June 11, 2016

The Bishop's Vineyard in a Cemetery

Planting grass costs at $50,000/acre, so grapevines at $17,000 acre were planted 10 years ago at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in an East Bay suburb of San Francisco.

Turning Cemeteries Into Wine at a California Diocese

“I wasn’t going into the wine business. I was thinking of the nice foliage,” said Robert Seelig, the chief executive of Catholic Management Services, which oversees the diocese cemeteries. He also thought about “the body and blood of Christ."

In 2013, church officials approached Shauna Rosenblum of Rock Wall Wine Company to process the cemetery grapes for altar wine, which need not be “that good.”...That first year they put all the cemetery grapes into a press to make rosé. But they were amazed when they evaluated some of the fruit. The chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from the Hayward cemetery were of “outstanding quality,” Mr. Ryan said. And the cabernet and zinfandel grapes from the nearby Holy Cross Cemetery were “fantastic.”
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-Vineyard Cemetery

“It was kind of like Jesus’ miracle when he made water into wine,” said Bishop Michael C. Barber of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, which oversees 16 acres of grapes at this cemetery and two others. He became the bishop in 2013, when the wine was called Cathedral of Christ the Light before church officials came up with Bishop’s Vineyard, a snappier label for a larger market.
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This year, a Bishop’s Vineyard cabernet sauvignon won a silver medal at the Monterey International Wine Competition. Its cabernet and zinfandel won silver medals in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

And so the cemetery wines have become a start-up business. Unlike most, it is a nonprofit, giving most of its products — 7,200 bottles of altar wine — to 45 churches. It has donated $35,000 in scholarships to parochial schools. Like most start-ups, it is not yet turning a profit, but the church is investing in the wine business and expects to break even this year. The annual costs run up to $150,000. Mr. Seelig considers it a good investment.
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For an additional $1,000, a family can have a loved one buried near the chardonnay vines glistening in the sun, or if they prefer, near the pinot noir vines....“It’s like dynamic pricing of a baseball game,” Mr. Seelig said.

“At our cathedral gift shop, we sell rosaries, statues of Mary and, oh, by the way, bottles of our wine,” Bishop Barber said.

From Our History at the Bishop's Vineyard

It’s no secret that wine is a strong, consistent symbol in Catholic culture. From the wedding in Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine, to the consecration of wine into the Blood of Christ during mass, it has been connected to the Church since it was formed. In fact, it was Franciscan friars who first introduced wine grapes to California in the late 1700s. Wine and faith in Christ seem to go hand in hand.

 Home-Slide-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:28 PM | Permalink
Categories: Cemeteries and graves

The Bishop's Vineyard in a Cemetery

Planting grass costs at $50,000/acre, so grapevines at $17,000 acre were planted 10 years ago at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in an East Bay suburb of San Francisco.

Turning Cemeteries Into Wine at a California Diocese

“I wasn’t going into the wine business. I was thinking of the nice foliage,” said Robert Seelig, the chief executive of Catholic Management Services, which oversees the diocese cemeteries. He also thought about “the body and blood of Christ."

In 2013, church officials approached Shauna Rosenblum of Rock Wall Wine Company to process the cemetery grapes for altar wine, which need not be “that good.”...That first year they put all the cemetery grapes into a press to make rosé. But they were amazed when they evaluated some of the fruit. The chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from the Hayward cemetery were of “outstanding quality,” Mr. Ryan said. And the cabernet and zinfandel grapes from the nearby Holy Cross Cemetery were “fantastic.”
__

-Vineyard Cemetery

“It was kind of like Jesus’ miracle when he made water into wine,” said Bishop Michael C. Barber of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, which oversees 16 acres of grapes at this cemetery and two others. He became the bishop in 2013, when the wine was called Cathedral of Christ the Light before church officials came up with Bishop’s Vineyard, a snappier label for a larger market.
--
This year, a Bishop’s Vineyard cabernet sauvignon won a silver medal at the Monterey International Wine Competition. Its cabernet and zinfandel won silver medals in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

And so the cemetery wines have become a start-up business. Unlike most, it is a nonprofit, giving most of its products — 7,200 bottles of altar wine — to 45 churches. It has donated $35,000 in scholarships to parochial schools. Like most start-ups, it is not yet turning a profit, but the church is investing in the wine business and expects to break even this year. The annual costs run up to $150,000. Mr. Seelig considers it a good investment.
--
For an additional $1,000, a family can have a loved one buried near the chardonnay vines glistening in the sun, or if they prefer, near the pinot noir vines....“It’s like dynamic pricing of a baseball game,” Mr. Seelig said.

