August 22, 2016

"We start at the end and look backward"

Bruce Weber, retiring from obituary writing for the New York Times, writes an Obit for the Obits

Here’s my legacy. A thousand salutes to the departed, something like that. Age range 11 to 104. Cops and criminals, actors and athletes, scientists and judges, politicians and other poobahs. Famous, infamous or as obscure as the rest of us except for one instance of memorable distinction. A man with a mountain named for him, another who hijacked a plane. A woman who changed infant care for the better, another who shot a ballplayer. High achievers who died after long and fruitful lives (Yogi Berra, Ruby Dee, E. L. Doctorow) or whose unanticipated demise (Grete Waitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Carr) demanded furiously quick reporting and writing — and attention on the front page.

Name a profession (Scream queen? Used car dealer? Astronaut? Guru?) or an achievement (Solved an equation? Caught a killer? Integrated a sitcom?) or an ignominious label (Pederast? Con artist? Embezzler?). For whatever reason — AIDS or Alzheimer’s, cancer or a car crash, heart failure or kidney disease, sepsis or suicide — they all went on my watch......

....we start at the end and look backward. There’s some reward in this, in the excavating we do that often unearths interesting, long-forgotten facts....An obituary is, after all, the first last word on a life, a public assessment of a human being’s time on earth, a judgment on what deserves to be remembered. ...getting it right is not easy. And getting it wrong can cause real distress to the already distressed.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 AM | Permalink
Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

Bizarre deaths

Death by house inspection - Home inspector killed in house explosion

Clara Bender, 30, was killed in a home explosion on Monday in Omaha, Nebraska.  The home inspector was looking through the house just two days after letting evicted former tenants in to claim their possessions.  The blast was so intense that it left only a pile of rubble where the former house used to be, and shook the surrounding homes off their foundations - including one that caught on fire.  Four homes around the blast scene were so severely damaged that their owners were not allowed to return to them on Monday.  The explosion ruptured a natural gas line, but officials say there was no sign of a leak

The former tenants of the home had been evicted on June 22, and Bender had been working with them to move out their possessions.  Just two days before the blast, Bender let the former tenants back into the home and they finally moved out all of their belongings over the weekend. She returned to the home on Monday to inspect the home and close it up. Bender is survived by her husband and their son

Death by falling bookstore sign  - Book-seller killed by falling sign as she closed the store because it was not properly maintained

Margaret Sheridan, 68, from Blackpool, was closing the Waterstones store she worked at in January 2015 when the large structure crashed down on her as she attempted to lower the roller shutters.  A jury inquest returned a verdict of accidental death but health and safety bosses carried out a full investigation.  The report submitted to the inquest by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the sign fell because the timber holding the screws could 'no longer withstand the loads'.

Death by rock-throwing elephantSchoolgirl, seven, dies in shocking freak accident after an elephant hurls a ROCK at her head

The seven-year-old was having a picture outside its enclosure with her family when the tragedy happened at the zoo in the Moroccan capital Rabat. The female elephant, named Assia, picked up the large stone in its trunk and threw it into the air, hitting her on the back of the head. The youngster was knocked unconscious and died in a nearby hospital after failing to overcome her injuries.

Death by Manure Fumes  - 'Perfect storm' of manure fumes and warm weather kills farmer and 16 cows as they all stand outside in a field

A young farmer and 16 cows died when they were felled by noxious fumes from cow manure. Michael Biadasz, 29, who worked on his father's farm in Amherst, Wisconsin, was cleaning out a football field-sized tank of cow manure when he was found dead ...  Authorities say the young farmer was caught in a 'dome of air' when after 'agitating' the tank before it was to be pumped, warmer air trapped either methane or sulfur oxide fumes and he and the cows were caught in it.  Even though they were outside, the air was 'trapped' and there was nowhere for it to go. 

Death by Kite String - Two children and a man had throats slit accidentally by glass-coated kite strings

The two children will killed as they poked their heads out of car sunroofs.  The young man died when a kite string lodged in his neck causing him to fall off his motorbike.

