state authorities who suspected he'd been operating from his home unlicensed for six years.

O’Donnell is due back in court on Friday, reported the Boston Globe. He has been held on $10,000 bail after pleading not guilty in April to stealing the elderly couple's funeral expenses. He is now likely to face further charges.  'Our top priority right now is determining the identity of the remains we’ve discovered,' DA Daniel Conley said Thursday.

“Investigators do not believe their deaths were the result of foul play, but the circumstances of their placement in the storage facility is a central point of inquiry,” Conley’s office said in a statement.

This is going to cause problems for the funeral homes run by different O'Donnells in Lowell, Salem and Danvers.  People have to investigate the funeral homes they plan to use.  At the minimum, make sure their license is check and check through online reviews.

Still the story remains puzzling.  Where were the families?  Why was he storing cremated remains 'individually packaged'?  Could it be that the families never picked up the remains of family members they never much liked in the first place?

And what is the role of the state regulators if not to insure that unlicensed funeral homes or funeral directors are not still practicing.  I'd also like to know what  is the state policy on unclaimed bodies or remains…  What is a funeral director to do?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink
Categories: Desecration of corpses, graves

Dying on your own terms in not giving up

Deborah Klotz in The Boston Globe  Stuart Scott’s ESPY speech omits mention of dying the good death

After being diagnosed with a rare cancer seven years ago, ESPN anchor Stuart Scott has been living life on his own terms, fighting — as he told a crowd of television viewers during the ESPY awards on Wednesday night — and never giving up…..

It was a powerful, heartfelt moment. Left unsaid, however, was that Scott, 48, is likely going to die at some point from his cancer that has metastasized, causing liver and kidney complications. I worry that the expectation he sets for cancer patients to fight the good fight leaves those who choose to accept the inevitable feeling ashamed or defeated.
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But what if a cancer patient doesn’t want to fight to the last breath? What if that person elects to skip chemotherapy — and perhaps live a few months less — to be able to sit on the porch and watch the sunrise or die peacefully surrounded by family at home?

Can we not celebrate the lives of those patients as well, even if they choose to opt out of the fight? When cancer cruelly strikes a person young, like Valvano and Scott, doctors, loved ones, and friends expect them to try every treatment possible (regardless of the side effects) to have the best shot at a cure.
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A Dana-Farber Cancer Institute study published in March found that more than half of end-stage cancer patients receive chemotherapy during the last few months of their life, and those who received such treatment were more likely to die in a hospital intensive care unit, hooked to a ventilator, rather than at home as they would have preferred.

Scott spoke of how important it was to have his doctors and family members fight for him when he was too tired to fight on his own. He’s opting to enter a clinical trial for a new drug to help him in his battle. While I respect him for this decision, I would have respected him the same had he chosen not to try an experimental treatment.

But I question whether society would have or whether he would have been given the “perseverance award” if he had spoken about his decision to die on his own terms.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:41 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying | Categories: Good Death

Heartbreaking request. Heartwarming reponse

Heartwarming response to the Father who asks Reddit to photoshop his infant daughter without medical tubes

Following the loss of his infant daughter, Sophia, a mourning father took to Reddit to ask the community for a single, heartbreaking request:

"Photoshop Request: My daughter recently passed away after a long battle in the children's hospital. Since she was in the hospital her whole life we never were able to get a photo without all her tubes. Can someone remove the tubes from this photo?"

The community response was overwhelmingly supportive, and many talented artists volunteered to give this father the beautiful portrait of Sophia he never had the chance to take.


 Infant Sophia With:Without Tubes
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink
Categories: Memory, Memorials

Five Rules for Consoling the Dying

In First Things, Russell Saltzman offers his Five Rules for Consoling the Dying.

First, if you are approaching a bedside, try not to act like a novice Optimist Club member, all hale and hearty and booming of voice. I know you are trying to cheer people up, but that’s not the way to do it. Ginned up bon ami “let’s do lunch soon” camaraderie makes me wonder if you can see reality….

Second, don’t pester the dying with useless information. You are not there to make small talk. You are there to console. Don’t talk about getting the gutters cleaned or the driveway resealed, what you did on your last (or what you plan to do on your next) vacation, who you saw last week and how well they’re looking, or where you have to stop next after you leave……

Third, it does no good to raise your voice, as if the dying are now hearing impaired….it is condescending and likely unnecessary.

Fourth, don’t lie. “I’m never leaving this hospital, am I?”…..I have encountered only one doctor who ever directly told a patient her illness was unto death. But those dying know and they know a lie when they hear it……

Finally, all you caregivers, family and pros—stop talking about the patient. Instead, talk to the patient. It hardly matters if he or she can reply, because at this point it isn’t about the patient. It is about you and how important it is for you to remember there is a person before you….

