November 24, 2014

Don't spend too much time with dying

Dear friends and family, your endless deathbed visits RUINED my precious final moments with my husband. 

In an excoriating open letter that'll bitterly divide opinion, an anguished widow says the unsayable… 

And of course I know you grieve for him. I’m certain you feel his absence acutely. But I also believe that by monopolizing him and draining him of the last dregs of his energy you were being insensitive and self-serving. You were encroaching on time that should have been ours alone — and for that I am finding it hard to forgive you.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink
Categories: Etiquette | Categories: Grief and grieving

"Love is never finished"

"Love is never finished," wrote Pope Benedict XVI and the story of John Silva shows that.

 Widower Dines Out With Photo Dead Wife

EXCLUSIVE - The true love story of the widower who dined at a burger bar with his wife's picture: 'I carry her photo everywhere and tell her how much I love her. I'm waiting for the day we can be together forever.'

Mr SIlva, 87, said he was taken aback at the attention the picture had attracted - but touched that so many people had been affected by his love story.

'I had no idea that someone took my photo. I found out from a relative who saw it on the Internet. I'm 87 years old, I don't want too much excitement. I was a lucky man to marry the girl I loved,' he said.

How they met as teenagers in Massachusetts is a storyline fit for a classic romantic comedy. One of his teammates threw him the ball but fate meant John missed the catch and Cupid kindly rolled it to the feet of his late wife. He doffed his cap and she blew him a kiss but they later lost each other in the crowds. It would be a decade of heartache until their paths crossed again and they wed one year later in 1954.
----
John is visibly moved by his own memories but a sense of pride takes over his emotion when talking about Hilda's legacy.
'When things took a turn for the worse it was heartbreaking, she fell down and banged her head at our home. There was blood everywhere and she couldn't walk again,' he told MailOnline. 'I promised her I'd never put her in a nursing home but her conditions grew worse, she had a stroke and a tumor in her belly. She was in the home for two and a half years, I spent 21 hours a day there for that entire time. I'd only come home to wash and then go back again, I'd sleep there too.
--
'It was a miracle she opened her eyes and pushed herself forward with all of the strength she had left and said: 'John, I love you. I've always loved you and in a million years you'll still be my husband.'
And then she put her head back and that was it, I put my head on her head and sang our song, Frank Sinatra's It's Got To Be You.

After her sad passing, relatives intervened to stop John returning home in fear he might not be able to cope with the trauma and put him under a constant watch. He insists while they worried he may have been tempted by suicide he would never give it a thought because he 'wants to go to Heaven'.
--
'I'll never stop carrying her photo. In the car, when I go out to eat, everywhere. She's not gone, she's only on vacation. And she's rich because she's still wearing all of her diamond rings.' The baseball fanatic rationalized: 'The surest thing in this world is death but I made my life the best I could and that's because of Hilda.
--
'I was the luckiest man in the world and I still am.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink
Categories: Great Legacies | Categories: Grief and grieving

November 21, 2014

Scrabble Tombstone

The Tombstone of a Dedicated Scrabble Player

Paul G. Lind of Portland, Oregon loved to play Scrabble. When he passed away, his friends and family erected this custom tombstone that shows in Scrabble form what they remembered most about him. Lind now rests beneath this monument at the Lone Fir Cemetery in southeastern Portland. A year ago, after vandals defaced the tombstone, local Scrabble players held a tournament to raise money for its restoration.

 Scrabble Tombstone

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink
Categories: Cemeteries and graves

He was just Grandpa Freddy. I didn't know he was a leading biophysics thinker

What other people can add to your Personal Legacy Archives.  What a gift Jane Richardson is making.

What Wikipedia Taught Me About My Grandfather

To me, he was Grandpa Freddy. To the scientific community, he was Frederic M. Richards, a leading biophysics thinker—something I never knew until I visited his entry after he died.