Kite-flyers use glass-coated strings to bring down rivals’ kites but they frequently inflict injuries.  The Delhi government has now banned glass or metal-coated kite strings.

Death by Flip-flops -  Nevada woman plunges 100 foot to her death from cliff after she tripped over her flip flops trying to take a picture of the Pacific Ocean.

Lorena Barrera, 21, just moved to Southern California from the Reno area. Eager to see the ocean, she went with friends to Point Fermin Park. Wearing flip-flops, she climbed over a 3-foot wall to get a better view so she could take a picture. That was when she tragically slipped and fell to her death. Point Fermin Park in San Pedro has signs warning visitors of the dangers of scaling the wall.

May they all rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

July 28, 2016

Radiant joy at the moment of death

Who smiles like this near the moment of death?

 Sister Cecilia

Death is a tragedy for mortal man, and yet with faith in eternity and anticipation of the embrace of our heavenly Father, death becomes radiant.

We share today the news of the death of Sister Cecilia, a Carmelite of Santa Fe in Argentina, who suffered from lung cancer. She astonished those who surrounded her in her agony, [smiling as she approached her culmination.]

The death of Sister Cecilia; the rest of the story

Despite her illness, she did not lose her joy, which was sustained by the support of her numerous family members, who remained close by. Joyful nieces and nephews congregated in the gardens outside the hospital where she was admitted for some weeks, sending her messages and helium balloons to distract and entertain her from the window.

Her joy was accompanied — or perhaps explained — by a profound state of prayer. Whenever she could, she put on her habit so as to participate at Mass in the hospital chapel. She lived these Masses with the same devotion that characterized her life behind the grille of the Carmel of Villa Pueyrredon in Buenos Aires.

Despite her illness, Sister Cecilia remained quite lucid. Though she couldn’t talk during her last months, her weak gestures at each Mass gave evidence of her attention and fervor. When the prayers of the faithful included the intention of the sick, her expression showed her gratitude.
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She “has softly fallen asleep in the Lord, after an extremely painful illness, which she always endured with joy and surrender to her Divine Spouse,” her sisters in the Carmel of Santa Fe said in announcing her death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 AM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying | Categories: Good Death

July 27, 2016

The Dying Role

From Being Mortal:Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Technological society has forgotten what scholars call the “dying role” and its importance to people as life approaches its end. People want to share memories, pass on wisdoms and keepsakes, settle relationships, establish their legacies, make peace with God, and ensure that those who are left behind will be okay. They want to end their stories on their own terms. This role is, observers argue, among life’s most important, for both the dying and those left behind. And if it is, the way we deny people this role, out of obtuseness and neglect, is cause for everlasting shame. Over and over, we in medicine inflict deep gouges at the end of people’s lives and then stand oblivious to the harm done.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:06 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying | Categories: Good Death | Categories: Wise men and women

Buried with their favorite games

Vikings buried with their favorite board games Archaeologists have found board games at 36 Viking burials across Europe

Now researchers believe these were placed alongside the bodies of the dead to commemorate their skill in the games during life and to provide them with entertainment in the afterlife.
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Mark Hall, a curator at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, has published a new study on Viking board game burials across Northern Europe.He says there have been 36 burials where board games of some description have been found in the graves around Northern Europe.  Among those he highlights are two on the Orkney Isles of Rousay and Sanday, which remained under Norwegian rule until the 15th century when they passed to the Scottish crown.

Writing in the European Journal of Archaeology, Mr Hall said: 'Placing the gaming kit in the grave served to remember or commemorate that status and skill and to make it available for the deceased in the afterlife.'

He writes: 'Just as in life, where success on the gaming board – which needed strategic thinking as well as fighting ability - could be seen to confirm and add to the status of an accomplished warrior, in death the inclusion of a board game signalled ability and success as a warrior and by implication preparedness for the challenge ahead.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:59 PM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations

July 25, 2016

A "rolling wake"

Widow takes dead husband on road trip in Alaska

An American woman took her dead husband’s body on road trip in Alaska, using ice from local canneries to keep the corpse cold, police have said. Officers responded to a call last week to find the body of a 78-year-old man inside an aluminum transport casket.