If you want to be a consoling presence, show a little gravitas….If you must speak, remember, recall, and reminisce aloud with the patient, and say what they have meant to you and how deeply you love them. While saying this you must touch—hold a hand, caress a forehead, squeeze an arm.


Speak of memories, and touch like this:

She leans forward, his daughter, and she brushes her nose against his, moving side to side. “Remember the ‘Eskimo kisses’ you gave me?” He smiles, as his arm reaches up around her neck.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

July 17, 2014

“We Were Wrong, Terribly Wrong”

Professor Theodore Boer, a Dutch professor of ethics, argued that a good euthanasia law would produce a relatively low number of deaths.  But that was seven years ago.

 Dutch Prof Theo Boer Theo Boer, Dutch Professor of Ethics

Last week he testified in Great Britain where debate on an assisted dying bill  is going on in the House of Peers.  The bill would allow doctors to prescribe poison to terminally ill and mentally alert people who wish to kill themselves.  "I used to be a supporter of the Dutch law. But now, with 12 years of experience, I take a very different view."  (full text of his remarks here)

Professor Boer testified "We were wrong - terribly wrong,….  ‘Don’t do it Britain. ‘Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely ever to go back in again.’
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‘Whereas in the first years after 2002 hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia appear in reports, these numbers are now sharply on the rise.

‘Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering of those given euthanasia or assisted suicide consisted in being aged, lonely or bereaved.

‘Some of these patients could have lived for years or decades. Pressure on doctors to conform to patients’ – or in some cases relatives’ – wishes can be intense.
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Euthanasia is on the way to become a ‘default’ mode of dying for cancer patients.

The latest euthanasia figures for the Netherlands show that nearly one in seven deaths are at the hands of doctors.

In 2012, there were 4,188 deaths by direct euthanasia – 3 per cent of all deaths – and 3,695 deaths by direct euthanasia in 2011. The figures do not include deaths by terminal sedation, where patients are rendered unconscious before they are dehydrated and starved to death, an act often referred to as ‘euthanasia by omission’.  This practice accounts for more than 12 per cent of all deaths in the country.
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Elspeth Chowdharay-Best, honorary secretary of Alert, the anti-euthanasia pressure group, said legalizing assisted suicide would be like ‘stepping off a precipice’. ‘It means that you would lose the right to live,’ she said. ‘It is more serious than people realize.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:14 PM | Permalink
Categories: Euthanasia

July 16, 2014

Funeral of Hero Firefighter

Heartbreaking moment fallen firefighter's daughters are presented with his helmets at funeral as thousands of comrades line the streets to honor the hero

Pain and sadness were almost palpable in Staten Island today as the community said a final farewell to a New York City firefighter killed in the line of duty.  Amidst a crowd of sombre uniformed men and grieving women stood Lt Gordon 'Matt' Ambles' two little girls, Gabriella, 7, and Giovanna, 5, each of them wearing one of dad's old fire helmets.

 Firefighters Daughters

Lt. Ambelas died Saturday night searching for victims in a burning, cluttered Brooklyn high-rise apartment building. His was the first Fire Department of New York line-of-duty death in more than two years.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his eulogy that the 40-year-old FDNY veteran was dedicated, hardworking, kind and, above all, a family man.  'All members of the FDNY but really, all New Yorkers, are feeling this moment with pain and sadness because we’ve lost a true hero,' de Blasio said. 'Our city is inspired by his courage and deeply saddened by his loss.'  That theme was poignantly accentuated when fire helmets from Ambelas’ old commands were placed on the heads of his daughters Gabriella, 8, and Giavanna, 5.

Lt Ambelas was a 14-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department who only recently was honored for saving the life of a seven-year-old boy

 Lt-Ambelas Firefighter Hero

Thousands of uniformed firefighters from across the country gathered for the funeral of the fallen fireman who the mayor said was ‘a true hero.’

 Firefighters Ambelas Funeral
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations | Categories: Great Legacies

Couple laid to rest in one casket

'The way they looked at each other - you could see their love': Couple who were married for 63 years die hours apart and are laid to rest in one casket

 Bob+Barbara Pettis 2  Before they were married                                                                                                           Bob+Barbara Pettis  On their 50th wedding anniversary
A couple who were happily married for 63 years have been laid to rest together after they both passed away on the same day.  Bob, 85, and 82-year-old Barbara Pettis of Holdenville, Oklahoma, had both been battling health problems for several years when they died mere hours apart on June 30.

Their oldest son Clay, 59, told NewsOK that they were so close in life, it was no surprise that they ended up leaving the earth together.  Clay - who, with his wife Jana, had been his parents' primary caretakers for two years - said it took him a while to fully realize just how special they were.  'We had something growing up that a lot of kids don't get. The thought of them divorcing was inconceivable to me,' he said. 'We had that kind of security with them that it never crossed our minds growing up.'
…..
Per Barbara's wishes, she was cremated. Clay and his two siblings, Leslie and Jim, laid their parents to rest on July 2nd, placing their mother's urn in Bob's casket so they could be eternally together…..

Their lives were celebrated at a joint memorial service at Calvary Baptist Church in Holdenville, where they were both active members - Bob a deacon and song leader, and Barbara a pianist and organist.

The couple are survived by their three children, 11 grandchildren five great-grandchildren, with another great-grandkid due to be born this month.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 AM | Permalink
Categories: Great Legacies | Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

July 10, 2014

Death Becomes Her

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a new exhibit will open in the Fall. Death Becomes Her  A Century of Mourning Attire

Deathbecomesher Exhpg

This Costume Institute exhibition will explore the aesthetic development and cultural implications of mourning fashions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Approximately thirty ensembles, many of which are being exhibited for the first time, will reveal the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.

The thematic exhibition will be organized chronologically and feature mourning dress from 1815 to 1915, primarily from The Costume Institute's collection, including mourning gowns worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra. The calendar of bereavement's evolution and cultural implications will be illuminated through women's clothing and accessories, showing the progression of appropriate fabrics from mourning crape to corded silks, and the later introduction of color with shades of gray and mauve.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:26 PM | Permalink
Categories: Art

Funny epitaphs

Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York:
Born 1903--Died 1942.

Looked up the elevator shaft
to see if the car was on the way down.
It was.

=============================
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:

Here lies an Atheist, all dressed up
and no place to go.

=============================
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in
East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia:

Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102. Only the good die young.

=============================
In a London , England cemetery:

Here lies Ann Mann,
who lived an old maid
but died an old Mann.
Dec. 8, 1767

=============================
In a Ribbesford, England, cemetery:

Anna Wallace The children of Israel wanted bread, And the Lord sent them manna. Clark Wallace wanted a wife, And the Devil sent him Anna.

===============================
In a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery:

Here lies Johnny Yeast. Pardon him for not rising.

===============================
In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, cemetery:

Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake, Stepped on the gas instead of the brake.

==============================
In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery:

Here lays The Kid, We planted him raw. He was quick on the trigger, But slow on the draw.

================================
A lawyer's epitaph in England:

Sir John Strange. Here lies an honest lawyer, and that is Strange.

=================================
John Penny's epitaph in the Wimborne, England, cemetery:

Reader, if cash thou art in want of any, Dig 6 feet deep and thou wilt find a Penny.

==================================
In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England:

On the 22nd of June,
Jonathan Fiddle went out of tune.

==================================
Anna Hopewell's grave in Enosburg Falls, Vermont:

Here lies the body of our Anna, Done to death by a banana. It wasn't the fruit that laid her low, But the skin of the thing that made her go.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink
Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

July 8, 2014

"I want to be a burden on my family as I die, and for them to be a burden on me"

Giles Frasier in the Guardian says his problem with euthanasia is not that it is a immoral way to die, but that it has its roots in a fearful way to live

I do want to be a burden on my loved ones just as I want them to be a burden on me – it's called looking after each other. Obviously, I know people are terrified of the indignity of dying and of being ill generally. Having someone wipe our bums, clean up our mess, put up with our incoherent ramblings and mood swings is a threat to our cherished sense of personal autonomy…..

No, we are not brains in vats. We are not solitary self-defining intellectual identities who form temporary alliances with each other for short-term mutual advantage. My existence is fundamentally bound up with yours. Of course, I will clean you up. Of course, I will hold your hand in the long hours of the night. Shut up about being a burden. I love you. This is what it means to love you. Surely, there is something extraordinarily beautiful about all of this.

Likewise, I have no fondness for pain per se. And I can even imagine taking a draught of something myself one day, were some pain to become utterly intolerable. I do understand. And, yes, even understand that helping others to do it can sometimes be an act of mercy…..

Yet too many of us make a Faustian pact with pharmacology, welcoming its obvious benefits, but ignoring the fact that drugs also can demand your soul. That's perhaps why we speak of the overly drugged-up as zombies.

Finally, the contemporary "good death" is one that happens without the dying person knowing all that much about it. But what about the need for time to say goodbye and sorry and thank you? It is as if we want to die without actually knowing we are dying.

Much of this originates in the excessive fear we now have of dying, a fear that is amplified by the let's pretend game that we play when we remove death from public view. It is precisely this fear that operates when adults worry about taking children to the funeral because "it will upset them".

As with many things like this, it is a reflection of adult anxiety rather than the child's ability to cope. And the message it communicates is that death is something strange, weird, and spooky. This only serves to incubate our fear and encourages us to devise further strategies to keep the full knowledge of its reality at bay.

Via  Ben Conroy at Patheos who in Euthanasia: A Further Erosion of Family Understanding writes

This is going to be one of the areas where "consent-only" morality (a coherent, internally consistent system which holds as its most fundamental principle that you own yourself) is going to have a real, substantial, irreconcilable clash with "agape-only" morality (which holds that you are owned in part by your friends and your family, and owned wholly by God). But it's also an area where Catholics have a strong, compassionate case to make. Great hospice care should become an immediately identifiable "Catholic issue"; and we can use cases like Belgium and the Netherlands as contrasts to paint a more human, more decent picture.

and  quotes Pope Francis:

In the family, one learns that the loss of health can never be a reason for discriminating against any human life. The family teaches about not falling into an individualism that weighs oneself against the others. And it is here, in the family, that "taking care of you" constitutes one of the fundaments of human existence and a moral attitude that must be promoted, and again through values, conscience effort and solidarity. The testimony offered by the family becomes crucial in the sight of every facet of society in its consistent affirmation of the importance of the aged person as he or she is a subject of the community, who has a mission to fulfill, and about whom it is always false to say he or she receives without offering anything in return
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:47 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying | Categories: Euthanasia

July 7, 2014

"London is one giant grave"

London and Its Dead

In her excellent and morbidly fascinating book Necropolis: London and Its Dead, Catharine Arnold describes in detail how parts of the London Underground were tunneled, blasted, picked, and drilled through a labyrinth of plague pits and cemeteries.

To no small extent, she makes clear, the subterranean presence of corpses can be found throughout the British capital. Dead bodies were basically buried everywhere, to the point that, as Arnold pithily states, "London is one giant grave." The city is saturated from below with the dead.

In one of my favorite examples of this from the book, Arnold explains how the London Hospital maintained its own burial ground from 1849 to 1854. Somewhat astonishingly, however, we learn that housing projects for the medical staff were then built over these old graveyards—and the coffins were not very far below the surface.

As Arnold describes it, this led to some rather unsafe ground conditions:

The remaining part of the burial ground became a garden for nurses and medical students, complete with tennis court, "where they are in the habit of capering about in their short times off-duty, and where it sometimes happens that the grass gives way beneath them—an ordinary occurrence when the subsoil is inhabited by coffins!"

In other words, these tennis-playing nurses "capering about" on their grass tennis courts would occasionally and literally fall through the surface of the earth only to find themselves standing in a maze of rotting coffins hidden just beneath the soil, an infernal honeycomb of badly tended graves like something out of Dante.
---
All of which finally brings us back to the real reason I started writing this post, which was to tell the story of how these corpses—the city absolutely littered with burial grounds and plague pits—came to influence the construction of London's Underground train system. It's a brief anecdote, but it's both ghoulish and interesting……

But to put that another way, the ground was so solidly packed with the interlocked skeletons of 17th-century victims of the Great Plague that the Tube's 19th-century excavation teams couldn't even hack their way through them all. The Tube thus had to swerve to the side along a subterranean detour in order to avoid this huge congested knot of skulls, ribs, legs, and arms tangled in the soil—an artificial geology made of people, caught in the throat of greater London.

London's Tube thus sits atop, cuts around, and tunnels through a citywide charnel ground of corpses, its very routes and station locations haunted by this earlier presence in the ground below.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink
Categories: Cemeteries and graves

"'They want noise and they want speed"

Funeral home finds its niche with motorcycle hearses

Easy riders until the end: Funeral home offers motorcycle hearses to lay bikers to rest with a thunderous roar

 Motorcycle Hearse

A funeral home in a small town in Pennsylvania has added a motorcycle hearse to its lineup last month in hopes of better serving bereaved bikers by bearing their deceased loved ones to the afterlife with a thunderous roar.

Heintzelman Funeral Home six months ago tapped Orange County Chopper in Newburgh, New York, to craft a one-of-a-kind two-wheeled hearse with all the trimmings, including an S&S V111 engine and a reverse gear that allows it to back up, according to a press release on the company's website.

'The last thing they want is to be in a four-wheel drive vehicle,' said David Heintzelman, co-owner of the Hellertown-based funeral home. 'They want noise and they want speed.'

