June 19, 2013
Clearly a suicide
Tulsa police say a woman came home to find her husband dead in the garage.
Police said the man was found with his hands and feet bound and he had been decapitated. Police surrounded the home near 45th & Sheridan during the investigation.
They told FOX23 they think the death was suicide.
June 18, 2013
Portraits of Things to show a Life in Objects
This is a wonderful idea for your Personal Legacy Archives. What portraits could you make of your parents, your children or yourself?
You can tell a lot by looking at someones possessions - personality, interests, likes and passions.
One Italian photographer has decided to paint a portrait of her family, but instead of using actual photographs of her relatives, we are left to imagine how they might appear based on what they own. From leather satchels and handkerchiefs to blocks of cheese and cookware, Florence-based artist Camilla Catrambone's family album is curiously captivating.
The series is simply titled 'Portraits of my Family,' and displays a whole host of everyday treasures.
'I‘ve always been fascinated by objects, and I think somehow every person is represented by their personal objects, the objects they choose, the ones they are attached to, and the way they use them tells you a story,' Ms Catrambone states on her website.
'When I started doing this project, I felt that the objects belonged to my relatives, starting from the ones of my beloved grandparents, were still full of energy and were capable of reminding me moments I shared with them. I started to feel the need to use them to go back to a precise memory. In order to do that I started to reorganize these objects, to recall a specific image I had of that person.
The Death of an Edwardian Lady
A June Bouquet Of Peonies and Edith Holden
My walk reminded me of a book, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden, a British artist, teacher and self-taught naturalist who wrote and illustrated this homey diary of her excursions in 1906 in the countryside surrounding her home in Olton, Warwickshire.
Holden could never have been sick of spring. In fact, she died from the exact opposite of what afflicted the owner of the peonies. She was over-enthusiastic.
With a rush came the memories of being totally charmed by her book, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, which was republished in 1977 with great success long after her death in 1920.
On Tuesday, 16 March 1920, she was found drowned in a backwater of the River Thames, near Kew Gardens Walk. On the prior Monday morning Edith had complained to Ernest of a headache, but this was not uncommon and the matter had not been dwelt on. The main subject at breakfast had been the impending visit of some friends for Easter, to which Edith was looking forward. Ernest left for the studio at St. James's Palace and Edith said that she would probably go down to the river later to see the University crews practicing.
When Ernest [her husband] returned home that evening his wife was out but the table had been laid for the evening meal, and Ernest assumed that she was with friends. It was not until the next morning that he learned the truth. Her body had been found at six o’clock on the Tuesday morning. The inquest established that she had tried to reach a branch of chestnut buds. The bough was out of reach and with the aid of her umbrella Edith had tried to break it off, fallen forward into the river and drowned.
You can see examples of her work here
She has left us a great legacy with the beauty of her paintings and illustrations, the accuracy of her observations of nature and the example she leaves of the wonder experienced by all naturalists.
Obits of note and beautiful appreciations
Professor George Gray who died at 86 led the team of chemists who made the scientific breakthrough that allows displays to be made from liquid crystals, giving birth to a multi-billion, international industry.
Andrew Doughty who died at 96 was a pioneering anaesthetist who developed the “Doughty gag”, a device which facilitates anaesthesia during the removal of tonsils and adenoids, and also promoted the use of epidural anaesthesia during childbirth.
Squadron Leader Howard (“Bert”) Houtheusen, who has died aged 97, was a noted jazz musician in the 1930s and was later awarded a DFC for landing his Sunderland flying boat on the sea off North Korea to rescue a US Navy pilot who had ditched in enemy waters.
Esther Williams, who has died aged 91, was a champion swimmer whose good looks and trim figure, especially in a one-piece bathing suit, earned her an unexpected career as a Hollywood film star.
By her own admission, she could not sing, dance or act, yet in the 1940s she was second only to Betty Grable as the world’s biggest female boxoffice draw. India named her its No 1 pin-up. What she did superlatively well was swim like an aquatic Fred Astaire.
MGM always left the swimming scenes, which the star herself referred to as “the wet stuff”, until the end of shooting. Many of her male co-stars could not swim a stroke and, in case of accident, it was deemed prudent to ensure that “the dry stuff” was already in the can. If the actor drowned, the swimming scenes could always be covered by stand-ins or doubles.
In reality, however, Esther Williams often swam for her co-stars, using a one-armed back stroke that enabled her to support her weaker partners underwater with the other arm. In rare cases, MGM would build a platform beneath the surface so that the actor would appear to be swimming while in fact walking along the bottom of the pool.
The Quiet American Harold Benz died at 91. As a young sailor on a destroyer minesweeper in the Pacific. he used to hang around the radio shack because he was also a tinkerer and eager to learn how radar worked and the guys showed him.
Then came Iwo Jima. The radio shack took a direct hit from a Japanese kamikaze. All Harold’s buddies were wiped out in an instant. The transmitters and receivers were badly damaged. It was total chaos. Without its ears, the ship was a sitting duck.
Amid the devastation, Harold was able to rig up the wires so the ship could keep fighting. From his perch in the radio tower, he saw the marines raise the flag on Mount Suribachi.
After the war, Harold vowed never to go near the ocean again….Once, when the kids were teenagers, they convinced Harold to come with them to the Jersey shore. They didn’t understand why he was so hung up about the ocean. This was the 1970s. World War II was ancient history. They practically had to drag him out of the car. He took one look at the waves and turned his back. “Still the same,” he said.
It was never clear whether Harold was born quiet or if the war had done it to him….They say the only ones who talk about war are the ones who never saw the real action. The ones who saw the real action never talk about it. Harold never said a word.
John Podheretz on My Sister Rachel who died at 62 after a three year battle with stomach cancer.
So Rachel had a mother, who loved her, and she chose Norman, who loved her, and because she chose Norman she was healed to choose Elliott, who loved her, and then she made Jake and Nani and Joey with him, and they loved each other, and Nani and Josh made her first grandchild, Rapha, who loved her as she loved him. Who knows who will come next from this great choosing.
It was not enough, though. Not nearly enough. She should have had more.
June 13, 2013
We are simply too busy to die
There are obstacles to dignity at the end of life. Disease inflicted pain and debilitation, cost and confusion, poor planning and fear, all aggravated by our societal ignorance regarding dying, result in unneeded suffering and isolation. In addition, it occurs to me that a hindrance to control and quality is that we are overwhelmed by the pressure of our day-to-day lives. In other words, we are simply too busy to die.