“At our cathedral gift shop, we sell rosaries, statues of Mary and, oh, by the way, bottles of our wine,” Bishop Barber said.

From Our History at the Bishop's Vineyard

It’s no secret that wine is a strong, consistent symbol in Catholic culture. From the wedding in Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine, to the consecration of wine into the Blood of Christ during mass, it has been connected to the Church since it was formed. In fact, it was Franciscan friars who first introduced wine grapes to California in the late 1700s. Wine and faith in Christ seem to go hand in hand.

 Home-Slide-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink
Categories: Cemeteries and graves

June 7, 2016

"I’ve heard so many people die that sometimes I can tell the person is dying before the caller does."

Holding Hope: On Being a 911 Operator

I’ve listened to a lot of people die, and take it from me, people don’t slip away quietly like they do on screen, with one last longing look and a soft sigh of disappointed resignation. There are, of course, some quiet deaths—dying in one’s sleep is something many of us hope for. But the body is built to fight, and even in the most exhausted of frames, it can kick up a racket on its way out. It’s not polite. It doesn’t ask permission. It rattles and gasps and wheezes like an accordion being run over by a tractor-trailer. It fights with the bouncer and hurls epithets over its shoulder as it’s carried out.

I’ve worked 911 for seventeen years as the first of the first responders. I’m the person who tells you how to do CPR when you see a guy drop in front of Starbucks, when no one else wants to help, when you can’t remember one single thing you learned in that class you took before you had your first kid.

I’ve heard so many people die that sometimes I can tell the person is dying before the caller does. That fish-gasp-snore sound (called agonal breathing) is the reason CPR is sometimes started too late to help.

“Ma’am,” I say. “He’s not getting enough oxygen. I’m going to tell you how to do CPR.”

“Oh, I can’t do that. He’s still breathing, can’t you hear that snoring? Just get here!”

But I can tell by the sound that he’s not snoring, he’s actually dying, and without immediate intervention he won’t make it. It’s up to me and only me to convince the eighty-year-old woman that she’s strong enough to pull her husband off the bed in order to get him on a flat surface (You can’t do compressions on a bed. Pull the sheet he’s lying on. Don’t worry about the fall is what I say. You can’t hurt a dead man is what I don’t say). It’s up to me to convince the seventeen-year-old girl to give mouth-to-mouth to a friend who’s overdosed, even when the caller is high as hell and doesn’t want to get anywhere near the stuff coming out of her friend’s mouth. It’s up to me to tell the mother how to cut down her son who’s hung himself with a rope made from his stepfather’s ties in case there’s still oxygen lingering in his blood. Speed. Now. The faster, the better. The more convincing I can be, the better chance the person has of being revived.
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Once I took a call for a 103-year-old woman who stopped breathing while at a family birthday party. Her great-grandson did perfect CPR—I could hear the sound her chest made as he did compressions in exactly the right rhythm. All the while, he panted and muttered, “Come on, Grandma, you can make it. Come on, Grandma. You can do this.” Behind him, the whole family cheered them both on. I was listening to a house full of hope. A home full of love.

I don’t know if Grandma made it or not. I’m guessing she didn’t, but what a gift, to be 103 years old and your family’s still not ready to let you go.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:23 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

June 2, 2016

"She sold me her frozen mother for $30"

Woman Shocked to Find Neighbor’s Frozen Mother in $30 Used Freezer

A North Carolina woman was shocked when she looked into a used freezer she bought and found parts of a dead body inside.

“My heart was in my throat and I ran outside, called 911,” said the woman, who asked that she not be identified.  “I have a serious problem. My neighbor sold me a deep freezer. I just opened it and there’s a body in there I think,” she told the 911 dispatcher. “I am freaking out.”

The woman did allow CBS North Carolina cameras into her apartment Tuesday to see where she had kept the deep freezer for the three weeks before opening it and making the gruesome discovery. The woman said she bought the freezer from her neighbor, but that she didn’t immediately open it because that neighbor told her it was being used as a “time capsule.”  “A church was supposed to come, pick up the items inside the freezer. I was supposed to get the freezer back. The church never came. I decided to open it,” the freezer buyer said.

Police confirmed the human remains were found Friday inside 1723-B Holly Street in Goldsboro. The woman who discovered it said she believes it was the body of the neighbor’s elderly mother inside the freezer.

“She sold me her frozen mother for $30. How do you do something like that??” the woman said.

On June 1, remains were positively identified by the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office. The woman’s death was determined to be natural and with no signs of foul play.  Goldsboro police are investigating the incident as felony concealing or failing to notify the death of a person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink
Categories: Desecration of corpses, graves

"She sold me her frozen mother for $30"

Woman Shocked to Find Neighbor’s Frozen Mother in $30 Used Freezer

A North Carolina woman was shocked when she looked into a used freezer she bought and found parts of a dead body inside.

“My heart was in my throat and I ran outside, called 911,” said the woman, who asked that she not be identified.  “I have a serious problem. My neighbor sold me a deep freezer. I just opened it and there’s a body in there I think,” she told the 911 dispatcher. “I am freaking out.”

The woman did allow CBS North Carolina cameras into her apartment Tuesday to see where she had kept the deep freezer for the three weeks before opening it and making the gruesome discovery. The woman said she bought the freezer from her neighbor, but that she didn’t immediately open it because that neighbor told her it was being used as a “time capsule.”  “A church was supposed to come, pick up the items inside the freezer. I was supposed to get the freezer back. The church never came. I decided to open it,” the freezer buyer said.

Police confirmed the human remains were found Friday inside 1723-B Holly Street in Goldsboro. The woman who discovered it said she believes it was the body of the neighbor’s elderly mother inside the freezer.

“She sold me her frozen mother for $30. How do you do something like that??” the woman said.

On June 1, remains were positively identified by the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office. The woman’s death was determined to be natural and with no signs of foul play.  Goldsboro police are investigating the incident as felony concealing or failing to notify the death of a person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink
Categories: Desecration of corpses, graves

"She sold me her frozen mother for $30"

Woman Shocked to Find Neighbor’s Frozen Mother in $30 Used Freezer

A North Carolina woman was shocked when she looked into a used freezer she bought and found parts of a dead body inside.

“My heart was in my throat and I ran outside, called 911,” said the woman, who asked that she not be identified.  “I have a serious problem. My neighbor sold me a deep freezer. I just opened it and there’s a body in there I think,” she told the 911 dispatcher. “I am freaking out.”

The woman did allow CBS North Carolina cameras into her apartment Tuesday to see where she had kept the deep freezer for the three weeks before opening it and making the gruesome discovery. The woman said she bought the freezer from her neighbor, but that she didn’t immediately open it because that neighbor told her it was being used as a “time capsule.”  “A church was supposed to come, pick up the items inside the freezer. I was supposed to get the freezer back. The church never came. I decided to open it,” the freezer buyer said.

Police confirmed the human remains were found Friday inside 1723-B Holly Street in Goldsboro. The woman who discovered it said she believes it was the body of the neighbor’s elderly mother inside the freezer.

“She sold me her frozen mother for $30. How do you do something like that??” the woman said.

On June 1, remains were positively identified by the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office. The woman’s death was determined to be natural and with no signs of foul play.  Goldsboro police are investigating the incident as felony concealing or failing to notify the death of a person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink
Categories: Desecration of corpses, graves

"So we all hope this is a one off."

Ghost-hunters get the willies by stumbling on 'porn shoot' in Hull graveyard

A ghost tour party exploring a spooky graveyard got a real case of the willies when they found themselves in the middle of a porn film shoot.

The tourists were examining the inscriptions on the slabs at the graveyard on the south side of Sculcoates Lane, Hull, when they heard groans coming from further down the path.  When they went to investigate they were stunned to find a young woman having sex with a man in a patch of ivy. Two other men were so busy filming the broad daylight romp with video cameras, they did not realise they had an audience.

Ghost guide Mike Covell said: "It was the couple who saw us first. They were going at it like knives among the ivy. She was a blonde.  We looked at her and she looked at us. Then she pushed the bloke off her. The guy ran after her desperately trying to protect his privates from the brambles.  We did not know where to look. Good job all 12 people on the tour were adults because sometimes kids come along.

"One elderly man was so incensed, he was ready to chase after them with his walking stick but I persuaded him to calm down and eat his sandwiches."
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The graveyard dates from the 1840s and the last burial took place in 1959. It is now overgrown and reputed to be haunted by ghostly monks and the spirits of children whose bones were disturbed during redevelopment of part of the site. Only three graves are still tended by loved ones, volunteers say.

The ivy was allowed to grow over the tomb stones to protect them from frost but also allowed the porn crew to sneak in.
The graveyard is owned by the Diocese of York but the running of it was taken over by the community in 2007.

Lorna Walker, who chairs Sculcoates Neighbourhood Association, said: "We find this very distasteful. But it is a public place and there is not a lot you can do apart from lock the gates. But then no one would get the benefit of it - we do bat walks and all kinds of positive things down there.

"This is the first time I have heard of anything this. There are always people in society who will push the boundaries.  The cemetery has a rich history. Philip Larkin used to ride his bike through it. So we all hope this is a one off."

 Hull Cemetery Porn Shoot-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:04 AM | Permalink
Categories: Desecration of corpses, graves

May 30, 2016

May they rest in honored glory

Never have the "honored dead" been more eloquently extolled than when Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address  on November 19, 1863.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Five years later came the first national celebration of the holiday on May 30th, 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried, following the order of  John A. Logan, Commander in Chief  of the Grand Army of the Republic who designated May 30th as Memorial Day.... "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land."  In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars.

Why They Died: The Motivations of American Soldiers in 12 Great Wars

12. The Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) -- 383 deaths.
11. The Indian Wars (ca. 1817-1898) -- 1,000 deaths.
10. The War of 1812 (1812-1815) -- 2,260 deaths.
9. The Spanish-American War (1898-1901) -- 2,446 deaths.
8. The Revolutionary War (1775-1783) -- 4,435 deaths.
7. The Global War on Terror (2001-?) -- 6,888 deaths.
6. The Mexican-American War (1846-1848) -- 13,283 deaths.
5. The Korean War (1950-1953) -- 36,574 deaths.
4. The Vietnam War (1964-1973) -- 58,220 deaths.
3. World War I (1917-1918) -- 116,516 deaths.
2. World War II (1941-1945) -- 405,399 deaths.
1. The American Civil War (1861-1865) -- 650,000 to 850,000 deaths.

Every year on Boston Common flags are planted in memory of every fallen Massachusetts service member from the Revolutionary War to the present.  In this photograph by Brian Snyder of Reuters you are seeing a few of the 37,000 planted this year.

 Memday Bostoncommon

The "battlefield cross" is far starker, part of the unofficial military ceremony that men and women often hold, either in the field or back at their home base, to memorialize a deceased comrade. 

 Battlefield Cross
This “cross” is not a cross but a field weapon, a rifle, with fixed bayonet thrust into the ground. A helmet sits on the top of the butt of the rifle. This inverted-rifle icon is at the center of a ceremony that enables comrades to pause, to bend a knee, to remember, to grieve, to say farewell. There is often a final roll call, understanding that one—or more—of the names shouted out will elicit no response....The boots are a forceful and personal reminder, symbolizing the “final march of the last battle.”

Jim from Galveston writes For Love Of Country  And of our fellow man.

Dignity, honor, respect and a day of remembrance is all that they ask now of us. Especially, remembrance. So, this weekend, set aside if only for a day, thoughts of (D) or ®. Rail not against your fellow American, nor wish harm to him, his party or his creed. Not on this day.

The men and women in those graves are no longer Democrats or Republicans. They are still and eternally though Americans, and are forevermore worthy of this day given but to them.  Honor the Day. Honor Them.

From their dark and silent graves, they give more honor to our Nation than any one politician, party or officeholder dares ever imagine.  Dignified beyond words, with nobility above the highest offices of government, these silent warriors speak loudly of what it is to be American.  They did not die for the Republicans. Nor for the Democrats, Greens or Libertarians.

Whether in combat, or fifty years later surrounded by only the memories of comrades long since passed, the men and women resting forever under those flags once marched proudly under that banner. They have earned nothing less than the unqualified respect of a grateful Nation, and her grateful people.

The last full measure of devotion is an awesome, terrible thing. Yet, magnificent; and it is upon the altar of their sacrifice that we enjoy the freedom of the greatest Nation in the history of the world.

Stand and salute, and remember them.

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

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.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:59 PM | Permalink
Categories: Great Legacies | Categories: Memory, Memorials

Retrieving bodies from the "Death Zone' on Mt Everest

The extraordinary cost of retrieving dead bodies from Mount Everest

Five people have died attempting to climb Mount Everest this month, and one is missing.  One, 36-year-old Dutch climber Eric Arnold, reached the mountain’s summit after four previous attempts but died during his descent last Friday. On Thursday, his body was taken from the mountain by helicopter and brought to a hospital in Kathmandu. The body of 34-year-old Australian climber Maria Strydom, who died last Saturday, was also brought to Kathmandu Friday.

This is a bit of an anomaly. While these two bodies were removed, scores have not been. More than 200 bodies dot the mountain, according to Smithsonian.

 Green-Boots
The body of ‘green boots’, thought to be that of Tsewang Poljar, is passed by every climber who attempts the North East route to the summit.

Some of them are there per their final wishes. Many climbers wish to remain on the mountain should they perish, much like a captain going down with his ship, BBC reported. For those who wish for a traditional service, the costs and obstacles of retrieving bodies from the mountain are staggering.

“It’s expensive and it’s risky, and it’s incredibly dangerous for the Sherpas,” to whom the task generally falls, Fort Collins, Colo., mountaineer Alan Arnette told CBC. The price tag can reach upward of $30,000 to $70,000 and the quest to reclaim bodies has taken lives in the past. In 1984, 36-year-old Yogendra Bahadur Thapa and his 35-year-old guide Ang Dorjee died during an attempt to recover the corpse of 39-year-old German mountaineer Hannelore Schmatz.

The first problem is the obvious one: Sherpas have to reach the body in question.
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Most of Everest’s more than 250 deaths have occurred on the portion of the mountain above 26,000 feet, which is referred to as the “death zone.” Until 2010, the death zone had never been cleared of the many bodies and trash littering it and making the path more treacherous for future climbers, the Guardian reported.
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And it’s not a one-man job. As Arnette explained, it requires multiple — generally six to 10 — Sherpas most of a day to bring a body down the mountain. Adding to the difficulty is the time crunch Sherpas experience there. One of the death zone’s more inhospitable features is its low oxygen levels, which are one-third those at sea level. Due to this, climbers aren’t supposed to spend more than 48 hours in the zone
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink
Categories: Cemeteries and graves | Categories: Death and Dying

May 29, 2016

They woke up in the morning not knowing it would be the last day of their lives

Woman, 55, killed on Sundance zip line died after 'hitting a tree that was blown into her path in freak accident'

55-year-old woman who died after suffering serious internal injuries while on the zip line attraction at Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah Friday struck a collapsed tree, authorities confirmed Friday. Lisa Lambe, from Hilton Head, South Carolina, was found suspended in a zip line harness Friday afternoon and was immediately brought to the ground where paramedics tried - and failed - to revive her.  Police now have evidence that winds had caused a tree to collapse in her path, delivering the fatal blow, Fox13now reported.  If you ever think of a freak accident, this is probably the text-book definition of that,' Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff's Office told the station.

Arizona hiker dies after being stung by 1,000 bees

A 23-year-old Louisiana man died after being attacked by bees Thursday morning as he and a friend were hiking within Usery Mountain Park in Mesa, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said.  A medical exam determined the man had been stung more than 1,000 times, officials said.

Just after 9 a.m., Alex Bestler and his friend were hiking the Merkle Trail when a large swarm of bees appeared without warning.  The friend was able to safely make it to a nearby restroom, but Bestler was overtaken by the swarm before he could find shelter, the Sheriff's Office said.

Woman dies from fire ant attack 1 day after her mother died

Authorities and relatives say an Alabama woman standing atop a hay bale was attacked by fire ants and died the day after her mother died. A joint funeral was held Thursday in Selma for the women, 29-year-old Kalyn Rolan and 53-year-old Roberta Lynn Duke, both of Prattville.

Bareback rodeo star, 19, is trampled and crushed to death by his horse in New Jersey show in front of his devastated parents

A horse trampled a rodeo performer to death after it tossed the 19-year-off its back in front of a crowd of thousands, New Jersey authorities said. Bareback rider Coy Lutz was trampled Saturday night at the Cowtown Rodeo in Pilesgrove, about 35 miles southwest of Philadelphia.

Tragedy as star college swimmer, 22, drowns during lifeguard fitness test

Jack Jakubek, 22, from Newburgh, New York, died in a Cape Cod lake in Massachusetts on Saturday during a tryout for a summer job. He graduated from SUNY Cortland last month, where he was captain of the swim team.

Female conductor, 28,  died after falling from a moving train that ran her over

The female train conductor who died after falling from a moving train married the love of her life on the same vehicle just seven months ago.

 Leslie Casey Conductor
Leslie Cacy, 28, fell off the back of the Royal Gorge Railroad train at around 5.30pm on Saturday - just minutes before the end of her shift - and died instantly when she was run over.  Cacy was standing in a door opening at the back of the train as it backed into the station when she fell, the Fremont County Sheriff's Office confirmed. It had previously been reported that she plummeted more than 1,000ft into a gorge.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 AM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

May 28, 2016

The Changing Funeral Industry

Dying traditions, and new life, in the funeral industry

Death is inevitable, but, increasingly, traditional burials are not. From diamonds made from cremated remains to eco-friendly interments, the $20 billion funeral industry is being reshaped, creating opportunities for the entrepreneurially minded — and financial hardship for those with business models more set in stone.

At Rockland Golf Course a few years ago, a kayaker paddled to the middle of a pond with the cremated remains of a golfer who had hit many an errant ball into the water. As the rower released the biodegradable container and the ashes dispersed, a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” and 75 members of the man’s golf league chipped shots into the water.

A Great Barrington woman wrapped her mother’s body in a cotton sheet and laid her in a cardboard coffin lined with dry ice. The family then held a three-day vigil at her home dance studio, inviting people to play music and see and touch her face for the last time.

In Woburn, a carpenter with a degenerative brain condition is set to be buried in a suit embedded with mushrooms, which will neutralize the toxins in his body as it decomposes into the earth.

In Seattle, plans are underway for a facility to turn corpses into compost; in Italy, a pair of designers is working on a biodegradable burial seed pod that will allow a person’s decaying body to provide nutrients for a tree planted on top of it.

But the number of alternatives to caskets and cemeteries is making life tough for undertakers and monument makers.
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“People always say to me, ‘You’re set, people are always going to die,’” said Jeff Hardy, of the Chelmsford burial vault company Hardy Doric Inc. “Well yeah, it’s what happens to them after that keeps changing.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 AM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations

May 27, 2016

How did the dissected bodies donated to medical science end up in mass graves?

This report by Nina Bernstein at the New York Times shows disgraceful behavior on the part of NYU.  Let it be a red flag to all who plan to donate their bodies to medical science.

Bodies Given to N.Y.U. Ended Up in Mass Graves, Despite Donors’ Wishes

One died in her multimillion-dollar apartment. Another left $1.3 million to charity. A third was an opera costume designer who took regular trips to Europe with his devoted partner. All three donated their bodies to medical science, and eventually served as cadavers for first-year medical students at the New York University School of Medicine. All three had signed forms that promised cremation and the disposal of their ashes by the medical school “in an appropriate and dignified manner.” 

So how did their dissected corpses end up instead in mass graves on Hart Island, where New York City buries the dead it considers unclaimed and indigent? 

Those cases, discovered during an investigation by The New York Times into Hart Island burials, shocked surviving family members and friends. But they also raised larger questions about body donations at a time when medical schools throughout the country increasingly rely on such gifts, rather than on unclaimed bodies, to teach future doctors.

Now, after searching through anatomical records at The Times’s request, N.Y.U. is apologizing, and acknowledging that the cases were part of a practice that went on for years. Until 2013, the school was sending a subset of privately donated cadavers to a city morgue for burial at public expense.

“As an institution, we weren’t aware that this was happening,” Lisa Greiner, a spokeswoman for NYU Langone Medical Center, said. “I promise you it’s not happening now.”

But the revelation reinforces longstanding concerns by some anatomists about the lack of regulation and oversight in a national patchwork of body donation operations. And it could have repercussions at the 16 medical schools in New York State, which use more than 800 donated bodies a year.
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N.Y.U. was one of the first medical schools in the country to publicize annual memorial ceremonies held by grateful medical students to honor body donors. Each year, on average, it receives 46 cadavers and signs up 65 donors. Officials at the Associated Medical Schools of New York, of which N.Y.U. is a member, said that it knew of no other school that had ever sent privately donated bodies to a potter’s field, and that it had been unaware that N.Y.U. was doing so.

Todd Olson, who formerly directed the anatomical donation program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and, as a professor of anatomy, was a leader in the profession’s state and national organizations, said he was sickened to learn of N.Y.U.’s method of disposing of some privately donated bodies.

“This is so out of line with common practice,” he said. “The idea of it is so disrespectful.” But, he added, “Every time you turn around you’re going to find some people who are taking advantage of their access to the dead, because they know the dead are not going to talk.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink
Categories: Dead used for propaganda or profit | Categories: Desecration of corpses, graves

Who was the 3-year-old blonde girl clutching a red rose buried in a coffin for 145 years yet 'perfectly preserved'?

Mystery of the young blonde girl who has lain perfectly preserved and still clutching a red rose inside a tiny coffin for 145 years beneath a San Francisco home

Construction workers were remodeling Ericka Karner's childhood home in the Richmond District when they hit the lead and bronze coffin buried underneath the concrete garage.The three-foot casket's two windows revealed the perfectly preserved skin and long blonde hair of the girl, who is believed to have died when she was three years old.
---
Construction worker Kevin Boylan told KTVU: 'All the hair was still there. The nails were there. There were flowers - roses, still on the child's body. It was a sight to see.'

It is believed the girl was one of the 30,000 people who were buried in the city's Odd Fellows Cemetery, which was active for 30 years before it was forced to shut in 1890.  The bodies were moved to a Colma burial plot in the 1930s to allow for redevelopment - but the little girl in the long white dress with lavender flowers in her hair was left behind.
---
Karner, who is currently living in Idaho with her family while the house is remodeled, said she felt awful as a mother thinking of the little girl lying alone in her backyard. She considered the girl 'part of her family now'.
---
The city refused to take custody of Miranda, but the problems only continued when Karner tried to have the girl reburied. City Hall finally put Karner in touch with someone who could help, connecting her to the Garden of Innocence, an organization that provides burials for unidentified children. Founder Elissa Davey, who was able to secure the funds needed to have the coffin picked up and temporarily stored in a mortuary refrigerator in Fresno, said they needed to do the 'right thing'.

'That girl was somebody's child,' she said. 'We had to pick her up.''If people find out she's lying at a construction site with no one around at night, you can bet somebody is going to steal her. People into the macabre. Into witchcraft. I wanted her out of there.'

It was obvious to Davey that Miranda's parents loved her very much.  'Just by looking at the way they dressed her,' she wrote. 'Their sorrow was great. We will love her too.' 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 PM | Permalink

May 12, 2016

Peter Stefan is the man who buried those bodies who had no where else to go

Never have I read of a man who so completely fulfilled the 7th corporal work of mercy - to bury the dead - no matter how dangerous it was or how many death threats he received.  With his example of courage and compassion for the most needy, he will leave a Great Legacy.

The Man Who Buries Everyone  Peter Stefan has a job few people ask for: laying to rest society’s forgotten and unwanted.

