March 31, 2011

By now you are almost qualified to perform an autopsy

Last night Dana Delany's new show, Generic Medical Examiner Hour-long Drama, debuted. Okay, I don't know what the real title is -- Body of Proof or Body of Evidence or Cases of Bodies or Hey, Dana Delany Still Looks Really Good Twenty Years after China Beach or something like that. But I would conclude that after all of the CSI shows, all of the Law and Orders, NCIS, Bones, Crossing Jordan, Tru Calling, and every other cop show that requires one grisly scene of a dissected body on a slab per week, your average prime-time-television watcher is now almost qualified to perform an autopsy.

Jim Geraghty in the Morning Jolt

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:49 PM | Permalink

Morgue workers seize body ten minutes before wake was to start

Morgue workers sent to seize body of dead policeman to prove he didn't die of 9/11 related illness

The funeral of 9/11 first responder George Wong, 48, was due to go ahead yesterday, but had to be postponed after New York City Medical Examiners told relatives they were taking the body away ten minutes before his wake was due to be held on Monday.

Overzealous officials were objecting to his death certificate, which said Mr Wong had died of gastric cancer caused by dust he inhaled while guarding ground zero in the days after the September 11 attacks.

Mr Wong died of gastric cancer on Thursday at the age of 48 after a two year battle with the disease - and he always believed his tumour was caused by his two weeks serving at ground zero.

His death certificate said he died of an illness caused by 9/11 toxins, but the link between dust inhaled after the towers came down and long term health issues is not yet recognised by city health officials.

Mr Wong's death certificate has been scrubbed by officials at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner or OCME, with the cause of death now listed as 'pending'.

Mr Wong's family refused to allow city authorities to conduct an autopsy, but the OCME changed the cause of death to 'pending' after conducting an external examination and photographing the body.
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Mr Wong retired from the NYPD on a disability pension in 2006, after 20 years as an officer.

A police source told the Post: 'It's reprehensible. You don't give the body back to the morgue. Even perps don't deserve this. It's about being a human being. Everyone is livid over this.'

Condolences to his family on their loss.

In this case, I side with the officials.  I don't know who signed the original death certificate and I question how anyone could come to a medical and legal conclusion that Mr Wong died from inhaling dust at ground zero without evidence from an autopsy which the family did not allow.    The fact that such a death certificate was issued is suspicious in and of itself.  It could have been used as evidence in a civil suit against the city.  The Office of the Medical Examiner is correct in listing the cause of death as 'pending'.    We won't know what the cause of death was  until an autopsy is performed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:39 PM | Permalink

Fused to chair

This could well be the worst death I can imagine.

Obese man dies after found fused to chair

And he lived with his girlfriend and another roommate!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:36 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2011

'They don't let in the fanatics, but yes, a cadaver.'

Soccer fans take boy to 'watch' his favourite team... even though he's dead and in a coffin

 Coffin Soccermatch

A young soccer fanatic was gunned down on the eve of a big match as he played football in a park.
But his friends decided not to let a simple thing like murder get in the way of his plans and took him to 'watch' his favourite team anyway.

They collected the coffin containing the body of 17-year-old Christopher Jacome from the funeral home and marched it into the General Santander stadium in Cucuta, Colombia, to join the 42,000-strong crowd ahead of their match with Envigado.

Police are baffled as to how the coffin got through security at the ground and was allowed to be held aloft and passed around in the stands.

Stadium officials are to hold an investigation into how the dead body was allowed into the ground.

Strangely, the body's arrival at the ground seemed to inspire his side, who were trailing 1-0 but manage to draw the game 1-1.

'This is the only part of the world where this can happen,' Cucuta medic Julio Rivera told Colombia Reports. 'They don't let in the fanatics, but yes, a cadaver.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:57 PM | Permalink

Disabled woman 'bound like crucifix in closet' is found dead

Horrific! 

Three caregivers arrested as disabled woman 'bound like crucifix in closet' is found dead

Three caregivers have been arrested after a disabled woman police believe was bound in a crucifix formation in a small closet was found dead

The suspects were accused of putting a pepper seed in the eyelid of  22-year-old Christina Harms and covering her hands with bandages to stop her getting it out.

The mother-of-one was discovered at her home in Kearns, near Salt lake City, on Friday after emergency crews were called over a possible overdose.
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The victim's cousin said she had fetal alcohol syndrome - damage done to the brain linked to drinking during pregnancy. Her mother was an alcoholic.

Lyle Chapin added: 'She was never quite capable of taking care of herself.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:53 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Last words: "Never eat margarine"

‘Never eat margarine,’ food writer advises before dying

Karola Saekel Craib, who joined the San Francisco Chronicle in 1955, died Monday of complications from cancer. She was 81. “Only a week or so ago Karola wrote a note — on her iPad no less — thanking her friends for enriching her life,” writes Michael Bauer. “In her notes to her daughters before her death, she included the strict admonition, ‘Never eat margarine!’ That was Karola. The real thing. No margarine; only pure butter.

I'm with her on that.  R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

Last words: "You can't even shoot"

A quiet couple, they kept to themselves, the neighbors said.  But, like most couples, they did fight from time to time.

When Elaine McCall, 69, told her husband, 72, who gets around with a walker that she would not "cook or take care of him anymore" , he took out a gun and took a shot at his wife but missed.

She needled him, "You can't even shoot."

He shot her again right at her heart and she crumpled to the floor.

He then tried to kill himself but missed again, only grazing his chest.

He called the police to report a "murder-suicide" at his Wakefield home. 

David McCall was arraigned on first-degree murder and was last seen, a frail old man, shuffling to the prison van that would  take him to jail.

Wife got in parting shot before killing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:15 PM | Permalink

March 28, 2011

The stations of the cross of widowhood

Julian Barnes reviews Joyce Carol Oates new book, A Widow's Story: A Memoir in the New York Review of Books

'For Sorrow There Is No Remedy'

Even with painful passions—fear, jealousy, anger—nature always suggests to us a solution, and with it an end to that oppressive feeling:

But for sorrow there is no remedy provided by nature; it is often occasioned by accidents irreparable, and dwells upon objects that have lost or changed their existence; it requires what it cannot hope, that the laws of the universe should be repealed; that the dead should return, or the past should be recalled.
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Of course, at one level we know that we shall all die; but death has come to be looked upon more as a medical failure than a human norm. It increasingly happens away from the home, in hospital, and is handled by a series of outside specialists—a matter for the professionals. But afterward we, the amateurs, the grief-struck, are left to deal with it—this unique, banal thing—as best we can. And there are now fewer social forms to surround and support the grief-bearer.

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That both Didion and Oates limit their books to the first year of their widowhoods is logical. Long-married couples develop a certain rhythm, gravity, and coloration to the annual cycle, and so those first twelve months of widowhood propose at every turn a terrible choice: between doing the same as last year, only this time by yourself, or deliberately not doing the same as last year, and thereby perhaps feeling even more by yourself. That first year contains many stations of the cross.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:09 PM | Permalink

'Till death us do part

What a sad and moving story.

Husband dies while giving wife CPR after she had a heart attack

A husband died while trying to give his wife CPR after she collapsed with an apparent heart attack at their home.
The man, from Joyce, Washington, called 911 on Wednesday to report the emergency.

He told the operator his wife had collapsed and he thought she had a heart attack.

When the medics arrived only eight minutes later, they found his body slumped over hers and both were pronounced dead at the scene of suspected heart attacks.

He was 60 and she was 59.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:48 PM | Permalink

March 25, 2011

Desecration, attacks at ancient Jewish cemetery

Jerusalem: Muslims desecrate Jewish graves, stone funeral processions, attack visitors

JERUSALEM (AP) -- A wide patch of steep hillside overlooking Jerusalem's Old City holds row after row of graves. Biblical prophets, revered rabbis and a prime minister are buried there. Yet many of the tombstones have been smashed, litter is strewn around and tethered donkeys defecate on top of graves....

The cemetery is believed to hold the graves of biblical prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zechariah. The list of modern Jewish figures buried there includes Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, and Nobel Prize laureate Shai Agnon.

Rabbi Avraham Kook, the chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, and Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a former chief rabbi of Israel, are also buried there.

Some Israelis claim Palestinians from surrounding east Jerusalem neighborhoods attack visitors two to three times a week, sometimes stoning funeral processions. They accuse Arabs of building illegally on top of graves, using tombstones as goalposts for soccer games and lobbing firebombs to desecrate the cemetery.

At a recent visit to the cemetery, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he's heard from hundreds of families in the U.S. who can't visit buried relatives without protection from armed guards.

"If you hear the families, the pain and the fact that they're afraid to come here, what does it say?" Hoenlein asked. "In Jerusalem, Jews can't go and visit an ancient burial site that is supposedly sacred?"...
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

Elizabeth Taylor late for her own funeral

And that's just how she wanted it.

One of her last wishes was that her coffin arrive 15 minutes late

The service began 15 minutes after its announced start time in observance of Taylor's parting wish that her funeral start late, her publicist Sally Morrison said.

Taylor had left instructions asking for the tardy start and had requested that someone announce, "She even wanted to be late for her own funeral," Morrison said.

The one-hour service began with poetry readings by actor Colin Farrell and Taylor's family members and included a trumpet performance of Amazing Grace by her grandson, Morrison said.

The casket was draped in gardenias, violets, and lilies of the valley before its interment in the cemetery's Great Mausoleum beneath a marble sculpture of an angel inspired by the work of Italian artist Michelangelo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:50 AM | Permalink

March 24, 2011

More on Dame Elizabeth Taylor

Eight marriages, 50 movies, two Oscars, 100 operations, a fortune of £360m, but only one... Elizabeth the Great

She was born with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, and suffered back problems which were partly to blame for her subsequent addiction to painkillers and alcohol. But she never gave up.