We live without self-reflection, life contemplation or honest communication. On this level five whitewater raft journey, the complex issues, presented at life’s end, are often left behind.
For me there are two lessons to be learned. The first is take the time, especially when you are healthy and life is “in control,” to discuss and prepare. How would you or your family manage? Who would take care of whom? What do they want? How far would they push? What about money? Even one or two quiet family together hours at the kitchen table, so that everyone can speak and listen, can save major strife during a future time of health care chaos.
The second lesson is that when the terrible does happen, as it will to every family, pace yourself. In the absence of a true medical emergency such as trauma, heart attack or acute leukemia, there is usually time to learn, consider and plan. Work together as a family, get good information from doctors, seek second opinions and move forward carefully. Take the time to be in control, try not to let the events rush you forward.
Such planning is easy to say, hard too do, but methodical communication and reflection can prevent much suffering and confusion. Which leaves the primary question for us all; if we are too busy to die, are we too busy to live?
Henry Hope Reed's Great Legacy of 'Beauty, Splendor, Grandeur'
Henry Hope Reed, an architecture critic and historian whose ardent opposition to modernism was purveyed in books, walking tours of New York City and a host of curmudgeonly barbs directed at advocates of the austere, the functional and unornamented in public buildings and spaces, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 97.
He was not so much an historian as a public advocate for the Classical spirit in all the arts – from painting and sculpture to architecture and city planning, from decorative arts to gardens, from lampposts to Central Park.
He was a tireless campaigner for beauty in the built environment, issuing such declarations as “a room without ornament is like a sky without stars” and “there is nothing sadder than a blank pediment.” A native New Yorker, he advocated for public art everywhere in his many books, essays, lectures and his famous walking tours.
Mr. Reed basically invented the New York City architectural or historical walking tour, in 1956, for the Municipal Art Society. He then led his tours for the Museum of the City of New York. Those walking tours helped build the constituency for the preservation movement, which led to the Landmarks Law of 1965, and to a general revolution in urban consciousness that has yet to be adequately chronicled, yet should not be underestimated.
Mr. Reed helped found Classical America in 1968. In the 1970s, this organization began to offer courses in drawing the classical orders - courses that had been stripped from the curricula of every architecture school in America. Later, the New York-based Institute of Classical Architecture took up the call of the classical training of architects. A few years ago, the Institute merged with Mr. Reed's organization to form the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America, of which Mr. Reed is honorary president and scholar-in-residence.
As for Mr. Reed himself, he has in recent years done the best scholarly work of his career, producing a trio of magnificent books, each on one of the greatest buildings in America. "The New York Public Library" and "The Library of Congress "have this year been joined by "The United States Capitol: Its Architecture and Decoration" (W.W. Norton, 210 pages, $50), the book Mr. Reed was born to write. With this book he makes clear that our Capitol is not merely the beloved symbol of our democracy, but also the touchstone for all the best that has been accomplished in American architecture and in the arts of decoration.
As for that latter, the arts of decoration, Mr. Reed firmly believes, and has been saying for more than half a century, that they should not be divorced from architecture. Painting and sculpture, in Mr. Reed's view, are essential to buildings. The absence of ornamentation and decoration, of what Mr. Reed likes to call "embellishment," in modern architecture led him to coin the term "anorexic art."
Henry Hope Reed, Defender of Decoration by Catesby Leigh
More than any cultural figure of his generation, Reed perpetuated an awareness of the classical tradition’s enduring role as the indispensable means for improving the human habitat—starting with the city, man’s greatest creation.
Henry Hope Reed was a man with a deep appreciation for luxury, which might sound like a trait unbefitting a Christian gentleman. For Henry, the luxurious decoration of a public square, the luxurious ornamentation of a building, even the luxurious embellishment of one’s own person were essentially a matter of enriching our visual experience of the world. To be the designer or craftsman of beautiful things was to fulfill man’s natural role as what Henry called a “decorating animal.”
General MacArthur’s famous watchwords were Duty, Honor, Country. Henry’s were Beauty, Splendor, Grandeur. These ideals were inextricably bound up in his mind with a heightening and refining of the emotions, inextricably bound up with a sense of life governed more than anything by a sense of the measure of things.
For Henry the achievement of beauty in the arts of form offered a foretaste, perhaps the merest inkling, of that culminating glory. He also believed in embodying the noblest aspects of human endeavor in emphatically dimensional, monumental terms, with depth of relief, with depth of formal complexity. The path to grandeur lay in discerning patronage and the artist’s own depth of discipline and knowledge. These last two qualities Henry knew to be the basis of all creative liberty.
The battle he fought was against the flattening of human experience. Flat, blank facades on buildings conceived as commodities—or just oddities—rather than works of civic art; flat modernist pictorial abstractions; the flattening of cultural history into pseudo-history packaged as what Henry dismissed as “applied sociology”—all spoke to him of something far more ominous, the abasement of man and the crude negation of his proper relationship to nature as embodied in the great tradition.
Recovering the Art of Dying
Throughout the history of the world, most people—like the women at the tomb—encountered death on a near daily basis. Death’s brutality over the greater part of the last two millennia cast a long shadow over everyday life as disease, famine, and infant mortality claimed victim after victim. For Christians of yesteryear, this familiarity with the pungent reality of death brought the hope of resurrection into sharp relief, not just in old age, but at every stage of life.
By contrast, Americans have largely outsourced death and dying over the last 150 years, gradually banishing it from sight and thought. Coincidentally, over the same period, many American evangelical groups have adopted a near myopic emphasis on expiation in their discussions (and presentations) of the gospel message. In a culture that sanitizes death and dying while simultaneously and self-reflectively obsessing about guilt, the need for forgiveness trumps the need for resurrection.
Artistically, John Donne’s famous poem “Death Be Not Proud” paints a picture of death’s emasculation in the face of resurrection. For centuries, familiarity with death gave Christian writers, pastors, theologians, and artists cause to address death and dying from a Christian perspective—not as an intellectual abstraction, but as tangible reality. Although an omnipresent human experience, the resurrection meant death held no power for Christians and therefore, they lived and died differently than other people. Rob Moll thinks they still should.
In his book, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come (IVP, 2010), Moll urges American Christians to re-familiarize themselves with death that we may revive the ars moriendi—the art of dying
From the book's description.
Rob Moll recovers the deeply Christian practice of dying well. For centuries Christians have prepared for the "good death" with particular rituals and spiritual disciplines that have directed the actions of both the living and the dying. In this well-researched and pastorally sensitive book, Moll provides insight into death and dying issues with in-person reporting and interviews with hospice workers, doctors, nurses, bioethicists, family members and spiritual caregivers. He weighs in on bioethical and medical issues and gives guidance for those who care for the dying as well as for those who grieve.
This book is a gentle companion for all who face death, whether one's own or that of a loved one. Christians can have confidence that because death is not the end, preparing to die helps us truly live.
"The dark art of writing about dead people" and making obituaries entertaining and uplifting
A discussion about obituaries proved to be a surprisingly jolly event in the Telegraph tent at Hay, as The Telegraph's obituaries editor Harry de Quetteville explained the dark art of writing about dead people.
De Quetteville admitted it might be a little bit morbid to scan the news for announcements of famous people contracting fatal illnesses, but that ultimately “it has to be about entertainment, that’s what makes obituaries uplifting.
Some of the obituaries that were read out included a waspish one on Fanny Cradock, the television cook, who had plastic surgery on her nose because it “cast a shadow over the food”
But the highlight was a hilarious account of William Donaldson, “a moderately successful Chelsea pimp”, who wrote hoax letters to celebrities under the name of Henry Root. The obituary continued: “He was also a failed theatrical impresario, a crack-smoking serial adulterer and a writer of autobiographical novels.”
De Quetteville said it is crucial that obituaries are not hagiographical and that they say “he was a good friend to his friends,” adding, “the point of obituaries is that they should be revelatory. Nothing would kill off the deaths section more than being polite.”
His three tips for a good obituary. See the video at the link.
1. Don't be too reverential. Look at the brave, the good and the bad
2. It's all in the details. Pack in the details. More details per line in obituaries than any other form of journalism
3. Write well.
June 12, 2013
"His blood ran in front of me" said mother who watched from balcony
A teenage boy was shot dead in front of his family in Syria after being accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.
Coffee seller Muhammad al-Qatta, 15, was abducted by rebels and tortured before being gunned down in a street.
His crime was to say he wouldn't give a customer a free drink "even if Muhammad came back to earth".
Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recorded the shocking details of the youngster's death.
The London based organisation - which has observers in Aleppo - said Muhammad was killed in front of a crowd which included his parents.
His fanatical killers shot him in the head and neck after telling onlookers that anyone else found guilty of blasphemy would suffer the same fate.
However reports say that the phrase Muhammad spoke - or at least one similar - is commonly used in Syrian dialect.
However, because it is possible the rebel group were made up of non-Syrian natives and spoke a different dialect of Arabic, they took grave offence.
In a video posted on YouTube, his mother said she had seen Muhammad being killed from her balcony. "His blood ran in front of me," she said.
June 11, 2013
Paul Cellucci, R.I.P.
Former Gov. Paul Cellucci — who lost his valiant battle with ALS yesterday — was remembered as a loving family man and a compassionate politician who brought Democrats and Republicans together.
Cellucci, 65, died at his Hudson home surrounded by family, according to University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he helped raise research money for ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“Paul Cellucci was simply one of the finest human beings I have ever met,” said former Gov. William Weld. “I happened to know him in the realm of politics and government, but anyone who knew him in any other arena
would have found the same man: a person of rock-hard integrity, keen intelligence, considerable humor, abundant compassion, and deep devotion to family and country. We are all immensely impoverished by his loss.”
Cellucci was elected lieutenant governor in 1990 and was sworn in as acting governor in 1997, when Weld left to pursue an ambassador appointment. Cellucci won his own campaign for governor the following year, but left office in 2001 when he was named ambassador to Canada, a position he held for four years.
Howie Carr. Paul Cellucci was not a nuisance.
That’s what H. L. Mencken wrote on the passing of another Republican governor of Massachusetts — Calvin Coolidge — and can there be any higher praise for a politician, especially one of the Bay State variety?
he really always did try to do the right thing, and when he departed office in 2001, the state was in immeasurably better shape than when he and Bill Weld took over in the wreckage of the Dukakis disaster known as the Massachusetts miracle.
They were elected saying they’d cut taxes, and they cut taxes.
They said they’d work with the Democrats in the Legislature, and they did. Maybe because Cellucci was almost a Democrat, not in the new pejorative RINO sense, but just as an average guy who went along to get along.
Joe Fitzgerald We'll remember how he lived
When you’ve been the governor of a politically vibrant state like Massachusetts, and the U.S. ambassador to a prominent neighbor such as Canada, no more needs to be said about your substance and your skills.
He died the way he lived, a man of towering integrity whose greatest quality was knowing what really matters in life.
Mr. Cellucci, whose political experience spanned more than three decades and who never lost an election, was central to the creation of a new brand of Massachusetts Republicans, built on fiscal conservative principles, a strong environmental agenda, and advocacy of liberal social policies.
His close personal and political association with Governor William F. Weld, with whom Mr. Cellucci served as lieutenant governor, set the stage for a Republican resurgence in the 1990s that broke the Democratic liberal grip on Beacon Hill policymaking.
While Mr. Cellucci spent four years as President George W. Bush’s ambassador in Ottawa and wielded huge influence on Beacon Hill, he never moved from Hudson, the small working-class town midway between Boston and Worcester that formed his character and his political instincts. He was the only governor in the past few decades to speak with a distinct Massachusetts accent.
“He was a completely different type of governor in terms of his background,” said Rob Gray, who served as a chief political adviser to Mr. Cellucci.
“Growing up outside the Boston-Route 128 bubble and continuing to hang out with average people on a daily basis really shaped his views of the issues,” said Gray, president of Gray Media Group. “Paul was staunchly antitax and very frugal when it came to the budget, but he knew that certain types of government spending helped average people. He wasn’t just symbolically a man of the people; that’s what he really was.”
Mr. Cellucci’s election as governor in his own right in 1998 was an important personal triumph over the media and political skeptics who viewed him as a minor figure. He handily beat back a spirited challenge from Joe Malone, a popular state treasurer, in the GOP primary, then defeated the sitting attorney general, Scott Harshbarger.
In a statement, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said, “Our city and our Commonwealth will miss him deeply and his type — a leader who wanted to help people.
“He was one of the very first people to reach out after I became mayor to offer a hand, and he did that over and over again. I will never forget what Governor Cellucci meant to Boston and to me.”
In 2011, Mr. Cellucci teamed up with Weld in what he called his “last campaign,” to raise money for Brown’s ALS research at UMass Medical School. “This is a big, big cause and they’re getting very close not just to ALS but a lot of other neuro-degenerative diseases,” Mr. Cellucci said.
The fund has raised $1.7 million.
“He managed America’s closest ally very well during an extremely challenging time,” Card said.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Canadian airports agreed to take in more than 200 planes diverted from the United States, and Canadian citizens opened their doors to thousands of stranded passengers and crew.
“Paul helped manage that phenomenal hospitality, and he traveled the breadth and width of Canada to thank people,” said Card, who had served as Bush’s chief of staff.
Mr. Cellucci also worked to get Canada to join the US coalition on the war against terror. And later, when Bush visited Canada, Mr. Cellucci had to deal with the antiwar protesters.
“He was highly respected by the Canadian government, business leaders, and the people,” said Card.
Death by stiletto
The man stabbed to death with a stiletto heel over the weekend has been identified as a professor at the University of Houston, authorities announced today. The victim, identified as 59-year-old Alf Stefan Andersson, worked at the University of Houston Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling where he focused on women's reproductive health. He'd been with the university since 2009.
The details of the relationship between Andersson and the suspect, 44-year-old Ana Lilia Trujillo, remain unclear as authorities continue to investigate the vicious attack.
According to authorities, police were called to the Parklane Building - a luxury condominium building popular amongst professors at the nearby university - in the 1,700 block of Herman Drive in Houston's Theater District about 4 a.m. Sunday in response to an assault in progress.
When police got to the 18th floor condo, Trujillo opened the door and let officers into the unit, which is where they found Andersson in a hallway between the entryway and the kitchen.
Authorities say he was stabbed multiple times, each time, apparently, with a stiletto shoe. Trujillo was the only one present when the body was discovered.
Ana Lilia Trujillo, 44, is charged with murder for striking Alf Stefan Andersson "with a deadly weapon, namely a shoe," Houston police say in the official complaint against her.
Andersson, a research professor from the University of Houston, had 10 puncture wounds on his head -- some as deep as an inch and a half -- and 15 to 20 puncture wounds along his face, arms, and neck, prosecutors say, according to CNN affiliate KTRK.
When police arrived at Andersson's apartment on Sunday, Trujillo, who had recently worked as a massage therapist, answered the door with blood on her clothes and hands; Andersson was lying in the hallway face up, with a stiletto by his head, KTRK reported, citing court records.
Trujillo had recently moved in with Andersson, and she told investigators that he grabbed her, and a struggle followed, KTRK reported.
How's the parking?
Last week my father asked me to plan his funeral. He’s dying, he knows he’s dying, and he just wants to get on with it already. He’s a practical man, and doesn’t want the burden to fall to my mother or anyone else at a time when everyone is already upset.
I waved him off, telling him we were just planning to put him on flaming ship and set it adrift. He told me not to waste the ship: a rowboat would do fine.
Being People Of A Certain Age, my parents go to a lot of funerals, so they were able to descant on the benefits and drawbacks of all the local undertaking establishments. Jessica Mitford wrote that funeral directors sell “dignity, refinement, high-caliber professional service, and that intangible quality, sincerity.” All of those things take a backseat to convenient off-street parking. There’s almost a palpable sense of irritation at dead people who get waked from places with bad parking, or long walks from the lot to the door.
That was a helpful criteria in knocking the potential vendors down to one. Indeed, the parking offered by the final choice was quite good, even memorable.
Parking does indeed make a difference
June 8, 2013
Happiness gurus commit suicide
Suicide notes were found with the bodies of a couple who took their own lives last week, police sources said.
Lynne Rosen, 46, and John Littig, 48, who worked as 'happiness gurus' and motivational speakers, allegedly left two notes at their home in Brooklyn, New York.
Mr Littig's note said that the couple 'were going to do this together' amid reports that Ms Rosen had suffered from psychological problems, according to the New York Daily News.
Despite the fact they lived in Park Slope, an affluent area of Brooklyn, their their bodies lay undiscovered for a week, so you have to wonder whether they had any support apart from each other. It sounds like a Folie à deux, a madness shared by two. Just speculation, but I wonder if it was brought on by a belief that they should be happy all the time and life wasn't worth living if they weren't. It's hard to accept the sorrows and losses of life, yet it is the reality of the human condition.
June 7, 2013
Suspected murderer buried alive by angry mourners
Villagers in Bolivia's southern highlands buried a teenager alive in the grave of a woman he was suspected of having raped and murdered, an official has said.
Police had identified 17-year-old Santos Ramos as the possible culprit in the attack on 35-year-old Leandra Arias Janco last Sunday in a Quechua community near the municipality of Colquechaca, said José Luis Barrios, the chief prosecutor in Potosí province, where the community is located.
More than 200 enraged locals seized Ramos and buried him alive alongside his alleged victim on Wednesday night, according to Barrios. He said that the following day, residents blocked the road to the community, preventing police and prosecutors from reaching it.
A reporter for an indigenous radio station, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told the Associated Press that Ramos was tied up at the woman's funeral. Mourners threw him into the open grave, placed the woman's coffin in it and filled the grave with earth.
Colquechaca is a town of 5,000 inhabitants located 200 miles south-east of Bolivia's capital, La Paz.
June 4, 2013
'They were screaming "we're going to die, we're going to die"'
A father-and-son team of storm chasers and their long-time partner were heard screaming 'we're going to die, we're going to die' on highway patrol radio moments before they were killed by one of the savage twisters they'd devoted their lives to following.
Tim Samaras, 55, along with his son, Paul Samaras, 24, and Carl Young, 45, died on Friday in El Reno after a tornado that packed winds of up to 165 mph picked up their car and threw it, somersaulting, a half a mile. The elder Samaras' body was still belted into their Chevrolet Cobalt, which was found on an unimproved county road parallel to Interstate 40. The other victims' bodies were found half a mile to the east and half a mile to the west, Canadian County under-sheriff Chris West said.
But before their stalking of the dangerous vortex turned deadly, their cries could be heard by Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph. 'They were screaming, "We're going to die, we're going to die,"' she recalled to USA Today. 'There was just no place to go. There was no place to hide.' According to Mr West, their vehicle looked ' like it had gone through a trash compactor' when it was found.
The news comes as the death toll from Friday's tornadoes and storms in Oklahoma has risen to 18 people, including six children and 12 adults, the Oklahoma chief medical examiner said on Monday. Officials added five victims on Monday to the confirmed list of dead from the tornadoes and from storms that caused severe flooding: three adults and two unidentified children, the medical examiner's office said.
Sincere condolences to all the families who lost a loved one. May they rest in peace.
June 3, 2013
Police dog bids farewell to slain cop
More than 1,000 people—including hundreds of fellow police officers from surrounding states—turned out at a funeral in rural Kentucky late last week to pay their respects to Jason Ellis, a 33-year-old K-9 officer gunned down last month in what authorities believe was an ambush.
Fido, Ellis' police dog, was there, too, placing his paw on the closed casket—a moment captured in a heartbreaking image by photographer Jonathan Palmer.
Fido was not with Ellis on May 25 when he was shot multiple times while collecting debris on a highway off-ramp in Bardstown, Ky., a close-knit community of about 12,000 located 40 miles southeast of Louisville. Ellis' slaying remains unsolved.
Dozens of fellow K-9 officers attended the funeral and, according to the Herald Leader, their dogs could be heard barking from their cruisers:
Hundreds of officers snapped to attention when the honor guard was called; the 60 or so police dogs at the ceremony barked with the sound of the guards' 21-gun salute.
Ellis, a six-year veteran of the police force, was remembered by Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin, who pledged to hunt down the killer.
"I am your chief, Jason, but you're our hero and you need to know this chief will not stand down," McCubbin said. "Jason, my friend, rest easy. We've got it from here."
Ellis is survived by his wife, Amy, and two sons: Hunter, 7, and Parker, 6.
"He paid the ultimate sacrifice doing what he loved, being a police officer," McCubbin added.
"I didn't want him to go"
A British father drowned after he was persuaded to try whitewater rafting for the first time on some of the world’s most difficult rapids. Businessman Stephen Morton, 47, had just finished climbing North America’s highest peak, Mount McKinley in Alaska.
But after completing the 19-day expedition, his three Dutch teammates – who were all experienced rafters – encouraged him to try the extreme sport before flying home.
The boat carrying Mr Morton tipped over entering a dangerous category-five rapid known as the Zig Zag.
All the men were thrown out of the raft, but Mr Morton struggled to recover in the icy cold water.
He was pulled out and taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Last night, his grieving widow said she didn’t want her husband to pursue dangerous hobbies, but hadn’t stopped him in case he regretted missing out.
‘He phoned before he left for the rafting trip. He was so happy to have summited safely and was so happy to be coming home, talking about the gifts he was about to buy for the kids.
June 2, 2013
'Just one more picture'
A photographer drowned taking close-up pictures of a whirlpool just seconds after he apparently told friends 'I just want one more photograph'.
Jacob Cockle, 28, was trying to capture footage of the dangerous tidal phenomenon at the Carnsew Pool in the Hayle Estuary, Cornwall. The disused man-made waterway was constructed by the Victorians in 1830 and was originally built to flush sand from the harbour.
Friends say Jacob was in the water to take photographs of the large, fast-moving whirlpools it creates when he was sucked under. But they claimed he was pulled into the swirling vortex of water when he paddled too close to get the perfect photo.
Jacob was pulled out of the water before RNLI lifeboat crews tried to revive him. He was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, where he was later pronounced dead
May 28, 2013
Some questions to ask your parents
Here's a sample of what people said.
Go through the family photo album with your elderly relatives and ask them to identify every person and place you do not recognize, and WRITE that down (post-it notes that you can stick right on the photo are great until you can get better organized).
With a number of recent losses in my family, I've been startled to find out much I didn't know. Here's how I phrase the query: Is there anything that if I were to find it out later, you would have regretted not telling me?
When my parents passed away last year (along with my sister) I didn't really realize how many things I would've liked to have known about them and their preferences and how much of their insight I would miss. When I'm faced with a difficult decision, I always think of what they'd do in the back of my mind and while that does help,
Ask about their first car- what they bought, what they paid, where and how they got the money. You'll not only learn about their taste in cars, but about how they view their financial world.
Ask about their wedding- how did he propose, what did she wear, did they have a honeymoon? This will link you to them through your own romances.
Ask about one of the worst times of their lives; "one of" because few people get to be elders without going through more than a few horrible events. The answers will inform you as to what really mattered to your parents, and why.
Get the recipes- I cannot stress this enough. It's beyond sad to say "My Mother made the best insert-food-here but I never got her recipe." Ask for their favorite memory of each of their children- even that sibling you don't like.
My grandparents are on the verge of death, and one of the questions I made sure to ask them was about marriage (see my answer to "what's the secret to a lasting marriage").
Venom against grieving family
A four week old baby died of whopping cough. Anyone with normal feelings can understand how the family is grieving and suffering over the loss of their child. Yet, unbelievably, this family has become a target for the anti-vaccination lobby.
As Toni held her tiny baby, she couldn't comprehend the loss, or how they would survive the sorrow.
Little did they know then that Dana's death from whooping cough, and the media coverage that followed, came to represent a very inconvenient truth to the anti-vaccination lobby - and thus began an extraordinary campaign against this grieving family.
The couple has been accused of being on the payroll of drug companies; they have had their daughter's death questioned and mocked; they have even been told to "harden the f . . . up" by an opponent of vaccination.
"The venom directed at us has just been torture and it's been frightening, abhorrent and insensitive in the extreme," says Toni, who has not had the strength to talk about this until now.
May poor little Dana rest in peace and may her family find some consolation in the vast majority who have expressed their abhorrence at the lack of humanity shown by the anti-vaccination lobby.
"He lived for sausages and—a close second—beer, and had the girth and rosy cheeks to prove it. “
A wonderful obituary in The Economist about a man who made a difference in the lives of untold numbers of Brits.
Bill O’Hagan Bill O’Hagan, pioneer of Britain’s sausage renaissance, died on May 15th, aged 68.
THE best sound in the world to Bill O’Hagan was the slow crescendo of sausages sizzling in a pan; the best smell, the charred skins of the same; the best sight, a glistening heaped plateful of the same, with mash; the best taste, a succulent tongue-teasing blend of minced lean pork, rolled oats, fresh eggs, sea-salt, chervil and winter savoury, generously dosed with real ale. He lived for sausages and—a close second—beer, and had the girth and rosy cheeks to prove it. “Sausages? I love ’em!” he would cry, before the interviewer had asked one question; and twitching aside his striped butcher’s apron he would show, on his own plump anatomy, the best bits of a pig for his purpose.
British commercial sausages, before he arrived on the scene, were poor limp things, flaccidly pink, that would burst and stick in the pan (hence “banger”) and lie heavy on the stomach. They tasted of nothing much, and that was just as well, because they were composed of muscle, gristle, head-meat and tail, padded out with rusk, injected with 11 chemicals and stuffed in a plastic tube. “Bloody rubbish!” Mr O’Hagan called them, unworthy of the name of sausage, though post-war Britons, with their propensity to chew stoically on anything, liked them well enough. Doused with brown sauce they became a national dish, of sorts; together with flabby fish and chips eaten out of yesterday’s newspaper, and jam roly-poly pudding.
