March 2, 2015
Spiritual visits by family members at the time of death
Dr. Jared Bunch explores the spiritual visits at the time of death of his heart patients in Strengthening Experiences from Patients while Dying
Another rationale that I have heard is we develop hallucinations of family members near death because these come from stored memories that are pleasant to us. For example, in a time of stress we may envision our mother who was a source of comfort to us when we were children. This would account for similar experiences in diverse individuals when the brain is deprived of oxygen. I have had a few experiences that have made me doubt this rationale.
The most interesting came from a man who was dying of chronic lung disease. His lungs had become heavily scarred with fibrosis and could no longer exchange oxygen well. I was leaving the hospital one afternoon and he asked if I would come in and talk. We ended up talking for about 3 hours. He was an extremely successful businessman and had grown to love developing and serving his employees more than growing his company. He said he always wanted to be there for his employees. He was like a father to many of his employees and had personally supported some of their children through school, paid for weddings, helped in times of crisis, etc. He told me he never had a father. His biologic father was abusive and left his mother alone when he was a small child. He said he hated his father for what he had done and as a consequence had spent his life becoming the opposite of his father. During his hospital stay he decided to enroll in hospice and start the dying process. As we made preparations for him to return to his home and die he shared on last experience with me. The night before his father had come to him. He told him he was sorry, that he loved him, and that he wanted to help him now. My patient said that he felt an overwhelming love for his father immediately and that all his hatred and anger was gone. He said he did not realize that he needed to forgive his father and that now he was completely ready to die. He died within a week of returning to his home. Our hospital put up the newspaper of his obituary that highlighted the life of a man who was defined by service and love. I have thought back upon this experience. If his brain was hallucinating and he needed comfort, then why bring up images of a person he did not know and professed to hate? To me, he mother who was his true companion in this life would have been the person that his brain would have associated with comfort and peace.
'And I'll stand there until my arm gets tired, and another Marine comes.'
Donnie Loneman, 59, had been living on the streets of Oklahoma City for the last decade when doctors gave him three weeks to live.
Loneman, who had loved being a Marine, asked for three things: to be buried in dress blues, with a 'high and tight' Marine haircut and a corps flag for his casket.
The Oklahoma City Veterans Affair Medical Center put the word out and a number of veteran organizations banded together to make Loneman's wish come true. A flag and the dress blues were donated, and the foundations also paid for Loneman's funeral expenses and gave him an honor guard for his burial, according to KOCO-TV.
Loneman, who was Native American, was beloved by the local veteran affairs organization, who knew him to have 'a good heart' and a 'great sense of humor'. We get guys like him once in a blue moon, who really make a difference for everyone here,' said Christine Cleary, who worked with the medical center.
Loneman wasn't even afraid of death. He told Cleary he was happy because he knew he was going to heaven, where he would get to see his mother and the Marines. 'He said "I'm going to enter the gates, and I'm going to tell all the Marines that are standing there that they're relieved of their duty, and I'm going to take their place"', Cleary recalled him saying.
'And I'll stand there until my arm gets tired, and another Marine comes.'
"Get back in"
Don't encourage anyone who is contemplating suicide. It is wrong and you could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. It will be a life-long tragedy
Michelle Carter, 18, an honor roll student in Massachusetts 'encouraged her friend to kill himself', organized a fundraiser in his name - and was only caught when cops found her texts telling him to take his life
Michelle Carter 'sent Conrad Roy III, 18, a series of texts encouraging to take his life in a parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts last July'. He was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his idling truck. The night of his death, she wrote on Twitter: 'I will never understand why this had to happen'. She raised $2,300 for suicide prevention through a softball event and often shared messages online about how much she missed her friend. Carter, who was 17 at the time, was arraigned this month as a youthful offender, which means she could face punishment as an adult if convicted She is free on bail and continues to study and take part in volunteer work. Michelle Carter, 18, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Conrad Roy III, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his idling truck in Fairhaven, Massachusetts last July.
The Boston Herald reported
As the deadly carbon monoxide fumes from a gasoline-powered generator filled his lungs, a suicidal Conrad Roy III got scared and stepped out of his truck, but police say his 18-year-old girlfriend goaded him into taking his life with three chilling words: “Get back in.”
Roy, 18, was found dead on July 13 inside his truck in the parking lot of a Fairhaven Kmart. “The sickly sweet taste of exhaust gas still could be detected,” according to police….
“Michelle Carter not only encouraged Conrad to take his own life, she questioned him repeatedly as to when and why he hadn’t done it yet, right up to the point of when his final text was sent to her on Saturday evening, July 12, 2014 at 6:26 p.m.,” the police report states.
Police and prosecutors say Carter, of Plainville, texted back-and-forth with Conrad before he took his life in the parking lot of a Fairhaven Kmart on July 13, 2014. Court documents show the two friends exchanged more than 1,000 text messages in the days leading up to his death, the Fairhaven Neighborhood News reported.
'Instead of attempting to assist him or notify his family or school officials, Ms. Carter is alleged to have strongly influenced his decision to take his own life, encouraged him to commit suicide and guided him in his engagement of activities which led to his death,' Miliote said.
Her parents have defended their daughter saying she is 'not the villain the media is portraying her to be' and was only trying to help Roy, who had been suffering from depression. In a statement received by The Boston Herald, the family said: 'Our hearts have and remain broken for the Roy family. 'For everyone that does not know our daughter, she is not the villain the media is portraying her to be. She is a quiet, kind, and sympathetic young girl. She tried immensely to help Mr Roy in his battle with depression. We know that once all of the facts are released, our daughter will be found innocent.'
But classmates interviewed by police after the tragedy described her as someone who craves attention and is known as the girl who 'cries wolf'. … 'She was a very nice, outgoing person but she requires a lot of attention and reassurance…..Detective Scott R. Gordon wrote in a police report: 'I asked him if he had a lot to do with the fundraiser, and he said not too much but he did try and get her to move it back to Mattapoisett where all of Conrad's family and friends were but Michelle wanted to keep it in Plainville. 'He further explained that (Carter) was getting so involved in it, and he was just curious about how she knew Conrad, and Michelle said that they had been dating on and off for two years and (he) said at that point that he had never heard of her, so he didn't know exactly if that was true or not.'
February 23, 2015
Meditating monk mummified
Mummified remains of a monk have been found encased in a Buddha statue dating back to the 11th or 12th Century.
Erik Bruijn, an Buddhism expert, led the study that determined the mummy was of Buddhist master Liuquan, who belonged to the Chinese Meditation School. The CT scan and endoscopy were carried out by Drents Museum at Meander Medical Centre in the Netherlands.
While it was known before the scan that a mummy was inside the statue, it wasn't until then that researchers discovered that the monk's organs had been removed from his body. Rolls of paper scraps covered in Chinese writing were discovered alongside the monk
February 19, 2015
Nutella founder dies
Nutella Founder Dies, Said Secret of Success Was Our Lady of Lourdes
His company, founded in 1946 in Italy, produced the popular hazelnut chocolate spread along with Mon Cheri, Kinder eggs, Ferrero Rocher, Fiesta, and Pocket Coffee treats.
As Michele Ferrero said at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the company: "The success of Ferrero we owe to Our Lady of Lourdes, without her we can do little." And indeed, a small statue of the Virgin is present in each of the Ferrero establishments worldwide.
Michele Ferrero was the richest person in Italy, with a net worth, according to Forbes Magazine of $23.4 billion. He was a man endowed with a strong faith who spent his life away from the spotlight and the tabloids. Each year he went on pilgrimage to Lourdes taking his top manager. He also organized a visit to the French shrine for his employees.
According to the Guardian newspaper, which published a profile of him in 2011, the company’s Rocher pralines are rumored to have been inspired by the craggy rock grotto, called the Rocher de Massabielle, at the shrine in Lourdes.
He built his empire valuing the best of Italy with quality products and innovation. But his greatest talent was knowing how to involve employees and show special attention to employees when training them. "My only concern,” he once said, “is that the company is increasingly solid and strong to guarantee all workers a secure place."
Under his leadership, his products were available in 53 countries with over 34,000 employees and 20 production facilities, and nine agricultural enterprises."
Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer
A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver.
While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.
And yet, one line from Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: “It is difficult,” he wrote, “to be more detached from life than I am at present.”
Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.
On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
Via Ann Althouse, a wonderful interview, Sachs Appeal, in The Guardian
He has allowed himself one small indulgence, though - a short book, Oaxaca Journal, about an expedition to Mexico on the trail of rare ferns. Sack loves ferns. "They're harmless, benign, and they're ancient," he enthuses. "They go back a billion years. The way they coil up, like watch-springs…" He is lost in thought. "They give me a feeling of the future. The future, all coiled up."
Also via Althouse, an astonishing photo of Oliver Sachs on a motorcycle in 1961 by Douglas White.
Beginning in 1970, Sacks wrote of his experience with neurological patients. His books have been translated into over 25 languages. In addition to his books, Sacks is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, as well as other medical, scientific, and general publications.[\ He was awarded the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science in 2001.
Sacks' work has been featured in a "broader range of media than those of any other contemporary medical author"and in 1990, The New York Times said he "has become a kind of poet laureate of contemporary medicine" His descriptions of people coping with and adapting to neurological conditions or injuries often illuminate the ways in which the normal brain deals with perception, memory and individuality.
"In this tight-knit village, these men will not be remembered for their brutal murders"
ISIS Boasted Of These Christians' Deaths. Here Are The Lives They Lived.
The men were laborers, gone for months on end, who sent home hard-earned money to feed entire families. They left their impoverished home in Egypt to work in Libya for a better future, despite the dangers. What they found instead was a militant group hell-bent on humiliating and harming them because they were Christian. While most of the people killed by the Islamic State have been Muslim, the group's recent propaganda video made a point to threaten Christianity as a religion. The fact that the 21 men were Egyptian made them even more sought-out targets: citizens of a country cracking down on Islamists both within its own borders and inside Libya.
On Jan. 3 at around 2:30 a.m. in the coastal Libyan city of Sirte, masked gunmen began knocking on doors, according to survivors. They were looking for Christians marked with traditional tattoos on their hands that identified them as Copts, an ancient Christian sect in Egypt. Some men were pulled from their beds at gunpoint. Others hid and prayed, only to later see their captured friends and family members decapitated in a widely circulated and highly produced Islamic State video.
But in this tight-knit village, these men will not be remembered for their brutal murders. They are remembered as beloved husbands, sons, brothers, cousins and friends. In death, their lives are celebrated.
Here are the lives they lived, as told by family members.
February 18, 2015
Waking every day to everlasting banks of snow, Bostonians may think of themselves as snow zombies, but here are real ones. Via Neatorama
February 14, 2015
Print out your most treasured photographs or risk losing them
He may have helped to build the internet, but Dr Vinton ‘Vint’ Cerf has urged computer users to print out their most treasured photographs, or risk losing them. The Google vice president warned that as operating systems and software become more sophisticated, documents and images stored using older technology will become increasingly inaccessible.
He went on to say that our dependence on technology could lead to the 21st century being a new dark age in history, with any evidence of our culture lost in a digital 'black hole'. In centuries to come, future historians looking back on the current era could be confronted by a digital desert comparable with the dark ages - the post-Roman period in Western Europe about which relatively little is known because of the scarcity of written records.
If you want to pass on your most treasured photos, you must print them out and save them in archival boxes. It's easy enough to do.
Over time, go through your digital photos, copying only the best and store them on a flash drive. You can then take them to a camera store or even Walgreen's to have them printed out.
Glimpses of the Life Beyond Life
Glimpses of the Life Beyond Life The evidence is becoming overwhelming.
Author and journalist Judy Bachrach started volunteering in a hospice in the late 1980s, and her real motive was to try to overcome her fear of death. About two decades later, when her mother came down with Alzheimer’s, Bachrach decided to look into the subject of near-death experiences.
So she delved into the literature, and journeyed around the United States and the world to interview near-death experiencers (NDErs or, as she calls them, “death travelers”) and leading researchers in the field. The result is her book Glimpsing Heaven. Her conclusion from her inquiries: “there are simply, as some of the doctors and scientists I’ve interviewed point out, too many experiencers and too many experiences to discount.”
How many? Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Pim van Lommel says that in the last 50 years over 25 million people worldwide have reported NDEs. A 1982 Gallup poll found eight million Americans reporting them. As Bachrach comments: “Not every self-proclaimed death traveler could be an arrant liar or deeply unbalanced or both.” If you want to hear accounts by “travelers” who are evidently balanced, mature, and intelligent, you can easily find them on YouTube.
Although there are accounts of NDE-type phenomena going back to Plato, over the past 50 years advanced resuscitation (CPR) techniques have enabled vastly larger numbers of people to return from death. The experience is usually blissful—and changes them dramatically. They lose all fear of death, care much less about material pursuits, and turn to spiritual and altruistic activities instead. They often have enhanced psychic, intuitive, or creative powers; and often—altered as they are—end up divorcing. Pretty powerful effects for hallucinations.
Bachrach tells the story of one of the most remarkable NDE cases, singer-songwriter Pam Reynolds Lowery (1956-2010). In 1991, doctors had to remove a large aneurysm from the base of her brain. She was put in the deepest possible state of sedation: blood drained, body cooled to 60°F, eyes taped shut, ears plugged. Yet, in the midst of the major, difficult operation, something happened that “shouldn’t have”: the patient felt herself rise out of her body, watch the medical staff working on her, then rise further to a transcendent realm where she encountered a “shower of light” and deceased relatives.
Subsequently, when Pam Reynolds Lowery described the operation to the doctors—in finely accurate detail—they were aghast. And in the aftermath of her death travel, her intuitive powers were so great that she had to stop going to public places; it can be unpleasant to read the thoughts and emotions of total strangers waiting in line at the supermarket.
Embedded in the post is a ten-minute excerpt of a BBC video that features Pam Reynolds Lowery and her story. She had her near death experience in 1991 at age 35. She died from heart failure in 2010, age 53
February 12, 2015
Robert Simon RIP
An Honest Reporter, and His Antithesis Bob Simon was everything a journalist should be…Peggy Noonan delivers a splendid encomium to reporter Bob Simon
I was at dinner at the home of a friend, a journalist, when the phone rang. I heard her say, “Oh no, no,” and saw her face: Something terrible had happened, not to her personally but in the world. She got off and told us that Bob Simon, the CBS News correspondent, had died. I knew she was about to add, “in the Mideast,” or “shot down,” but she said “a car crash,” on New York’s West Side Highway. My first thought was: What an injustice. Bob Simon, who covered Vietnam, the Troubles in Ireland, the Gulf Wars, who was taken prisoner by Saddam Hussein —Bob should have left in the thick of it, in a war, dodging bullets. Nothing banal should have taken that soul away.
He was a bona fide and veteran foreign correspondent. I knew him at CBS, where I am now a contributor, a young man but already a person of stature, known for daring and judgment. He was different from the clichés of his job: He didn’t have movie-star looks or a polished baritone. But he had guts, flair, the mind of a reporter and a clear, clean writing style that, on inspection, was more than clear and clean.
Bob Simon was 73. He was the real thing.
New York Times obit. Bob Simon, ‘60 Minutes’ Correspondent, Dies at 73 in Manhattan Car Crash
Bob Simon, an award-winning CBS News correspondent whose career spanned nearly 50 years and many major international conflicts, was killed in a car crash in Manhattan on Wednesday. He was 73.
Mr. Simon, who was in his 19th season as a correspondent for “60 Minutes,” won dozens of honors, including 27 Emmy Awards and four Peabody Awards, in a career that dated to the 1960s. He covered many significant news events during the course of that career and, as a war correspondent, was captured by Iraqi forces near the Saudi-Kuwait border during the opening days of the Persian Gulf war in January 1991. He wrote about that experience in his 1992 memoir, “40 Days.” The title referred to the length of his captivity.
Mr. Simon joined CBS News in 1967 as a reporter and assignment editor in New York, where he covered unrest on college campuses, urban riots and the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. He found his niche as a war reporter covering the Vietnam War.
He was based in Saigon and London from 1971 to 1977, and left Saigon on one of the last American helicopters out of the city in 1975, CBS reported. He also covered conflicts in Northern Ireland and Portugal, as well as American military actions in Grenada, Somalia and Haiti.
He was assigned to CBS’s Tel Aviv bureau from 1977 to 1981 and then moved to Washington, where he was the network’s State Department correspondent from 1981 to 1982. He returned to New York as a national correspondent and remained there until 1987, when he returned to Tel Aviv as the network’s chief Middle East correspondent.
Mr. Simon received a Peabody in 2000 for “a body of work by an outstanding international journalist on a diverse set of critical global issues,” and an Emmy for lifetime achievement in 2003, according to the CBS website. He became a full-time correspondent for “60 Minutes” in 2005.
In January 1991, during the early days of the Persian Gulf War, Simon and three members of his CBS News crew were arrested and held captive for 40 days in Iraqi prisons. In "Forty Days," his book about the experience, Simon said the newsmen were interrogated, beaten with canes and truncheons and starved by their captors.
As his days in captivity stretched on, CBS News prepared an obituary for Simon. They handed it to him upon his return to the CBS newsroom, months after his release.
"It took me months before I could look at it," Simon said in an interview for a special "60 Minutes Overtime" feature.
In a 1992 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Simon called his capture “the most searing experience of my life.”
But it didn’t stop him from wanting to chase the next big story.
At the age of 70, he took up motorcycle riding, CBS News said, often using it to get to the scene of breaking news quickly.
Miscellany of strange and tragic deaths
Man who devoted his life to elephants tragically trampled to death by animal he spent over 30 years caring for
A man who devoted his life to retired circus elephants has been killed after being trampled by one of the mammals he loved so much. Dr. James Laurita, 56, of Hope, Maine, was found dead at the Hope Foundation, the facility he co-founded that was dedicated to caring for elephants and educating the public about these animals, earlier today. He appeared to have fallen before one of the foundation's two Asian circus elephants, Rosie and Opal, who then apparently stepped on him. The elephant was not aggressive in any way. It was clearly an accident,' Mark Belserene, administrator for the state medical examiner's office, told NBC.
Hunger Games stunt double plunged to his death as he tried to jump from balcony to balcony in hotel Carlos Lopez IV, a 26 year-old Hollywood stuntman who worked on the latest Hunger Games movie has died after attempting to jump from his fourth-floor window to a veranda opposite his balcony at at the Goodnight Hostel in Lisbon.
In Carville, a town in the north of France, a 56-year-old man was driving with his 16-year-old daughter when he lost control at a sharp bend, went off the road and rolled into a ditch. Both escaped with no major injuries and the husband telephoned the wife to come pick them up. His 42-year-old wife lost control at the same sharp bend and ran over her husband, killing him, in front of their daughter.
A wine specialist, 25, was watching the wine fermenting process when she was overcome by fumes, lost her balance and tumbled into a giant vat of wine to her death
Girl, 9, dies; trapped in sandhole at Oregon beach The sand caved after the girl sat down in the hole to see how deep it was.
Lawyer, 42, killed by train after crossing tracks 'wearing headphones and listening to music on her phone' in Minneapolis leaving behind a 14-year old son.
Newlywed, whose husband proposed 18 days after their first date, dies in his arms after scuba diving accident on their honeymoon
Lindsey and John McFadden, from Minnesota, were scuba diving when something suddenly went horribly wrong. When Lindsey, who was 31 and an experienced diver, reached the surface she told her husband 'I feel sick'. Those were her last words. The couple started out as friends because of their 20-year age gap and married just a month after they had their first date. It was a tragic end to a slow-burning romance, one John describes as the 'best short story ever.'
Giving it all away
Veteran Bob Karlstand has only months to live.
The 65-year-old is battling colon cancer and terminal lung disease and fears he won’t make it to his next birthday. But the former staff sergeant, from Maple Grove, Minnesota, has one final mission before he dies: to give away everything he owns, including his home of 38 years. His only stipulation is that his home goes to a fellow veteran.
Mr Karlstrand, who retired from an insurance firm, never married or had children and is an only child. So he has already given most of his belongings, including his furniture, photographs and letters he wrote to his mother – and has given his $1million retirement fund to the nursing school at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota. He says he had people come into his home and take whatever they wanted.
‘In the end, it’s only material things,’ ….‘I’ve had a good life so I can’t complain at all,’ he said.
He has given the responsibility of finding new occupants for his home to Habitat for Humanity. When Mr Karlstrand dies, they will refurbish the property, then find and help a veteran and his family move in.
Many people without living relatives will find themselves in this position. Mr. Karlstrand's example of estate planning is a good one to follow
“I remember! You smell the smells. You hear the sounds. You feel like you are back in time and place.”
What did she find? A series of love letters — all addressed to a woman named Rosie Hill.
The letters were written in 1973 by Hill’s now ex-husband as he served in the Vietnam War. The 64-year-old wasn’t even aware they existed. “I didn’t even know we had those,” she told the CBS Evening News.
The letters found Hill at the perfect time. She told the CBS Evening News that she is slowly losing her memories because of an unknown illness. “It seems like a lot of my life is gone and I can’t find it,” she said.
However, as the 64-year-old reads the letters, she is flooded with former memories.
“I remember!” Hill exclaimed. “You smell the smells. You hear the sounds. You feel like you are back in time and place.”
The Saddest Goodbye and Heirloom Portraits
Cradling their newborns with their faces filled with love, these pictures capture heartbroken parents' final moments with their babies. The images were taken by the organization Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, who say they create the treasured memories by sending photographers to meet devastated parents and their terminally ill babies in hospital.
The service has boomed in popularity since launching in the USA ten years ago and boasts 1,650 volunteers in 40 countries across the globe, who offer their services via the organization's website. Describing their mission on their website, the organization writes: 'Our mission is to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture.' The organization trains, educates and organizes for professional photographers to provide what they describe as 'beautiful heirloom portraits' to families facing the untimely death of an infant.
February 9, 2015
Psychedelic therapy for the dying
In The New Yorker, The Trip Treatment by Michael Pollan. Research into psychedelics, shut down for decades, is now yielding exciting results.
This might help explain why so many cancer patients in the trials reported that their fear of death had lifted or at least abated: they had stared directly at death and come to know something about it, in a kind of dress rehearsal. “A high-dose psychedelic experience is death practice,” Katherine MacLean, the former Hopkins psychologist, said. “You’re losing everything you know to be real, letting go of your ego and your body, and that process can feel like dying.” And yet you don’t die; in fact, some volunteers become convinced by the experience that consciousness may somehow survive the death of their bodies.
How are we to judge the veracity of the insights gleaned during a psychedelic journey? It’s one thing to conclude that love is all that matters, but quite another to come away from a therapy convinced that “there is another reality” awaiting us after death, as one volunteer put it, or that there is more to the universe—and to consciousness—than a purely materialist world view would have us believe. Is psychedelic therapy simply foisting a comforting delusion on the sick and dying?….
Bill Richards cited William James, who suggested that we judge the mystical experience not by its veracity, which is unknowable, but by its fruits: does it turn someone’s life in a positive direction?…..
David Nichols, an emeritus professor of pharmacology at Purdue University—and a founder, in 1993, of the Heffter Research Institute, a key funder of psychedelic research—put the pragmatic case most baldly in a recent interview with Science: “If it gives them peace, if it helps people to die peacefully with their friends and their family at their side, I don’t care if it’s real or an illusion.”
Mettes was one man who had the psychedelic therapy, 17 months before his death
Oh God,” he said, “it all makes sense now, so simple and beautiful.” Around noon, Mettes asked to take a break. “It was getting too intense,” he wrote. They helped him to the bathroom. “Even the germs were beautiful, as was everything in our world and universe.” Afterward, he was reluctant to “go back in.” He wrote, “The work was considerable but I loved the sense of adventure.” He put on his eye mask and headphones and lay back down.
“From here on, love was the only consideration. It was and is the only purpose. Love seemed to emanate from a single point of light. And it vibrated.” He wrote that “no sensation, no image of beauty, nothing during my time on earth has felt as pure and joyful and glorious as the height of this journey.”
After the psilocybin session, Mettes spent his good days walking around the city. “He would walk everywhere, try every restaurant for lunch, and tell me about all these great places he’d discovered. But his good days got fewer and fewer.” In March, 2012, he stopped chemo. “He didn’t want to die,” she said. “But I think he just decided that this is not how he wanted to live.”
In April, his lungs failing, Mettes wound up back in the hospital. “He gathered everyone together and said goodbye, and explained that this is how he wanted to die. He had a very conscious death.”
Mettes’s equanimity exerted a powerful influence on everyone around him, Lisa said, and his room in the palliative-care unit at Mt. Sinai became a center of gravity. “Everyone, the nurses and the doctors, wanted to hang out in our room—they just didn’t want to leave. Patrick would talk and talk. He put out so much love.” When Tony Bossis visited Mettes the week before he died, he was struck by Mettes’s serenity. “He was consoling me. He said his biggest sadness was leaving his wife. But he was not afraid.”
Lisa took a picture of Patrick a few days before he died, and when it popped open on my screen it momentarily took my breath away: a gaunt man in a hospital gown, an oxygen clip in his nose, but with shining blue eyes and a broad smile.
Despite the encouraging results from the N.Y.U. and Hopkins trials, much stands in the way of the routine use of psychedelic therapy. “We don’t die well in America,” Bossis recently said over lunch at a restaurant near the N.Y.U. medical center. “Ask people where they want to die, and they will tell you at home, with their loved ones. But most of us die in an I.C.U. The biggest taboo in American medicine is the conversation about death. To a doctor, it’s a defeat to let a patient go.” Bossis and several of his colleagues described the considerable difficulty they had recruiting patients from N.Y.U. ’s cancer center for the psilocybin trials. “I’m busy trying to keep my patients alive,” one oncologist told Gabrielle Agin-Liebes, the trial’s project manager. Only when reports of positive experiences began to filter back to the cancer center did nurses there—not doctors—begin to tell patients about the trial.
Seneca on the Shortness of Life
Life without any chance of death is hardly worth living
Health breakthroughs seem like great news, but we all need mortality as motivation
From this week's Brainpickings' 15 worthy resolutions for 2015 from some of history's greatest minds comes these quotes from Seneca's On the Shortness of Life. Seneca writes:
It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it... Life is long if you know how to use it.
To those who so squander their time, he offers an unambiguous admonition:
You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire... How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!
The cure he prescribes is rather simple, yet far from easy to enact:
Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.
February 5, 2015
Death cafes begun by "the man who carries death"
Take me to the death cafe We are living longer and talking about our final days more—as a new movement shows
Bernard Crettaz, an eminent Swiss sociologist …A decade ago, not long after the death of his first wife Yvonne, Crettaz had come up with the idea of cafés mortels, informal gatherings where the sole topic of conversation was every living thing’s inevitable demise. After holding over a hundred of these cafés across Switzerland, he’d developed a certain renown. Looking a little mournful, he described how a local family who’d suffered a string of recent bereavements had turned away when they saw him walking towards them down the street. He had become “l’homme qui porte la mort,” he said, the man who carries death….
….. The only rule was that there was to be no prescription: no topic, no religion, no judgement. He wanted people to talk as openly on the subject as they could.
Certainly, at every death café I’ve attended, the atmosphere was liberatingly light-hearted. My first was at Bill’s restaurant on Putney High Street. A group of five strangers sat round a small table and the conversation ranged: suicide, grief, good deaths and bad deaths, near-death experiences, faith, spirit, soul. My second was in a public library in Alexandra Palace. The gathering was larger and the participants mostly older, the topics more practical: living wills, funerals, end-of-life care, assisted dying, the Falconer bill. You could sense the palpable relief felt by some of the speakers as they voiced their desires for the kind of death they wanted, desires that their children shrank from hearing about or discussing. At last, here was a place where people didn’t mind you saying that you wanted a massive injection of morphine to tip you over the edge when you no longer knew your own name.
My third death café was in a Café Rouge in Hampstead, a monthly fixture organised by Josefine Speyer, founder of the Natural Death Movement. Her café has become so popular that she has to operate a waiting list, and on the cold December night I attended, the room was so full and boisterous that you had to boom your thoughts on loss and the afterlife over the din. Each café had its own distinct atmosphere, but they all shared the same thing: a sense of energy, something approaching glee, at being able to talk freely and honestly about death.
Well, you can't talk religion, but you can talk about faith, spirit and soul.