March 8, 2014
Mount Herzl, named for the founder of modern political Zionism, sits in Jerusalem as Israel's national cemetery. Landscape Architect Haim Giladi laid out the grounds, which house the burials of Israel's prime ministers, presidents and honorable military leaders.
"I hardly noticed this holocaust around me"
Ever since I was born about half a million people a year have died in Britain alone, making more than thirty million of them in my lifetime; yet until quite recently I hardly noticed this holocaust around me. Death played no more than a very minor part in the jejune drama of my life; I lived as if exclusively among immortals, where death, if it occurred at all, seemed almost a moral judgment on the lives of the departed rather than a purely natural event in those lives. They must have done something wrong to die.
Now all that is changing; I have reached an age at which even the deaths of those I have known but slightly affect me more deeply than the deaths of those I knew well affected me, when life without death seemed to be the norm.
The July 22 terror attacks killed eight in a bombing at the government headquarters in Oslo and 69 people, mostly teenagers, were murdered by Anders Breivik in a shooting spree at a youth camp organised by Norway’s social-democratic Arbeiderpartiet.
Artist Jonas Dahlberg's Memory Wound will be a 3.5metre (11ft 6in) channel cut in the mainland facing Utøya, creating a 'physical wound' in the landscape.
The excavation will represent the physical experience of something being taken and 'reflect the abrupt and permanent loss of those who died on Utøya'. The 3.5metre wide gap will have the names of all 77 victims, both Oslo and Utøya, engraved on its sides.
February 22, 2014
Funeral of a Viking Warlord
On the occasion of a new exhibition of Viking Treasures at the British Museum comes this story of the funeral of a Viking warlord in the 10th century
Another chronicler, an Arab traveller named Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, came across Vikings in what is now Russia, and was scandalised by their lack of hygiene. They were tall and their bodies ‘perfect’ in shape, he recorded, but they were ‘the filthiest of God’s creatures’, as dirty as ‘wild asses’ and had shocking sexual habits.
These were displayed at an extraordinarily lavish but dreadful ritual he witnessed for a chieftain who had just died — in reality, an orgy, a pagan gang-bang, no less.
A third of the man’s possessions went to his family, a third on the clothes for his funeral, and the remaining third on booze for his wake, ensuring everyone was drunk enough to perform what came next.
At the centre of the ten-day proceedings was a slave girl from his household, apparently a volunteer, who would be cremated with her master.
A boat was hauled on land and a couch placed on deck, covered by a tent. The chief’s body was dressed to the nines in stockings, trousers, boots, and a tunic of brocade with gold buttons, and propped up on the couch. Mead, fruits, and flowers were laid beside him for his journey into the afterlife, along with his weapons.
‘Then they brought a dog, cleft it in two halves and laid it in the boat. Then they took two horses, cleft both of them in twain with a sword and laid their flesh in the boat. ‘Then they brought two cows, cut them in two likewise and laid them in the boat.’
Meanwhile, the ‘maiden’ who was to die had death duties to perform — ‘she went here and there, and entered each of a series of tents where the head of the household quartered within had intercourse with her, saying “Say to thy lord, I have done this out of love of thee”.’
The climax of the ceremony approached with the poor girl being lifted onto a platform. ‘Behold, I see my father and mother,’ she called out, before being let down. Then she was lifted up again and declared that she could now see all her dead relatives. Lifted a third time, she cut off the head of a live chicken, and announced: ‘There I behold my lord sitting in paradise, and paradise is fair and green, and around him are men and servants. He calls me. Bring me to him.’
‘Then,’ wrote the chronicler, ‘they led her to the boat. She took off the two armlets that she wore and gave them to the old woman whom they call the Angel of Death, who was to kill her. ‘The slave girl then took off two anklets and gave them to the two maidens who had waited on her, the daughters of the old woman known as the Angel of Death.
‘Then the people lifted her onto the boat, and men with shields and staves gave her a bowl of mead, whereupon she sang a song bidding farewell to her friends and drank it. ‘She was given another beaker, took it and sang for a long time, while the old woman was urging her to finish the goblet, and to go into the tent where her lord lay. I saw then how disturbed she was.’
The now frightened girl hesitated — ‘until the old woman took her by the head, made her go into the tent and also entered with her. Whereupon the men began to beat their shields so her shrieks would not be heard. ‘Six men went into the tent, and all had intercourse with the girl. Then they placed her beside her dead lord. Two men seized her by the feet and two by her hands. ‘The old woman took out a rope into which a loop had been made, and gave it to two of the men. The old woman jabbed her with a broad-bladed dagger, while the two men strangled her until she was dead. The relatives of the dead man then took torches and set fire to the ship.’
It was over in a great blaze — master cremated, slave girl sacrificed, a brutal and violent end, but a death seemingly in keeping with the way Vikings chose to live and die.
This vividly-told story from the 10th century is remarkable, not just for its content, but for where it took place — on the banks of the River Volga, which runs through what is now modern Russia. It indicates how far and wide the daring of the Vikings took them, in what was almost an obsession to find new lands and wealth to plunder — economic migrants prepared to risk all. From Denmark and Norway, they went wherever sea and rivers would take them.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2565331/Human-sacrifice-female-angel-death-Vikings-savage-thought-As-British-Museum-unveils-treasures-ferocious-invaders.html#ixzz2u5shWpPo
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Soldier who wrote book of wisdom for his sons
A Minnesota soldier who wrote poignantly of his life and of his battle with cancer after an illustrious military career in a book of letters addressed to his sons has died at 41.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Mark Weber wrote the widely lauded Tell My Sons: A Father’s Last Letters to his three boys after learning he had stage IV gastrointestinal cancer three years ago.
His saga began at the young age of 38 just before the decorated soldier was to serve as a military advisor in the Afghani Parliament. Upon his diagnosis, Lt. Col. Weber decided to pen a letter to his three sons to pass along the wisdom that life as a military hero had taught him.
The national bestseller detailed Weber’s difficult childhood as well as his battle with cancer. It is based on decades of the soldier’s journals, starting from before his children were even born.
The book is comprised of nine letters in total, all designed to help his sons and any other reader through their life’s journey. Amazingly, the self-published book quickly sold 10,000 copies. It was then picked up by big name publisher Ballantine and became a New York Times National Bestseller.
As his success as a writer quickly began to parallel his success in the military, Weber continued his fight to stay with the family his book makes clear he dearly loved. Told in 2010 he had only four months to live, Weber held on until Thursday, when family members in St. Paul say ‘Mark’s wish to die at home, embraced by love, and a view of his beloved garden was granted to him.’
On Memorial Day, Weber was strong enough to address thousands gathered for ceremonies at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
But soon after was moved into hospice care. Weber was featured in the Father’s Day issue of Parade Magazine just days after his death, in which he wrote about his relationship with his own father.
‘When I think about my own mixed emotions and imperfect memories of my dad, I do wonder what you all will remember about me,’ wrote Weber. ‘This is a timeless consideration that is best illustrated by a quote attributed to Mark Twain: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”’
February 20, 2014
Demographic breakdown of those who choose assisted suicide
Women, highly educated, divorced and rich people are more likely to die from assisted suicide, new research has revealed. Researchers in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal, found that of people helped by right-to-die organisations such as Dignitas, around 16 per cent of death certificates did not register an underlying cause. They say this indicates that an increasing number of people may simply becoming 'weary of life'.
The research, published online in the International Journal of Epidemiology – that shows assisted suicide is more common in women, the divorced, those living alone, the more educated, those with no religious affiliation, and those from wealthier areas.
A previous study of suicides by two right-to-die organizations showed that 25 per cent of those assisted had no fatal illness, instead citing 'weariness of life' as a factor.
• For all causes, except Parkinson's disease, the percentage of assisted suicides was higher in women than men.
• In the 65-94 years age group, cancer was again the most common underlying cause (41 per cent), followed by circulatory (15 per cent) and diseases of the nervous system (11 per cent).
•Thirty people had a mood disorder, and six had another mental or behavioral disorder.
•The rate was also higher in urban compared to rural areas, in wealthier neighborhoods, and in the French rather than German or Italian speaking areas of the country.
•Younger people who had children were less likely to opt for assisted suicide in younger people, but not older people.
• Religion was another key factor. People of no faith were six times more likely to choose assisted suicide than Roman Catholics, The Times reported.
Here's a good example from today's news. A healthy Italian woman paid a Swiss right-to-die clinic to take her life because she was 'unhappy about losing her looks'.
Oriella Cazzanello, 85, travelled to a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, where she paid €10,000 for an assisted suicide. The elderly woman, who was in good mental and physical health, disappeared from her home in Arzignano, near Vicenza in northern Italy, without telling her relatives where she was going.
'Weariness of life' is a euphemism for despair which is the complete absence of hope. Hope is precisely what faith offers.
Watch out for Fake Funeral Email Scam
The Federal Trade Commission is warning of a fake funeral e-mail scam that can infect computers with malicious software.
Scammers are sending bogus e-mails with the subject line "funeral notification," according to the FTC. The message appears to be from a legitimate funeral home, offers condolences, and invites the recipient to click on a link for more information about the upcoming "celebration of your friend’s life service."
However, the link leads to a foreign domain where malware is downloaded to the e-mail recipient's computer.
Malware, short for “malicious software," includes viruses and spyware installed on your computer without your consent. These programs can be used to monitor your online activity and can cause your computer to crash. Criminals use malware to steal personal information and commit fraud.
The FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, recommends that end users delete any "funderal notification" e-mails without clicking on any links they may contain.
February 13, 2014
The Suicide Juggernaut
Wesley Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism a nd consults for the Patients Rights Council and the Center for Bioethics and Culture. He writes a blog on Human Exceptionalism from which I've gleaned the following shocking facts which illustrate what is meant by a 'culture of death'.
The Suicide Juggernaut. Euthanasia activists on a roll
Advocates of assisted suicide tell two—no, three—lies that act as the honey to help the hemlock go down. The first is that assisted suicide/euthanasia is a strictly medical act. Second, they falsely assure us that medicalized killing is only for the terminally ill. Finally, they promise that strict guidelines will be rigorously enforced to protect against abuse.
In Scotland. A new bill tabled in the Scottish parliament would legalize assisted suicide for “terminal” or “progressive and either terminal or life-shortening” conditions—undefined terms that could easily include chronic ailments such as diabetes, asymptomatic HIV infection, and multiple sclerosis…. the Scottish bill goes a radical step further by creating a new profession—the “licensed suicide facilitator,” authorized by the state to help suicidal patients kill themselves once a doctor has issued a lethal prescription.
Licensed facilitators would be authorized to provide “practical assistance” in the suicide and “reassurance” when a substance “dispensed or otherwise supplied for the suicide of the person is taken.” They would also be authorized to remove lethal drugs—presumably narcotics—from the home after their client died.
In Belgium, Belgian Euthanasia Opens Other Killing Doors - A study in the Journal of Medical Ethics finds that nearly 80% of palliative or terminal sedation cases are done without permission.
Belgian Doctors Brag About Harvesting Organs From the Euthanized. Joint euthanasia/organ harvests have become so normalized that Belgian doctors created a PowerPoint presentation urging colleagues to be on the lookout for suicidal patients with neuro-muscular diseases (such as MS) as potential donors, because unlike cancer patients, they have “high quality organs.”
Belgian Euthanasia Law Designed for Disabled admits law drafter
The Belgian parliament seems likely to legalize child euthanasia: By an overwhelming 50-17, the senate just passed a bill allowing doctors to kill sick children.
In the Netherlands - "14% of deaths in the Netherlands caused by intentionally killing by physicians"
Mobile death squads to kill sick and elderly in their own homes leads to surge in suicide rates in the Netherlands
Around 3 per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands are now by euthanasia…The country last year introduced mobile euthanasia units..In 2002 it became the first country since Nazi Germany to legalize it.
Clinics are assisting the suicides of depressed patients whose own doctors won’t kill them. Back in 1991, a psychiatrist named Boudewijn Chabot assisted the suicide of a woman whose two children had died to fulfill her obsession to be buried between them. The Dutch Supreme Court ruled logically that was just fine because suffering is suffering, and it doesn’t matter whether it is physical or emotional.
infanticide has already become a relatively routine part of Netherlander neo natal medical practice. According to The Lancet, 8% of all babies who die in the Netherlands are killed by doctors, even though it remains murder under the law. Indeed, doctors are so confident they won’t be punished for killing sick babies, they published the Groningen Protocol, a bureaucratic check list detailing which babies can be euthanized.
In Quebec, Quebec Euthanasia to Destroy Religious Freedom. The bill requires all doctors to kill or refer to a doctor who will. And if you have a religious objection, quit practicing medicine–no conscience allowed! At the hearing Christian doctors were not allowed to testify about its proposed euthanasia law.
"End-of-life" care is redefined to include euthanasia which is called "aid in dying". The suffering necessary to qualify for euthanasia is, essentially, whatever the patient determines is “intolerable”–even if the patient turns down treatment that could alleviate the symptoms they are experiencing…People can also direct that they be killed in their advance directive.
In Vermont, Starting in 2016, doctors in Vermont will assist patient suicides under what amounts to an honor system, no questions asked. What could go wrong?
Abraham Lincoln on grief
In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.
Letter to Fanny McCullough (23 December 1862); Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.
February 10, 2014
Astonishing Deathbed Conversion
Rod Dreher writes about Sy Karvitz's Astonishing Deathbed Conversion.
In 2009, the Daily Telegraph interviewed the musician Lenny Kravitz, who had been living celibately for the past few years because he is, or was, a serious Christian. Who knew? He said back then that he had decided to turn his back on his sex god ways and save himself for marriage. He has since backslidden, it appears, which is a shame, but it’s not why I’m linking to the article. I’m linking to it because of what he said about his late father’s deathbed conversion.
Sy Kravitz, his son said, was a hard man, an ex-Green Beret who was a serial cheater on Lenny Kravitz’s mother, Jeffersons actress Roxie Roker. When confronted in front of their son about his adulterous behavior, Sy Kravitz put what Lenny considers a curse on him, telling him: “You’ll do it too.”
Years later, dying of cancer, Sy Kravitz had a deathbed conversion. From the story:
‘It sounds like…’ [Lenny] Kravitz begins, and then says, ‘It’s going to sound like whatever it sounds like, but this is what it was. I mean, spiritually hospitals are very intense places. It’s like death’s doorstep. And he was in his bed one night and he looked at me, and he wasn’t on drugs, and he said to me, “There are these things flying around my bed, and these things crawling on the floor.” I said, “What are you talking about?” This is from my dad. He doesn’t do with any kind of spiritual thing. No heebie-jeebie kind of thing. And he’s, “There’s black-winged things and they’re flying around my bed… the things that are crawling on the ground, they look like they’re rats and they’re not… I see them.” I didn’t quite know how to take it. And he then began having this revelation and he accepted Christ – this is a non-religious Jewish man – and somehow the spirit world opened up to him. Almost like he had spiritually been bound his whole life and now this thing was released.’
After this spiritual experience, his father started answering some of the questions Kravitz would never get answers for. When Kravitz asked him before, “Why did you do what you did? Why did you do this to Mom?”, his father would stonewall. ‘That’s just the way it is,’ he would say. But a couple of nights after the experience, sitting in hospital with Lenny and his two half-sisters, Sy started talking. ‘He apologised to us in the most sincere, heartfelt manner. “I am sorry for what I’ve done, how I’ve been, how I’ve treated you, and I love you.” Real. And it was shocking… And what he said to me is that he always wanted to change his life, and he felt there was this thing on his back and he couldn’t get it off. His whole life, he knew inside himself that he wanted to change. But, he said, “I couldn’t.”?’
There would be one further unexpected moment: ‘As he got closer to his death, another night in the hospital, he was really tired and he looked over at me and he goes, “There’s angels all around the room. Because of Jesus.” And that was it. He turned and looked away. If you knew my dad – it was the furthest thing from him.’
These were the last words Sy Kravitz would say of this kind. But for the son, something real happened in those hospital days that changed everything. ‘The last three weeks of his life was the best relationship I had with him. And it cancelled out the 40 years before.’
February 9, 2014
His death stopped the clock in the church tower
A church clock maintained by a devoted doctor for almost thirty years stopped at the very same moment he passed away.
Dr John Farrer climbed the narrow stone spiraled stairs of the St James' Church clock tower in Clapham, North Yorkshire, every week for three decades. He died at his home aged 92 surrounded by family on New Year's Day.
The man's son, also Dr John Farrer, glanced at his watch as his father slipped away - and later realised the church clock also stopped at the exact same time.
Dr Farrer said: 'The clock stopped literally to the minute of dad's death. As a family doctor I'm used to looking at my watch because sometimes it can be critical for the death certificate.
'It was just habit that I did it as we knew he was going to die. He was having palliative treatment, but I realised he had stopped breathing and I read the time on my watch as 8.15am. 'It was only later when I spoke to two different people in the village that we realised the clock had stopped at the same time.'
Dr Farrer's death came just a few weeks after the 60th anniversary of his arrival in the village to take over the 10,000-acre Ingleborough family estate, which he had inherited.
Although St James' Church is not part of the estate, it was rebuilt around 150 years ago using the Farrer's family money. 'Something strange was certainly going on,' said Dr Farrer. 'But it's quite a nice touch when we think of all the time my father devoted to it.
'He had maintained it for 30 years but it eventually became too much for him and he reluctantly had to hand over the responsibility. 'It's the focus of the village and because the village is small enough to hear the clock chime it's a real time keeper. It was very close to my dad's heart.'
The clock was restarted following Dr Farrer's funeral, where he was remembered for his dedication for the village as well as his medical career.
February 6, 2014
detail of the portrait of the Emperor Charlemagne by Albrecht Durer
He has been dead for 1,200 years – but only now have scientists finally identified the bones of Charlemagne.
After 26 years of research, German scientists are satisfied that bones held for centuries at Aachen Cathedral, Germany, are those of the king of the Franks, who is also known as the father of Europe.
A total of 94 bones and fragments were analysed from the cathedral and are believed to belong to the founder of the Holy Roman Empire.
Professor Frank Rühli, of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, who was among the scientists studying the remains, said: ‘Thanks to the results from 1988 up until today, we can say with great likelihood that we are dealing with the skeleton of Charlemagne.’
The team of researchers studied the dimensions of the thigh, shin and upper arm bones to get an idea of the man’s height and build – which match the descriptions of the emperor. The man now confirmed to be Charlemagne, was six feet tall (1.84metres) weighed around 12stone 3lbs (78kg) and had a slim build.
One Medieval biographer, Einhard the Frank, wrote that Charlemagne walked with a limp in his later years, which the scientists now think could be true. They found that the skeleton’s kneecap and heel bones had deposits that would indicate an injury of some sort. But they didn’t find any new evidence to suggest that he died of pneumonia – or other clues about his later health – which would back up other accounts.
More on Charlemagne from the sidebar.
Charles the Great, King of the Franks, ruled a European empire from 768 based mainly around France, Germany and parts of Italy. Called the 'Father of Europe' he united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire.
His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance - a period of cultural and intellectual activity within the Catholic Church. Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne's empire. Although he could not write, he spoke Teutonic, Latin and Greek.
He was 6ft 4in - a monstrous height for the period, which has been confirmed by measurement of his skeleton.
Oddly, his father was known as Pepin the Short and was around 5ft tall.
Charlemagne's first campaign came at the age of 27, when the Pope sought his aid in repelling the Lombards of Italy. He conquered them in the field and took the crown of Lombardy as his own.
From his capital of Aachen in modern-day Germany, Charlemagne went on to fight 53 campaigns, most of which he led himself. He defended a Christian Europe from Muslim Saracens and pagan Saxons, often beheading thousands in a single day.
He is thought to have died aged 72 from a fever, but study of the ancient bones has not confirmed this.