Mr O’Hagan was the man who, from the 1980s, started to change all that. First, he put proper meat into sausages. Second, he removed the bready filler. Then he took the chemicals and additives out, replacing them with alecost, tansy and woodruff, plants of the hedgerows, which were natural preservatives. “No nasties!” his flyers promised. Once the true nobility of the British sausage was restored (a nobility that needed no pricking, for a proper sausage never exploded), he began to play about with flavours, adding apples or brandy or blue cheese, or ginger, or coriander. He reckoned he had tried 2,000 variations, of which about 160 went into regular production. They included Pork, Banana and Honey, made at the request of children when he featured on a TV show.
His apogee came when the British Sausage Appreciation Society crowned him the best sausage-maker in the country. He had won his laurels largely as an amateur. For years he made the sausages in his garden shed, and he combined this labour of love with being a night editor on the Daily Telegraph, sweeping in to work in a black cape “like a ruddy-cheeked vampire”, one colleague said, with packed coolboxes of his produce to sell to hungry subs. At 4.30am, when he left again (many pints of good beer to the wind, and driving a decommissioned black cab, which he claimed was less likely to be stopped by the police), the boxes would be empty. Sausage-making at last took him over in 1988, when he opened the world’s first fresh-sausage shop in Greenwich. By 1991 he was selling 2m a year, and super-premium sausages had become the rage throughout the land.
Apart from that, there was no bitterness in his nature. He failed to make a fortune, but he thoroughly enjoyed himself. By tradition a British butcher is a jolly chap; and few could be jollier than a man whose life was devoted, first, to making the perfect sausage, and, second, to matching it with the perfect foaming pint.
May 26, 2013
Cotard's Syndrome also known as Walking Corpse Syndrome
I had never heard of this before.
A patient has written a disturbing account of life with condition which makes him think he is dead - and how he spends his days in graveyards as it is ‘the closest I could get to death.’ The man, identified only as Graham, woke up nine years ago utterly convinced that he was no longer alive even though he was still breathing.
Doctors diagnosed him with Cotard’s Syndrome, which is also known as ‘Walking Corpse Syndrome’ because it makes people think they have turned into zombies. But Graham did not believe them and kept insisting that his brain was dead because he had bizarrely fried it in the bath.
He lost interest in smoking, he didn’t bother speaking and stopped eating as there was ‘no point because I was dead.’Only through months of therapy and treatment was he able to overcome the condition and live anything approaching a normal life.
Cotard’s Syndrome is among the most rare diseases in the world and it is thought that it affects just a few hundred people at any one time. It is linked to depression and comes in a variety of forms including some who feel that their limbs are no longer functioning.
Other patients with Cotard’s have died of starvation because they feel they don’t need to eat any more or burned themselves with acid as they want to be free from what they feel is dead flesh.
Writing in the New Scientist magazine, Graham, who is from Britain, tells how his doctors was baffled so referred him to neurologists Adam Zeman at the University of Exeter and Steven Laureys at the University of Liège in Belgium.
Mr Laureys said: ‘It's the first and only time my secretary has said to me: 'It's really important for you to come and speak to this patient because he's telling me he's dead.''
Letters to my sons
Words to live by A dying GI writes letters to his sons. An example of the great gift parents can leave to their children of any age. You can imagine how these letters will be treasured for decades to come.
Lt. Col. Mark Weber prepared his family for the worst countless times during his 23-year Army career — but now faces a battle he knows he can’t win.
In December 2010, doctors diagnosed Weber, who had survived 19 years in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, with Stage 4 intestinal cancer.
Told he had only two months to live, the decorated soldier set out to write a farewell letter to his three sons, Matthew, now 17, and twins Joshua and Nick, 12.
“Along the way, I hope you’ll consult these pages as often and as casually as you would if I were still here and you could pick up the phone,” he writes. “These pages reflect observations and perspective rather than advice or instruction.”
* “We’re taught early in life that being afraid is something to be ashamed of. This is wrongheaded. Fear is healthy. Fear keeps us alive. When I went through the Army’s airborne and air assault schools and learned to jump out of planes and slide down ropes hanging from helicopters, I did not want to be sitting next to any trooper who wasn’t just a little afraid about what he or she was going to do.”
* “Strength is about getting something done, even when you have iron-clad excuses or reasons for not doing it. Your mom has a hard time seeing how she exemplifies this, but she has shown it to us every day.”
* “Everyone has things they don’t want to do—there’s no crime in that. But there’s a big difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t want to’ when it comes to facing the path of comfort or the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge . . . I am proposing that ‘can do’ is often just one or two short steps beyond ‘can’t do,’ and the territory in between is fertile ground for personal growth and professional achievement.”
* “The value of noticing and caring about what is right in front of your face—simple, common social graces. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you,’ for starters, but also giving credit to others when and where credit is due, taking a personal interest in those you serve or who serve you, and ‘unplugging’ from gadgets and the churn around you in order to give a person your full attention. These are simple to talk about but harder to do, and they not only lead to success but encourage others to help you succeed or manage your failures.”
* “There is a time and a place for crying and laughing. And figuring out how to cry and laugh at hardship or death is as kill worth honing into a fine art when you’re young.”
* “Pain and suffering—self inflicted or otherwise—is not merely a rude interruption of your journey, but one of the very purposes of the journey.”
* “If I’m truly and finally proud of anything in my life, it is that I lived it in constant striving, continuous searching, and willing struggle, while conducting as honest an exploration of this world as I knew how to do.”
May 24, 2013
"He died in the most horrific way possible"
Serving his country on the dusty battlefields of Afghanistan, he risked his life facing Taliban bullets and roadside bombs. Back in Britain after a gruelling deployment in one of the most dangerous places imaginable, Drummer Lee Rigby would have been thankful to have emerged unscathed.
But, four years later, on a supposedly safe London high street, the young soldier was brutally cut down in his prime, butchered by crazed Islamic fanatics wielding cleavers and knives.
In broad daylight, Drummer Rigby, 25, the married father of a little boy, was run over then hacked to death in front of horrified onlookers.
The pair, who were known to the security services, shouted ‘Allah Akhbar’ – Arabic for ‘God is great’ – as they mercilessly slaughtered the defenceless serviceman.
A statement released by his family said: ‘Lee was lovely. He would do anything for anybody, he always looked after his sisters and always protected them. He took a “big brother” role with everyone.
‘All he wanted to do from when he was a little boy was be in the Army. He wanted to live life and enjoy himself.
‘His family meant everything to him. He was a loving son, husband, father, brother, and uncle, and a friend to many.’
A brother in law of the soldier’s wife Rebecca, 30, said she was ‘absolutely in bits’.
Speaking from her family’s home in Halifax, he said: ‘He died in the most horrific way possible, it’s shocking and unimaginable.’
Family and colleagues pay tribute to loving father and talented parade drummer Lee Rigby, who served with distinction in Afghanistan .
Drummer Rigby’s colleagues from 2nd Bn The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, described him as one of its “great characters”. Lieutenant Colonel Jim Taylor, the commanding officer of the Second Fusiliers, led tributes to the “dedicated and professional soldier”, a talented parade drummer who performed outside the Royal Palaces and whose strong personality marked him out to work in Army recruitment.
“He was a real character. Larger than life, he was at the heart of our Corps of Drums. An experienced and talented side drummer and machine gunner, he was a true warrior and served with distinction in Afghanistan, Germany and Cyprus.
Horrific is right. May he rest in peace
The Coffinmaker and handcrafted wooden caskets
I wish I could embed this beautiful and powerful video by Dan McComb on Vimeo, but I can't so you have to go here to see it
Every year, Americans bury enough metal in the ground to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge, says Vashon Island coffin maker Marcus Daly. His simple, handcrafted wooden coffins are an economical and environmentally friendly burial alternative. But Daly believes a coffin's most important feature is that it can be carried. Here's why.
"I think one of the most important aspects of the coffin is that it can be carried. And I think we're meant to carry each other and I think carrying someone you love and committing them is very important for us . When we deal with death, we want to know that we have played a part and that we have shouldered our burden. So, if we make it too convenient then we're depriving ourselves of a chance to get stronger so that we can carry on."
Watching Marcus Daly work is mesmerizing, so is listening to him.
"When I'm out here by myself early in the morning or in the middle of the night or something like that, I can get a sense of how work is love made visible ……. I'm building something for someone that people tend to think is a destination; they think of the grave as the end and I'm trying to illuminate that it's a doorway."
Handmade wooden caskets are beautiful, environmentally sound and far less expensive than caskets sold in funeral homes. Apart from craftsmen like Marcus Daly, just about the only place you can find wooden caskets made with love are monasteries.
This story begins 1,600 years ago when Benedict of Nursia founded an order of monks and instructed them to put bread on their table through the labor of their own hands. Following this dictate, the entrepreneurial brothers of St. Joseph Abbey—a century-old monastery in Covington, La.—opened a tiny business on All Souls' Day in 2007 to sell the unadorned wooden caskets that they have made for generations.
That's when their ancient ways collided with modern America. The monks had not sold a single casket before the Louisiana State Board of Funeral Directors—acting on a complaint from a government-licensed funeral director—shut them down. In Louisiana, the government had made it a crime to sell caskets in the state without a license. To do so, the monks would have had to transform their monastery into a funeral home, including building an embalming room, and at least one of the monks would have had to leave the order to spend years becoming a licensed funeral director. All of that just to sell a wooden box.
It didn't take a divine revelation to recognize that funeral directors were using the law, the government licensing entity they controlled, and their political clout to monopolize the lucrative casket market. Lacking the worldly guile of their adversaries, the monks put their faith in democracy, petitioning state legislators in 2008 and 2010. Each time, the funeral-industry lobby mobilized to kill the monks' common-sense reform proposals.
They then went to court. On March 20, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Benedictine monks of St. Joseph Abbey near Covington, La., have a right to sell caskets in their home state.
“Funeral homes, not independent sellers, have been the problem for consumers with their bundling of product and markups of caskets,” the 19-page opinion said. The “grant of an exclusive right of sale (for licensed funeral directors) adds nothing to protect consumers and puts them at a greater risk of abuse including exploitative prices.”
Killed by suicide jumper
A seven-year-old girl was killed in South Korea when a man committing suicide by jumping off a building landed on her. The little girl was hit by the 40-year-old man’s body after he plunged from his tenth-floor flat.
The man, only identified as Mr Jang, is said to have jumped from his flat in the southern port of Busan on Wednesday evening.
In what is being reported as a suicide, Mr Jang hit his neighbour’s daughter as she emerged from the apartment building, SBS TV reports.
The girl, who was with her father at the time of the incident, was taken to hospital but pronounced dead soon after arrival. Mr Jang died immediately at the scene.
What a tragedy for her parents and family. May she rest in peace.
Richard III buried in hurry, squashed in a grave with his hands tied behind his back
Richard III was squashed into a tiny, badly prepared ‘lozenge’ shaped pit with his hands tied as gravediggers rushed to bury him, a new paper reveals.
The University of Leicester researchers found Richard was casually placed in a badly prepared grave, which suggests the gravediggers were in a hurry to bury him.
The grave was too short for him and was 'lozenge' shaped, with the bottom of the much smaller than opening at ground level. His head was propped up against one corner of the grave - suggesting the gravediggers had made no attempt to rearrange the body once it had been lowered in - and there were no signs of a shroud or coffin.
Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, is sometimes regarded as the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the subject of the play Richard III by William Shakespeare.
Because of the circumstances of his accession and in consequence of Henry VII's victory, Richard III's remains received burial without pomp and were lost for more than five centuries. In 2012, an archaeological excavation was conducted on a city council car park using ground-penetrating radar on the site once occupied by Greyfriars, Leicester. The University of Leicester confirmed on 4 February 2013 that a skeleton found in the excavation was, beyond reasonable doubt, that of Richard III, based on a combination of evidence from radiocarbon dating, comparison with contemporary reports of his appearance, and a comparison of his mitochondrial DNA with two matrilineal descendants of Richard III's eldest sister, Anne of York
A photo he will treasure for the rest of his life
This photo of an unidentified man will be framed and prominently displayed for the rest of his life
Go the link to see the video
May 23, 2013
Married 83 years, parted by death
The world's longest married couple have finally been separated after 83 years - by death. The accolade enjoyed by Steve Wrubel, 103, and his wife Vickie, 102, from Tampa Bay, Florida, came to an end on Monday morning when Vickie passed away.
After the 102-year-old broke her hip two years ago and began to suffer from other problems due to old age, she was moved to a nursing home where Steve would visit her every day. They would sit together in silence, holding hands, as they always did.
Her niece Jane Messing told The Tampa Bay Times the fuss made over their long marriage made her feel special. 'Like a princess,' Messing said.
The Wrubel's lived together in an adult living facility in Romeo, Michigan, until Vickie silently slipped away on Monday morning.
'They made a mark. They took care of each other. They loved each other and set an example.
'Thank God she and Uncle Steve were finally together at the end.'
Death by Killer Bees
A climber and his faithful dog have perished in Arizona after they appear to have been attacked by killer bees as he scaled a cliff.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office says that 55-year-old Steven Johnson, a counselor with some 30 years experience hiking and climbing was found dead, hanging 70-feet from the ground in his climbing gear in the Santa Rita Mountains on Monday night.
The cause of death has not been determined yet, but officials said that Johnson was covered in bee stings when he was found while his dead dog was discovered at the top of the cliff.
Johnson was last seen Friday when he went hiking, and friends became worried when he didn't go to work on Monday.
Sheriff's Lt. Raoul Rodriguez says Johnson may have disturbed bees by hammering a spike into the cliff.
Rodriguez of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said the 55-year-old man was found hanging from his climbing gear on a cliff near Mount Hopkins
'He had anchored himself to the wall as he was going down so he was actually anchored and he must have been attacked and was not able to climb back up or go back down,' said Rodriguez.
He said Johnson's dog had also been attacked by bees and was found dead nearby.
Johnson is described as a father, climber and friend, who was well-liked throughout the climbing community in Southern Arizona.
Once stung, the bee releases a pheromone that attracts other bees to attack - which is why most African bee attacks are in swarms.
Condolences to his family.
Mourners flee funeral as the 'deceased' wakes up in his coffin
Mourners at a funeral in Zimbabwe were stunned when the dead man woke up as they filed by his coffin, state media reported today.
Brighton Dama Zanthe, 34, was being laid to rest inside a coffin last Monday after he apparently died at his home following a long illness.
The transport worker's grieving family covered his body with blankets and made arrangements to transfer him to a local mortuary, according to a report in the Herald newspaper.
But the next day Mr Zanthe's friends and relatives scattered in disbelief when he started moving as they filed past to say their emotional goodbyes.
The dead man's boss Lot Gaka told the Herald of the moment he realised his employee was still alive. He said: 'I was the first to notice Zanthe's moving legs as I was in the queue to view his body. This shocked me. 'At first I could not believe my eyes but later realised that there was indeed some movements on the body as other mourners retreated in disbelief.'
Mr Gaka, who runs a bus company in the midlands city of Gweru, told the newspaper Mr Zanthe had been persistently unwell before his 'death' last week. Zanthe's body had already been put in a coffin and people were preparing to conduct a body viewing procession so that his body could be taken to a mortuary.
'It was during the body viewing procession that he "resurrected".' Another witness told the state-controlled newspaper how the family desperately pulled blankets off Mr Zanthe's body to try to revive him after realising he was still alive.
He said: 'Gaka later removed some blankets from Zanthe's body after we noticed some movements and this was when we all realised that there was still life. 'We then called an ambulance which came within seven minutes. 'It's really a miracle and most people are still in disbelief.'
The Herald, which is owned by Zimbabwe's government, reported that Mr Zanthe spent two days on life support after being rushed to the Gweru Provincial Hospital following the incident. He was discharged last week and has since returned home.
The shaken family man told the newspaper he had only a hazy recollection of the event. He said: 'This issue can be best told by people who came to my house to attend my funeral. 'I don't know what happened and I only remember being on a life support system in hospital.'
He added: 'Everything is history to me. 'What I can only confirm is that people gathered at my house to mourn but I was given another chance and I am alive. I feel okay now.'
May 21, 2013
Dribbling soccer ball to Brazil for the World's Cup, Man is Hit and Killed by Truck in Oregon
A Seattle man attempting to dribble a soccer ball 10,000 miles to Brazil in time for the 2014 World Cup for charity has died after being hit by a pickup truck on the Oregon Coast just 14 days into his mission.
Police in Lincoln City say 42-year-old Richard Swanson was hit on Tuesday morning while walking south along U.S. Highway 101 near the city limits.
He was declared dead at a hospital. The driver has not been charged and is said to be cooperating.
Very sad. May he rest in peace.
May 20, 2013
Relearning the art of dying
The taboo has simply shifted, however. As the door to the bedroom has been thrown open, access to the deathbed has been barred. No one seems to linger long there, conversationally or otherwise: too often, a death is treated like an embarrassing fact, a regrettable failure of life that is best hushed up.
As Dr Granger carried on talking, with admirable courage and lucidity, I began to feel that whatever tweets she felt able to send from her deathbed would be well worth reading, and might do the rest of us a great deal of good. She already has a blog, on which she discusses matters such as planning her own funeral, the vagaries of end-of-life care, and the irritations of the faintly bullying, upbeat language that people use when describing cancer patients. There, she writes with passion, humour and honesty, but without self-pity or mawkishness: none the less, when I got to the point at which she made comforting plans for her final hours – “I want Mum to read to me like she used to when we were kids” – it was impossible not to cry.
We are built to cling to life, unless that instinct is withered in us through long suffering, extreme altruism or despair, and so when we read about the deaths of other people, we are moved partly because we start imagining our own: the pain of leaving the people we love, and their confusion at our departure. Or we think of the helplessness of watching someone we love slipping beyond our reach. The notion of death is so mysterious and enormous that, in many cases, it seems easier just to lock it away, although it has a way of escaping and sneaking up on our peripheral vision.
Still, the option of pretending to ignore death (for a period of our lives, at least) has not been available to the bulk of humanity throughout history. In the 15th century, when the Ars moriendi, or “Art of Dying”, was written, the book desperately sought to popularise the concept of a “good death”, partly because – in the aftermath of the Black Death – an early demise was so frequent and lurid that some kind of etiquette guide was required. Both real-life accounts and novels were later preoccupied with the deathbed scene, which was, in many ways, the dramatic high point of a person’s life. It was their moment in which to forgive, regret, recant or curse, the final deal, the instant at which they revealed their essential self, and onlookers were unashamedly interested in it.
I can never think of the deaths of those I knew and loved, even those who were very old, without some small recurrent aftershock, some fresh sense of the overwhelming strangeness of their disappearance. The ritual of mourning and the ceremony of the funeral or memorial provides shapes for grief to stumble into, yet even those are designed primarily to comfort the living. What our society presently lacks – save for a few enlightened homes and hospices – is much structured means of comforting the dying, who are too often abandoned in hospital wards surprised by fear and pain.