As for why he did it, Heintzelman said it only makes sense to let people who spent their lives on a motorcycle take their final journey on one as well. The funeral home also offers clients the option of using a horse-drawn coach , in addition to the more conventional Cadillac and Lincoln hearses.

But the motorcycle hearse doesn't appeal only to bikers, Heintzelman said.  "I actually had a person who had died, a female who was never on a motorcycle, that was in her late 80s,' he said. Her children 'saw a picture of [the motorcycle hearse] in my arrangement conference room, and they thought this was so cute and unique, they wanted to have that for their mom.'"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:01 PM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations

June 27, 2014

Tragic sudden deaths

The certainty of our death yet the uncertainty of the hour of our death is declared every time a Catholic prays the Hail Mary:  Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

In the Litany of the Saints is the prayer "From a sudden and unprovided death, Lord save us".  With a sudden death here is no time for repentance, last words of love or a turning to God.  Not one of the people below had any idea when they woke up, that this was the last day of their lives.

And their poor families.  One never fully recovers from the stunning and sudden blow when a loved one is snatched away.

Two girls killed by when tree fell on car driven by their mother as she screamed out 'My babies, my babies'

Authorities in Pennsylvania had identified the two young sisters who died in a freak accident after a falling tree landed on their moving car on Monday.  Eight-year-old Ryleigh Freiwald and six-year-old Macayla Freiwald perished when the car driven by Jason Hinebaugh, 36, was crushed by the tree and careered out of control hitting a utility pole around 2.30pm.

Investigators said that two young girls died of blunt force trauma to the head and witnesses to the harrowing crash recounted how their eight-month pregnant mother, Ashley Lichty, 26, burst out of the passenger side of the car after the accident screaming, 'My babies, my babies.'

Landscape gardener dies after falling into wood chipper in horrific accident

A Florida man died Monday after falling into a giant wood chipper.  Police are unclear on many details surrounding the shocking late afternoon incident, but footage from the scene showed the mulch covered in blood after the man’s body passed through the massive wood chipper.  He was working to clear brush when he died, officials said.

The unidentified landscaper was working with two other men near a Davie home when he somehow ended up inside the machine. Police arriving at the scene were horrified and needed grief counselors to cope, according to reports.  Davie Police Captain Dale Engle told the Sun-Sentinel, "I've been in police work 20 years. I've never seen anything like this,’ ‘It was a gruesome scene."

Bride-to-be, 26, killed in head-on car crash as she and best friend drove to her bachelorette party moments after pair snapped this selfie

A bride-to-be has been killed in a car crash as she drove to her bachelorette party.  Collette Moreno, a 26-year-old mother-of-one, was being driven to Lake Ozark, Missouri by her best friend on Friday afternoon when they tried to overtake a truck but were hit by an oncoming vehicle.  She later died from her injuries.

Moreno's fiance, Jesse Arcobasso, sobbed as he spoke about his loss just four weeks ahead of their wedding date, and revealed her five-year-old son can't yet comprehend where his mommy is….

The bride had shared her excitement on Facebook in the hours before - uploading a photo showing her drinking wine to mark the start of the weekend and sharing a selfie of her and Theobald on the road just minutes ahead of the crash.
--
Theobald said that Moreno had started suffering from an asthma attack as they trailed a truck with heavy exhaust fumes, so she had attempted to get past it on the two-lane road. 'We both thought it was clear and there was a hill that neither one of us saw,' she said through tears.  'I tried to go around and there was a truck coming and I swerved and he swerved with me.'

 Last-Selfie Collette Moreno is on the left,  Best friend and driver Ashley Theobald is on the right.

Girl, 19, killed after her brother's friend threw a lit sparkler into her room as a prank

Kristen Milano was sleeping in her family's apartment in Southington, Connecticut on Sunday when Eric Morelli, 18, allegedly tossed the lit firework through an open window.  The sparkler, which Morelli had hoped would wake up his friend, set off a fire that engulfed the apartment. Milano died of smoke inhalation.

Southington police arrested Morelli on Tuesday and charged him with manslaughter….'He thought it was a good idea to throw a firework up there, trying to be funny, trying to wake him up,' Kyle Cima-Yannell, Milano's friend, told WFSB.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 AM | Permalink
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Quotes of Note

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death - Leonardo da Vinci

Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.-James Dean.

I would like to believe when I die that I have given myself away like a tree that sows seed every spring and never counts the loss, because it is not loss, it is adding to future life. It is the tree's way of being. Strongly rooted perhaps, but spilling out its treasure on the wind.- May Sarton

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