May 31, 2010

"The endless chain of the mourning and the dead"

Mark Helprin on the "universal connection" that links every living American with those who have fallen in American wars.

I have seen lonely people of advancing age, yet as constant as angels, keeping faith to those they loved who fell in wars that current generations, not having known them, cannot even forget. The sight of them moving hesitantly among the tablets and crosses is enough to break your heart. Let that break be the father to a profound resolution to fulfill our obligation to the endless chain of the mourning and the dead. Shall we not sacrifice where required? Shall we not prove more responsible, courageous, honest, and assiduous? Shall we not illuminate our decisions with the light that comes from the stress of soul, and ever keep faith with the fallen by embracing the soldiers who fight in our name? The answer must be that we shall.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Obituaries for the pre-dead

P.J. O'Rourke makes the case that the pre-obituary might save the newspaper industry in Not Dead Yet

What I propose is “Pre-Obituaries”—official notices that certain people aren’t dead yet accompanied by brief summaries of their lives indicating why we wish they were.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 AM | Permalink

May 27, 2010

Deathbed conversion

The almost last words of John Maynard Keynes

Even John Maynard Keynes recognized his central planning approach to economics could not work. Ten days before his death he stated:

"I find myself more and more relying for a solution of our problems on the invisible hand which I tried to eject from economic thinking twenty years ago."

Keynes' deathbed conversion to capitalism

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

May 26, 2010

0888 888 888 jinxed

No longer can you get this phone number in Europe.

Mobile phone number 0888 888 888 is suspended after every user assigned to it DIES

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

"Awake at his own wake"

Thou most kind and gentle death

Those familiar with the writings of St. Francis of Assisi will recognize the line from the hymn "All Creatures of our God and King" based on his writings. He portrays death as "kind and gentle," certainly a minority view in our culture and even in our faith. It bespeaks a familiarity with death that seems to have been more prevalent in previous generations than it is today.

Death got personal for me 2 weeks ago when my mother-in-law died unexpectedly. Mother-in-law jokes aside, she and I got along very well.  She had sold her home of 40 years in Phoenix and built a house on our land in Michigan, living in our home with us for 5 months while we watched her house go up. She moved into her new house in March 2009, and got to enjoy it for one year. Mom was a part of our daily lives. My children would go over to "Nanna's house" regularly, whether to learn to sew, to help out, or just to hang out with her. She’d come over for dinner once in a while and certainly was always with us for special occasions. During Easter Week, she fell ill and died.

At her wake in Phoenix, I was speaking with a friend who shared that her own dear father had passed away the previous month. He had been terminally ill and had a sense that his death was not too far off, and he had always wanted to "be awake at his own wake." So he threw a St. Patrick's Day party. He invited family and friends to join him in this day of revelry.  Friends he hadn’t seen in over 20 years came, knowing that this would probably be the last time they saw him. He rejected his medications and his dialysis that day, and ate and drank whatever he wanted. He visited with everyone and had "the best day of his life." The next morning, as his beloved wife of 40-plus years went to Mass, he passed away with two of his daughters holding his hands.

-Gamboling-Lamb-Spring

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2010

Beloved and Venerable Bede

The last days of St Bede the Venerable, whose feast day is today

How much he was beloved by them is made manifest by the touching account of the saint's last sickness and death left us by Cuthbert, one of his disciples.

Their studious pursuits were not given up on account of his illness and they read aloud by his bedside, but constantly the reading was interrupted by their tears.

"I can with truth declare", writes Cuthbert of his beloved master, "that I never saw with my eyes or heard with my ears anyone return thanks so unceasingly to the living God." Even on the day of his death (the vigil of the Ascension, 735) the saint was still busy dictating a translation of the Gospel of St. John.

In the evening the boy Wilbert, who was writing it, said to him: "There is still one sentence, dear master, which is not written down." And when this had been supplied, and the boy had told him it was finished,

"Thou hast spoken truth", Bede answered, "it is finished. Take my head in thy hands for it much delights me to sit opposite any holy place where I used to pray, that so sitting I may call upon my Father."

And thus upon the floor of his cell singing, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost" and the rest, he peacefully breathed his last breath.

 St Bede

Called "The Father of English History:, he wrote the first history of the Church in England in 731. 
In numberless ways, but especially in his moderation, gentleness, and breadth of view, Bede stands out from his contemporaries. In point of scholarship he was undoubtedly the most learned man of his time. A very remarkable trait, noticed by Plummer (I, p. xxiii), is his sense of literary property, an extraordinary thing in that age. He himself scrupulously noted in his writings the passages he had borrowed from others and he even begs the copyists of his works to preserve the references,

Pope Benedict's remarks on St. Bede last year
Following the "realism" of the catecheses of Cyril, Ambrose and Augustine, Bede teaches that the sacraments of Christian initiation make every faithful person "not only a Christian but Christ." In fact, every time that a faithful soul receives and guards the Word of God with love, in imitation of Mary, he conceives and generates Christ again. And every time that a group of neophytes receives the Easter sacraments, the Church is "self-generated," or to use a still more daring expression, the Church becomes "Mother of God," participating in the generation of her children, by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks to this way of making theology, interlacing the Bible, the liturgy and history, Bede has a timely message for the different "states of life":

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 PM | Permalink

May 23, 2010

Marines in Dress Blues Stood Watch As He Lay Dying

"He buried them on Iwo, they buried him yesterday in Massachusetts."

A Favor Returned by  Jules Crittenden and the Boston Herald

In the bloodiest days of Iwo Jima, he spoke the last words over fallen Marines and Navy corpsmen as they were buried in the island’s black sand.

Yesterday, Marines, sailors and soldiers returned the favor to the late Rev. E. Gage Hotaling of Agawam, sending the old Navy chaplain on to join his comrades with military honors.

Hotaling, 94, died Sunday in a Springfield hospital, 65 years after the iconic battle for the Pacific island. In a 2007 documentary, he talked about the grim task he faced as Marines fell in bitter combat against the dug-in Japanese enemy. Of the 6,821 Americans killed, Hotaling believed he buried about 1,800.

“We would have four Marines with a flag over each grave. And while they were kneeling with the flag, I would stand up and I would give the committal words for each one,” he told the filmmakers.

He said he took up smoking to overcome the stench of decay.

“I did it not as a Protestant, Catholic or a Jew, but as a Marine,” the Baptist minister said. “Every man was buried as a Marine. And so I gave the same committal to each one.”
--
Thanks to Joe Galloway and Massachusetts State Trooper Mike Cutone on the headsup. Cutone, an Army Special Forces veteran of Iraq, was on a prisoner watch at Mercy Hospital when he learned from an old Marine that Hotaling was dying down the hall, made some calls and
saw to it he was attended at his bedside by Marines in dress blues in his last days as he had tended to them in theirs in dirty, bloodstained dungarees.

The Boston Herald has a fine video that brought tears to my eyes.

What men they were!  The last are dying now.    That  war is a terrible thing is much on my mind these days having watched the HBO series, The Pacific and earlier this year for the first time the earlier HBO series Band of Brothers
But what examples of manliness - courage, endurance, loyalty, resiliency and sacrifice.  How alive they were!  One reason why the bonds made between men at war have proved so enduring.

With Memorial Day weekend soon upon us, the quote that comes to mind is

Only 2 defining forces have ever offered to die for you.....Jesus Christ, and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 AM | Permalink

Marines in Dress Blues Stood Watch As He Lay Dying

"He buried them on Iwo, they buried him yesterday in Massachusetts."

A Favor Returned by  Jules Crittenden and the Boston Herald

In the bloodiest days of Iwo Jima, he spoke the last words over fallen Marines and Navy corpsmen as they were buried in the island’s black sand.

Yesterday, Marines, sailors and soldiers returned the favor to the late Rev. E. Gage Hotaling of Agawam, sending the old Navy chaplain on to join his comrades with military honors.

Hotaling, 94, died Sunday in a Springfield hospital, 65 years after the iconic battle for the Pacific island. In a 2007 documentary, he talked about the grim task he faced as Marines fell in bitter combat against the dug-in Japanese enemy. Of the 6,821 Americans killed, Hotaling believed he buried about 1,800.

“We would have four Marines with a flag over each grave. And while they were kneeling with the flag, I would stand up and I would give the committal words for each one,” he told the filmmakers.

He said he took up smoking to overcome the stench of decay.

“I did it not as a Protestant, Catholic or a Jew, but as a Marine,” the Baptist minister said. “Every man was buried as a Marine. And so I gave the same committal to each one.”
--
Thanks to Joe Galloway and Massachusetts State Trooper Mike Cutone on the headsup. Cutone, an Army Special Forces veteran of Iraq, was on a prisoner watch at Mercy Hospital when he learned from an old Marine that Hotaling was dying down the hall, made some calls and
saw to it he was attended at his bedside by Marines in dress blues in his last days as he had tended to them in theirs in dirty, bloodstained dungarees.

The Boston Herald has a fine video that brought tears to my eyes.

What men they were!  The last are dying now.    That  war is a terrible thing is much on my mind these days having watched the HBO series, The Pacific and earlier this year for the first time the earlier HBO series Band of Brothers
But what examples of manliness - courage, endurance, loyalty, resiliency and sacrifice.  How alive they were!  One reason why the bonds made between men at war have proved so enduring.

With Memorial Day weekend soon upon us, the quote that comes to mind is

Only 2 defining forces have ever offered to die for you.....Jesus Christ, and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 AM | Permalink

Laid to Rest After 500 Years

Priests Lay Copernicus To Rest 500 Years On

NICOLAUS Copernicus – the 16th-century astronomer whose work was condemned by the Catholic Church as heretical – was reburied by Polish priests as a hero yesterday, nearly 500 years after he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave.

His burial in a tomb in the cathedral where he once served as a church canon and doctor indicates how far the church has come in making peace with the scientist whose revolutionary theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun helped usher in the modern scientific age.

Copernicus, who lived from 1473 to 1543, died as a little-known astronomer working in what is now Poland. He had spent years developing his theory, which was later condemned as heretical by the church because it removed Earth and humanity from the centre of the universe. After his death, his remains rested in an unmarked grave beneath the floor of the cathedral in Frombork, northern Poland.

In 2004 scientists began searching for the astronomer's remains and eventually found a skull and bones of a 70-year-old man.

opernicus, who lived from 1473 to 1543, died as a little-known astronomer working in what is now Poland. He had spent years developing his theory, which was later condemned as heretical by the church because it removed Earth and humanity from the centre of the universe. After his death, his remains rested in an unmarked grave beneath the floor of the cathedral in Frombork, northern Poland.

In 2004 scientists began searching for the astronomer's remains and eventually found a skull and bones of a 70-year-old man.

DNA from teeth and bones matched that of hairs found in one of his books, leading the scientists to conclude that they had found Copernicus.

Here's the image of the reconstructed face from the skull that I found when I first posted about the identification of the body in 2005.

  Copernicus

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 AM | Permalink

May 21, 2010

A Most Determined Suicide

From Futility Closet, A Most Determined Suicide

A gentleman passing through the United States, on the Union and Pacific Railroad, was one morning telling the guard about a relative of his lately committing suicide.

‘Very sad, indeed,’ replied the guard, ‘but the most determined attempt at suicide happened the other day down Sacramento (California) way. A young man went down to the beach when the tide was out, with a long pole, sharpened at one end, and a hook in the other; he had also a rope with a noose in it, a phial of poison, a pistol, and a box of matches. He drove the pole into the sand, and climbed up it until the tide had risen high enough to drown him, when he swallowed the poison, set his trousers on fire, put the noose round his neck, and then fired his pistol. The bullet, instead of entering his forehead, grazed the top of his head and went through the rope; the rope, being weakened, snapped, and dropped the unfortunate man into the sea, which, of course, put the fire out, and swallowing some sea water made him vomit the poison, and in two or three minutes he was washed ashore alive, and only suffering slightly from the effects of his immersion.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

The Death Mask of Abraham Lincoln

 Deathmask Abraham Lincoln

Taken at the time of his autopsy and currently on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Washington DC. In 2007, Dr. John Sotos studied his face and medical records and concluded that he suffered from a disease called Multiple Mucosal  Neuroma Syndrome and had he not been assassinated, he would have died soon anyway.

From 20 Death Masks of Famous People

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

May 18, 2010

Crazy ways to die

Top ten crazy ways to die with true life examples.    Too tired to search for them, I know I've done posts on 10, 8, 6, and 4.

10. Insane fit of laughter
9. Throwing yourself at a window to show how strong the glass is(n't).  A Toronto lawyer did this.
8. Your husband's coffin
7. Elevator
6. Sex
5. Video ganes
4. Floods - but not the water kind, the beer and molasses kind
3. Your own wooden leg
2. Exploding lakes
1. Your enemy's severed head

How did they miss falling out of a pedicab while on military leave from Afghanistan  , strangled by your own burka, killed by wussy bureaucracy
peeing in a ditch and not missing the live power line from the pole you just crashed into, while watching TV,  in a sweat lodge,

by hot air balloonbeing taught a lesson by your dad,  knocked over by a zebra, suffocated by your own piles of stuff, falling asleep drunk in a wheelie bin and then crushed by the rubbish truck, a real death by chocolatestuck in a chimney,  death by pancakes, by an escalator,

on a Viagra orgy, blown away to sea, because he didn't want to be a nuisance, exercised to death by transgendered wife, trampled to death by shoppers,  killed by too much deodorant,  death from stomping wine,  killed by falling tombstone, or by chili sauce, by lint in a dryer, or killed by folding couch,  by drinking too much water,  by the toxic vomit of your patient,  by a Yankee fan,  while hitchhiking for world peace, or by your awful singing at a karaoke bar,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 PM | Permalink

May 13, 2010

When euthanasia is coupled with organ donation

Moreover, agreeing to harvest organs from euthanasia/assisted suicides raises the very realistic prospect that despairing people with terminal illnesses or disabilities (or perhaps, just despair) could latch onto being killed for their organs as a way of bringing meaning to their lives.  This is very dangerous territory, made all the more treacherous by doctors, spouses, and a respected medical journal validating the ideas that dead is better than disabled and that living patients can, essentially, be viewed as a natural resource to be killed and mined.

Wesley Smith in Belgian Doctors Euthanized Disable Patient and Harvested Organs

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 AM | Permalink

‘She just left me there to die,’

The difficulties involved when one doesn't agree with the person one has  designated as their health care proxy

Fighting Over the Living Will of J. Bruce Llewellyn

ALMOST everyone who visited J. Bruce Llewellyn three years ago in the Mary Manning Walsh nursing home in Manhattan heard the same refrain: Get me out of here.
--

A fall and other ailments had forced Mr. Llewellyn into rehabilitation, and after several months, his doctors said he was well enough to return to his Central Park West apartment. But his wife of nearly 30 years disagreed, saying he was too ill.

Finally, he persuaded three longtime friends to supersede his wife’s authority over his affairs. They became his court-appointed guardians, assumed control of his bank accounts, found him a new apartment, hired staff members and brought in flowers, artwork and musicians to brighten his days.
--

Mr. Mederos testified that Mr. Llewellyn felt abandoned, wanted his friends to take over his affairs and was upset at his wife’s refusal to let him leave the nursing home.

“His words at one point were, ‘She just left me there to die,’ ” Mr. Mederos testified.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:20 AM | Permalink

May 12, 2010

Lena Horne, RIP

When I was a young law school grad, my  first job was with a very big Wall St law firm .  My boss, who was also the managing partner of the firm, adored Lena Horne.  At that time, she was singing at a New York Hotel, the Waldorf or the Plaze, and my boss, very much a New England WASP, went to see at least twice a week while she was there.  Knowing that I had never seen her live, he invited me one evening to join him  (we all worked at least to seven every night  so we could get a cab ride home on the firm) and I did.  Her allure of mystery and elegance, the precision of her diction, the intensity of of her emotions, the beauty of her voice  and her sassy sexiness had everyone mesmerized.  A truly remarkable performer, formidable.

Here is the incomparable Lena Horne singing Stormy Weather

 

Mark Steyn on her lifelong association with the song

She was "radiantly beautiful" into her eighties, and a bigger star, outlasting almost all her contemporaries, not only the big band songbirds but the anodyne blondes at 20th Century Fox. And say what you like but that angry one-woman show broke box-office records and won her a Tony, two Grammys and a Kennedy Center honor.

An appreciation from the LA Times

Toward the end of her very full life, Lena Horne suggested to a PBS interviewer that, after decades of struggling to define her image as an artist and a black woman, she finally had seized possession of her identity.

"I don't have to be a symbol to anybody," said Horne, who died Sunday night in a New York hospital at the age of 92. "I no longer have to be a 'credit.' "

Americans born before 1960 will recognize Horne's fragmented reference to a phrase that, mercifully, has now been confined to history's ash heap: "a credit to her (or his) race."
--
Reviewing the show in the New York Times, critic Frank Rich noted that Horne had sung her signature tune "Stormy Weather" twice: first as a belt-it-out showstopper, then in the second act as an emotional coup de theatre that left Horne "blind with sweat and tears."

-Lenahorne

Time magazine, A Great Lady Makes Her Exit

Gorgeous, gifted and preternaturally poised, the 24-year-old actress-singer came to Hollywood in 1941 and quickly became the first African-American movie star.
--
Horne might have been black America's first ambassador to the rest of the country — an artist with perfect features and a sultry sweetness, who would teach the benighted to accept the glamour and talent, the full humanity, of an oppressed minority that had so profoundly enriched the official culture.

The Boston Globe, That face, that voice

Horne never pretended to be anyone she wasn’t, which meant that by the 1950s, racism had more or less made her sick of Hollywood. She’d become an activist, and after a while, it was obvious she was wasting her time trying to broaden the minds of movie studio executives. Slimming her career down was her best move. Horne was one of those performers who got better, stronger with age. In front of a live audience, she was both theatrical (the stage belonged only to her) and cinematic (Mr. DeMille, she can make her own close-ups, thank you).

As a singer, she didn’t have range or pyrotechnics. Her voice had drama, texture, and shape. It had character. She was a very alluring singer (defiant, sexual, wise, so amazingly cool), and a very comical one, too — she knew where the joke was in a piece of music or in the stage banter between songs.

Obit magazine Transcending Stormy Weather

She didn’t mind being introduced as “the beautiful Lena Horne,” even if that moniker barely hinted at the talent behind the face. But in later years, the veteran singer/actress/civil rights activist did mind being called “the still-beautiful Lena Horne” – understandably, although it was a small price to pay for one of the great Indian summer careers of modern show business. 

New York Times obituary

Looking back at the age of 80, Ms. Horne said: “My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

Here she's glad she's not young anymore.

Everyone should hear Yesterday when I was young

I ran so fast that time, and youth at last ran out,
I never stopped to think, what life, was all about,
And every conversation, I can now recall,
Concerned itself with me, and nothing else at all

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 AM | Permalink

May 11, 2010

A duty to die?

Talk about "a duty to die" made me think back to my early childhood in the South, during the Great Depression of the 1930s. One day, I was told that an older lady-- a relative of ours-- was going to come and stay with us for a while, and I was told how to be polite and considerate towards her.
--
Poor as we were, I never heard anybody say, or even intimate, that Aunt Nance Ann had "a duty to die."
--
Back in the days of Aunt Nance Ann, nobody in our family had ever gone to college. Indeed, none had gone beyond elementary school. Apparently you need a lot of expensive education, sometimes including courses on ethics, before you can start talking about "a duty to die."