To me Frederic M. Richards was Grandpa Freddy, a jolly man who always wore a silly brown jacket with elbow patches, who delighted in showing me how to spin the lazy Susan at the breakfast table, who insisted I help him move a one-ton rock up his path, who challenged me to fruit-eating contests. To his parents and siblings he was the weird youngest son. To a generation of biophysicists he was, apparently, a defining thinker.

One of the wonderful parts of Wikipedia is that not only can you see the revision history, you can also see who made the changes. It turns out that in this case, almost the entire article was written by “dcrjsr,” or Jane S. Richardson, a 73-year-old biophysicist at Duke University and past president of the Biophysical Society.
--
Richardson is an important woman. It took us some time to find a time to talk between her research and speaking engagements. But once we did connect she was happy to talk. As busy as she was, though, editing Wikipedia was something she cared about a lot. “This is one of the things I’m looking forward to when I retire,” she told me.

Richardson started the Biophysics project because she felt that working on Wikipedia entries was something all scientists should be doing. “All of us refer to [Wikipedia],” she said.” Early on we were really negative about it, but most of us aren’t any more. In general it really is the place to start whenever you’re looking up something.” She also said the article would likely have influences she could never predict. I’m an example. “I would never have thought that this biography would be illuminating to his grandson,” she said.
--
That story isn’t in the Wikipedia page, of course. Those pages are written to show a public face, to explain what they’re known for and give a hint of who they are. But of course they don’t show the whole thing, and in their private lives people can be completely different. We all know that, even if we occasionally forget. But we also forget that what we know of our family is incomplete. A sense I’ve had my whole life of who my grandfather is can be transformed by the addition of a single fact from a stranger writing on the Internet. All the pieces are needed to see the whole structure. The problem with people, as opposed to proteins, is that we never know for sure we have all the pieces.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink
Categories: How to - Personal Legacy Archives

November 14, 2014

The Final Salute

On Veterans' Day, Justus Belfield, 98 and a WWII veteran and former master sergeant donned his uniform for a final salute, even though he was too weak to leave his bed at an upstate New York nursing home.

He died the next day.

 Final Salute Justus Belfield

Belfield told the newspaper last year that he never regretted serving in the military.
'It was a good thing to do,' he said in the interview on Veterans Day last year.  'I loved it because it was my country. It's still my country.'

Belfield and his wife, Lillian, have six children, 18 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.
He was buried Friday with military honors at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.

R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:16 PM | Permalink
Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

End-of-life planning in Japan

In the Atlantic, 18 photos illustrate  Modern End-of-Life Services in Japan

Japan expects its population to shrink by nearly 30 million people over the next 50 years, with a thriving market for funerals, graves, and anything related to the afterlife. Funeral business fairs and "end-of-life seminars" are becoming popular events, offering both traditional and high-tech services and products. Participants can climb into a coffin for a personal test, have their funeral portraits taken after a beauty session, shop for shrouds from a company called "Final Couture," or buy a plot in a modern indoor multi-story cemetery that robotically retrieves tombstones for mourners, based on the swipe of an identity card

 01 Japan End-Of-Life
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:42 PM | Permalink
Categories: Estate Planning and End of Life planning

November 11, 2014

A Sea of Sacrifice, a Flood of Blood

This may be the most extraordinary memorial I've ever seen.  A single red ceramic poppy for every British and Commonwealth soldier who died in the 'war to end all wars'  was planted in the moat surrounding the Tower of London to commemorate their lives and the 100th anniversary of World War I.

Including one for my great uncle Jack Paterson. Jack, a Canadian, a member of the Cameron Highlanders, 9th Brigade, 43rd Battalion, was killed in France in 1916.    When I learned that Clifford Holliday, who fought alongside of him in the Cameron Highlanders, died at the great age of 105 in May, 2004, I began to grasp that the loss of life was also the loss of length of life that would otherwise have been lived.  Lost in the mud and the constant shelling ever fearful of mustard gas attacks.  John McCrae, another Canadian wrote:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

A sea of sacrifice; a flood of blood has drawn some 5 million visitors. 

The last of the poppies is planted this morning as thousands flocked to Tower of London to see the final ceramic flower put in place by 13-year-old cadet and  the nation fell silent to remember Britain's war dead

From the first ceramic poppy to the last: How the field of flowers at the Tower of London grew over four incredible months to create an unforgettable memorial

 1St Poppy-1

It began as a parched grass field but was turned into one of the most spectacular installations in memory - these photos show the gradual process by which 888,246 poppies transformed the Tower of London.

The site was cleared for work on the installation to begin four months ago and once completed, it went on to fill the tower's 16-acre moat and attract millions of visitors.
---
The artwork – the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – has proved so popular, with an estimated four million visitors, that there have been calls to keep the poppies at the Tower until the end of the year.
--
Each poppy - which represents the life of one British or colonial soldier - was made by hand and took around three days to create.

 2Poppy Bloodsweptlands,Seasofred-1
----
When Paul Cummins decided to create 888,246 poppies in what has now become one of the most significant pieces of artwork in British history, he knew it would be no easy task….Mr Cummins felt so overwhelmed with the sheer scale of his task that he had to draft in emergency help from two other ceramic factories to ensure the work was finished by today - Armistice Day.
--
After being personally asked for help by Mr Cummins, two factories in the Midlands pulled out all the stops in a bid to produce 500,000 poppies in just four months, ensuring there were enough flowers to fill the 16-acre dry moat.
Today, Harry Foster, from Johnson Tiles, Stoke-on-Trent, told how his team of unsung heroes have made nearly 400,000 poppies since July, working around the clock through nights and weekends to ensure the project was completed.

He admitted the work had been 'relentless' but added it had been a 'great source of pride' seeing the almost-finished crimson sea of poppies - and knowing some 4million people had managed to see the work.

 3Poppy-1

To see how much Britain has changed, you only have to read how an Army veteran, 70 was assaulted as  he walked to cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday by gang of thugs who stole his regimental beret and medals

George Gill, 70, had been walking through a park on his way to the service in Keighley, West Yorkshire, when he was attacked by a gang of Asian [Pakistani muslim] youths he said had grabbed his beret 'like a pack of dogs would a piece of meat'.

The gang then ran off laughing, leaving Mr Gill with cuts to his lip, but the courageous former soldier dusted himself off and continued to the cenotaph to pay his respects before reporting the mugging to police.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:24 PM | Permalink
Categories: Art | Categories: Memory, Memorials

T.H. White and his dog Brownie

An Unexpected Departure

T.H. White, author of The Once and Future King, shared his lonely life with a beloved Irish setter, Brownie, whom he called his child, wife, and mother, “myself with melting eye.” “It is a queer difference between this kind of thing and getting married,” he wrote, “that married people love each other at first (I understand) and it fades by use and custom, but with dogs you love them most at last.”

He wrote to his friend David Garnett

Dear Bunny, Please forgive me writing again, but I am so lonely and can’t stop crying and it is the shock. I waked her for two nights and buried her this morning in a turf basket, all my eggs in one basket. Now I am to begin a new life and it is important to begin it right, but I find it difficult to think straight. It is about whether I ought to buy another dog or not. I am good to dogs, so from their point of view I suppose I ought. But I might not survive another bereavement like this in 12 years’ time, and dread to put myself in the way of it. If your father & mother & both sons had died at the same moment as Ray, unexpectedly, in your absence, you would know what I am talking about. Unfortunately Brownie was barren, like myself, and as I have rather an overbearing character I had made her live through me, as I lived through her. Brownie was my life and I am lonely for just such another reservoir for my love. But if I did get such reservoir it would die in about 12 years and at present I feel I couldn’t face that. Do people get used to being bereaved? This is my first time. I am feeling very lucky to have a friend like you that I can write to without being thought dotty to go on like that about mere dogs.

They did not poison her. It was one of her little heart attacks and they did not know how to treat it and killed her by the wrong kindnesses.

