April 30, 2009

Obits from the London Times

Distinguished lives in brief.

J.G. Ballard

The young J. G. Ballard, revealed in his most popular novel Empire of the Sun, was far more in awe of Japanese kamikaze pilots than he was interested in being liberated from his internment camp. Similarly the adult Ballard found the enslavement of man to his own devices — concrete, technology, cameras and crashing cars — monstrous and terrifying, yet fascinating and ceaselessly inspiring.
His dispassionate visions of modernity and apocalyptic imagery earned him the rare honour of seeing his name adjectivised: Collins English Dictionary describes “Ballardian” as “resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak manmade landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments”.

Ballard 1 525524A

Although Ballard was frequently called a writer of science fiction, he abhored the term, explaining instead that his books “pictured the psychology of the future”.

It was 40 years before Ballard felt able to write about the most formative events in his life. Empire of the Sun is unusual for a Ballard novel in that its young protagonist is instantly likable, his story moving. It was his most saleable novel, made into a Hollywood epic by Steven Spielberg with the young Christian Bale as Ballard. It was not, he insists, an autobiography but a “negotiated truth” from which he excised, among other things, the parents who had shared his ordeal.

Professor Jack Good: mathematician and wartime codebreaker

The mathematician Jack Good played a key role among the codebreaking team at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. He went on to help to build one of the first computers, was the father of a branch of modern statistics and contributed to the development of artificial intelligence.

Good was born Isidore Jacob Gudak to a Polish-Jewish family in London in 1916; his father was a watchmaker and well known in Yiddish literary circles. Isidore later anglicised his name to Irving John Good but he was always known as Jack. Good was slow to learn to read, but partly as a result of being bed-bound with diphtheria at the age of 9 — when he began to discover mathematics for himself — his extraordinary intelligence became clear to his teachers.

Robert Anderson: American playwright

Robert Anderson, the American playwright, explored sexual identity, infidelity and relationship breakdown in emotional dramas which broke new ground in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also a screenwriter and novelist.

His play Tea and Sympathy, a Broadway hit in 1953, sought to expose postwar conformity and the narrow views of the time of how men were expected to act. It tells the story of a sensitive student, Tom, who is accused of being homosexual by his classmates. He seeks solace from his housemaster’s wife, Laura, who, in order to reassure him of his masculinity, ends up seducing him. Manliness, the wife tells her husband “is not all swagger and swearing and mountain-climbing”. “Manliness is also tenderness, gentleness, consideration.” Tom was played by John Kerr and Laura by Deborah Kerr in the original theatre cast, as well as in the 1956 film version.

At the end of the play, the housemaster’s wife Laura utters the now-famous line to Tom: “Years from now when you talk about this — and you will — be kind.”

Father Stanley Jaki: Benedictine priest, physicist and theologian

 Father Stanley Jaki

Stanley Jaki, a Benedictine priest and a physicist, was best known for his scholarly contributions to the philosophy of science and theology. In 1987 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for his work on analysing “the importance of differences as well as similarities between science and religion, adding significant, balanced enlightenment to the field”.
Jaki strongly believed in the conjunction between faith and reason and argued that science flourished in Europe because of the Christian understanding of creation and the Incarnation.
Jaki was a prolific author, publishing more than 40 books, hundreds of articles, reviews, chapters and lectures. His books, many of them analysing the relationships between modern science and orthodox Christianity, reflect the extraordinary range of his interests and his exceptional abilities. Among them are: The Relevance of Physics (1966); Brain, Mind and Computers (1969); The Milky Way: an Elusive Road for Science (1973); Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (1974); Miracles and Physics (1989); God and the Cosmologists (1989); and Bible and Science (1996).

In addition, he wrotes studies of G. K. Chesterton, Pierre Duhem, the French mathematician, physicist and historian of science, and Cardinal Newman, and he translated some important works, including the first English version of a study of Copernicus (1975) and Immanuel Kant’s Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1775/1981).
For all his immense recognition in scholarly circles, Jaki’s groundbreaking work on science, philosophy, ethics, religion and culture has undoubtedly had a considerable influence and relevance that have yet to be adequately recognised

Tom Braden: CIA official and political journalist

 Tom Braden

Thomas Braden was a CIA paymaster in the 1950s funding anti-communist activity all over the world. He later defended, and then criticised, the machinations of the CIA in hardhitting newspaper columns. He went on to help to launch and co-host the hugely popular and highly influential US political debate show Crossfire from 1982-1989. Away from politics, his memoir about his chaotic family life as the father of eight children, Eight is Enough, was adapted into a hit TV comedy on ABC that ran for four years from 1977.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

April 29, 2009

Fathers Forever

A very interesting piece on the difference between male and female grieving.

Bereaved fathers find healing in bonds of friendship

For Bigham, it was a tutorial of sorts, taught by those whose children had died before his daughter. "They looked more normal than I felt," he says. "I had a sense of a road map out of here, light at the end of this deep tunnel I'm in."

As time went on, the men realized that they were consoling, teaching, and learning from one another more than they had in any counseling session. But they do not just sit around talking. They do stuff: hiking, dining, shooting pool, drinking beer, going for an overnight in New Hampshire. Paintball is on next month's agenda.

That, says therapist Thomas Golden, is one difference between male and female grieving. Women tend to interact through talking, men through action. "What men need is to be shoulder to shoulder with other men who are going through the same thing," says Golden

Fathers Forever website

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

April 27, 2009

"In the Green Room to the River Styx"

Christopher Buckley on Growing Up the Only Child of the Charismatic and Complicated Buckleys

One realization does dawn upon the death of the second parent, namely that you’ve now moved into the green room to the River Styx. You’re next. Another thing about parental mortality: No matter how much you’ve prepared for the moment, when it comes, it comes at you hot, hard and unrehearsed.

This excerpt in the New York Times Magazine is part of Chris Buckley's New Book "Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir"

 Losing Mum And Pup

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:09 AM | Permalink

April 26, 2009

Swastikas painted on Joseph's Tomb

"There are no words"

Swastikas painted on Joseph's Tomb

JERUSALEM – Jews who arrived last night to pray at Joseph's Tomb – Judaism's third holiest site – were stunned to learn the structure had been vandalized, with the headstone smashed in and swastikas painted on the walls.
Joseph's Tomb is the believed burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph, the son of Jacob who was sold by his brothers into slavery and later became viceroy of Egypt. Following repeated Palestinian attacks, Israel in October 2000 unilaterally retreated from Joseph's Tomb and, with very few exceptions, banned Jews from returning to the site purportedly for security reasons. The tomb area is now controlled entirely by the Palestinians.
Last night, a group of 500 Jews arrived to pray at the site under heavy protection of the IDF. But they were stunned to see the tomb had been defaced. The headstone was smashed and swastikas were painted on the walls, as was graffiti of a blood-dripping sword over a Star of David.

HT Atlas Shrugs

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 AM | Permalink

April 21, 2009

Yom Hashoah - Remembrance Day

Atlas Shrugs has some heart-breaking photos of children whose lives were broken or lost during the Holocaust. Sometimes it takes little children to awaken us again to the horrors of what happened in an advanced Western country


When the deportations to the extermination camps began, a chasm opened up in the lives of Jewish children. Throughout Nazi Europe, they fled and hid, separated from their parents and loved ones. Some of them found refuge in the homes of decent people whose conscience would not allow them to remain passive; several were hidden in convents and monasteries and boarding schools; others were forced to roam through forests and villages, hunting for food like wild animals and relying entirely on their own ingenuity and resourcefulness. Many were forced to live under assumed identities, longingly anticipating the return of their father and mother. Some were so young when separated from their parents that they forgot their real names and Jewish identity. Many were forced to train themselves not to move, laugh or cry, or even talk. Upon liberation, one little girl asked her mother, “Mommy, may I cry now?”

 Jewish Children Gaschambers

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:51 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2009

Harvesting sperm from a dead man

"I want my son's sperm to live," Carmen Moreno, Quintana's 56-year-old mother, said through sobs as she testified.

Judge allows mother to harvest her dead son's sperm for the son's finance.

The race against time really began at 3:30 a.m. Thursday when Quintana, a seemingly healthy, 31-year-old concierge and auto mechanic, collapsed and died while watching an episode of NBC's "The Chopping Block" on a computer with his brother.

Through her tears, Marrero remembered their last talk about the future and immediately asked Jacobi if it would be possible to remove and preserve Quintana's sperm.

Under law, it takes a court order.

So while Quintana's body was placed in a cooling room and an ice bag was placed on his testicles to preserve his potential progeny, Marrero set about preparing a funeral - and building a legal argument.

Much of Thursday was spent frantically calling sperm banks, lawyers and arranging for an emergency hearing before Sherman.

I find this story quite off putting.  Rather than grieve over the sudden death of her 31-year-old son, the mother and finance spent their time frantically calling sperm banks, hiring lawyers and arranging for emergency hearings before a judge so they could get what they wanted.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

"Please don't bury me to My Way"

'The appeal of My Way lies in the way it offers not just absolution but glorification to the perpetrator of all the most dastardly deeds, reassuring the selfish that they are courageous and the thuggish that they are noble.'

What could be less fitting for a funeral? How can so many of us wish to be despatched to our Maker with this hymn to our bloody-minded selfishness echoing around our coffins?

Tom Utley on why hymns are better than pop songs at funerals

According to this week's survey by Co-Operative Funeralcare, the number of send-offs accompanied by pop music has increased from 55 per cent to 58 per cent over the past four years, while hymns are sung at only 35 per cent of funerals, down from 41 per cent in 1995.

But in my old-fashioned way, I can't help feeling it cheapens the value of a human life to mark its end with music chosen exclusively from the popular culture of the moment, here today and gone tomorrow, without giving eternity a look-in.

Another advantage of the sacred over the secular is that we can all sing along to a well-known hymn without embarrassment.

But when a pop-song is played in a church or a crematorium chapel, nobody joins in.

That's because it's impossible for a congregation to sing along with My Way without sounding like one of Craig's nightmare karaoke evenings, just as mourners can't join in with You'll Never Walk Alone (number nine in the Co-Operative's top ten) without sounding like a crowd of Liverpool football fans. So everyone just has to listen in gloomy silence.

It may sound an odd thing to say, but a good funeral should be a joyful occasion, as well as a sad one  -  and nothing lifts the heart higher than to hear a entire congregation belting out with one voice a rousing favourite from Hymns Ancient and Modern: Rock Of Ages, Fight The Good Fight, Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind. . .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2009

"Kisses, kisses, more kisses"

The Last Words of Duke Ellington.

“Kisses kisses” and “More kisses” he asked of his sister Ruth.

Before she left the room, he said, “Smile kisses,” and then smiled at her and kissed a cross she had left on the chair next to his bed.

Source:  A. H. Lawrence, Duke Ellington and His World: A Biography

viv Dead at Your Age

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 AM | Permalink

Fake Funerals

One way to defraud insurance companies is to hold Phony Funerals for Fake People

Two women, 60 and 67, who purchased life insurance for non-existent people and then staged their funerals are now charged with five counts of mail and wire fraud.

Shilling, a phlebotomist, and Crump, an employee at a now-defunct Long Beach mortuary, allegedly filled caskets with various materials to make it appear they contained actual corpses, documents show.
After the funerals, the women and their associates filed bogus documents with the county saying the remains had been cremated and scattered at sea, prosecutors said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink

April 13, 2009

"That's the way to go"

Via the Deacon's Bench, comes this story in the Washington Post about a Maryland priest who died on Holy Thursday.

Md. Priest's Death Adds Meaning to Holy Week

Dying on Holy Thursday -- the day marking the creation of the priesthood -- on the floor of his parish's sanctuary, under the eyes of a statue of the patron saint of happy deaths, the Rev. G. William Finch left his Rockville congregation with powerful Easter symbolism.

Even as St. Raphael Catholic Church, one of the region's few Roman Catholic megachurches, mourned its pastor, members said yesterday that the imagery was striking. Not only did Finch die just after he finished saying Mass, surrounded by parishioners praying the rosary and priests anointing him, next to the statue of Saint Joseph, but it happened just before Easter, a time when Christians focus intensely on mortality.

That left Finch's community grief-stricken and inspired by the memory of a jolly 55-year-old who loved red wine, Italian food and dancing fervently.

"As tragic as it was, it was kind of perfect," John Reutemann, a seminarian who grew up at St. Raphael's, said yesterday afternoon in the sanctuary, which was quiet except for the organist practicing for last night's Easter Vigil and for today's services. "He celebrated the priesthood, had a great bottle of wine [the night before, for his birthday], celebrated Mass, Saint Joseph looking down at him. That's the way to go!"


Finch had just finished leading Mass, and most parishioners were gone when he felt chest pains, the onset of a heart attack. He asked a priest to anoint him, something done for the sick or those near death. He was taken to a hospital but could not be revived.

"It was kind of a beautiful death," Dwyer said, choking back tears. "Sometimes in a priest's life, you're alone. Maybe he could have gone back to his room, but he was right there."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2009

"The Resurrection of the Lord is our hope"

Urbi et Orbi message of his holiness Pope Benedict XVI

From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter. To quote Saint Augustine, “Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra – the resurrection of the Lord is our hope” (Sermon 261:1). With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.).

Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end.
This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message. As Saint Paul vigorously declares: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” He goes on to say: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14,19). Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.
The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his “Passover”, his “passage”, that has opened a “new way” between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20). It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.
The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the “emptiness” would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion. Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10). We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:01 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2009

"Only solidarity will allow us to overcome this painful trial"

 Dome L'acquila Cathedral
The dome of the cathedral at L'Aquila after the earthquake

Italy Mourns Earthquake Victims

The funeral for about 200 the earthquake victims in L'Aquila took place outside because none of the region's churches were stable enough for the ceremony.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other key government officials were among the 10,000 people attending the outdoor ceremony beneath Abruzzo's snowcapped mountains.

 More-Earthquake Funeral

Mr. Berlusconi comforted mourners, shaking hands and giving hugs before the ceremony began. "Today will be a moment of great emotion. How can one not be moved by so much pain?" Mr. Berlusconi said, shortly before departing for L'Aquila for the funeral. "These are our dead today, they are the dead of the whole nation," said the prime minister.
The Vatican granted a special dispensation for the Mass. Good Friday, which marks Jesus' death by crucifixion, is the only day in the year on which Mass in not normally celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church.


The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, presided over the Good Friday funeral Mass for about 200 of the dead.
Sobbing mourners gazed on coffins adorned with mementos of the dead -- a boy's toy motorcycle, a baby's blue T-shirt -- comforting each other as they said farewell at a funeral mass for Italy's quake victims.
"This is the time to work together," the pope said in a message read by his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein. "Only solidarity will allow us to overcome this painful trial."

 Woman Coffins Earthquake

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 PM | Permalink

Death on a Friday Afternoon

 Mary Footofthecross

Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus

Such was the curious bond between Jesus and Mary, in the cradle and on the cross. As a baby he first awoke to the Absolute—to “God”—in the loving presence of a mother who was for him the reassuring field of reality. She was the secure field of all being in which he received unqualified permission to be. The alternative to her was not to be, and that alternative was unimagined and unimaginable because she was. Only later, and with difficulty, does the child learn to distinguish between the love of God and the primordial love of the parent. For most of us the distinction is never absolute, and perhaps is not meant to be.
Her heart would break before she fully understood, with a shudder of fear and wonder, what it was that she had been telling him when she whispered to the baby, “You will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. And of your kingdom there will be no end.” Perhaps, she was at times tempted to think, it was a mistake to tell him. But she finally had no choice except to follow, step by step, the way of the strange glory to which she had said yes. She was the instrument, she was the mediator, of the secret into which he would grow. And now his “hour” had come, and it had come to this, here at Golgotha.

 Mary Cross

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 AM | Permalink

April 7, 2009

Santa Muerte, the Death Saint

 Santa Muerte

From the AP, Mexico destroys 'Death Saint' revered by criminals

Officials in Nuevo Laredo have destroyed more than 35 statues dedicated to a "Death Saint" popular with drug traffickers.

The statues, most depicting a robe-covered skeleton resembling the Grim Reaper, lined highways and roads in and around the Mexican city on the border with Texas. One of the statues was located at the base of an international bridge linking Mexico and the U.S.
The Death Saint is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, but has become popular among organized crime figures in Mexico.

Time magazine on Santa Muerte: The New God in Town

Now appearing in New York, Houston and Los Angeles: Santa Muerte. The personage is Mexico's idolatrous form of the Grim Reaper: a skeleton — sometimes male, sometimes female — covered in a white, black or red cape, carrying a scythe, or a globe. For decades, thousands in some of Mexico's poorest neighborhoods have prayed to Santa Muerte for life-saving miracles. Or death to enemies. Mexican authorities have linked Santa Muerte's devotees to prostitution, drugs, kidnappings and homicides. The country's Catholic church has deemed Santa Muerte's followers devil-worshiping cultists.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 AM | Permalink

April 4, 2009

The terrible costs of not discussing end-of-life care

If doctors and families don't talk about end-of-life care, the dying patient will endure more misery, physical distress and suffering as costs
mounts up.

At the end of life, denial comes at a price

A team of investigators, lead by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, interviewed 603 patients with advanced cancer. They asked the patients, who had about six months left to live, whether their doctors had discussed their wishes for end-of-life care. The majority — 69 percent — said those conversations had not taken place. And in their last weeks of life, those patients who had talked with their doctors wound up with medical bills that were on average 36 percent lower — $1,876 compared to $2,917 — than those of patients who did not have end-of-life conversations with their doctors.
Why such a big difference? Dr. Holly Prigerson, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study, explained that the patients who never talked about their end-of-life wishes were more likely to be resuscitated, intubated or put in intensive care — or all of the above. Patients who had had those conversations generally opted for comfort, or palliative, care at home or in a hospice at much lower cost.
Why should doctors be so reluctant to talk about dying when patients are terminally ill? Dr. Susan Dale Block, chair of the department of psychosocial oncology and palliative care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, noted that oncologists don’t want to appear to be giving up on patients by discussing plans for dying. At the same time, family members and loved ones worry that such conversations might upset an already vulnerable patient. And patients themselves often feel their role is to be heroic and to soldier on, against the odds, with yet another treatment or intervention.
As this blog has noted, Compassion & Choices offers free consultations to families and patients through its End-of-Life Consultation Program (800-247-7421). The program’s counselors help patients make decisions about continuing treatment and provide advice on asking health care providers some of the tough questions. The counselors also offer tips on how to speak to providers if the patient’s needs and wishes are not being met.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 AM | Permalink

April 2, 2009

Suicide on demand for the healthy.

The head of the Dignitas Euthanasia Clinic in Switzerland thinks suicide on demand for the healthy is a peachy keen idea, one  that could save money for the National Health Service.   

" A marvellous possibility for all," says Dignitas boss.
The head of the Dignitas euthanasia clinic in Switzerland declared yesterday that he believed assisted suicide should be available 'on demand'.

Ludwig Minelli, whose organisation has supervised the deaths of 100 Britons, said suicide was not just for those already dying but 'a marvellous possibility given to a human being'.   
Anti-euthanasia campaigners said Mr Minelli's willingness to kill anyone who requested it bore out fears that legalising assisted suicide for the dying rapidly leads to euthanasia for anyone.

Just a few months ago, a forme worker at the Dignitas clinic said it's a "profit center killing machine."

Nurse Soraya Vernili who believes in assisted suicide was appalled at the way people were treated and the contemptuous behavior of her boss who was cashing in on despair.

Nominated for the Prize of Courage by a Swiss newspaper in 2007 - she garnered praise for her efforts in exposing what she claims is a 'production line of death concerned only with profits' - Mrs Wernli has embarked on writing a book.

It has the title The Business With The Deadly Cocktails, and she promises an in- depth expose of a 'principled and necessary organisation gone bad'.

He made them sign over all their possessions and sold their personal effects to pawn and second-hand shops rather than return them to their families.

'Mr Crew arrived in the morning and was dead just hours later,' she says. 'This was another of my many clashes with Minelli. I argued that it wasn't right that people land at the airport, are ferried to his office, have their requisite half-an-hour with a doctor, get the barbiturates they need and are then sent off to die.

'This is the biggest step anyone will ever take. They should at least be allowed to stay overnight, to think about what they are doing. But Minelli would have none of it. He once said to me that if he had his way, he would have vending machines where people could buy barbiturates to end their lives as easily as if they were buying a soft drink or a bar of chocolate. I support assisted suicide - but not the way he went about it.'

'And Minelli has the cheek to call his practice Dignitas, when dignity is the last thing afforded to these poor people.'

This is a horrifying example of the culture of death.  There has to be legal prohibition against  euthanasia otherwise those dying are easy prey for others who seem them only as an opportunity to make money or save money.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:17 PM | Permalink