August 22, 2014

"Is this a good day or a bad day?"

How to talk to the dying D.G, Myers

“How are you?” is not, then, the best thing to say to a cancer patient. Lisa Bonchek Adams, who lives with metastatic breast cancer and chronicles her experience in a moving and informative blog, suggests, “Is this a good day or a bad day?” The question is apt, because even though bikur holim (visiting the sick) is a mitsvah according to the Jews, a visit on a bad day may not be an act of kindness.
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Don’t tell a cancer patient about someone you know who also suffered cancer—no matter what the outcome. What is your purpose in telling the story? Will the account of someone else’s “survival” flood the dying patient with hope? Will someone else’s narrated pain and death stiffen him with courage?
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Most of all, don’t babble to cancer patients about alternative medicine. Don’t pester them about nutrition and vitamin supplements, don’t theorize that the cure for cancer is being suppressed to boost corporate profits, don’t speculate about what caused their cancer, don’t announce that you’ve heard, vaguely and fourth-hand, of amazing breakthroughs in treatment down in Mexico. (Every one of these has been vouchsafed to me.)
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The way to talk to the dying, that is, is to return them from death to the immediate experience of life. Neither hope nor dread belong to the moment; they encourage the patient to stare outside of time; but when the moment is lived to the full, the unexpected may reveal itself: even joy.

I am not saying their friends should distract the dying from what is hap­pening to them, but rather should try, with all resources available, to remind the dying that their death is not all that is happening to them.

Every Saturday afternoon, now that I can no longer attend shul, my three closest friends in town gather in my living room and bring the Sabbath rest to me, debating halakhah and the future of the Jews, tossing around ideas and interpretations. For a few hours, I need no better reminder of what life contains.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

August 21, 2014

Delaware gives executors access to digital assets

About time. Delaware becomes first state to give executors broad digital assets access   Meet the "Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act."

Delaware has become the first state in the US to enact a law that ensures families’ rights to access the digital assets of loved ones during incapacitation or after death.

Earlier this year, the Uniform Law Commission, a non-profit group that lobbies to enact model legislations across all jurisdictions in the United States, adopted its Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA). Delaware is the first state to take the UFADAA and turn it into a bona fide law.

“This problem is an example of something we see all the time in our high-tech age—our laws simply haven’t kept up with advancements in technology,” said Daryl Scott, in a statement last week. Scott is a member of the Delaware House of Representatives and the lead author of the bill. “By signing this bill into law, we’re helping to protect the rights and interests of the average person in the face of a rapidly evolving digital world."

Jim Halpert, an attorney with DLA Piper, and the director of the State Privacy and Security Coalition, an umbrella group that represents Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other firms, said that he opposes the new Delaware law.

"This law takes no account of minimizing intrusions into the privacy of third parties who communicated with the deceased," he said. "This would include highly confidential communications to decedents from third parties who are still alive—patients of deceased doctors, psychiatrists, and clergy, for example—who would be very surprised that an executor is reviewing the communications. The law may well create a lot of confusion and false expectations because, as the law itself acknowledges, federal law may prohibit disclosing contents of communications."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink
Categories: Estate Planning and End of Life planning

The Last Rites

Angels, Anointing and Peace at the Last Fr. Dwight Longnecker

The rite is so simple and so ordinary…no signs and wonders it seemed…no amazing miracles…or so it seemed…just the Lord’s presence and the Church’s sacrament.
At the anointing itself there was a sense of quiet wonder and gratitude.

Then in each case I went on to recite the precious prayers for passing….”Go forth upon your journey Christian soul. Go in the name of God the Father who created you. Go in the name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you. Go in the name of the Holy Spirit…Go forth….”  Then a prayer that the Holy Guardian angels might take her and lead her into paradise.  Then it was over.
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The last rites are one of the times when we see the power of the sacraments and I have never seen the prayers and anointing not bring peace when they have been asks for. The person really does go forth on their journey in peace. They are given their passport and they may go in peace.  I experienced it again twice in the last three days.
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I remember reading somewhere that Evelyn Waugh was questioned about the deathbed scene of Lord Marchmain in Brideshead Re-Visited. If you are unfamiliar with the scene, old Lord Marchmain comes home to die. He’s been a lapsed Catholic and rebellious against the church. Then on his death bed the priest comes and anoints him. When he leads through the confession he asks old Marchmain for a sign that he has heard and his will is engaged. Out of his unconsciousness Marchmain feebly makes the sign of the cross.

Waugh was challenged. “That scene was simply too unrealistic.” his critic complained.

Waugh replied, “That was the only thing in the book which was based in a very real experience. Everything else was fictional, but that scene was accurate. I saw such a thing happen.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

August 15, 2014

Photo farewells

Photo Farewells: The Last Known Photographs Of 15 Icons

 Lastphotophiliphoffman

After two decades of sobriety, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had fallen off of the wagon, and hard. With his life spiraling out of control due to a heroin addiction, Hoffman posed for this tintype portrait at the Sundance film festival of this year at his final public appearance. The photo shows a broken man, who soon after would be found dead in his apartment with 70 bags of heroin and 20 used needles. The Oscar-winning actor had recently been kicked out of the home of his longtime partner Mimi O’Donnell for the sake of their three young children.

 Lastphotoabrahamlincoln

Though there are numerous blurry photos claiming to be the official final picture taken of President Abraham Lincoln, this is without question the final official portrait taken of the nation’s 16th President. It was taken on February 5th, 1865 – a little more than two months before the infamous assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 AM | Permalink
Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

August 12, 2014

"He made a deadly choice"

Parents share final heartbreaking photographs of son, 19, to raise awareness of the dangers of synthetic marijuana which left him brain dead after one hit
The parents of a 19-year-old who died in California after smoking one hit of synthetic marijuana are determined that his death won't be in vain.

Devin and Veronica Eckhardt never imagined they would be watching a helicopter bearing their only son's heart fly away from the Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.
But on Thursday July 17 they honored Connor Eckhardt's wishes to donate his organs following his death after smoking a synthetic marijuana known as 'spice' the previous Saturday.
Now, the family is sharing photographs of Connor's life and death, in the hope that their son's tragic passing will serve as a warning to others about the dangers of synthetic marijuana.

 Connoreckardts Deathbed

'He gave into (peer pressure) — thinking that it was okay, it was somehow safe — and one hit later, he goes to sleep and never wakes up,' Connor’s father, Devin Eckhardt told KTLA.
Also known as K2, spice is a mixture of herbs that's sprayed with a chemical to produce a similar sensation to marijuana. The herbs and chemicals in spice vary, making it impossible for users to know what they're smoking and in what concentrations.

These substances are not benign,' Dr Andrew Monte, the lead author of an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, told the ststion.  'People may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be – up to 1,000 times stronger binding to cannabis receptors when compared to traditional marijuana.'

Incredibly, it's readily available in shops and online, even though the sale of it is illegal in California.  Synthetic marijuana has been labeled incense, potpourri and herbal smoking blend — and it's been sold using names such as K2 and Spice.  Connor Eckhardt fell asleep after taking a hit of spice.  His brain, deprived of oxygen, began to swell and he slipped into a coma.


 Connor+Family In happier names, Connor (2nd from left) with his parents and siblings.

I applaud these parents, who, in the midst of their grief, want others to know just how dangerous synthetic marijuana is.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink
Categories: Grief and grieving | Categories: No Way to Go

August 11, 2014

Ebola burial team - the world's bravest undertakers

Meet the world's bravest undertakers - Liberia's Ebola burial squad

In calmer times in Liberia, before the fear of Ebola became as feverish as the onset of the disease itself, Cecilia Johnson’s funeral could have been a dignified affair.
But when she died of an unspecified illness on Thursday, her family in St Paul's Bridge, a slum district of the capital, Monrovia, ignored government edicts to hand her body over for cremation.  Instead, fearing the prospect of being quarantined themselves if they reported it, they sneaked it to the cemetery in neighbouring Tyre Shop Community for burial the following morning.