You must try to understand that I am and will remain entirely without wife or brother or sister or child and that Brownie supplied more than the place of these to me. We loved each other more and more every year.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink
Categories: Grief and grieving

November 10, 2014

"Cancer has been the most amazing experience of my life"

Sam Simon, the co-creator of the Simpsons is dying with terminal color  cancer which he calls an 'amazing experience'.

Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon has described his terminal colon cancer as the 'most amazing experience of my life', because he is surrounded by his loved ones and donating his $100 million fortune to his passion - animal rights.

Given three months to live in 2012, Simon immediately decided to team up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) president Ingrid Newkirk, and dedicate his time to the rescue of maltreated animals and conservation. Having defied that diagnosis’ original death sentence, Simon continues to push ahead and has also funded projects such as 'Feeding Families' to help with the underprivileged in inner cities.

And now, as he enters the twilight of his life, has declared himself never happier and finally at peace.  'Cancer is a horrible disease. I am struggling with it,' said Simon to NBC. 'Its everything that everybody always tells you. It's a journey, it's a fight. But, if you want publicity and you want to pick up girls, then cancer is the greatest thing in the world.'

Simon has no children and is not married so he wants to give his millions to causes he cares about. He was married to actress Jennifer Tilly in the 1980s but divorced in 1991 though they remain close.

Having already lived almost one year longer than doctors initially gave him, Simon told Maria Shriver that amazingly, his happiness was a direct result of his cancer diagnosis.
'Somehow I ended up surrounded by people who love me and take care of me and will do anything for me. That is called happiness. I think I may have had a problem letting it in before. 'Cancer has been a fight, a journey, an adventure and the most amazing experience of my life.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

Killed by his wedding ring

Man installing dishwasher for his relatives electrocuted 'after touching copper wire' while wearing metal band

A man was killed by his own wedding ring after in touched a live wire on a dishwasher he had just finished installing for relatives, police say.

Jason Ferguson, 33, died while trying to set up the machine for his brother-in-law and sister-in-law at their home in South Daytona, Florida.  He had turned off power in the room for most of the process, but left it on while he reached behind the unit to investigate a 'strange noise' it was making.

The family was preparing dinner at the time. Ferugson's wife, Deidre Obenshine, was at the house at the time and made the 911 call.  Albert Washington, his brother-in-law told officers he thought Ferguson was investigating an exposed copper wire.  He asked for the power to be put back on to test the machine - and then when a fault was noticed he tried to fix it without turning the electricity off again, at which point he was electrocuted.
---
Washington noticed that Ferguson stopped moved and had turned red as he knelt in front of the machine. When he became 'unresponsive', they called 911 and started CPR. Ferguson, who lives in nearby Port Orange, was taken to the Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

November 5, 2014

"The experience of death is going to get more and more painful, contrary to what many people believe"

Artur Rosman on Girard: Assisted Suicide and the Further Intensification of Problems

Here is what Rene Girard says about assisted suicide as a solution:

The experience of death is going to get more and more painful, contrary to what many people believe. The forthcoming euthanasia will make it more rather than less painful because it will put the emphasis on personal decision in a way which was blissfully alien to the whole problem of dying in former times. It will make death even more subjectively intolerable, for people will feel responsible for their own deaths and morally obligated to rid their relatives of their unwanted presence. Euthanasia will further intensify all the problems its advocates think it will solve.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 PM | Permalink
Categories: Euthanasia

Billy Collins poem

Billy Collins’s Art of Drowning

I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.

After falling off a steamship or being swept away
in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn’t you hope
for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand
turning the pages of an album of photographs—
you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.

How about a short animated film, a slide presentation?
Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph?
Wouldn’t any form be better than this sudden flash?
Your whole existence going off in your face
in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography—
nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.

Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance
here, some bolt of truth forking across the water,
an ultimate Light before all the lights go out,
dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes
as you go under, it will probably be a fish,

a quick blur of curved silver darting away,
having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all
as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom,
leaving behind what you have already forgotten,
the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:21 PM | Permalink
Categories: Art

November 3, 2014

"This is how bad persecution gets in Pakistan: You can't escape it even if you're dead."

