April 14, 2014
Soldier's time capsule from WW1
Private Edward Ambrose, from Hertfordshire, was killed on the Somme, just days he arrived at the front in 1916
After a telegram telling of his death, his last belongings were sent back from the trenches to his heartbroken parents But the family left the case unopened, finding its contents too painful to look at, and it was placed in an attic for years.
After visiting a local historical exhibition, Private Ambrose's nephew has now opened the package for the first time. The case includes black and white photos of his family, letters from his parents, a half-smoked pipe and cigarettes. The items, including a locket with photos of Private Ambrose and his sweetheart, Gladys, will go display later this year
Corpses in trenches in NYC
One million buried in mass graves on forbidden New York island.. A public cemetery closed to the public
Most New Yorkers don't even know it exists. But a million forgotten souls are buried in mass graves dug by convicts on a tiny, forbidden island east of the Bronx.
Since 1869, still-born babies, the homeless, the poor and the unclaimed have been stacked one upon the other, three coffins deep, on Hart Island.
Corpses are interred in great, anonymous trenches. There are no tombstones. Small white posts in the ground mark each 150 adult bodies. A thousand children and infants are buried together per grave.
It is one of the largest cemeteries in the United States. And the least visited.
The men doing the digging are convicts from Rikers Island, petty offenders tasked with carrying bodies to their final resting place.
Nearly 1,500 fresh corpses arrive each year, says visual artist Melinda Hunt, who heads the Hart Island Project, which campaigns to make the cemetery visible and accessible. The authorities say nearly a million people have been buried here since 1869.
It is forbidden to film and photograph the uninhabited, windswept island. Visits must be authorized by the Department of Corrections, which runs the island.
Records long inaccessible -
For years, records of who's been buried where have been patchy and negotiating access has proved challenging. Some have been lost, others burnt. Families sometimes cannot even find out if their loved ones were buried by the city.
"You have a right to know where a person is. It's very important not to disappear people. It's not an acceptable thing to do in any culture," Hunt said.
April 10, 2014
How the New York Times decides whether an obituary is warranted
Margalit Fox who has written over 1000 obituaries for The New York Times Answers the Question: 'Why That Life?'
As we often say to one another ruefully, running the Obituary department of The Times is like presiding over the admissions committee of the most selective college in the world.
Besides the monarchs and captains of industry, likely candidates for our page include another, lesser-known group. These are history’s backstage players who, working quietly, have nonetheless managed to reshape our culture – the men and women who have put enduring creases in the social fabric. And it is these unsung actors whom obit writers love best.
In my decade in the job, I have had the great narrative pleasure of writing about Jack A. Kinzler, the NASA employee who designed a humble parasol that saved the imperiled Skylab space station; Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell, who almost single-handedly opened the modeling profession to African-Americans; Ruth M. Siems, the General Foods home economist who invented Stove Top stuffing, and Leslie Buck, who designed the Anthora, the blue-and-white Greek-themed cardboard cup from which decades of New Yorkers drank their coffee.
Each day, it is our job to come to know such strangers intimately, inhaling their lives through telephone calls to their families, through newspaper and magazine profiles culled from electronic databases and through the crumbling yellowed clippings from the Times morgue that can fall to dust in our fingers as we read them. ….
If all has gone well, we have also arrived at the solution to the mystery, for in the course of the day we have learned not only how our subjects got from A to B to C in their lives – and how much of that progress was a product of free will and how much a result of pure blind fate – but also how, and why, they embodied the age in which they lived.
April 7, 2014
The Worst Nightmare
We have replaced the age old fear of being buried alive with a new one.
Paralyzed stroke victim experiences every patient's worst nightmare as he hears doctors discussing whether to donate his organs but couldn't speak out. While on an outing with his family on the Gothenburg archipelago, Jim Fritze suffered a brain hemorrhage.
'I managed to catch my girlfriend's attention - I was bright red in the face, and she's a nurse so she managed to keep my airways open,' Mr Fritze said. An air ambulance was unable to land on the island, so he had to wait nearly two hours to reach Sahlgrenska hospital by boat.
[He lay] paralyzed in hospital and listened in horror as doctors discussed organ donation with his family after telling them he would not survive. Jimi Fritze, 43, heard every word but couldn't protest because he was unable to speak.
His heartbroken relatives had come to say their final goodbyes after doctors said brain scans showed he had 'no hope' of pulling through. As they surrounded his hospital bed, doctors asked the family about the possibility of donating his organs when he died, not realising Mr Fritze could also hear the conversation.
Mr Fritze said: 'Only my ears and eyes were working. They (the doctors) told my girlfriend that there was no hope'.
But three days later another doctor who had returned from holiday gave more positive prognosis. Mr Fritze said: 'She looked at my scans and said "This doesn't look too bad" and told the staff to give me cortisone to bring down the swelling in my brain.'
It took another three weeks before he could communicate his horror to his family and more than two years on he has only just recovered enough to take action against the hospital. He has sent an official complaint to the health and welfare board, which oversees quality of healthcare in Sweden.
April 1, 2014
The Death of a True Hero
Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., a retired Navy rear admiral and former U.S. senator who survived nearly eight years of captivity in North Vietnamese prisons, and whose public acts of defiance and patriotism came to embody the sacrifices of American POWs in Vietnam, died March 28 at a hospice in Virginia Beach. He was 89….
Adm. Denton was a native of Alabama, where in 1980 he became the state’s first Republican to win election to the Senate since Reconstruction…..he remained widely known for his heroism as a naval aviator and prisoner of war, and particularly for two television appearances that reached millions of Americans through the evening news during the Vietnam War.
In the first, orchestrated by the North Vietnamese as propaganda and broadcast in the United States in 1966, he appeared in his prison uniform and blinked the word “torture” in Morse code — a secret message to U.S. military intelligence for which he later received the Navy Cross.
In the second television appearance, during Operation Homecoming in 1973, he became the first freed POW to step off a plane at a U.S. air base in the Philippines. He spoke through tears before cameras, expressing his gratitude for having had the opportunity to serve his country under “difficult circumstances.”
Adm. Denton was subjected to four years in solitary confinement. Living in roach- and rat-infested conditions, he endured starvation, delirium and torture sessions that sometimes lasted days.
Adm. Denton once reflected on his survival in North Vietnam.
“If I had known when I was shot down that I would be there more than seven years, I would have died of despondency, of despair,” he told Investor’s Business Daily. “But I didn’t. It was one minute at a time, one hour, one week, one year and so on. If you look at it like that, anybody can do anything.”
Jeremiah Denton for the Ages Remembering an exceptionally courageous POW and an American hero.
Here he is blinking morse code - T-O-R-T-U-R-E
RIP with the thanks of a grateful nation.
March 31, 2014
From Cemetery Humor at Stories, Etc.
Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York: Born 1903--Died 1942.
Looked up the elevator shaft
to see if the car was on the way down.
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:
Here lies an Atheist, all dressed up
and no place to go.
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia:
Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102. Only the good die young.
In a London , England cemetery:
Here lies Ann Mann,
who lived an old maid
but died an old Mann.
Dec. 8, 1767
In a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery:
Here lies Johnny Yeast. Pardon him for not rising.
A lawyer's epitaph in England:
Sir John Strange. Here lies an honest lawyer, and that is Strange.
March 25, 2014
Giraffe in final goodbye that gave goose bumps to everyone watching
In the Netherlands, Giraffe licks dying zoo worker
A giraffe gave a lick to a dying man who asked as a last wish to be taken to Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where he had done odd jobs for 25 years.
Mario Eijs, who is mentally disabled, had developed a brain tumor and had difficulty walking or speaking. He wanted to pay a final visit to the co-workers and animals he loved.
The Stichting Ambulance Wens offers free transport to terminally ill patients.
Several giraffes became curious when Eijs was brought to their inside enclosure on March 19.
"Mario got a lick on his nose after a lot of snuffles," Foundation worker Olaf Exoo said in a written summary of the day. Exoo said it was "a last greeting to each other that gave everybody watching goose bumps."
100 FedEx Trucks in Funeral Procession
When Michael J. "Mickey" Petronchak died last week, he was deeply beloved by his fellow co-workers.
As a proof of love and to pay him respect, 100 FedEx delivery vans joined his funeral procession.
One friend described him thus
He was a ramp agent at Fedex Express. He was basically a manager, and he was on top of his game all the time. God, he had to be working there forever! He never called off, took a vacation, or worked less than 8 hours a day. Mickey loved everyone, and did so many generous things for people. He had no selflishness what so ever. He was so special to me because he was the first person I met at Fedex. He trained me and made me always be happy to be at work. He is a role model to me, and a lot of other people. He is one of those people that never take credit for what tasks he achieved. No one disliked him and he was the hardest worker I knew. Mickey used to give me 5 bucks for the vending machine. Why, I don't know. He just did it all the time.
"She taught him the value of good manners and courtesy, and that hospitality is no small thing."
The actor James Rebhorn who died last week at 65 after a long battle with melanoma, wrote his own obituary.
He spent a lot more time talking about the people he loved than himself, and he allotted just one paragraph to talk about his career as an actor.
James Robert Rebhorn was born on Sept. 1, 1948, in Philadelphia, PA. His mother, Ardell Frances Rebhorn, nee Hoch, loved him very much and supported all his dreams. She taught him the value of good manners and courtesy, and that hospitality is no small thing. His father, James Harry Rebhorn, was no less devoted to him. From him, Jim learned that there is no excuse for poor craftsmanship. A job well done rarely takes more or less time than a job poorly done. They gave him his faith and wisely encouraged him to stay in touch with God.
He is survived by his sister, Janice Barbara Galbraith, of Myrtle Beach, SC. She was his friend, his confidant, and, more often than either of them would like to admit, his bridge over troubled waters.
He is also survived by his wife, Rebecca Fulton Linn, and his two daughters, Emma Rebecca Rebhorn and Hannah Linn Rebhorn. They anchored his life and gave him the freedom to live it. Without them, always at the center of his being, his life would have been little more than a vapor. Rebecca loved him with all his flaws, and in her the concept of ceaseless love could find no better example.
His children made him immensely proud. Their dedication to improving our species and making the world a better place gave him hope for the future. They deal with grief differently, and they should each manage it as they see fit. He hopes, however, that they will grieve his passing only as long as necessary. They have much good work to do, and they should get busy doing it. Time is flying by. His son-in-law, Ben, also survives him. Jim loved Ben, who was as a son to Jim, especially through these last months.
His aunts Jean, Dorothy and Florence, numerous cousins and their families, and many devoted friends also survive Jim. He loved them all, and he knows they loved him.
Jim received his BA at Wittenberg University and his MFA at Columbia. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Nu Zeta 624, a life-long Lutheran, and a longtime member of both the AMC and ACLU.
Jim was fortunate enough to earn his living doing what he loved. He was a professional actor. His unions were always there for him, and he will remain forever grateful for the benefits he gained as a result of the union struggle. Without his exceptional teachers and the representation of the best agents in the business, he wouldn’t have had much of a career. He was a lucky man in every way.
March 20, 2014
Why College Students Are Dying to Get Into 'Death Classes' by Erika Hayasaki in the Wall Street Journal
Thousands of college courses on dying and mortality are being held nationwide—and teaching lessons about life.
At Kean University, students are dying (as it were) to get into Norma Bowe's class "Death in Perspective," which has sometimes carried a three-year waiting list. On one field trip to a local coroner's office, Dr. Bowe's students were shown three naked cadavers on metal tables. One person had died from a gunshot, the other from suicide and the third by drowning.
The last corpse appeared overweight but wasn't; he had expanded like a water balloon. A suspect in a hit-and-run case, he had fled the scene, been chased by police, abandoned his car and jumped into the Passaic River. On the autopsy table, he looked surprised, his mouth splayed open, as if he realized he had made a mistake. As the class clustered around, a technician began to carve his torso open. Some students gagged or scurried out, unable to stand the sight or the smell.
This grim visit was just one of the excursions for Dr. Bowe's class. Every semester, students also leave the campus in Union, New Jersey, to visit a cemetery, a maximum-security prison (to meet murderers), a hospice, a crematory and a funeral home, where they pick out caskets for themselves. The homework is also unusual: Students are required to write goodbye letters to dead loved ones and to compose their own eulogies and wills.
Sure, it's morbid. But graduates of Dr. Bowe's death class and others like it across the U.S. often come away with an important skill: the ability to talk frankly about death.
Not all students who take death classes have high-minded motivations. One student was spurred to take Dr. Bowe's death class by watching A&E's ghoulish reality show "The First 48," about the early days of murder investigations. But most of the young people were, in different ways, haunted by death—coping with suicidal family members, the violent deaths of loved ones or terrifying personal encounters with cancer. The class offered them a rigorous, carefully guided opportunity for the kind of reflection that many people do only in old age or after receiving a terminal diagnosis.
"The democracy of death encompasses us all," Dr. Feifel once wrote. "To deny or ignore it distorts life's pattern… In gaining an awareness of death, we sharpen and intensify our awareness of life."
March 19, 2014
Hallucinogenics for the Dying
In the background and for some time now (dare I say just in time for boomers), researchers have been working on drugs to ease the passage from this life. I do believe that most of the pain at the end of life is not physical but psychological.
In 2004, the Washington Post published, 'Ecstasy' Use Studied to Ease Fear in Terminally Ill
Drugs can ease pain and reduce anxiety, but what about the more profound issues that come with impending death? The wish to resolve lingering conflicts with family members. The longing to know, before it's too late, what it means to love, or what it meant to live. There is no medicine to address such dis-ease.
[Lead researcher] Halpern emphasized the differences between his study and the freewheeling experiments conducted by Leary in the 1960s.
"This is not about hippy dippy Halpern trying to turn on the world. I'm not looking at this as a magic bullet," he said. "But for a lot of people, the anxiety about death is so tremendous that there is no way to get their arms around the problems that were ongoing in their family. This could be a substantial contribution to the range of palliative care strategies we're trying to develop for people facing their death."
The FDA approved the use of MDMA or ecstasy for a Harvard Medical School study which began in 2005 at McLean Hospital.
“MDMA, unlike traditional hallucinogens that can make a person lose their sense of self, lets a person keep their identity,” said Halpern, who is also a HMS instructor of psychiatry…..He cited his work with a friend’s father, who was dying of cancer in his 50s.
“He was focusing all of his attention on the time that he didn’t have,” Doblin said. “MDMA made him appreciate the time that he did have.”
Doblin stressed that MDMA is not a miracle drug. “It does not take you away from the pain, but rather through the pain,” he said. “You go through a more fluid emotional state.”
Not for nothing is MDMA ,which some describe as an emotional hallucinogen. called the love drug.
Last week in the New York Times LSD, Reconsidered for Therapy
On Tuesday, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease is posting online results from the first controlled trial of LSD in more than 40 years. The study, conducted in the office of a Swiss psychiatrist near Bern, tested the effects of the drug as a complement to talk therapy for 12 people nearing the end of life, including Peter.
Most of the subjects had terminal cancer, and several died within a year after the trial — but not before having a mental adventure that appeared to have eased the existential gloom of their last days.
“Their anxiety went down and stayed down,” said Dr. Peter Gasser, who conducted the therapy and followed up with his patients a year after the trial concluded.
The new publication marks the latest in a series of baby steps by a loose coalition of researchers and fund-raisers who are working to bring hallucinogens back into the fold of mainstream psychiatry. Before research was banned in 1966 in the United States, doctors tested LSD’s effect for a variety of conditions, including end-of-life anxiety.
Peter, the social worker, agreed. “I will say I have been more emotional since the study ended, and I don’t mean always cheerful,” he said. “But I think it’s better to feel things strongly — better to be alive than to merely function.”
March 18, 2014
"Don't try to take more than your share"
A Washington Post story about Dave Barry's book tour made this oblique reference to his funeral plans (mimes, snipers, no camels) to which reader George replied:
Here is a wrinkle that I’ve been toying with. Beside the sign-in register (why do we have this custom?), my urn will be tastefully displayed, with a small mound of my ashes in a dish. Beside the dish will be a small spoon and a supply of small (about 1 inch square) zip-lock baggies and sign saying, “You say that George will always be in your heart – well here’s your chance to have him in your purse or wallet, too.”
And Dave Barry remarked "Don't try to take more than your share."
A few readers had some ideas, none of which I recommend, but all of which are funny.
Our ol bud Charley passed, and as he was a serious hippie Dead fan, he owned forty some hawaiian shirts, so for his service, [some kind gals washed them] they were on racks in the rear, and folks were invited to pick one out and wear it home in his memory.
I told my wife she could just pitch my ashes but she asked me what I would do with hers. I said I would find a tall, shiny urn with a fancy top and put it on the mantel. Then I could tell people, "That's my trophy wife."