May 30, 2011

The American Colonel Who Saved Chartres Cathedral

As the WWII generation dies away, so will many of their stories unless they are recorded or memorialized in same way, saved,  remembered and passed on to our children.  It was the local citizens of Chartres, France, who memorialized the brave American who saved one of the greatest cathedrals in the world, preserving the memory of what he had done for 50 years before his family learned about it.

A Colonel at Chartres

. . . My wife’s maternal grandfather was a colonel in the U.S. Army in WWII. They were closing in on Chartres from the southwest, and they came under heavy artillery fire from the Germans in the town. An order was issued to shell the cathedral on the assumption that the Germans were using the tower to locate the Allied forces. My wife’s grandfather questioned the strategy of taking out the cathedral on a hunch and volunteered to go behind enemy lines to find out whether the Germans really were occupying the cathedral. His offer was accepted, and he found himself climbing the cathedral tower alone, not knowing whether an enemy unit was a step or turn away. After finding the tower unoccupied, he rejoined his forces, reporting that the cathedral was clear. The order to shell the cathedral was withdrawn, and the Allies took the town. During the gunfight, my wife’s grandfather was killed. He is buried in St. James Cemetery in Brittany.

The locals somehow pieced together the story I have just recounted, and, for many years, they recognized his bravery in saving their cathedral with a plaque on a sidewalk in Lèves (on the outskirts of Chartres) where he was killed. The only problem was that they did not know how to read American dog tags. His name was Welborn Griffith (so one could forgive their not knowing which was a first name and which a last name), but they got the names reversed, and his plaque read “Griffith Welborn.” For nearly 50 years, the story about the cathedral was unknown to his family in the U.S. because of this mistake — and would have remained unknown had it not been for a historian in Lèves who maintains a small World War II museum there.

In the mid-1990s, this historian, Monsieur Papillon, realized the mistaken reversal of Colonel Griffith’s names and, upon correcting the mistake, located his only living descendant — my mother-in-law in Jacksonville, Fla. With the aid of a translator, he contacted her and told her the story of her father and Chartres Cathedral. Soon thereafter, a ceremony was held at the cathedral to honor the officer who had seen fit to question the order to bomb the cathedral, and my wife’s family was truly touched when they played “The Star-Spangled Banner” — right in the cathedral. The plaque has been corrected, and a park has been dedicated in his honor . . .

Here's another story about a woman who found her own way of honoring one who served.  It wasn't until Lee came over to move something heavy in his closet that she  learned what Sargent Major Sparky McKenna kept hidden.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink

May 26, 2011

"Long, strange, solitary life"

As she dies aged 104, the extraordinary tale of mining fortune heiress Huguette Clark... the reclusive daughter of America's second richest man who was last seen 80 years ago.

Reclusive 104-year-old heiress Huguette Clark has died, leaving behind a $500million estate which is the subject of an investigation.

The heiress to a Montana copper fortune once lived in the largest apartment on New York City's Fifth Avenue but spent the last 20 years of her life as a recluse in New York City hospitals.

She also owns lavish mansions in California and Connecticut which have been vacant for more than 50 years.
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An investigation is now underway into how her millions were handled with many believing that Miss Clark's lawyer Wallace Bock, kept her isolated from her family, wrongly accepted large amounts of money and gifts from her and mismanaged her $500million fortune
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She spent her time in hospital almost entirely alone aside from a few private nurses. One of her attorneys had even represented her for 20 years without meeting her face-to-face, instead talking through a door.
 Hugette Clark

NYTimes obituary. Huguette Clark, Reclusive Heiress, Dies at 104

She was almost certainly the last link to New York’s Gilded Age, reared in Beaux-Arts splendor in a 121-room Fifth Avenue mansion awash in Rembrandt, Donatello, Rubens and Degas. Her father, a copper baron who once bought himself a United States Senate seat as casually as another man might buy a pair of shoes, had been born before the Mexican War. Her six siblings died long before her, one in the 19th century.

Though she herself lived into the 21st century, Huguette Clark managed through determination and great wealth to spin out her golden childhood to the end of her long, strange, solitary life.

--By all accounts of sound body and mind till nearly the end of her life, Mrs. Clark had lived, apparently by choice, cloistered in New York hospitals since the late 1980s. There, first in Doctors Hospital and later at Beth Israel, she was reported to have lived under a series of pseudonyms.
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The reports disclosed that although her three palatial homes — a 42-room apartment on Fifth Avenue; an oceanfront estate in Santa Barbara, Calif.; and a country manor in New Canaan, Conn. — are fastidiously maintained, she had not been seen in any of them for decades.
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By the late 1930s, Mrs. Clark had disappeared from the society pages. Most if not all of her siblings had died; she lived with her mother at 907 Fifth Avenue, painting and playing the harp. Her mother died there in 1963.

For the quarter-century that followed, Mrs. Clark lived in the apartment in near solitude, amid a profusion of dollhouses and their occupants. She ate austere lunches of crackers and sardines and watched television, most avidly “The Flintstones.” A housekeeper kept the dolls’ dresses impeccably ironed
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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2011

Deadly tornado sucks teen through sunroof while riding home from graduation with his father

Just one of the terrible stories from Joplin.

Horrible… Deadly Tornado Sucks Teen Through Sunroof While Riding Home From Graduation With His Father

All we can do is pray for the living and the dead and donate to The Red Cross

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:44 AM | Permalink

May 20, 2011

Cannibals in the British Palace

One thing we are rarely taught at school yet is evidenced in literary and historic texts of the time is this: James I refused corpse medicine; Charles II made his own corpse medicine; and Charles I was made into corpse medicine.

'Along with Charles II, eminent users or prescribers included Francis I, Elizabeth I's surgeon John Banister, Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kent, Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, William III, and Queen Mary.'

British royalty dined on human flesh

'In the heyday of medicinal cannibalism bodies or bones were routinely taken from Egyptian tombs and European graveyards. Not only that, but some way into the eighteenth century one of the biggest imports from Ireland into Britain was human skulls.

'Whether or not all this was worse than the modern black market in human organs is difficult to say.'

All from a new book, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires - The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians to be published on June 29 in England.

 Mummies Cannibals Vampires

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 PM | Permalink

May 18, 2011

"I'm a Catholic - I believe in miracles"

Why you want to wait a bit before you pull the plug.

“Brain dead” woman awakes in Australian hospital.

“Hopeless” and “brain dead” are expressions which have to be used with great caution, it seems, judging from the experience of an Australian woman.

Gloria Cruz, 56, had a stroke in her sleep and was operated on at a Darwin hospital. Doctors told her husband, Tani, that her case was “hopeless” and that she would probably die in 48 hours. They wanted to turn the ventilator off, but Mr Cruz asked for a 48-hour reprieve. "I'm a Catholic - I believe in miracles," he pleaded.

Later a doctor, social worker and patient advocate all rang him and once again insisted that the ventilator should be turned off.

After two weeks it was turned off. And three days later Mrs Cruz awoke, to the astonishment of the hospital staff. Now she is alert and in a wheelchair at the hospital. Her husband told the Northern Territory News: "She's well on the way to recovery.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 AM | Permalink

May 14, 2011

How Pocahontas became Lady Rebecca of Virginia

She studied Christianity, converted and was baptized Rebecca before she married John Rolfe.

Two years later Rolfe, Pocahontas and their son, Thomas, plus 12 Indians went to England where she was received as a lady and was presented to Queen Anne as "Lady Rebecca of Virginia."  While preparing to return to America, she got small pox and died.  She was buried in England with this plaque, "Rebecca Rolfe of Virginia, Lady Born."  There is a statue of her there and a copy of it is in Jamestown. John Rolfe returned to Jamestown to build up his plantation and was killed by Pocahontas' uncle in 1622.  Their son, Thomas, returned to America in 1635, married and had 12 children.  These descendants married into Virginia families and some eventually served in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

 Pocahontas Malick

The Unknown Story of Pocahontas

Pocahontas is the tale of a heroine, a child who exhibited moral courage and independence, a child who went against everything she'd been taught all her life in favor of the convictions of her own mind, thus proving that one's race does not have to determine one's culture or destiny. Her bravery was a great and crucial help to the survival of the colony at Jamestown and she deserves to be remembered as a part of our country's legacy..


Forget the Disney versions, see the luminously told story by Terence Malick in the film The New World, starring Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer and Q'orianka Kilcher seen in the photo above.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

May 11, 2011

" In the absence of death, humans would have no perspective on anything. "

Gaghdad Bob on the importance of death.

Which provoked in me the thought: In the absence of death, humans would have no perspective on anything.

If terrestrial life were eternal, it would render everything meaningless, in the sense that value is usually a function of scarcity. Which means that the existentialists -- including Becker -- have it precisely backward and upside down in suggesting that the meaning of death is the death of meaning. Which, when you think about it, makes no sense, for how could meaninglessness mean anything?

Of course, it took at least another decade for me to figure this out: that death is indeed the key, but not in the way existentialists imagine.

Since Death is the existential key to the siddhi, it should come as no surprise that it has a central place in Christianity. For only in Christianity does God submit to Death, which is the only thing that can transform it from the existential negative of Becker and other existentialists into an ontological positive that shapes and transforms our lives in a beneficial way.

To be "born again" is to die to the old existence -- to give Death its due, and surrender to its grim reality. We die before we die in order to be reborn on another plane where death does not rule the night.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 PM | Permalink

May 10, 2011

"Death is not the end, but a point of transition"

Vox Nova on the Christian view of death and how it affects the experience of dying.

There are two errors involved with life and death. The first is to ignore the value of life. Life is a precious gift, a good which should not be unnaturally taken away. Every life is precious, and every person is to be loved because they have life. The second is to try to hold on to life unnaturally, to extend one’s stay in the fallen world when it is time for one to enter into eternity. Those who neglect the care of others, those who ignore the inherent good which is the foundation for all life, are often the same ones who end up striving to prolong their own miserable existence, and they do so at the expense of others. They have not prepared themselves for eternity. They do not understand the meaning of life, and so they cannot understand the meaning of death.

Death is not the end, but a point of transition. We should prepare ourselves for death, for we will all face it one day. Life allows us to find out who we are, to come to know ourselves as we truly are. Once we have properly come to know ourselves, we can (thanks to grace) purify ourselves from all sinful contamination, and then in death, we will be the person we are meant to be, free from all sin, free from the sorrows of sin, in eternity. If we are prepared, eternal life is a blessing, because it allows us to experience ourselves as we truly are in an unfallen, beatified state. Life is a gift; it allows us the opportunity for such a preparation, but, because of sin, temporal existence is riddled with trials and tribulations; death allows us to have a final victory over sin, to overcome the “evils of this life.”

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In the lives of the desert fathers, we find the remembrance and preparation of death was a significant component of their spiritual life. They understood and accepted the significance of death. They knew and understood that because death lies before us, it can be and should be contemplated during our earthly existence, so that we can be ready for death and not be found unprepared for eternity.

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers relates the death of Abba Sisoes

It was said of Abba Sisoes that when he was at the point of death, while the Fathers were sitting beside him, his face shone like the sun. He said to them, ‘Look, Abba Anthony is coming.’ A little later he said, ‘Look, the choir of prophets is coming.’ Again his countenance shone with brightness and he said, ‘Look, the choir of apostles is coming.’ His countenance increased in brightness and lo, he spoke with someone. Then the old men ask him, ‘With whom are you speaking, Father?’ He said, ‘Look, the angels are coming to fetch me, and I am begging them to let me do a little penance.’ The old man said to him, ‘You have no need to do penance, Father.’ But the old man said to him, ‘Truly, I do not think I have even made a beginning yet.’ Now they all knew that he was perfect. Once more his countenance suddenly became like the sun and they were all filled with fear. He said to them, ‘Look, the Lord is coming and he’s saying, “Bring me the vessel from the desert.”’ Then there was as a flash of lightning and all the house was filled with a sweet odour.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2011

A tribute from the sky

 Guitar Argentina

Maybe Graciela Sees It From Heaven, This Huge Guitar Made of Trees

Pilots often stare in disbelief when they make their first flight over this hamlet on the verdant pampa. There, on the monotonous plain below, is a giant guitar landscaped out of cypress and eucalyptus trees. It is more than two-thirds of a mile long.
Behind the great guitar of the pampa, and its 7,000-odd trees, is a love story that took a tragic turn.

The green guitar is the handiwork of a farmer named Pedro Martin Ureta, who is now 70. He embedded the design into his farm many years ago, and maintains it to this day, as a tribute to his late wife, Graciela Yraizoz, who died in 1977 at the age of 25.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:15 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2011

"I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog"

A blogger publishes his own last words and turns his blog into an archive.

"I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog" wrote Derek Miller of Vancouver, Canada.

In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote—the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.


If you knew me at all in real life, you probably heard the news already from another source, but however you found out, consider this a confirmation: I was born on June 30, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada, and I died in Burnaby on May 3, 2011, age 41, of complications from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. We all knew this was coming.
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It turns out that no one can imagine what's really coming in our lives. We can plan, and do what we enjoy, but we can't expect our plans to work out. Some of them might, while most probably won't. Inventions and ideas will appear, and events will occur, that we could never foresee. That's neither bad nor good, but it is real.

I think and hope that's what my daughters can take from my disease and death. And that my wonderful, amazing wife Airdrie can see too. Not that they could die any day, but that they should pursue what they enjoy, and what stimulates their minds, as much as possible—so they can be ready for opportunities, as well as not disappointed when things go sideways, as they inevitably do.
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The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don't look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same.

What is true is that I loved them. Lauren and Marina, as you mature and become yourselves over the years, know that I loved you and did my best to be a good father.

Airdrie, you were my best friend and my closest connection. I don't know what we'd have been like without each other, but I think the world would be a poorer place. I loved you deeply, I loved you, I loved you, I loved you.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

May 3, 2011

What should medicine do when it can't save your life

Atul Gawande on Letting Go or Why hospice care for dying patients.

People have concerns besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys of patients with terminal illness find that their top priorities include, in addition to avoiding suffering, being with family, having the touch of others, being mentally aware, and not becoming a burden to others. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The hard question we face, then, is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a health-care system that will actually help dying patients achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.
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“Is she dying?” one of the sisters asked me. I didn’t know how to answer the question. I wasn’t even sure what the word “dying” meant anymore. In the past few decades, medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition, and language about our mortality, and created a new difficulty for mankind: how to die.
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Hospice has tried to offer a new ideal for how we die. Although not everyone has embraced its rituals, those who have are helping to negotiate an ars moriendi for our age. But doing so represents a struggle—not only against suffering but also against the seemingly unstoppable momentum of medical treatment.
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This is a modern tragedy, replayed millions of times over. When there is no way of knowing exactly how long our skeins will run—and when we imagine ourselves to have much more time than we do—our every impulse is to fight, to die with chemo in our veins or a tube in our throats or fresh sutures in our flesh. The fact that we may be shortening or worsening the time we have left hardly seems to register. We imagine that we can wait until the doctors tell us that there is nothing more they can do. But rarely is there nothing more that doctors can do. They can give toxic drugs of unknown efficacy, operate to try to remove part of the tumor, put in a feeding tube if a person can’t eat: there’s always something. We want these choices. We don’t want anyone—certainly not bureaucrats or the marketplace—to limit them. But that doesn’t mean we are eager to make the choices ourselves. Instead, most often, we make no choice at all. We fall back on the default, and the default is: Do Something. Is there any way out of this?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:25 PM | Permalink

May 2, 2011

Dead

 Time Deadosama

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink