October 31, 2009

Killed by rampaging elephant

BBC children's TV safari guide killed by charging elephant in Tanzania

A Safari guide who was working on a BBC children's television programme was killed after an elephant charged and trampled over him yesterday.

Anton Turner, 38, was assisting the filming of the CBBC series 'Serious Explorers' which is retracing the footsteps of legendary explorer David Livingstone in Tanzania, Africa.

Mr Turner, a Brit who is a former Army officer and experienced safari ranger, was seriously injured after the elephant attacked him.
Three children who had been picked by the BBC to travel with the party were present during the fatal charge but both were unhurt.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:19 AM | Permalink

Musician killed by coyotes

Taylor Mitchell, 19, Musician, Killed by Coyotes

Up and coming Canadian musician Taylor Mitchell has died from wounds sustained from 2 coyotes. Taylor Mitchell was hiking alone on a trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia. People heard Mitchell's screams and called park rangers. The rangers did make it there in time
The singer died on the way to the hospital from her wounds. The coyotes had bitten her many times and the paramedics said she was in critical condition when they found her and she had lost a lot of blood.

Taylor Mitchell was a new talent that was on the rise. Her debut CD is called "For Your Consideration". She had just turned 19 and gotten her driver's license. She loved the woods and appreciated the beauty of them. Taylor Mitchell was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award this year in the young performer of the year category.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:58 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2009

" Elderly men and women with no one else to care for them are given exquisite attention."

Newly canonized St Jeanne Jugan, the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, devoted her life to the care of the elderly poor.  Her remarkable story as Humble Friend of the Poor can be read here. 

"Making the elderly happy, that is what counts", Jeanne Jugan


George Weigel writes about her in his inimitable way

Born during the virulently anti-Catholic French Revolution, Jeanne Jugan learned early in her life that fidelity to Christ and his Church could be costly. A history of the period of her childhood sums things up neatly: “In spite of the persecution, the people of Cancale kept the faith. During dark nights, in an attic or a barn, or even in the middle of the countryside, the faithful gathered together, and there in the silence of the night, the priest would offer the Eucharist and baptize the children. But this happiness was rare. There were so many dangers.”

Jeanne Jugan knew poverty as well as persecution, and developed a marked sensitivity to the humiliation that those who have fallen through the cracks of society’s net of solidarity can feel. She declined an offer of marriage because, as she put it, “God...is keeping me for a work which is not yet known, for a work which is not yet founded.” That work came into clear focus when, at age 47, she met an elderly, blind and sick woman, whom she took into her care; from that seemingly random encounter was born a tremendous work of charity. The congregation of women religious she founded dedicated itself to the care of the poor and elderly—and supported itself by begging, with the foundress, Jeanne Jugan, as chief beggar.  The Little Sisters of the Poor spread rapidly throughout Europe, America and Africa, but the going was never easy for Jeanne Jugan.

In 1843, Jeanne Jugan’s re-election as superior was quashed by the community’s priest-advisor, Father Augustin Marie Le Pailleur. Refusing to contest what others would have deemed an injustice (but which she thought to be the will of God), Jeanne Jugan accepted this curious decision and went on the road, supporting her sisters by begging. For the last 27 years of her life, she lived at the order’s motherhouse in retirement, again according to the orders of Father Le Pailleur; her role as foundress was never acknowledged during her lifetime. Yet the novelist Charles Dickens could write, after meeting Jeanne Jugan, that “there is in this woman something so calm, and so holy, that in seeing her I know myself to be in the presence of a superior being. Her words went straight to my heart, so that my eyes, I know not how, filled with tears.”
To enter a house of the Little Sisters of the Poor today is to recapture what Dickens experienced. Elderly men and women with no one else to care for them are given exquisite attention; the dignity of every patient is honored, no matter how difficult that dignity may be to discern amidst the trials of senility and disease. The Little Sisters of the Poor and their patients are living reminders that there are no disposable human beings; that everyone is a someone for whom the Son of God entered the world, suffered and died; and that we read others out of the human family at our moral and political peril.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

October 29, 2009

Eulogist given the hook

I'm scratching my head wondering how the editor gave this report this headline - Soupy Sales goes out with love

SOUPY Sales would have loved his memorial yesterday at the Riverside Funeral Home. Freddie Roman, Joe Franklin and Kenny Kramer -- who inspired the character played by Michael Richards on "Seinfeld" -- were among those who paid their last respects.

One of Soupy's two rock musician sons, Tony or Hunt -- our source didn't know which -- recalled his dad's advice: "Be true to your teeth, and they won't be false to you."

Professor Irwin Corey had to be removed from the podium after his eulogy turned into a diatribe about health-care reform, in which he insisted that Soupy -- along with Odetta, Eartha Kitt and Miriam Makeba -- died prematurely because of inadequate treatment.

And a female rabbi told the crowd that Soupy's parents, Irving and Sadie Supman, the only Jewish family in Franklinton, NC, owned a dry-goods store and sold sheets to the Ku Klux Klan.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:04 AM | Permalink

Killed Raking Leaves

He survived D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, won the Silver Star and was killed raking leaves.   

Jules Crittenden has more on Philias Verrette in Never Know How You'll Go.

We’re all going, one way or another. It’s how you live that matters. A parting salute to a great American, who served his country bravely in war, worked hard to provide for his family in peace, and died, at the age of 87, cleaning up his yard. That sounds like a good life, despite its tragic end at this late age.

Condolences to his family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:58 AM | Permalink

October 28, 2009

The Other Side of Sadness

From The New Old Age, Maybe Grief Isn't So Bad After All

In “The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss,” Dr. Bonanno does not minimize the acute sorrow people feel when someone they love dies. He acknowledges that a small proportion of mourners — 10 percent to 15 percent, he reports — have long-lasting depression and distress and may benefit from medical intervention. But most people are, to use the term he does, resilient: they fluctuate between pain and happier emotions, seek comfort, maintain their equilibrium and, before long, find renewed meaning and pleasure in life.

“Most bereaved people get better on their own, without any kind of professional help,” Dr. Bonanno writes. “They may be deeply saddened, they may feel adrift for some time, but their life eventually finds its way again, often more easily than they thought possible. This is the nature of grief. This is human nature.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 AM | Permalink

October 27, 2009

The order by which people are admitted to heaven

From the Deacon's Bench is this hilarious order by which people are admitted to heaven that appeared in Notre Dame magazine.

To be admitted without review by committee: children under the age of 12, sixth-grade teachers, the mothers of triplets, janitors, nuns (all religions), nurses, all other mothers, loggers, policemen with more than 10 years of service, Buddhists (see Appendix A), bass players in rock bands, librettists, gardeners, cartographers, eighth-grade teachers, cellists, farriers, veterinarians, magicians, compass-makers, firemen and firewomen, rare-book-room librarians, cobblers, anyone from the former Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific, breakfast cooks in diners, philologists, proofreaders, administrative assistants and secretaries, sauciers, mapmakers, cartwrights, cartoonists, essayists, people who manufacture thimbles, and Presbyterians (see Appendix B).

To be admitted after cursory review by committee: archaeologists, Catholics, Jews, doctors (except orthodontists; see Appendix C), plumbers, taxi-drivers, boatwrights, soldiers actually engaged in defending their clan or country from attack or threatened attack, undertakers, popes without children, longshoremen, tugboat pilots, coaches of any elementary-school sport whatsoever (precedence for basketball and Australian Rules football coaches), all other teachers, cellists, anyone who ever worked on an auction for a nonprofit, scuba divers, publishers of children’s books, people from Finland, people who sell life insurance (it turns out life insurance is something really, really close to the Director’s heart), anyone who ever took a tango lesson, hotel doormen, people who brew beer in their bathtubs, child-care-center directors, emergency dispatchers, detectives, monks, anyone in the peanut-butter industry, paddle surfers (female), bus drivers, fishmongers, anyone who ever repaired a copy machine or a child’s bicycle, and any father who ever wiped or bathed a child other than his own without complaint.

To be admitted under the special Mother of the Lord provision (“the back door”): Unitarians, Pete Maravich, exotic dancers, journalists (see Appendix D)

Appendix D: Unitarians, bless their earnest hearts, are admitted without further ado, but the debates over the qualifications of journalists as a class go back millennia and have generated many planets’ worth of legal records. For the year 2009, print and radio journalists are given precedence over web journalists. Television journalists are, as usual, not admitted, but this year for the first time are allowed to file appeals with Mr. Edward Murrow.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:35 PM | Permalink

Grieving chimps

 Grieving Chimps

Is this haunting picture proof that chimps really DO grieve?

United in what appears to be deep and profound grief, a phalanx of more than a dozen chimpanzees stood in silence watching from behind the wire of their enclosure as the body of one of their own was wheeled past.

This extraordinary scene took place recently at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon, West Africa.

When a chimp called Dorothy, who was in her late 40s, died of heart failure, her fellow apes seemed to be stricken by sorrow.

As they wrapped their arms around each other in a gesture of solidarity, Dorothy's female keeper gently settled her into the wheelbarrow which carried her to her final resting place - not before giving this much-loved inhabitant of the centre a final affectionate stroke on the forehead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

“When funerals and death are not fun anymore, I’ll get out of the business,’’

The funeral director who met his wife at a funeral and other stories as the funeral directors convene in Boston.

They came to the Boston Convention and Exposition Center to talk shop, trade ideas, and marvel at how one of the world’s most somber professions has been changed by technology and the growing demand for funerals that go beyond hearse-and-casket basics.

Designer caskets, green burials, and funeral webcasts for family members who cannot make it are just some of the innovative solutions to the world’s oldest problem: what kind of send-off to give the departed.

Kurt L. Soffe, denizen of a 95-year-old funeral home in Utah, recalled what he dubbed “the Harley funeral.’’ A pack of bikers wanted to bury their Harley-Davidson-loving loved one in a way he would have appreciated: with a procession of Hogs instead of black limos, led by a Corvette instead of a hearse. Oh, and could the funeral staff wear casual clothes instead of suits?

“We do not say no,’’ Soffe said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

October 26, 2009

"Each grief is really every grief - that one small grief will open up the vast pool of grief that lies within us."

Father Stephen Freeman writes about the Orthodox custom of remembering the dead on Soul Saturdays and how they have become in his life.

After becoming Orthodox in 1998 these Memorial Saturdays became supremely important in my life. Our congregation suffered two very unexpected deaths (both in car crashes) in the course of our first two years that left all the devastation that grief can wreak. For a congregation that was young, we were suddenly faced with that which faces the old with great frequency.
Thus it was that “Soul Saturdays” became times of deep importance for me. The population of my “grief world” was far larger than I would have expected by that time in life. Praying for the departed, and doing so with such frequency was a part of the Tradition of the Church that seemed in my first introduction – not only wise, but completely essential.
Grief is strange stuff. I was taught, when I was doing hospice work, that each grief is really every grief - that one small grief will open up the vast pool of grief that lies within us. Thus none of us is ever just grieving one person or event. Blessedly, it is all in the hands of the good God who loves mankind and who Himself bore our grief.
I know that I could not bear the weight of all I remember were I not able to stand with others and pray God’s eternal remembrance. There are times as an Orthodox Christian that I am not just grateful for the grace God has given, but wonder how I ever tried to live without it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 AM | Permalink

Treasures cast into river by Archbishop of Canterbury

Many of the best Celtic artifacts have been found in water.  For ancient Celts,  water was a powerful manifestation of the supernatural, the boundary between worlds. 

They made sacred offerings and "deposits" in lakes, pools and rivers across Britain and Ireland.  When the dying King Arthur was taken across the lake to Avalon, his sword, Excalibur, was cast into the water.

Maybe that ancient idea was behind the number of treasures cast into the River Wear in Dunham by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey  who died in 1988.

 Bronze Archbishop Of Canterbury

The objects, some solid gold, have been discovered by amateur divers Trevor Bankhead, 40, and his brother Gary, 44, a fire service watch officer, over the past two and a half years.

Their first find was an ornate silver trowel presented to the Archbishop for laying the foundation stone of an Indian church in 1961.

The brothers have since retrieved over 30 other items linked to Ramsey, along with hundreds of medieval and Saxon artefacts.

Among them are gold, silver and bronze medals struck to commemorate the second Vatican council, which must have been presented to Ramsey, who was the most senior cleric in the Church of England from 1961 to 1974, when he met Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in 1966.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2009

'He didn't do anything, he didn't participate in helping. He did nothing. He just stood there.'

The sad story becomes clearer.  For some seeking rebirth, sweat lodge was end.

Midway through a two-hour sweat lodge ceremony intended to be a rebirthing experience, participants say, some people began to fall desperately ill from the heat, even as their leader, James Arthur Ray, a nationally known New Age guru, urged them to press on.

“There were people throwing up everywhere,” said Dr. Beverley Bunn, 43, an orthodontist from Texas, who said she struggled to remain conscious in the sweat lodge, a makeshift structure covered with blankets and plastic and heated with fiery rocks.

Dr. Bunn said Mr. Ray told the more than 50 people jammed into the small structure — people who had just completed a 36-hour “vision quest” in which they fasted alone in the desert — that vomiting “was good for you, that you are purging what your body doesn’t want, what it doesn’t need.” But by the end of the ordeal on Oct. 8, emergency crews had taken 21 people to hospitals.
About 90 minutes into the ceremony, Dr. Bunn said, someone yelled in the darkness that a woman had passed out just after Mr. Ray closed the tent door between rounds. Dr. Bunn said Mr. Ray replied, “We will deal with that after the next round.”

By the end of the ceremony, two people, James Shore, 40, who Dr. Bunn said had dragged an ill woman out of the lodge and then returned, and Kirby Brown, 38, were near death; they died that evening. A third participant, Liz Neuman, 49, fell into a coma and died on Oct. 17.

 Two Victims Sweat Lodge
Two victims, Kirby Brown, 38, and Liz Neumann, 49

Given the accounts of the survivors who said that Ray was intimidating and discouraged people from leaving, I hope that criminal charges are brought against him, if not manslaughter, at least criminally negligent homicide.

I suppose it is to be expected that many will continue to support Ray, but this is shocking.

On a conference call Mr. Ray held last week for sweat lodge participants, Dr. Bunn was shocked to hear one recount the comments of a self-described “channeler” who visited Angel Valley after the retreat. Claiming to have communicated with the dead, the channeler said they had left their bodies in the sweat lodge and chosen not to come back because “they were having so much fun.”

More from the Daily Mail -  Sweat lodge survivor tells how guru 'caused three deaths'

People were vomiting in the stifling heat, gasping for air, and lying lifeless on the sand and gravel floor beneath them, according to participant Beverley Bunn.
By the time people started collapsing, Bunn had already crawled to a spot near the opening of the sweat lodge, praying for the door to stay open as long as possible between rounds so that she could breathe in fresh air.

At one point, someone lifted up the back of the tent, allowing light into the otherwise pitch-black tent. Ray demanded to know where the light was coming from and who committed the 'sacrilegious act,' she explained.
As it neared the end, Bunn said some participants found themselves physically and mentally unable to tend to those around them.

After the eighth round, Ray instructed them to exit the sweat lodge just has they had entered - going clockwise, a movement meant to symbolize being inside a mother's womb.

What followed was a triage situation with people laid out on tarps and water being thrown on them to bring down body temperatures.

Some people weren't breathing and had bloodshot eyes. One woman unknowingly walked toward the fire before someone grabbed her, Bunn said.

Shouts of 'we need water, we need water,' rang out. 'They couldn't fill up the buckets fast enough,' Bunn said.
Ray was standing about 10 feet away, watching, Bunn said.
'He didn't do anything, he didn't participate in helping. He did nothing. He just stood there.'


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

October 19, 2009

I wouldn't be caught dead in this

 Hearse Woodstock

Psychedelic hearse for the Woodstock generation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:11 AM | Permalink

October 18, 2009

Not a Halloween dummy

A man whose body remained slumped on the balcony of a Marina del Rey apartment for four days before it was reported to authorities apparently committed suicide, authorities said Friday.

Neighbors told an RMG News camera crew that they noticed the body Monday but didn't call authorities until Thursday because they thought it was a Halloween dummy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2009

Death by Hot Air Balloon

Tourists killed in hot-air balloon accident in China

A hot-air balloon has exploded and crashed in one of the most popular tourist spots in China, killing four Dutch tourists and injuring three people.

The group of five Dutch tourists and two balloon pilots had floated for about an hour over the dramatic karst hills that rise up around the town of Yangshuo.

As the balloon was preparing to land, it developed a leak, caught fire and crashed to the ground from a height of about 150 metres.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:30 AM | Permalink

October 13, 2009

A Gift Outright

From American Digest PUDDY: The Gift

You can take lots of rides in this life, but a full sled careening down a hill of fresh snow is the closest to a ride of pure joy as you can get. You'll find it near the top of my list of "Best Moments in This Life." It's probably on yours too. If you've never done it, move it to the top of the Bucket List now.

The man buried here died in his 45th year: R. Scott Puddy

On the morning of June 18, 2002, Scott perished doing what he loved: practicing aerobatics in a Yak-52, in the mountains of Brentwood, Calif.

He was survived by his parents, his sisters, and his daughter.

The dark secret fear lurking inside you when you are a parent is that your children will die before you do. That fear came true for this family. All parents can imagine their grief, but all choose not to do so. But they did not choose, as so many do, to be utterly undone by grief. Instead they chose to balance grief with joy, "For Joy and sorrow are inseparable," and place upon this grave a bronze symbol of all that is best in this life and in this world.

It's a gift to their son, R. Scott Puddy, and a gift to any in the world who chance upon his grave. It's a gift outright.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink

The frontier of law

With the rapid changes in technology and life, there are issues now before courts that could never have been imagined 25 years ago.

Two British-born orphans adopted by regal Italian family in legal battle over £1bn fortune

The pair – who are not real siblings – have fallen out over who will one day inherit the billion-pound estate of the family that took them in 40 years ago.
But 45-year- old Princess Gesine is unhappy about her adoptive brother’s offspring being named as heirs. Prince Jonathan is gay and had a son and daughter by surrogate mothers.
Under Italian law Emily, three, and Filippo Andrea, two, have no legal rights to the family fortune, despite Jonathan’s British civil partnership with Brazilian lover Elson Edeno Braga.

In addition, staunchly Roman Catholic Princess Gesine disapproves of Jonathan’s lifestyle and says she fears that the children’s surrogate mothers could try to claim part of the fortune if they were

For last two years the dispute has been fought out in the Italian courts – a bitter ending to that fairytale beginning. A decision is expected next week.

'The funniest thing out of all of this is that Jonathan and Gesine call themselves prince and princess but they don't have a drop of real blue blood between them

How can you plan for what you can't even imagine?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

Fetal Remains

The New York Times has a slide show about Monica Miller, a  photographer who captures the humanity of aborted fetuses.

Behind the Scenes: Picturing Fetal Remains

James Pouillon, the anti-abortion protestor was carrying a sign displaying one of Miller's photographs when he was shot dead outside a high school.   

In the NYT companion piece, Abortion Foes Tell of Their Journey to the Streets.

But as the personal stories of Mr. Gallagher, Mr. Brewer and Ms. Anderson suggest, the motivations of many protesters are more complicated. They see themselves as righteous curbside critics, prophets warning the world with what they describe as the horrific truth no one wants to see. They have endured insults, threats and even estrangement from their families because they have found what nearly every activist craves: conviction, camaraderie and conflict.
Ms. Anderson smiled. “I can’t tell you how many babies have been saved because of abortion protesters outside the abortion mills,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink

October 12, 2009

Death in a sweat lodge

Anyone who is foolish enough to  pay $9695 for the opportunity to become a "Spiritual Warrior' is Sedona, Arizona can't be expected to be smart enough to get out of the heat. 

Two died, one is in critical condition and two others are in far condition after taking part in a sweat lodge ceremony
which lasted about two hours and was being hosted by James Arthur Ray, an author and spiritual self-help entrepreneur.

A sweat lodge is an enclosed structure in which heated rocks are doused with water to create steam and saunalike conditions. Adapted from Native American tradition, it is thought to help purify both body and spirit.
The Associated Press reported that, eerily, Ray made this posting on his Twitter account just hours before the deaths: "Still in Spiritual Warrior ... for anything new to live something first must die. What needs to die in you so that new life can emerge?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:29 PM | Permalink

Irving Penn, R.I.P.

Elegant was the word for Irving Penn, the fashion photographer who died at 92.

London Telegraph obituary

"He never stopped working," said Peter MacGill, a longtime friend whose Pace-MacGill Galleries in Manhattan represented Penn's work. "He would go back to similar subjects and never see them the same way twice."

Penn, who constantly explored the photographic medium and its boundaries, typically preferred to isolate his subjects – from fashion models to Aborigine tribesmen – from their natural settings to photograph them in a studio against a stark background. He believed the studio could most closely capture their true natures.
"A beautiful print is a thing in itself, not just a halfway house on the way to the page," he once said. Accordingly, he spent countless hours in his studio creating prints with costly platinum salts – a process that had been mostly abandoned at the turn of the 20th century, but favoured by Penn because of its glowing results. (Most photographic prints use a solution of silver on the paper rather than platinum.)

Parting Glance: Irving Penn, a slideshow.  My favorite is this portrait of Colette, the French novelist.

 Penn's Colette

New York Times obituary by Andy Grundberg

Irving Penn, one of the 20th century’s most prolific and influential photographers of fashion and the famous, whose signature blend of classical elegance and cool minimalism was recognizable to magazine readers and museumgoers worldwide, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan.
A courtly man whose gentle demeanor masked an intense perfectionism, Mr. Penn adopted the pose of a humble craftsman while helping to shape a field known for putting on airs. Schooled in painting and design, he chose to define himself as a photographer, scraping paint off his early canvases so they could serve a more useful life as backdrops to his pictures.

He was also a refined conversationalist and a devoted husband and friend. His marriage to Lisa Fonssagrives, a leading model, an artist and his sometime collaborator, lasted 42 years, until her death at the age of 80 in 1992. Mr. Penn’s photographs of Fonssagrives captured a slim woman of sophistication and radiant good health and set the aesthetic standard for the elegant fashion photography of the 1940s and ’50s.

 Lisa By Penn Fosgraves

Penn expressed himself and his subjects best through a Shaker-style restraint.
Two decades later he expanded on these portraits during trips to Dahomey (now Benin), to Morocco, to New Guinea and elsewhere, using a portable studio to provide a textured but seamless background. The pictures, both in color and in black and white, were featured annually in Vogue. In 1974 they were published in “Worlds in a Small Room,” which seemed to emphasize the perseverance of cultural diversity. Mr. Penn was also capable of making Western culture seem strange and fascinating. In the early 1950s he made a series of portraits of tradesmen in Paris, London and New York. Again relying on his spare studio to separate his subjects from their surroundings, he nevertheless insisted that the tradesmen wear the clothes and tools of their work: pastry chefs in white aprons and toques hold rolling pins; a fishmonger carries a fish in one hand and a rag in the other.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 9, 2009

Brain Surge at Death

This is very interesting.   

Brain Waves Surge Moments Before Death

 Brain Surge

Doctors at George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates recorded brain activity of people dying from critical illnesses, such as cancer or heart attacks.

Moments before death, the patients experienced a burst in brain wave activity, with the spikes occurring at the same time before death and at comparable intensity and duration.

Writing in the October issue of the Journal of Palliative Medicine, the doctors theorize that the brain surges may be tied to widely reported near-death experiences which typically involve spiritual or religious attributes.

Clearly, the physical evidence of something momentous.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 PM | Permalink

The never-ending litigation over the Astor estate

Brooke Astor's son Anthony Marshall, 85, was found guilty on charges that he defrauded his mother and stole tens of millions of dollars from her as she suffered from Alzheimer's disease in the twilight of her life.

So just what happens to the $180 million estate?  More litigation.

At the core of this issue is whether Mrs. Astor was mentally competent when she signed the 2002 will, which was amended in late 2003 and again in early 2004. Those revisions gave her son more control over her estate and, in the process, reduced the amount of money she left to the New York universities, libraries, parks and museums she spent so much of her life supporting.

The sweeping verdict against Mr. Marshall may provide a significant boost to their push to have the recent will thrown out as invalid, lawyers say. “It’s very unusual and directly relevant to the issues before the surrogate because both cases concern her mental capacity,” said Paul C. Saunders, a lawyer for Annette de la Renta, who was Mrs. Astor’s court-appointed guardian and is a party in the Surrogate’s Court case. “Clearly the jury believes she didn’t have the capacity to understand what she was doing.”

The maneuvering began almost immediately after Mrs. Astor’s death on Aug. 13, 2007, with a dispute over who should be named administrators of the estate (the court eventually named JPMorgan Chase & Company and a retired judge). The case began to move quickly toward a will battle, though no formal objection has yet been filed.

If the most recent will is upheld, many charities will lose millions of dollars, with the Met and the library — both of which declined to comment — losing out on an estimated $10 million each. The Surrogate’s Court case was postponed pending the resolution of the criminal case, and it remained unclear whether it would resume if Mr. Marshall appealed his conviction. The court is scheduled to discuss the civil case again on Nov. 4.
One complicating factor is that Mrs. Astor included a provision aimed at discouraging any challenge to her will. It states that anyone who contests the will and loses will receive nothing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:49 PM | Permalink

Brainwave portrait of Father Damien to be given to Pope Benedict XVI

Via Abbey Roads comes word of this portrait of Father Damian which will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of Father Damien's canonization on  Sunday,  Oct 11.


The story of the artist and how the painting was accomplished is quite extraordinary.

Fr. Damien, a hero to Hawaiians, ministered to a major leper colony on Molokai where he contracted and eventually succumbed to leprosy in the late nineteenth century.

The late artist Peggy Chun had created the artwork with the help of schoolchildren at Holy Trinity School in Honolulu. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) had affected her to the point where she could only move her eyes.
Despite her crippling symptoms, which led to her death on Nov. 19, 2008, Peggy used an ERICA eye response computer to communicate. She also used a device that would read her brainwaves.

“She was the first brainwave artist on the planet,”  said Shelly Mecum,  an art teacher and friend of Peggy.

Peggy painted her portrait of Fr. Damien, titled “The Damien,” by directing others. She trained her apprentices in her brushstroke “just like Renaissance artists.” The work is part painting and part mosaic.

She spent 18 months giving directions week by week to paint the 50,000 quarter-inch squares that would be used in the eight-foot by four-foot painting.

She was assisted by 142 children from Holy Trinity school over a period of 18 months. The students, who ranged in age from 5 to 13, understood themselves as “Peggy’s hands.”

“Peggy completely composed this painting,” Mecum explained, saying she chose the posture of the saint based upon photographs. He is in a posture of blessing and is depicted half in shadow to represent the “darkness” of faith.

When students wondered what would happen to the painting after it was done, another fellow art teacher Christine Matsukawa said "out of the blue" that it should be given to the Pope.

Mecum then went to Peggy with the idea.

“Peggy, would you like the painting to be given to the Pope?” she asked.

After a long pause, Peggy started to cry. This caused Mecum to wonder if she did not want to give the painting away.

Then Peggy spelled out in reply the phrase: “That would be the greatest honor of my life – Yes!”

The provincial of Fr. Damien’s order said he thought there could be no more magnificent and appropriate gift.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:18 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2009

Death by deception and garage door

Via Ann Althouse, Instant Karma

"Yeah, my name is Stacy and I am driving toward Ontario, when a car went off into the median at mile marker 22"...

From a very credible-sounding 911 call. Link

Stacy is actually Melissa Farris, 35, of Caldwell, according to Caldwell Police Chief Chris Allgood. He says Farris made the call to 911, waited for paramedics to leave, then tried to slip under the closing bay door.

That attempt failed, and instead she got trapped and died.

Farris was a former worker at the paramedics station where she died Thursday. Her call appeared to be perfectly crafted to call paramedics away from the station.

The paramedics drove off looking for the nonexistent accident — as Farris — who, for whatever reason really wanted to get inside — lay dying under their door.

After seven years working at the Canyon County Paramedics in Idaho, Ferris left under apparently cloudy circumstances.    They did get her out and she died in the hospital

She leaves behind a husband and two sons, both parents, two sisters and two grandparents.  How sad for them all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

He died mid-mediation

 Pandito Hambolama

From the Atlas Obscura comes this story of Ivolginsky Datsan and the mummified remains of Russia's most important Buddhist 

In 1927, the 75 year old Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov announced it was time for his death. Itigilov, who was the 12th Pandito Khambo Lama, the titular head of the Buddhist faith in Russia, had the other lamas join him in meditation. He died mid-meditation. His sitting body was set upright inside a wooden box and buried. Shortly thereafter Buddhism was all but wiped from newly communist Russia.

In 2002, Itgilov's body was exhumed (it had been secretly exhumed and checked on twice by the monks during the Soviet era) and transferred to the Ivolginsky Datsan, the most important Buddhist monastery in Russia. Itigilov's mummified remains there, sitting in the exact same lotus position as when he died more than three quarters of a century ago. Though his eyes and nose are now sunken, the body is nonetheless a wonder of preservation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2009

Stepping into eternity

Tom Foley, a 41-year-old tax advisor tells how he copes with terminal cancer.

‘I am stepping out of time into eternity'

But, why accept? Why not a solitary whine? Or perhaps even a trite: "This is not fair." Because all is grace, all is gift. And it is time to give the gift back, freely and willingly. A strong sense of Divine Providence strengthens me, a sense that I have been prepared for this. Both my wife and I had fairly dramatic conversions around the time of the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI. Since then the liturgy, particularly the Benedictine monastic liturgies at abbeys such as St Cecilia's, Quarr, Downside, Solesmes and Le Barroux, have become, for us, a foretaste of the Heavenly Liturgy. What can one say but when the cantor announces: "Deus, in adiutorium meum intende ("O God, come to our aid") our souls will fly to the stratosphere and we will be among the angels. And then, after the chanting of the psalm, the bow for the "Glory be" is a bodily enactment of what the soul proclaims at that moment: "All is well, God is in the heavens and we are his sons and daughters!"
Rather, one can be possessed by joy and, dare I say it, one can begin to taste a little excitement at the thought of stepping out of time into eternity. But the horror of the rupture and wrongness of death must not be denied and it is thus not right to be too joyful.
There is an oddness about modern funerals I simply cannot fathom. Why are people so chirpy? I will leave clear instructions: no jokes and no beatification ceremony (the modern custom). Instead: I desire that people pray unceasingly that my purgation will be short.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 PM | Permalink

'There'd been no warning. He seemed perfectly fit'

George kissed his parents goodnight. A few hours later he was dead, killed by a tumour that grew as he slept

A year ago, several hours after he'd gone to bed, their apparently healthy teenage son George was dead - killed by an undiagnosed tumour that had taken only a few weeks to grow.

 George Tumor Slept

It had been a great day and George was in high spirits. A gifted sportsman, he'd spent the afternoon playing football and later enjoyed a meal at the family home in Romsey, Hants, with his parents and younger brother Harry, then 14.At 10.30 pm, George gave his mother, Jane, a goodnight kiss and headed for bed.

Three hours later, she was woken by George calling out that he couldn't breathe. They were his last words. As she rushed in to his room, George was sitting up in bed, clearly disorientated, his lips and face a sinister purply blue. Jane, now 51, ran to call an ambulance and was back in his room with the phone within seconds, only to see George collapse backwards and fall out of bed. As she went to him, she could see that he had stopped breathing.


George, a chorister at Romsey Abbey since the age of seven, had a deep religious faith. A chaplain prayed over George as the machines were switched off. 'Then, as she anointed him, the most extraordinary thing happened,' says Joe.

'The machine stopped bleeping and as he died a visible wave of peace came over George. His body relaxed, his head returned to its normal size and George was George again. The doctors were at a loss as to how that had happened to someone who had undergone such trauma.'
George's funeral, at the beautiful abbey where he had spent many years singing, was attended by nearly 600 people.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2009

Ted Williams' Horror

If you ever had any thoughts about getting cryogenically frozen after death, you never will again after reading

Staff at Arizona cryogenics lab Alcor used Ted Williams' frozen head for batting practice.

Workers at an Arizona cryonics facility mutilated the frozen head of baseball legend Ted Williams - even using it for a bizarre batting practice, a new tell-all book claims.

In "Frozen," Larry Johnson, a former exec at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., graphically describes how The Splendid Splinter" was beheaded, his head frozen and repeatedly abused.

The book, out Tuesday from Vanguard Press, tells how Williams' corpse became "Alcorian A-1949" at the facility, where bodies are kept suspended in liquid nitrogen in case future generations learn how to revive them.

Johnson writes that in July 2002, shortly after the Red Sox slugger died at age 83, technicians with no medical certification gleefully photographed and used crude equipment to decapitate the majors' last .400 hitter.

Williams' severed head was then frozen, and even used for batting practice by a technician trying to dislodge it from a tuna fish can.


Johnson  writes that holes were drilled in Williams' severed head for the insertion of microphones, then frozen in liquid nitrogen while Alcor employees recorded the sounds of Williams' brain cracking 16 times as temperatures dropped to -321 degrees Fahrenheit.
Johnson accuses the company of joking morbidly about mailing Williams' thawing remains back to his family if his son didn't pay his outstanding debt to the company.

Reprints of invoices show that Alcor president John Lemler charged $120,000 for the honor of "suspending" Teddy Ballgame's body.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 AM | Permalink

Victory in Death

On June 19, 2009, Pope Benedict inaugurated a "Year for Priests" in celebration of the 150th anniversary of John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests worldwide.

Because I am just learning about many priests as the year passes. it's all news to me.  So, from time to time, I will post about a particular one.

Blessed Miguel Pro, Jesuit priest and martyr

The plan of the president of Mexico was simple: arrest Miguel Pro, bring him before the firing squad, watch him deny his faith in an attempt to save his life, then capture his cowardice on film and thereby disgrace the Church, especially its priests. That was the plan of the president, Plutarco Elias Calles.
The first step of the president’s plan seemed promising. Miguel, a Jesuit priest, was arrested along with his brothers Roberto and Humberto. They were taken to the Mexico City jail, locked in cells, and subjected to frequent questioning. Though unable to prove them guilty of crimes deserving capital punishment, President Calles ordered Padre Pro’s execution, together with his brother Humberto. Moreover, the president invited government officials, members of the press and photographers to be present for the execution to witness and to capture on film the spectacle of disgrace that he was certain was about to occur.

At 10 a.m. on Nov. 23, 1927, the prisoner was taken from his cell and led across the compound to the execution site. Even before he reached the place of his martyrdom, the plan began to unravel. As Padre Pro walked with his crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other, one of the policemen who had helped to capture him a few days before broke ranks and approached him with tears, begging the priest to forgive him for his part in the ordeal. Reaching out to him as a brother, Padre Pro said, “Not only do I forgive you, I also give you thanks.”

Upon arrival at the wall of execution, the priest asked permission to pray before being executed. Being granted his wish, he knelt before the wall riddled with bullet holes from previous executions and, clasping the crucifix and the rosary next to his heart, he asked God for the grace of a holy death. Then, he rose, kissed the crucifix, extended his arms in the form of a cross and, facing the firing squad, declared: “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. Lord, you know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.” Finally, as the firing squad took aim, Padre Pro said in a calm and steady voice, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!”
The plan of President Calles was in shambles. The Plan of God, on the other hand, moved full steam ahead. Despite the president’s order that the photographs not be published, they were printed and distributed across the country and indeed around the world. People who had never heard of Miguel Pro now admired him as a martyr. Within days, he had become the most popular priest in Mexico and he remains so even today.

 Miguel Pro Execution

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. His feast day is Nov 23.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:48 AM | Permalink