The problem was that nobody wanted it there. Halfway through the burial, they were confronted by an angry crowd of Tyre Shop residents, demanding to know why a potentially-infected corpse was going in "their" cemetery. A scuffle ensued, and eight hours later, Ms Johnson's corpse lay parked by the roadside in a rusting, mud-spattered wheelbarrow, covered by a piece of carpet and still seeking a final resting place.For the two distressed relatives who remained by her side, standing drenched in a tropical storm, it was a case of Not in My Backyard, and Not in My Graveyard either.

 Ebola Undertakers

Such was the scene that greeted the Liberian government's new Ebola "burial team" on Friday, as their convoy arrived, sirens blaring, to pick the corpse. Set up specifically to deal with the Ebola outbreak, which has now claimed nearly 1,000 lives across west Africa, theirs is probably the most dangerous undertakers' job in the world.

It is not just the threat of the deadly virus itself, which is still highly contagious in dead bodies. It is also an extremely sensitive issue with locals, for whom a visit from a team in boiler suits and masks is the modern-day equivalent of having an "X" marked on their door during the days of Europe's Black Death.

"We have been attacked by mobs of people many times," said the team's leader, Mark Korvayan, who sports a scar on his shaved head from one recent battle, and whose team is now routinely escorted by the police. "The police escort helps, but this is still a dangerous job."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:38 PM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations

Cutting edge forensic lab with a team of almost all women

Inside the mortuary with the UK’s leading forensic scientists 
By Alice Fishburn

 Sue Black2    Snapshot of Professor Sue Black, who transformed an “old and dilapidated” mortuary at Dundee University into Britain’s most advance centre of forensic anatomy. Her team is almost all women. “Whether it’s because it’s a new science and doesn’t have the ceilings that other sciences have, or maybe it’s more poorly paid, or maybe it’s sexier. But, for whatever reason, it ticks the boxes for women’s brains”

via The Browser

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:29 PM | Permalink
Categories: Autopsies

"If people can’t be bothered to dress for the occasion, they are not welcome at my funeral" "

Theodore Dalrymple in Taki's Magazine

My problem with my own funeral is not how to pay for it: I will leave enough for even quite a grand affair, should anyone wish it. My problem, rather, is this: that if I were to die after my wife there would be no one to arrange it, and quite possibly no one to attend it either. Relatives are the great mainstays of funerals, and I have none within reasonable distance of wherever I am likely to die. As to my friends, they are scattered and lead busy lives; they probably won’t hear of my death for days or weeks after the date of my funeral, if any, has passed. This doesn’t worry me much: I don’t regard a large attendance at a funeral as young people regard large numbers of friends on Facebook, as the sign of a successful life.

I have no right to a religious ceremony, but I have observed that nonreligious ceremonies are embarrassing, with everyone hanging around and feeling that they ought to hug a tree in pagan fashion, thereby pretending that it is not so terrible a fate to die because the atoms of which one is composed are eternal and will be absorbed into the vegetation of the world, so that, in a sense, the dear departed hasn’t really died after all.

On the whole I would prefer to be buried than cremated, because I like cemeteries and feel they ought to be supported; my reason for my preference is not the same as that of an ordained priest of the Church of England of my acquaintance, who said that he wanted to give God as little trouble as possible on the Day of Resurrection. Nor do I like the modern custom, particularly strong in France, of turning up at funerals dressed casually, as if a funeral were merely a brief interval between a shopping expedition and a sporting event watched on television. If people can’t be bothered to dress for the occasion, they are not welcome at my funeral.

Taking everything in the round, I think the best thing for me would be a pauper’s funeral at a pauper’s grave: that is, if I can’t have a proper cortege with jet-black horses decorated with equally black plumes followed by thousands of somber mourners.               
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations

August 10, 2014

Major General Harold Green, RIP

 Major Gen Harold Greene American two-star general, 55, shot dead by 'insider' at Afghan military training facility in attack that left 15 troops wounded

Harold J. Greene, the two-star Army general who on Tuesday became the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be killed in either of America's post-9/11 wars, was an engineer who rose through the ranks as an expert in developing and fielding the Army's war materiel. He was on his first deployment to a war zone.

Greene was killed when a gunman believed to be an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military academy near Kabul. More than a dozen other coalition soldiers were wounded, including about eight Americans, according to early accounts of the attack. It was among the bloodiest insider attacks of the war in Afghanistan….He was on a routine visit to the British operated training facility just outside the capital Kabul when a man dressed in the uniform of the Afghan military opened fire.
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Maj. General Greene who is survived by his wife and two children, is the highest ranking member of the military to die in a war zone since Vietnam.  In a 34-year career that began at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Greene, a native of upstate New York, earned a reputation as an inspiring leader with a sense of humility. He had been in Afghanistan since January, serving as deputy commander of a support command called the Combined Security Transition Command, in Kabul.
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Greene flourished in the less glamorous side of the Army that develops, tests, builds and supplies soldiers with equipment and technology. That is a particularly difficult job during wartime, since unconventional or unanticipated battlefield challenges like roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, call for urgent improvements in equipment.
In 2009-2011, for example, he served as deputy commanding general of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command and senior commander of the Natick Soldier System Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. During that tour of duty he gained the rank of brigadier general, and at his promotion ceremony in December 2009 he was lauded for his leadership skills and ability to inspire those around him.
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His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal, a Meritorious Service Award and an Army Commendation Medal.

Obama on first combat death of an American general in decades: (Silence)

But Obama had nothing to say, issued no White House statement. Wednesday during several public events, including a 40-minute pre-vacation news conference, the commander-in-chief uttered not a single word about the violent death of one of only about 200 Army generals.  Strange behavior from someone who so often pays lip service to the devotion and sacrifice of U.S. military volunteers and behavior likely to confirm widespread skepticism of the Democrat's sincerity.
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Aides hinted to White House reporters that Obama did not want to elevate one soldier's death over any other. Well, in his 34-year military career the two-star general was elevated regularly above his peers, as was his wife Sue, a retired Army colonel.  In 13 years, 2,322 Americans have died in Afghanistan, 74% of them during Obama's five-year presidency.

Here's the real reason for no White House comment: Afghan soldiers turning on Americans undermine Obama's entire hasty withdrawal narrative, that our job is done and Afghans are ready to take on their own security by year's end.

Gen. Greene was to begin a two-week home leave tomorrow. He planned to take his wife, their grown children and his 85-year-old father to a pair of Sox games at Fenway Park. Instead, the family will assemble at Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of the man whose service and sacrifice the Obama White House refused to acknowledge.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:22 AM | Permalink
Categories: Great Legacies | Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

August 8, 2014

Major General Harold Green, RIP

 Major Gen Harold Greene American two-star general, 55, shot dead by 'insider' at Afghan military training facility in attack that left 15 troops wounded

Harold J. Greene, the two-star Army general who on Tuesday became the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be killed in either of America's post-9/11 wars, was an engineer who rose through the ranks as an expert in developing and fielding the Army's war materiel. He was on his first deployment to a war zone.

Greene was killed when a gunman believed to be an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military academy near Kabul. More than a dozen other coalition soldiers were wounded, including about eight Americans, according to early accounts of the attack. It was among the bloodiest insider attacks of the war in Afghanistan….He was on a routine visit to the British operated training facility just outside the capital Kabul when a man dressed in the uniform of the Afghan military opened fire.
--
Maj. General Greene who is survived by his wife and two children, is the highest ranking member of the military to die in a war zone since Vietnam.  In a 34-year career that began at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Greene, a native of upstate New York, earned a reputation as an inspiring leader with a sense of humility. He had been in Afghanistan since January, serving as deputy commander of a support command called the Combined Security Transition Command, in Kabul.
----
Greene flourished in the less glamorous side of the Army that develops, tests, builds and supplies soldiers with equipment and technology. That is a particularly difficult job during wartime, since unconventional or unanticipated battlefield challenges like roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, call for urgent improvements in equipment.
In 2009-2011, for example, he served as deputy commanding general of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command and senior commander of the Natick Soldier System Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. During that tour of duty he gained the rank of brigadier general, and at his promotion ceremony in December 2009 he was lauded for his leadership skills and ability to inspire those around him.
--
His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal, a Meritorious Service Award and an Army Commendation Medal.

Obama on first combat death of an American general in decades: (Silence)

But Obama had nothing to say, issued no White House statement. Wednesday during several public events, including a 40-minute pre-vacation news conference, the commander-in-chief uttered not a single word about the violent death of one of only about 200 Army generals.  Strange behavior from someone who so often pays lip service to the devotion and sacrifice of U.S. military volunteers and behavior likely to confirm widespread skepticism of the Democrat's sincerity.
--
Aides hinted to White House reporters that Obama did not want to elevate one soldier's death over any other. Well, in his 34-year military career the two-star general was elevated regularly above his peers, as was his wife Sue, a retired Army colonel.  In 13 years, 2,322 Americans have died in Afghanistan, 74% of them during Obama's five-year presidency.

Here's the real reason for no White House comment: Afghan soldiers turning on Americans undermine Obama's entire hasty withdrawal narrative, that our job is done and Afghans are ready to take on their own security by year's end.

Gen. Greene was to begin a two-week home leave tomorrow. He planned to take his wife, their grown children and his 85-year-old father to a pair of Sox games at Fenway Park. Instead, the family will assemble at Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of the man whose service and sacrifice the Obama White House refused to acknowledge.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:04 PM | Permalink
Categories: Great Legacies | Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

August 4, 2014

Weird deaths

Unnatural deaths may cause more grief than natural ones to their surviving families because their deaths seem so pointless and unfair

In China Patient killed after blowing up hospital ward when he decided to smoke a cigarette while undergoing treatment in high-pressure oxygen chamber

In Italy  Beautiful Italian girl, 19, killed when her long hair caught on her steering wheel and her car veered into oncoming traffic

In Virginia by bees. Sarah Harkins, 32, and her unborn child died Monday after a nest of bees was disturbed and stung her.  

In New Jersey, 1i-year-old boy killed by one punch to the head by another teen at his home. He died from bleeding on the brain.

In MIchigan, a soccer player who killed a referee with a single punch in June after he was ejected from a game  pleads guilty to second-degree murder.

In Michigan A man lost control of his car, plowed into an abandoned house that was so infested with bees that paramedics couldn't get to him and so he died.

In South Africa, two giraffes were being transported on an open bed truck along a busy highway when the driver went under a too low bridge when one of them didn't duck and suffered a fatal blow to his neck.

In India Three-year-old is boiled alive after being knocked out of his mother's arms by a speeding rickshaw and falling into pot of heated sugar syrup outside Indian sweet shop

In Florida, 13-year-old boy dies 'playing Russian roulette with his 15-year-old friend 

In Mexico,  Man, 21, a "selfie obsessive" accidentally kills himself with a shot to the head while posing with a gun for Facebook album

In Maine, 18 month old toddler brought to hospital 'brain dead' with bruises on her face by her unlicensed daycare provider

In Florida Iraq War vet vacationing in Florida with his wife and three children was taking an evening stroll on the beach with his daughter when a plane crash-landed on the beach and killed them

In Ontario, Heavily pregnant mom has lost her baby after a car crashed through the entrance of a Costco and hit her as she shopped, also killing her daughter, 6, and leaving her other little girl, 3, injured

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:26 AM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying

August 2, 2014

Poignant Last Photo: "We just stood and hugged and we didn’t want to do anything else.”

 Last Photo Israeli Soldier

The last time she would ever see him. Sad photo making way across Israeli media this morning. Killed soon thereafter
pic.twitter.com/UJKpFmhQqD

— Daniel Gordis (@DanielGordis) July 30, 2014

Before the briefing began, photographer Erez caught sight of the hugging couple and captured the moment.  Briga was killed in a Hamas cross-border mortar attack Monday, just three days after the photo was taken, before he entered Gaza.

Sokolov told Ynet that she hadn’t seen her boyfriend in two weeks before visiting to bring him and his friends food. “I reached him at the exact place he was killed, and we didn’t do anything except stand and hug for a half hour,” Sokolov said. “I saw photographers taking pictures of us, and I whispered to Adi, ‘Look, we’re like celebrities, we have paparazzi,’ and we both laughed. We just stood and hugged and we didn’t want to do anything else.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 AM | Permalink
Categories: Last Words, Obits, Eulogies and Epitaphs

Wine bar in Gallic hospice

French hospital to open wine bar for terminally ill patients

A French hospital is to open a wine bar for terminally ill patients in an unprecedented but characteristically Gallic way to improve their quality of life.

Patients at the Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital in central France will be able to take part in "medically supervised wine-tasting" sessions.  They will be allowed to invite friends or family over for a drink.

Dr Virginie Guastella came up with the idea because she believes that patients "are entitled to enjoy" their last days.  Patients enthusiastically supported the plan, which has been approved by the authorities. "Why should we deprive people reaching the end of their lives of the traditional flavors of our land?" Dr Guastella said.

The bar will open in September in the hospital's Palliative Care Centre…and stock a range of wines donated by local people. It will also serve whisky and champagne.  If the bar proves successful, doctors at Clermont-Ferrand hope the idea will be taken up by other hospitals in France.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink
Categories: Estate Planning and End of Life planning

The Kindness of Strangers

To the haunting refrains of Amazing Grace, 150 strangers on Thursday attended the funeral of a seven-month-old girl who died of starvation in a basement that resembled a 'dungeon' in January.

Police, firefighters and members of the public who never knew little May Edwards arrived at St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington, Chicago, to mourn the baby and released a solitary balloon at the cemetery as she was buried.

 Maya's CasketThe ceremony and burial were organized by a non-profit organization and attended by community members and the police and fire officials who were among the first to see Mya after she died

Deacon Jim Pauwels, gave a eulogy in which he asked those present not to think of their anger at the child's passing but to mourn her.
'When we're confronted with a case of innocence suffering, a case of death coming where there should have been life and growth and promise, it's not possible to not react,'

The turnout of so many was in part sparked by the shock and horror in the community after the death of Mya - after her parents allegedly allowed her to starve to death because they couldn't afford food for her…

Mya's parents, Gene Edwards, 22, and Markisa Jones, 19, have pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment stemming from the girl's death after they stopped feeding her and her twin sister Mia formula.
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At the funeral was Mya's uncle, Joaquin Edwards.  He said he was 'grateful' for the service but wished his family was involved.
'I feel very pleased and at ease to know that she is buried,' Edwards said to The Daily Herald.

One firefighter, Chris Alioto, played the bagpipes during the burial, giving an emotional rendition of Amazing Grace.Detective Sgt. Kevin Croke, who is leading the investigation, said the funeral was necessary.  'It's not common you get this kind of closure in this kind of case,' he said.

 Maya's Funeral1
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 AM | Permalink
Categories: Funerals, Burials and Cremations

July 24, 2014

The Last Post at Menin Gate

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

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

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

 Meningate Lastpostceremony

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

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

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

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

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

We will remember them.

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

But bigger isn't always better….

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

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

Too much, indeed.

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink

The Last Post at Menin Gate

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

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

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

 Meningate Lastpostceremony

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

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

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

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

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

We will remember them.

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

But bigger isn't always better….

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

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

Too much, indeed.

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink
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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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