June 27, 2007

A Bolt from the Blue

No rain, no clouds, the sun shone down on David Canales, a landscaper, when he was struck  and killed by a "bolt from the blue".    That bizarre meteorological phenomenon is also called dry lightening and can kill without warning.

Dan Dixon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said that when Canales was hit, a typical afternoon storm was forming but nowhere near the area.
''Most lightning will come from the base of a thunderstorm, inside that rain-shaft area,'' Dixon explained. ``But occasionally, what we call a bolt from the blue comes out of a thunderstorm still several miles away.''

The fair-weather bolts pack a bigger, deadlier punch and form differently.

Most lightning bolts carry a negative charge, but ''bolts from the blue'' have a positive charge, carry as much as 10 times the current, are hotter and last longer.

The bolts normally travel horizontally away from the storm and reach farther than typical lightning, then curve to the ground.

Like a killer curve ball

'My wife said the sky was blue, but the lightning bolt was the most horrible sound she had heard in her life,'' said Clemente Vazquez-Bello, owner of the home where Canales and two workers had come to do landscaping.

via Scribal Terror

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 PM | Permalink

June 26, 2007

Eulogy for My Mother

I wrote at the beginning of June on Business of Life that My Mother was Dying and now I can report that it was A Beautiful Death.  The funeral  was lovely, all the women from the oldest to the youngest dressed in white.    White might seem strange for a funeral but when my father died, my mother asked all of us to wear white to represent the promise of the Resurrection and so we did it for her. (She hated black anyway and never wore it again after her mother's funeral in the 60s.)

     White At Funeral

Her grandchildren were pall bearers.  We sang the hymns she wanted, Tell Me Why, a lullaby she sang to us when we were little, Gentle Woman, and A Closer Walk with Thee.

After her Mass of Christian Burial,  we gathered outside on a beautiful June day in front of the  church in a little garden where Army Air Force Nurse Ruth Fallon received final military honors and the family was presented with an American flag "on behalf of grateful nation."  A bagpiper played Amazing Grace and Taps.

Ruth's Funeral

This is the eulogy I gave for my mother, Ruth E. Fallon,

Someone once wrote that  “The fundamental pattern for any community is a congregation at a funeral”  The pattern of all of us gathered here this morning is the pattern of the community of Ruth Fallon, everyone of us connected to her  in some way.    It’s a beautiful pattern.    Thank you all for coming today.  It means a lot to her family.

Cormac McCarthy said “The closest bonds we will ever know are the bonds of grief.  The deepest community is one of sorrow.”  We are sad, yes indeed.  But even in this time of sorrow, we sons and daughters of Ruth Fallon are grateful.  And gratitude is a higher tribute than grief.  We’re so proud of her being our mother. 

We ask ourselves -  How did we get so lucky?

Well, there were the roots in the heartland, the Mid West,  1921.  The Great War was over, the country was booming, and a sweet and nutty candy bar appeared, the Baby Ruth, the same year Baby Ruth Mundell was born in Detroit, Michigan to John Mundell, a Presbyterian minister and Ellen Paterson, a nurse.  Ruth grew up with her younger brother Jackie and her younger sister Marilyn in the small town of Blissfield, Michigan, where her father had his first church.  She didn’t much like all the church activities she had to attend on her ‘best behavior” or being called "P.K", the preacher’s kid.    Heaven then was summers on “The Farm” in Ontario with their Paterson cousins.  When she was nine or ten, the family moved back to Royal Oak, a leafy Detroit suburb with a zoo and an exemplary farmer’s market stocked with the best eggs, Canadian cheddar and spy apples, the best ones, she told us, for apple pies along with  “An apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.”

Her father discouraged from becoming a doctor, one of the few regrets of her life, so she went to Deaconess School of Nursing in Detroit.  Then came Pearl Harbor and Ruth heard the call to service.  On graduation Ruth applied for a commission in the Army Air Force Nurses Corps and soon she was a Second Lieutenant assigned to Buckley Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado.  A recovering patient, Flight Officer William James Fallon from Fitchburg, Mass caught her eye as he sat alone reading Time magazine at a dance.  Three months later they were married..  A first baby – that’s me – was born just as the war ended.  Ruth and Bill grew up fast and headed East where, with the GI Bill, they could begin college.  They ended up in Vermont at St. Michael’s, one of the few colleges that offered housing for married veterans with children.  Soon both were attending classes and Ruth took a fling at acting in a summer stock production at the Playhouse.  Soon after Kevin was born, Dad graduated and we moved to Arlington so he could start law school.  Then Debby came, soon Billy, Colleen, Robby and Julie Ann. 

So what do you do as the mother of seven, after you’ve made the school lunches, gone food shopping, sewed the clothes, broke up the fights, wiped away the tears, fixed the dinner, gave the baths and oversaw our nightly prayers.  If you were Ruth Fallon, you’d hightail it down to work at the Operating Room at Mt Auburn Hospital where you would finally relax among adults with ‘no kids’ around.

We thought she was beautiful with the most delicious smell of White Linen, glamorous when she dressed up, her jewels on for some special occasion with Dad.  Ruth was there for our First Communions, confirmations, high school and college graduations, our boyfriends and girlfriends and our marriages.  She was there for her friends.  We all remember her going off –in the early days in nurse’s cap and cape - to attend a neighbor in the hospital or a sick friend.. She knew what to do, what had to be done and she did it.  And we watched her.   

She  wanted us to be good.  She wanted us to be happy. And she wanted us to have a good education.  She said once that her proudest achievement along with our Dad was sending all seven children to college and graduate school.  When I left for college, Ruth went back to get her degree from Boston College in psychology.  Maybe that helped because I can only guess how she made it through the sixties and seventies with seven teen-agers.  Of course, there were some things she never knew about.  But not as much as we think...  As we grew beards and donned hippy clothes, she roamed Filene’s Basement to find Brooks Brothers suits and Ferragamo shoes.  We called her the world’s oldest Preppy. 

She traveled to Europe, visiting me in Paris and Geneva, Kevin in Pisa, Colly and Robby in Italy, and Billy in Thailand and Switzerland.  She loved Italy the best, especially since she could smoke in any bar or restaurant.  That and Italian leather.  She would buy scores of gloves for presents and a red leather jacket for herself that she wore as she tooled around in her blue sports car with Vinny, her Jack Russell terrier at her side.

She was completely herself all of her life, doing things the way she wanted.  Unless you knew Ruth, you wouldn’t know that under that quiet, mild exterior, she was a corker, a pistol, feisty, funny and independent as all get out.  Always original, a real character that Ruth. 

Most of all she was an original giver with a generosity that was striking.  Her brownies, oatmeal cookies and peanut brittle are renowned throughout the community of Ruth.  No one left Ruth’s house without passing the bags she set aside for the prison ministry, the food pantry and the Salvation Army and without something she had given them  - cookies, coupons, lipsticks, Christopher calendars, wallets, stickers, books, beef stew or a box of chocolates.  So much so that it became a family joke. “What ja get” 

But we watched her and knew that those little gifts were proofs of her love.  Self-giving -  Ruth’s concern for others  - was the predominant pattern of her life. Such self-giving would not have been possible had she not her faith, solid as a rock.  She converted to Catholicism as a young woman and in her faith found strength, solace and peace.  She went to daily Mass at the Grey Nuns, Sundays here at Sacred Heart, and many times in Rome and Assisi with fellow parishioners.

We’ll celebrate her life later  at a party at Ruth’s house to which you are all invited.  Right now, we give thanks.  Thanks to God for giving us Ruth who gave us life and lit up our lives.  She set the bar high, Ruth did. 

Never was it more evident than in the manner of her dying.  Only two months ago we learned her cancer had come back.  She choose not to have chemotherapy.  We sons and daughters of Ruth knew what to do.  After all, we had watched her all our lives.  We came back home to care for her and be with her and each other in our childhood home.  With the help of hospice who kept her pain-free and the skilled care of her daughter Colleen, a nurse, Ruth was completely herself to the end, much to our delight.  She enjoyed us, her grandchildren, especially the little ones– she always a weakness for babies - and many visitors in the past few weeks downstairs in her own home.

She was completely unafraid, often radiant with happiness, beaming at all the people she loved.  With her strong heart, she used every last bit of her substance so we could be together and with her just a bit longer.  On her last day, we gathered round her bed to toast her with her favorite wine  - Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio -  and put a tiny drop on her lips.

After she passed through the doors of death, her mouth relaxed into a smile that reached the corners of her eyes. 

Thank you God for that grace and privilege of being with Ruth in her last days.

She was a great being.  She is a great soul alive and well in the kingdom and the glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We can be sure that all is well.  All will be well.

For we sons and daughters of Ruth, she will always be our light at the top of the stairs that now reach all the way to heaven.

May the memory of Ruth always be a blessing to those here gathered in body or in spirit.

And perpetual Light shine upon her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink

June 21, 2007

Frozen Man Found in Fish Shop

Sleeping with the fishes takes on a whole new meaning...

Frozen Man Found in Fish Shop

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Pathologists inspected the thawed remains Wednesday of a missing Dublin criminal whose body was found, frozen rock solid, in the Mermaid Fish Shop.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2007

"Everybody deserves a headstone"

Nearly 70 years after his death in 1938, Frank L. White, the smiling chef on Cream of White boxes, finally got his headstone engraved with his name and an etching taken from the cereal box.

 Cream Of Wheat Man

Hats off to Jesse Lasorda, a family researcher who started the campaign saying, "Everybody deserves a headstone."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

June 12, 2007

Journeying Home to a Mexican Grave

Lost in the immigration debate is what happens when an illegal immigrant dies in the U.S.

Rev. John Brown who ministers to Mexicans at the St. Joseph Catholic Church is quoted in the New York Times article as saying

"For Mexicans, the bonds of the family unit are very strong.  The bond is broken when they go to work in the United States. It is restored in death.”

In Journey Home to Mexico Grave, an Industry Rises

To bring a body home, collection boxes are set up in grocery stores, employers chip in, discounts are negotiated and Mexican politicians get involved.

“I hadn’t seen my brother in four years; we didn’t know where he was,” said Ignacio Ponce Martínez, El Cholo’s older brother. “We had to send him to Mexico with his mother. We couldn’t just leave him here.”
For illegal immigrants, some of whom pay $2,000 to $3,000 to be smuggled across the border through the Arizona desert, the return trip in a coffin can be more expensive than the journey into the United States.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:47 AM | Permalink

June 11, 2007

So Much Weeping Stops Funeral

Father Ganni, a Catholic priest and three subdeacons were driving away from their church after celebrating Mass when a group of armed militants blocked the car and shot and killed all four men. 

Iraqi Bishop pauses due to weeping at funeral of priest, subdeacons

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

June 5, 2007

Astral traveling, NOT

Be careful if you're hanging around New-Agers, especially if a sweat lodge is involved.

In Australia, almost every one was having a fine old time dancing, chanting and playing drums when not ducking into the sweat lodge for "cleansing."

When two fainted because of the heat and were found unconscious, they were dragged out unconscious.  Their fellow celebrants thought they were "astral traveling", that is having an out-of-body experience because of their deep meditative state.

Hours later both still unconscious,, somebody thought it might be a good idea to get some help.

One couldn't be revived.  He died of severe dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Man died as friends danced.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:04 PM | Permalink

June 1, 2007

Music for the Dying

Jennifer Hollis, an accomplished musician, creates and plays music that heals by taking cues from a patient's vital signs.

Healing Patients with the Harp

"I use live harp and vocal music at the bedside of people that are close to the end of life for patients,? Hollis said. When all medical options have been exhausted, Hollis uses the chords of her harp and tone of her voice to bring peace and solace to her patients, as they transition from life to death. She has been playing at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington since 2005. "It was absolutely beautiful," said Mary Sansone, daughter of 86-year-old Lydia Ayotte.

Doctors are seeing amazing results.

"It makes a huge difference in a person's blood pressure and heart rate," said Dr. Elizabeth Collins, a palliative care physician at Lahey Clinic.

More information can be found at the Music Thanatology official website

Growth House Radio offers music for the dying and a short history of how such music has been and is being used.

The Chalice of Repose offers training for interested musicians

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:39 PM | Permalink

Shot Dead for Singing Out of Tune

In the Philippines, poor Romy Baligula was singing at a karaoke bar when the security guard shouted that he was out of tune. Romy kept singing and the security guard pulled out his gun and shot him in the chest killing him instantly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink