September 30, 2010

Mum's Manual

The wish list of a dying mother: Cancer sufferer leaves husband the 100 things he must do with their two young sons... and tells him to 'find another woman'

Kate Green died at 37 after two years of battling with breast cancer, leaving her husband and two sons, 4 and 6.

In the last months of her life she drew up a long list of instructions, hopes and ambitions for the boys, which St John has now devoted himself to fulfilling.

They include specific experiences she wants them to enjoy, such as visiting the beach where she holidayed as a child, attending an international rugby match, and going to Switzerland where St John proposed to her.

Others are heartbreakingly simple, including finding a four leaf clover, learning to play a musical instrument and growing sunflowers.

Kate also outlined basic principles she wants instilled into the boys, such as always being on time, treating girlfriends with respect and always making up after a row.

The 'mum's manual' also spells out what she wants avoided - smoking, riding motorbikes and joining the Armed Forces.

Other wishes include buying a dining table so they always eat together and always kissing the boys goodnight twice before bed.

Amazingly, she also urges St John to find another woman so the boys grow up with a female influence in their lives.


Here are a few of her instructions and the things she loved the way she wrote them

Mummy liked walks down the river bank

Would like school photos bought every year

Would love the boys to find 4 leaf clovers

Take the boys to see an international rugby match

Need to set up certificate boxes for swimming badges, school achievements etc

Mummy liked walks along the beach and Mendips, rockpooling and walks in the woods and finding creatures of all kinds.

Mummy loved moths, snakes and slowworms Orange cub biscuits, jam and jelly, lemon curd

Kiss goodbye even if leaving for a short time
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:41 PM | Permalink

Mourning Apps

The Daily Undertaker has news of two new Apps to help you with mourning and visiting graves.

Mourner's Kaddish?  Visiting a Grave?  There's an App for That

Just last week, I was excited to learn about Bosan, an iPhone app designed for Japanese families that facilitated a virtual grave honoring from anywhere in the world.  I wondered what would be next app for mourners.  Well, here are two more!

iKaddish teaches the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish, which is one of the primary ritual observances of Jewish mourning practice.

It is the ideal tutor for learning the difficult words and intonation of the Kaddish prayer, which is written in Aramaic. The text is displayed with vowelized Hebrew and transliteration.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:45 AM | Permalink

September 29, 2010

Traumatized and humiliated teen jumps off GW bridge to his death

This is such a sad story, tragic for Tyler Clementi and his family, even for the two students who videotaped him who will have to bear responsibility for his death for the rest of their lives.

Rutgers University freshman jumped from the George Washington Bridge

to his death after being secretly videotaped during a sexual encounter in his dorm room by two other students, one his own roommate, who posted it live on the Internet.

Paul Mainardi, the attorney representing the Clementi family, released a statement confirming Clementi's suicide.

"Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician. The family is heartbroken beyond words. They respectfully request that they be given time to grieve their great loss and that their privacy at this painful time be respected by all," Mainardi said.

Two students, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, have been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy after allegedly placing a camera in Clementi's room and livestreaming the recording online on Sept. 19, according to a written statement by New Jersey's Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan.

Just before his death, Tyler posted on his Facebook page, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

One of Tyler's friends, Courtney Ayukawa, posted to the group's wall, "I will always remember everything from our preschool's Halloween party to your amazing musical talents. When you picked up the violin and began to play, it was as if everything just paused until you put it down again. We will never forget you Tyler. May you rest in peace."

Yes, indeed, Tyler, rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:27 PM | Permalink

September 28, 2010

They died while they slept

No way to go times hundreds.

Landslide in Mexican town buries hundreds of people alive as they slept in their beds

Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed as they slept after a massive landslide buried 300 homes a remote area of southwestern Mexico.

Heavy rains in the mountainous Oaxaca state are believed to have triggered the landslide near Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, a town of around 9,000 people.

Governor Ulises Ruiz told Televisa that 500 or 600 people may have been killed, injuried or buried alive in the landslide.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

Thugs set fatal trap for 80-year-old woman

When she reported the anti-social thugs in the neighborhood who were harassing her to the police, those same thugs conducted a year-long hate campaign against her.  The campaign is over now; Jenny Ward is dead.

What a sadness that such anti-social behavior was tolerated for so long and that Jenny Ward had to die in such a way.

The 80-year-old victim of thugs' fatal trap: 'Bullied' woman dies after falling into manhole

An elderly woman died after falling down a manhole outside her house when thugs who had been making her life a misery removed the cover.

Popular market trader Jenny Ward, who had manned her stall for 50 years without ever taking a day off sick, was walking home in the dark when she became trapped in the 3ft hole, badly breaking her foot.

Friends said the frightened 80-year-old often waited to return from work late at night, hoping to avoid the yobs outside her house.

After falling, Mrs Ward spent three hours trapped in the hole before neighbours heard her desperate cries for help.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

September 27, 2010

After 66 years, soldier finally laid to rest

WWII soldier laid to rest 66 years later

An emotional homecoming for a fallen soldier from Vermont. He was killed in combat nearly six decades ago, but his body was not identified until earlier this year.

66-years after his death, Army Sgt. Edward Jones was laid to rest with full military honors Saturday, alongside a family plot at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Middle Granville, New York. He finally returned home from World War II.

"Today my uncle is home, that means a lot," said his nephew Charles Pecue.

Back on November 6, 1944, the West Pawlet native and five other soldiers were attempting to capture two German communities when a German tank fired at them point-blank. After the attack, Jones' remains were not located so the 27-year-old was officially listed as missing in action.

For years, family and friends held out hope the Army Sgt. would return home alive.

"Just wondered if he was alive, or had just met somebody, got married and decided to stay overseas, always hoped he would come home. And today he did," said Pecue.

Two years ago, an excavation team working in Germany found fragments of a boot in a bomb crater. Members of the German War Graves Commission unearthed more items.

"Kind of in awe that they did find the remains, full, full remains of my uncle. Everything was there. His dog tag, his ID cards, his social security cards, all his remains were there, wallet, everything. He was easy to identify," said Pecue.

Closure for a family, knowing that Sgt. Edward Jones now rests in peace side-by-side with many of his family members he was separated from six decades ago.

"I feel good, my uncle is home, and a soldier has returned," said Pecue.

The remains of a soldier from Ohio were found alongside Jones. That soldier was buried today as well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:55 PM | Permalink

Death by Segway

Tycoon who took over Segway firm dies in freak accident after riding one of the machines off a cliff and into a river

The multi-millionaire owner of the Segway company died in a freak accident yesterday when he rode one of the high-tech two-wheel machines off a cliff and into a river.

Former miner Jimi Heselden, 62, plunged into the River Wharfe while riding around his West Yorkshire estate in Boston Spa on a rugged country version of the Segway.

He bought the firm last December and was using one of the machines - which use gyroscopes to remain upright and are controlled by the direction in which the rider leans - to inspect the grounds of his property.

His death comes just a week after he became one of the UK's most generous philanthropists, having given away £10million to a charity foundation he set up in 2008.  He had previously given £13million to the same organisation
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

September 26, 2010

Secrets in the blood

There's no telling what can happen when you delve into family history.

Meet the Polish neo-Nazi skinhead couple who discovered they are JEWISH - and turned their lives around.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

September 25, 2010

Greatest mass murderer in history

Astonishing how so few people know of this.  Since no literary work has come to shine a light on that terrible period of time, I can only hope that the memories of what the Chinese people suffered are guarded within familes and passed on. 

Mao's Great Leap Forward 'killed 45 million in four years'

Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, qualifies as the greatest mass murderer in world history, an expert who had unprecedented access to official Communist Party archives said yesterday.

Speaking at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival, Frank Dikötter, a Hong Kong-based historian, said he found that during the time that Mao was enforcing the Great Leap Forward in 1958, in an effort to catch up with the economy of the Western world, he was responsible for overseeing "one of the worst catastrophes the world has ever known".

Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude.
At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.
Mr Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago. He argued that this devastating period of history – which has until now remained hidden – has international resonance.
"It ranks alongside the gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century.
His book, Mao's Great Famine; The Story of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, reveals that while
this is a part of history that has been "quite forgotten" in the official memory of the People's Republic of China, there was a "staggering degree of violence" that was, remarkably, carefully catalogued in Public Security Bureau reports, which featured among the provincial archives he studied. In them, he found that the members of the rural farming communities were seen by the Party merely as "digits", or a faceless workforce. For those who committed any acts of disobedience, however minor, the punishments were huge.

State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2010

The last words of Sarah Bernhardt

The last words of Sarah Bernhardt

Bernhardt Formal By Felix Nadar

In 1923, as she lay dying, she learned that crowds had been gathering outside her house for several days. She smiled and said, with the peculiar affection of an actress for her audience, “I’ll keep them dangling. They’ve tortured me all my life, now I’ll torture them.”

From the fascinating review - The Divine Sarah - in the New York Review of Books by Graham Robb of the new biography of Sarah Berhardt by Roger  Gottlieb.  Read it.  You will not be disappointed

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2010

A Manly Death

What real men do - protect women and children and,  if necessary, sacrifice their lives.

Facing Crash, Vancouver man sacrifices self to save pregnant wife

 Brian And Erin Wood

Brian Wood, a 33-year-old resident of Vancouver, B.C., was killed in an auto collision on September 3, when the driver of an oncoming SUV lost control of the vehicle and crossed the road into his lane. His wife, Erin Wood, said that Brian acted just in time to save her, and their unborn child expected to be born in November, by sacrificing himself.

Evidence from the crash, which also killed two passengers in the other vehicle's back seat, supported Ms. Wood's description of her late husband's final act: unable to avoid the errant SUV, Brian Wood slammed the brakes and swerved his side of the car toward the oncoming vehicle, ensuring his certain death but protecting his wife, pregnant with their first child.
Erin Wood told the Today Show that the final sacrifice made by her husband of five years was in keeping with the way he had lived, “It's not a surprise at all. He was very excited for this baby, and always … incredibly loving towards me, and putting me first.”

His final act of love, she said “breaks my heart, and it also fills me with gratefulness.” Ms. Wood received only a black eye and a relatively minor blow to her head. The unborn child, a boy, was not harmed.

Wood said that although it was impossible to “cope well” with a situation such as hers, she was drawing consolation from recalling that she was alive because of her husband's decision to save her life and the life of their child.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:35 PM | Permalink

September 21, 2010

The Mess at Arlington Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery is more than a mess because of the ineptitude of some bureaucrats who will never be held accountable.  Ineptitude, lack of even basic oversight over outsourced contractors  and bureaucratic shrugs  beat out the respect and horror due to bodies of fallen warriors and their grieving families.

There may be as many as 6600 graves at Arlington National Cemetery that could be mislabeled because proper records weren't kept of where the bodies were buried.


The author of the linked piece is Mike Warner, uncle to a fallen Marine whose body was disinterred to verify that it was buried in the right place.

Unimagineable Horror for Father of Fallen Marine

On September 15, 2010 at around 0800 in the morning, a family makes their way into Arlington National Cemetery for the Disinterment of a Marine Private killed by an IED in Al Anbar Province Iraq on 22 November 2006 killing him and two others.

As they stood at the grave site, a forklift arrives to raise a coffin from the vault that had interred it for nearly four years. Arlington knew at this point that the vault and coffin had been opened. When the family became aware of this action, an unsettling air of distrust settled upon the gathering. The father yells “you lied” as family members hold and calm him. The father already marred and angry by the uncooperative atmosphere and insensitivity of Arlington’s leadership; his grief now changes to anger. Another promise broken! Arlington, to seemingly cover their asses had breached the coffin the night before to ensure the Marine Private and the dog tags were in the assigned plot.

With a rotting corpse and the putrid stench of death permeating the air, a worker removes a dog tag from the coffin lid, wipes off the dirt, and hands it to the father. The forklift begins to raise the coffin; putrid water begins streaming out and those in attendance gasp as the fear of body parts falling from the unstable casket grips them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2010

"An enviable exit from a life well lived"

The sudden death of the father of Prime Minister David Cameron sparked this appreciation from Tim Jeal.

Ian Cameron: A loving end to a life well-lived.

David Cameron would have learnt early from his father something most us don't discover until life has knocked us about a bit: that lots of people, who don't win races or make a huge fuss about their lot, are actually quietly coping with situations requiring immense courage and determination. This quiet coping without fuss and self-pity was the example that Ian Cameron set his son and to which he has paid tribute. "Whingeing was not on the menu," one family member has tersely recalled.

The death of a parent is always sad – and deeply shocking when unexpected – but to have started out in life, as Ian Cameron did, perhaps not expecting to live long, due to his disability, and then having a successful career, a happy family life and living to 77, quite apart from witnessing that extraordinary event in Downing Street and hearing of a new granddaughter born, can only be seen as truly marvellous. To die quickly on a family holiday and not survive and suffer a diminished life is to make an enviable exit from a life well lived.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2010

In Memoriam

A ten-year-old girl, Jackie Evancho, with a remarkable voice sings  "Pie Jesu".

Especially fitting today, the ninth anniversary of the horrific attack on September 11, 2001.

Pie Jesu, (4x)                      Merciful Jesus
Qui tollis peccata mundi    Who takes away the sins of the world
Dona eis requiem. (2x)      Grant them rest

Agnus Dei, (4x)                    Lamb of God
Qui tollis peccata mundi,  Who takes away the sins of the world,

Dona eis requiem (2x)        Grant them rest
Sempiternam. (2x)           Everlasting.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

September 10, 2010

Prince Charles endorses woolen coffins

Woollen coffins get royal backing

A UK company is producing environmentally friendly woollen coffins, which have received the backing of Prince Charles, The Daily Mail reports.

Each coffin is made of thick felt from British fleeces spread over a recycled cardboard frame, with cotton and polythene liners and jute edging and handles.
Hainsworth, a 225-year-old family-run textile mill in Leeds, has sold about 500 of the low-carbon-footprint coffins in dark brown and natural white since last June.

Prince Charles visited the farm last year and was impressed by the coffins.

"These are the first woollen coffins in the world," company spokeswoman Victoria Mellor said.

"British wool often goes into making carpets, but due to the problems in the housing market there has been less demand and farmers have suffered.

"Prince Charles is eager to do anything to help them."

And so he did.  The Prince of Wales asked for it to be put on display at his Claridge House home in London

Prince Charles even suggested that small versions of the woollen coffins created for pets could be used to bury the Queen's corgis when they die.

 Woolen Coffins Prince Charles

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 AM | Permalink

September 9, 2010

Michael Burn, 97, R.I.P.

It was this summary in The Browser that sent me over the to Telegraph to read the whole obituary of Michael Burn.

Admired Hitler. Commando, war hero. Prisoner in Colditz. Saved Audrey Hepburn's life. Lover of Guy Burgess. Poet and novelist. Ran North Wales mussel-farming co-operative. Died at 97

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2010

"They are hungry for reality," students and Life Chronicles

Just a couple of weeks ago, I read a Boston Globe story about Karyn Slomski, a young mother of 4-year-old Maggie and 6-year-old Brendan , who was dying of cancer. 

Slomski, who has advanced breast cancer, approached her social worker at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute about making a video as a way for her husband and children to remember her....

“It tears me up that they won’t have a mom, and this is a way I can leave a small piece of me with them.’’
“I want them to be able to see me when I’m gone, to see us all together as a family,’’ said Slomski, 38, as the videographer prepared for the session. “I wanted something more than pictures, for them to remember me. And to remember how happy we all were.’’

It was just two weeks ago that the video was made.  Yesterday, Karyn Slomski died. But she parted with lasting words, a little piece of herself in a living memory made possible by LifeChronicles.

I posted about  the article and video that will last - Beyond a Lifetime, but I wanted to do more.  I wanted to focus on Life Chronicles and its founder Kate Carter who  travels the country to record interviews with the dying as memories for their children.  She  So I called her up and interviewed her.


Kate is like many who find new passion and purpose in mid-life and the seeds of her re-blooming will touch families for decades to come.

Approaching 40, after any number of jobs when she was younger, Kate wanted to do something different, something she had never done before.  She began an internship in TV production to learn all about the field, but when she completed it, she didn't know what to do.  Since she didn't much care for commercial television, she did something uncharacteristic for her, she waited.  For two years.  Then a friend of hers whose husband died of Lou Gehrig’s disease six weeks earlier was told that she had breast cancer and the prognosis was poor.  She had three children, 16, 13, and 10, who were about to be orphaned.

Kate knew what she could do.  She could capture the essence of her friend on videotape, the very best of her and all that she wanted her children know.  That’s how Life Chronicles began.    The initial focus on the terminally ill (with referrals coming from hospices and cancer centers) broadened to include life chronicles of seniors, some of them in early stages of Alzheimer’s, and the parents of children who must stay in hospital for an extended period of time.

Some 700 interviews have been made, every one a means to keep the memories of a person vivid and  alive.  Every one, an immeasurable treasure to a family.    The gift returns to the giver and Kate says that she is never more connected to the universe than when she is talking with a terminally ill person.

Life Chronicles, a non-profit 501(c)3, doesn’t charge families of the terminally ill for interviews because Kate knows very well that families are often a financial crisis as well.    Despite these difficult financial times for fund-raising,  Kate charges ahead,  shooting out blast emails for donations of  miles so she can fly cross country to interview a mother of two who will be dead in less than a month.  Supporting her are many student volunteers across the country.  Even those who were just looking for experience to add to their resumes, have been  transformed by the experience of listening to people reflect on their lives as they are about to die.

Kate says, “They are hungry for reality.”  They want to know about real life and drink in the profound and positive messages they hear from the old and the dying.  One student wrote, "For one hour I was completely absorbed into the life of someone else in a way I had never been before.  I vividly remember every detail of her apartment, just as I recall every detail of her life story. As we left, tears streaming down my cheek, I understood how much this taping really meant to her; I helped this stranger pass her message on. …. What started as a required internship assignment evolved into a deep understanding that community is a gathering of unique individuals who share their lives together. We create our legacies with and through each other.”

Life Chronicles began to bring comfort to families in crisis, yet, the very process of doing so has opened up the lives of the student volunteers.  After videotaping the life chronicle of an elderly and beloved priest whose life was rich with wisdom, Kate had an epiphany when she realized that young people aren't hearing these lessons.
"We need to go where the young people are and they are on the Internet."

And so Life Space was born as a way to "refresh and restore values in our society through the power of video".
The 700 interviews already are being harvested with clips organized by topic.    And what topics: overcoming adversity, living through the Great Depression, experiencing World War II, experiencing loss, the power of selflessness, the meaning of life and much more. 

LifeSpace isn't live yet, but students are being trained and equipped to expand their archive and a model is being developed that can be replicated anywhere.  Even better, a LifeChronicles kit is being created that schools can use on their own so their students can go out into their communities and capture life stories, life lessons, and values from the dying and from a generation rich in wisdom and love of life and family.  From one generation to another,  heart speaks to heart.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:15 PM | Permalink

Gloria Winters, "Penny" in "Sky King" RIP

From Jeffrey Jena at Big Hollywood comes the news that Gloria Winters, best known as Penny in Sky King, has died of pneumonia.   

Pining for Sky King's Penny

 Gloria-Winters Sky-King

You may remember her better as Sky King’s niece, Penny. A perky all-American blond who was immortalized in song by Jimmy Buffet in his homage to all things fifties, “Pencil Thin Moustache” She was the girl next door for millions of American boys. It looked like Penny had the perfect life for someone growing up in small town Kentucky; no parents, not a lot of school and a cool uncle with an airplane who lets her get involved in his adventures.

Ms. Winters died last week at her home in Southern California. She will always be remembered as the wholesome Penny because Ms. Winters had the good sense to quit acting before she became a failure as an adult actress or fell into alcoholism or drug addiction. From accounts I have read she did exactly what her character Penny would have, got out while the getting was good and lived a normal life.

When I was about 5 or 6 and television was brand new, I would watch every single episode of Sky King.  I wanted to be like Penny and have an exciting and adventurous life.  How lovely that she was smart enough to have a normal life.

New York Times obituary

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

September 4, 2010

"The power of music"

How a personal story of an experience in WW2 is preserved for the future like the treasure it is.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

September 1, 2010

Doctor Stalker Dead in Chimney

People do stupid things, even doctors.  Still it's hard to imagine that a female doctor would think it's a good idea to slide down a chimney flue when she couldn't break through the door to her boyfriend's house.

Body of doctor found inside chimney after she tried to break into boyfriend's home

A doctor has died after she tried to sneak into her lover's home by sliding down the chimney.

Dr Jacquelyn Kotarac's decomposing body was discovered three days after she went missing in Bakersfield, California.

The 49-year-old had first tried to force entry to the house using a shovel, then she climbed a ladder to the roof, removed the chimney cap and slid feet first down the flue.

Authorities said  her lover, William Moodie, had already left the house 'to avoid a confrontation'.

Mr Moodie, 58, described their relationship as 'on-again, off-again', but refused to comment on the circumstances surrounding her death.

He said: 'She made an unbelievable error in judgment and nobody understands why, and unfortunately she's passed away.

'She had her issues - she had her demons - but I never lost my respect for her.'
Dr Kotarac apparently died in the chimney, but her body was not discovered until a house-sitter noticed a smell and fluids coming from the fireplace on Saturday.

The house-sitter and her son investigated with a torch and found Dr Kotarac's body wedged around 2ft above the interior fireplace opening.

Firefighters spent five hours dismantling the chimney and flue from outside the home to extract her body.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:59 PM | Permalink | TrackBack