Thomas Sowell

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:35 AM | Permalink

May 8, 2010

Politically-charged suicides in Chicago

"He stood on the tracks and he faced the train as the train was coming toward him." 

He died instantly, killed by the train he rode to work for more than two decades.

That would be Phil Pagano, executive director of  Chicago's commuter train service, who took his own life shortly after an investigation began as to whether he received an unapproved $56,000 bonus.

This is the fourth "political" suicide in Chicago in the last eight months, all powerful men facing investigations.

* On Nov. 16, 2009, Chicago School Board President Michael Scott, 60, shot himself along the Chicago River. He recently had been subpoenaed as part of a federal grand jury investigation of how students were selected for the system's selective-enrollment high schools.

* On Sept. 12, 2009, Chris Kelly, 51, charged in the Rod Blagojevich case, committed suicide by ingesting pills.

* In September 2007, Orlando Jones, 52, godson of former County Board President John Stroger, shot himself on a Michigan beach. He recently had been approached for an interview by FBI agents about a case in Las Vegas.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2010

She wanted to be a coyote, but came home dead

What a sad story

Senior in High School Travels to Mexico to Learn How to Smuggle Human Beings… Comes Home in Coffin

Elisabeth Mandala, one of the school’s brightest students traveled to Mexico to learn how to smuggle illegal aliens into America. She was murdered last weekend.

ABC Local reported

A local high school student has been found murdered in Mexico, after her mother told police she went down there to learn how to transport illegal immigrants across the border.
--

According to a Mexican newspaper, Elisabeth Mandala, 18, was found dead this past Saturday in the small Mexican town of Mina. Her body, along with those of two Mexican men, was found in a Dodge truck which appeared to have wrecked. But, according to the newspaper, authorities suspected the wreck was merely a cover-up for murder, believing the victims had been beaten to death hours before.

"It's horrible. It really is," said close family friend Sheila Mayo. "It's such a loss, such a loss. She just didn't have a chance to live her life."
--
Mandala, we have learned, was reported missing to Houston police on May 1. Her mother told authorities she had rented a car a few days earlier to go to Mexico to meet up with someone.

According to missing persons, her mother told police that she wanted to be a coyote -- a human smuggler. Her mother also told police Elisabeth was an exotic dancer.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2010

The Pope on Eternal Life

Benedict XVI recalls life of cardinal, reflects upon eternal life

The Holy Father remembered the life and legacy of the recently deceased Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer on Monday morning. During his remarks, the Pontiff noted that in dying we achieve the "most profound desire of mankind," being reunited with God.

The funeral Mass for the 98-year-old cardinal, who died last Friday, was concelebrated by members of the College of Cardinals led by their dean, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. The Holy Father gave the homily.

"As is the destiny of the human existence," observed Pope Benedict, "it blossoms from the earth ... and is called to Heaven, to the homeland from whence it mysteriously comes."
--
The Pope recalled the words of Christ from the cross, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," and noted that every funeral celebration takes place "under the sign of hope."

Because in his last breath on the cross, Jesus sacrificed himself, taking on our sins and reestablishing the victory of life over death, he explained, "every man that dies in the Lord participates by faith in this act of infinite love, in some way returns his spirit together with Christ, in the sure hope that the hand of the Father will resurrect him from the dead and introduce him in the Kingdom of life.

"The great and unshakeable hope, resting on the solid rock of God's love, assures us that the life of those who die in Christ 'is not taken away but transformed' and that 'the abode of this earthly exile is destroyed, an eternal dwelling is being prepared in heaven'."

Amidst a climate in which a fear of death makes many despair and seek illusory consolations, "Christians stand out for the fact that they place their security in God, in a Love so great as to be able to renew the whole world," commented the Pope.

The vision is to achieve the "most profound desire of mankind," the Holy Father underscored, which is living in the "new Jerusalem," in peace, without the threat of death and in full communion with God and each other.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink