Kass adds that he "hated the autopsy room, not out of fear of death, but because the post mortem exam could never answer my question: What happened to my patient?" The medical explanation of the cause of death "was utterly incommensurable with the awesome massive fact" he could see with his own eyes. Death is "the extinction of this never-to-be repeated human being, for whom I had cared and for whom his survivors now grieve." Science is incapable of wondering properly about both the reality of and the utter disappearance of the unique and irreplaceable person. Our desire to know is not properly animated without some assistance from personal care and grief.
The body of the 30-year-old man, identified by police as Ricardo CG, was discovered by the owner of the home in the town of Moron de la Frontera on Tuesday.
His hand and forearm could be seen sticking out the top of the chimney, local media reported.
It is not known how long the man was wedged inside the chimney before he died, but his mother had reported him missing last week and his body had already started to decompose.
A local businessman only used the property as a second home and could not identify how long the would-be thief had been stuck.
He made the shocking discovery after finding his gate broken into and bricks broken off the fireplace.
Maria A. Lopez, 97; elderly blogger attracted millions
MADRID - A Spanish great-grandmother who described herself as the world's oldest blogger - and who became a Web sensation as she mused on events current and past - has died at the age of 97.
Maria Amelia Lopez died May 20 in her hometown of Muxia in Spain's northwest Galicia region, according to her blog amis95.blogspot.com. No cause of death was given.
Mrs. Lopez started blogging in 2006 after her grandson - "who is very stingy," she wrote - created the site as a present for her 95th birthday.
The blog went on to attract a huge following, with more than 1.7 million hits, as Mrs. Lopez shared her thoughts on everything from life in Spain under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco to the US-led invasion of Iraq, which she criticized.
She said discovering the Internet and communicating with people all over the world changed her life, and she urged elderly people everywhere to get wired. "It took 20 years off my life," she wrote. "My bloggers are the joy of my life. I did not know there was so much goodness in the world."
Killed on Mission: An Oblate "Saint"
long known for "taking risks" to aid those in need, Oblate of Mary Immaculate Fr Larry Rosebaugh was shot and killed in a carjacking last week in Guatemala, where he lived and worked with the poor for the better part of three decades.
Rosebaugh lived through two civil wars, and most of his days were marked by the violence of the Latin America slums where he worked, ate and slept. And yet his life was dedicated to nonviolence and peace. For those who loved Rosebaugh, that made the end of his life all the more poignant.
Linking Rosebaugh's murder to his political advocacy for the poor came naturally for those who knew the skinny, soft-spoken, bespectacled man, who sported thrift-store clothes and a huge, bushy white beard, and whose life thoroughly blended the political and the holy.
"He was driven by his desire to be with the poor," said Mary Lou Pedersen, a friend from Chicago. "That's where he wanted to be and that's where he went."
Among tributes to Rosebaugh came one from his Oblate confrere and seminary classmate, now Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.
The murdered priest's work "was not just philanthropy," the USCCB chief told the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
"He was a voice for Christ among the poor."
Suppose you went to the doctor and after a few tests, you learn that you have lung cancer that has metastasized.
You go online and learn that the vast majority of people with your diagnosis do not survive two years.
Would you begin thinking of an aggressive fight to forestall death or would you begin to think of hospice?
And who would you talk to about it?
Only about half of the 1,517 patients with metastasized lung cancer who were surveyed had discussed hospice care with their physician or healthcare provider within four to seven months of their diagnosis.
The vast majority of such patients do not survive two years.
Hospice care - which can be delivered in a home, hospital, or other facility - focuses on managing a patient's pain and emotional and spiritual needs, rather than trying to cure the terminal illness.
For some ethnicities and races, the likelihood of a discussion about hospice was even lower. About 49 percent of African-Americans and 43 percent of Hispanics had a conversation with their physicians, the study found, compared with 53 percent of whites and 57 percent of Asians.
It may be that some do not understand their prognosis.
Huskamp theorizes that patients who said they had not discussed or considered hospice may not have fully understood their prognosis, or may be choosing to believe a rosier outcome. She also said that, in general, physicians are not well-trained to handle such delicate conversations.
"You have a lot of doctors out there who weren't trained in these conversations about end of life or breaking any kind of bad news, whether it's a prognosis or difficult treatment," she said.
How many tests and treatments are you willing to undergo when you're 80 or so?
Billions of dollars are spent each year in the United States on intensive treatments for older patients in the last six months of their lives, according to the 2008 Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care.
Some studies have recently concluded that hospice care can substantially lower costs for many terminal illnesses, and may often be more in line with what patients want.
How do you want to spend your last months? Undergoing chemotherapy or just being outside in the sun?
"As baby boomers get older and see how their parents are dying, they don't want that type of death," said Rigney Cunningham, executive director of the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts, and a member of the state panel.
"I don't think anymore that death is a taboo conversation with these consumers," she said. "I think people are just struggling with how to start the conversation."
I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.
From 1776 the Musical, here is Momma Look Sharp
It's a long line of men willing to die so that we could be free from 1776 until today, across time and space. Let us give recollect and give thanks to all the fallen.
Matthew of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping delivers the sad news that Msgr William Kerr who baptized him in 1983, was felled by a massive stroke while in the pulpit last week at the co-cathedral of St. Thomas More.
There is a fascinating connection to Ted Bundy, the story of which you click the link to read. I want to focus on his last remarkable and unfinished homily.
Today, I want to share with you an anniversary that is important to me. I speak of the anniversary of my ordination as a deacon and of my first assignment. On my way to receiving that first assignment, I stopped by the chapel to go over my resume with God. This was in St. Louis and ten parishes and a hospital were to be assigned to deacons. I told God, "I would do well in a parish. You know I'm not good with hospitals."
After that, I stepped over to the bishop's office. I met with the bishop and received my assignment – it was the hospital.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was immediately directed to the burn unit. This particular hospital was famous for its burn unit and very gravely injured burn patients were brought here. I learned that the chaplain was out for the day and I was faced with this daunting task without any instructions. It was the doctor and me. He advised me to look in the patients' eyes and not at their disfiguring injuries.
My first patient was a young man who had been burned by an explosion. He was in critical condition. This young man, who came to have a tremendous influence on my life, worked in a factory. He had been tasked with picking up rags and spent containers. He disposed of them in an incinerator. This was a chemical factory and unfortunately the containers held chemicals that exploded, seriously burning him in the process.
His name was Michael, Michael Anderson, and he said, "'Father,'" (he called me 'Father,') I always wanted to be a priest, and now I won't get to – so I am offering my suffering to strengthen you in your ministry.
Amazed and almost at a loss for words, I said to him, "Now, Michael, we will get through this, together." But Michael, who probably had a better sense of his situation than I did, responded by insisting he would offer his suffering for me and my ministry.
Next to Michael was another patient who was well known in the area. He heard Michael's conversation with me and told him to put in a good word for him in heaven.
The doctor told me it was important for the patients to scream, to help them relieve their agonizing pain. But Michael never screamed. He held his suffering to himself until he died.
During the next few hours, I got to know Michael. The singular circumstances of our meeting led to friendship, and a special bond between us. And, over the course of my life, I have repeatedly felt that bond and that friendship. Many times I have asked Michael to pray for me to strengthen me in my ministry.
I often think about the priceless blessings I received from being assigned to that hospital and from meeting Michael. God knows us and he knows where we belong, even if we do not know ourselves. We must pray… we must pray…Michael…
R.I.P. Requiescat in pace
Whether he was visiting refugees in Rwanda or Bosnia or sharing Thanksgiving dinner each year with his longtime friend Roger Staubach , the former Dallas Cowboys and Navy star quarterback, Kerr touched lives, his friends say.
"He was as good a person as you would ever want to meet," Staubach told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. "He was always dedicated to others."
Monsignor William Kerr, a former president of La Roche College whose pursuit of peace touched presidents and prisoners, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke May 3 during Mass in a Florida cathedral. He was 68.
When serial killer Ted Bundy murdered two women and severely injured two others in a sorority house in 1978, Monsignor Kerr was called to give last rites. Mr. Bundy sought counseling from Monsignor Kerr, who last visited him two days before his 1989 execution.
By then, Monsignor Kerr had spent five years as vice president for university relations at Catholic University. In 1992 he became president of La Roche.
"Under his leadership, La Roche College was transformed from a regional coeducational, liberal arts college into a global community of learners with a burgeoning international presence," said Sister Candace Introcaso, the current president.
"For a man who gave his life to the church delivering the word, that's a pretty sweet way to go," he said.
Matt has a post up at BLACKFIVE telling the whole story, but basically those of us who didn't feel the warrior class and those who support them were being heard have formed this group. We will be ensuring that the stories that have been ignored are told to all Americans and the world and that the service and sacrifices of our troops are recognized and honored. Membership is open to anyone who believes this cause is worthy.
The Warrior Legacy Foundation is a non-partisan organization that is committed to the protection and promotion of the reputation and dignity of America’s Warriors.
Across every generation, at war and at peace, America has asked her citizens to protect liberty and defend freedom at all costs. No matter the terrain or political climate, America’s Warriors have met every challenge and made every sacrifice that was asked of them in order to defeat our enemies and protect our way of life. The Warrior Legacy Foundation is a passionate advocate for the preservation and elevation of the hallowed legacy of the American Warrior Class.
They have asked for nothing and have given us everything.
Two days after Rodrigo Roseburg made this video in Guatemala City, while riding his bike, he was shot and died on the street.
"If you are hearing this message," Rosenberg begins, "unfortunately, it is because I have been murdered by the president's private secretary, Gustavo Alejos, and his partner, Gregorio Valdez, with the approval of Álvaro Colom and Sandra de Colom [Guatemala's president and first lady].
"I do not want to be a hero," Rosenberg says at one point during the sensational video that was distributed at his funeral on Monday, but he has now become a martyr in a nation weary of drug running, money laundering and corruption, and with one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Rosenberg explains that he was a lawyer who would have preferred to continue quietly practising his profession, but it was the murder of two clients in April that led directly to his own death.
But amid this week's non-stop media coverage of the special, replete with a red-carpet premiere and interviews with her on-again paramour Ryan O'Neal - who, ever the gentleman, referred to Fawcett in the past tense - one question has yet to be asked: Is this weird? Or is this just the natural progression of things, the logical next step in a culture where the pace of oversharing and electronic communications are perfectly, symbiotically matched?
Fawcett herself, as she has throughout her career, comes off as extremely likeable and well-intentioned, if - like most celebrities of her era - a bit unhooked from the actual world. She rails against the lack of funding for research into cancers such as hers, and bemoans the lack of experimental treatments in the US. Yet it does not register with her that her wealth and fame, which afford her private jets to Germany and an international team of doctors, are unavailable to the vast majority of cancer sufferers, and that, if not for her station in life, she would not have had extra time. She does not seem to wrestle, at all, with the notion that there may be some experiences best kept private, that the unintended consequences of oversharing can be a cheapening and coarsening of the most meaningful moments.
Fawcett's story, of course, is real, and it will be interesting to see how many Americans watched, and if the nation's attitudes towards death - really the last taboo - begin to change. Maybe death will be discussed more openly, or maybe most people will decide that it's too ghoulish, too voyeuristic, to watch a deathbed goodbye, to watch an American icon of youth and beauty waste away.
I didn't see it, but I don't think I would have watched. I know these people have lived all their lives before a camera, but to me making such private moments public lacks dignity. Watching someone die is a profound and deep moment. Making a private video for family members is one thing, making a public show about it is another.
You're the director of a non-profit that operates an alternative school and runs programs for people with developmental disabilities when you get a call from someone you never met who says he plans to leave your organization his entire estate. Of course, you'll meet with him and together you set a date.
But there's a death in your family and you have to leave town. You tried to cancel and reschedule but you couldn't reach him. The caller comes by anyway and leaves a large white envelope for you. Scrawled on the bank in large capital letters are the words:
WAIT UNTIL YOU HEAR FROM THE CORONER" (PLEASE DON'T CALL EVERYTHING IS ALL RIGHT).
When you get back, did you open the envelope?
Of course you do. Annie Green did.
Inside she found the last will and testament of John Francis Beech and yes, indeed Beech left Laradon Hall, the non-profit in question, all his estate. Beech also left the keys to his house, instructions and $100,000 check, post-dated for two weeks, for Laradon Hall.
John Beech and his mother
If you couldn't surmise from the writing outside the envelope that this man was contemplating suicide, surely you could by what was inside.
What would you do?
Annie Green put the check into a safe until she could deposit it.
Beech had a mother, three sisters and a brother. The news of his death left them and other relatives reeling in shock and bewilderment. Jack, as he was known to his younger siblings, had always been the family's pillar of strength — the oldest, the most confident, the one who was the life of the party. He collected beautiful cars and performed magic tricks in bars; he had money, globe-trotting adventures and lots of girlfriends. He'd never shown signs of depression and, as far as they knew, had never been treated for mental illness. He'd never talked about suicide around them — except to express outrage when an old friend took his own life in 2007. Why, Jack had seethed, didn't the guy come to him for help? But Jack was also an extremely private person. He'd disappear for weeks on a trip or something, then abruptly resurface. The family knew there were parts of his life he simply didn't share with them, and maybe not with anyone. "If you needed help, he'd give you the shirt off his back," says his brother, David Beech, a news director for a television station in Reno, Nevada. "But if you tried to help him with anything, he'd refuse. He was like a father; he was our father.
Now the family is suing on pubic policy grounds so that the non-profit can not benefit from its failure to take action to prevent the suicide.
But Malonson's attorney, Susan Harris, says the message Beech left for Green was unmistakable. "The only people he revealed his suicide plan to was Laradon Hall," she says. "There's no note that says, 'I'm going to commit suicide,' but there's a lot of indications. Who gives their house keys and financial information to a perfect stranger? He writes about the coroner, about where to find his car titles — and here's a postdated check for $100,000. One of the classic signs of impending suicide is the property giveaway.
"Laradon Hall deals with the mental-health issues of the clients it serves," Harris continues. "They have psychologists on board, all kinds of mental-health professionals. They do assessment; they do treatment. But they never tried to save him. They didn't contact him. They didn't call a hotline. They didn't talk to one of their own psychologists. They stuck the check in their safe."
A fascinating story by Allan Prendergast, you have to read.
Martha Mason lived more than 60 years in a iron lung and had a full and happy life, living at home, graduating from college with highest honors, taking care of her mother who fell into dementia, and writing a book.
An extraordinary woman by all accounts who made the most of the life she had.
Paralyzed from the neck down as a result of childhood polio, Ms. Mason was one of the last handful of Americans, perhaps 30 people, who live full time in iron lungs.
From her horizontal world — a 7-foot-long, 800-pound iron cylinder that encased all but her head — Ms. Mason lived a life that was by her own account fine and full, reading voraciously, graduating with highest honors from high school and college, entertaining and eventually writing.
She chose to remain in an iron lung, she often said, for the freedom it gave her. It let her breathe without tubes in her throat, incisions or hospital stays, as newer, smaller ventilators might require. It took no professional training to operate, letting her remain mistress of her own house, with just two aides assisting her.
“I’m happy with who I am, where I am,” Ms. Mason told The Charlotte Observer in 2003. “I wouldn’t have chosen this life, certainly. But given this life, I’ve probably had the best situation anyone could ask for.”
Ms. Mason often gave dinner parties — she ate lying down, with her guests around the table and the iron lung pushed up beside it — and savored lively conversation, good gossip and the occasional bawdy story. Amid the rhythmic whoosh ... whoosh of the iron lung, the local book club met in her home. High school graduates stopped by so she could admire them in their caps and gowns, as did just-married couples in their wedding finery. Souvenir magnets from faraway places, gifts from traveling friends, adorned the yellow exterior of Ms. Mason’s iron lung like labels on a steamer trunk.
in the mid-1990s, when Ms. Mason acquired a voice-activated computer with e-mail capability and Internet access. The computer brought her the world. It also let her contemplate writing her memoir, which is subtitled “Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung.”
She began the book in tribute to her mother. In the late 1980s, after a series of strokes, Euphra Mason descended into dementia and abusiveness, occasionally slapping and cursing her daughter. Ms. Mason insisted that her mother remain at home. From her iron lung, she took over the running of the household, planning meals, paying bills and arranging for her mother’s care.
After her mother’s death in 1998, Ms. Mason began work on her book in earnest. There, in her childhood home, with a microphone at her mouth and the music of the iron lung for company, she wrote her life story sentence by sentence in her soft Southern voice, with her own breath.
It was one of her dying wishes - to be taken to her final resting place in a classic Rolls Royce.
But, as the Phantom VI sat in solemn silence to carry Patricia Thorburn's coffin to the cemetery, it became clear someone had sabotaged her send-off in the most callous way
The University of Georgia marketing professor who was accused of fatally shooting his wife and two other people outside a community theater in Georgia was found dead by cadaver dogs.
He was found deep in the woods, beneath the earth, naked except for two guns.
The only good part to the bizarre story is that he left his two children, 8 and 10, with a neighbor.
If you're making a digital scrapbook and wish you had a telegram to include or if you just want to send an old-fashioned telegram today you can for $4.70, all from your computer at TelegramStop
via Book of Joe.
For only $9995, you can send your ashes -one gram's worth -to the moon, but not until 2011.
Your ashes on the moon
A small portion -- 1 gram -- of the encapsulated cremated remains of one person can be sent to the moon for $9,995. The price includes the option of watching the launch, an inscription of the deceased's name on an accompanying plaque, and complimentary scattering of the remainder of the remains at sea near the launch site.
For $29,985, Celestis will launch 14 grams total of the cremated remains of two people together...
Father Longenecker reminds us what funerals are all about in Eulogies at Funerals
A funeral Mass is not primarily a memorial service. A funeral Mass is not first and foremost an opportunity to comfort the bereaved. A funeral Mass does something. In it the Church offers the sacrifice of Calvary for the repose of the soul of one of her departed sons or daughters. The funeral Mass is an action of the church which applies the benefits of Christ's atoning death to the soul of the deceased. The funeral Mass is a solemn rite of passage in which the Holy Church hands on to God the soul of the departed and commends his body to the ground or to the flames.
This is what a priest should be doing at the Mass. At the wake, by all means, get Uncle Harry to tell a few ripe stories about the old rogue. At the reception have a few drinks and get everyone to reminisce about the good times and the bad times, but not at the funeral
And another thing: funerals are meant to be sad. Black should be worn. Dignified grief should be encouraged. A funeral is not a 'celebration of Stanley's life'. A funeral is not 'a time of joy because Mildred is in heaven now.' How tacky and trite is that? No. A funeral should be sad. Someone had died for goodness sake. Furthermore, people need to grieve. They need to work through the terror of death. They need to face reality. A solemn, sad, sober and serious funeral helps them to do that. A silly, shallow, superficial and stupid memorial service or 'celebration of Pat's life' only encourages them to look the other way and take a feel good cop out from reality.
No. Give me the funeral march. Give me solemn young men in black with serious faces to mourn my passing. Give me widows and women in black veils and gloves wiping away tears. Give me the smoke of incense to purify my bones. Give me the water of life to remind me of my baptism. Give me a requiem Mass and may all who are there--whether a multitude or the faithful few--grieve me with the dignity in death that I once hoped for in life.
Romain Blanquart's photographic essay The Bride Was Beautiful is heart-breaking and beautiful.
Young Katie Kirkpatrick, 21, fought off cancer long enough so she could marry her childhood sweetheart. She died five days later, a married woman. Roman recounts her story in a few words and masterful photographs.
David Goldman's appreciation in First Things
Former vice-presidential candidate, congressman, and Housing secretary, he was the most improbable and the most important hero of the Reagan Revolution after the Gipper himself. Without Jack’s true-believer’s passion for tax cuts as a remedy for the stagflation of the 1970s, Reagan would not have staked his presidency on an untested and controversial theory.
It was impossible to be cynical in Jack’s vicinity. He radiated sincerity and optimism. Corny as it sounds, Jack was the real thing, an all-American true believer in this country and in the capacity of its people to overcome any obstacle once given the chance.
Jack was a leader who loved his country and put it before personal gain. When he left office he had the equity in his house and not much else. But he had four children, including two sons who played professional football, and seventeen grandchildren. By the time I got to know him he was full time on the lecture circuit, putting his family finances in order before joining the Washington thinktank Empower America. He considered a run for president in 1996 but deferred to Steve Forbes, then running as the tax-cutting candidate. His outstanding career as a Republican leader was coming to an end, but what a glorious run it was.
A devout Christian, Jack made far more of a difference than an ex-quarterback with a physical education degree from Occidental College had a right to. He earned our gratitude not only for what he accomplished, but for what he proved about the character of the United States.
New York Times obit
Jack Kemp, the former football star turned congressman who with an evangelist’s fervor moved the Republican Party to a commitment to tax cuts as the central focus of economic policy, died Saturday evening at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 73.
Mr. Kemp was an unlikely leader for a political cause based on a theory of economics. He had majored in physical education while playing football at Occidental College in Los Angeles. When he entered politics, many Washington veterans dismissed him as a “dumb jock,” and as a junior House member in 1977, he did not even serve on the tax-writing Committee on Ways and Means.
Mr. Kemp had also convinced Bill Brock, chairman of the Republican National Committee, that the issue was political gold. “He said, in effect, we need to restore the essence of our party, which is growth, which is jobs, which is creativity,” Mr. Brock said in an interview this year. “And the way to do that is to free people of the burden of excessive taxes.”
“Jack Kemp is the indispensable political leader of the modern conservative economic revival,” Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research institution in Washington, said recently, adding, “Jack’s role in developing and exploring the potential of supply-side economics in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for Reagan’s economic program.”
Kemp was an autodidact. He focused on sports in his early life, becoming quarterback of the Buffalo Bills in the old AFL. Yet he nourished a nascent interest in politics by reading, reading, reading — WFB, Ayn Rand, economics, history. He honored ideas with the fervor of a young lover. His second passion, equal to his devotion to tax cuts, was his concern for black advancement. This was part conviction, part experience: As his friend Newt Gingrich liked to say, Jack had showered with people that most Republicans never meet. Kemp believed that the party of Lincoln had to regain its role as the champion of black America. The welfare state had not completed the civil-rights revolution; free-enterprise programs targeted at the inner city (such as enterprise zones) would do the trick instead.
Churchill said that being with FDR was like having a glass of champagne. Being with Jack Kemp was like chugging a can of Red Bull. How could someone so alive be gone? And yet it is so. R.I.P.
Nathaniel Grimsby, born in 1811 in Kansas, though old when it broke out, fought in the Civil War becoming a second lieutenant and a "picturesque figure".
From When Kansas Was Young by Thomas Allen McNeal
He was a Republican without variableness or shadow of turning. To his mind, politically speaking, the Republican party was summum bonum, while the Democratic party was malum in se. Whatever there was of good in the political acts of the past third of a century, he attributed to the Republican party, and whatever there was of evil to the malign influence of the Democratic organization. With most men political activity stops with the grave, but old Nathaniel Grigsby, as the weight of years bowed his back and the frosts of time, silvered his hair, knowing that his years were nearly numbered, devised a plan by which his political opinions might be transmitted to coming generations, carved in imperishable granite, to be read long after his mortal body had returned to the earth from which it came and his spirit had joined the immortals. He carefully prepared the inscription for his tombstone and exacted the promise it should be graven on the shaft which marked his grave
Hat tip to Paul, Thoughts of a Regular Guy
Sadly, MotherPie, one of my favorites, is winding down her blog. With all best wishes in her new transition which may have something to do with 12 Mighty Orphans.
You can see why I will miss her with these excerpts from two of her last posts.
Sometimes it takes literally years and years and years to understand or even know what has been significant. Time must pass to understand the larger meaning of a thing, to put perspective on life, to see how beginnings actually end.
That has certainly been the case with the inspiring and true story of 12 Mighty Orphans.
Martin Luther King's briefcase shows us the totemic significance of what was carried on anyone's last day before sudden death.
Strength to Love. That is the book he authored (a collection of his sermons) that was in Martin Luther King's briefcase, right, open as he packed it, in his hotel the day he was shot. These never before released photos from the day he died by Henry Groskinsky for Life magazine.
Shane McConkey, R.I.P. - Forever an Eagle via Book of Joe
Long story — and life — cut unexpectedly short: The iconic ski base jumper (above) died as he lived.
From the Financial Times obit, Daredevil ski base-jumper who flew like a bird
Shane McConkey, the man who found ways to ski off skyscrapers, was able to “slip the surly bonds of earth”, as poet John Magee put it, and enter an exhilarating and giddy world where few mortals could venture.
Having helped pioneer what came to be called ski base-jumping – leaping from mountains or cliffs using a parachute to land safely – he moved on to something even more exotic: wingsuiting. He used a special suit that shaped the body into a human aerofoil with fabric sewn between the legs and under the arms. This enabled him to become a self-powered “birdman” before finally opening a parachute – a technique one observer likened to a “flying squirrel”.
McConkey: ‘It’s so damned fun’
“Wingsuiting blows people away – it blows me away every time I do it,” McConkey said. “There’s no joystick, no bar, no steering wheel – you’re flying your own body. It’s so damned fun. You ski off a cliff, pull your skis off and you’re flying – you’re a bird. You open your wingsuit and you’re off. It’s the greatest feeling ever.”
McConkey’s death at 39, while filming in the Italian Dolomites, exposed an unexpected danger in a sport already fraught with peril. A mid-air problem getting the bindings of both skis to release before being jettisoned meant that vital seconds were lost between the initial launch and the smooth transition into “birdman” mode. After jumping and carrying out a “routine” double back-flip from a 600-metre cliff near the ski resort of Corvara, he was still desperately grappling to release the second ski when he hit the ground, his wingsuit not yet deployed. The unreleased ski would have flipped him upside down and probably sent him into a spin. Had he tried to use his parachute in this position it would have become tangled around the remaining ski and failed to deploy.
After his death one website noted: “There are 42,500 page results for Shane McConkey. Within those pages you won’t find a bad word uttered about him.” One comment posted was: “It feels like Superman died.”
Final Edition In praise of the newspaper obituary by Stefany Anne Goldberg
The traditional obituary is an exercise in curtness. It is an art form nasty, brutish, and short, taking the scrambled up, complicated thing that is a human life and smashing it into a tidy, coherent narrative.
The obituary seems to be experiencing a renaissance. In her 2006 book The Dead Beat, Marilyn Johnson reveals a worldwide ring of rabid obituary enthusiasts—members of the Church of Obituaries, she calls them. They flip past the Sports and Business sections eager to read the day’s death roll. They “surf the dead beat” poring over blogs and newspapers searching for fascinating facts about Antoinette K-Doe, who turned a nightclub into a public shrine to her husband, or the guy who invented sea monkeys. Obituaries aren’t dirty little secrets as much as they used to be, lurking in hidden corners and ready to terrify those who cross their path. They are public, normal, interesting, fun. There’s even a glossy online magazine with the snappy name Obit.
--But the real change is with the obituary writers. Once shamed to the backs of periodicals to deliver dour, Margie Zellner-style obituaries, many are now part of this new movement to “out” death by making it more accessible and “natural.” They are reconsidering the obituary not as the final judgment, but as a way death can be presented as a sum total of its stories. Everyone has stories, everyone dies, and in writing about death, death and life become more of a circle. The obituary is not the period on the sentence of existence, but a mere interpretation.
From the Anchoress, a 7 year old's incredible legacy
That was Catie O’Brien, 7, then a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where she was undergoing treatment for a rare type of pediatric cancer called Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor. After her diagnosis last June, Catie spent most of the latter half of 2008 in the hospital’s care. She returned home to Mechanicsburg, Pa., in December after doctors discovered her tumor was back, despite aggressive radiation, chemotherapy and stem-cell recovery treatments.
Catie died Jan. 25, surrounded by family, including parents Kevin and Christine and five siblings, all members of St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg. The last two months of her life were jam-packed with holiday celebrations and a family trip to the waters in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, made possible by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The little girl’s dying wish, according to Kevin, was for her friends and family to raise enough money to cover all of the operating costs for St. Jude Hospital for one day a year in her name, preferably her April 23 birthday.
“That was her wish,” Kevin said. “After she had found out that her tumor had come back, she wanted to leave a legacy.”
As of last week, Kevin reported that donors had already contributed $930,000 toward her first $1.4 million birthday present.
A British World War II veteran whose efforts to help prisoners escape from a Nazi camp was immortalised in the film The Great Escape has died aged 97.
Alex Lees was a prisoner at the infamous Stalag Luft III camp in March 1944 when scores of Allied servicemen escaped through tunnels they had dug by hand.
Lees - a gardener at the camp - helped dig the tunnels, but because he was not an officer he was not given the chance to escape himself.
He used an ingenious system to dispose of the soil from the three tunnels, storing it in a bag hidden under his trousers and then dumping it on the camp's vegetable garden.
The story of Lees and his comrades was made into the 1963 film starring Steve McQueen.
Alex Kees: PoW at Stalag Luft III
Since he had been transferred to Stalag Luft III as part of a gardening detail, his raking down the soil was not immediately calculated to cause suspicion among the camp guards.
After months of work the main escape tunnel, “Tunnel Harry”, was finally ready and on the night of March 24, 1944, a moonless night the would-be escapers had selected to give them their best chance, the escape attempt began as night fell. Out of the 100 men it was thought might escape before daylight, 76 had succeeded in crawling to freedom beyond the wire when at 4.55 am on the 25th the 77th man was spotted emerging from the tunnel.
After being repatriated from Stalag Luft III in 1945 he returned to his life in insurance in Scotland, finally retiring in 1969 as life and pensions superintendent at what was by then the Commercial Union. Latterly he had lived in a care home for ex-service personnel in Erskine, Renfrewshire.