She had both hips replaced and beat skin cancer,a brain tumour, diabetes, seizures and a stroke. She endured an estimated 70 illnesses and had 100 operations, 20 of them major surgery.

Elizabeth Taylor: her time on Twitter

Her last tweet: 'My interview in Bazaar with Kim Kardashian came out!!!

Her parents were told that their new-born daughter had a mutation. 

"Well, that sounded just awful," the girl's mother later recalls, "a mutation . But, when he explained that her eyes had double rows of eyelashes, I thought, well, now, that doesn't sound so terrible at all."

No, indeed. In fact, it is more evidence, as if any were needed, that the greatest camera subjects are, in strict biological terms, genetic freaks. Or as pal Roddy McDowall later put it: "Who has double eyelashes except a girl who was absolutely born to be on the big screen?"
    Violet Eyes to Die For

The life of a woman whose idea of morality was to marry every man she slept with.

"Always a bride.  Never a bridesmaid."

National Velvet to a national treasure: Elizabeth Taylor - a life in pictures

 Taylor Lassiecomehome

The woman who always had to be in love: A personal tribute to Elizabeth Taylor

She’s the last of the great stars of the silver screen. She was like a goddess who prowled her way through the Forties, Fifties, Sixties and into the Seventies and, although her box-office stature had waned, she had an allure that held a strange sway over us.

There were few who knew how to seduce a man in a movie. ’I’ve done it in real life so I know how to do it’, she told me once.
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She had a luminosity that most stars today don’t possess let alone know how to spell.

Elizabeth Taylor: famous like no-one else

She will be remembered as larger-than-life character who, for all her excesses, could inspire great affection. At her peak, she was a shining example of the ability enshrined in Hollywood’s fantasy factories to unearth talent. That four-letter word ‘star’ has suited very few people quite so well.

Elizabeth Taylor and a Lust for Hollywood Life

In contrast to so many other actresses, she seemed as desiring as desirous, with the gift of a thrillingly unladylike appetite. She was a great lover of food, of course, as her cruelly documented weight gains make evident. Yet the appetite that appeared to drive, at times even define her, exceeded mere food to include everything, and her consumption of men, booze, jewels and celebrity itself was an astonishment.

An Alluring Beauty Exempt From Fashion’s Rules

She was short. She didn’t have the greatest legs in the world for a sex symbol, which she wasn’t anyway. She was overloaded with hair and bosom, a dreadnought of glamour rather than an elegant swan, and for that reason she did not fit as naturally on best-dressed lists as Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly did. But Elizabeth Taylor’s style told a great deal more.

The most fleshly of all actresses 

Not fleshy—though there were periods when her gloriously abundant, ever-changing body qualified for that adjective, too—but fleshly, vibrantly incarnate.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, R.I.P.

A towering movie star that we all grew up with is now gone and her like will not be seen again.

 Elizabeth-Taylor

The Financial Times, obit by Nigel Andrews

Few film stars ever attracted more acres of newsprint, from the adoring to the acerbic, than Elizabeth Taylor. For most of her life in the cinematic spotlight she was the answer to a gossip columnist’s prayers. When there wasn’t a triumph there was a crisis; when there wasn’t stardom there was scandal.

Los Angeles Times, obit by Elaine Woo

Elizabeth Taylor, the glamorous queen of American movie stardom, whose achievements as an actress were often overshadowed by her rapturous looks and real-life dramas, has died. She was 79.
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During a career that spanned six decades, the legendary beauty with lavender eyes won two Oscars and made more than 50 films, performing alongside such fabled leading men as Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Richard Burton, whom she married twice. She took her cues from a Who's Who of directors, including George Cukor, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, George Stevens, Vincente Minnelli and Mike Nichols.

Long after she faded from the screen, she remained a mesmerizing figure, blessed and cursed by the extraordinary celebrity that molded her life through its many phases: She was a child star who bloomed gracefully into an ingenue; a femme fatale on the screen and in life; a canny peddler of high-priced perfume; a pioneering activist in the fight against AIDS

 Elizabeth-Taylor 2

London Telegraph Dame Elizabeth Taylor dies in Los Angeles

Statistics related to her lifestyle filled more column inches in the press than assessments of her acting ability. Her $1 million fee for appearing in Cleopatra (1963) set a new record at the time, as did the film’s ultimate $37 million budget. It was a moot point whether the cost of the diamonds bestowed upon her by her fifth (and sixth) husband, Richard Burton (they divorced and remarried), notched up more millions than they weighed in carats.

A woman of exceptional physical beauty, she grew into the most photographed Hollywood film star of all.
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Her career was long and many-stranded. She began as a child star and, with Natalie Wood and Judy Garland, shared the rare distinction of enjoying even greater fame as an adult. Her affair with, and subsequent marriage to, Richard Burton catapulted her into world headlines and gave her waning popularity a fillip just when it was needed. With Burton she embarked on a long series of films which, at least at first, became box-office hits thanks to curiosity alone, regardless of their quality.
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To her credit, she was a tireless fund-raiser on behalf of Aids and cancer research and a generous supporter of Jewish and Israeli causes following her conversion from Christian Science to Judaism, the religion of her third husband, Mike Todd. This resulted in her films being banned in many Arab countries.

 Elizabeth-Taylor-Hospital

New York Times, obituary written primarily by Mel Gussow who died in 2005

Elizabeth Taylor, the actress who dazzled generations of moviegoers with her stunning beauty and whose name was synonymous with Hollywood glamour, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 79.
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In a world of flickering images, Ms. Taylor was a constant star. First appearing onscreen at age 9, she grew up there, never passing through an awkward age. It was one quick leap from “National Velvet” to “A Place in the Sun” and from there to “Cleopatra” as she was indelibly transformed from a vulnerable child actress into a voluptuous film queen
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

March 22, 2011

Hidden Treasure

Revealed: Treasure trove of amazing pictures that were kept hidden from the world

She scoured the streets day and night, venturing into strange and sometimes dicey neighbourhoods. She wore a hat, sturdy shoes and a camera, always a camera, around her neck and at the ready.

 Vivianmaier
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Fractions of seconds, captured by Vivian Maier a half century ago or more - fleeting moments of life on the streets at a time when men wore fedoras and dragged on Lucky Strikes, when women favored babushkas, when families piled in Studebakers and DeSotos for Sunday drives.

Maier observed it all without judgment. This was her hobby, not her job. But over the decades, it also was her life. She shot tens of thousands of photos. Most were never printed. Many weren't even developed. And few were seen by anyone but her.
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She and her photos seemed destined for obscurity until a young man with an eye for bargains stopped by an auction house one day. He paid about $400 for a huge grocery box stuffed with tens of thousands of negatives.
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John Maloof had stumbled upon an undiscovered artist whose photography is now being compared to the giants, a reclusive woman who, in death, is attracting the kind of attention and acclaim she would have shunned in life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:04 AM | Permalink

March 19, 2011

The "Suicide Mission" to Save Lives

Courage of the Fukushima fifty: This is suicide, admit workers trying to avert a catastrophe 

Poignant messages sent home by the workers trying to prevent full-scale nuclear catastrophe at Japan's stricken nuclear plant reveal that they know they are on a suicide mission.

One of the 'Fukushima Fifty' said they were stoically accepting their fate 'like a death sentence'.

Another, having absorbed a near-lethal dose of radiation, told his wife: 'Please continue to live well, I cannot be home for a while.'
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Their identities have not been revealed, but experts said they are likely to be working class front-line technicians and firemen who know the plant the best.

It is thought that mostly older men have volunteered because they have already had children – younger workers might be rendered infertile by the high radiation doses.

Whilst the men are called the Fukushima Fifty, the group is thought to actually be 200-strong. They are doing four shifts in rotation, working on restarting the cooling systems.

Their heart-rending messages home were made public yesterday by Japanese national television, which has interviewed their relatives.

One relative said: 'My father is still working at the plant. He says he's accepted his fate, much like a death sentence.'

A woman said her husband who was at the plant had continued to work while fully aware he was being bombarded with radiation.

Another said that her 59-year-old father had volunteered for Fukushima duty, adding: 'I heard that he volunteered even though he will be retiring in just half a year and my eyes are filling up with tears.

'At home, he doesn't seem like someone who could handle big jobs. But today, I was really proud of him. I pray for his safe return.'

So do we all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

Mourning continues

 Japanese Coffins

We will rebuild from scratch': As Japan struggles to get back on its feet, the bodies gather in massive makeshift morgues

The coffins lie in their dozens, each draped with a blanket and a box of personal possessions - but only a few masked officials to look after them.

And as Japan marked exactly one week since its north east coast was hit by a devastating tsunami, the bodies were still coming in.

A town hall converted into a morgue in Rifu was just one of scores of similar facilities across the country to cope with the mounting death toll.

The official body count now stands at 6,900 dead and 10,700 missing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

March 15, 2011

A Tide of Bodies

Tide of bodies overwhelms quake-hit Japan

A tide of bodies washed up along Japan's coastline Monday, overwhelming crematoriums, exhausting supplies of body bags and adding to the spiraling humanitarian, economic and nuclear crisis after the massive earthquake and tsunami.
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On the coastline of Miyagi prefecture, which took the full force of the tsunami, a Japanese police official said 1,000 bodies were found scattered across the coastline. Kyodo, the Japanese news agency, reported that 2,000 bodies washed up on two shorelines in Miyagi.

In one town in a neighboring prefecture, the crematorium was unable to handle the large number of bodies being brought in for funerals.

"We have already begun cremations, but we can only handle 18 bodies a day. We are overwhelmed and are asking other cites to help us deal with bodies. We only have one crematorium in town," Katsuhiko Abe, an official in Soma, told The Associated Press.
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"We have requested funeral homes across the nation to send us many body bags and coffins. But we simply don't have enough," he said. "We just did not expect such a thing to happen. It's just overwhelming."

How Japan's religions confront tragedy

"The average Japanese person doesn’t consciously turn to Buddhism until there’s a funeral,” says Brian Bocking, an expert in Japanese religions at Ireland’s University College Cork.

When there is a funeral, though, Japanese religious engagement tends to be pretty intense.

“A very large number of Japanese people believe that what they do for their ancestors after death matters, which might not be what we expect from a secular society,” says Bocking. “There’s widespread belief in the presence of ancestors’ spirits.”

In the days and weeks ahead, huge numbers of Japanese will be turning to their country’s religious traditions as they mourn the thousands of dead and try to muster the strength and resources to rebuild amid the massive destruction wrought by last Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.
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“It’s very important in Japanese life to react in a positive way, to be persistent and to clean up in the face of adversity, and their religions would emphasize that,” says University College Cork’s Bocking. “They’ll say we have to develop a powerful, even joyful attitude in the face of adversity.”

Japan’s major religious groups are still developing responses to the disaster, but experts say the impulse toward maintaining a positive outlook will likely translate into calls for Japanese to help friends and neighbors clean up and rebuild.

At the same time, Japan’s Buddhist priests will be preoccupied with rituals surrounding death and burial. Japanese Buddhism is often called funeral Buddhism because of its concern with such rituals.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2011

Last Journey for soldier and dog

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was on patrol in Afghanistan with his sniffer dog Theo when he was killed in a firefight.
His dog suffered a seizure from the stress and died shortly after his master.

Together they had saved "countless lives" by located IEDs.

Expert dog handler killed in Afghanistan saved 'countless lives'

In a statement, L/Cpl Tasker’s family said: "There are three words that best describe Liam: larger than life. He lit up every room he walked into with his cheeky smile.

“He died a hero doing a job he was immensely passionate about. We are so proud of him and everything he's achieved.

"Words can't describe how sorely he will be missed.”

The body of L/cpl Tasker and the ashes of Theo were flow back to England in the same aircraft .

Dog lovers gather for repatriation of soldier and spaniel from Afghanistan

Dog lovers brought their pets in tow as they lined the streets of Wootton Bassett yesterday to pay their respects to an Army dog handler and his Springer spaniel who died in Afghanistan.
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The sombre lines of mourners remained silent but dogs could be heard barking as a solemn bell rang out to mark the arrival of the cortege.
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His mother Jane Duffy added: “I would like to believe he (Theo) died of a broken heart to be with Liam.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 PM | Permalink

"It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence grows most acute."

Pat Gohn writes No Anxieties: Confronting Our Dust in Faith

It's one of the touchstones of Lent, this intentional remembering that life on earth is short compared to the promise of eternity. Our time on planet Earth really means something. And the really big questions of life are always related to certainty of death, but more than that, they are subject to the economy of grace.

She quotes Gaudiam et Spes (Joy and Hope) (1965).

It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence grows most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. He rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. He rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter. All the endeavors of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm his anxiety; for prolongation of biological life is unable to satisfy that desire for higher life which is inescapably lodged in his breast.

Although the mystery of death utterly beggars the imagination, the Church has been taught by divine revelation and firmly teaches that man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery . . . For God has called man . . . so that with his entire being he might be joined to Him in an endless sharing of a divine life beyond all corruption. Christ won this victory when He rose to life, for by His death He freed man from death. Hence to every thoughtful man a solidly established faith provides the answer to his anxiety about what the future holds for him.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:34 PM | Permalink

Don't die of starvation and dehydration

Don't die of starvation and dehydration.  Make sure your advance health care directive allows food and water unlike this one. 

Advance Health Care Directive

If the extension of my life would result in an existence devoid of cognitive function, with no reasonable hope for normal functioning, then
I do not desire any form of life-sustaining procedures, including nutrition and hydration, unless necessary for my comfort or alleviation of pain.

My agent shall consent to and arrange for the administration of any type of pain relief, even though its use may lead to permanent damage, addiction or even hasten the moment of, but not intentionally cause, my death…


That's the document Zombie had to contend with as his uncle lay dying. Death Channels.

There were now frequent hushed conversations in Tagalog and Spanish in the hallways between the upset orderlies. They were concerned about possibly losing their hospice license and their jobs, but it was more than that. Some confided in me that they felt very uncomfortable about being forced to “kill” the patients this way. When I pointed out that the patients had all signed directives to withhold life-extending care and for pain relief, one orderly shook his head, explaining, “The hospital wants to keep them unconscious on morphine so they don’t wake up and change their minds!”

I might have thought this accusation was a little over-the-top had it not been for the attitude of the nurses themselves, in particular the main daytime chief nurse who also confided in me and whom I eventually nicknamed “Nurse Kevorkian.” She flew into a rage whenever she found a hospice worker sneaking food to a patient, going so far as to clean the food out of one patient’s mouth to make sure no more got swallowed. As we sat by Larry’s bed together now and then, she expressed enthusiasm when his vital signs continued to drop, but became annoyed if he seemed to rally with a stronger pulse and more vigorous breathing. She assumed that I too was hoping for as rapid a death as possible for Larry, and complained bitterly about the crazy Filipinos and their weird attitude.

One night, I was alone with Larry in his room, while the night nurse was elsewhere in the building. He was due for another morphine dose in a few hours, so the previous dose was probably starting to wear off. For the first time in days, Larry stirred, and seemed to wake up. He made a faint moaning noise. I got up and leaned closer, and for the only time during the last month of his life, he spoke. It was just two raspy words: “Help me!”

I ran into the hallway and got the nurse, describing to her what had happened. Her response? “He must be in pain!” She came in and quickly gave him another dose of morphine. Before he faded back to sleep Larry made one last gesture: He shook his head, as if to say “No no no.” And then he went unconscious again. He never woke up after that, the nurses ensuring that he was drugged up at all times. He died three days later without saying another word or regaining consciousness.

What killed him? Well, the doctors would likely say he died of AIDS. But the direct cause of his death was, basically, starvation and dehydration. Which, I later learned, is what actually kills many patients in hospice care, who often die from the withholding of nutrition rather than from the more slow-moving effects of their terminal illnesses.

You can still have a natural death just not a grotesque one. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:19 AM | Permalink

March 9, 2011

Ashes to Ashes

Ash-Wednesday-Ashes

Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

Saintly Scientist

He was the brilliant young French geneticist who discovered the cause of Down syndrome

and one day, he decided, “I cannot accept abortion,” not because he is Christian, but because he knows as a geneticist that life starts at conception. And he had to say it. He had to protect the ones whom they want to kill, who are too young to protect themselves.

So he started this fight as a scientist, saying, “I have to tell the truth. I’m not judging anyone; I’m not saying anything else besides the truth of the science, and I have to testify about that.”

I  remember it so clearly. I was 10 years old, and, one day, he came home for lunch. The day before, on television, there was a movie about a family where a woman had a child with Down syndrome, and she wanted to abort, and she couldn’t do it then.

After, there was a debate about abortion of the diseased children, and a boy came to his consultation with his mom, and he was crying, and my father said, “Why are you crying?” And his mother said, “He saw the movie, and I couldn’t stop him crying,” and then he jumped in my father’s arms, and he was only 10 with Down syndrome. He said, “
You know, they want to kill us. And you have to save us, because we are too weak, and we can’t do anything.” And [my father] came back home for lunch, and he was white, and he said, “If I don’t protect them, I am nothing.” That’s how it started.

And then his career came down. He didn’t have money for his research. He was like a pariah, and so on, but he accepted that because he thought he was doing that which was his duty.

Remembering Jerome Lejeune, now declared a "Servant of God" whose cause for sainthood is now being postulated.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:15 AM | Permalink

Let's play Russian roulette

Baruch and McCloskey,an American soldier, were drinking too much in Baruch's home where his wife and two young children lived when they came up with a great idea - let's play Russian roulette.  What could go wrong?

Sergeant Michael McCloskey, 26, is dead and Jacob Baruch is charged with second degree murder.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:03 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2011

Rose petals at a martyr's funeral

 Shahbaz Bhatti Funeral

The funeral for Shahbaz Bhatti was held in a remote village; still, 20,000 Christians came and showered rose petals on his coffin.

Thousands of Christians, religious leaders, foreign diplomats and government officials led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani attended the Islamabad service, which included a state salute.

“Today is a very sad day,” said Mr Gilani, describing Bhatti as a “very rare leader”.

“All the minorities [in Pakistan] have lost a great leader,” he added.
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Bhatti, 42, a Catholic, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen who pumped bullets into his car from automatic weapons as he was being driven to his office in Islamabad last week.
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Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops’ justice and peace commission, told the Catholic News Service by phone from Kushpur: “It was a very emotional funeral, with the people wailing and weeping all through.”

Already, the Catholic bishops of Pakistan are considering a proposal to ask the Vatican to declare the assassinated Pakistani minister a martyr.

A “martyr,” from the Greek word meaning “witness,” is someone who dies for the faith. A declaration of martyrdom would mean a miracle would not be required for Bhatti’s possible beatification.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 AM | Permalink

Thinking Inside the Box

In Play Dead, Obituary Writer Tries Out a Coffin

"We realized that our own point of view is that when you’re dead, you’re dead. Therefore the only place you exist is inside those who know you. If you lived and you’re forgotten, you lived in vain.” He paused.

“It’s not a happy show,” he said, grinning. “But it’s fun.”

I said that I often felt, writing obituaries, that one reason death is interesting to people is that it is grim and engaging in equal measure. Dying and grieving are universal experiences, but so is wonderment at what death entails.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 AM | Permalink

21-year-old mother sacrifices life to save toddler son

Hero mother killed shielding her toddler from falling tree as tornado tears through Louisiana town injuring 11 and destroying 100 home

A brave mother sacrificed her life to save her toddler son when a tornado brought a tree crashing down on their home.

When the twister was over, 21-year-old Jalisa Granger lay dead in the wreckage of her house in Rayne, Louisiana, but the child survived.

Neighbours pulled them from both the wreckage but were too late to help Ms Granger.

       Hero Mom

Prayers for the poor little boy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

March 7, 2011

Death by Igloo

Father crushed to death by snow while building igloo for boy in his back garden

A father was crushed to death by snow while building an igloo for a young boy in his back garden, it emerged today.
Yan Lavalliere, 26, had been helping his girlfriend’s five-year-old son construct an ice dome when it collapsed on top of him at their home in a suburb of Montreal, Canada.

The incident happened after the boy was reportedly asked to pile on snow while  the 26-year-old crawled inside.

After the collapse, the child called over to a neighbour in Chambly, Quebec, who rushed over with a shovel to  him out from under the 4ft high heap of compacted snow.

His partner, Melissa Tremblay, and relatives eventually released him. But they were too late to save Mr Lavalliere, who had a four-year-old daughter of his own,

‘I started shovelling and then saw his black hat and then I saw his face,’ a witness told the Toronto Sun.

‘I took the snow out of his mouth but his teeth were clenched. I said `stay with us, stay with us` but there wasn’t anything happening.’

How sad.  Condolences to his family, especially the poor little boy.

‘It's very difficult for him. He cries all the time. He feels guilty he couldn't help him, but we tell him it's not his fault.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

March 5, 2011

"I want to live in history as a courageous man"

And so he will.    Shabbaz Bhatti, martyr.

William Oddie calls him "A hero of the Catholic faith, a martyr by whose courage we should be inspired"

What Shahbaz Bhatti said to the BBC the night before he was killed in his "Goodbye call"

They say there’s a terrorist plot to assassinate me. They’ve told me to be careful, but didn’t tell me anything else. I haven’t been given any extra security. It’s just the same as it has been since I became a minister.”

Though his voice sounded weary, the minister’s commitment was unwavering. “I have struggled for a long time for justice and equality,” he said.

“If I change my stance today, who will speak out? I am mindful that I can be assassinated any time, but I want to live in history as a courageous man.”

Orla Guerin believes that Shahbaz Bhatti knew his days were numbered. “After we ended our conversation”, she said, “I could not escape the feeling that the minister had called to say goodbye”.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 AM | Permalink

March 4, 2011

"Don't worry Mom, I'll be safe"

'Don't worry mom, I'll be safe': U.S. airman's  last promise to mother before he was gunned down by 'Kosovan Muslim' at Frankfurt airport

The mother of one of the slain U.S. airmen revealed today that her son, father-of-two Nick Alden, promised her he would be safe before he was gunned down at Frankfurt airport.

The 25-year-old, from Williamston, is said to have died as he tried to stop the gunman from shooting anyone else on the bus.

 Nick Alden

The second victim has been named as Airman 1st Class, Zachary Cuddeback, from Virginia.

Meanwhile, the shooting suspect has confessed he was targeting the U.S. military when he opened fire and has been described as a possible 'radicalised Muslim', a German security official said.

A federal judge ordered today that Arid Uka be held on two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder after he allegedly opened fire on a military bus, killing two and leaving a third fighting for his life.
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The English teacher said: 'I don’t know all of the details, but apparently he was instrumental in keeping the other people on the bus safe.'

She revealed she last saw her son at Thanksgiving: 'He said "Mom, I'm going to be in a fairly safe place like I was in Iraq. I'm going to have all sorts of protective gear on when I go out so I'm going to be just as safe as I was in Iraq". He never even got there.'

Alden was wearing plain clothes when he was gunned down at the airport.
He was married and had a three-year-old daughter, Lilly, and one-year-old son William to his wife Trish. They live in England.

He died a hero trying to stop the gunmen from killing others.  A remarkable man. 

Deepest condolences to his family

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 AM | Permalink

Makes game-winning shot, falls dead

Star student, 16, collapses and dies on basketball court moments after scoring game-winning shot

A high school basketball player collapsed and died on the court moments after scoring the game-winning shot for his team.

Wes Leonard, 16, fell to the ground after teammates and fans had rushed on to the court at the end of Fennville High School's 57-55 overtime win over Bridgman.

Paramedics desperately tried to perform CPR on the teenager, but he was pronounced dead at Holland Hospital last night. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
 Wes Leonard
Wes had just scored the winning shot which secured his team a 20-0 winning season when he collapsed.

The athlete, who was also the high school football team's quarterback, had complained of having flu prior to Fenville's previous game.

His family must be in shock.  Deep condolences to them

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

March 3, 2011

Crushed, killed by own car during repossession

A California woman was crushed and killed by her own car as she desperately tried to stop it from being repossessed.

Lisa Via, 42, was standing between her car and the tow truck when she was crushed outside of her home in the Chino Hills area, near San Bernadino, California on Tuesday.

Tow truck driver Leo Song arrived at Via’s trailer around 1:10 am and backed up his 1999 Dodge Ram tow truck to her 2002 Buick.

Via ran out her home while tow truck Song lifted the car onto his truck, according to San Bernadino police. She asked Song not to take her car. He told her he had to take it
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Family members have stated that Via was yelling and screaming at the tow truck driver to stop towing her car.

But Song says that he didn’t hear anything as he drove away, having lost sight of her in his rear view mirror and assuming she had stepped away from the vehicles.

He only stopped Via’s husband ran to him as as he stopped in front of Via’s trailer and said that his wife was trapped underneath the car.

Song attempted to use his floor jack to lift the car off of Via before Chino Valley fire fighters arrived to the scene.

Via was taken to Chino Valley Medical Center where she died at 2:56 am.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 AM | Permalink

March 2, 2011

Harvard's Pastor Rev Peter Gomes, R.I.P.

Groundbreaking Harvard minister Peter Gomes dies

The Rev. Peter J. Gomes, who was known internationally as Harvard’s pastor and was just as pleased to be seen as a son of Plymouth, died Monday in Massachusetts General Hospital of complications of a stroke suffered in December.
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He was the first black minister of Memorial Church and the only gay, black, Republican, Baptist preacher most people would ever meet. Descended from slaves, he nonetheless delighted in serving as trustee emeritus of the Pilgrim Society and celebrating his hometown’s Mayflower history, a distinctly white Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition.

“The oddest thing about being an oddity,’’ he told The New Yorker magazine for a November 1996 profile, “is that there are very few oddities like you.’’

Drew Faust, Harvard’s president, called Rev. Gomes “one of the great preachers of our generation and a living symbol of courage and conviction.’’

“To generations of Harvard students, he was a wise counselor and an admired teacher who presided at every commencement,’’ she said in a message to the Harvard community. To many of his faculty colleagues, he was a cherished conversationalist and a steadfast advocate of Harvard’s best traditions. But to me, and I suspect to many others, Professor Gomes was first and foremost a trusted adviser and a true friend.’’

 Peter-Gomes

“He was someone who was at home in the Harvard archives, on speaking terms with generations of the dead,’’ said his longtime friend Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at the university.

“That was also true of Plymouth. Peter was kind of the mayor of historical Plymouth, someone who could point out every landmark and tell an anecdote about every person. He cared about history in a way that was quite intimate.’’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

"Miracle Danielle"

The baby born after her mum was shot dead

It's a story of great joy at a birth, immense sadness at a death and the heroics of a young boy who called 911.

A pregnant woman was shot to death next to her husband, but doctors were still able to deliver her baby girl alive in hospital after their nine-year-old son called for help.

Tenishia Latham, 25, and Larry Latham, 28, were both shot by a man with whom Mr Latham was having an argument with in Clinton Township, Ohio, police said.

Their three children - aged four, eight and nine - were at home when the attack happened but remained unharmed, and the eldest son called for an ambulance.

Mrs Latham, seven months pregnant, was taken to Riverside Methodist Hospital and pronounced dead from a head shot, but the baby girl was safely delivered.

The 3lbs girl has been called 'Miracle Danielle' and is now being cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit before being weaned off oxygen, reported ABC6.

Mr Latham was found in a yard after being shot during the incident in the early hours of Monday and is now in a critical condition at Ohio State University Medical Center.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 AM | Permalink

Suze Rotolo, dead at 67

 Suze Rotolo

Suze Rotolo, girlfriend and early muse to Bob Dylan, died of lung cancer at age 67 in her Nolo New York loft in the arms of her husband of 40 years, Enzo Bartocci.

Speaking about Rotolo in his 1994 memoir Chronicles: Volume 1, Dylan said:  'Right from the start I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

'She was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen. She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood Italian.

'We started talking and my head started to spin. Cupid’s arrow had whistled past my ears before, but this time it hit me in the heart and the weight of it dragged me overboard.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:17 AM | Permalink