July 30, 2005

Better for Knowing Them


Only 14, Tylor Lauck who has been sent home to die, says, "If people knew their time was running out, they wouldn't waste it so much."

Fortunately, Tylor's is going home to the embrace of a loving family.  His father  says, "My time with Tylor is more valuable than any money in the world. "  His mother says,

.. most people talk themselves out of being positive. They tell themselves they should be feeling terrible and depressed or sorry for themselves. I refused to do that. While I’m fighting for my child’s life I want to make every day a great day for him.”

Tylor suffers from an aggressive form of cancer that has already attacked his lymph nodes, caused the amputation of one of his legs, and has now gone to his brain.   

I learned about Tylor from Dawn Eden who also wrote about Trevor Romain, a children's book author whose purpose in life is to "inspire kids to face everyday challenges through courage, compassion and creativity." 

Trevor and Tylor are writing a book together and I for one can't wait to see it.  Trevor writes a wonderful blog with charming illustrations.  There you can read a lot more about Tylor and his remarkable family.  They've certainly won my respect and prayers.

Even though Dean and Denise have gone through hell and back and have very little left after the enormous medical bills that have ravaged the family, their generosity brought me to tears countless times during the weekend. They have lost pretty much everything, yet they share what little they have so generously. I have never seen them falter in taking care of their kids. Their enthusiasm and faith keeps their family strong, despite the obvious pain and despair that continues to tear each of their souls apart....The conversations below say more that I can ever say about this truly remarkable family who have taught me the value of life and the true meaning of love.

Tylor is a hoot.  When asked what medications help you the most, Tylor says, "Pretty nurses."

Trevor and Tylor and his family are inspiring examples of how you can take the hardest stuff of life,  recognize the suffering, and still  transform it into something transcendent with a love that spills over in its abundance like ripples in a pond to warm the hearts of countless unknown people.

What are Trevor's books if not ways for dying children to love and laugh with ideas for tricks to play on their nurses and doctors.  What light shines from the Lauck family, showing us this is how to do it.  This is how to live and love even as we die.  Who can not be elevated by their example and wish to act half as well when the time comes.

Both Great Legacies.

Too many people don't know how to act or what to say when someone dies.  They don't know how to give quiet comfort.  Trevor's  DVD could be just the thing for anxious parents.  What on Earth Do You Do If Someone Dies?    They will probably like his other books as well, all from the Comical Sense Company with two taglines: "Entertainment that matters" and "Kids think he's funny.  Parents trust him"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

July 29, 2005

Constantine Head found in Sewer

A legacy from the past discovered.  Roman ruler's head found in sewer

A 1,700 year carved marble head of Emperor Constantine has been found in a sewer in central Rome. 

Constantine, who reigned from 306 to 337, is known for ending persecution of Christians and founding Constantinople.
"Recovering a portrait of this size and in this state of conservation in the very heart of the city is really extraordinary," said Mr La Rocca.

"We have concluded that the head did not fall by accident into the passage, but was put there on purpose.

"It could have been used as a big piece of stone to divert water from the drain, or it could have been put there to symbolise the resentment of a pagan people for their Christian emperor."

The head's unceremonious insertion in the drain may have saved it from the plundering of the Forum after the fall of the Roman empire in the 5th Century.

It is expected to go on display in Rome's museums after a brief period of restoration.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 PM | Permalink

Stud farm legacy

A racehouse trainer, Neil Adam, won the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp two years running.  He built up a stud farm, Collin Stud,  near Newmarket, which he left to his two daughters in 1997, one of whom is a qualified veterinarian.

By 2001, Neil Adam was paralysed with multiple sclerosis  and could only communicate by nodding, winking and shaking his head.  Still he made out a second will leaving the stud farm to its manager and head groom.

The two sisters  succeeded in overturning their father's last will.  The deputy High Court judge said,

"In my judgment, it is likely that there was a temporary poisoning of his natural affection for his daughters, or a perversion of his sense of right, the nature of which nobody can satisfactorily explain," said the judge.

He added that he realised his decision would be hard on Mr Sharp, 44, and Mr Bryson, 39, both of whom worked for Mr Adam since leaving school.

"There is every likelihood that the decision to benefit them resulted from rational thought, in which Mr Adam recognised his considerable debt of gratitude to them," said the judge.

"Nevertheless, I cannot conclude that the will as a whole was rationally made, or that Mr Adam's natural feelings for his daughters, or his sense of right, were unaffected by disorder of the mind."

The judge granted permission for the case to be appealed and said,

"I have been struck throughout the case by the great affection everyone had for Mr Adam and the extremely kind way in which everybody treated him. If that could result in some resolution of the issues between the parties, it might be a fitting tribute to him."

Good legal advice would have obviated this "awful business."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:49 PM | Permalink

July 27, 2005

Losing Job for Being 'Dead'

Just back from vacation, a Romanian man learned he had lost his job because he had been declared dead. 

Valentin Lefter, 20, from Focsani, said he was shocked because he'd only been away for two weeks.

He returned from his summer break to find a letter from wine-bottling company Prodecam Vanatori.

"The letter, addressed to my wife, apologised for my passing away and said any outstanding payments would be sent to her within the next month," said Lefter.

When he rang company bosses, they apologised and said the letter had been sent out because of a computer error.

But they said he could not have his job back because they had already employed someone in his place, reported local media.

He now plans to sue the company for £10,000.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

July 26, 2005

Freezer Killer

In London, it seems you can get two years for manslaughter but three years for "preventing a burial'. 

Paul Dalton, a 35 year old teacher, killed his wife, cut up her body into nine pieces and hid them in the kitchen freezer.  Yesterday he was sentenced to five years.

Does that make sense to you?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 AM | Permalink

July 25, 2005

Buy Red When You're Blue

Maureen Dowd pens a wonderful tribute to her mother who passed away last week.   

MY mom always wanted to be a writer. In 1926, when she was 18, she applied for a job at The Washington Post. An editor there told her that the characters she'd meet as a reporter were far too shady for a nice young lady.
But someone who wants to write will find a way to write. And someone who wants to change the world can do it without a big platform or high-profile byline.

Just an ordinary life made extraordinary when closing examined.

Mom was not famous, but she was remarkable. Her library included Oscar Wilde, Civil War chronicles, Irish history and poetry books, as well as "Writing to the Point: Six Basic Steps," and the 1979 "Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Satisfactions of Housewifery and Motherhood in the Age of Do-Your-Own-Thing.'"

She touches on small things.

Without ever mentioning it to anyone, she constantly wrote out a stream of very small checks from her police widow's pension for children who were sick and poor.

She didn't limit her charity to poor kids. When 6-year-old Al Gore III was struck by a car in 1989, she sent him a get-well card and a crisp dollar bill. "Children like getting a little treat when they're not feeling well," she explained.

She traces the arc of a life that spanned much of the nation's history.

As a child she saw the last of the Civil War veterans marching in Memorial Day parades, and as the wife of a D.C. police inspector she made friends with her neighbor, Pop Seymour, the last person alive who saw Lincoln shot at Ford's Theater. (He was 5 and saw the president slump in his box.)

She tells stories.

One of her big thrills came in 1990 when she went to the White House Christmas party with me and President Bush gave her a kiss. On the way home, she said to me in a steely voice, "I don't ever want you to be mean to that man again."

Stories that paint a picture.

As my mom lay in pain, at 97 her organs finally shutting down, my sister asked her if she would like a highball. Over the last six years, Mom had managed to get through going into a wheelchair and losing her sight, all without painkillers or antidepressants - just her usual evening glass of bourbon and soda.

Her sense of taste was gone, and she could no longer speak, but she nodded, game as ever, just to show us you can have life even in death. We flavored her spoonful of ice chips with bourbon, soon followed by a morphine chaser.

And tell life lessons.

I just know that I will follow the advice she gave me in a letter while I was in college, after I didn't get asked to a Valentine's Day dance. She sent me a check for $15 and told me to always buy something red if you're blue - a lipstick, a dress.

"It will be your 'Red Badge of Courage,' " she wrote. And courage was a subject the lady knew something about.

If you want to write about your parents, Dowd's tribute is a great example of how to do it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2005

Responding to Vandals

US Army Pfc Timothy Hines Jr died from injuries suffered when a roadside bomb exploded in Bagdad.  He  was buried with full military honors, leaving behind leaving behind a two year old daughter and a pregnant widow. 

Less than 24 hours later, vandals torched the American flags that lined the lawn of his in-laws, after heaping them in a pile under a car parked in front of the home.

"What happened to this family is a tragedy; what occurred (Saturday) morning is despicable," Fairfield Police Chief Mike Dickey said in a prepared statement.

The 20 flags burned were replaced with more than 200 flags from family, friends and neighbors by Saturday afternoon.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:39 PM | Permalink

Lt. Gov Crashes Funeral of Marine

If you're going to a funeral  uninvited, don't follow the disgraceful example of Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll who crashed the funeral of St. Joseph Goodrich killed in Iraq while in service to this country.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune by Eric Heyl, soldier's funeral not a 'function'

Relatives of the late Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph Goodrich are upset over what they consider to be Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll's cynical intrusion on their mourning.
Rhonda Goodrich, 38, of Indiana County, the fallen soldier's sister-in-law, said Knoll slipped into a pew next to his aunt, Linda Kubiak of Bethel Park. Through Goodrich, Kubiak declined to comment.

Rhonda Goodrich said Knoll, 74, of McKees Rocks, began chatting with Kubiak during the communion service.  "When (Knoll) found out (Kubiak) was Joe's aunt, she handed her a business card and told her she attends 90 percent of these 'functions' across the state," Rhonda Goodrich said.

"This was not a 'function,' " she continued, fairly spitting out the words. "A function is a dinner or an awards ceremony. This was my brother-in-law's funeral."

According to Rhonda Goodrich, Knoll then said what continues to leave Joe Goodrich's survivors shaking their heads: "She told Joe's aunt that the (state) government was against the war."

An odd thing to say, because the state never has taken a position on the Iraq conflict. An offensive thing to say to those who knew Joseph Goodrich loved being a Marine and fighting for his country.

"Whether you're for the war or against the war, to say something like that to a relative of someone who just died in combat was just repulsive," Rhonda Goodrich said.
"She never said to anyone, 'If there's anything I can do to help, just call my office,' " Goodrich said. "It seems like she's going to funerals and using business cards as campaign fliers."

Rhonda Goodrich remains angry, but she is grateful for one thing.
"I'm glad she didn't sit down next to me and say those things," Goodrich said. "I would have smacked her on the spot."

You can read the reaction of some military families at Blackfive.

Blackfive also quotes from an email Goodrich sent  to his wife only two days before his death explaining his feelings for fallen soldiers and why he enlisted.

"I swore to myself that I would not let them down. They sacrificed and gave to me something that I could never repay; freedom."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:28 PM | Permalink

July 22, 2005

Dreams Before Dying

Featured in the current Newsweek is a new book, by the Rev Patricia Bulkley called Dreaming Beyond Death about the extraordinary dreams people have in their final weeks and days.

Bulkley, a hospice chaplain for ten years, says that many of these vivid dreams have themes of going on journeys or reuniting with deceased loved ones.

The last dream that psychologist Carl Jung was able to communicate to his followers, a few days before his death, was of a great round stone engraved with the words "And this shall be a sign unto you of Wholeness and Oneness." To Jung, it showed that his work in this life was complete. Socrates and Confucius also spoke of significant dreams they had shortly before their deaths.

Some can be frightening,  warning the dreamer of unresolved issues. Others are so intense they can be mistaken for reality especially when they feature dead relatives.

Yet despite the power of these dreams, caregivers often miss the opportunity to explore their meaning. It's a loss on both sides, according to Bulkley. Talking about end-of-life dreams can give family members a way to broach the uncomfortable topic of death, she says. For the dying, discussing such a dream can provide a simple way to articulate complex emotions—or, if the meaning of the dream is unclear, to fathom its purpose. And to the extent the dying person finds comfort in any such dream, so do surviving relatives. "These are the stories that get repeated at funerals," says Bulkley. "They become part of the family lore."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink

July 21, 2005

Aye, Aye Sir

You can't beat this tribute to Jimmy Doohan by James Lileks.

You know, I think he could have changed the laws of physics, if he had to.

We don’t know who first offered Jimmy Doohan a smoke, but it saved his life. One can assume he kicked the habit, since he lived into his middle eighties, but he was still packing away the gaspers in ‘44. He had a cigarette case in his shirt pocket, and it stopped a German bullet. He may have laid on the sand for a moment and wondered if it would all end here on the shores of Normandy – but no, of course not. He got up, he made it through the day. He made it through the war, went home, took up acting. One day his agent called: Can you do a Scottish accent?

Sure. What’s the part?

It’s impossible to understate Doohan's appeal - if you sneak into a NASA control room during a mission and ask the controllers how many chose their profession because of Scotty, half the hands in the room would go up. No one wanted to go into space because of that whiny little red-head kid on Lost in Space. It takes something indefinable to be a Kirk, it takes med school to be a McCoy, it takes green blood to be Spock, but Scotty – aye. Any man could be Scotty, if he applied himself. And he'd be among manly things, too.

In a hundred years from now, no one will remember Brad Pitt. But they’ll have a picture of Scotty taped up in the break room off the moon shuttle.

Hank Stuever writes in the Washington Post

The real tribute to James "Scotty" Doohan, 39 light-years after he first saved the USS Enterprise's heinie (and did it many times over), is that it's now almost impossible to have a boyfriend or husband who can't do a somewhat reasonable impression of Doohan's famously stressed-out burr: "We've got nuh powrrrr, Cap'n!" Or "She cannuh take much moor."

From the Associated Press

He made his name in Hollywood beaming his colleagues back to the safety of the Enterprise on ''Star Trek.'' Now, actor James Doohan's family is hoping to beam him up to the ''final frontier'' that Doohan's character ''Scotty'' loved so dearly.

The actor, who died Wednesday at age 85, had told relatives he wanted his ashes blasted into outer space, as was done for ''Star Trek'' creator Gene Roddenberry.
Doohan died at his home in Redmond, Wash., with his wife of 31 years, Wende, at his side. He had retired from public events last year, not long after announcing he had Alzheimer's disease.

Houston-based Space Services Inc., which specializes in space memorials, plans to send a few grams of Doohan's ashes aboard a rocket later this year. The remains, which will be sealed in an aluminum capsule, will eventually burn up when they re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

It should be a fitting finale for an actor who, as the Starship Enterprise's frazzled chief engineer saved the Enterprise almost every week from blowing up, burning up or being overrun by renegade aliens when the warp drive, the phasers, the shields, the power cells or some other futuristic collection of doohickies failed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:19 PM | Permalink

July 20, 2005

John Muir's Great Legacy

  John Muir-1

It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!

After he was almost blinded in an industrial accident, John Muir, a Scot, decided to become a naturalist.  He traveled to California across the Sierra Nevada Mountains and through the Yosemite Valley where he found great meaning and wrote about it in his journals.

His articles and books describing Yosemite and all its natural wonders inspired public support for the establishment of Yosemite National Park in 1890.  In 1892, John Muir and other supporters formed the Sierra Club "to make the mountains glad." 

President Theodore Roosevelt who visited Yosemite with Muir was greatly influenced by his writing.  Sometimes called the "father of our national parks", Muir was honored by the government with establishment of the Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County.

John Muir is a great example of how one man who found his meaning and purpose and transformed it into a Great Legacy for all of us.

"If you think about all the gains our society has made, from independence to now, it wasn't government. It was activism. People think, 'Oh, Teddy Roosevelt established Yosemite National Park, what a great president.' BS. It was John Muir who invited Roosevelt out and then convinced him to ditch his security and go camping. It was Muir, an activist, a single person."
Patagonia founder and outdoor enthusiast Yvon Chouinard

John Muir exhibit is a fabulous online exhibit created by the Sierra Club who also has put all Muir's writings online.

Here are some selected quotations.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail. - Our National Parks, (1901), page 4.

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty. 
Travels in Alaska by John Muir, 1915, chapter 1, page 5.

On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death...Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony. 
Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, p.41-42

Hiking - I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, "A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them. 
- John Muir, quoted by Albert Palmer in
A Parable of Sauntering .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:26 PM | Permalink

Overdosing on death

For some, killing the grieving parents is the logical next step.  From the New York Times report on the horrific suicide bombing in Musayyib that killed 71 and wounded 156.  Via Arthur Chrenkoff, Overdosing on death.

On Saturday, during a funeral for children who died in the bombing on Wednesday, a unit of the Iraqi police stopped a suspicious-looking man approaching the funeral procession and discovered that he was wearing a suicide vest filled with explosives and ball bearings, the American command reported Sunday.

An explosives team disarmed the man, a Libyan, and no one was hurt, according to the American military.

"The bomber was high on drugs and is being treated for the potential overdose," said Col. Joseph DiSalvo, an American commander. The bomber, he said, "came here to kill the grieving parents of the children who were killed on Wednesday."

"I cannot imagine a worse crime."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2005

Still Life Dramas.

I've often written how important it is for people to create their own legacy archives, creating  themselves what they want to pass on to the future and posterity.  I've often called it a time capsule.

Dennis Severs, an American artist and Anglophile, created his time capsule in London at 18 Folgate St.  In the 1970s, Severs bought a decrepit Georgian house and lived there for 30 years until his death from cancer at 51.

The house was his canvas, each room casting a different spell and portal to another time, brought to life through a visitor's imagination and senses. 

Jane Black of the Washington Post tells the story.

I step through a low door into a warm, cozy kitchen. On the rustic pine table, there's a steaming cup of tea and a half-sliced loaf of brown bread. Dirty blue-and-white china dishes are in the sink and a fire burns brightly on the hearth. It's as if someone has just left the room--someone from the early 18th century.

I stand silently, listening to the clock tick. Then I hear the sound of a carriage approaching and disappearing down the street outside. "I see dead people," the famous line from the movie "The Sixth Sense," comes to mind.
The Dennis Severs' House is intended to let visitors experience a living, breathing 18th-century home, where candles are still burned for light and tea is heated over an open fire.

If it sounds bizarre, it is. Each room is one of a series of still-life dramas. Severs sets the scene--the home of the fictional Jervises, a family of weavers--and the visitor creates the action. You look at furniture, portraits and handwritten lists, smell food cooking and coal burning in the stove, hear doors close and bells ring, then use that information to piece together what's happening. Artist David Hockney has described the house as one of the world's five greatest experiences.

That experience starts even before you enter: Gas lights flicker in the lamps outside the ivy-strewn Georgian town house, one of four on this cobblestone street. And although busy Liverpool Street Station is just moments away, silence surrounds the house.
Indeed, it's the ghost of Severs that is most present in the house. Though he died of cancer in 2001 at age 51, his spirit remains. He prods you to open your eyes and laughs at your inability to truly see. In his bedroom on a side table is one of his many notes to visitors: "The 20th century is a fascinating place to visit, but surely nobody would ever want to live in it."

Stepping back into the din of London traffic, I can begin to see why Severs was keen to distance himself from modern society. A world of ghosts, especially friendly ones like the Jervis family, is a wonderful antidote to the pressures and pace of contemporary life. Living in the past is not for everyone. But as Severs was fond of saying, "You either see it or you don't."

You can take a virtual tour of the Dennis Severs house here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:37 PM | Permalink

Haunted Houses

Gallup reports that one in three Americans believe in ghosts, even more believe that houses can be haunted.  Liberals and the young are more likely to believe such things. 

But then they are more likely to have identified with Demi Moore or Patrick Swayze in Ghost as well.

  Demi Moore

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

Trappist caskets

New Mellary Abbey is a Trappist monastery in Iowa where some thirty monks follow the Rule of St. Benedict.

They support themselves by making traditional caskets with wood from their own forest and selling both caskets and urns directly to the public at wholesale prices.  Trappist caskets can be shipped for next day or two day delivery.

All funeral homes and cemeteries in the U.S. are obligated by law to accept any funeral merchandise you wish to provide.

They  keep alive the centuries old tradition of "Keeping Vigil" by surrounding a deceased brother 's body with constant prayer until the funeral.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:19 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2005

Helping the Dying to Live

Dame Cecily Saunders said her purpose in life was to "help the dying to live until they die and their families to live on."

A Christian, she saw dying not as something to be feared, but as a spiritual event which could bring meaning to life and provide an opportunity for reconciliation. 

She became a doctor because she  wanted to alleviate the physical pain of the dying.  She founded the Hospice Movement despite the hostility of the medical establishment  to also address  her patients'  "mental, social and spiritual pain."

During her life, she fell in love at different times with three different Poles, each of whom contributed to her understanding of what it is like to die.  She said of one,

"I loved him very much," she recalled. "He taught me what it was like to be dying and to be bereaved; he showed me the achievement of a good death, that as the body becomes weaker, so the spirit becomes stronger."
Though the philosophy underlying St Christopher's was Christian, it welcomed patients of any persuasion or none. Cicely Saunders noticed that those who coped best always had a shining faith, but that atheists often died as peacefully as Christians. The people with the most problems were those who had not sorted out their ideas. Clergymen, oddly, and the affluent, often turned out to have the most difficulty.
She was the guiding influence behind a 1976 Church of England report on dying which argued that everyone should have the right to "die well", without pain and with dignity.

In rejecting the argument that chronic pain justifies euthanasia, the report drew attention to the fact that correct medical and nursing treatment can usually remove pain or reduce it to a minimum and can help the survivors as much as the dying.

Cecily Saunders died at St. Christopher's Hospice that she founded, her Great Legacy bringing comfort and care to the dying and their families in hospices around the world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink

In the First Person

If you have collected first person oral histories from your family members, you may be wondering whether a collection might be interested.  Here's a site called In the First Person that indexes some 2500 collections of oral history in English from around the world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink

July 13, 2005

Cash at the Grave

If you want your family to visit your grave, you have to pay them, or at least that's what Morris Gorski thought.

Gorski, a popular businessman who owned a number of properties, got permission before his death to have a cash machine installed in his tombstone at the Chester Jewish Cemetery.

Now when any one of his 25 heirs turn up at the gravestone, they can collect up to 750 pounds.  No more than once a week though.

According to the Board of Guardians of British Jews, other people will be able to do the same if Gorski's incentive proves popular.

HT Hanan Levin

UPDATE:  It took Richard, a commenter, to point out to me that the site I  linked to is a "satire" site based on real life.  Is my face ever red, taken in by a too-good-to-be true story.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:25 PM | Permalink

Cormac Country

"Most people don't ever see anyone die.  It used to be if you grew up in a family, you saw everybody die.  They died in their bed at home with everyone gathered around. 

Death is the major issue in the world.  For you, for me, for all of us.  It just is.  To not be able to talk about it is very odd."

From the first interview of Cormac McCarthy in thirteen years by Richard Woodward in the August edition of Vanity Fair (sadly, not online).

McCarthy wrote "All the Pretty Horses winning the National Book Award in 1992 and making his literary reputation.  It's part of the Border Crossing which also includes Cities of the Plain and The Crossing.

It's been a while since I've read All the Pretty Horses but I remember loving it for its language, its setting, the love story, but most of all for the reflections on life, honor and loyalty by the young cowboy John Grady Cole.    I can remember copying out some passages for their sheer beauty and profundity. 

The closest bonds we will ever know are the bonds of grief. 
The deepest community is one of sorrow.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

Humbled and Elevated

A thought for a beautiful summer afternoon outside.

"When we are mindful of every nuance of our natural world, we finally get the picture:  we are given only one dazzling moment of life here on Earth, and we must stand before that humbled and elevated, subject to every law of our Universe and grateful for our brief, but intrinsic participation in it."

Elizabeth Gilbert in her biography of naturalist Eustace Conway."Last American Man.

From the review in Publishers Weekly.

"By the time Eustace Conway was seven years old he could throw a knife accurately enough to nail a chipmunk to a tree." Such behavior might qualify Eustace as a potential Columbine-style triggerman, but in Gilbert's startling and fascinating account of his life, he becomes a great American countercultural hero. At 17, Conway "headed into the mountains... and dressed in the skins of animals he had hunted and eaten." By his late 30s, Eustace owned "a thousand acres of pristine wilderness" and lived in a teepee in the woods full-time. He is, as Gilbert (Stern Men) implies with her literary and historical references, a cross between Davy Crockett and Henry David Thoreau

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2005

A Shameful Legacy

Not all Legacies are Great.  Many are shameful as we are reminded on the 10th anniversary of Srebrenica where 8000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered because their Dutch peacekeepers wouldn't fight to save them.   

The killings began on July 11, 1995 when Bosnian Serb soldiers overran the town, which was at the time in a United Nations "safe" zone.
Outgunned UN troops watched as the men were separated from the women. The men and boys were led off and slaughtered, and their bodies dumped in mass graves throughout eastern Bosnia.  The Srebrenica victims were among about 250,000 people killed in the 1992-95 war among Bosnian Muslims, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has indicted the alleged masterminds of the massacre - Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic ? for genocide and crimes against humanity at Srebrenica and elsewhere. Both are still at large.

Switzerland's Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the ICTY, did not attend the commemoration ceremony "out of respect for the victims". Her spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said that Del Ponte could not look the victims straight in the face while those responsible were still on the run."As long as they are not arrested, justice will not be done," she commented.

Mark Brown, the special envoy of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, read out a personal message

We cannot evade our own share of responsibility. As I wrote in my report in 1999 we made serious errors of judgement rooted in a philosophy of impartiality and non-violence, which however admirable was unsuited to the conflict in Bosnia. That is why, as I also wrote, the tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our, the UN, history forever.

One refugee, now in Chicago, is the artist Samir Biscevic, who continues to bear witness to the suffering through his art.

"Slowly, little by little, I wanted my artwork to be dedicated to Bosnian victims," he said. "Talking about truth, that is healing. That's what makes our pain less."

On Monday, nearly 1,000 spectators gathered in Daley Plaza to mark the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre--
"I wanted to show people how does it look when you have 1,000 people on the ground," Biscevic said. "Then you can imagine 10,000. I tried to paint the last minutes on the ground. I'd like the people here to feel something as those people who died."

But to Biscevic, the most important statement was illustrated by the blindfolds on bystanders in Daley Plaza, showing how the international community turned a blind eye to the atrocities.

UPDATE 1.  Christopher Hitchens on the lessons of Srebrenica

Above all, what I remember is the sense of shame. A French general named Philippe Morillon had promised the terrified refugees that they would be safe. A Dutch commander had been mandated to make good on this promise. The United Nations, the European Union, the "peacekeepers" of all nations had assured the terrified civilians of Bosnia-Herzegovina that the international community was stronger than Milosevic's depraved regime and the death squads that it had spawned. And those who were so foolish as to trust this pledge were then hideously put to death. On video. In plain sight. Scanned from NATO and American satellites circulating indifferently in outer space. What must it be like to die like that, gutted like a sheep in full view of the vaunted "international community," while your family is bullied and humbled in front of you and while your captors and killers taunt you in their stolen or borrowed United Nations blue helmets? Because yes, all that really happened, too, and meanwhile the nurturing and protective Dutch officers were photographed clinking glasses of champagne with Gen. Ratko Mladic. Shame isn't really the word for it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:51 PM | Permalink

Continuing Legacy of Saving Babies

Chidi Anyanwu grew up with over 200 infants that his parents took in and cared for.  A recent nursing school graduate in British Columbia, he's returning to Nigeria to carry on his parents legacy of saving infants.

With a freshly minted nursing degree from Trinity Western University, Chidi Anyanwu, 32, is preparing to return to his Nigerian hometown to help run Grace Hospital, a rural health facility that opened in May 2005. Established by Chidi"s parents, the hospital is just one of four organizations they"ve begun since moving from Vancouver to Africa 27 years ago. The creation of these organizations—The Eziama Motherlesss Babies Home, King"s Kids Elementary School, Elijah Memorial Skills Acquisition Center and Grace Hospital—was set in motion by one tiny baby only weeks after their arrival. And the ramifications of this event set the course for Chidi"s life. 

Chidi"s parents returned to the Eziama community—a grouping of 80,000 people in 23 villages in rural Africa—after attending Bible school in Canada, intending to plant churches. Up until that point, the community—Chidi"s dad"s hometown—had been torn apart by war, superstition, poverty and a lack of health services and education.

They began the normal missionary process, but two weeks after we arrived in Eziama, a woman died giving birth, one village over," says Chidi. "In those days the custom was to leave the baby to die because it was deemed responsible for the mother"s death. And according to superstition, harm would come to anyone who cared for the baby."

After hearing about this baby, Chidi"s mom went to the village, took the baby home, and cared for it. 

"Word spread about what my mom had done. The villagers and everyone around expected something evil to happen to her," explains Chidi. "As time went on and nothing happened, word spread that there was this lady taking care of babies. Soon after, another lady died, this time giving birth to twins, and they were brought to our home so we took care of them. Within six months we had 24 babies in our house." 

People like Chidi and his parents are the hope of Africa.  The Great Legacy of his parents continues.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:34 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2005

Charnel House through the Floor

Probably not the best week for the London law firm of Allen & Overy to unveil its new headquarters which has cleverly included a vaulted crypt from the 1300s, the Spitafields Charnel House visible beneath the glass of the ground level floor. 

It provides a remarkable window into the history of a site that was the burial place of wealthy inhabitants of Roman Londinium, one of the country's largest hospitals dating back to the late 12th century, a cemetery that has yielded the remains of more than 10,000 medieval Londoners and the market founded in the 17th century.
John Drew, a partner at Foster and Partners, and senior architect on the project, said: "I often wonder what it would be like if the ground in London was transparent and we could see the remains of the city's 2,500 years of history beneath our feet.
"I find it rather exciting that someone can be just walking across the square and suddenly find themselves on the glass panels, looking down at 700 years of history."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 AM | Permalink

July 9, 2005

Taking a Recipe to the Grave

He kept the secret of his cinnamon cake for more than 75 years and vowed to take it to his grave.  Did he ever. 

He had the recipe etched on his gravestone. 

Mourners at the funeral of Jaakov Topor, 93, from Kibbutz Naan in Israel turned up for the funeral to find all the details for his cinnamon cake recipe etched in stone.

"Everyone in the community had tried at one time or another to get the recipe out of him as it was a best seller, but he vowed he would never tell anyone while there was still breath in his body," said his grandson

The recipe, secret for more than 75 years, included:
a kilo of flour,
50 grams of yeast,
a pinch of salt,
three eggs,
seven spoons of sugar,
200 grams of margarine,
one and a half glasses of milk
cinnamon to taste.

There's a thought if you're thinking of a distinctive grave marker. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 PM | Permalink

July 8, 2005

A Real American Hero

From BlackFive, Godspeed, Admiral Stockdale and the DOD Press Release on the Death of Retired Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale

Born Dec. 23, 1923 in Abingdon, Ill., and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1947, he is best remembered for his extraordinary leadership as the senior naval officer held in captivity during the Vietnam War. As commanding officer of Carrier Air Group Sixteen flying from the aircraft carrier the USS Oriskany, he was shot down while leading a mission Sept. 9, 1965.

            During his 7½-year imprisonment, he was tortured numerous times, forced to wear vise-like heavy leg irons for two years and spent four years in solitary confinement.  While imprisoned, he organized the prisoner culture in defiance of regulations forbidding prisoner communication and improvised a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behavior.  Codified in the acronym, BACK U.S. (Unity over Self), these rules gave prisoners a sense of hope, which many credited with giving
them the strength to endure their ordeal.

            Upon his release in 1973, Stockdale's extraordinary heroism became widely known and he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1976.  A portion of his citation reads:
"Stockdale...deliberately inflicted a near mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate.  He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated their employment of excessive harassment and torture of all prisoners of war."

It's sad and telling about the devolution of our media culture that most people remember Admiral Stockdale for the way he was made fun of for his appearance at a vice-presidential debate in 1992.  Tony B tells why

There is quite an extraordinary official site with his even more extraordinary biography.  This is a story every boy should know.  Stockdale is a true American Hero whose Great Legacy will never be forgotten.

The climax of the struggle of wills between American POWs and their captors came in the spring of 1969.  Told he was to be taken “downtown” and paraded in front of foreign journalists, Stockdale slashed his scalp with a razor and beat himself in the face with a wooden stool knowing that his captors would not display a prisoner who was disfigured.  Later, after discovering that some prisoners had died during torture, he slashed his wrists to demonstrate to his captors that he preferred death to submission.  This act so convinced the  Vietnamese of his determination to die rather than to cooperate that the Communists ceased the torture of American prisoners and gradually improved their treatment of POWs. 

Upon his release from prison in 1973, Stockdale’s extraordinary heroism became widely known, and he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford in 1976.    He was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the Navy, wearing
twenty six personal combat decorations, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, two Purple Hearts, and four Silver Star medals in addition to the Medal of Honor.  He was the only three star Admiral in the history of the Navy to wear both aviator wings and the Medal of Honor. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:02 PM | Permalink

Black Rider of Death

A wonderful essay by Gordon Atkinson, Everett Joseph Smith Was a Real Boy   

Gordon Atkinson is a Real Live Preacher who sometimes is an agent of grace and hope, sometimes the

....Black Rider of Death.

People indulge in all sorts of denial while they are waiting for the minister. It’s a blessed procrastination that helps them make it for a short time. And then you appear, framed in the hospital doorway, bible in hand.

I am come. Let the grieving begin.

Very hard when a baby is born too soon at twenty weeks and can not last for long.

Before I left my house that evening I asked my wife one question. “I know that being there in the name of Christ is the main thing, but is there anything else I can do for them?” 
This is what she said:
“If you can, find a way to make their goodbye memorable. They need to remember that he was real. In the coming days, many of their friends and family will want to pretend that this child never existed. They will want to gloss over the reality of his life in an attempt to ease their pain. Don’t be a part of that. All they will ever have is the memory of this goodbye, so make it the best goodbye you can.”

via Happy Catholic and the World According to Chuck

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:56 PM | Permalink


Is it true that a resident wrote to a newspaper to complain about fly-by of jets from local Air Force base headed for a fallen serviceman's memorial service. 

Answer here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:36 PM | Permalink

London Bombings

From  eyewitnesses to the London bombings.

Lorenzo Pia, an Italian postgraduate medical student, was leaving his nearby flat when he heard the blast. “The bus was without shape,” he said. “Four or five injured people were walking about. They were dripping with blood, some from the head, others from legs and arms. Five or six people were lying in the street. They were not moving.”

“One of the injured was a young teenage girl who had blood streaming down her face. Another, an elegantly dressed man, had a leg injury. A woman was crying. She had blood down her face too, but there wasn’t any panic or screaming. People just got on with helping each other.”
Ayobai Bello, 43, a security guard, left his bank to cross Tavistock Road when it was flooded with commuters coming down from Euston. He saw the explosion and the top and back ripped off the bus. It was a scene of carnage.

“All I could think was, they are all dead. I saw all this with my own eyes. In front of me in the road was a woman but there were no arms and there were no legs, it was just her body and her head, and body parts were scattered everywhere. There were also two men on the floor, one in blue trousers and one in a shirt, they were both dead. They were both gone. The man I saw hanging dead from the bus, he was a very old man with white hair. He was about 80.” Hours later, in the streets around the bus, the atmosphere was eerie.

From Josh Trevino blogging in Edinburgh

The immediate matter is to sort the living from the dead, care for the former, and bury the latter.  Once buried, it will be time to avenge them.

Perhaps the villains' expectation is that the Briton will quail as the Spaniards, reacting to massacre with headlong flight from foreign fields. I think not. About me, I see older Scots with a steely flint in their eyes.

The reckoning will come. There is a soul of honor beneath the ribs of death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 PM | Permalink

July 7, 2005

Dead Steelers Fan

His love for the Pittsburgh Steelers was so great that after his death, his family choose not a traditional casket but a recliner to lay out his body, decked out in black and gold, Steelers colors.  Dead Steelers Fan

James Henry Smith loved his country. He served in Vietnam and spent 25 years in the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard.

But the 55-year-old Garfield man also had love for his favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers -- and that led to an unusual viewing after he died from prostate cancer this week.

Smith's family asked the Coston Funeral Home in Lincoln-Lemington to place his body not in a casket, but in a recliner that faced a television playing Steelers highlights, with a remote control in his hand.

The body was dressed in black and gold clothing -- traditional Steelers colors -- and a blanket bearing the team's logo was draped over an armrest. Sitting on a table next to the chair were a pack of cigarettes and a can of beer.

The family also released photos.

   Pittsburgh Steeler Fan Recliner

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

Checkpoint Charlie updated

  Checkpoint Charlie Berlin Germany-1

Great Legacies are not always respected.  Nor are monuments. 

This is a monument to those brave souls, more than a thousand, who were murdered while trying to escape from East Berlin during the Cold War.  Called a monument to Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, there is a cross for every victim and they are going to be bulldozed on July 4th

I grew up during the Cold War and often read about escapees from East Berlin and they stories they brought about life under Communism.    Whenever I heard of an escapee being shot while running towards a dream of freedom, I marveled at their bravery.   

Now Berlin's socialist-communist government composed of many of the SED dictatorship, directly responsible for the murders, wants the monument torn down.  From the best blog on the German Media, Davids Medienkritik. 

In other words, the Socialists and Communists in Berlin's city government don't want to be constantly reminded of the murders that the SED dictatorship committed during the Cold War. How unpleasant that would be for them! So they would rather allow the crosses to be bulldozed on July 4th and mockingly associate the monument with Disneyland, a place that many Germans see as a symbol of trivial American commercialization.

The Checkpoint Charlie monument has been forcibly destroyed.  Some 190 police officers were assigned to assure removal of the crosses according to Davids Medienkritik.

Some family members of those killed described the forced removal of the crosses dedicated to their loved ones, a "Second Death."

  Checkpoint Charlie  Second Death

Checkpoint Charlie was the front-line of U.S, efforts to contain communism says Davids Medienkritik.

ALL OF Germany is a democracy today because millions of American soldiers stood guard for decades across Europe.
We won't forget!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 PM | Permalink

July 4, 2005

Poor Man's Philanthropist

Tom Cannon was the sort of man who knew he had been given a gift, a second chance at life.  After some time, I guess alone and in reflection, he found his meaning and purpose in becoming a role model to others, showing them how generosity ennobles a life and becomes a Great Legacy.

Thomas Cannon, Richmond's self-described poor man's philanthropist, died today after a brief battle with colon cancer.  Cannon, who was 79, was known for doling out $1,000 checks to strangers on a postal clerk's salary.
The $1,000 checks started in 1972. Since then, he gave away more than $155,000, often to people he read about in newspapers. They might be stuck in an unfortunate situation, or maybe they've displayed courage in one way or another. Some had cancer, a coincidence that was not lost on him in his dying days.

Cannon traced his benevolence to his time in the Navy, when dumb luck saved his life. Many of his buddies died in a shipboard explosion after he'd gone off to gunnery school. He always wondered why he'd been spared. Maybe, he finally determined, he was saved to help others and be a role model, to help people see "the oneness of it all."
He thought and talked and wrote like that. He wrote numerous essays over the years that he kept in large folders in his paper-strewn office, which was intended to be a dining room when the
house was built. It was all food for thought for Cannon.

Cannon spent most of the past 33 years retired from the postal service and some of them caring for his wife, Princetta, who died in 2000 after almost 54 years of marriage and a lengthy illness.He used to spend nights lying next to her bed in a sleeping bag on the floor. It was during her illness that it became publicly known that the Cannons' home on Church Hill had fallen into disrepair. A group of admirers raised enough money to purchase and donate a house to the Cannons near Maymont. Tom Cannon lived there until his death.

Book of Joe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 PM | Permalink

He Never Gave Up

"1776" (David McCullough)

One of the great summer treats to me anyway, is the lolling about outside on a gorgeous day  reading a great book.
I was going to write about 1776, about having gratitude for those shoulders we stand on, but George Will has said it all already.  So read him.

Just a few notes.
"Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages"  -General George Washington. 

David McCullough on George Washington
He was not a brilliant strategist or tactician, nor a gifted orator, not an intellectual.  At several crucial moments he had shown marked indecisiveness.  He had made serious mistakes in judgment.  But experience had been his great teacher from boyhood, and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience.  Above all, Washington never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up.

"Without Washington's leadership and unrelenting perseverance, the revolution almost certainly would have failed.  As Nathanael Greene foresaw as the war went on,  "He will be the deliverer of his own country."

The war was a longer, far more arduous and more painful struggle than later generations would understand or sufficiently appreciate.  By the time it ended, it had taken the lives of an estimated 25,000 Americans, or roughly 1 percent of the population. In percentage of lives lost, it was the most costly was in American history, except for the Civil War.
Especially for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning ---how often circumstance, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference--the outcome seemed little short of a miracle.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:30 PM | Permalink

July 1, 2005

After the Brando Auction

His biographer Peter Manso said

I think the whole auction is creepy and I can tell you I'm not the only one who thinks so after spending two days with (Brando's son) Christian."
"The auction borders on complete tastelessness and Brando would never, ever, ever have wanted this," the author of "Brando: The Biography" told Reuters by telephone.
According to Manso, Brando left instructions that his bedroom be sealed with a padlock after his death.
"I can assure you Marlon is turning over in his grave to think that someone has his driver's license."

The sale of Brando's personal effects raised more than $2.4 million to be divided among his nine children.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:39 PM | Permalink

Piping Prodigy

Another great obituary from the UK,  James Burgess

John D Burgess, who died on Wednesday aged 71, achieved world-wide fame as a child prodigy on the bagpipes before maturing into one of the foremost exponents of Scotland's national instrument.
In the 1940s, the pipe music tumbling effortlessly from the youngster's fingers astonished professional pipers, who travelled long distances to hear him play. News of the virtuoso reached pipers serving in Burma during the Second World War, who could not believe that at home there was "a laddie the size of a bass drone" who could play as well as the established masters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:42 AM | Permalink