Ketchikan police chief Alan Bengaard told the Ketchikan Daily News that during the journey, which took place over several days, the woman stopped at canneries for ice to put in the truck bed during the “rolling wake.”  Bengaard told the Juneau Empire that the body was supposed to be en route to the mortuary, but “for some reason she decided to not go directly to the mortuary and had been driving around with him for a couple days.

“My understanding is kind of — leading up to the events of the last couple days — there’s been a rolling wake or viewing. It was pointed out to me that, evidently, she had stopped at a couple of the canneries and got ice and filled the bed of the truck with ice to keep the body chilled.”

The woman is not facing any charges, police said. The man had died of natural causes. A mortuary took custody of the body after the authorities were called.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:51 PM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations

July 24, 2016

Death came calling

New Jersey driver, 26, electrocuted after live power lines fell on her car during severe thunderstorm

An unidentified 26-year-old woman swerved to miss a fallen tree when wires fell on car.  She was electrocuted as she attempted to get out of the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene.  Witnesses said the wires were hanging in a puddle on the driver's side.

Heroic California dad and his six-year-old daughter drown after she was swept away by Hawaiian waves

A Berkeley father described by family as an 'avid surfer' died Saturday morning while trying to save his young daughter after she was swept away by waves on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, police said. Mark Hornor, 46, was walking with daughter Mina along the rocky edge of the Makapuu Tide Pools at around 11:20am when witnesses say a wave knocked her into the roiling surf. Hornor leaped in to rescue her but both were lost to the current. Although the father was a physically fit surf fanatic, he was unable to stop a second wave carrying both him and his daughter out to sea. Mina's two sisters were also knocked into the water, but were rescued by a passer-by, Scott Kaito of Kailua, who pulled them to safety.

'There was a huge wave that just swept everybody, all the tide pools and it pulled those two people out and kept taking them further out and further out,' said witness Jamie Ngo.  'They were conscious at first, but I think the longer that they were out there, the waves were pretty brutal.'

New York safari park owner, 81, is trampled to death by an antelope

Hans Boxler Sr, 81, owned the Hidden Valley Animal Adventure in Varysburg. He went to feed the animals around 8:30 pm Sunday and didn't return. Boxler's family went looking for him and found him dead. They also discovered the antelope near its pen with the door open. The Wyoming County sheriff's office found that Boxler was trampled by a a nilgai antelope - the largest Asian antelope, native to India. He died of multiple blunt force trauma injuries according to the county coroner's office.  His death came as a shock to his family, who said in a statement that Boxler understood the nature of his animals and followed a daily routine.

Boxler was a dairy farmer for more than 60 years. He started the wildlife park in 2002 and the venue now houses more than 300 animals from 40 exotic species.  His 60-acre park in Varysburg offers daily safari tours to view animals such as camels, zebras and wildebeest.  The funeral will be held Wednesday, with Boxler's cherished Belgian horses carrying him for one final procession.

Mariah Contreras, 15, died 'playing chicken' with her friends on train tracks

Mariah Contreras, who was about to be a freshman at Willcox High School, died after failing to get out of the way of the train in time. Contreras was part of a group of teens playing the game, according to Willcox Police Chief Jose Rios.  Each child would take a turn attempting to get as close as possible to the train and then dash out of the way before it hit them, according to Rios.

A woman was eaten alive and another seriously injured after they jumped out of a car in a tiger enclosure at a Chinese safari park.

Dramatic video footage captures the middle-aged woman flouting the warnings by getting out of the car, and she was killed instantly after she followed the younger woman out of the car at the Badaling Wildlife World, near the Great Wall of China.  Both had ignored repeated warnings to stay inside the vehicle, according to local media.

Mountain climber tragically dies after falling more than 2,400 feet while leading a group on a canyon descent at Grand Teton

Mountain climber and guide Gary Falk, a husband and father-of-two died after falling more than 2400 feet.  The experienced guide was leading a group into a canyon at Grand Teton National Park.   

May they all rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 PM | 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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