Washington Post  Attacking graveyards: Washington Post probes unusual form of oppression in Pakistan

Denying a final resting place to a despised group is the topic of an enterprising newsfeature by the Washington Post. For Christians and other minorities there, enduring contempt even in death is a way of life.

"Bleak" seems hardly adequate to describe the picture painted by the article. Here's a painfully eloquent passage:
Christians say they earn less than $2 a day working in the sugarcane fields. They must shop at the sparsely stocked Christian-run rice and vegetable store. They are not allowed to draw water from wells tapped for Muslim neighbors. Now, in what many consider to be a final indignity, they and other Pakistani Christians are struggling to bury their dead.

Pakistan, whose population is overwhelmingly Muslim, is nearly twice the size of California. But leaders o
f the tiny Christian minority say their burial sites are being illegally seized by developers at an alarming rate, while efforts to secure new land are rejected because of religious tenets barring Muslims from being buried near people of other faiths. Increasingly, the remaining Christian cemeteries are packed with bodies atop bodies.
The WaPo story is a textbook example of reporting both in breadth and depth. It reports from three towns, from a remote hamlet to Lahore, the nation's second-largest city. It quotes 12 sources, Muslim as well as Christian.
----
But you can judge a group not by its most extreme members, but by how everyone else reacts to them. And thus far, Pakistani society hasn't responded well. In fact, it “has been cultivated to develop indifference and animosity” toward Christians, says a rights advocate.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink
Categories: Dead used for propaganda or profit | Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations

Amazing Hearses

 Tokyo-Buddhist-Styled-Hearse

Tokyo Buddhist Hearse

 Motorcycle-Hearse

Motorcycle sidecar hearse

 Tank-Hearse-01

Tank hearse

 1929-Cadillac-Hearse-01

1929 Cadillac Hearse

 1926-1928 Studebaker-Hearse-01

1926 - 1929 Studebaker Hearse

More at 20 Bizarre Hearses around the world

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations

October 27, 2014

You are so loved’: Last words spoken to dying Ottawa soldier

‘You are so loved’: Last words spoken to dying Ottawa soldier by lawyer who tried to save him after shooting

Barbara Winters was on her way to a meeting on Wednesday morning when she passed the National War Memorial, stopping to take a few photos of the guards on duty before heading off on her way.  Seconds later, she heard four shots and, knowing exactly what had happened, ran not away from the noise but back towards the Memorial and Cirillo.  Winters said she had an instinctive feeling that the guards had been targeted.

With four people already laying over the solider, and doing everything they could to help him, Winters also got involved.  A nurse on her way to work, Margaret Lerhe, and another solider who was on guard were busy applying pressure to his wounds so as to stop his bleeding.  A fellow passerby was working to elevate the 24-year-old's feet while a fellow corporal was by his head talking to him.  'You’re doing good, you’re doing good, buddy,' he told Cirillo.  'You’re breathing - keep breathing.'

 Barbara Winters By Dying Cirillo

Winters, who was recounting her story for The Globe and Mail, she got down, loosened the solider's tie, said a prayer, and also began speaking to the brave young corporal, telling him, 'You’re a good man, you’re a brave man.'

He soon stopped breathing and lost his pulse, but the team of five strangers kept doing everything they could for Cirillo. They started compressions and lifted his legs higher and alternated giving the man CPR.  And Winters kept on talking.

You are loved. Your family loves you. You’re a good man,' she told him.
'Your family loves you. Your parents are so proud of you. Your military family loves you. All the people here, we’re working so hard for you. Everybody loves you.'

Unfortunately her words, and the hard work of the five strangers, could not save Cirillo.He died in their arms as paramedics arrived and began to work on him.

If you ever come upon the scene of a fatal accident, for the love of God don't take cellphone photos.  Kneel by the dying. Do what these people did.  Express love to the dying.  Don't let them die alone

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying | Categories: Etiquette
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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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Recommended Reading
My Top Picks
Creating Better Lives – Adult Development
Creating Better Legacies
Funerals
Death and Dying
Life Rules and Life Lessons
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