 Peter Stefan
He is the man who buried those bodies who had no where else to go  - AIDS patients in the ’80s and ’90s; the homeless and impoverished living near his funeral parlor, Graham Putnam & Mahoney, in Main South, one of Worcester’s toughest neighborhoods; and the elder of the two brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon three years ago.
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In Massachusetts, the state medical examiner told the State Senate that 29 bodies were currently in holding, with just three funeral homes willing to accept them for the state’s paltry $1,100 fee. “Of these, only one funeral director routinely handles the majority of our cases,” wrote the medical examiner — referring, of course, to Stefan.
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“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.” Like many funeral home directors, Stefan likes to paraphrase this quote from William Gladstone, the 19th-century Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but most funeral home directors don’t make it their mission the way Stefan does.
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Stefan got his embalming license in 1966, but the funeral business wasn’t his first career. Stefan played the saxophone and traveled between clubs and studios across the country while working his way up in the local funeral home in Dorchester. ....Stefan continued to work as a musician until the ’90s because, even as he took on more clients, his funeral parlor still wasn’t making any money, and he needed another source of income to keep his doors open. Eventually, though, his reputation as the man who would bury anyone made him busy enough that he could afford to quit jumping in at nightclubs and focus on his family life and the parlor.
--
“I got a call from them down there,” Stefan remembers — a funeral parlor in North Attleboro where the body arrived during the middle of a wake, complete with a coterie of protesters and media. “They were basically living in a state of terror,” and they needed Stefan to come collect the body as soon as possible. “They were thinking of waiting until the morning, but they said, ‘Nah, we better do something now.’ So we went and got the body in the middle of the night,” Stefan recalls.
--
“We bury the dead, that’s what we do,” Stefan says. Doesn’t matter who it is. I can’t separate the sins from the sinners.”

This is how I met Stefan. I was assigned to stand outside the funeral home for my job as a daily reporter at the time. I was there the morning the news broke that Tsarnaev’s body was in the city where I lived and worked. During an unseasonably warm week, I watched protesters shouting from across the street. As the death threats streamed in, Stefan worked the phones among his contacts at cemeteries, searching for a burial plot. Eventually, he connected with a cemetery in Richmond, Virginia that agreed to do the burial, and on May 9, Tsarnaev’s body was moved.

“I never kept a nickel,” Stefan says. “I didn’t want anyone to say, ‘You did the funeral for the money.’ I didn’t get a dime.” Instead, he put the money he received for it into a fund for people who can’t afford prescription medication. It’s something he’s been doing for the last five years as he advocates for a medicine recycling bill in the state. It’s not something he has to do, but it’s like Stefan to turn take something positive from a bad situation.

The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy

 7 Worksmercy Masterofalkmaar,
Seven Works of Mercy by Master of Alkmaar, 1504,  Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

In the Catholic Church, six of the seven corporal works of mercy are listed in the Biblical parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25 vv 31-46) as the model criteria by which Christ will judge people.  They are a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. They are corporal because they are practical deeds aimed at relieving the bodily distress of our fellow humans. 

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbor the harborless (today interpreted as shelter the homeless)
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive (today interpreted as visit the imprisoned)
  • To bury the dead.


By the third century, burying the dead was added because it is highly praised in the Book of Tobit (Tobit 1, vv 17-19) to bring the number up to seven, a sacred number. Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God's creation of all things. 

Here are the relevant verses from the Book of Tobit which illustrate how dangerous burying the hated dead can be.

17 If they were hungry, I shared my food with them; if they needed clothes, I gave them some of my own. Whenever I saw that the dead body of one of my people had been thrown outside the city wall, I gave it a decent burial.

18 One day Sennacherib cursed God, the King of Heaven; God punished him, and Sennacherib had to retreat from Judah. On his way back to Media he was so furious that he killed many Israelites. But I secretly removed the bodies and buried them; and when Sennacherib later searched for the bodies, he could not find them.

19 Then someone from Nineveh told the emperor that I was the one who had been burying his victims. As soon as I realized that the emperor knew all about me and that my life was in danger, I became frightened. So I ran away and hid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:43 PM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations | Categories: Great Legacies
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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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