January 31, 2007

Is Fear of Aging, Fear of Death?

Why Ronni Bennett is always interesting to read, Fear of Death.

It is better, I think, to pay attention to the changes the later years bring – to see them, feel them, think about them and to talk about them and the mystery of life. Of course getting old is sad. It is leading up to saying goodbye for good and that always hurts. But I think – or, at least, I hope – that in doing it my way, facing age and all that it means as directly and openly as possible, I will be as ready to leave life behind, when the time comes, as my mother was.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Stonehenge was a Burial Site

Recent excavations near Stonehenge strongly suggest it was a burial site

That finding, said Parker Pearson, is supported by the earlier discovery of cremated remains at Stonehenge and new work indicating that as many as 250 cremated bodies are there.

"My guess is that they were throwing ashes, human bones and perhaps even whole bodies into the water, a practice seen in other river settings," Parker Pearson said.

Of Stonehenge, he said "it was our biggest cemetery of that time."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

How Easy It Is to Lose Things

See what happens when you don't write down where you put something for safekeeping and keep a backup copy.

NASA can't find the original tapes of Neil Armstrong on the Moon.

The original ones were much sharper and more detailed than the blurry ones we are familiar with.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

How the KGB Slandered a Dead Pope

So worried was the KGB about Catholic opposition to communism, they tried  to assassinate Pope John Paul II, corrupted many of the Polish clergy into collaboration with the secret police,  they also deliberately tried to smear the Vatican by portraying Pope Pius XII as a Nazi sympathizer.

Ion Michai Pacepa who was there before he became the highest ranking intelligence office to defect to the West, tells the amazing story never before told how the Kremlin decided to undermine the moral authority of the Church by attacking a dead man who could not defend himself. 

Moscow's Assault on the Vatican - The KGB made corrupting the Church a priority.

They pilfered documents from the Vatican archives that formed the basis for a play by an unknown playwright called  The Deputy  that caused a sensation around the world.  I remember being shocked at the implication that the Pope hated the Jews and was Hitler's Pope.  Today, that's what most people think.

Today, many people who have never heard of The Deputy are sincerely convinced that Pius XII was a cold and evil man who hated the Jews and helped Hitler do away with them. As KGB chairman Yury Andropov, the unparalleled master of Soviet deception, used to tell me, people are more ready to believe smut than holiness.

Turns out the play was all based on lies.

A few years later, Pope John Paul II started the process of sanctifying Pius XII, and witnesses from all over the world have compellingly proved that Pius XII was an enemy, not a friend, of Hitler. Israel Zoller, the chief rabbi of Rome between 1943-44, when Hitler took over that city, devoted an entire chapter of his memoirs to praising the leadership of Pius XII. “The Holy Father sent by hand a letter to the bishops instructing them to lift the enclosure from convents and monasteries, so that they could become refuges for the Jews. I know of one convent where the Sisters slept in the basement, giving up their beds to Jewish refugees.”

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January 30, 2007

The Little Death First.

It sounds like an adult version of the make-a-wish foundation for children.

Hospice helped dying man lose his virginity

A young disabled man who receives care for his life-limiting illness at a hospice run by a nun spoke yesterday of his decision to use a prostitute to experience sex before he dies.

"It was not emotionally fulfilling, but the lady was very pleasant and very understanding. I do not know whether I would do it again. I would much rather find a girlfriend, but I have to be realistic."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:00 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 29, 2007

Perky - One Tough Bird

Just a little shout out of appreciation for Perky, the ringtail duck.

She survived being shot.
She survived two  days in the refrigerator.
She almost died on the veterinarian's table until he performed a duck type of CPR.

She's only one pound, but she's one tough bird.

"She's alive!" Duck ducks death a third time.

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Father Robert Drinan, R.I.P.

Father Robert Drinan was a pioneer and he died a good death.

From SFGate
The Rev. Robert Drinan, a Jesuit who — over the objections of his superiors — was the only Roman Catholic priest elected as a voting member of Congress, died Sunday.

Drinan, 86, had suffered from pneumonia and congestive heart failure during the previous 10 days, ----

"His death was peaceful, and he was surrounded by his family," said the Rev. John Langan, rector of the Georgetown University Jesuit Community where Drinan lived.

He was the first Congressman to call for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon for the secret bombing of Cambodia.

Boston Globe

The sight of Father Drinan in the halls of Congress in his Roman collar was startling. Some even questioned the propriety of his wearing a cleric's collar and black suit on the floor of the House. Father Drinan had a standard response. "It's the only suit I own," he'd quip. 

In 1980, Pope John Paul II ordered Father Drinan to either forgo re election or leave the priesthood. With "regret and pain," Father Drinan announced he would not seek re election.
Father Drinan's unexpected announcement set off a scramble among prospective successors. The winner was US Representative Barney Frank , then a state representative from Beacon Hill.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

From Mosul, Michael Yon

  Michael Yon Photograph 1

When I read stories about our men and women in service and I think how lucky we are to have such men.  Where do we get them?

Michael Yon tells us in vivid stories, punctuated with marvelous photographs like the one above.  He gives us a glimmer of what these men go through when four of their number are blown up in a car bomb.  They mourn deeply and the missions keep on rolling.

If Americans really wanted to know their Army, American kids would be swapping trading cards of the battalion commanders and command sergeant majors, company commanders and 1st sergeants, and those legions of unknown squad-leaders who earn three Purple Hearts and decorations for valor before they are old enough to rent cars back home.

Desolate Roads

Just hours ago, after soldiers of the 2-7 Cavalry bid farewell to their latest fallen, some returned immediately to combat on the streets of Mosul, where they fight on desolate roads tonight, while I stayed back in safety to write these words.

He is entirely supported by readers, so give a little and learn a lot.

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January 27, 2007

Gangster's Moll

I would love to talk to the Telegraph's obituary writers if only to learn what Americans, not the famous ones, the unusual ones, about whom they have already written an obituary.  Like this one

Liz Renay, who died on Monday aged 80, was by turns a Las Vegas showgirl, gangster's moll, convicted felon, cult actress, stripper, streaker and charm school instructor.

Convicted of perjury in 1959 when her boyfriend, the racketeer Micky Cohen, was tried for tax evasion, she spent 27 months in prison, a sentence she always regarded as fatal to her career prospects as a budding film star.

An unhappy life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 26, 2007

Man Leaves Money to Strangers

If you don't have any family, you could do what Luis da Camera did and pick names from the phone book.

Portuguese man left money in his will to 70 strangers

Luis da Camara made his will at the age of 29 by picking names out of the Lisbon telephone directory.

He had no family, reports the Mirror.

Luis died earlier this month, aged just 42, leaving two houses, a car and £17,000 in cash.

The 70 strangers will each get around £6,000.

One beneficiary Helena Suares, 76, said: "At first I thought it was a hoax, but I need the money and I am very grateful to him."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Funeral Shock

Herzlinde Eissler didn't understand why her family didn't visit her in the hospital over Christmas.  When she was discharged, she went home only to discover her family organizing her funeral.

Her son Leopold Eissler, 39, said he had gone to visit his mother shortly before Christmas only to be told she was dead and had then spent the festive period organising her funeral.

He said: "I'm not sure whether to be delighted because my mother is alive or furious that they could have made such a mistake at the hospital.

"At least it explains why they could not find the body when we wanted to pay our last respects.

"I could not believe it when she walked in through the front door and the whole family were all sitting around dressed in black and planning the funeral."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Ghost brides

The dearth of women in China as a result of the one child campaign and the abortion and infanticide of females means many Chinese men will never get married.

Since many Chinese parents believe that people who go to their graves unmarried will never rest easy, many bereaved relatives buy "ghost brides" for the deceased so that they can be married posthumously in a "ghost wedding."

Some of the ghost brides die a natural death.  Sometimes corpses are dug up to sell as ghost brides.  Now comes news that women are being murdered so their corpses can be sold.

Men arrested for murdering "ghost" brides.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 24, 2007

This is low, even for a thief

How low is this!

Thief Steals Video Dying Mother Made for Son

Diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Melanie Worthington was concerned that her 5-year-old son Theo might not remember her after she was gone.

"When Melanie found out she was sick, she wanted to use the camcorder to make tapes for her little boy," her mother Carla Worthington said. "So we taped her making cookies with him, playing up at the cabin, anything that he might need to look back on and see how they did things together."

A few weeks after she died, someone walked through an unlocked door in the Worthington home and stole virtually all of the video remembrances she recorded.

Police have no suspects in custody, and the family has no duplicates of the tapes.

"It was like someone had come out and taken her away from us a second time," said her sister Marnie.

Carla Worthington, 61, said she and her husband, Phillip, 63, are both on disability, but managed to scratch up a reward of $200 for the return of the merchandise and the tapes.

"Maybe this is one way we can get them back," she said. "I guess I'm hoping for some kind of miracle."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:42 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 19, 2007

Art Buchwald, R.I.P.

"For most people, dying is a milestone. For Buchwald, it was fresh material."

Art Buchwald's Moveable Feast.  From Paris to D.C. He lived by his wit.

Washington Post obit by Patricia Sullivan

Buchwald, an owlish, cigar-chomping extrovert whose column won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1982, teased death for the past year, after kidney and vascular problems forced doctors to amputate one of his legs just below the knee. Refusing dialysis, in February he entered the Washington Home and Community Hospices, which he described as "a place where you go when you want to go."

"I just don't want to die the same day Castro dies," Buchwald told his friends, Bradlee said.

"I have no idea where I'm going, but here's the real question: What am I doing here in the first place?" he wrote in one of his columns.
Buchwald reveled in organizing his last hurrah. He called gossip columnists and radio talk show hosts to declare, "I'm still alive!" He talked on national television about planning his funeral, covering his bets by inviting ministers of different denominations.

In December, he told admirers at Wesley United Methodist Church in the District that he did not want to be remembered as dying after a long illness. "I want to die at 95 playing tennis against Agassi -- because he couldn't handle my serve," he told the crowd.

Columnist dies at 81.

Buchwald's Farewell Column

Apart from being funny, although after 30 years of rereading his famous Thanksgiving column, I am finally tired of it, I most admired the jauntiness of his farewell tour, in and out of hospice, ending at his most beloved Martha's Vineyard.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 18, 2007

Art in Death

In an earlier post, Art Honoring Life, I noted the emerging funerary arts movement.   

First a show, now a gallery with the opening this week in Sonoma County that's dedicated to crematory urns and other "personal memorial art"

The gallery, christened Art Honors Life, will showcase the work of some 40 artists and craftspeople who are collectively pioneering a new aesthetic of death — creating sophisticated vessels of burnished terracotta, redwood burl, black glass, even biodegradable paper mixed with ashes from ancient oaks that, in terms of sheer artistic ambitiousness, hark back to the ancient Egyptians.

“Art and beauty can assuage anxiety,” said Maureen Lomasney, the 56-year-old artist and gallery owner, who started the concept with a Web site called Funeria, and sponsored a juried exhibition in Philadelphia last fall called “Ashes to Art,” a kind of Venice Biennale for the urn set. “Our goal is to take away fear.”

Seems to work for Laura Clauson  whose mother now reduced to ashes  lie in an

artist-designed ceramic prayer wheel etched with stenciled leaves. Having her mother’s remains close by ---— is comforting to Ms. Clauson, a 50-year-old transportation planner. “I’ll walk by and give mom a spin,” she said of the vessel, which is attached to a turntable. “Her presence is here.”

“As our understanding of death changes over time, the forms we use to mourn also change,” said Robin Jaffe Frank, senior associate curator at the Yale University Art Gallery and the author of “Love and Loss: American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures” ... “We’re all object-oriented, and we need tangible forms to express our relationship to a person no longer here. Mourning art responds to a deeply felt need.”

In Death as in Life, A Personalized Space

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

First Catholic Crematorium

First Catholic Crematorium will be built in New Jersey

Despite the Catholic Church's preference for burial, the Metuchen Diocese will break ground today on the first crematory in the United States to be built by a diocese.

After forbidding cremation for centuries, the church began allowing it for Catholics in 1963, while maintaining a strong preference for burial.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 AM | Permalink

January 17, 2007

Write for Your Life

Wouldn't all of us love to have a journal, a memoir, a letter, from those we have loved and lost? Shouldn't all of us leave a bit of that behind?

Anna Qundlen in Write For Your Life.

in the age of the telephone most communication became evanescent, gone into thin air no matter how important or heartfelt. Think of all those people inside the World Trade Center saying goodbye by phone. If only, in the blizzard of paper that followed the collapse of the buildings, a letter had fallen from the sky for every family member and friend, something to hold on to, something to read and reread. Something real. Words on paper confer a kind of immortality.
That's also what writing is: not just a legacy, but therapy. As the novelist Don DeLillo once said, "Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Flesh-eating bug kills top economist in 24 hours

David Walton, 43, complained of fever and stomach pain when he was admitted to Cheltenham General Hospital.

A leading economist, he joined investment bank Goldman Sachs in 1987, where he became its Chief European Economist and in 2005
became a policy maker on the Bank of England’s rate-setting committee.

He suffered an agonising death when a horrific flesh-eating bug took over his body in just 24 hours.

Doctors watched helplessly as David Walton, 43, was struck down by necrotising fasciitis.

Flesh-eating bug killed top economist in 24 hours

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

Heart Attack Kills Groom at Wedding

From Australia, a very sad and sudden death.

Heart Attack Kills Groom at Wedding Reception.

COMPLETE happiness and gut-wrenching tragedy were just hours apart for Stamatia Mavromatis on what was supposed to be the most wonderful day of her life.

When the bride, 26, walked out of the Croydon church in which she had married Tom Mavromatis on Saturday, she was beaming – looking forward to a life of "special love".

Eight hours later her husband was dead – collapsing with a heart attack at his wedding reception, before he could make his speech.

That speech will now be read at the funeral of Mr Mavromatis, 34.

The tragedy, at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, unfolded in front of the couple's 150 guests about 9pm.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:31 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Death by Water Intoxication.

A 28-year-old woman really wanted the new Nintendo Wii video game system, so she decided to take part in a radio contest, called "Hold Your Wee for a Wii."

She died of water intoxication.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 15, 2007

Tchaikovsky, Suicide or Misfortune?

How did Tchaikovsky die?

Death from cholera was the official version endorsed by doctors in St Petersburg after the composer's demise on November 6, 1893, and repeated by early biographers. Supposedly, Tchaikovsky had drunk a glass of unboiled tap water, which seems a reckless thing to do during an epidemic of a fatal water-borne disease. None the less, his death was imputed to carelessness rather than deliberate self-destruction.

But almost immediately, alternative versions of the story began to circulate, most of them predicated on the idea that the composer had died not from disease, but from arsenic poisoning. Some surmised that he had killed himself in despair at his homosexuality, or fear of its disclosure.

The composer's drinking and gambling binges suggested another possible motive for self-extinction. While another variant had Tchaikovsky contracting cholera from a male prostitute, many dismissed the cholera story precisely because it was considered a disease of poverty, much too squalid a fate for the famous and solidly bourgeois Tchaikovsky.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 14, 2007

Larry Stewart, Secret Santa R.I.P.

He died, dubbed Secret Santa,  known for his generosity.

Larry Stewart Secret Santa dead at 58

Mr. Stewart, who spent 26 years giving a total $1.3 million, gained international attention in November when he revealed himself as Secret Santa. He was diagnosed in April with cancer and said he wanted to use his celebrity to inspire other people to take random kindness seriously.

"That's what we're here for," Mr. Stewart said in a November interview, "to help other people out."
Mr. Stewart said he offered the simple gifts of cash every year because it was something people didn't have to "beg for, get in line for, or apply for."

Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind,  Henri Frederik Amiel. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:30 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 13, 2007

Imperial Tombs

The imposing burial mounds of Japan's ancient emperors, the Imperial tombs, have lain virtually untouched for 1700 years.

Today, several academic organizations - historians, archaeologists, zoologists  - have been granted royal permission to visit and inspect.

Given that there are more than 200,000 ancient burial mounds, called kofun, and even if only the biggest  were revered as the tombs of ancient emperors, many have been wrongly designated as such.

Did the Japanese imperial bloodline consist only of Japanese or were there intermarriages with Chinese and Korean ancestors?

Purity of bloodline was and still is a big deal in Japan even if it seems pretty silly to me. 

Until now, the Imperial Household Agency refused  all requests for inspections maintaining that "the tranquillity of the imperial souls should not be disturbed."

Maybe the burials are far enough past, the myth of racial purity increasingly heavy to continue to support that the findings of the new inspections  - which should be extremely interesting no matter what they show  = are more tantalizing and attracting than the continued adherence to the myth of blood purity.

It's like CSI examining the physical evidence of Japan's ancient history, an imperial myth and a long-buried secret known only to mother earth.

Imperial Tombs opened to view

The Japanese royal family claims direct descent from Amaterasu, the Shinto celestial sun goddess who rules Takamagahara (“high celestial plain”)

She presented her grandson, Ninigi no Mikoto, with the Imperial Regalia, right — a mirror, a sword and a jewel — also known as the Three Sacred Treasures, representing courage, wisdom and benevolence

Ninigi no Mikoto in turn passed the regalia on to his descendants, and the three treasures are now considered the symbols of Imperial legitimacy

After the Second World War the Imperial’s Family claim to be deities was officially abolished.

via Pure Land Mountain, So Who is Buried in All Those Emperors' Tombs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Stumble stones

Artist Gunter Demning has installed more than 10,000 stopersteine - stumble stones, into the sidewalks of 202 German cities and stones.

They are meant to trip memory.

            Stumble Stones

Each is a brass plaque measuring about 4 by 4 inches and hand-engraved by artist Gunter Demnig with the name and a few terse details of someone lost to the Holocaust. Each stumble stone is set permanently into the sidewalk outside the place where the individual lived, laughed, and loved -- usually a house or apartment building and sometimes a shop or office.
"Here lived
Berta Spiegel
Born "Scheuer"
[In the] Year 1879
Deported to Theresienstadt
Dead 16-2-1942"

"Stumble stones are on streets where everyone walks. The names cry out from the sidewalks of everyday life."
"This is my life's work. I will continue for as long as I'm able," Demnig said. "Giving names back to the dead is a way of keeping them alive."

In Germany, singular remembrances.

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January 11, 2007

Terror of the Cloud People

  600 Year Old Mummy

Three months ago, a farmer working high in the mountains at the edge of the Peruvian rainforest came across a hidden burial vault. 

Archaeologists exploring the site have found Kuelap, a spectacular citadal of the Chachapoyas, the cloud people, consisting of more than 400 buildings and defensive towers.

Moment 600 years ago that terror came to Mummies of the Amazon.

Herman Crobera, leader of the archaeological team says, "This is a discovery of transcendental importance."

"It is the first time any kind of underground burial site this size has been found belonging to Chachapoyas or other cultures in the region."
'The remote site for this cemetery tells us that the Chachapoyas had enormous respect for their ancestors because they hid them away for protection,' added Mr Crobera.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Mr Noodle

The ramen noodle, a dish of "effortless purity" that attains a "state of grace through a marriage with nothing but hot water"  and satisfies more than 100 million people every day was invented by a single man who died last week at 96 in Japan.


Mr. Noodle is appreciated in the New York Times.
Ramen noodles have earned Mr. Ando an eternal place in the pantheon of human progress. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything.

His Times obituary is here
Momofuku Ando, who — to the delight of dormitory students and other kitchen-resistant customers worldwide — invented those small packets of preflavored dried noodles that require just a three-minute boil, died Friday at a hospital in Osaka, Japan. Mr. Ando, the founder of the Nissin Food Products Company, was 96.
In July 2005, the company vacuum-packed portions of instant noodles so that a Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, could have them on the space shuttle Discovery. Mr. Ando said at the time, “I’ve realized my dream that noodles can go into space.”

Update:  There's an unofficial ramen website here whose founder Matt Fischer says,
Instant Ramen is more than a food for cash-strapped college students (although thats where many of us “picked up the habit”). My neighbor’s health-conscious (and pregnant) wife has gone back to ramen as a comfort food. I offer my final proof of the widespread consumption of ramen, with this data from the Wikipedia: an estimated 70 Billion servings were sold in 2004. That’s enough ramen for about 11 servings per person per year! So, when you consider that ramen is just a simple food or a minor invention, think of what other things in the world have grown from 1 to 70,000,000 servings in the past 49 years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:44 AM | Permalink

Still Not Buried

James Brown apparently didn't leave any directions about his burial.

James Brown's Body Has Not Been Buried

The body of soul singer James Brown has yet to be buried as attorneys and his children work to settle issues surrounding his estate, including where he will be laid to rest.

For now, his body lies in a sealed casket in his home on Beech Island,..The room where Brown's body lies is being kept at a controlled temperature, and security guards keep watch.
The hope is that all parties can sit down and figure out what the problem is and what the challenges are," attorney Thornton Morris said. "And once we figure out what the challenges are we'll see if we can't resolve something that's a win for everybody."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 10, 2007

Obscene words written on dying boy

Another sad death because of the idiocy of fraternity initiations.

Phanta "Jack" Phoummarth, 18,  passed out and lay dying of alcohol poisoning - his alcohol level was 4.1 - while young frat members scrawled obscenities and drew pictures of genitalia along with the U of Texas logo on his body.

Autopsy: Obscene words on UT student's body

My sympathies to his parents on this sad death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

The Final Exam for Surgeons

From a Review in the NYTimes of Final Exam, A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality by Pauline Chen 

When it comes to confronting death, doctors are as much at a loss as the rest of us. They are in the business of saving lives, not ending them. By instinct and by training, they avoid what Pauline W. Chen calls “the final exam,” the emotional challenges posed by terminally ill patients. Death represents failure. It asks unanswerable questions. Perhaps most vexingly, it threatens to crack the hard professional shell of detachment that medical training puts in place. In modern American medicine, death is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

  Pauline Chen-1

“That great passing of life was too sacred; it was nearly magical,” she writes. “Death was an immutable moment in time, locked up as much in our particular destiny as in the time and date of our birth.”

She also laments the lack of training in talking to patients, especially about death. Doctors, like everyone else, avoid the topic. Institutionally, discussions of death are limited to formal inquiries known as morbidity and mortality conferences, in which surgeons analyze recent deaths on the operating table in the hope of learning from them.

Outside the conferences, death is the unwelcome, awkward visitor who stops conversation. Dr. Chen cites a survey showing that one-quarter of oncologists failed to tell their patients that they were suffering from an incurable disease. Nearly half of the doctors in another study rated themselves as “poor” or “fair” in breaking bad news to their patients
Dr. Chen experiences an epiphany when she witnesses a break with tradition. Normally, in a patient’s final hours, doctors close the curtain around the bed and disappear, leaving family members alone with their dying relative. But one doctor, trying to console an elderly woman whose husband is dying, stays with her by the side of the bed. As she holds her husband’s hand, he tells her what the strange sights and sounds on the monitors are saying, and what her husband is experiencing as life ebbs away. That scene of compassion and communication, in the midst of high-tech beepings and buzzings, shows what doctors can do when nothing can be done.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:09 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 9, 2007

Starving elderly patients

I simply can not understand how doctors in England could allow an elderly patient to starve to death when she begged for food.  I find it horrifying. 

Doctors 'left elderly stroke victim to starve to death'

An elderly stroke victim begged for a beetroot sandwich and macaroni cheese in hospital but no attempt was made to feed her, an inquest was told yesterday.

Olive Nockels, 91, a former school matron, died after surviving for nearly a month on a subcutaneous drip that delivered only a quarter of the calorie intake specified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a short-term starvation diet.

Even that was stopped for four days when the hospital claimed that she was suffering from excess fluid.

Her grandson, Christopher West, told William Armstrong, the Coroner, at the inquest in Norwich: “The only thing that was said most of the time, as the weeks went on, was that she hadn’t died yet.

“Immediately after her admission it became clear it was their intention not to treat her.”
Mrs Nockels’s daughter, Ivy West, told the coroner that her mother’s hearing aid and dentures had been removed — for reasons given to her as comfort and safety. She denied that her mother, from Holt, Norfolk, was incapable of responding when she visited.

“I talked to her every day,” she said. “She would tell me she was cold and that she wanted something to eat.

I wonder how much this has to do with the national healthcare system,  the pressure to contain costs, or because the attending doctors thought she had lived long enough.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 6, 2007

An Awareness of Death

Each of us would do well the cultivate an awareness of the  death so as to do those necessary things to make the future lives of our children and  easier and to live our lives more fully and gratefully.    While we should do this, not enough of us do.

The people who do so on a regular basis  are those men and women in our military service..

Here's what J.B. Smith wrote, A Soldier's Thoughts

I went to Iraq prepared to die. A former soldier called out of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), I was a supporter of the war and ready and willing to do my part. I got into decent physical shape, signed my medical waivers, and volunteered for the job of training Iraqi Troops and taking them into combat. I had no illusions as to the potential price I, or my wife and 2-year-old daughter might have to pay. I made my burial wishes known and wrote about 50 letters to my daughter, dated and spaced to guide her through the challenges which I knew would come in life. I made peace with the plausibility of my death, content in my knowledge that our mission was critical for the ultimate stability of the world and the best course available for American security.

When my daughter was 26, she would finally receive the letter explaining my attitudes towards the war and how I felt about my death. This is the phrase which I believe best captured it:

"In order to secure the American people, democracy had to be spread to the region because democratic governments are far less prone to going to war and they are far less prone to internal strife and violence. The process couldn't help but be messy, but it was necessary. Obviously, I don't know how this experiment works out, but you do. If Iraq is a democratic nation now, or if Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi, Kuwait, or one of the others has become democratic, then the war was worth it. However, if we pulled out because we lost too many soldiers and got out in an act of political expediency, then I did die in vain."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:06 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

"She loved kitties and earthquakes, glacial calving.."

Songwriter Burt Bacharach and actress Angie Dickinson in a statement Friday said that their daughter, Nikki Bacharach, committed suicide.

Nikki Bacharach, 40, suffered from Asperger's Disorder, a form of autism. She killed herself Thursday night at her condo in Thousand Oaks, said Linda Dozoretz, a spokeswoman for the family.

"She quietly and peacefully committed suicide to escape the ravages to her brain brought on by Asperger's," the statement said.

Born prematurely in 1966, Lea Nikki Bacharach studied geology at Cal Lutheran University, but could not pursue a career in the field because of poor eyesight.

"She loved kitties, and earthquakes, glacial calving, meteor showers, science, blue skies and sunsets, and Tahiti," the statement said.

Condolences to the family on their loss

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 5, 2007

Death by Oreos

Daniela Edberg, creates some very witty photographs that make light of secret binges by women.  Here is Death by Oreos

  Death By Oreos-1

Death by M&Ms,
Death by Slimfast
Death by Cotton Candy
Death by Lifesavers

See all the photographs in the series, Drop Dead Gorgeous and read the interview by Nicole Pasulka.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 4, 2007

Reaction to Saddam's Execution

When an illicit video of Saddam's execution showing was smuggled out and published in short order on the web,  many had second doubts about the raucous mocking behavior of the executioners.

Ambivablog writes about her mixed feelings.  Varifrank compares Time magazine's reporting of the death of Benito Mussolini with the coverage of Saddam's execution in Gauge the Distance.

I believe the trial was fairer than any other in the Mideast even if I have a twinge of distaste that the circumstances surrounding the execution were not more controlled.  I certainly didn't feel satisfaction, revenge or glee at his ignominious end but I did feel that the execution was a sound thing and the Iraqis were entirely justified in demanding it.

It certainly was not a show trial.  Neo-neocon vividly reminds us of show trials and the way Saddam used them to kill his political opponents and terrorize anyone who would speak against him .

But then I again, I support the execution of any mass murderer after conviction in a trial as I do the execution of any terrorist convicted of murdering civilians because I don't want any situation to arise where innocent people could be kidnapped and used as blackmail to force their release.

The Sanity Squad, four mental health professionals,  seem to think it was a case of justice being served at  last in their latest podcast, Ding Dong.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:20 AM | Permalink

January 3, 2007

So Much Better Than Plain Online Photos

Share Grandma's Birthday with Music and Animation

Unlike many other photo-sharing services, Smilebox does not require users to upload photos to the Web site and edit them there. Rather, since users download the template, they need only drag images to the desired locations on the template, then upload the entire file to the Web site. Smilebox then delivers e-mail messages to the user’s friends and family, inviting them to view the book.

Check it out Smilebox

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 2, 2007

Steyn, world's wittiest obit writer

Here's Mark Steyn's Farewell, 2006.

It's not a comprehensive list: just a good cocktail-party mix of presidents, mass murderers, and a few odd figures I ran into over the years. But, one way or the other, we won't see their like again:

The Washington Post calls Mark Steyn, "maybe the world's wittiest obit writer."

He pens obits for the Atlantic and elsewhere and has just published
Mark Steyn's Passing Parade - a "collection of Mark's obituaries and appreciations - from Ronald Reagan and the Queen Mother to Ray Charles and the guy who invented Cool Whip."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 1, 2007

Not just every soldier, every father

You really realize how important keeping a personal legacy archive is when you read about First Sgt. Charles King who kept a journal  for his baby son Jordan when he first deployed to Iraq.

This drawing he did will be how his son imagines him.

    Drawing Soldier Angel

For his son Jordan, these words his father took time to write down will be how he will come to know his father who was killed by an ICD.

His fiance Dana Canedy writes "From Father to Son, Last Words to Live By".

On paper, Charles revealed himself in a way he rarely did in person. He thought hard about what to say to a son who would have no memory of him. Even if Jordan will never hear the cadence of his father’s voice, he will know the wisdom of his words.

Never be ashamed to cry. No man is too good to get on his knee and humble himself to God. Follow your heart and look for the strength of a woman.

Charles tried to anticipate questions in the years to come.
Favorite team? I am a diehard Cleveland Browns fan. Favorite meal? Chicken, fried or baked, candied yams, collard greens and cornbread. Childhood chores? Shoveling snow and cutting grass. First kiss? Eighth grade.

In neat block letters, he wrote about faith and failure, heartache and hope. He offered tips on how to behave on a date and where to hide money on vacation.
Rainy days have their pleasures, he noted: Every now and then you get lucky and catch a rainbow.
Toward women, he displayed an old-fashioned chivalry, something he expected of our son.
Remember who taught you to speak, to walk and to be a gentleman, he wrote to Jordan in his journal. These are your first teachers, my little prince. Protect them, embrace them and always treat them like a queen.

The 18th was a long, solemn night,
he wrote in Jordan’s journal. We had a memorial for two soldiers who were killed by an improvised explosive device. None of my soldiers went to the memorial. Their excuse was that they didn’t want to go because it was depressing. I told them it was selfish of them not to pay their respects to two men who were selfless in giving their lives for their country.

Things may not always be easy or pleasant for you, that’s life, but always pay your respects for the way people lived and what they stood for. It’s the honorable thing to do.

When Jordan is old enough to ask how his father died, I will tell him of Charles’s courage and assure him of Charles’s love. And I will try to comfort him with his father’s words.

God blessed me above all I could imagine,
Charles wrote in the journal. I have no regrets, serving your country is great.

He tucked a message for Dana in the front of the journal.

This is the letter every soldier should write, he said. For us, life will move on through Jordan. He will be an extension of us and hopefully everything that we stand for. ... I would like to see him grow up to be a man, but only God knows what the future holds.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

He Never Saw Death Coming

Cornerback for the Denvers Broncos, Darrent Williams probably thought he had it all when hired a white Hummer limousine to celebrate the New Year with a few friends.

That is until 2 am this morning when a vehicle came close to the white Hummer to spray it with gunshot, killing Darrent dead in what the police called a drive-by shooting.

He was 24.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:27 PM | Permalink | TrackBack