October 31, 2005

Real Estate to die for

It's not just residential real estate that's going through the roof, so are burial plots, especially at prestigious cemeteries like Mt. Auburn in Cambridge. I lived in both Back Bay and Beacon Hill in Boston before the 80's before prices went crazy. I laughed at a parking condo that offered parking spaces inside for $20,000. Today, they go for about $200,000. It never entered my mind that you could invest in and speculate on burial plots.

Mary Fifield didn't have investment on her mind when she bought a plot a few years ago, she writes in the Boston Globe.

Mt. Auburn isn't just any cemetery. Self-dubbed ''America's First Garden Cemetery," its 175 acres feature more species of native and nonnative plants than most arboretums. It boasts a score of architectural follies, including a 13-foot-tall granite sphinx, the gift in 1872 of an enthusiastic board member. A score of triple-name luminaries, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mary Baker Eddy, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Charles Dana Gibson, and James Russell Lowell call it home, in a manner of speaking. Its motto, ''Still a Unique Choice for Burial," strikes the only downscale note in its otherwise upscale identity campaign.
while the housing market in Boston has been soaring over the past few years, the post-life housing market, as it were, has been keeping pace. While residential real estate prices are up by triple digits, so is the real estate at Mt. Auburn.
The spot on Willow Pond, my post-mortal-coil co-op, represents something more: a comforting constant in a world that seems to grow more complex and challenging with each passing month. It also confirms that the time-honored first maxim of real estate, ''Location, location, location," applies to the hereafter as much as it does to here and now.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 PM | Permalink

Electrocuted During Baptism

Standing in water up to his shoulder while he performed baptisms before 800 people, Pastor Kyle Lake of Waco, Texas, reached for a microphone and was electrocuted.

Condolences to his widow and congregation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 PM | Permalink

The Differences Among Ghosts

BeliefNet explains the differences among ghosts. There are spirits of the dead, crisis apparitions, phantoms, poltergeists and psychic residue.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2005

Fingerprints of the Past

Fascinating piece in the New York Times today about many Hispanics who are discovering while researching their family history that they are descended from 'Hidden' Jews who fled the Inquisition in Spain to settle in Mexico four centuries ago. Hispanics Uncovering Roots as Inquisition's Hidden Jews.

For more than two decades, anecdotal evidence collected by researchers in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas suggested that some nominally Catholic families of Iberian descent had stealthily maintained Jewish customs throughout the centuries, including lighting candles on Friday evening, avoiding pork and having the Star of David inscribed on gravestones.


Modern science may now be shedding new light on the history of the crypto-Jews after molecular anthropologists recently developed a DNA test of the male or Y chromosome that can indicate an ancestral connection to the Cohanim, a priestly class of Jews that traces its origin back more than 3,000 years to Aaron, the older brother of Moses.

Family Tree DNA, a Houston company that offers a Cohanim test to its male clients, gets about one inquiry a day from Hispanics interested in exploring the possibility of Jewish ancestry, said Bennett Greenspan, its founder and chief executive. Mr. Greenspan said about one in 10 of the Hispanic men tested by his company showed Semitic ancestry strongly suggesting a Jewish background.

I didn't have time to read the whole paper today, so I'm happy to thank Ann Althouse whose post "the fingerprints of my past were all around me, but I didn't know what they meant."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 PM | Permalink

All Hallow's Eve

From Mike Nichols's essay, not that one, the other one, the pagan.

Samhain. All Hallows. All Hallow's Eve. Hallow E'en. Halloween. The most magical night of the year. Exactly opposite Beltane on the wheel of the year, Halloween is Beltane's dark twin. A night of glowing jack-o-lanterns, bobbing for apples, tricks or treats, and dressing in costume. A night of ghost stories and seances, tarot card readings and scrying with mirrors. A night of power, when the veil that separates our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest. A 'spirit night', as they say in Wales.
All Hallow's Eve is the eve of All Hallow's Day (November 1st). And for once, even popular tradition remembers that the Eve is more important than the Day itself, the traditional celebration focusing on October 31st, beginning at sundown. And this seems only fitting for the great Celtic New Year's festival. Not that the holiday was Celtic only. In fact, it is startling how many ancient and unconnected cultures (the Egyptians and pre-Spanish Mexicans, for example) celebrated this as a festival of the dead. But the majority of our modern traditions can be traced to the British Isles. The Celts called it Samhain, which means 'summer's end'...Not only is Samhain the end of autumn; it is also, more importantly, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Celtic New Year's Eve, when the new year begins with the onset of the dark phase of the year.
There are many representations of Celtic gods with two faces, and it surely must have been one of them who held sway over Samhain. Like his Greek counterpart Janus, he would straddle the theshold, one face turned toward the past in commemoration of those who died during the last year, and one face gazing hopefully toward the future, mystic eyes attempting to pierce the veil and divine what the coming year holds. These two themes, celebrating the dead and divining the future, are inexorably intertwined in Samhain, as they are likely to be in any New Year's celebration.

      As a feast of the dead, it was believed the dead could, if they wished, return to the land of the living for this one night, to celebrate with their family, tribe, or clan. And so the great burial mounds of Ireland (sidh mounds) were opened up, with lighted torches lining the walls, so the dead could find their way. Extra places were set at the table and food set out for any who had died that year. And there are many stories that tell of Irish heroes making raids on the Underworld while the gates of faery stood open, though all must return to their appointed places by cock-crow.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 PM | Permalink

October 29, 2005

Elephants Honor Their Dead

I remember hearing some time ago that elephants would travel long distances to return to sites where their ancestors were killed. Was it paying respect to their memories?

Today, New Scientist reports Elephants may page homage to dead relatives.

  Elephants And Skulls
The elephants showed a strong preference towards an elephant skull (middle) rather than the skulls of a buffalo or a rhino (Image: Royal Society/Karen McComb)

Elephants may pay homage to the bones of dead relatives in their home ranges, a study of the creatures’ responses to skulls and ivory suggests.
African elephants have been observed to become highly agitated when they come across the bodies of their own, and they have been seen to pay great attention to the skull and ivory of long-dead elephants. However, this interest had not been tested experimentally.
Now research from a team in the UK and Kenya has demonstrated that African elephants pay a higher level of interest to elephant skulls compared with those of other animals and ivory compared to wood.
The notion of elephant graveyards – where old elephants wander off to die – has been exposed as myth by previous studies, the researchers note. Nonetheless, they believe their experiments “cast light” on why elephants are often seen interacting with the skulls and ivory of dead companions.
But there is no way to tell whether the elephants are mourning their dead – although they get very excited when approaching carcasses, with secretions streaming from their temples.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 AM | Permalink

Singular honors for a modest, dignified woman

I think it is thrilling that the modest, dignified, ordinary Rosa Parks of extraordinary courage is being given singular honors following her death at 92.

She will be the first woman to lie in honor in the United States Capitol Rotunda - a tribute formerly reserved for presidents, soldiers and prominent politicians.

Apple Computer featured on its corporate website the same photo I used in my post She Stood Up by Sitting Down.

  Apple Computer Rosa Parks

Now one fan has created a combined tribute to Rosa Parks and Apple Computer I Sit Where I Want To.

  Ipod Rosa Parks-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 AM | Permalink

October 28, 2005

Shocked Widow Heartsick

I think Medical Examiners should be required by law to tell a family if some of the organs were kept behind and not sent with the rest of the body to a funeral home for burial preparations.

They didn't in Massachusetts and his grieving widow, married only two years, was shocked to learn, months after her husband's funeral and burial, that HIS HEART had been left behind in cold storage.

Shocked widow heartsick: Organ was left behind at autopsy.

   Boston Herald

Months after burying the love of her life, the widow of a Waltham firefighter was horrified to learn that the state Medical Examiner's Office failed to return her husband's heart to his chest after an autopsy.

``She was absolutely stunned. She's been waiting for the heart to arrive on her doorstep,'' said Andrew Meyer, whose law firm, Lubin and Meyer, Kathleen Felt has hired to sort out her nightmare.

As the absent heart of firefighter Robert ``Bobby'' Felt lingers in cold storage, his widow now faces the painful decision of whether to exhume his body or dispose of the heart some other way.
Felt, 33, a lifelong Waltham resident, was assigned to the Moody Street Fire Station from 1996 until Aug. 27, 2004, when he internally bled to death on his couch after ingesting the prescription pain reliever Naprosyn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:50 AM | Permalink

Dead Body Mistaken for Halloween Decoration

A desperate woman committed suicide by hanging from a tree and her body was mistaken for a Halloween decoration for several hours in Frederica, Delaware.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 AM | Permalink

October 26, 2005

Euthanasia Investigation Underway in New Orleans

Following the euthanasia investigation in New Orleans is the Doctor is In.

CNN is now reporting that a very active investigation is currently underway of Memorial Hospital–where 45 patients were found dead–by the Attorney General’s office. This investigation to date has uncovered additional testimony that euthanasia was actively discussed and may well have been performed:
Time will tell how this investigation turns out–and it may ultimately be very difficult to prove what happened at Memorial Hospital, given the poor condition of the bodies and the difficulty in distinguishing therapeutic pain management and sedation versus the same drugs used in doses sufficient to kill. One suspects that those involved in such actions–if they occurred–will be loath to admit it–and likely would have been careful to avoid witnesses, if at all possible.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2005

She stood up by sitting down

  Rosa Parks

Detroit Free Press.
When Rosa Parks refused to get up, an entire race of people began to stand up for their rights as human beings.

This gentle giant, whose quietness belied her toughness, became the catalyst for a movement that broke the back of legalized segregation in the United States, gave rise to the astounding leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and inspired fighters for freedom and justice throughout the world.
People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day.- O No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

The New York Times
For her act of defiance, Mrs. Parks was arrested, convicted of violating the segregation laws and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees. In response, blacks in Montgomery boycotted the buses for nearly 13 months while mounting a successful Supreme Court challenge to the Jim Crow law that enforced their second-class status on the public bus system.

Dave Weinberger says
I was five when she refused to move out of the whites-only seats at the front of the bus. I was told that she was a humble Black woman who, after a hard day of work, was too tired to get up. In fact, she was a committed civil rights worker, a secretary in the Montgomery office of the NAACP where she recorded reports of racial discrimination and interviewed African-Americans with legal complaints. (I in fact was taught she was a white family's maid. Did those telling the story just assume that that's what black women do?)

It's a better story the first way, but why?
The mythic version is so powerful because of what it doesn't say. Obviously, the point wasn't that she was tired, that she collapsed in the seat and was physically unable to stand up. Presumably she was tired every day. The point of the myth is exactly that this day was like every other except for what happened in Rosa Parks' heart. On that day like any other, a woman like any other rose above the accepted condition. Like the first photo of the whole earth seen from space, Parks' refusal to change seats transformed our perspective

Rosa didn't have children but LaShawn Barber says

I suppose those she inspired to stand up to injustice were her offspring. Once people understand the power they have in a free country, the moral authority to demand justice, watch out.

The Washington Post

She was given the Medal of Honor, the highest award that the U.S. government bestows, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. More than 40 colleges and universities gave her honorary doctorates, and her name is cited in virtually every U.S. history book that addresses the civil rights movement.


In 1988 Rosa Parks said, ""I am leaving this legacy to all of you ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die - the dream of freedom and peace."

Truly, a Great Legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

The helmet-wearing corpse on a bike

This is just too weird, I'm just going to excerpt this story, Something you don't see too often.

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) - A motorcyclist with a helmet-wearing corpse strapped to his back crashed in this Mexican city on the U.S. border on Friday and fled on foot, setting off a police murder hunt.

The unidentified driver was trying to ride with the body through the center of Tijuana, south of San Diego, California., when he lost control rounding a curve.

He fled the scene, leaving the dead passenger on the curb. Police said the corpse, which had head injuries and bore strangulation marks, had died at least six hours earlier.

"When the police arrived they took the helmet off the corpse, believing at first that he had died in the crash," said Francisco Castro, a spokesman for the Baja California state police's homicide division.

"But he had adhesive tape stuck to his face, a knife wound to his forehead, and showed signs of strangulation," he added.

Castro said the dead man had wraps of methamphetamine in his pocket and an unkempt appearance, which led investigators to believe the killing was drug related.
"We think the killer was trying to take the body to a more deserted area to dispose of it," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:14 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2005

He threw himself a funeral every year

The tombstone of Francis J. Moriarty is engraved, "It's better than waiting in line"

Francis J. Moriarty, known as Turk to his friends, because he loved Wild Turkey, decided on his tombstone at Mt. Benedict Cemetery in West Roxbury, well before he died. He

threw himself a funeral there each year near the end of his life. (He died at 73 in 1985.) It was always an affair to remember.

''We made a plywood coffin we'd strap to the top of Billy Hunt's '66 Rambler American -- the car was worth about six cents -- and we'd drive to the cemetery," recalls Richie Polin, a friend of Turk. ''We'd put the bottles on top of the grave -- the headstone was already there. There'd be maybe a hundred of us. Turk would watch from a distance to see who came."

Some of the women who attended actually cried, despite the fact they knew Turk was lurking nearby. (According to Polin, Turk was a bank robber who did hard time for this pastime, later an employee of the Boston Housing Authority, and a poet whose talent was inversely proportional to the amount of bourbon he consumed.)

The whole motley crew would then repair to the now-defunct Sydney's on Green Street in Jamaica Plain -- a bar so named for the leviathan actor Sydney Greenstreet -- to continue the festivities. Perpetual gadfly Dapper O'Neil called the rite ''a most impressive ceremony," according to Jerry Burke.

From Enchanting Tales by Sam Allis in the Boston Globe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 PM | Permalink

Katrina death toll rises

Nearly two months after Hurricane Katrina, they are still finding bodies.
As of last Wednesday, 100 more bodies have been found.

How devasting for their families.

UPDATE. Most of the people who died were older either unable to evacuate or unwilling to leave their homes despite the rising floodwaters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:44 PM | Permalink

Parking while dead

When the parking officer noticed that one car had been parked for too many days at the Melbourne shopping mall, he slipped a parking ticket behind the wiper, and never noticed the dead man behind the wheel.

The 71 year old man had been missing a week.

"It's just tragic. It must be just so sad for the family and we extend our sincere sympathies to them," local mayor Paul Denham told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Friday

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:05 PM | Permalink

October 21, 2005

Sudden Death Lady in Vermont

Franne Whitney Nelson will be offering a program to teach cops, clergy and others how to deal with sudden death.

“Our minds require order to function properly,” Nelson said. “Death, itself, is extremely disorderly to us. But sudden, unexpected death is beyond disorderly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:17 PM | Permalink

How We Are Going to Die

The new TimesSelect program prevented me from blogging this David Brooks column earlier, but since Zack Lynch has provided excerpts in his post How Are We Going to Die, I can point to him.

"Twenty percent of us, according to a Rand Corporation study, are going to get cancer or another rapidly debilitating condition and we'll be dead within a year of getting the disease. Another 20 percent of us are going to suffer from some cardiac or respiratory failure. We'll suffer years of worsening symptoms, a few life-threatening episodes, and then eventually die.
But 40 percent of us will suffer from some form of dementia (most frequently Alzheimer's disease or a disabling stroke). Our gradual, unrelenting path toward death will take 8 or 10 or even 20 years, during which we will cease to become the person we were. We will linger on, in some new state, depending on the care of others.
As the population ages, more people will live in this final category. Between now and 2050, the percentage of the population above age 85 is expected to quadruple, and the number of people with Alzheimer's disease is expected to quadruple, too."

Even with Ray Kurzweil's vision of the Singularity is Near, there's still 20% of deaths unaccounted.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:15 PM | Permalink

Tombstones used as paving stones, latrines

I wonder some time about the the Power of Hate, how it can persist generation after generation and then I read something like this.

On the Mount of Olives, the Jordanian Arabs removed 38,000 tombstones from the ancient cemetery and used them as paving stones for roads and as construction material in Jordanian Army camps, including use as latrines. When the area was recaptured by Israel in 1967, graves were found open with the bones scattered. Parts of the cemetery were converted into parking lots, a filling station, and an asphalt road was built to cut through it. The Intercontinental Hotel was built at the top of the cemetery. Sadar Khalil, appointed by the Jordanian government as the official caretaker of the cemetery, built his home on the grounds using the stones robbed from graves. In 1967, the press published extensive photos documenting that Jewish gravestones were found in Jordanian Army camps, such as El Azariya, as well as in Palestinian walkways, steps, bathrooms, and pavement.

Why hadn't I ever heard of this before?
Hat tip tp Powerline

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

October 15, 2005

Killed while getting 'Last Rites' tattoo

A 28 year old man getting a "Last Rites" tattoo, depicting the face of the a devil, etched into his arm in a Brooklyn shop yesterday felt dizzy, fainted and fell head-first into a display case, shattering its glass top.
The broken glass slit his throat and killed him. NY Post story.

   "Last Rites" Tattoo a picture of the "last rites' tattoo

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 PM | Permalink

Graveyard Games

I don't think I'm alone in finding this sick.

On Saturday October 15, 2005, Graveyard Games will be in Colma, San Francisco’s very own City of the Dead, so you can meet the living and play with the dead.

You’re invited to the
Italian Cemetery to get to know your local dearly departed, pay your respects, and learn Tombstone Hold ‘Em—the secret poker game you can only play in a cemetery.

Some of the instructions:
3. Bring a single flower to place on a grave to show some respect, and to signal that you’re one of us.
4. Take a few minutes to explore the cemetery. Look for any poker chips left on tombs. You’ll need these to play
5. Be sure to look for the grave of someone you can prove died on your birthday. You can use that tombstone as a Joker during the game.

Via Relapsed Catholic

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

October 14, 2005

Storyboard your life

Here's an interesting way to go about adding to your Legacy Archives.

Storyboard your life

A storyboard is a sequence of images and words drawn together on a page to form a plausible narrative.

Storyboards are routinely used in the movie making business to 'preview' a movie before a single shot is taken. Not only does a storyboard allow for a dress rehearsal of the final product but by the very fact of being posted on the wall,it elicits early feedback and encourages quick, painless editing, leading to significant savings in time and resources.

A storyboard is an apt metaphor for how we make sense of our own life history. Storyboarding can be used to sense emergent patterns in our own life story and to envision the life experiences that we wish to welcome into our future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:45 PM | Permalink

October 13, 2005

Still alive despite 4 death certificates

Woman, 97, still alive after dying four times.

Dona Romana has become a celebrity in Colombia after appearing on TV showing her death certificates.

She said: “I feel fine. Before I felt bad because I was ill but now I’m all right!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

Bomb Hell in Carriage 346A

Blue Watch relive the bomb hell inside carriage 346A in the Observer.

First account of the first firefighter who reached carriage 346A after the terrorist bombs exploded in the London Underground on July 7, 2005.

If Aaron Roche went through it, I can read it. It is the truth after all and what we face.

Some might find it too disturbing warns Norm.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:50 AM | Permalink

Newborn survives 8 hours in grave

From the Moscow News, New born baby survives stabbing, 8 hours in grave.

   Image From Moscow News

A woman from the Kirovsk region in Western Russia is facing charges of the attempted murder of her one-month-old baby boy, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office was quoted by Gazeta.ru as saying.

The mother reportedly stabbed her son in the neck twice, wrapped him in a blanket and buried his body in her vegetable garden. Thinking the baby was dead she told her husband that kidnappers had attacked her and seized the boy. The husband called the police, who came and found the baby still alive having spent eight hours underground.

Fortunately, his wounds were not fatal, but he has contracted pneumonia after spending so long in the cold and damp ground.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:20 AM | Permalink

October 11, 2005

Suicide Powerpoint Presentation

From the Onion

Project manager Ron Butler left behind a 48-slide PowerPoint presentation explaining his tragic decision to commit suicide, coworkers reported Tuesday.

In the presentation's first section, a three-dimensional bar graph illustrated the growth of Butler's sorrow during the two years since his wife and only child died in a car accident.

"We all got Ron's message loud and clear when that JPEG of his wife wipe-transitioned to a photo of her tombstone," coworker Anne Thibideux said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 PM | Permalink

The Color of Grief

Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life."

Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking.

I can't wait to read this book by one of our finest writers, the one with the clearest eye. She will get it right, the craziness, the rawness, the deep well of grief, the magical thinking. "Facing down tragedy", Time magazine calls it.

Unsentimental as ever, she dismisses any suggestion that she is simply being strong. "You don't have an option," she says. "It's another one of those deals in which you don't have an option." And then, amazingly, she laughs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:59 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2005

Lessons from a Decent Man

Lessons From a Decent Man via the Anchoress who calls it, The best piece I've read in weeks and weeks. She's absolutely right.

Whenever someone from our community passed away, my grandfather would call me. I would pick him up in my old beat up car (he would always tell me I drove like the best chauffeur in all the land) and we would head to the house of the bereaved. He would pay his respects for a few moments and then, open a closet door and pick out the nicest looking shoes. He would repeat that for everyone who lived in the house and on more than one occasion, was looked at as if he were 'daft' as he used to say. I would be waiting for him, on the back stairs, with a large well worn, brown grocery bag. Inside, was his shoe shining kit.

We would polish the shoes of the bereaved, taking as long as we needed to, because, as he said, 'They never remember to polish their shoes. The family needs to look 'proper.' He would tell me to take care to polish the children's shoes especially well- though children, they were equal in their loss. He would remind me that some might look at the children with a critical eye- he wanted to make sure the parents would be looked at in the best possible light.

I wanted to write this to remind people that in the end, in the very end, it is only decency that counts.

At my grandfather's funeral, many- many- people came up to my father and handed him envelopes- payments on loans my grandfather had made, without telling anyone. Many of those payments were enclosed in brown manila coin envelopes, handed respectfully to my father. They stayed for the whole service and then followed along to the cemetery, for the interment. They were among the last to leave. They wanted my father to know they would keep making their payments. My father was stunned.

The night before the funeral, about half a dozen people showed up at my home, to shine my shoes. I knew my grandfather was a decent man. It was on that evening, before the funeral, I understood that he was a great man. As I watched a few men polish my shoes, I saw dignity.

A man who felt for the grieving, saw what was needed, and just did it. A great man indeed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:09 PM | Permalink

'Too many to mourn'

It is impossible to imagine 30,000 suddenly dead in the Kashmir earthquakes. Here's a BBC report on one Pakastani family. What sadness, what grief.

So far they fear a cousin, a brother-in-law and his mother, brother, wife and four-month-old child are dead, and they have yet to hear from a sister in another village.
"We have uncles, aunts, and other relatives who are all dead," Jamil Ahmed, from Leyton, said.
"The local school collapsed and we don't know how many girls are buried underneath. There is no help."
The family are in constant contact with people in their village as they frantically try and get news about loved ones.
"Our brother-in-law, his mother, brother, wife and baby are all trapped. People can see their feet but they can't reach them," said Mr Ahmed.
'Too many to mourn'
"They buried 12 people today. Normally you would have 200 people going to one funeral, but only 25 people went to the burials. There is nobody around to go.
"People have laid many of the bodies out on the field, they are sitting with the dead bodies because there is no one to help bury them.
"There is nobody to dig graves for these people."
There are so many people who have lost their lives, we don't know who to mourn. There are too many to mourn.
Zahid Bashir, their nephew, said his brother is a doctor at a local hospital, but fortunately was not working there when the building collapsed.

"He said all the doctors at the hospital are dead. There is no one to give medical help." 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:16 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2005

Nameless Katrina Victims

The Majority of Dead Katrina Victims Nameless. This is sad.

More than a month after Hurricane Katrina, the vast majority of the nearly 1,000 dead in Louisiana lie anonymously in a morgue — largely because authorities have released only a few dozen names, but also, perhaps, because many of the victims' families were scattered by the storm and are still picking up the pieces of their lives.
"We know families must be frantic," said Department of Health and Hospitals spokesman Christina Stephens. "We completely understand and are trying to have it move efficiently and quickly, but we have no margin for error. We have to be 100 percent sure before we tell someone a body is their loved one."
Dr. Michael Doberson, an Arapahoe County, Colo., coroner who helped identify victims at the World Trade Center and in Louisiana, said one difference here is that "things are so much more scattered."
"It happened over such a great area so it's hard to get an idea where or who the people are," he said. "In 9-11 it was all at one site. There was a place for people to gather and present their plight. You aren't seeing that now probably because families are scattered and because there's not just one central place people can go to."

Frank Minyard, the Orleans Parish coroner, said his staff working in St. Gabriel is able to do 12-15 autopsies a day.
"I would estimate we will be here for at least a year," he said.
Both he and Cataldie said the majority of people died of natural causes such as strokes and heart attacks, and far fewer from drowning. Eight people had gunshot wounds, but Minyard said those would not be classified as homicides because the circumstances of the deaths were not known.
Minyard said he believes more people committed suicide than many realized, and cited as an example "a guy I know very well" who drank Freon refrigerant after seeing his storm-damaged property.
Officials said they have taken nearly 250 DNA samples from family members. But many dental records were ruined by the flood. The identifying of the dead was also slowed for days by Hurricane Rita. And because of criminal investigations, all of the more than 100 bodies recovered from nursing homes and hospitals had to be autopsied.
In Mississippi, 196 of the 221 known victims of Katrina have been identified. But tattoos, driver's licenses and physical characteristics have been used there — means of identification that Louisiana officials say are insufficient by themselves.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 PM | Permalink

Twin Burial for Son and Embalmed Mother

An Indian man loved his mother so much he had her embalmed, placed in a glass casket and brought her home much to the consternation of the neighbors.

Ghafoor consulted his mother even after her death.

"Before doing any thing important, he would write `yes' and `no' on two scraps of paper. Then sitting near the feet of his mother he will draw the lot and act accordingly," said Noor.

When the former English teacher died, he was buried in a Twin Burial for Son and Embalmed Mother.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:59 PM | Permalink

Human Brains for Racehorses

A forensic worker at a pathological lab in Brisbane, Australia sold pituitary glands from human brains so they could be injected into racehorses to make them run faster.

Worker 'stole human brains'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:45 PM | Permalink

A Daughter's 'Soul' Preserved by the "Enemy"

This story will give you the chills and give you some sense of the power of your personal Legacy Archives and the marvelous hand of fate.

A fiery book, a daughter's soul, the 30 year sore of a military intelligence officer and a publishing phenomenon in Vietnam. Vietnamese family reunites with fallen daughter by Elliott Blackburn.

Doan Ngoc Tram fell to her knees before the small cardboard box.
Her three daughters crowded close, holding her, as two small bone clasps were carefully undone and the lid of the box lifted. Two small, brown books sat side by side.

Ngoc Tram wept. The stoic woman clutched the diaries of her eldest daughter against her chest for the first time.

"This is the spirit of my sister," her daughter Dang Hien Tram later said through an interpreter. "This is my sister's soul."

The family had traveled thousands of miles from home to see the memoirs Wednesday, now held at the Texas Tech Vietnam Center.

The diaries hold the intimate details of the last few years of a young battlefield surgeon's life. They describe hiding in a trench filled with water to the neck, reciting poetry to pass the time. They share the private anguish of a young doctor's losing war on death.

They are of skies of fire and cratered earth, of battle-ravaged hospitals staffed with revolutionary fervor, of the love of family and country.
They are tales captured by an enemy that protected them for three decades; two diaries that joined two families separated by war.

A fiery book
Fred Whitehurst was standing before a drum of burning documents when his life changed.

A fiery book
Fred Whitehurst was standing before a drum of burning documents when his life changed.

Whitehurst was a military intelligence officer in his twenties, a self-described country boy from North Carolina who arrived in Vietnam in March 1969. As a non-commissioned officer in military intelligence, he interviewed prisoners and combed through captured documents with the help of South Vietnamese translators.

Documents with military value were sent to Saigon, but there was no place to store the captured poetry, letters from home and personal documents written by North Vietnamese soldiers or sympathizers.

Whitehurst routinely burned thousands of such documents in a 55-gallon barrel on the site, per military orders. But he was struck when a translator thumbed through a diary he had picked up from the pile and stopped him.

"Don't burn this one, Fred," Whitehurst remembered him saying. "It has fire in it already."

The sore
Fred held on to the diary for more than 30 years, hoping to return the book to Thuy's family.

"It was one of those unfinished things; it was like a sore that continued to bother and bother him," Robert said. "We talked about it on and on for 30 years."

At first, there was no way to find the family - Vietnam was off limits during the 1970s, he said. Fred considered a book or movie based on the diaries to attract the attention of the family. He dreamed of using any profit from the deal to build a hospital in Vietnam, a dream he now sheepishly described as childish.

"That's a stupid idea, a movie idea," Fred said.

The translations grew more refined. Robert, a riverboat pilot in the Vietnam War, spoke the language. Now a tugboat captain in New Orleans, he would spend each month he wasn't at sea translating the diaries his brother had recovered, struggling with his rusty Vietnamese and immersed in the story.

Finding Madam Tram

Ted Engelmann woke up to a ringing cell phone and splitting headache.

It was late April. Engelmann was in Vietnam hoping to complete the last phase of his life's work: a 37-year book project chronicling the changing memorials and scenes from four countries ravaged by the Vietnam War. He too was a Vietnam War veteran, an Air Force sergeant who directed air strikes.

Only a few days earlier, Engelmann had briefly met Fred and Robert Whitehurst. The social studies teacher listened to their hour-long presentation on the diary at the symposium, and volunteered to take a CD of scanned images to Hanoi.

It was late April. Engelmann was in Vietnam hoping to complete the last phase of his life's work: a 37-year book project chronicling the changing memorials and scenes from four countries ravaged by the Vietnam War. He too was a Vietnam War veteran, an Air Force sergeant who directed air strikes.

Only a few days earlier, Engelmann had briefly met Fred and Robert Whitehurst. The social studies teacher listened to their hour-long presentation on the diary at the symposium, and volunteered to take a CD of scanned images to Hanoi.

Now he was awake with a searing stress headache and Dang Thuy Tram's very excited sister on the phone.

"When can you be here?" she asked.

Engelmann said he moved every six months or so to different countries, and had developed contacts in Vietnam. He had landed in Hanoi carrying the disc, and sought the help of Lady Borden, a Quaker with good connections in the country.

Engelmann explained his mission to two of her assistants, expecting little. They called a hospital on the outskirts of the city referenced in the first recovered diary, but made no immediate progress, so he left. He was now in Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon), where he planned to shoot his final frames on the 37th anniversary of the fall of the capital.

The phone call was confusing, but the woman was insistent, he remembered.

"Then I realized who they were," Engelmann said. "Half my brain was hurting like hell, and the other half was trying to figure out how to help."

Tram's sisters and brother-in-law picked him up at the Hanoi airport. They traveled to a narrow concrete home with cream-colored walls. Engelmann carried his laptop and the CD of diary images in through the front door to a living room, and almost stepped back out in shock.

The house was packed with relatives and television camera crews.

"There were just so many people in there, and I didn't know who any of the people were," Engelmann said.

The entire home was not much larger than a typical American living room, he said. About 15 or 20 people crowded a small den of cushioned chairs and couches. A vase of white flowers - Thuy's favorite, he was told - stood next to one couch. Beyond was a small kitchen with a large table set for a great meal. Upstairs, under a ceiling that made the 6-foot-1-inch Engelmann bend over to stand, were bedrooms.

He took the place of honor at a kitchen table. He turned on his laptop, loaded the CD, and showed the family the two folders of images of the diaries.

"After that, I moved out of the way," Engelmann said.

Tears welled in the eyes of Thuy's mother, a gentle but strong 81-year-old matriarch, he said. He learned that earlier that year, in three major Vietnamese newspapers, the family had participated in news articles asking if anyone had any information about their fallen daughter. For months there had been no response.

Now an American veteran, an enemy soldier, had appeared unannounced to hand them their daughter's most intimate thoughts and memories on a disk.

"Here's a mom who's getting something back about her daughter," Engelmann said. "I was the guy who was able to give it to her, and I was just overwhelmed."

The believable hero

Ted Engelmann changed his plans, and finished his book with photographs from a trip he took with the Tram family to honor Thuy's grave. Fred Whitehurst was overjoyed to learn that the family had been almost immediately found, and traveled with his brother to Vietnam in August to meet the mother and sisters of the author who had haunted him.

Fred worried for years that the family would simply accept the diaries and then close the door. He returned with an adopted mother and sisters, he said.

"They really adopted us," Fred said. "How crazy is that?"

They quickly learned that the diaries had touched more than the Whitehurst family.

A normal press run for books in Vietnam is 1,000 - maybe 5,000 for very popular novels, said Quang Phu Van, a professor of Vietnamese Language and Literature in the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies.

The Dang Thuy Tram diaries, published this summer, have hit 200,000 according to the Vietnam Center.

Unlike previously published stories of war heroes issued by the government, tales of almost superhuman sacrifice and dedication, Vietnamese can relate to the stories of Thuy Tram and another recently published diary from a North Vietnamese soldier, Van said.

"This is something very genuine, and that's become a phenomenon in Vietnam," he said, adding that his father carries a copy of the diaries with him. "Someone who shared a loss of innocence, the guilt; this is something that people have a chance to see something different. Everyone talks about it."

Such stories are rare, said Vietnam Center associate director Stephen Maxner, though he wondered if more diaries kept by American soldiers would come forward after this.

Changing lives
The family wiped tears from their eyes and leafed through the diaries Wednesday morning at the Texas Tech Vietnam Center. At first overwhelmed with emotion, Thuy Tram's sisters thanked the archivists for preserving her diaries. Kim Tram hoped the stories would help bring the U.S. and Vietnam closer.

The Tram family found their sister and daughter again. The two handmade books with clean blue cursive writing had soul, they said.

"When we came to touch the diary, I had a feeling she'd come back with us," Kim Tram said through an interpreter.

Though they were not present, the experience had changed the Whitehurst brothers, too.

"I understand a lot more about the whole thing I was involved in as a young man because of this," Robert said. "I don't think I'll ever completely let go of it."

Fred dismisses his role in the story: "All I am is the camel that carried the water across the desert." He does not want closure from the war, does not want to forget what happened, he said. He does not want accolades.

He wants his mother to meet his adopted mother, which they will do later this week. And he takes joy in one final bit of serendipity - the popularity of the books has inspired a drive to build a hospital in Dang Thuy Tram's name, he said.

"Every flipping penny of it is going to a hospital in Pho Cuong," Whitehurst marveled. "My foolish, kind of childish dream of hospital beds in Duc Pho, it's coming true. To continue her life's work through such a bizarre path - me? It makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

A Diamond is Forever

  Diamond Is Forever

Life Gem, the company that presses the carbon remains of your loved one into a "certified, high-quality diamond" is now posting tributes as well of those whose memories still shine on.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:49 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2005

A hero or a beast

The biggest debate in Russia is going on about a body that's been dead for seventy years.

Was he "a hero or a beast, a gifted revolutionary or a syphilitic mass murderer?"

For eight decades he has been lying in state on public display, a cadaver in a succession of dark suits, encased in a glass box beside a walkway in the basement of his granite mausoleum. Many who revere him say he is at peace, the leader in repose beneath the lights. Others think he just looks macabre.

Time has been unkind to Lenin, whose remains here in Red Square are said to sprout occasional fungi, and whose ideology and party long ago fell to ruins. Now the inevitable question has returned. Should his body be moved?
"It is time to get rid of this horrible mummy," said Valeriya Novodvorskaya, head of the Democratic Union, a small reform party. "One cannot talk about any kind of democracy or civilization in Russia when Lenin is still in the country's main square."
She added: "I would not care even if he were thrown on a garbage heap."

I say just bury him in an unmarked grave.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:28 AM | Permalink

October 4, 2005

Germans Rewriting History

What happens when a nation seems intent on re-writing history, when a Great Legacy is ignored.

From David's Medinkritek, American-free German history.

Nothing about who started the Second World War.

On a related note, I watched a television documentary on Berlin earlier this summer that included a segment on the Berlin airlift.  It showed clips of the Berlin Airlift but not once did it mention who flew the planes.

Or the nation who ended the fascist murder state, funded its reconstruction, and protected its newborn democracy for decades.

On the day of German Unity, they forget America's contribution in the Cold War and America's role in German re-unification.

Nothing at the Brandenburg Gate and the decades long American effort to protect West Berlin culminating in President Reagan's call "Come to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Disturbing to say the least.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

Infant Euthanasia

"Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all.......Newborn babies have no sense of their existence over time" Hence they are disposable.

The chilling quote is by Peter Singer, a bioethicist professor at Princeton University. From Mercy! by Kathryn Jean Lopez.

At the moment, the "mercy killing" of infants isn't officially legal — even in the Netherlands. It's just happening. But the Groningen doctors seem to believe that if they can present guidelines by which doctors can break the law uniformly — the presumption being that they be professional about their killing — that a law allowing such killing will follow.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:51 PM | Permalink

October 1, 2005

Leo Sternbach, inventor of Valium

He invented Valium, though he preferred Scotch. Born in Basel, he worked for Hoffman-La Roche for 60 years, moving to the United States with the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in the early 40s.

Although Sternbach formally retired in 1973, he kept an office at Roche and continued to work there almost daily until he was 95. "I like to keep up with what is going on," he explained, "not only in chemistry, but in the world." He did not use Valium. "My wife doesn't let me take it," he said recently, "I like Scotch."

The Telegraph's obituary of Leo Sternbach who died at 97.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:48 AM | Permalink

$50 million Jennings' Estate

ABC News reports that Peter Jenning left an estate worth over $50 million.

The New York Daily News got the first look at Peter Jenning's will which was filed Wednesday in the New York's Surrogate Court in Manhattan.

Jennings, 67, left the bulk of his estate in trust for his two children, Elizabeth, 25, and Christopher, 23, from his marriage to writer Kati Marton, according to the will, filed Wednesday in Manhattan Surrogate's Court.
He left his Central Park West apartment to his widow, Kayce Freed, whom he wed in 1997, as well as a portion of his estate, as laid out in a prenuptial agreement the couple signed before their wedding.
Jennings, who died last month after battling lung cancer, reportedly earned as much as $10 million a year during part of his tenure at ABC. His will lists $50 million in personal property and $3.5 million in real property in New York.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 AM | Permalink