Henry Russell was trapped in a West Virginia coal mine with more than 100 others when he began writing loving last messages to his family with pieces of coal on scraps of paper torn from bags of cement before shutting the scraps in his lunch box before he lay to die.
Diana Jones, the American country singer who recorded her song about Henry Russell to raise money for a permanent memorial at the site of the mine disaster in Everertville paid him credit,
I didn't add much," she said. "A lot of it is verbatim... I just feel so honoured to give his words a form that will live on."
Henry Russell's last words
Still alive but air is getting bad. Oh how I love you, Mary.
Dear father, I will be going soon. We are just cold and when the air comes it will be bad as we are on the return side. Will meet you all in heaven. We are going to heaven. We have plenty of time to make peace with the Lord. H Russell
I will soon be going to leave this world. Stay in America and give kids a home and marry again if you have a notion but God bless you and the kids. HR
Dear Mary, tell father I was saved. Also the Erskines. We don't feel any pain. Try and stay in the USA. Love to the kids. H Russell.
You can listen to the song here.
Jack Valenti died at 85, an unforgettable man.
From an Appreciation by Paul Farhi in the Washington Post.
Hollywood would never have cast Jack Valenti in the role he played in real life, which was as the film industry's man in Washington. Valenti was too florid in speech, too grandiose in manner, too much of a wit to fit the cinematic archetype of the conniving Washington fixer and shadowy string-puller.
Hollywood will sorely miss Valenti's battlefield smarts and insider skills. His most famous creation was the industry's movie-rating system -- a marketing masterstroke that substituted "self-regulation" for the threatened legislative kind
But Valenti's single greatest professional coup was an obscure one.
It's worth reading the entire thing to appreciate how wired Valenti was and how cleverly he used his juice.
His obituary, A Hollywood Promoter on Both Coasts by Adam Bernstein
With an instinctive showman's flair -- notably his grandiloquent speaking style and access to movie stars -- Valenti became the dominant power broker connecting Capitol Hill and the film colony. Besides his work on the ratings system in the late 1960s, he helped open up world markets for American-made films and secured passage of copyright legislation to protect movies into the digital age, which led to the proliferation of DVDs.
I knew he worked for President Johnson, but I never knew he married Johnson's personal secretary. His grandiloquent prose was often over the top, as when he declaimed before a congressional panel in 1982, "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."
But I'm charmed by his description of a movie audience as "unknown but enthusiastic companions of a single night."
Money has replaced sex as a driving force, death has replaced sex as a taboo, and sex has replaced bridge as a social event for mixed foursomes,
When nine paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division were killed in a suicide truck bombing in Iraq this week in the single deadliest attack in nearly 40 years for the storied division, Lorie Byrd writes
The television reports of today consist almost completely of casualty figures, and often soundbites of politicians, with no context of the battle whatsoever. ... There is an entire generation of reporters that evidently believe that if anyone is killed in battle, then it by definition cannot be counted a success.
I am not advocating minimizing the significance of our casualties -- quite the opposite. What is a better way to honor the fallen? To recite a casualty number and express pity, or to tell the story of some of the successes those brave men and women achieved at the cost of their very lives? I realize that news is not about honoring the fallen, but it should at least be about telling the story -- the whole story.
Jules Crittenden writes
Turns out al-Qaeda wanted these soldiers dead for a reason.
Citizens were approaching the Americans in Diyala to tell them of weapons caches and IEDs hidden by the terrorist "insurgents".
Local tribal leaders had also come to the patrol base to reach out to the Iraqi army and the Coalition leadership.
I’m a little mystified this didn’t make the AP reports I’ve seen. Usually in my business, when an event happens that you consider to be significant, you grab all the background you can on those involved.
Mystifying and discouraging as well. Lorie is absolutely right. Whether or not you support the war, young men and women are being killed because they are fighting and fighting well for what they believe in.
If the media is going to ruminate for days over the scribblings and videos of a mad, deranged killer at Virginia Tech in a vain attempt to explain his evil and senseless killings, why can it not give us the rest of the story when it comes to our soldiers in Iraq?
Ann Althouse writes
When I see someone with a tattoo, I usually think: you're going to have that as part of your body until the day you die. And then you're going to have that on your body in your grave. You and that tattoo are in a death grip.
It's an old post, but her most popular one.
Theodore Dalrymple on The Eternal Present
What was most striking about the tombstones of the last 15 years, however, was the complete absence of any religious sentiment or reference in their inscriptions, apart from an occasional “God bless,” the kind of thing some people say on a casual parting, as they hurry on to their next destination. Religion, it seems, is dead, even on consecrated ground.
Such information about the dear departed as appeared on the tombstones was wholly secular, a projection of the daily preoccupations of the living, as if no other life concerned or could concern them.
What kind of people are they whose friends or relatives deem their “support” for a football team so important that it is the only aspect of their life worthy of memorial after death? In what kind of culture does this reduced and childish notion of a human life not produce a sense of embarrassment or shame? That culture is certainly not the product of poverty, at least in the economic sense: the parish is exceptionally rich, .... Economic poverty and poverty of spirit are not the same thing. Meaning and transcendence now seem as thoroughly interred in the cemetery as the people who died.
Professor Liviu Librescu was buried today, A Hero Laid to Rest.
Alison Kaplan Sommer was there
It was also the first time anyone buried in my local cemetery had been praised two days earlier by the president of the United States. In a Holocaust Memorial ceremony Wednesday, President Bush praised Librescu’s heroism in the shooting that took place on the day set aside to remember Hitler’s victims, “On the Day of Remembrance, this Holocaust survivor gave his own life so that others may live. And this morning we honor his memory and we take strength from his example.”
Said his elder son Joe
I walked through the streets today with my head held high because I have such a father.
Pat Buckley died this week in Stamford, Connecticut, of an infection, after a long illness.
Her death marks the end of a certain era in New York society, the New York Times calls "Nouvelle Society" of which Pat was Present at the Creation and the End.
It is not just that, as Oscar de la Renta said on Tuesday, Pat Buckley “had a big life.” It is not, as the Vogue contributor William Norwich remarked, that Mrs. Buckley belonged to a particular group of prominent women reared to “know food, know how to run a house, know how to garden, know how to decorate,” and also raise millions for charitable causes. And it is not just that she represented a time when wealthy women actually paid for their own clothes and were not generally available as props to be hired along with the cocktail glasses to dress up the openings of designer boutiques.
It is that Mrs. Buckley, her friends said, understood the difference between merely having wealth and putting it to interesting use. This is probably not an insignificant distinction in a city like our own.
The staff and contributors to National Review pay tribute to the boss's wife and her wicked sense of humor at an online symposium
...the mayor of New York, sat next to her at the dinner table, giving his short billionaire know-it-all opinions of everything, in this case the effects of second hand smoke. She blew a puff in his face, and drawled, “Mr. Mayor, may I smoke in my own house?” - Richard Brookhiser
If the press insists on calling her a “socialite,” those who knew her will add that her socializing changed society. She combined the kitchen of St. Martha and the salon of Madame Recamier and great events in our generation were shaped by that...Father George Rutler
What is relevant is that Pat let — and helped — her equally larger-than-life husband undertake the monumental task of launching a massive political/ideological movement that played a central role in bringing freedom to millions of tyrannized people. Now that’s not a bad accomplishment to have on your record as you meet Saint Peter...Jack Fowler
NRO Obituary here
Washington Post obituary
With her famously tall and slender figure, Mrs. Buckley had a regal presence at social gatherings. Women's Wear Daily called her "chic and stunning," and she moved easily among world leaders, royalty, politicians, artists and philanthropists
New York Times obituary
“Life is very difficult and everything kills you,” she once said. “The only thing you can do nowadays is sit fully clothed in the woods and eat fruit.
Despite her own highly visible profile, she generally identified herself as “Bill’s wife and Chris’s mother.”
“I’m a lot of other things too, but those come first,” she said. Christopher Buckley, the satirical author and editor, was her only child.
Condolences to her family R.I. P.
An Australian scientist called Wednesday for an end to the age-old tradition of cremation, saying the practice contributed to global warming.
Professor Roger Short said people could instead choose to help the environment after death by being buried in a cardboard box under a tree.
The decomposing bodies would provide the tree with nutrients, and the tree would convert carbon dioxide into life-giving oxygen for decades, he said.
"The important thing is, what a shame to be cremated when you go up in a big bubble of carbon dioxide," Short told AFP.
"Why waste all that carbon dioxide on your death?"
I laughed when I first read this, but then again, I prefer burial to cremation for the same reasons.
The body of Julia Campbell, 40, a Peace Corps volunteer, was found in a shallow grave in a remote area of the Philippines.
Soldiers uncovered her body close to the village after a 10-day search. Her feet were protruding from the soil.
"Theory is she was killed," Beth Cedo, a spokeswoman for the police, said in a mobile phone text message.
Fortunately for her family, her friends and those who want to read about a woman who left all behind for a time to help others, she left a weblog, Julia in the Philippines.
Those who knew her and loved her can learn more about her life and what she thought and draw closer to her even as they mourn her loss.
Why Bigger Furnaces for Crematoriums are necessary.
The spread of obesity is causing a problem for funeral directors and crematorium managers, it has been disclosed. Their clients are now often so large that their coffins will not fit into the furnaces, town hall chiefs said.
What is grieving for and what purpose does it serve?
Dennis Prager understands more about the nature of grief than some of the university officials at VT who planned the convocation "to begin the healing process" in You're Dead, I'm Healing.
I believe that this early healing talk is both foolish and immoral.
It is foolish because one does not speak about healing the same day (or week or perhaps even month) that one is traumatized -- especially by evil. One must be allowed time for anger and grief. To speak of healing and "closure" before one goes through those other emotions is to speak not of healing but of suppression.
Not to allow people time to experience their natural, and noble, instincts to feel rage and grief actually deprives them of the ability to heal in the long run. After all, if there is no rage and grief, what is there to heal from?
Dr. Sanity is even better on the importance of proper grieving.
Indeed. There is this strange belief among the intellectual elites; even among many psychiatrists and mental health professionals that feeling anguish and grief are wrong and must be avoided at all cost. Or if you must feel them, then they must be instantly transformed into a focus on this thing called "healing"....
These well-meant but ultimately invalidating pressures to "begin the healing process" actually hinder the natural expression of normal grief, which can only come about after painful reflection and the resolution of a variety of conflicting emotions, including anger, sadness, hopelessness, outrage and regret (to name just a few).
Appropriate mourning also requires coming to terms with the nature and manner of the loss; a quest for justice on behalf of the victim when appropriate; and even the painful re-living and re-experiencing of what happened; until it can be completely processed and internally metabolized.
It hurts and hurts and hurts. But that is how we grow.
The major ingredient of a normal grieving process is time. It cannot, nor should it be expected to, be resolved or "healed" in a day, or a few days, or even a month or two. For the families of those who died, it may take years and years.
If nothing else, we owe it to the memory of those we have lost not to "heal" too quickly, but to take the time to experience the pain and suffering of their loss; transforming it slowly into personal growth and wisdom.
He lived through horror of the holocaust. He refused to swear allegiance to and then escaped from Communist Romania. When horror came to Virginia Tech, he saw it for the evil it was and sacrificed his life to save his students.
Liviu Librescu, 76, a professor of aerospace and ocean engineering, died holding the door against horror. He saved a classroom of students, giving them time to jump out the window, while he held the door shut with his body until the gunman, Seung-hui Cho, forced it open and shot him dead.
My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Librescu's son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping.
Librescu emigrated to Israel, then to the United States where he and his wife enjoyed two decades of peace and prosperity.
The story of his heroic act shot around the world. But he is mourned by those who knew him and those who loved him, from the academic community in Romania where he was recognized with honorary degrees for his academic work, to his friends in Israel, and to his wife and son who, in their grief, must be immensely proud.
Our deep condolences and our salute to a brave hero.
Update. Joe Katzman writes
In the Jewish community, the response to hearing of a loved one's death is "may his memory be a blessing." Prof. Librescu's clearly is, demonstrating what real matryrdom is about - dying not to kill others, but to save them.
Kathy Shadie warns against the Disneyfication of grief.
Please don't indulge in godless modern paganism and set up homely, self-indulgent makeshift memorials with cheap flowers and teddy bears. Don't hold hands and sing bad pop songs.
Go to church. That's what it's for. For centuries, people smarter than you and with more finely honed aesthetics worked on rituals that actually do what they're supposed to do.
A dying star bursts in near-perfect symmetry, The Red Square Nebula.
A dying star called MWC 922 is located at the system’s center and spewing its innards from opposite poles into space. (A nebula is an interstellar cloud of gas, dust and plasma where stars can both emerge and die.)
“This spectacular event is the death of a star,” said study team member James Lloyd of Cornell University.
After MWC 922 ejects most of its material into space, it will contract into a dense stellar corpse known as a white dwarf, shrouded by clouds of its own remains.
Roger Scruton writes Why I became a conservative
Rightly understood, he argued, society is a partnership among the dead, the living, and the unborn, and without what he called the “hereditary principle,” according to which rights could be inherited as well as acquired, both the dead and the unborn would be disenfranchized. Indeed, respect for the dead was, in Burke’s view, the only real safeguard that the unborn could obtain, in a world that gave all its privileges to the living. His preferred vision of society was not as a contract, in fact, but as a trust, with the living members as trustees of an inheritance that they must strive to enhance and pass on.
He travels to Prague in 1975
Perhaps the most fascinating and terrifying aspect of Communism was its ability to banish truth from human affairs, and to force whole populations to “live within the lie,” as President Havel put it.
To me it was the greatest revelation, when first I travelled to Czechoslovakia in 1979, to come face to face with a situation in which people could, at any moment, be removed from the book of history, in which truth could not be uttered, and in which the Party could decide from day to day not only what would happen tomorrow, but also what had happened today, what had happened yesterday, and what had happened before its leaders had been born.
the dissidents were acutely conscious of the value of memory. Their lives were an exercise in what Plato calls anamnesis: the bringing to consciousness of forgotten things.
From by Roger Scruton
According to the latest survey on estate planning by Martindale Hubbell, the percentage of people without a will remains the same, 55% while the number of Americans with living will or advance directives has increased to 41%
Among non-white adults, the lack of wills is even more pronounced. Only one in three African American adults (32 percent) and one in four Hispanic American adults (26 percent) have wills, compared to more than half (52 percent) of white American adults.
Additionally, two in five (38 percent) American adults report assigning a power of attorney for healthcare purposes, compared to 27 percent in 2004. A power of attorney for healthcare legally delegates authority to another to make medical decisions for that individual, if he or she is incapacitated.
One in ten say they don't have any elements of an estate plan because they don't want to think about dying or becoming incapacitated.
Nearly one in ten say they don't know who to talk to about creating such documents.
And one in four say they don't have an estate plan because they have insufficient assets.
Since I only read an occasional cartoon, I missed the passing of Johnny Hart.
Hart's "B.C." strip was launched in 1958 and eventually appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers with an audience of 100 million, according to Creators Syndicate Inc., which distributes it.
"He was generally regarded as one of the best cartoonists we've ever had," Hart's friend Mell Lazarus, creator of the "Momma" and "Miss Peach" comic strips, said from his California home. "He was totally original. 'B.C' broke ground and led the way for a number of imitators, none of which ever came close."
Then I read A 'fundamental' problem in 'B.C.' obits in the GetReligion blog. An unapologetic Christian, Hart incorporated Christian messages into his cartoons at Easter and Christmas, which ticked some people off and pleased many more. Several newspapers dropped the strip
A reminder to the New York Times and the Washington Post — Many American Christians consider the terms “fundamentalist” and “fundamentalism” to be pejorative. In the 1910s and 1920s, the term referred to a Christian who believed in the “fundamentals” of the faith — the Virgin Birth of Christ, his sinless life, his atoning death, his bodily resurrection and his second coming in the clouds of glory.
Since then, however, the term “fundamentalist” has been hijacked. Today, it is an insult, a slur, a code word the Manhattan media and others use to marginalize people. It’s not nice to call someone a fundamentalist when they’re alive. It’s even worse to use the term in an obituary.
I guessed they missed the memo NYT editor Bill Keller sent to his staff in 2005 which Terry Mattingly excerpts.
Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday at 84 in New York city, after suffering brain injuries from a fall several weeks ago.
A writer who dealt with metaphysical questions about human existence, Vonnegut was a profound pessimist who published 19 books, most of them a whimsical sort of science fiction and many more short stories and essays, often satirical and darkly funny, of worlds gone mad.
From his NYTimes obituary by Dinitia Smith
The defining moment of Mr. Vonnegut’s life was the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, by Allied forces in 1945, an event he witnessed firsthand as a young prisoner of war. Thousands of civilians were killed in the raids, many of them burned to death or asphyxiated. “The firebombing of Dresden,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote, “was a work of art.” It was, he added, “a tower of smoke and flame to commemorate the rage and heartbreak of so many who had had their lives warped or ruined by the indescribable greed and vanity and cruelty of Germany.”
His experience in Dresden was the basis of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which was published in 1969 against the backdrop of war in Vietnam, racial unrest and cultural and social upheaval. The novel, wrote the critic Jerome Klinkowitz, “so perfectly caught America’s transformative mood that its story and structure became best-selling metaphors for the new age.”
After the wild success of Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut became severely depressed and attempted for the first time to commit suicide.
The child of a suicide will naturally think of death, the big one, as a logical solution to any problem,” he wrote.
Divorced from his first wife with whom he had three children, he married photographer Jill Krementz and together they adopted a child. When his sister died of cancer two days after her husband was killed in a train accident, he adopted three of his nephews. From the Wall St Journal
"My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I'll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children."
I was affected by two of his books. After reading Cat's Cradle where ice-nine was loosed upon the world by rearranging the crystalline structure of ice causing liquid water to turn to ice and eventually the freezing of the entire world. I never looked at the memorial displays of stacked cannonballs in small New England towns the same way again. The different pattern of one such display lead to the inspiration of ice-nine.
Slaughter-house Nine has a most affecting scene wherein Billy Pilgrim who's become unstuck in time, watches the bombing of Dresden backwards as planes suck up the dangerous bombs to return home where the bombs are carefully disassembled and their ingredients buried in the earth.
I liked this part from the New York Times obituary
To Mr. Vonnegut, the only possible redemption for the madness and apparent meaninglessness of existence was human kindness. The title character in his 1965 novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” summed up his philosophy:
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”
Artist Nadine Jarvis's project Post Mortem has several proposals for "alternative treatment for our deceased"
Carbon copies - 240 pencils can be made from a carton of human remains.
Bird feeder - a bird feeder made from bird food and human ash. A person is reincarnated through the bird.
Rest in pieces - like a pinata, a ceramic urn crashes to the ground in 1-3 years after the thread that holds the urn in the air disintegrates.
Personally, I prefer the diamonds.
In the words of theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, "The whole New Testament is unanimous on this point: the Cross and burial of Christ reveal their significance only in the light of the event of Easter, without which there is no Christian faith." This echoes Paul’s blunt words to the Corinthians: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor 15:17). Let’s be perfectly frank: Christianity without the Cross is just another moral code taught by a great man, and the Cross without the Resurrection is just the tragic death of an inspiring leader.
the account of the disciples we actually have shows us a group of men and women just about as reluctant to believe that the Resurrection happened as the most inveterate skeptic. Without themselves checking things out, none of the disciples were ready to believe the reports that the women brought. And the leading lady of the story, Mary of Magdala herself, thought the risen Christ was the gardener
To give them credit, the disciples, even under pressure, held firmly to the view that they saw what they saw. In Acts, to recall, they are called precisely "witnesses," that is, they testify to what they knew from their own experience. We may not believe them, but that is our problem.
The Resurrection of the body is the great doctrine that we remain ourselves precisely forever.
The Resurrection of the body is likewise the denial of all those theories about re-incarnation, whereby we are given a second and third and thousandth chance to come back to try again when we fail on our times around.
Belloc was right. We are all indeed "destined to live forever," destined to live as the individual, personal being we are created to be. The Resurrection of the body is defiant. And perhaps only if we see what it really "defies," will we then see it for the glorious future that it is, for each of us, if we choose it.
Her body was riddled with bullets when the young woman Hamda Abu-Ghanem was found dead in her bed in Ramie. She was the eighth woman in one family killed in the past 6 years, the remaining women in the family decided to break their silence.
Grave No. 9
One after the other, they came to the police station, in order to read to the investigators the writing on the wall. Most of them couldn't say for certain just who had killed Hamda, but unlike previous times, when they'd kept quiet, this time they told the detectives what it was like to live with the fear that they would be next in line, a fear that had stalked Hamda as well.
In her 92nd year, my mother's happenstance collages of her life are steadily growing both richer and deeper....a jumble of clips, slogans, photos, handicrafts and images. Aside from its complexity, it wouldn't mean all that much to you. These icons of other people's private lives never do.
It's unlikely you have a 92-year-old tennis-playing mother like Gerard does, but likely you have people in your family who have their own collages. Ask them about their collection of stuff. You may learn something very interesting about how they think.
A lawyer named Strange died, and his friend asked the tombstone maker to inscribe on his tombstone, "Here lies Strange, an honest man, and a lawyer."
The inscriber insisted that such an inscription would be confusing, for passers by would tend to think that three men were buried under the stone. However he suggested an alternative: He would inscribe, "Here lies a man who was both honest and a lawyer."
That way, whenever anyone walked by the tombstone and read it, they would be certain to remark: "That`s Strange".
via Wicked Thoughts
He loved his Morris Minor car so much, that when he died he was buried in it after a huge grave was dug with an excavator
Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones acknowledged 'I Snorted My Father.'
The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father,
He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared," he said. "... It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."
His father died in 2002 at 84.
UPDATE: His manager said in an email to MTV that the comments were "said in jest." "Can't believe anyone took it seriously." Sounds like serious damage control considering how many people and news outlets could believe that Richards would do such a thing.
If you want to plan a family reunion, Sue Shellenberger in the Wall Street Journal suggests you make a long-term plan, a year or 18 months out. That way, people can organize their over-stuffed calendars around the event.
Reunions Magazine has a website with helpful tips and resources.
You can even set up your own reunion website at myevent.com.
Be prepared though for infection. When far flung and extended families get together for reunions, members often catch the contagious genealogy bug, symptoms of which include
The genealogy bug is not fatal, though it may last a lifetime. Some call it a 'grave' disease.
Organizing family history material can be daunting, especially when several people and families are involved. A website is just too clunky. Blogs work the best.
Bill Ives, a former academic psychologist, became an independent consultant, an expert on knowledge management when he began blogging, the love of which set him on a path to Web 2.0 that included business blogging, blog coaching and pod consulting with plenty of time left over for restaurant blogging.
Now he has taken his experience and expertise to begin two family blogs. Check out how he expands his family's history on both sides via blogs.
Each post is a little history lesson on an ancestor, an essay or a photo or illustration. Because blogs offer the ability to add tags and categories, they are a wonderfully cheap content management tool where you can find what you're looking for quickly through an embedded search tool or through a category search. By publishing on the web, Bill has opened up his research to other family members and those who find him while researching their own family histories.
Using technology, he's expanded his resources and his reach, now and in the future. Or as one wag said, "genealogy is collecting dead relatives and an occasional live cousin."