September 30, 2008

Millionaire banker beaten to death

A millionaire banker was beaten to death just 200 yards from a police station after intervening to save a couple being assaulted by a mob.

Frank McGarahan, 45, was out with relatives the night before his niece's christening when he saw the pair being attacked near a taxi rank.

The area is close to Norwich's main police station and the area is surrounded by CCTV cameras.
But as he shouted at the gang of ten men to stop, they turned on him. In the fracas, he suffered a serious head injury.

The father-of-two was the chief operating officer of Barclays Wealth, the bespoke finance arm which caters for the bank's richest customers, and managed their combined assets of £133billion.

On Saturday evening the family went out for dinner in Norwich city centre. His wife Alison and their two children, aged seven and four months, returned to their hotel but Mr McGarahan stayed out for another drink with two male relatives.

They were waiting for a taxi home when the attack happened.

McGarahan only wanted to stop the beating.  He certainly didn't know it would be the last thing he would ever do.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

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

September 29, 2008

Ledger family gives everything to Mathilda

It's rare to read in the news about a family that does the right thing and avoids all litigation

Heath Ledger's family give his millions to his two-year-old daughter

Every penny of Heath Ledger's fortune will go to his daughter, Matilda Rose, the dead star's father has revealed.

In Ledger's will, which has been probated behind closed doors at the Australian Supreme Court in Perth, the 28-year-old actor left everything to his parents and three sisters. But the will was signed by the actor on April 12, 2003 - two years before Matilda was born

It was expected that Ledger's former partner, Michelle Williams, would lodge a claim on the will on behalf of their daughter. But Ledger's father, Kim, instead told Australia's Herald Sun that the family had decided to give everything to Matilda.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

Death by chili sauce

Aspiring chef dies hours after making ultra-hot sauce for chili-eating contest.

Andrew Lee, 33, had used a bag of home-grown red chillies to make a super-hot sauce.

The forklift truck driver, who had recently passed a medical at work, dared his girlfriend's brother to eat a spoonful - then ate a plateful himself. Shortly after he had a heart attack and died.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

"Fancy a drink, Sir Thomas"

In the time of King Henry IV who, after deposing Richard II, spent much of his reign putting  down rebellions.  One of them involved was Sir Thomas Blount. 

Only six men, including Sir Thomas Blount, received the full traitor's death of being drawn, hanged, disembowelled, and forced to watch their own entrails burned before being beheaded and quartered. Blount's execution resulted in one of the greatest displays of wit in the face of adversity ever recorded. As he was sitting down watching his extracted entrails being burned in front of him, he was asked if he would like a drink. 'No, for I do not know where I should put it', he replied.

via Samizdata

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:04 AM | Permalink

September 28, 2008

Paul Newman

When I heard about Paul Newman's death, I was away for the weekend for my high school reunion so I didn't have a chance to what others had written, but then I already knew he was a remarkable man. I had already  written about the legacies he was creating.  Paul Newman's Legacies

  "If I leave a legacy, it will be the camps," Newman says.

  Newman Photos-Tm

Breitbart obit
Paul Newman, known for his piercing blue eyes, boyish good looks and stellar performances in scores of hit Hollywood movies, has died, his foundation said Saturday. He was 83.
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"Paul Newman's craft was acting. His passion was racing. His love was his family and friends. And his heart and soul were dedicated to helping make the world a better place for all," Foundation Vice-Chairman Robert Forrester said.

Newman played youthful rebels, charming rogues, golden-hearted drunks and amoral opportunists in a career that encompassed more than 50 movies. He was one of the most popular and consistently bankable Hollywood stars in the second half of the 20th century.  Two of his most popular movies included "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) and "The Sting" (1973), in which he co-starred with an equally popular and handsome actor, Robert Redford.

Newman was also a philanthropist, a health food mogul -- he once quipped that his salad dressing was making more money than his movies -- a race car enthusiast and a leftist political activist.

New York Times, Paul Newman, a Magnetic Titan of Hollywood

If Marlon Brando and James Dean defined the defiant American male as a sullen rebel, Paul Newman recreated him as a likable renegade, a strikingly handsome figure of animal high spirits and blue-eyed candor whose magnetism was almost impossible to resist, whether the character was Hud, Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy.

He acted in more than 65 movies over more than 50 years, drawing on a physical grace, unassuming intelligence and good humor that made it all seem effortless.

Yet he was also an ambitious, intellectual actor and a passionate student of his craft, and he achieved what most of his peers find impossible: remaining a major star into a craggy, charismatic old age even as he redefined himself as more than Hollywood star. He raced cars, opened summer camps for ailing children and became a nonprofit entrepreneur with a line of foods that put his picture on supermarket shelves around the world.
--
he remained fulfilled by his charitable work, saying it was his greatest legacy, particularly in giving ailing children a camp at which to play.

“We are such spendthrifts with our lives,” Mr. Newman once told a reporter. “The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”

Daily Mail online

Newman's own departure was long and gentle, until cancer took hold. By choice, he faded from films gradually, taking fewer and fewer major roles - a diminuendo that was all the more striking when compared with Redford's sustained career as an actor-director.

In truth, though he had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures Newman preferred his private life to the feverish fakery of Hollywood.

The Boston Globe Blue-eyed idol put an indelible stamp on movies, philanthropy

Burial plans are unknown, although Newman expressed a desire to have his ashes strewn across the lake where he built the first Hole in the Wall Camp.

"I always admired the fish," he said.

Neoneocon didn't need to remind me of how sexy he was and how he aged awfully well.  She found the YouTube videos, only one of which I borrowed 

He was a Man of Natural Virtue.

Gerard Vanderleun in A Life and a Love Less Ordinary pays tribute to the Newmans' marriage

I watch this montage and I think of the old 60s poem that ends, "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world." And I also think that sometimes, if you are careful and keep your vows, love can endure. All in all, it would seem that Newman's life and love and marriage were, in the end, his greatest achievement. His films were merely the means.

An appreciation in the New York Times,
Paul Newman wore his fame lightly, his beauty too.

My favorite may be Dahlia Lithwick's piece on Slate

One version of the story has the kid look from the picture of Newman on the Newman's Own lemonade carton to Newman himself, then back to the carton and back to Newman again before asking, "Are you lost?" Another version: The kid looks steadily at him and demands, "Are you really Paul Human?"

Paul Newman left a Great Legacy of how to be a great man even if a movie star.  Thankfully, we'll always have his movies and by buying his salad dressings, his lemonade and his popcorn, we can support his legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:23 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 26, 2008

When Consciousness Continues

A fellow at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Sam Parnia is one of the world's leading experts on the scientific study of death. Last week Parnia and his colleagues at the Human Consciousness Project announced their first major undertaking: a 3-year exploration of the biology behind "out-of-body" experiences. The study, known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), involves the collaboration of 25 major medical centers through Europe, Canada and the U.S. and will examine some 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest. TIME spoke with Parnia about the project's origins, its skeptics and the difference between the mind and the brain

What Happens When We Die?

What was your first interview like with someone who had reported an out-of-body experience?

Eye-opening and very humbling. Because what you see is that, first of all, they are completely genuine people who are not looking for any kind of fame or attention. In many cases they haven't even told anybody else about it because they're afraid of what people will think of them. I have about 500 or so cases of people that I've interviewed since I first started out more than 10 years ago. It's the consistency of the experiences, the reality of what they were describing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

September 24, 2008

Not on a Saturday

Family barred from burying their dead stepfather on a Saturday...because he isn't a Muslim

Harold 'Charlie' Lemaire died last week from pneumonia and his family wanted the burial service to be held on Saturday to make it easier for relatives living across the country to attend.

But plans for a memorial service followed by a burial in the City Road cemetery in Sheffield had to be changed because the local authority has a policy only to allow Muslim and Jewish funerals at weekends and bank holidays.
--
the 'two-tier' system has been slammed as discriminatory and Islamic groups have also backed calls for all faiths to be treated in the same way.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:58 PM | Permalink

Jim Adams 'lost his battle...primarily as a result of being stubborn'.

I think I would have liked Jim Adams a lot, but he died earlier this month in Wyoming.

His obituary from the Casper Star-Tribune

Jim, who had tired of reading obituaries noting other's courageous battles with this or that disease, wanted it known that he lost his battle. It was primarily as a result of being stubborn and not following doctor's orders or maybe for just living life a little too hard for better than five decades.
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He was sadly deprived of his final wish, which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a date. True to his personal style, he spent his final hours joking with medical personnel, cussing and begging for narcotics and bargaining with God to look over his loving dog, Biscuit, and his family.

He would like to thank all "his ladies" for putting up with him the last 30 years.

During his life, he excelled at anything he put his mind to. He loved to hear and tell jokes and spin tales of grand adventures he may or may not have had.

---
In lieu of flowers, he asks that you make a sizeable purchase at your favorite watering hole, get rip roaring drunk and tell the stories he no longer can.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

September 23, 2008

Family Secret Revealed:Suicide by Author of Anne of Green Gables

Kate MacDonald Butler reveals a long-held secret about her grandmother, one of Canada's most beloved authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery.


Her most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables, is still a bestseller after 100 years. In addition to Anne, my grandmother wrote 19 other novels, personal journals and hundreds of short stories and poems. As well, she has been the subject of several biographical studies.

Despite her great success, it is known that she suffered from depression, that she was isolated, sad and filled with worry and dread for much of her life. But our family has never spoken publicly about the extent of her illness.

What has never been revealed is that L.M. Montgomery took her own life at the age of 67 through a drug overdose.

 Montgomery Suicide

Although she was a very successful author, her life was overshadowed by her depression, coping with her husband's mental illness and the restrictions of her life as a clergyman's wife and mother in an era when women's roles were highly defined.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 PM | Permalink

Dead 'for some time' in ER before anyone noticed

He died in the waiting area of an emergency room in a Canadian hospital and no one noticed him for 34 hours.

Man dead 'for some time' in Winnipeg ER before staff alerted say officials

"There's lots of people in an emergency department at HSC at any given time who aren't only the patients waiting. But how this person could be there for 34 hours and go sort of undetected is really surprising to us and is the focus of our investigation," Wright said.

Unbelievable.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:40 PM | Permalink

Surviving without God

Living without God isn't easy. But its very difficulty offers one other consolation—that there is a certain honor, or perhaps just a grim satisfaction, in facing up to our condition without despair and without wishful thinking—with good humor, but without God.

In the New York Review of Books, Steven Weinberg writes about living and dying Without God.

The problem for religious belief is not just that science has explained a lot of odds and ends about the world. There is a second source of tension: that these explanations have cast increasing doubt on the special role of man, as an actor created by God to play a starring part in a great cosmic drama of sin and salvation

On consciousness
The problem is how to integrate the conscious mind with the physical brain—how to reveal a unity beneath this apparent diversity. That problem is very hard, and I do not believe anyone has any good ideas about how to solve it.
--
I want just to offer a few opinions, on the basis of no expertise whatever, for those who have already lost their religious beliefs, or who may be losing them, or fear that they will lose their beliefs, about
how it is possible to live without God.

Warnings for those who want to try it.
First, a warning: we had better beware of substitutes. It has often been noted that the greatest horrors of the twentieth century were perpetrated by regimes—Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China—that while rejecting some or all of the teachings of religion, copied characteristics of religion at its worst: infallible leaders, sacred writings, mass rituals, the execution of apostates, and a sense of community that justified exterminating those outside the community.
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Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature, of the sort imagined by philosophers from Anaximander and Plato to Emerson. We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our wives and husbands and children, are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years. And yet we must not sink into nihilism or stifle our emotions. At our best we live on a knife-edge, between wishful thinking on one hand and, on the other, despair.

To survive without God or a god-substitute, he recommends
Humor, the ordinary pleasures of life and the high arts
--
He admits the loss of great consolation
The more we reflect on the pleasures of life, the more we miss the greatest consolation that used to be provided by religious belief: the promise that our lives will continue after death, and that in the afterlife we will meet the people we have loved. As religious belief weakens, more and more of us know that after death there is nothing. This is the thing that makes cowards of us all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:17 PM | Permalink

"Grief hauled about, and nowhere to put it down"

AND then came the outpouring: for weeks after, people I barely knew would come into my office, gently shut the door and burst into tears. I heard stories of single and serial miscarriages, pregnancies carried nearly to full term, stillbirths — all the lost, lost children. Grief hauled about, and nowhere to put it down. Some said they had never told anyone; who would understand?

Knowing My Stillborn Son

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 AM | Permalink

Anger that kills

Road rage woman burned to death by ramming rival motorist and revving her engine until her car went up in flames.

The victim was so overcome with anger she refused to get out of her burning car and even threatened a would-be rescuer who tried to persuade her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

September 18, 2008

Don't pick wild mushrooms in the botanical garden

If you do, at least know what the Death Cap toadstool - amanita phalloides - looks like.

 Death Cap Mushroom

One woman in her 40s just died and her relative is seriously ill after eating wild mushrooms picked in botanical gardens on the Isle of Wight

Here's another photo of a more mature death cap.

 Death-Cap 2

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

September 16, 2008

"Accept death at hour chosen by God"

Pope Benedict in his Mass for the sick at Lourdes.

Benedict administered the sacrament of the sick to pilgrims in wheelchairs and on gurneys, many bundled in quilts against the chill.

In his homily, the pope said the ill should pray to find "the grace to accept, without fear or bitterness, to leave this world at the hour chosen by God."

The Vatican vehemently maintains that life must continue to its natural end.

         B16 Sick Lourdes


"At his Mass with thousands of sick people Sept. 15... [the Pope] thanked Catholics at Lourdes and all over the world who volunteer their time and effort to help the infirm.

"That highlighted a key theme of Benedict's pontificate, one he has underlined in encyclicals but which is sometimes overlooked: that personal charity -- love in action -- is the ultimate expression of faith in Jesus Christ."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:58 PM | Permalink

Funeral for a Saintly Man

2000 people packed the pews for the funeral of Thomas S. Vander Woude, the Father who died saving his son  

Among the attendees were his wife of 43 years, Mary Ellen, more than 70 priests, including the bishop of Arlington, and the friends accrued over decades who came to pay respects to a man who inspired them, right up until his final breath.

If Vander Woude saw the throng, he'd say, "Are you kidding me? . . . Don't waste your gas," said one of his sons, Steve Vander Woude of Nokesville, after the service. But "this guy did something saintly, and they wanted to come be a part of it."

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Another of Thomas S. Vander Woude's sons, Tom Vander Woude, pastor at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Alexandria, gave the homily. In it, he likened his father to Saint Joseph, a man who patiently and quietly supported his family, did odd jobs for those in need and was content to worship God and not seek the limelight, Tom Vander Woude said.

At a reception at Seton School in Manassas, where six of Thomas S. Vander Woude's sons went to school, friends and neighbors traded stories about how Vander Woude had gone out of his way to help them. Fittingly, Tom Vander Woude observed, they were standing on the gym floor that his father had installed.
--

His dying act was, "truly saintly" and "the crown of a whole life of self-giving," Bishop Paul S. Loverde said at the Mass. "May we find in his life inspiration and strength."

He was one of the unknown saints among us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2008

Dryer fire

Dryer Fire kills Lexington mother

A deadly fire that smoldered for hours while Gena Brown and her two daughters slept Friday night probably started in a dryer vent, according to state fire officials. The blaze killed Brown shortly before dawn after she shouted a warning to her girls to flee.
--

State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said dryer fires are not uncommon in Massachusetts. In 2006, there were 87 such fires, 72 of which occurred in homes. Altogether the fires caused $500,000 in damage, he said.

While many were caused by mechanical malfunctions, about 20 percent occurred because people failed to clean the dryer lint screen. In addition to cleaning the lint screen, Coan said, state officials recommend cleaning the vent pipe that channels hot air from the dryer outside at least twice a year.

Lint is extremely flammable, Coan said. Brown is the second person to die in recent years as the result of a dryer fire, although the other death occurred under bizarre circumstances.

Coan said in that case, an alleged burglar who had broken into a laundromat got stuck in a vent where he died when a fire erupted

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 AM | Permalink

September 12, 2008

AWARE

The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study began this week , the world's largest ever study of near-death experiences.

World's Largest-ever Study of Near-Death Experiences

The University of Southampton is launching the world's largest-ever study of near-death experiences this week... by the Human Consciousness Project of the University of Southampton - an international collaboration of scientists and physicians who have joined forces to study the human brain, consciousness and clinical death.

The study is led by Dr Sam Parnia, an expert in the field of consciousness during clinical death, together with Dr Peter Fenwick and Professors Stephen Holgate and Robert Peveler of the University of Southampton. Following a successful 18-month pilot phase at selected hospitals in the UK, the study is now being expanded to include other centres within the UK, mainland Europe and North America.

"Contrary to popular perception," Dr Parnia explains, "death is not a specific moment. It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning - a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.

"During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria of death are present. There then follows a period of time, which may last from a few seconds to an hour or more, in which emergency medical efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and reversing the dying process. What people experience during this period of cardiac arrest provides a unique window of understanding into what we are all likely to experience during the dying process."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

Father Died Saving Son

In the Washington Post, Jonathan Mummolo writes that the Father Who Died Saving Son Known for Sacrifice

If you ever ran into Nokesville dad Thomas S. Vander Woude, chances are you would also see his son Joseph. Whether Vander Woude was volunteering at church, coaching basketball or working on his farm, Joseph was often right there with him, pitching in with a smile, friends and neighbors said yesterday.

When Joseph, 20, who has Down syndrome, fell into a septic tank Monday in his back yard, Vander Woude jumped in after him. He saved him. And he died where he spent so much time living: at his son's side.

"That's how he lived," Vander Woude's daughter-in-law and neighbor, Maryan Vander Woude, said yesterday. "He lived sacrificing his life, everything, for his family."

Vander Woude, 66, had gone to Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville on Monday, just as he did every day, and then worked in the yard with Joseph, the youngest of his seven sons, affectionately known as Josie. Joseph apparently fell through a piece of metal that covered a 2-by-2-foot opening in the septic tank, according to Prince William County police and family members.

Vander Woude rushed to the tank; a workman at the house saw what was happening and told Vander Woude's wife, Mary Ellen, police said. They called 911 about 12 p.m. and tried to help the father and son in the meantime.

At some point, Vander Woude jumped in the tank, submerging himself in sewage so he could push his son up from below and keep his head above the muck, while Joseph's mom and the workman pulled from above.

For those who knew him, Vander Woude's sacrifice was in keeping with a lifetime of giving.

"He's the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back," said neighbor Lee DeBrish. "And if he didn't have one, he'd buy one for you."

Vander Woude was a pilot in Vietnam, a daughter-in-law said. After the war, he worked as a commercial airline pilot and in the early 1980s moved his family to Prince William from Georgia. In the years to come, he would wear many hats: farmer, athletic director, volunteer coach, parishioner, handy neighbor, grandfather of 24, husband for 43 years.

What a remarkable man.  May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 AM | Permalink

September 11, 2008

Who was the Falling Man?

 Falling Man

Do you remember this photograph? In the United States, people have taken pains to banish it from the record of September 11, 2001. The story behind it, though, and the search for the man pictured in it, are our most intimate connection to the horror of that day.

The Falling Man by Tom Junod, Esquire, Sept 2003

In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity's divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did -- who jumped -- appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else -- something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man's posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 AM | Permalink

September 10, 2008

Missing Corpse on American Airlines

HORROR: American Airlines Sued Over Missing Body

It was Miguel Olaya's worst nightmare.

Not only had his wife of 26 years died of cancer, but he says American Airlines lost her body when it was time to bury her in their native Ecuador.

Olaya is a proud man. But when we was asked what he told his 16-year-old daughter, Laura, about how for several days American Airlines apparently could not tell them what happened to his wife Teresa's body while they waited to bury her in Ecuador, after flying in from New York, well, he struggled to maintain his composure. He didn't want to break down in front of a camera, but clearly he was torn up inside.

He managed to get out "Que estamos sufriendo. Translation: "We are suffering."
His wife of 26 years died of cancer, and after a viewing at De Riso funeral home in Brooklyn, the funeral home arranged with American Airlines to fly the body to Ecuador.
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Attorney Christopher Robles: "It appears from what we know about the state of the body when it arrives in Ecuador, that the body was not refrigerated. It was not kept the way a body would need to be kept."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

When Mourning was a Solemn Duty

From Roman Christendom Mourning: to comfort the bereaved and to pray for the dead.

Praying for the dead is, for those who have forgotten it, a grave duty for all Catholic Christians and one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy.  The purpose is to deliver one's loved ones out of the painful, suffering process of purgation that all but the most perfect must endure after death before they are sufficiently pure and holy to be ushered into the presence of Almighty God who is all love. No taint of self-love must remain to those who come before God.

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Now this duty is easily forgotten in a busy world and so we wear mourning to remind us to pray regularly throughout the day and night for our dead.
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The length of mourning depended on your relationship to the deceased. The different periods of mourning dictated by society were expected to reflect your natural period of grief.
_
for a widow
2 to 2 and a half years and a widow did not enter society for a year (although she could re-marry after 1 year and 1 day if financially necessary);
for a widower
2 years;
for a parent
2 years;
for children (if above ten years old)
2 years;
for children below that age
3 to 6 months;
for an infant
6 weeks and upward;
for siblings
6 to 8 months;
for grandparents
6 months;
for uncles and aunts
3 to 6 months;
for cousins, great aunts and uncles, or aunts and uncles related by marriage from
6 weeks to 3 months;
for more distant relatives or friends from
3 weeks upward.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

Uneven Shares

THE day will come, or may have already, when your children think of your money as theirs.

Learning to Share

Putting off discussion and then springing an unwelcome surprise in a will can poison the reservoir of family joy that parents want to bequeath to the next generation, resurrecting or exacerbating sibling rivalries, especially in blended families created through divorce or remarriage after the death of a spouse.

Succession is a natural progression, as old as the concept of private property, yet many parents never bother to tell their children about plans for their estate.

David Cay Johnston in the New York Times lays out the costs of not telling your children about uneven shares in your will.

Mitchell Gans, a law professor at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., who has helped develop some of the most complex estate plans in the country, recommends that in such cases you should prepare the will and then notify “the kids that you are cutting out — or who are getting less than the others.”

“If you have the courage to do that,” Professor Gans said, “you cut down significantly the chance of litigation after death.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink

Obituary of a Frontier Woman

From Camille Paglia comes this remarkable 1905 obituary from Toronto's Globe and Mail

Abigail Becker

Farmer and homemaker born in Frontenac County, Upper Canada, on March 14, 1830

A tall, handsome woman "who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all," she married a widower with six children and settled in a trapper's cabin on Long Point, Lake Erie. On Nov. 23, 1854, with her husband away, she single-handedly rescued the crew of the schooner Conductor of Buffalo, which had run aground in a storm. The crew had clung to the frozen rigging all night, not daring to enter the raging surf. In the early morning, she waded chin-high into the water (she could not swim) and helped seven men reach shore. She was awarded medals for heroism and received $350 collected by the people of Buffalo, plus a handwritten letter from Queen Victoria that was accompanied by £50, all of which went toward buying a farm. She lost her husband to a storm, raised 17 children alone and died at Walsingham Centre, Ont.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

September 9, 2008

World's most bizarre deaths

World's most bizarre deaths

Oh, nuts!

Willie Murphy was more than a bit shell-shocked when an avalanche of peanuts buried him at a processing plant in Georgia, USA, in 1993. He never made it out alive.

Oh, chute!

Experienced skydiver Ivan McGuire went plane crazy one day in 1988 when he decided to film his 3,000m jump above North Carolina – he remembered his camera but forgot his parachute!

Water way to go

Things didn’t go swimmingly at all for a 59-year-old Californian when he sat on a pool’s badly covered drain. With a sucking power of 300lbs per square inch, he never really stood a chance. He died when his small intestine was sucked clean out.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:02 AM | Permalink

September 6, 2008

Cash for corpses

Cash-for-corpses murders probed

Chinese police have arrested members of a gang suspected of murdering more than 100 disabled or elderly people and selling their corpses in a bizarre scheme to avoid cremations, a newspaper said on Tuesday.

Burials have traditionally been seen as the most respectful way to handle the dead in China, but were discouraged after the Communists came to power in 1949 to conserve farmland and eradicate superstition.

The bodies were bought by wealthy families and sent for cremation in lieu of deceased relatives who were then secretly buried, the South China Morning Post reported.

The killers would trail their victims, usually mentally disabled or elderly people, "drag them into vehicles in remote areas and either strangle or poison them", the newspaper said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

Pope's organ card an 'act of love'

He signed up as an organ donor when he was a cardinal.

Pope Benedict carries organ donor card as "an act of love'.

Pope Benedict XVI is a card-carrying organ donor, it emerged today. The disclosure that the pontiff is prepared to donate organs for transplants after his death follows a front page article in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, calling into question the concept of brain death as the end of life rather than cardio-circulatory arrest.
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The modern Catechism of the Catholic Church
"Donation of organs after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as a manifestation of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or those who legitimately speak for him have not given their explicit consent."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

September 3, 2008

The Voice Silenced

We all know and will all miss Don LaFonaine: The Voice

AP Obit
- The omnipresent baritone and gravely bass undertones of Don LaFontaine's distinctive voice had the unique ability to seamlessly embellish big-screen kisses, slice through over-the-top explosions, perfectly pair with robust musical scores, glide alongside car chases and effortlessly co-star with any A-list talent in Hollywood.

''He was the originator of the modern voiceover for movie trailers,'' said voiceover artist Jim Tasker. ''He is the standard for which all other voiceovers for movie trailers are measured. For the past 30 years, his voice has been the gauge for all of us in the industry.'
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'When you die, the voice you hear in heaven is not Don's. It's God trying to sound like Don.''

Washington Post a clever appreciation by Hank Stuever,  In a World of Don LaFontaine.

In a world where marketing is far more important than content . . . came one man . . . with a Voice....

In a world that believed deeply in the potency of the words Coming Soon. . .

In a world where eyewitnesses describe real things, real events as being "like, in a movie" .

In a world suddenly without Don LaFontaine, who died Monday at 68 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, of lung failure, brought on by undetermined causes . . . (Cedars-Sinai being a world where the famous newly dead go on to other coming attractions).

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 PM | Permalink

September 2, 2008

Search for Lost Coffins

In Louisiana, Search Goes On for Lost Coffins.


Displacements of more than 1,500 bodies occurred in Louisiana from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Some were also displaced in Texas and Mississippi. Hundreds remain unidentified, officials say. Louisiana estimates the cost of retrieving lost coffins will be about $4 million.

Mr. Mudge, a retired councilman and former deputy, inherited recovery duty in his parish three days after Katrina. He was traveling through flood waters by airboat when he noticed coffins floating in the streets. "The storm broke apart everything," Mr. Mudge says. "Everything came out."

Over the last three years, his wife, Barbara, a 62-year-old parish government secretary, has compiled meticulous notes of the clues in each find. They quickly discovered many people are buried without any notation in the coffins of who they were.
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Some coffins were sent to a temporary morgue an hour away, where experts looked for medical identification bracelets, name tags, dental records and performed X-rays. They kept records of mementos placed with the bodies, such as Budweiser and banana-liquor bottles, fishing poles, letters, baseball caps, jewelry and in one case an Aretha Franklin cassette tape.

In February 2006, all the bodies were sent back to Plaquemines Parish with reports of the findings in each coffin. Mrs. Mudge went to work. She conducted dozens of interviews with people who had lost relatives, as well as funeral-home directors and grave diggers -- compiling descriptions and combing through reports for clues.

Mr. Mudge retrieved two identical coffins adorned with a pink rose design, one on top of a levee and another in the woods. The local mortician opened the first coffin, and spotted a hot pink bingo marker in the exact spot described by Ms. St. Ann. "They asked me if I wanted to keep it," Ms. St. Ann says. "I told them to leave that marker with her just in case something like this happens again." Her brother's body hasn't been found.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink

"I don't believe in God, but I miss Him."

Michael Dirda on 'Nothing to be Frightened Of'


"Nothing to Be Frightened Of" (Julian Barnes)

Nothing to Be Frightened Of offers an extended meditation on human mortality, but one that is neither clinical nor falsely consoling.
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"For me, death is the one appalling fact which defines life; unless you are constantly aware of it, you cannot begin to understand what life is about; unless you know and feel that the days of wine and roses are limited, that the wine will madeirize and the roses turn brown in their stinking water before all are thrown out for ever -- including the jug -- there is no context to such pleasures and interests as come your way on the road to the grave. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?"
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While Julian examines various attitudes toward death and admits to envying those with religious faith, he himself is agnostic. As he says, "I don't believe in God, but I miss Him." ("Soppy," says his atheist brother.) He then goes on to discuss what the French call "le réveil mortel" -- the wake-up call to the reality of death, that recognition of personal mortality that marks the end of childhood. He also reviews what Montaigne called "the death of youth, which often takes place unnoticed. . .
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While some people on their deathbeds dutifully rage against the dying of the light, Barnes prefers those who simply remain true to themselves, who depart this life with, say, a gesture of quiet courtliness: "A few hours before dying in a Naples hospital," the Flaubert scholar Francis Steegmuller "said (presumably in Italian) to a male nurse who was cranking up his bed, 'You have beautiful hands.' " Barnes calls this "a last, admirable catching at a moment of pleasure in observing the world, even as you are leaving it." Similarly, the poet and classicist "A.E. Housman's last words were to the doctor giving him a final -- and perhaps knowingly sufficient -- morphine injection: 'Beautifully done.' "

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

Meals Served to a Dead King

Via Tea at Trianon comes the Strange Custom of Dining with the Dead

François I died of illness on March 31, 1547, but that didn't prevent his courtiers from dining with him ever again. His meals were served to his effigy, as if he were still alive, for eleven days as part of an elaborate funeral ceremony rife with symbolic meaning.
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François was not buried until May 22, as his successor, Henri II, wanted to combine his father's funeral with those of the king's two sons who had predeceased him and whose bodies had to be transported to Paris. This gap allowed for an elaborate ceremony to unfold.
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Along the walls were benches for nobles and clerics, who attended the religious services and meals served to the effigy. These were the strangest parts of the ceremonial. For eleven days the king's meals were served as if he were still alive. His table was laid and the courses brought in and tasted. The napkin, used to wipe his hands, was presented by the steward to the most eminent person in attendance, and wine was served twice during each meal. At the end, grace was said by a cardinal.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

September 1, 2008

No one left to toll the bells

Bell-ringer falls to his death after church wedding.   

A bell-ringer plunged 30ft to his death seconds after a bride and groom tied the knot in a romantic church wedding ceremony.

The bride and groom, and their assembled guests were walking out of the church when 80-year-old bell-ringer Jack Sturgeon fell 30ft down a church tower, moments after ringing the bells for the happy occasion.

His devastated wife Beryl, 81, was in church at the time.
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After ringing the bells, he is believed to have climbed a second set of stairs to inspect the clock when he suddenly fell at St Mary's Church in Mildenhall, Suffolk, about 2.15pm on Saturday.

Mr Sturgeon, a bell-ringer of 40 years, suffered a suspected heart attack, however it is still unclear if it caused him to slip off the stairs, or whether the fall triggered the condition.
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Reverend Hodges said Mr Sturgeon was a '100 per cent reliable' bell-ringer.

'All we can say is that at least he died doing what he loved best in our church, a place he loved.'

She said the newlyweds, Mr Keane and Miss Brown, had also been shattered by the tragedy.

'They're local people and they've been left devastated. 'They'll never ever forget what happened on what should have been the happiest day of their lives.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:04 PM | Permalink

Christians Burnt Alive in India; A Crucifixion Parade

Swami Laxmananda  Saraswat was a senior leader in the VHP, a movement  organized in 1964 to organize and preserve the Hindu world from Communism, Islam and Christianity.  In 1992 they demolished the Babri Mosque.  Muslim mobs rioted and over 900 people were killed across the country.  In 2002 there were more riots and some 2000 were killed in what came to be called the  Gujarat violence.  Mobs attacked Christians in December 2007, burning shops and churches forcing 700 Indian Christians to flee.

On August 23, the Swami and four associates were found murdered in their monastery.  The police suspected the Communists Maoists who later took responsibility for the murder.

In a horrifying display of week-long violence in Orissa,  believing the Christians were to blame mobs went on a horrifying rampage of murder and arson, a "religious cleansing" as it were.

26 people killed in week-long violence in Orissa although the real death toll may be as close to 100 as more butchered bodies are found. Some 4000 Christian homes, churches and convents were burned by Hindu fanatics.    One twenty-year old Christian girl Rajini escaped from the flames only to be tied up and thrown back in the fire.

 Indian Girl Raini Martyr

One pregnant woman who refused to denounce her faith in Christ was cut into pieces before her husband and other Christians.

A Catholic nun was burnt alive and another nun was gang-raped by Hindu fundamentalists.

One priest who escaped describes his ordeal
They had poured kerosene on my head, and one held a matchbox in his hands to light the fire. But thanks to divine providence, in the end, they did not do that. Otherwise, I would not have been there to tell this horror,"
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"They vandalized everything and set it on fire. It has been reduced to ashes," he added.
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"They began our crucifixion parade," said Father Chellen. The gang of about 50 armed Hindus "beat us up and led us like culprits along the road" to the burned pastoral center.

"There they tore my shirt and started pulling off the clothes of the nun. When I protested, they beat me hard with iron rods. Later, they took the sister inside (and) raped her while they went on kicking and teasing me, forcing (me) to say vulgar words," said the priest who has cuts, bruises and swollen tissue all over his body and stitches on his face.

"Later both of us, half-naked, were taken to the street, and they ordered me to have sex with the nun in public, saying nuns and priests do it. As I refused, they went on beating me and dragged us to the nearby government office. Sadly, a dozen policemen were watching all this," he said.

Angry at his plea to the police for help, the mob beat the bleeding priest again.

Today, there is an almost complete collapse of the police force and the Orissa violence forces  60,000 Christians to take refuge in the forests.

The blog Orissa Burning is keeping witness to the ongoing torture and murder of Christians in Orissa and doing a fine job of keeping us informed.

What is at the bottom of all this outrage against Christians? An Indian archbishop says the Christians' offense is fighting against slavery -
the work that Christians in Orissa are carrying out on behalf of the tribals and the Dalits, at the very bottom of the caste system:

"Before, they were like slaves. Now, some of them study in our schools, start businesses in the villages, demand their rights. And those who – even in the India of the economic boom – want to keep intact the old division into castes are afraid that they will gain too much power. Orissa today is a laboratory. What is at stake is the future of millions of Dalits and tribals living all over the country."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink