Gareth Branwn writes Playing my Widower Card
My friend Supa and I have a grim truth in common -- we've both lost our spouses. One of the other things we have in common is an off-beat sense of humor. These two forces collide on her Fresh Widow blog, and especially, with her Fresh Widow (and Widower) Cards.
Supa explains on her blog, Fresh Widow
One night in my support group, S. said casually that he’d “left work early… I just pulled a widower card.” I thought about how often I’d done this in the months since LH died, but more about how I could make good use of some little advantage.
I was always comfortable as an underachiever, but could I have some legitimate “cover” after surviving catastrophe? Something versatile? Something I could use every day?
And so the concept was born: Not as useful as a “get out of jail free” card, more powerful than a hall pass… it’s… it’s… The Widow Card!
You know those people you like but haven't heard from in awhile. Varifrank writes
I hadn't heard from him in awhile, so I looked him up today and discovered in the process that he was no longer with us. There are times when a Google search can be like the 'angel of death' and this is one of them.
Now it seems my friend will never retire to the Harney desert and I should stop waiting for a call for lunch that will never come. And I now find myself four years late in grief to the man who once taught me the meaning of the word "crisp".
National Geographic travels to Sicily Where the Dead Don't Sleep in the catacombs beneath the Capuchin monastery in Palermo.
In Europe the desiccation and preservation of corpses is a particularly Sicilian affair. There are other examples in Italy, but the great majority are in Sicily, where the relationship between the living and the dead is especially strong. Nobody knows how many there really are, or how many have since been removed from catacombs and buried in cemeteries by priests uneasy with the theology of keeping votive corpses. The phenomenon provokes an instant question: Why would anyone do this? Why would you exhibit decaying bodies?
In later years some of the bodies were more elaborately preserved by means of chemical injections, taking the responsibility out of the hands of God and leaving it to undertakers and science. In one of the chapels a little girl, Rosalia Lombardo, lies in her coffin. She appears to be sleeping under a filthy brown sheet. Unlike many of the other strained and dried mummies, she has her own hair, which hangs in doll-like curls over her yellow forehead, tied up with a big yellow silk bow. Her eyes are closed, the eyelashes perfectly preserved. If she weren't surrounded by the grinning skulls and rot of this place, she could be just a child dozing on the way home from a party. The naturalism and the beauty are arresting; the implication that life is a mere breath away, disturbing and spooky. Rosalia was two when she got pneumonia and died. Crazy with grief, her father asked Alfredo Salafia, a noted embalmer, to preserve her. The effect is dreadfully, tragically vital, and the grief still seems to hang over this little blond head.
An enormous amount can be gleaned from dead bodies about the day-to-day lives of the past—diet, illnesses, and life expectancy. Knowing more about diseases like syphilis, malaria, cholera, and tuberculosis centuries ago can help us get the better of them today. The scientists move methodically, checking the corpses' heights and ages, examining skulls and teeth, looking for the ridges interrupting enamel that signify years of malnutrition. Two mummies are gouty. Five show signs of degenerative arthritis. Almost all these people suffered horribly from dental conditions—tartar buildup, receding gums, caries, and abscesses.
The scientists are respectful of the bodies, never losing touch with the fact that they were human—they were like us—but still they refer to each one as "it," to keep a distance, a dispassion, when they're pulling a molar out.
When Kenneth Clarke, 59, and his wife flew from England to Florida for a vacation, they visited Discovery Park in Orlando where they swam in a pool made to look like a coral reef, alive with tropical fish.
Kenneth stubbed his toe on one of the rocks implanted with living coral.
What followed was a nightmare.
He was treated in intensive care in the U.S. before being flown back to Britain. Despite further intensive treatment and having both his legs amputated, he died from blood poisoning.
Doctors in Manchester were forced to amputate his legs below the knee, but he died of multiple organ failure caused by Group B streptococcal septicaemia on August 8, just eight weeks after stubbing his toe.
Mr Meadows told Mrs Clarke: 'This is an unusual set of circumstances made all the more difficult because it starts with a happy family holiday in a safe environment.
'If ever there someone who could be described as unlucky it would be your husband.'
Father of two dies after stubbing his toe on coral at Florida theme park.
An American literary giant, John Updike died at 76, after a long bout with lung cancer.
New York Times obituary, a "prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventure in the postwar prime of the American empire."
John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday at age 76. Updike, best known for his four ''Rabbit'' novels, died of lung cancer at a hospice near his home in Beverly Farms, Mass., according to his longtime publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.
A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir ''Self-Consciousness'' and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams. He released more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s, winning virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for ''Rabbit Is Rich'' and ''Rabbit at Rest,'' and two National Book Awards. His settings ranged from the court of ''Hamlet'' to postcolonial Africa, but his literary home was the American suburb, the great new territory of mid-century fiction.
Born in 1932, Updike spoke for millions of Depression-era readers raised by ''penny-pinching parents,'' united by ''the patriotic cohesion of World War II'' and blessed by a ''disproportionate share of the world's resources,'' the postwar, suburban boom of ''idealistic careers and early marriages.'' He captured, and sometimes embodied, a generation's confusion over the civil rights and women's movements, and opposition to the Vietnam War. Updike was called a misogynist, a racist and an apologist for the establishment.
Updike learned to write about everyday life by, in part, living it. In 1957, he left New York, with its ''cultural hassle'' and melting pot of ''agents and wisenheimers,'' and settled with his first wife and four kids in Ipswich, Mass, a ''rather out-of-the-way town'' about 30 miles north of Boston. ''The real America seemed to me 'out there,' too heterogeneous and electrified by now to pose much threat of the provinciality that people used to come to New York to escape,'' Updike later wrote. ''There were also practical attractions: free parking for my car, public education for my children, a beach to tan my skin on, a church to attend without seeming too strange.''
An appreciation by Thomas Mallon
Perhaps the keenest compliment one can pay him as a man is to say that his life will make for a lousy biography: Just about no scandal; precious little feuding; almost no phony contretemps and posturing. He was deeply interested in sex and God, but more than anything he was interested in working—steadily and prodigiously. The Rabbit books, taken together, are the great American novel of the second half of the twentieth century. Even when he was through with them, he kept writing fiction as if, culturally, it still counted—as if it could still land a writer on the cover of Time. He loved his country, avoided political faddishness, was a devoted Democrat and got both of his national medals—one in the arts and another in the humanities—from Republican presidents.
In the Boston Globe, Mark Feeney eulogizes his "jeweled prose and quicksilver intellect"
"He was obviously among the best writers in the world," said David Remnick, editor the New Yorker, Mr. Updike's literary home for more than half a century.A master of many authorial trades, Mr. Updike was novelist, short story writer, critic, poet - and in each role as prolific as he was gifted. He aimed to produce a book a year. Easily meeting that goal, Mr. Updike published some 60 volumes.
Mr. Updike could be brilliant even about his own diligence, writing in his memoir "Self-Consciousness" (1989) of "my ponderously growing oeuvre, dragging behind me like an ever-heavier tail." Or there was the description of Fenway Park, "a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark," in Mr. Updike's classic account of Ted Williams's final game, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu."
Yet beneath the comfortableness of the affluent, suburban settings Mr. Updike most often wrote about, and the glittering surface of his prose, were profound and piercing concerns. One was an ongoing examination of his native land. "America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy," he wrote in the 1980 story collection "Problems."
A link to his fabled essay "Hub fans bid Kid Adieu"
Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg.
The affair between Boston and Ted Williams was no mere summer romance; it was a marriage composed of spats, mutual disappointments, and, toward the end, a mellowing hoard of shared memories.
An interview last fall with Mark Brown of the London Telegraph
Among the many wise observations that John Updike has made in a career spanning more than 50 years, few can compare with his remark - made in his memoirs, Self-Consciousness - that 'Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face'.
This is how it goes with Updike. He is a ruminative man, fond of digression, whose conversation ambles through literature, politics, film, but who wears his erudition lightly - a rare combination of formidable intelligence and lightness of being, whose abiding sense is of astonishment and gratitude not only for being a successful author, but also for having the extreme good fortune to be an author at all.
Updike once described his task as a writer 'to give the mundane its beautiful due'....Family, Updike seems to be saying, is the point of it all. 'The genes living on… the tussle of family life, the clumsy accommodations and forgiveness of it, the comedy of membership of a club that has to take you in at the moment of birth.'
It is a fact of aging, he says, that life seems to grow lighter rather than heavier....
'Nothing seems to matter quite as much. I no longer think about death in the concentrated way I once did. I don't know… you get so old and you sort of give up in some way. You've had your period of angst, your period of religious desperation, and you've arrived at a philosophical position where you don't need, or you can't bear, to look at it.
'If you've had the Biblical three score and 10, and then a bit more on top of it - and I've already outlived my father - then you certainly should be content. As you get closer, as death becomes more real, so it becomes friendlier. I say this as a man who still wakes up at three in the morning horrified at my cosmic position. But in the daytime, sitting here, I'm able to see it.'
Update: A lovely vignette by David Pryce Jones
One fine summer day, I was walking home through the park. When I sat down on a bench, I noticed that the man already on it was wearing khaki fatigues and heavy combat boots. He had a huge notebook on his knee, and was writing in it in green ink, very very very carefully, one word at a time—a long pause, pen in air—and then one more word. The whole page was entirely free from erasures. This procedure was fascinating. I squinted in order to read what he could possibly be writing. It was pure vituperation against his wife and his marriage by someone staying in a Holiday Inn. I shrank away, and looked at this man next to me on the bench. He had a nose as shaped and individual as the nose of Federico di Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino, in Piero della Francesca's magnificent portrait. The penny dropped. The boots and fatigues were misleading. I had had the privilege of catching John Updike in the midst of his astonishing method of composition. It happened that Updike had not long before reviewed very generously a book of mine. I was just working out how to introduce myself without seeming a Peeping Tom when a beautiful woman arrived, he folded his notebook and off they sauntered arm in arm under the evening sun. Oh, the style of the man and the writer!
That would be Majel Roddenberry, widow of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Treck, who saved some of her husband's ashes so that she could join him on a 'memorial spaceflight' after her death, a specialty of the company Celestis.
Their tagline, A Step into the Universe, doesn't make much sense if you ask where are we now?
He kept a locked chest in the garden shed and always "politely refused to say" what was in it when his wife asked.
After he died and she was clearing out some things when...
"My curiosity got the better of me. I didn't know what would be inside.
What Mrs Rowlands found was a treasure trove of children's toys dating back to when her husband was a boy and that he had kept lovingly under wraps for over 70 years.
Mr Rowlands had packed away his favourite things in the chest when the Second World War broke out and kept them in there but never told anyone of the wonderful array of 1920s and 30s games, wooden toys and animals.
Mrs Rowlands said: "Inside was a clockwork train set, clockwork helicopter, soldiers made of lead and wooden farm and zoo animals all from the 1920s and 30s.
"It was amazing. There were home-made farm buildings, a wooden alphabet, and game of snakes and ladders and ludo.
"I also found a small tin containing marbles, broken toys, nuts and bolts - just the things which might have been found in the pockets of a small boy during the 1930s."
Peter Kreeft on the Three Philosophies of Life
There are ultimately only three philosophies of life, and each one is represented by one of the following books of the Bible:
1. Life as vanity: Ecclesiastes
2. Life as suffering: Job
3. Life as love: Song of Songs
The reason these are the only three possible philosophies of life is because they represent the only three places or conditions in which we can be. Ecclcsiastcs' "vanity" represents Hell. Job's suffering represents Purgatory.  And Song of Songs' love represents Heaven. All three conditions begin here and now on earth. As C. S. Lewis put it, "All that seems earth is Hell or Heaven." It is a shattering line, and Lewis added this one to it: "Lord, open not too often my weak eyes to this.
The essence of Hell is not suffering but vanity, not pain but purposelessness, not physical suffering but spiritual suffering. Dante was right to have the sign over Hell's gate read: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
Suffering is not the essence of Hell, because suffering can be hopeful. It was for job. Job never lost his faith and his hope (which is faith directed at the future), and his suffering proved to be purifying, purgative, educational: it gave him eyes to see God. That is why we are all on earth.
Finally, Heaven is love, for Heaven is essentially the presence of God, and God is essentially love. ("God is love.')
Despair is Job's mood. His suffering is not only bodily but also spiritual. What has he to look forward to except death? He has lost everything, even God--especially God, it seems.
Joy is the mood of love, young love, new love, "falling in love". That is the wonder in Song of Songs: that the beloved should be; that life should be; that anything, now all lit by the new light of love, should be--as mysterious a glory as it was to job a mysterious burden.
Boredom is the mood of Ecciesiastes. It is a modern mood. Indeed, there is no word for it in any ancient language! In this mood, there is neither a reason to die, as in Job, nor a reason to live, as in Song of Songs. This is the deepest pit of all.
Here's a sweet story and a radio piece about the bus driver dad in southern California who sent a postcard every day to his daughter attending college at Mt. Holyoke.
Of course, she was the envy of her fellow students. How everyone hungers for the love of a father.
Father Patrick Desbois is a French Catholic priest who, virtually single-handedly, has undertaken the task of excavating the history of previously undocumented Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union, including an estimated 1.5 million people who were murdered in Ukraine. Father Desbois was born 10 years after the end of World War II -- and yet, through his tireless actions, he exemplifies the "righteous gentile." The term is generally used to recognize non-Jews who, during the Holocaust, risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis. Father Desbois is a generation too late to save lives. Instead, he has saved memory and history.
Father Desbois's French grandfather was imprisoned in a forced-labor camp in Rawa Ruska in the Ukraine during the war with 25,000 other French soldiers captured by the Germans. This initially motivated the priest to travel to the region and learn more about all of the Nazis' victims.
Father Desbois is tired, as the circles beneath his eyes attest, but he wants to learn more. In 2009, he and his team will expand their work into Belarus and Ossetia. He hopes people will contact him through his organization's Web site, yahadinunum.org, and tell him where to look for more mass graves and more eyewitnesses to history.
"These were young children who were forced, in the course of one day, to fill the grave and to witness," Father Desbois said. "They heard the last words of the dead. They want to speak."
Time is working against the priest, who accompanies researchers on most of their trips into the former Soviet Union and has, to this point, personally interviewed 823 witnesses. Each interview takes up to two hours, and his team takes 10 to 15 trips a year to the region, each lasting no more than 17 days because, he explains, "We can't bear more, psychologically." But the surviving witnesses, most of whom were children at the time of the massacres, are already in their late 70s and early 80s, and Father Desbois worries that they won't be able to tell their stories for much longer.
But this project that has become his life's work, he says, is inspired by two sources far greater than either history or circumstance. One is "min hashamayim," Father Desbois says in Hebrew -- from heaven, which inspires us to build relationships with our fellow human beings. The other inspiration, he explains, comes from the earthly world, and what is written in Genesis about the blood of Abel, murdered by Cain: "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground."
I've written about Father Patrick before in The Evil That Men Plan and Do
These people want absolutely to speak before they die," says Father Desbois of the bystanders. "They want to say the truth."
Two years ago, Virginia Tech was the site of the worst school massacre in history. Last week, a foreign student from China Xin Yang was having coffee at Au Bon Pain when another Chinese foreign student Zhu Haiyang walked up to her and cut off her head with a kitchen knife.
Chinese student decapitated at Virginia Tech.
According to officials, witnesses said Zhu, 25, attacked Yang with a knife.
"There were seven witnesses in the cafe. There had been no argument, no shouting" when the young woman was attacked,
the officer said that when she arrived at the scene she found Zhu holding Yang's head in his hand.
Mariana Bridi da Costa was a model on her way to becoming Brazil's entrant to the Miss World contest when she began feeling ill just a month ago.
At first, it was thought kidney stones, then a urinary infection. Whatever infection she had, it soon developed into septicemia that causes insufficient blood flow to the organs and limbs. Necrosis followed. Doctors amputated her hands and feet to no avail, she died yesterday.
A doctor who recently published an article in The New England Journal of Medicine on the disease, told CNN that little was known about the illness, although it is the tenth leading cause of deaths in the United States.
"We know a lot about what happens once a patient contracts the illness but we know very little about what causes it," said Dr. Greg Martin of Emory University in Atlanta.
"It is a leading health threat in this country, killing at least 800,000 people a year," he said.
Martin said sepsis is a "response" to an infection that can cause the immune system to lose its balance.
"Basically, the immune system goes haywire after contracting an infection and begins to overreact," he said.
There are now some three dozen copies that offer DNA testing, but as customers are finding out
In a search for their ancestors, more than 140 people with variations of the last name Kincaid have taken DNA tests and shared their results on the Internet.
They have found war heroes, sailors and survivors of the Irish potato famine.
They have also stumbled upon bastards, liars and two-timers.
In one case, two brothers were surprised to discover they had different fathers. They confronted their elderly mother, who denied the most obvious possibilities -- that she had been unfaithful to her husband, the man they had always known as Dad, or that one son was adopted.
"It has been traumatic for some to discover their true lineage through the DNA tests," said Don Kincaid, a 76-year-old Texan who oversees the Kincaid surname project and witnessed the brothers' ordeal.
One company warns on its consent form that genetic testing could reveal that "your father is not genetically your father."
The Boston Globe - Andrew Wyeth, austere artist of the familiar, dies.
Andrew Wyeth, whose evocations of a changeless rural present along the Maine coast and in Pennsylvania farm country made him America's most popular living artist and whose 1948 painting "Christina's World" became one of the most famous artworks of the 20th century, died yesterday.
Perhaps no American painter has ever had as strong a hold on the popular imagination as Mr. Wyeth did over the course of his seven-decade career. As the critic Brian O'Doherty once said, "Wyeth communicates with his audience, numbered in millions, with an ease and fluency that amounts to a kind of genius."
One mark of Mr. Wyeth's special status is how often he was summoned to the White House. He was the first artist to receive the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1963. President Nixon held an exhibition of his paintings and dinner in his honor in 1970. In 1990, he was the first artist to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. President George H.W. Bush, presenting the award, said that Mr. Wyeth's work "caught the heart of America."
Yet Mr. Wyeth's popularity never translated into critical acclaim. Although rarely dismissed outright, Mr. Wyeth was seen as a peripheral figure, at best, and an artistic anachronism.
Mr. Wyeth once described his approach to art as "seeing a lot in nothing." There is a sense of almost palpable restraint to his work, of a sought-after narrowing of visual possibility.
"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape — the loneliness of it — the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn't show.
Washington Post - American Painter
Andrew Wyeth, the popular American painter of rustic landscapes, farmhouses and plain country folk whose pictures evoked a range of feelings and emotions and a nostalgic vision of times past, died at home.
One of the most widely recognized and highly priced American artists of his era, Mr. Wyeth was probably best known for his 1948 painting, "Christina's World," which shows a young crippled woman in a pink dress crawling across a brown field toward a bleak and distant farmhouse. In its degree of familiarity, this picture was once compared with the portrait of George Washington that appears on the $1 bill.
In the 1980s, Mr. Wyeth was the subject of an intense media spotlight for his "Helga" series of 45 paintings and 200 sketches. These pictures, many of them nudes, were the product of hundreds of modeling sessions with a Chadds Ford neighbor, Helga Testorf, over a 15-year period. No one else, not even Mr. Wyeth's wife, had previously known about them, and their disclosure to the public was arguably the art event of the decade.
Andrew Wyeth, one of the most popular and also most lambasted artists in the history of American art, a reclusive linchpin in a colorful family dynasty of artists whose precise realist views of hardscrabble rural life became icons of national culture and sparked endless debates about the nature of modern art, died Friday at his home in Chadds Ford, Pa. He was 91.
virtual Rorschach test for American culture during the better part of the last century, Wyeth split public opinion as vigorously as, and probably even more so than, any other American painter including the other modern Andy, Warhol, whose milieu was as urban as Wyeth’s was rural.
One picture encapsulated his fame. “Christina’s World” became an American icon like Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” or Whistler’s portrait of his mother ........Wyeth had seen Christina Olson, crippled from the waist down, dragging herself across a Maine field, “like a crab on a New England shore,” he recalled. To him she was a model of dignity who refused to use a wheelchair and preferred to live in squalor rather than be beholden to anyone. It was dignity of a particularly dour, hardened, misanthropic sort, to which Wyeth throughout his career seemed to gravitate.
In 1943 Wyeth exhibited temperas at a show, "American Realists and Magic Realists" (he was included in the latter category), at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. In the catalogue he made clear the difference between himself and the avant-gardists: "My aim is to seek freedom through significant form and design rather than through the diversion of so-called free and accidental brushwork....Not to exhibit craft but rather to submerge it, and make it rightfully the handmaiden of beauty, power and emotional content."
Even in those early days Wyeth had little truck with the art establishment, placing himself firmly in the realist tradition of Thomas Eakins, Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer. He was later to display an outspoken contempt for most of the work of the moderns, dismissing as "putrid stuff" paintings by Jackson Pollock, Picasso and Cézanne that hung alongside his own work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
When asked, in a rare interview in the New York Times, whey he seemed to antagonise so much of the art world, he replied: "I believe in the principle of what I am doing. That challenges them, threatens them. I'm not interested in their profound thoughts on art."
Sir John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, dies at 85. I loved Rumpole and consider his adaption of Brideshead Revisted, one of the greatest programs ever to be shown on television.
From the National Portrait Gallery, by Mark Tillie
From the New York Times obituary
John Mortimer, barrister, author, playwright and creator of Horace Rumpole, the cunning defender of the British criminal classes...
Mr. Mortimer is known best in this country for creating the Rumpole character, an endearing and enduring relic of the British legal system who became a television hero of the courtroom comedy.
To read Rumpole, or watch the episodes is to enter not only Rumpole’s stuffy flat or crowded legal chambers, but to feel the itch of his yellowing court wig and the flapping of his disheveled, cigar ash-dusted courtroom gown.
Rumpole spends his days quoting Keats and his nights quaffing claret at Pommeroy’s wine bar, putting off the time that he must return to his wife, Hilda, more commonly known as She Who Must Be Obeyed.
Using his wit and low-comedy distractions, Rumpole sees that justice is done, more often than not by outsmarting the ‘’old sweethearts” and “old darlings” of the bench and revealing the inner good — or at least integrity and inconsistency — of the accused, including clans like the Timsons, whose crimes have kept generations of police officers busy.
Mr. Mortimer also adapted Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” for television, years after he became enthralled with the book as a young man. Somehow, despite the demands of his chosen careers, a “schizoid business of being a writer who had barristering as a day job,” Mr. Mortimer also found time to pursue his lifelong interest in women, do some writing for newspapers and keep up the garden nurtured by his father, whose outsized shadow remained with him all his life.
“Dying is a matter of slapstick and pratfalls,” he wrote in “The Summer of a Dormouse: A Year of Growing Old Disgracefully” (2000). “The aging process is not gradual or gentle. It rushes up, pushes you over and runs off laughing. No one should grow old who isn’t ready to appear ridiculous.”
U.K. Telegraph obituary
Sir John's agent, Anthony Jones, said: "He died at home, surrounded by his family. He had been unwell for some time."
A trained lawyer, Sir John drew on his experience to create Rumpole, the shambolic barrister who became one of the best-loved characters on British television. His extensive writing career included the acclaimed adaptation of Brideshead Revisited in 1981. He was knighted in 1998.
Sir John had four children from his two marriages, including the actress, Emily Mortimer. In 2004, it emerged that he had a another child, of whom he never knew, by the actress Wendy Craig. Their son was the product of an affair in the early 1960s. Although the discovery came as a shock, he professed himself "very happy" with the news.
Although wheelchair-bound towards the end of his life, Sir John gleefully defied health edicts and continued to enjoy fine wine and good living, beginning each day with a glass of champagne for breakfast.
In one of his last interviews, given in July 2008, he said: "I drink brandy and soda, and I don't eat a meal without drinking white wine. I've smoked all my life and, although I'd given up a bit, I now force myself to smoke because of the ban."
Obituary Boston Globe
Patrick McGoohan, an Emmy-winning actor who created and starred in the cult classic television show "The Prisoner," has died. He was 80.
Mr. McGoohan died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a short illness, his son-in-law, film producer Cleve Landsberg, said.
Mr. McGoohan won two Emmys for his work on the Peter Falk detective drama "Columbo" and more recently appeared as King Edward Longshanks in the 1995 Mel Gibson film "Braveheart."
But he was most famous as the character known only as Number Six in "The Prisoner," a 1960s British series in which a former spy is held captive in a small enclave known only as the Village, where a mysterious authority named Number One constantly prevents his escape.
Mr. McGoohan came up with the concept and wrote and directed several episodes of the show, which has kept a devoted following in the United States and Europe for four decades.
"His creation of 'The Prisoner' made an indelible mark on the sci-fi, fantasy, and political thriller genres, creating one of the most iconic characters of all time," AMC said in a statement. "AMC hopes to honor his legacy in our reimagining of 'The Prisoner.' "
"Arrows cost money, Use up the Irish" from Big Hollywood
McGoohan was married to the same woman for 57 years, and included in the contract for his first TV series, “Danger Man,” three special clauses: 1) no kissing, 2) each fight had to be different, and 3) his character must always try to use his brains before resorting to a gun.
Well, this is one way to increase city revenues.
Japanese cities raiding remains of dead for precious metals
Tokyo collected some 700 grams of gold, 500 grams of palladium and 1.9 kg of silver from cremated bodies in 2007, adding Y3.2 million (£24,600) to the city's bank account. The city also banked around Y90,000 (£690) in coins left as offering inside the coffins.
Very few of the families know what happens and what happens in the crematoriums is kept very quiet," said a Buddhist priest from Kanagawa Prefecture who often oversees traditional funerals.
"The crematorium will usually return the ashes of the whole body but as they assume the families can't use the gold then they're not doing anything wrong," he said. "And anyway, the families are usually too upset to ask about the details of their loved ones."
Last text of British student who froze to death in river as she walked home from party at Val d'Isere ski resort.
A British student sent a text message reading ‘I’m lost’ seconds before plunging to her death in an Alpine river.
Rachel Ward, a 20-year-old undergraduate from Durham University, was on her way to her apartment from a party in the upmarket French ski resort of Val d’Isere when the tragedy happened late on Monday night.
She had been taking part in ‘On The Piste’ - annual celebrations filled with alcohol, parties and skiing involving hundreds of British university students.
The message sent to friends was received just after 1am, some half-an-hour after she had left the gathering of fellow students, all of whom had been drinking heavily.
Detectives fear that she slipped on ice and fell into the river, before dying of hypothermia. She had been walking in the wrong direction.
An investigating detective in Val d‘Isere said: ‘The young woman had been enjoying herself with friends when she decided to set off home alone.
‘It was dark, of course, and temperatures were extremely low.
He had so much stuff he had to construct tunnels to get around his house. Then he lost his way.
Investigators believe Gordon Stewart, 74, died as a result of dehydration, after becoming unable to find his way out of the mass of carrier bags, boxes, old furniture and other junk.
Her mum would have loved her so much: Tearful words of man whose baby was born two days after wife died.
Two days after Jayne Soliman was declared brain-dead, her grieving husband saw her life-support machine turned off.
In a moment of unbelievable poignancy, he was then given their baby daughter to hold for the first time.
Doctors had kept 41-year-old Mrs Soliman's heart beating after she suffered a brain haemorrhage.
For 48 hours they pumped large doses of steroids into her body to help the baby's lungs develop.
Then they delivered baby Aya Jayne by caesarean section. At 26 weeks, she weighed just 2lb 11/2oz.
The tiny infant was placed on her mother's shoulder for a moment before being handed to her father, Mahmoud Soliman.
Jayne Soliman was a professional ice skater who collapsed in her bedroom after complaining of a headache.
Doctors told Mr Soliman and Mr Phillips that Mrs Soliman had suffered from a haemorrhage caused by an aggressive tumour that had hit a major blood vessel.
Mr Phillips said: “Jayne and I had both been at the ice rink in Bracknell that day and she was absolutely fine – nothing seemed wrong.
“She was as happy as she could be because she was pregnant – it was her dream.”
David Brooks on Richard Neuhaus In Defense of Death
Neuhaus was no stranger to death. As a young minister, he worked in the death ward at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, a giant room with 50 to 100 dying people in it, where he would accompany two or three to their deaths each day. One sufferer noticed an expression on Neuhaus’s face and said, “Oh, oh, don’t be afraid,” and then sagged back and expired.
Much later, Neuhaus endured his own near-death experience.
While most people might use the science of life to demystify death, Neuhaus used death to mystify life.
When he wrote about his experience later, his great theme was the way death has a backward influence back onto life: “We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already under way.”
In his final column for First Things, he wrote again about his mortality.
“Be assured that I neither fear to die nor refuse to live. If it is to die, all that has been is but a slight intimation of what is to be. If it is to live, there is much I hope to do in the interim.”
This awareness of death, and of the intermingling of life and death, gave Neuhaus’s writing an extra dimension — like a metaphysician who has been writing about nature within earth’s atmosphere and suddenly discovers space.
The Drawn-Out Indignities of the American Way of Death by Craig Bowron in the Washington Post
I'm a physician in a large hospital in Minneapolis, where I help care for patients struggling through the winter of their lives.
But taking care of the threadworn elderly, those facing an eternal winter with no green in sight, is definitely the most difficult thing I do.
That's because never before in history has it been so hard to fulfill our final earthly task: dying. It used to be that people were "visited" by death. With nothing to fight it, we simply accepted it and grieved. Today, thanks to myriad medications and interventions that have been created to improve our health and prolong our lives, dying has become a difficult and often excruciatingly slow process.
Nothing in my medical training qualifies me to judge what kind of life is satisfying or worth living. Many would say that if we were to become paralyzed in an accident, just let us die. But many quadriplegics, once they've gone through an initial period of adjustment, find their lives very satisfying. Patients can and do make enormous efforts and fight precipitous odds to get back to life as they knew it, or even just to go on living. But the difference for many elderly is that what's waiting for them at the end of this illness is just another illness, and another struggle.
To be clear: Everyone dies. There are no life-saving medications, only life-prolonging ones. To say that anyone chooses to die is, in most situations, a misstatement of the facts. But medical advances have created at least the facade of choice. It appears as if death has made a counter-offer and that the responsibility is now ours.
In today's world, an elderly person or their family must "choose," for example, between dialysis and death, or a feeding tube and death. Those can be very simple choices when you're 40 and critically ill; they can be agonizing when you're 80 and the bad days outnumber the good days two to one.
This isn't about euthanasia. It's not about spiraling health care costs. It's about the gift of life -- and death. It is about living life and death with dignity, and letting go.
At some point in life, the only thing worse than dying is being kept alive.
David Frum has a lovely small essay on Charles Dickens's novel, The Old Curiousity Shop and its most famous scene, the death of Little Nell.
The death of Little Nell is supposed to have been inspired by the death of Charles Dickens' beloved sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, at age 17 in Dickens' then home in Doughty Street. (Still standing by the way.) At that time, the death of the young was a harrowing but familiar experience. Of Dickens' own 10 children, one died before the age of 1, and another died aged 22. Dickens could expect many of his readers likewise to be touched by similar losses - and to share his intense need to absorb and understand their loss.
For all the medical advances of the 20th century, death remains omnipresent and always will. We've all had losses, and we all struggle not only with the immediate grief but with the longer-term sadnesses and paradoxes of survivorship. Say what you will about Dickens - but have those feelings ever been described better than they were in this one passage from Chapter 17? Nell has entered a quite country graveyard and is studying the humble headstones of the poor people buried there:
I gong to pluck just a small portion of the scene but for its full impact you should read it in its entirety.
Then growing garrulous upon a theme which was new to one listener though it were but a child, she told her how she had wept and moaned and prayed to die herself, when this happened; and how when she first came to that place, a young creature strong in love and grief, she had hoped that her heart was breaking as it seemed to be. But that time passed by, and although she continued to be sad when she came there, still she could bear to come, and so went on until it was pain no longer, but a solemn pleasure, and a duty she had learned to like
A Boston Globe photo of the week shows two funeral directors throwing wreaths into the sea at the Gloucester waterfront as part of the funeral procession of two fishermen lost at sea, Matteo Russo and Giovanni Orlando.
JOHN Pryor would have frowned at all the attention
Like so many truly good men, he was humble. While so many athletes and movie stars give little and claim much, he gave life with his hands and claimed nothing in return.
This was a person you encounter once or twice in a lifetime if you're lucky. Fortunately, many Philadelphians were.
And because they had the privilege of knowing him, they gathered at the cathedral this week to mourn. But, mostly, they were there to celebrate a luminous soul that burned brightly among them all too briefly.
Pryor was the leader of the trauma team at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he'd worked since 1999.
He was married to Carmela, a pediatrician, and they had three young children. He was from Albany, N.Y., a Boy Scout, a Catholic, a teacher, a soldier. A healer. A man who would have laughed at the idea of being thought special, but who was clearly better than most of us will ever be.
After the Twin Towers crashed on 9/11, he rushed to New York and worked through the night at Ground Zero. He wanted to be in the thick of it, healing wounds and grieving for those he couldn't save.
He wasn't a mere observer but the most compassionate of participants. He was also angered by the carnage in Philadelphia, having watched too many young men die "without honor, without purpose, for no country, for no one," as he wrote in a poignant essay in the Washington Post.
He joined the Army Reserve Medical Corps and went to Iraq in 2006, and then again on Dec. 6, to care for those who, contrary to the fallen in our own streets, did have honor, purpose and country.
He was killed by an enemy mortar on Christmas Day. He was 42.
His funeral filled the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia
The New York Times has begun a wonderful new feature called One in 8 Million. Each is a two-minute story about one person in New York City.
Using still photos with an audio voiceover, these stories are wonderful examples of how you can build your own Legacy Archives with stories about yourself and your family
Joseph Bottum quite movingly announced the death of Fr. Neuhaus.
Our great, good friend is gone.
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away January 8, shortly before 10 o’clock, at the age of seventy-two. He never recovered from the weakness that sent him to the hospital the day after Christmas, caused by a series of side effects from the cancer he was suffering. He lost consciousness Tuesday evening after a collapse in his heart rate, and soon after, in the company of friends, he died.
My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.
I weep, rather, for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.
New York Times obit by Laurie Goodstein
The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a theologian who transformed himself from a liberal Lutheran leader of the civil rights and antiwar struggles in the 1960s to a Roman Catholic beacon of the neoconservative movement of today, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 72 and lived in Manhattan.
Father Neuhaus’s best-known book, “The Naked Public Square,” argued that American democracy must not be stripped of religious morality. Published in 1984, it provoked a debate about the role of religion in affairs of state and was embraced by the growing Christian conservative movement.
In the last 20 years, Father Neuhaus helped give evangelical Protestants and Catholics a theological framework for joining forces in the nation’s culture wars.
The Associated Press
A native of Canada and the son of a Lutheran pastor, Neuhaus began his own work as a Lutheran minister at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church in a predominantly African-American Brooklyn neighborhood. He was active in the civil rights movement and other liberal causes. In 1964, he joined the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Rev. Daniel Berrigan as the first co-chairmen of the anti-war group Clergy Concerned About Vietnam. But he eventually broke with the left, partly over the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.
In 1990, he converted to Catholicism and a year later was ordained by New York Cardinal John O'Connor. "I was thirty years a Lutheran pastor, and after thirty years of asking myself why I was not a Roman Catholic I finally ran out of answers that were convincing either to me or to others," he wrote.
Father Raymond de Souza on Neuhaus as a Catholic intellectual.
With the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus on Jan. 8, the Catholic Church lost one of its greatest public intellectuals, a theologian who brought the light of the Gospel to the world of public life.
More than that, though, Father Neuhaus made possible a new world of intellectual engagement with the culture.
By the 1990s, Father Neuhaus had, along with his friends George Weigel and Michael Novak, wrought a sea change in Catholic intellectual life. With the obvious favor of Pope John Paul II, Father Neuhaus and his colleagues articulated a new, confident Catholicism which sought less to adapt to the secular culture as it did to challenge it with a fresh application of the Catholic tradition
A few months before his reception into the Catholic Church, Richard John Neuhaus launched a new journal, First Things, which became the most prominent and influential “journal of religion and public life” in America.
Read by religious leaders both Catholic, Protestant and Jewish, influential figures in theology, law and politics, and bright students in universities all over, First Things made widely available the thought of its editor in chief, but also a whole cadre of established Catholic thinkers: Avery Dulles, George Weigel, Mary Ann Glendon, Russell Hittinger, as well as new voices such as the current editor, Jody Bottum.
A generation of orthodox, engaged Christian writers was launched by First Things.
Yet, it remains true that for most readers, the first thing about First Things was Father Neuhaus himself, who pioneered in print what today might be called the first blog.
Death on a Thursday Morning by the editors of the National Review
Richard John Neuhaus, who died earlier today in New York, was the most influential Catholic and Christian theologian and writer in America during the second half of the 20th century. His influence can be compared to that of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, with one important distinction: Fulton Sheen exercised his sway over the public directly, through his radio and television sermons. Father Neuhaus did so less directly, through his books and articles, through his editorship of two important magazines devoted to religion and politics, through his friendship with Pope John Paul II, and through his impact on other theologians both in the Catholic Church and in other Christian congregations. Partly for those reasons, however, Neuhaus’s influence is likely to be the deeper, longer-lasting and more extensive one.
Neuhaus began his adult life as a Canadian, a left-winger, and a Lutheran. He never lost his love for his country of birth — he spent six weeks of every year vacationing, reading, and reflecting in the Quebec countryside — his respect for a liberalism shaped by charity, or his admiration for the Lutheran tradition. He became nonetheless an American, a conservative, and a Catholic. And from these three conversions he forged for himself a distinctive religious identity that was conservative and generous, traditional and open, charitable and — yes — combative.
Reflections by Raymond Arroyo in the Wall St Journal
Of his work with Martin Luther King Jr., he once wrote that God "used his most unworthy servant Martin to create in our public life a luminous moment of moral truth about what Gunnar Myrdal rightly called 'the America dilemma,' racial justice. It seems a long time ago now, but there is no decline in the frequency of my thanking God for his witness and for having been touched, however briefly, by his friendship, praying that he may rest in peace, and that his cause may yet be vindicated."
And though he enjoyed a series of presidential appointments, in the Carter, Reagan and first Bush administration, he never lost sight of his role as a priest. He would write: "Politics is chiefly a function of culture, at the heart of culture is morality, and at the heart of morality is religion."
Kaylnn Moore was pregnant and 26 when she went to the hospital. The doctors said her baby's heart rate was dangerously low and and emergency Caesarian was begun. Sadly, the baby was stillborn. Still, they wrapped little Bashere Davon Moyd Jr in a blanket and put a little hat on his little head and passed him to his mother to hold for half an hour until they took his body away to the hospital morgue.
Richard John Neuhaus, founder and editor of First Things, has died.
This is what he had to say about death when he came very close to the gates seven years ago.
We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already underway. The work of dying well is, in largest part, the work of living well. Most of us are at ease in discussing what makes for a good life, but we typically become tongue-tied and nervous when the discussion turns to a good death. As children of a culture radically, even religiously, devoted to youth and health, many find it incomprehensible, indeed offensive, that the word "good" should in any way be associated with death. Death, it is thought, is an unmitigated evil, the very antithesis of all that is good.
Death is to be warded off by exercise, by healthy habits, by medical advances. What cannot be halted can be delayed, and what cannot forever be delayed can be denied. But all our progress and all our protest notwithstanding, the mortality rate holds steady at 100 percent.
Death is the most everyday of everyday things. It is not simply that thousands of people die every day, that thousands will die this day, although that too is true. Death is the warp and woof of existence in the ordinary, the quotidian, the way things are. It is the horizon against which we get up in the morning and go to bed at night, and the next morning we awake to find the horizon has drawn closer. From the twelfth-century Enchiridion Leonis comes the nighttime prayer of children of all ages: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take." Every going to sleep is a little death, a rehearsal for the real thing.
What do you do when the funeral director brings the wrong coffin to the church?
'I noticed it was a Catholic-style coffin, and my eyes dropped to the nameplate, and I thought: "Oh my goodness!"' he said.
'I went straight to the sexton and said: "There's been a terrible mistake". But I was told that Mr Kilkelly was known by the other name as well.'
Rev Mannings said he felt he had no choice but to assume the professionals knew what they were doing. 'One has to trust that the funeral director has brought the right coffin,' he added.
He went ahead with the service, on December 12, but a few days later he was horrified to be informed by the undertakers, Co-operative Funeralcare, that they had buried the wrong man after all.
Blundering funeral firm buries wrong man despite vicar's protests ...then secretly digs up and replaces coffin
Just down the hall from the chemo infusion rooms at Texas Children's Hospital, Jalen Huckabay was about to slip into another world, away from the wearying regimen of pokes, prods and pinches she'd endured since being diagnosed with lymphoma in November.For the next few hours, the curly-haired, cherub-faced 16-year-old would become a songwriter.
Purple Songs Can Fly, a one-of-a-kind program at one of the country's largest pediatric cancer care facilities, gives patients a chance to record their own songs in a fully equipped recording studio at the hospital.
It had been less than two hours since Jalen entered the Purple Songs studio. Her initial reluctance had evaporated. Now, she wanted everyone to hear the song.
"MYD's my yippin' dog. Got her last Christmas on the 23rd ... If you give her a bath. She attacks the towel. If you make her mad. She will growl ... Yip. Yip. Yip. Yip."
Kruse had taken Jalen's lyrics, and added a bouncy music track with a thumping bass and lively melody meant to evoke the antics of a mischievous dog. Then Jalen recorded several vocal tracks, creating the illusion of back-up singers. It was Jalen's idea to throw in a few yips for fun.
"That's the most animated I've ever seen her," Dreyer said later. "She's been transformed today and that giddiness will sustain her through her chemo session.
"We're trying to get kids through cancer, so the more fun we can make it, the better their response is to everything," Dreyer said. "It will give them a chance to get beyond this."
Don't you think those recordings will be treasured for years. Those songs will be especially valuable to their families if some of the children don't survive for long.
My apologies for not posing over the holidays and my best wishes to all my readers for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Now catching up on grave matters, the North East Lincolnshire Council bans mourners from laying artificial flowers on graves because of the health and safety risk.
While the $10M lottery ticket Donald Peters bought just hours before he suffered a fatal heart attack and died stunned his widow who only found she won when she took tickets that had been pinned to a calendar for two months after his death to the local convenience store before throwing them out.
"It's just such a shock," Peters, who has three children and two grandchildren, said. "I still don't believe it. In 20 years, we've won two, maybe three dollars - but never more than that."
"There's nothing that I really and truly want," Peters said, adding that she already saved up enough to replace her car. "I have a mobile [home] that I love, so I doubt I'll be moving."
Instead of dwelling on what to buy, Charlotte Peters said her thoughts have been on her husband and how grateful she is she decided not to toss his final gift to her. "I had just never handled the lottery tickets," she said. "I'm still surprised that I bothered to have them checked."
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas operated rocket launchers from a cemetery to shoot missles into Israel were destroyed by the IDF. The small bodies of the children of a Hamas leader, a mentor of suicide bombers, one of the top five decision makers in Hamas were paraded around the streets of Gaza to incite 'painful' revenge, in a ghoulish display far worse than waving the bloody shirt.
Nizar Rayan, his four wives and 10 of his children were all killed by in an Israeli air strike on his home after he ignored warnings they should go into hiding.
In grisly scenes, mourners held up the bloodied bodies of the children to the cameras in a clear attempt to blacken Israel's name and highlight its brutality.
There's more Hamas propaganda using obviously fake photos as documented in The Breath of the Beast that appears to have gulled PBS and 3 year old videos dupe many in the liberal blogosphere.