November 29, 2008

Death by shoppers

What a horror!

A 34-year-old man from Queens who had recently lost his job took a new temporary one at Walmart to help with the day-after-Thanksgiving sales and was trampled to death

at 5:03 a.m., Jdimytai Damour, 34 - hired just for the holiday rush - opened the door, and a frenzied horde of hundreds surged forward, knocking him to the ground and crushing him, police said.

"They overran him and kept running into the store. They pushed right over his body," said Nassau County Police Detective Lt. Michael Fleming. "Many of them did not even know he was down there."

Other employees tried to battle forward to help Damour, but were pushed back by the crowd, Fleming said. Even officers responding to the scene had difficulty pushing through the mob to get to the fallen man.

"It was utter and complete chaos," Fleming said.

Even though it was clear there was trouble, shoppers continued pushing forward, stepping over Damour's crushed body, witnesses said.

"Nobody cared. They were still trying to get in. People were stampeding to get inside," Brown said.

His friends were stunned.

Friends were stunned to learn of the death of the Brooklyn native remembered for his gentle, introspective nature.

"He was a good kid, he'd help anyone out," said pal Ronald Jean. "He wanted to be a teacher. He talked about going back to school. He loved reading, and he wrote his own poetry."

Damour's mom, Marie Telismond, spent many years working as a housekeeper at the famed Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue before returning to her native Haiti.

She's now returning to New York to bury her son.

I'm glad the police are reviewing videos to find the shoppers who trampled Jdimtai Damour to death. 

Such behavior can not be tolerated in a civilized society.

Jdimtai Damour, rest in peace. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:56 PM | Permalink

"This is the only thing that is equal to my father's death." "This is the only thing that is equal to my father's death

Condolences to David Warren on the death of his father.

He writes about another whose response in losing his father was to attend Catholic masses in the old, Latin rite. 

Went to hear, and inevitably, went to think, while the words of the Mass were sung for him, from the invocation of the Kyrie, a text old as the Psalms if not older: "Lord have mercy."

From one Mass, he was drawn curiously to another, until in due course his diverse thoughts organized themselves into a single thought. And that thought was: "This is the only thing that is equal to my father's death."

I learned of this when my own father died, the Sunday before last.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:27 PM | Permalink

Harley Davidson Drawn Hearse

From coast to coast, San Diego to Long Island, there's a new twist to hearses.

Harley Davidson Drawn Hearse, Anyone?

Harley-Davidson enthusiasts who take the motto "Live to Ride, Ride to Live" to heart now have a proper conveyance to hog heaven.

A Long Island funeral home chain invested $100,000 in a three-wheeled Harley and carriage-style hearse for bikers who want to go out in style.

For $795, a driver will take the dearly departed from the funeral home to the house of worship, then on to the cemetery _ compared to $475 to $575 for a lift in a traditional hearse, they said.

Moloney said his family hoped to capitalize on a high concentration of military veterans and bike fanatics on Long Island.

"It's not morbid, it's cool," he said. "It's a way for people to always remember your funeral."

 Harley Davidson Hearse

It's Never to Late to Go out in Style

Jose Santana hadn't ridden a motorcycle in years, but when the 67-year-old Jamul man died of a stroke last week, his four children wanted his funeral to reflect his free-wheeling side.

They agreed their father's idea of heaven would be a final ride in a Harley-Davidson hearse.

“They said it was a Harley, and I said, 'Yeah, he'd like that,' ” son Jorge Santana said. “My dad liked his freedom.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 AM | Permalink

November 28, 2008

Remembering a Dakota Thanksgiving

Would that we all had the talent that Joseph Bottum does in recalling a long-ago  Dakota Thanksgiving.  Better yet an Aunt Eleanor.

Aunt Eleanor turned to look at me directly, and her face was hard with something I couldn’t quite understand. “And do you see why? It’s because they were parents. And that’s what it means to be a parent. They had already given up their lives for their child’s, from the first moment he existed.”

She sighed again and looked back out at the river. “In that blizzard, the bill finally came due, and they knew they had to pay it—the way you will pay it, when your time comes. The way your mother and father will pay it, when they have to. That’s what I want you to remember the next time you’re angry with them, the next time you want to scream because they won’t let you do something, the next time you feel as though nobody understands how grown up you’ve become.”

She glanced over at me and smiled, pulling her cloth sleeve up over her hand to wipe the windshield. “Come,” she said, “it’s time to get back home.”

Years later, I came to see my great-aunt’s story as the answer to utilitarianism and the ethics of calculation, the solution to those “lifeboat cases” we were supposed to ponder in freshman philosophy courses. But at the time I knew only that she was trying, in her way, to let me in on the secret, the mystery of adulthood. We turned away from the cold, gurgling river and drove back up the hill to the house on Elizabeth Street. Dinner was just beginning, and the arguments were already starting to swirl around the quarrelsome table. But my father winked at me across the half-carved turkey. And just as I realized how hungry I was, my mother set before me a plate filled with bright orange yams, green beans, the dark drumstick meat I loved, cranberry sauce, sage dressing—the kind of meal a fourteen-year-old boy imagines every meal should be. My parents were happy that Thanksgiving, I think, and why not? They had each other, they had their children, and they had their family, however much it squabbled and fought, gathered around them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

"Awesome, Dude!"

How not to conduct a funeral mass for a priest.

Father Harry Meyer tried to imagine God’s reaction when St. Susanna pastor Dan Schuh appeared in heaven.

Probably, he said, it was the same as the teenaged skier who witnessed the 50-something priest tumble head over skis down the slopes one winter night at Perfect North Slopes.

"Awesome, dude!" Meyer told the 1,500-plus parishioners and priests who gathered for Schuh’s funeral Mass Wednesday morning.

Father Z comments sadly:

We can’t avoid death.  We cannot control death.  We don’t understand death and we fear what we don’t understand.  Fear, at its root, is a result of the Fall.  Death and fear are inseparable, as cause to its effect.

This is why, I think, so many funerals today are as described above.

Death’s mystery is supremely confronted in Holy Mass, and in its deepest way during the Requiem.    Perhaps this is why funerals tend to reveal the worst of our tendencies toward illicit liturgical creativity and bad taste.  Corruptio optimi pessima.

Holy Mass must be celebrated in such a way that it leads us into the mystery of Christ’s death, and our death.  Mass is therefore like the Cross.  It is a mystery.  It thus will allure and repel, reveal that things are hidden and demand faith in what is unseen, or rather seen only darkly as if through a glass.

We mustn’t dodge the reality of death.  We shove death aside, or paint it over with bright colors and candy music, at our peril.  So many funerals are arrange so that people can get through another hour or so without having confronted anything either frightening or meaningful.  We avert our gaze from what Christ did for us and from what we must yet experience. 

If Holy Mass is reduced to the banal it becomes merely another worldly distraction.  It becomes a show.

But Mass is a sacrament, in the sense of its being a mystery.  It prepares us for death, Christ’s and our own.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:22 AM | Permalink

November 26, 2008

"The largest single identification of remains in U.S. history"

Jules Crittenden reports that researchers using ground-penetrating radar have found what they believe is a lost USMC graveyard on Tarawa and he has lots of photos.

Some 139 graves already located could lead to the largest single identification of remains in U.S. history. 

One man, Mark Noah, raised the money to find these unmarked graves by selling vintage military aircraft rides at air shows.  MSNBC tells the tale.

Sixty-five years ago, Nov 20-23, 1943, some 1687 Americans were killed and 2296 were wounded while 4836 Japanese and Koreans were killed and 146 taken alive in the bloody battle of Tarawa. 

I had to turn to Wikipedia to learn just what was so important about this atoll in the Pacific.  I was left as always awed by the ingenuity of the planners and the courage of the soldiers and humbled by the thought of so many lives lost in pursuit of victory.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:33 PM | Permalink

"The saddest story I have ever come across" says coroner

Devastated schoolboy, eight, hanged himself after deaths of his mother and grandfather

An eight-year-old boy devastated after the deaths of his mother and grandfather hanged himself with his school tie in his bedroom.

In a case the coroner described as 'the saddest story I have ever come across' in a 20-year career, the inquest heard how Joshua Aldred was heartbroken after losing both his mother and grandfather to cancer within a year.

 8 Year Old Joshua Aldred

Joshua was still struggling with the death of his grandfather, John, when his mother Sarah, 42, died in March after battling breast cancer, the inquest also heard.

His father Jason, 41, who has lost his father, wife and only child within ten months, said he thought Joshua had been adjusting.

In a statement, Mr Aldred said he last saw his son alive before he left for work that morning. He said: ‘I know he missed his mum’s hugs and he had done a drawing of her in his Manchester United notebook which was put next to his bed.

He added: ‘I didn’t notice any change after Sarah had died. He was just a normal, happy, well-adjusted little boy.’

I imagine father, grandmother and son all beset by grief and each trying to act as normal for the others. 

Blackpool coroner Anne Hind recorded a verdict of misadventure, saying 'it was an intended act with unintended consequences.'

She said: 'He did intend to hang himself, but in law he did not in fact for a minute intend the consequences of his actions, not for a minute.

'This is a terrible, terrible tragedy. I cannot tell you how my heart has gone out to you and how I have prayed for you.'

They all need prayers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 PM | Permalink

November 22, 2008

Woman Killed by Husband's Coffin

Woman killed by husband's coffin

A Brazilian woman has died after being struck by her husband's coffin when a hearse was involved in a car crash.

The 67-year-old woman was on the way to the cemetery to bury her husband, reports the BBC.

The hearse was struck from behind by an Alfa Romeo car, police said.

The coffin slammed into the head of the woman, who was sitting in the passenger seat of the hearse, killing her instantly, according to officers.

Marciana Silva Barcelos and her family were on the way to a cemetery in the town of Alvorada in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, for the funeral of her partner, Josi Silveira Coimbra.

The 76-year-old man had died of a heart attack on Sunday after attending a dance.

Following the accident, the driver of the Alfa Romeo was trapped for around 50 minutes in the wreckage and was taken to hospital.

The driver of the hearse and a son of the dead man, who was also travelling in the hearse, were treated for minor injuries.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2008

"It is almost beyond belief to think he may have had to pass her body on a daily basis."

This is so gruesome, I debated about posting it, but then I couldn't stop wondering about what went through that man's mind.

Husband 'left wife's body hanging for eight weeks  after backing out of suicide pact'

"It's an unusual and shocking business and it is almost beyond belief to think he may have had to pass her body on a daily basis."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 AM | Permalink

The First Few Minutes After Death

 Near Death Experiment

The First Five Minutes After Death - A three year study will explore the nature of death and consciousness

After countless accounts of near-death experiences, dating as far back as ancient Greece, science is now taking serious steps forward to explore the nature of the phenomenon. A new project aims to determine whether the experience is a physiological event or evidence that the human consciousness is far more complicated than we ever believed.
the near-death experience could be another state of consciousness with a different set of rules than what we currently understand, and beyond the limits of what current scientific methods can explain.
During the time that people report the feeling of detachment from their physical body, or an out-of-body-experience, they report a perception of floating above their body, or floating near the ceiling in the room where the experience occurs. This aspect of the experience plays an important role in the study.

Some speculate that St. Paul had a near-death experience that may have influenced the New Testament.

When folks have near-death experiences, they often return with a completely different view of the world, and their role in it.

Almost to a person, they become more spiritual. Their accent becomes love. They look at everyday worries -- in the light of eternity -- as trivial.
That question (and it is only a question) arises because of the famous line in 2 Corinthians 12:4, whereby the great disciple, Paul (once Saul), wrote, "I know this man -- whether in or outside his body I do not know, God knows -- was snatched up to Paradise to hear words, which cannot be uttered, words which no man may speak."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

Too much deodorant

This struck me as particularly sad as I imagine young Dan Hurley just entering puberty and doing his best to cope with the changes in his body.

Twelve year old boy collapses and dies after using too much spray deodorant in a cramped bathroom

Daniel Hurley died after using Lynx Vice spray - but the coroner said the dangers were clearly explained on the can

Consultant pathologist Dr Andrew Hitchcock, who carried out a postmortem examination on Daniel, said he found no evidence of substance abuse. There was also no evidence of any life-threatening disease, alcohol or drugs in Daniel's body.

'What we have in this case is someone who may well have had a cardiac abnormality in the presence of the solvent,' Dr Hitchcock said.

'There is a very reasonable assumption that the passive inhalation of the solvent almost certainly led to his death.'

Condolences to his poor parents.  His father said that Daniel
was always putting gel on his hair and spraying deodorant'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:45 AM | Permalink

November 19, 2008

First known nuclear family

  4600 Burial Family

Discovered in a tender embrace, the first known nuclear family

A Stone Age burial ground, where the bodies of adults and children lay together for thousands of years entwined in tender embraces, has provided the earliest evidence for the existence of the nuclear family.

DNA tests on four skeletons from one of the graves have shown that the family unit of mother, father and their biological children goes back at least 4,600 years, when these bodies were carefully interred after a violent death.

The Stone Age site near Eulau in Germany contains the skeletons of several groups of adults and children buried facing one another in an arrangement that may mirror their relationships in life, scientists said yesterday.

In one grave, a mother is embracing her son, while crouching next to her in the same grave is the father with his arms around their elder son. "A direct child-parent relationship was detected in one burial, providing the oldest molecular genetic evidence of a nuclear family," the scientists said in the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:51 PM | Permalink

November 16, 2008

Death by Stomping Wine

Two French wine-makers suffocated by carbon dioxide fumes from grapes they were treading

Two amateur French wine makers have died after they were suffocated by the fumes from the grapes they were treading with their bare feet.

The victims had volunteered to help a friend make wine at his vineyard in the northern Ardeche region and had climbed into the six-foot wide vat to begin the traditional process of extracting the juice from the grapes.

But police believe Daniel Moulin, 48, and 50-year-old Gerard Dachis were overcome by carbon dioxide fumes that are given off during fermentation and collapsed.

I can't decide what category this fits in, so it goes in both - No Way to Go and  Good Death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:42 PM | Permalink

172 Grandchildren at Grandmother's Funeral

Grandmother's funeral brings her 172 grandchildren together for the first time ever.

As a grandmother of 172, Maggie Ward had plenty of family to dote on. And when it came to her funeral, they were determined to repay the favour.

Although they have never all been together in one place before, every single one made sure they were at the ceremony to give the 87-year-old a good send-off.

More amazingly:

Daughter Anne Hudson paid tribute to her mother and told how she never forgot a birthday and every member of her family got a gift at Christmas.
'She would never forget a birthday and got everyone a present at Christmas. She bought presents all year round - she would go to markets to get gifts so she could afford something for everyone.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 14, 2008

Doubledecker graves in England

 Double-Decker Grave

More room on top - lack of space brings in doubledecker grave.

The disturbance of human remains in burial grounds is to be allowed for the first time since the early Victorian era to deal with a shortage of graves, The Times has learnt.

Under a test scheme to begin in the new year, local authorities across the country will be allowed to exhume remains and rebury them deeper to create space for further burials on top.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

The Sacrifice of One American Family

 Muslim Funeral Afghanistan

A Muslim Imam leads mourners in prayer during a service for Mohsin Naqvi, a Muslim and native of Pakistan, who emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 8 years old and became a citizen at 16 and later an officer in the U.S. Army.  He was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol last week in Afghanistan.

This and other striking photographs from Afghanistan at The Big Picture 

Mohsin Naqvi, R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2008

"She parked her car, left it, and immediately found herself in boiling water"

Woman dies in pit of boiling water

A RUSSIAN woman has died after falling into a pit of boiling water that opened up on a street.
The hole was caused by a ruptured underground heating pipe.

"She parked her car, left it, and immediately found herself in boiling water," said an official at the Military Medical Academy hospital in St Petersburg.

Most Russian cities have ageing municipal heating systems that pump boiling water under the streets and into houses.

Ruptures regularly occur in late autumn when the system is switched on for the winter.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:51 PM | Permalink

"I was a fool..."

Gen.  Barrow's lesson in dying

I am going to tell you what a fool I was, in hope that you will learn from my foolishness, and not do what I did. Or rather, what I failed to do.

I opened up the New York Times the other day to see that General Robert H. Barrow had died. He was 86, and formerly the commandant of the US Marine Corps. He's from my hometown, and returned there to the family plantation after his retirement. I knew that he was there, and for a long, long time, would pass his house when I'd go home to visit my folks and think, "One of these times, I need to call on Gen. Barrow. I bet he's interesting."

I never did. Here, from the
Times obit, is the kind of man I never found the time to call on:

The honor guard accompanied Gen. Barrow's casket through town, the Marine Corps band played, they had a 21-gun salute, and it was all so glorious in my sister's telling. Nothing like that has ever happened in our town. A truly great man lived among us.

And see, I knew he was there all along, and never made time to go see him, and ask him about his life and times. What stories he could have told! If only I'd had enough sense to stop by and say hello. I come from a small town. People are neighborly. I bet he would have been pleased to make time for a curious visitor who wanted to find out what he knew about the world. But I never made time for him.

What I want to tell you is this: you can probably think of an old man or old woman in the periphery of your life, someone who may or may not be as illustrious or as accomplished as Gen. Barrow was, but who still has quite a story to tell. You may have thought to yourself that someday, you'd like to sit down with that person and have a long talk. But everydayness sets in, and you never do get around to it. Suddenly, you're out of days. The moment has passed. There's nothing left but regret.

I was a fool to let the opportunity to benefit from Gen. Barrow's wisdom pass me by. Whoever your Gen. Barrow is, don't you be a fool too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 PM | Permalink

Auschwitz through the lens of the SS

A photo album by a Nazi leader in the camp that lay forgotten in an attic for sixty years.

 Auschwitz Ss Photo Album

"They were young and out for a good time."

Auschwitz through the lens of the SS  looks a lot like a resort camp.

We all know that monsters do monstrous things. But when you see people who look like they're nice guys, in a fairly benign setting, and we know for a fact that they were doing monstrous things, then it raises all sorts of questions about what's man's capacity for evil. In a different setting would they still be monsters?

They were all too frighteningly human.

It makes you think about how people could come to this. That they don't look like monsters. They look like me. They look like my next door neighbor. Is he capable of that? Am I?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:44 PM | Permalink

*Henry VII, "a spot of blood and grease on the history of England"

By focusing on his sexual life, the recent BBC series on the Tudors fails, I am told, to
remind us that Henry VIII became a bloody tyrant.  John Hinton calls it A spot of blood and grease on the history of England.

       Henry Viii

Holbein's strutting monarch shows Henry in his last dozen years when, in Charles Dickens's glorious phrase, he was "a spot of blood and grease on the history of England".

This was the man who broke with Rome and made himself supreme head of the Church, who married six wives, divorcing two and executing two others.

Henry dissolved 600 monasteries, demolished most of them and shattered the religious pieties and practices of a thousand years. Drunk with power - not to mention the wine, women and song of his endless days of pleasure - he beheaded nobles and Ministers, some of them his closest friends, tortured to death rebels and traitors, boiled prisoners and burned heretics.

He was 18 when he suddenly became king.  What did Sir Thomas More see in him as a young king?  How did a virtuous prince become a bloodthirsty tyrant?

In astonishment and dismay, Sir Thomas was to become one of the Henry's victims, climbing the scaffold and later being made a saint. But earlier More had proclaimed in verses he penned to celebrate Henry's coronation that he was a new messiah and his reign a second coming.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

November 11, 2008

Going out in style

 Ice-Cream Man's Coffin

If traditional coffins are too boring for you, consider The coffins that carry you off in a riot of color

They are the perfect final tribute for anyone who wouldn’t be seen dead in a traditional coffin.

Increasing numbers of families are choosing colourful ‘designer’ caskets for their loved ones, injecting a bold personal touch to funeral services.

Mary Tomes, 63, set up the company in Oxford after she retired from the printing industry. ‘I think our coffins can make people smile and lift the occasion,’ she said. ‘It makes it easier for people to deal with because it becomes a talking point.’

She added: ‘The clergy have been absolutely wonderful with this. Sometimes when you lose somebody it can be so hard to look at coffins. People who have been to a funeral and seen one of ours can smile and say, “Oh yes, he really loved golf.”

This is too much -  a coffin as a talking point at a funeral?  Give me grief and lamentations, I don't need no talking points.

 Colorful Coffins

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:32 PM | Permalink

November 4, 2008

Mouse Cloned from Grave

Scientists create new life from a mouse that had been frozen for 16 years

Scientists have created clones of a mouse that had been dead and frozen for 16 years.

It is the first time they have been able to clone a frozen animal.

The Japanese researchers say their work will benefit mankind - and could be used to bring back extinct animals such as the woolly mammoth or sabre tooth tiger.

But ethical watchdogs branded the experiment disturbing.

Critics say it brings the world closer to the day when people try to clone long- dead relatives stored in cryopreservation clinics.

It could even lead to a macabre new industry - in which people leave behind 'relics' of their bodies in freezers in the hope that they could one day be cloned.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

November 3, 2008

He accomplished the American Drean

He started off as a window washer and later founded a maintenance company with his brother-in-law

Hyman Golden, Co-Founder of Snapple, Dies at 85

Then, in 1972, Mr. Marsh introduced Mr. Golden to Arnold Greenberg, a childhood friend who ran a health food store in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The three decided to join forces and founded a company — called Unadulterated Food Products — selling juices to health-food stores.

In 1980, the company introduced a line of all-natural juices with the Snapple name, which came from one of its first products, a carbonated apple juice that had a “snappy apple taste.”

“When it first came out,” Mr. Greenberg told The New York Times in July 1994, “we sold 500 cases. The next month we sold 500 more cases and got some calls from distributors. ‘You’ve changed your formula,’ they said. ‘This Snapple’s tasting better and better.’ Then one day in our warehouse the tops of the bottles started shooting off. Bang! Pop! We found out it was fermenting. We’d made Champagne.”

The company enjoyed modest success with its natural sodas in the early 1980s, but it was when it introduced its iced tea in 1987 that sales began to skyrocket. Amid a nationwide boom in health consciousness, Snapple became perhaps the only ready-to-drink iced tea promoted as having natural ingredients and being made from real brewed tea. Consumers increasingly chose it over its carbonated competitors.
By the time the company was purchased by Quaker Oats Company for about $1.7 billion in 1994, it had annual sales of $700 million, and its bottles of juices with their familiar blue-and-white logos could be found in delis, supermarkets, vending machines and homes across the country.

“He accomplished the American dream,” she said. “When he and his partners would get together for events and celebrations, their favorite song to sing was ‘God Bless America,’ because they were so appreciative.”

“In their wildest dreams,” she added, “they never thought that this would be the end result.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

Ancient curse linked to man's death in custody

In 1239, Gilbert de Moravia, Bishop of Caithness, invoked a solemn curse “upon those who destroy and injure" the fabric of Dornoch Cathedral in Scotland.  When he died he was interred beneath the floor of the Cathedral.

 Dornoch Cathedral

In 1570, the Cathedral was burnt down during local feuding.

St Gilbert’s curse was said to have struck down landowner William Sutherland, of Evelix, near Dornoch. During the sacking of the cathedral by the Mackays of Strathnaver and retainers of the Earl of Caithness, Sutherland had joined in and kicked over St Gilbert's bones. According to local tradition, the very foot that perpetrated the deed rotted away, creating such a stench that no one would go near Sutherland as he died a slow, agonising death

 Dornoch Cathedral Floodlit

In October, 2008, a 19-year-old was arrested for vandalizing and stealing money from the ancient building.  Put in a jail cell over the weekend before he appeared in court, young Daryl Shearer died mysteriously.  A post-mortem investigation is underway.

Bishop's Hex to Anyone Who Damaged Cathedral.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

November 2, 2008

The Prayer in the Pocket of the Soldier

The Homily on All Souls Day from the Preacher to the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa

Faith doesn't free believers from the anguish of having to die, but it soothes us with hope. A preface of the Mass (for All Souls' Day) says: "If the certainty of having to die saddens us, the hope of future immortality consoles us." In this sense, there is a moving testimony that also comes from Russia. In 1972, in a clandestine magazine a prayer was published that had been found in the jacket pocket of a soldier, Aleksander Zacepa, composed just before the World War II battle in which he would die.

It says:

Hear me, oh God! In my lifetime, I have not spoken with you even once, but today I have the desire to celebrate. Since I was little, they have always told me that you don't exist. And I, like an idiot, believed it.

I have never contemplated your works, but tonight I have seen from the crater of a grenade the sky full of stars, and I have been fascinated by their splendor. In that instant I have understood how terrible is the deception. I don't know, oh God, if you will give me your hand, but I say to you that you understand me …

Is it not strange that in the middle of a frightful hell, light has appeared to me, and I have discovered you?

I have nothing more to tell you. I feel happy, because I have known you. At midnight, we have to attack, but I am not afraid. You see us.

They have given the signal. I have to go. How good it was to be with you! I want to tell you, and you know, that the battle will be difficult: Perhaps this night, I will go to knock on your door. And if up to now, I have not been your friend, when I go, will you allow me to enter?

But, what's happening to me? I cry? My God, look at what has happened to me. Only now, I have begun to see with clarity. My God, I go. It will be difficult to return. How strange, now, death does not make me afraid.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:56 PM | Permalink

Flowers for the Dead

 Chrysanthemum All Souls

Painting by Emile Friant, La Toussaint.

Via Tea at Trianon comes Chrysanthemums and All Souls' Day

Halloween is barely noticeable in France. The same cannot be said of All Saints' Day, La Toussaint (November 1st) and All Souls' Day, the Day of the Dead, the Jour des Morts (November 2.) La Toussaint is a national holiday.

This is a time for families to bring fresh flowers, mostly chrysanthemums, to the tombs of their departed loved ones, much as in the 19th century painting below. Cheerful mum blossoms are everywhere in Paris now.

I remember how surprised I was when I moved to California to note that these flowers have no funeral connotation in the United States. They grew to amazing masses of pink, red and gold in my Los Angeles garden (indeed chrysanthemum means "gold blossom" in Greek). But in France they are the flowers of the dead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:02 AM | Permalink

November 1, 2008

Bowler Dies Moments After First 300 Game

Bowler Dies Moments After First 300 Game

Don Doane belonged to the same team at a Ravenna bowling alley for 45 years.

Just moments after rolling the first perfect 300 game of his life, Doane collapsed onto the floor while high-fiving his Nutt Farm teammates.

The 62-year-old Ravenna resident was taken to a local hospital but couldn't be saved. A medical examiner determined that a heart attack killed Doane.

UPDATE from his teammates

The teammates say he was giving a high-five minutes before. They tried to revive him but Doane never spoke another word. He died of what was apparently a massive heart attack "He looked fine, reached across the table and gave me a high-five and he fell over," says Place. 

"I think he died by the time he hit the floor." Don Doane was a member of the "Nutt Farm" bowling team at Ravenna Bowl for 45 years. His teammates says its strange not to see him on league nights.

"It was like a book, a final chapter," says Place. "He threw his 300 game with all of his friends, gave each other high-fives and it's like the story ended. He died with a smile on his face."  "Don will be a legend," says Nutt. 'It's something that will never be forgotten as long as people bowl here." Ravenna Bowl is planning a memorial ceremony for Doan's' wife Linda and son Chad.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

All Saints Day

The night of a thousand shining lights

Poland grinds to a standstill on All Saints' Day, says Jonathan Luxmoore, as even ardent atheists head to cemeteries to honour the dead

In the sullen, damp air of an autumn evening, flower-strewn crosses and marble tombstones are illuminated by the glow of candles, flickering in their thousands against a dark backdrop of gently rustling pines and birches. On the narrow walkways between groups of people, young and old, huddle silently over the grave surfaces, carefully weeding and clearing. Over a distant loudspeaker the voice of a priest intones prayers and meditations.

That scene will be repeated at hundreds of locations throughout Poland this weekend as the traditional All Saints' Day observances reach their poignant climax. Anyone who has not witnessed this national festival has missed a phenomenon that has survived essentially unchanged through centuries of war and occupation.

According to surveys 97 per cent of the country's 38 million inhabitants, irrespective of class or creed, converge on the cemeteries for All Saints' Day. A quarter take extra days off work to pay homage to dead relatives, often travelling hundreds of miles, while a similar proportion also places candles and flowers at military cemeteries and national monuments.

Stanis_awa Grabska, a veteran Catholic theologian, explains: "The grave's existence has greatest importance for the living, as a symbol of their faith in the resurrection. We believe the dead are the same people that we knew - with the one difference that they have reached their goal, while we are still on the way."

Strikingly, the most popular Christian feasts in Poland are marked as much by declared atheists as by believers. This suggests that non-Catholics also wish to maintain some link with Church and religion, and to ensure that, when the times comes, their mortal remains will also be treated with fitting reverence.

It also confirms that the survival of the Christian faith is linked to the durability of social bonds and cultural traditions. Come what may, the candles of All Saints' Day will go on shining amid the night breezes of a material world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink