January 31, 2008

The Fields of Athenry

A moving tribute to an ordinary man who was much loved and who will be missed.

  Eddie Treacy

A toast to an Irishman

Eddie Treacy lived in the shadows and died in his bed, the covers pulled up, his lungs full of fluid. 

He was 33 years old, and there is no other way to say this: He died too young.

He came to Dorchester eight years ago from Athenry, in County Galway, part of what could be the last great wave of the young Irish to come here.
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After Mass, about 200 people posed on the front steps of the church for a photo to send back to Eddie's mother, Ann, so she would know that Eddie mattered here. Many of the young men standing there had given up a day's wages to pay their respects.

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Once, he told Muldoon he would be happy if he died in his own bed and they played "The Fields of Athenry" at his funeral.

He did and they did.

R.I.P. Eddie Treacy and condolences to his family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 AM | Permalink

Painted Death

In a small town in Hungary, a Dominican church was being restored when workers came upon a secret crypt that been bricked up for over 200 years.

Inside the crypt were 265 hand painted coffins, the corpses perfectly mummified.

     Painted Death

Painted Death from Curious Expeditions. 

Everything from the rosaries to the handmade stockings on their feet were equally intact, offering a gold mine for ethnographers on the funerary customs and everyday life of 18th century Hungarian villages. There was something there for doctors as well; traces of ancient tuberculosis. An Australian surgeon, Dr. Mark Spigelman, has devoted the past 6 years to studying the bacteria found in one mummy in particular, and the information gleaned from this ancient DNA could provide information that will help fight tuberculosis.
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Each coffin had been lovingly hand-painted with crucifixes, flowers, quotations, bible verses, angles, skull and crossbones, hourglasses, and Memento Mori inscriptions. No coffin is a repeat of another; the variety of color, decoration, motif and even language (some in German, some Hungarian, some Latin) is simply incredible. These coffins seem to be painted with an almost joyous hand, as a celebration of the life, not a mourning of the death. One coffin, belonging to a miner, is painted with bones, skulls and a miner’s pick and shovel. Each coffin had been personalized with great thought and care.

Many thanks to Miss Kelly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

January 29, 2008

"A Bad Death"

The inability to accept the inevitability of death can ruin your life as this book reviewer writes about Susan Sontag's son and his book,   


"Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir" (David Rieff)

From the NYT review entitled A Fight for Life Consumes Both Mother and Son.

“A bad death” is another matter. We all know those when we see them, the miserably protracted and painful affairs that overwhelm everyone — the deceased and survivors alike — with panic, guilt and bitter regrets.
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Obviously,” Mr. Rieff says, “there is no comparison between the sufferings of a person who is ill and the sufferings of those who love them.” Still, one suspects he got the worst of the deal, for despite what he describes as a tense relationship with his mother, he was cast in the role of head cheerleader. His job was to enthusiastically endorse her struggle, always to be optimistic and supportive and never, ever, to talk about death.

“What she wanted from me was an adamant refusal to accept that it was even possible that she might not survive,” Mr. Rieff writes. Ms. Sontag “might be covered in sores, incontinent and half delirious,” but Mr. Rieff would “tell her at great and cheerful length about how much better she seemed to look/seem/be compared to the day before.”

Months of this duplicity left him guilty and miserable, obsessively revisiting every decision again and again, even — and especially — after she died.
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He and his mother will undoubtedly survive for a long time to come in medical school courses on death and dying — as a case study in how not to do it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:20 AM | Permalink

January 28, 2008

"The work of death' in The Republic of Suffering

From This Republic of Suffering, the new book by  Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female president of Harvard University.

Mortality defines the human condition. "We all have our dead — we all have our Graves," a Confederate Episcopal bishop observed in an 1862 sermon. Every era, he explained, must confront "like miseries"; every age must search for "like consolation." Yet death has its discontinuities as well. Men and women approach death in ways shaped by history, by culture, by conditions that vary over time and across space. Even though "we all have our dead," and even though we all die, we do so differently from generation to generation and from place to place.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the United States embarked on a new relationship with death, entering into a civil war that proved bloodier than any other conflict in American history, a war that would presage the slaughter of World War I's Western Front and the global carnage of the twentieth century. The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865, an estimated 620,000, is approximately equal to the total American fatalities in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined. The Civil War's rate of death, its incidence in comparison with the size of the American population, was six times that of World War II.
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In the Civil War the United States, North and South, reaped what many participants described as a "harvest of death." By the midpoint of the conflict, it seemed that in the South, "nearly every household mourns some loved one lost." Loss became commonplace; death was no longer encountered individually; death's threat, its proximity, and its actuality became the most widely shared of the war's experiences. As a Confederate soldier observed, death "reigned with universal sway," ruling homes and lives, demanding attention and response
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The need to manage death is the particular lot of humanity.

It is work to deal with the dead as well, to remove them in the literal sense of disposing of their bodies, and it is also work to remove them in a more figurative sense. The bereaved struggle to separate themselves from the dead through ritual and mourning. Families and communities must repair the rent in the domestic and social fabric, and societies, nations, and cultures must work to understand and explain unfathomable loss.
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The work of death was Civil War America's most fundamental and most demanding undertaking.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 AM | Permalink

January 26, 2008

Mother with cancer

The mother of three didn't know that she had bowel cancer probably for years.  Not until she was four months pregnant with her fourth child did she learn that she had cancer, it had spread to her liver and doctors gave her little hope for recovery.

She refused to terminate her pregnancy and delayed her chemotherapy to give her baby the best chance of life.

 Cancer Mom Baby  Lives

Mom makes ultimate sacrifice for her new baby

She told her husband: "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live."

Mrs Allard, of St Olaves, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, spent just two months with her son before losing her fight for life eight days ago.

Her husband Martyn, an oil field technician, yesterday paid tribute to her as the "best wife and mum in the world".

"Lorraine was so brave. I can't begin to describe how brave she was," 34-year-old Mr Allard said.

"She knew all too well she didn't have long to live. So she put little Liam's life before her own."

Immediately after Liam was born, she began chemotherapy but to no avail.    Her husband was with her when she died.
On the day Lorraine died, she hadn't eaten for two weeks and couldn't drink.

"I laid beside her and she was gripping my hand quite tight.

"We were like that for about half an hour. I could feel against my chest that her heart was slowing down. She just slipped away after that. It was very peaceful.

"When Liam is old enough, I won't tell him that Lorraine gave her life for him, but I will say she made sure he had a good chance of life.

"She told me she didn't want him to feel bad about it."

A remarkable woman. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

"He took pretty much all she had"

A doctor who works at Columbia Presbyterian scammed his 92-year-old mother out of nearly $1 million.

Minnie Motz, the mother who worked her whole life as a librarian never thought her Jewish doctor son would leave her virtually penniless and on the brink of eviction.

Son-Burned

Dr. Robin Motz, an internist took control of his mother's finances in 2003 because she was failing physically.

In 2004, when her husband, Lloyd Motz, died, Robin Motz moved his mother's investments from her Oppenheimer account to a Merrill Lynch account in his name, prosecutors said. He liquidated the investments, which had been in tax-free municipal bonds, and began writing checks to cover his credit-card bills, the Manhattan DA's Office charged.

He's now under indictment and faces 15 years in jail.

A woman with a West-Indian accent who picked up the phone at Minnie Motz's apartment would only say, "How would you feel? That's exactly how she feels!"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:50 PM | Permalink

January 25, 2008

Suicide bomber trips and falls down stairs

Suicide bomber falls down stairs

A WOULD-be suicide bomber fell down a flight of stairs and blew himself up as he headed out for an attack in Afghanistan, police say.

It was the second such incident in two days, with another man killing himself and three others on Tuesday when his bomb-filled waistcoat exploded as he was putting it on in the southern town of Lashkar Gah.

Yesterday's blast was in a busy market area of the eastern town of Khost, a deputy provincial police chief said.

The would-be attacker tripped as he was leaving a building apparently to target an opening ceremony for a mosque that was expected to be attended by Afghan and international military officials, said Sakhi Mir.

"Coming down the stairs, he fell down and exploded. Two civilian women and a man were wounded,'' Mir said.

Ace writes Dies of Embarrassment and Bomb Detonation, But Mostly Bomb Detonation

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:16 PM | Permalink

Chutzpah

He was a speeding motorist who killed a teenage cyclist is now suing the boy's parents over damage to his luxury car.

Iriondo's parents were shocked.

"It's the final straw, a stab in the back," Iriondo's mother, Rosa Trinidad said, according to El Pais. "Before the lawsuit we thought the poor guy would find it hard to live the rest of his life with the thought of having caused our son's death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:44 PM | Permalink

He couldn't convince them he was alive

Need I say they were bureaucrats?

Sailor back from the dead.

A Polish sailor who came back from a fishing trip to find he'd been declared dead has failed to convince bureaucrats he's still alive.

Piotr Kucy, 37, said: "I stood there in front of them and said look, I'm alive, but they wouldn't accept it."

Kucy left his home in the port town of Swinoujscie for a two week fishing trip - but when he came back he found local authorities had declared him dead after wrongly identifying a body washed up-ashore.

He said since then local authorities have refused to recognise him as being still alive.
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"But now I'm alive the authorities don't seem to want to do anything. I have contacted the prosecution in Swinoujscie asking them to bring me back. Five months have passed since then and nothing. No response. I have to work, insure myself, but I can't because I'm still dead!"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:07 PM | Permalink

The first videogame that made gamers cry

A tiny little game called Passage, developed by a 30-year-old Jason Rohrer allows plays to experience an entire simulated lifetime, that the developer calls a "memento mori game"

Aaron Rutkoff of the Wall St Journal who apparently scouts out time wasters calls this a  "pixilated metaphor" in his column The Game of Life.

It won't make much sense unless you download it for free here and play the 5 minute game.

As in real life -- it should be clear by now that "Passage" is in the metaphor-for-life business -- marriage comes with pluses and minuses. Becoming attached (literally) to your spouse means you can't easily navigate a maze full of narrow passages, which is located south of the starting point. That's where you'll find the treasure, a stand-in for success and wealth, which boosts your score. But treasure isn't the only way to gain points: Making progress from left to right also builds your score -- and traveling as a family doubles these points.

The game is interesting once if only to see the avatar age, becoming gray, then stoop-shouldered.  The music, said to be an homage to early Atari, I found dreadful.

What's so surprising is the emotional response from so many gamers.

gamers confess that they've been moved to tears. "I'll be a man and admit this game made me cry when explaining it to my wife," wrote blogger Josh Farkas.

"There have been a number of people who have written stuff about this being the first videogame to make them cry," says Mr. Rohrer. "That's definitely what I was trying to evoke."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

January 24, 2008

Suicide bomber trips and falls down stairs

Suicide bomber falls down stairs

A WOULD-be suicide bomber fell down a flight of stairs and blew himself up as he headed out for an attack in Afghanistan, police say.

It was the second such incident in two days, with another man killing himself and three others on Tuesday when his bomb-filled waistcoat exploded as he was putting it on in the southern town of Lashkar Gah.

Yesterday's blast was in a busy market area of the eastern town of Khost, a deputy provincial police chief said.

The would-be attacker tripped as he was leaving a building apparently to target an opening ceremony for a mosque that was expected to be attended by Afghan and international military officials, said Sakhi Mir.

"Coming down the stairs, he fell down and exploded. Two civilian women and a man were wounded,'' Mir said.

Ace writes ; Dies of Embarrassment and Bomb Detonation, But Mostly Bomb Detonation

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:17 PM | Permalink

'The great wave of the past'

From First Things On Being a Pallbearer by Paul Gregory Alms

The tradition carries codes and ways of acting. You step into a role and do what has been outlined for you. You realize that countless other Christians before you have carried the same burden, walked the same aisle. The task itself and many of its components are archaic, fast losing significance for those who witness them. The pall itself, for many a puzzling custom with little if any meaning, proclaims a tie to centuries long silent. That a simple white garment decorated only with a cross could be a final statement seems remarkable these days. A pall is wildly out of touch with the individualism and ostentation so in vogue. However, that is what pall bearers do; they bear the pall. They carry the dead, covered only with a baptismal emblem. That is what has been done for centuries.

To be part of it, to march in two tidy rows down the long aisle of a church with casket and family and clergy is to find oneself in a line, not just the line walking in and out of the church, but a procession of the living and the dead. From time immemorial mankind has gathered to mark death. All have had to deal with the fact of a corpse. In such times there is something sacred about we do. How we treat the dead says an awful lot about how we live. For the strong and able to serve the helpless dead, to honor frail remains, reaches deep inside us to something basic to humanity. To carry a heavy box filled with a father or mother or brother connects us to countless ancestors who have carried the mute dead. We are unlike them in so many ways, yet the experience of death unites us, the desire to honor the dead ties us together.
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A custom such as pallbearing is like a great tidal wave that rolls through the centuries.
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Pallbearing involves all of this. It is an ancient custom no longer necessary but one that remembers the dead and the dead before them. I walked in the same way, carrying my grandfather as he had walked, carrying his brothers as those before him had done. To do this same thing, to walk the same path as they, meant I was more than a solitary individual grieving alone. I was a part of a human community stretching back centuries, all of us facing death together.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:01 PM | Permalink

January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger RIP

 Heath Ledger

The news that Heath Ledger was dead at 28 shocked everyone who knew him personally and those who knew him only through his acting.  HIs great fame came with particularly in Brokeback Mountain.  He was very good at seeming sadly troubled.  He said of his character Ennis
"The challenge was to capture the stillness of him. I have kind of semi-frantic, nervous energy. Harnassing that was something I thought I'd have to work out. Shooting in the wilderness, the stillness became like this innate quality

Of course, being a celebrity death, we learn every small detail of how his dead body was discovered in Soho by the housekeeper and a masseuse.  Were pills strewn all around?  Was it suicide? Was he troubled or happy?  Distraught over the breakup of his relationship with Michelle Williams?  Despairing over his separation from their 2-year-old daughter Matilda Rose?  Most likely it was the mixing of prescription drugs for sleeping and anxiety  that lead to the accidental overdose.

All these questions and more will be endlessly asked and debated as our culture's celebrity maw likes nothing better than the sudden death of a talented young star.

But first of all, he was somebody's father, lover, son, brother and friend and for them this is a great tragedy and to them condolences.

Said his grieving father in Perth,
He was a down-to-earth, generous, kind-hearted, life-loving and unselfish individual who was an inspiration to many.

It's very sad to see a young life of such promise cut short.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 PM | Permalink

Social networking for suicides

Bridgend in South Wales is a small town that's been rocked to its core with the copycat suicides of seven young people.   

Although they did not know each other, all are linked in a 'suicide chain' on the social networking site Bebo. 

Melanie Davies, whose son Thomas killed himself in February following the deaths of his friends Dale and David said: "It's like a craze – a stupid sort of fad.

"They all seem to be copying each other by wanting to die.

Natasha Rando was a wild child who surfed her way to suicide and 'virtual immortality'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:10 AM | Permalink

Will of the Queen Mother sealed in secret

A longstanding convention has kept royal wills secret, but Queen Elizabeth codified that convention into law when she had the wills of Princess Margaret and her mother sealed in secret.

Only the appearance of Robert Brown who claims to be the illegitimate son of Princess Margaret and her one time lover Group Captain Peter Townsend brought the secret law to light.

Queen 'had her mother's will sealed in secret'

The 52-year-old accountant from Jersey was challenging the claim that "the privacy interests of the Royal family outweigh any public interest in unsealing royal wills," he said.

Mr Hinks said the executors of the royal wills were opposing the application because Mr Brown had no right to see them. "It is a fraudulent claim. It is a scandalous claim that he is the son of the sister of the sovereign without any factual basis," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 AM | Permalink

January 22, 2008

Opting In or Out

In England the plan is to take dead patients' organs without their consent to cover a shortfall in organ donations which leads to more than a 1000 people each year dying before they can receive life-saving transplants. 

Prime Minister Gordon Brown supports a system of 'presumed consent' whereby a dead person's organs are automatically available unless they opted out earlier or family members object.

I predict it won't be long before there is similar pressure here for 'presumed consent.' 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:16 AM | Permalink

January 21, 2008

Dead bug funerals

Dead bug funeral kit

 Dead Bug Funeral Kit

The Dead Bug Funeral Kit comes with a 32-page Illustrated Buggy Book of Eulogies with Ribbon Bookmark, Casket, Grave Marker, White Clay Flower, Burial Scroll, and Pouch of Grass Seed.

The Buggy Book of Eulogies contains 15 eulogies and 15 buggy illustrations for your Ant, Bee, Beetle, Butterfly, Caterpillar, Cockroach, Cricket, Doodlebug, Fly, Grasshopper, Ladybug, Lightning Bug, Praying Mantis, Spider or Stickbug. The poems are eulogies told by children who have lost their pet bugs to fate. Each book is handmade one at a time. The Kits are assembled by hand as well.

The Burial Scroll comes tied with a ribbon and deposited in the Casket. The Burial Scroll gives instructions for conducting burial ceremonies. Mourners may bury their loved ones outside in the garden or inside the tin box itself, filled with soil and planted with the grass seed provided.

We hope the Dead Bug Funeral Kit will provide some consolation. You may preorder this Kit for yourself or a loved one. We are working as briskly as we can to make these Kits, but there is a lot of grief in this world. And a lot of bugs. We appreciate your patience.

Now on sale, only $16 here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:12 PM | Permalink

The burglar who did the right thing.

Burglar finds corpse, calls police

When he stumbled upon a corpse, he felt compelled to call the police.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:10 PM | Permalink

He rose from the dead and asked for a glass of water

Man wakes up in coffin at his own wake.

His body felt limp and cold so his family, convinced that his hour had come, called the funeral home.  They dressed him in his best suit and then gathered round to bid him a final farewell.

"I couldn't believe it. I thought I must be mistaken and I shut my eyes," Mr Carrasco's nephew Pedro told the Ultimas Noticias newspaper.

"When I opened them again, my uncle was looking at me. I started to cry and ran to get something to open up the coffin to get him out."

The man who "rose from the dead" said he was not in any pain and only asked for a glass of water.

Good thing the funeral home did not embalm him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:10 PM | Permalink

January 14, 2008

Public appeal for mourners for Olive Archer

Secret Funeral for 'Eleanor Rigby' pensioner after public appeal for mourners.

There had been fears that no one would come to Olive Archer's funeral.

But yesterday a small chapel was filled with remembrance and fond feelings as the 83-year-old was laid to rest.

Miss Archer, who died on December 20, never married, had no children, and spent her last five years without a single visitor at the Kington St Michael care home in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Amid concern that her funeral would be like that of the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby, when "nobody came," church minister Reverend Akasha Lonsdale launched an appeal for friends and family that was highlighted in the Daily Mail.

Dozens of friends, relatives and well-wishers came forward and 16 were chosen to be at the Swindon service.

With societies aging and fewer children, I wouldn't be surprised if more and more funeral mourners are paid.

Such is the case in Taiwan where wailers are for hire to mourn the dead.

Re-enacting grief-stricken daughters, among the most emotive elements of a traditional funeral, professional mourners offer themselves for T$2,000 ($60) to T$3,000 per half day of singing, crying and crawling on the ground.

The phenomenon, which appears to date back to ancient Greek times, is not unique to Taiwan, where mourners for hire emerged in the 1970s largely to give funerals the somber atmosphere that shows the appropriate respect to deceased elders.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:40 PM | Permalink

January 12, 2008

China Blogger beaten to death

 Wei Wenhua Beaten To Death

Wei Wenhua, a Chinese blogger, happened upon a confrontation between city inspectors and villagers who were protesting over the dumping of waste near their homes in the central Chinese province of Hubei.

When Wei took out his cell phone to record the protest, more than 50 municipal inspectors turned on him, attacking him brutally for more than 5 minutes.

He was dead on arrival at the Tianmen hospital reported CNN.

A national outcry followed with thousands posting internet messages calling for the abolishment of the Chengguan, the Chinese municipal inspectors, a para military force used by local officials as trouble-shooters. 

One official was sacked and more than 100 people are under investigation in the murder reports the BBC

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 AM | Permalink

January 11, 2008

Sir Edmund Hilary, R.I.P.

Every so often, we get a glimpse of someone who shows us how great and good a human being can be.  Sir Edmund Hillary, the beekeeper  and the first man to reach the summit of Mt Everest along with his Sherpa guide Norgay Tenzing was such a man.  His life is a model of inspiration for accomplishment and humility.

     Hillary Oil Auckland Museum

London Telegraph

Sir Edmund Hillary, who died late yesterday aged 88, made his name as the first conqueror (with Norgay Tenzing) of Everest; just as impressive, though, was the use he made of his renown over the remainder of his life.
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Hillary developed a deep admiration for the Sherpa people, and through the Himalayan Trust which he established in the 1960s oversaw the building of 25 schools, two hospitals and a dozen medical clinics, as well as bridges and airfields.
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James (now Jan) Morris, who covered the expedition for The Times, wrote of Hillary working in the half-light, "huge and cheerful, his movement not so much graceful as unshakably assured, his energy almost demonic. He had a tremendous, bursting, elemental, infectious, glorious vitality about him, like some bright, burly diesel express pounding across America."
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Hillary remained determinedly low-key. "Having paid my respects to the highest mountain in the world," he recalled 46 years later in his autobiography View from the Summit (1999), "I had no choice but to urinate on it." Though he took Tenzing's photograph he did not bother to organise one of himself. And when he met Lowe at Camp VIII on the way down, he delivered the great news in a laconic fashion deemed too shocking for publication at that epoch: "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off."

 Sir Ed On First Climb

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Hillary's death at 88 calling it a "profound loss to New Zealand."

Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only 'knocked off' Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity.

The legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived. But most of all he was a quintessential Kiwi. He was ours - from his craggy appearance and laconic style to his directness and honesty. All New Zealanders will deeply mourn his passing.

"Sir Ed's 1953 ascent of Mt Everest brought him world-wide fame. Thereafter he set out to support development for the Sherpa people of the Himalayas. His lifetime's humanitarian work there is of huge significance and lasting benefit.

  Climbing Mt Everest Hillary

New York Times
Standing atop that pinnacle in 1953 was an experience Sir Hillary would recollect many times in lectures and quiet conversations.

“The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map,” he told one interviewer. “I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.”

Sir Edmund Hilary

Associated Press

"We drew closer together as Tenzing brought in the slack on the rope. I continued cutting a line of steps upwards. Next moment I had moved onto a flattish exposed area of snow with nothing by space in every direction," Hillary wrote.

"Tenzing quickly joined me and we looked round in wonder. To our immense satisfaction we realized with had reached the top of the world."

Before Norgay's death in 1986, Hillary consistently refused to confirm he was first, saying he and the Sherpa had climbed as a team to the top. It was a measure of his personal modesty, and of his commitment to his colleagues.

  Sir  Hillary Scolastic Mag

London Times
From this moment of glory, Hillary’s career opened out into a lifetime of adventure and of widening interest. His own laconic summary of his active life as merely a “constant battle against boredom" gave part of the picture and was typical of his innate modesty and of his dislike of cant.
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Hillary’s achievement was crowned not only by a knighthood and by much public acclaim, by an exceptionally happy marriage to Louise Mary Rose of Auckland. They had a son and two daughters. Lady Hillary was an accomplished violinist and a woman of great vitality and goodness. Her death in 1975 in an aeroplane accident with their younger daughter was a tragedy that hit her husband very hard.

He is survived by his second wife, June Mulgrew, whom he married in 1990,  the widow of his close friend Peter Mulgrew, a fellow adventurer who died in a passenger plane crash over Antartica.

 Sir Ed Hillary Older

New Zealand news  We will not see his kind again

He died peacefully when his heart gave out. 

"He retained his sense of humour right to the end. He was cheerful and joking...I suspect he knew his time was coming to an end," his friend Tom Scott says.
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A practical man, he knew only too well that death was not too far away.

In 2002 he said: "I don't think it particularly frightens me. I have had a long haul...I have had a marvellous life...I have had two wonderful wives...you can't do better than that...I have a very good life, an exciting one, many good adventures."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

January 10, 2008

Philip Agee

When a former CIA spy died Monday in Havana where he fled after exposing the names of U.S. intelligence operatives, one obituary writer is calling him what he was.

A traitor's death

The London Telegraph has more on the man who died of peritonitis.

Former colleagues at the CIA claimed that Agee had been forced to resign from the agency in 1969 after complaints about his heavy drinking, poor financial management and attempts to proposition wives of American diplomats. They further alleged that Agee had become a KGB spy after being seduced by a Russian agent, and that he had effectively defected because he did not know how to extricate himself from his personal problems.
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In 1992 a high-ranking Cuban defector accused Agee of receiving up to $1 million in payments from the Cuban intelligence service; and in 1999 Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB librarian who had secretly copied thousands of files and then donated them to British intelligence, gave further details of his relationship with Communist agents

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

Wheeling a corpse to cash a check

So I'm sick and tired with the flu but how can I not pass on the story about the two men who pushed a corpse seated in an office chair along the sidewalk in New York City to a check-cashing store to cash the dead man's Social Security check.

Pair wheel corpse to store to cash check

The medical examiner said that Virgilio Cintron, 66, died of natural causes.  The two men who were arrested, both 65 and unemployed, saw an opportunity they couldn't pass up.

As the New York Times reports

Their sidewalk procession had already attracted the stares of passers-by who were startled by the sight of the body flopping from side to side as the two men tried to prop it up,
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“Hell’s Kitchen has a rich history,” said Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, “but this is one for the books.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 AM | Permalink

January 5, 2008

Death of a Milblogger

Army Major Andrew Olmstead, a veteran blogger, was a soldier his entire life, so when ordered to Iraq to teach members of the Iraqi Army, he went;  but not before entrusting a just in case post to a friend. 

I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here."

"Only the dead have seen the end of war."
Plato*

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Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven't agreed with them.

Olmstead was killed in an ambush by insurgents.

Godspeed to a brave man who walked the walk and blogged about it.

Many bloggers weigh in with their appreciation for his character and his writings and condolences to his family here.

R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

George MacDonald Fraser, RIP

George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman, Flashman being the gloriously politically incorrect rogue hero who delighted millions, died last week.

London Telegraph obituary

Although some critics saw the series as a satire on Victorian morality, its continued popular success was due to Fraser’s ability to make learning history enjoyable.
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In 1943 he joined the Border Regiment and served as an infantryman in North Africa and with the "Forgotten" Fourteenth Army in Burma. He was eventually commissioned in the Gordon Highlanders. Some of his finest writing is contained in his graphic recollections of his Burma service, Quartered Safe Out Here (1992), in which the affectionate portrait of his Cumbrian comrades demonstrated his keen eye for character and acute ear for dialogue.

John Keegan, in The Sunday Telegraph, justly called it "one of the great personal memoirs of World War II".

The Daily Mail published his "last testament" - How Britain has destroyed itself.

Political correctness is about denial, usually in the weasel circumlocutory jargon which distorts and evades and seldom stands up to honest analysis.
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That PC should have become acceptable in Britain is a glaring symptom of the country's decline.

No generation has seen their country so altered, so turned upside down, as children like me born in the 20 years between the two world wars. In our adult lives Britain's entire national spirit, its philosophy, values and standards, have changed beyond belief.
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I know that some things are wonderfully better than they used to be: the new miracles of surgery, public attitudes to the disabled, the health and well-being of children, intelligent concern for the environment, the massive strides in science and technology.
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But much has deteriorated. The United Kingdom has begun to look more like a Third World country, shabby, littered, ugly, run down, without purpose or direction, misruled by a typical Third World government, corrupt, incompetent and undemocratic.

My generation has seen the decay of ordinary morality, standards of decency, sportsmanship, politeness, respect for the law, family values, politics and education and religion, the very character of the British.
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I had not realised how offensive the plain truth can be to the politically correct, how enraged they can be by its mere expression, and how deeply they detest the values and standards respected 50 years ago and which dinosaurs like me still believe in, God help us.

But the readers' reactions to the book were the exact opposite of critical opinion. I have never received such wholehearted and generous support.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

January 3, 2008

The Swamplands of the Soul

Miriam Greenspan on Moving from Grief to Gratitude  Through a Glass Darkly,

Platek: You speak of an “alchemy” by which grief can ultimately be transformed into gratitude, fear into joy, and despair into faith. How does that work?

Greenspan: Let’s begin with grief. There is a kind of shattering that happens with, say, the death of a child, or any death, but perhaps most of all violent death. Not only is your heart shattered; you lose your sense of who you are and what your life is about. So reconstruction is needed. But first we need to accept that we are broken. This initiates the “emotional alchemy.” If we can hang in there with grief, it changes from a feeling of being “hemmed in” by life to a feeling of expansion and opening.

We will never get back to the way we were, but eventually we reach a new state of “normal.” I’m not talking about the mundane kind of “getting back to normal,” in which we find ourselves doing the laundry again (although that is important too), but the deeper kind, which is a process of remaking ourselves and how we live.

Grief is a teacher. It tells us that we are not alone; that we are interconnected; that what connects us also breaks our hearts — which is as it should be. Most people who allow themselves to grieve fully develop an increased sense of gratitude for their own lives. That’s the alchemy: from grief to gratitude. None of us wants to go through these experiences, but they do bring us these gifts

via Judith Shapiro at Remembering Matters

You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.
Henri Frederik Amiel 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink

January 2, 2008

Speaking ill of the dead

I have not posted about Benazir Bhutto because I did not want to speak ill of the dead, especially as she was  killed in such an awful fashion. 

David Warren who knew her  writes what I think is the best summation of the Bhutto legacy.

About not speaking ill of the dead, Flemming Rose says the Chechan historian Avtorkhanov would have none of it when Stalin died.

This is the obituary he penned in 1953.

Stalin has finally died. His wolfish heart has stopped beating, his diabolical mind has stopped operating. A man has passed away who had nothing human about him what so ever, no soul, no love, no compassion. A professionel tormentor’s cold hearted brutality and a bestial instinct for survival put him closer to the species of beasts than to mankind.

A man has passed away who immortalized himself through the killing of millions of human beings in the basements of the secret police, in the Siberian woods, the coalmines of Kolyma, the sands of Central Asia and the mountains of the Caucasus.

A man has passed away who created, consolidated and expanded the most reactionary and unprecedented system of state slavery.

A man has passed away who in his own image raised legions of greedy tormentors, that grabbed the fatherless throne.

A man has passed away who created and raised a first class army of international experts on rebellion, revolution and war who were ready to pull mankind into a new disaster for the ideas behind the system created by the dead demigod.

A man has passed away who for thirty years withou any punishment had been swimming in a sea of blood from our fathers and brothers, and rivers of tears from our mothers and sisters.

The most damned of all damned people who ever sat foot on this earth has passed away.

He doesn’t deserve a grave!

May his memory be damned forever!

A war of destruction on his legacy! That’s the verdict of our people. And that verdict will live on with future generations.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:26 PM | Permalink

The Hospice Dog

When Jon Katz and his fie-year-old Border collie Izzy became hospice volunteers, he didn't expect that he would be such a natural.

My dog's amazing gift with hospice patients

He approaches people in pain, people in comas, with dementia and paralysis, disfigured and frightened, always softly, carefully, and lovingly. He threads his way around IVs and oxygen tanks. I've never had a dog that could do this kind of work, nor could I begin to imagine how to train a dog to do it.
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Izzy was watching carefully. When she put her right hand on her knee, he made his move, slithering toward her and placing his nose beneath her hand.

She froze, as if shocked, and her eyes widened. Her mouth opened, but no words came out. I saw her hand close over Izzy's slender nose as he sat stock-still. A slight smile came over her worried face, and she calmed, visibly. "Oh," she said, softly, with pleasure. "Oh. It's a dog."
Izzy didn't move for at least 10 minutes. Neither did Etta. She moaned still, but more softly.

One of the aides came in on her rounds and looked shocked. "My God," she said, "that's the first time I've ever seen her smile."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:12 AM | Permalink

January 1, 2008

Life Takes Flight

One Rose Bowl Parade float will carry 24 people whose lives were saved and renewed by organ, eye, tissue and blood donors sponsored by OneLegacy, a nonprofit organ and tissue recovery agency in Los Angeles.

Also on the float entitled Life Takes Flight will be 4 hot air balloons adorned with 40 "floragraphs" of donors like Christopher Field who died at 16 but whose organs have been given greater life to others.

Christopher's corneas have given two people sight. His bones have been used to prepare 39 bone grafts, with two transplanted already and the remainder released for hospital use in procedures such as spinal and reconstructive surgeries. Christopher's cardiac tissue was used to patch a defect in a young boy's heart in Massachusetts.

In all, Christopher's tissue donation will have gone to almost 50 people in need, according to the New England Organ Bank.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:12 AM | Permalink