December 30, 2011

Synchronized sorrow UPDATED

'The people are crying tears of blood': Millions of wailing North Koreans line snow bound streets in display of state-controlled grief for Kim Jong Il's funeral

They wept, they wailed, they doubled over in apparent pain.  Not a bad show of mourning for a tyrant who subjected his country to 17 years of torture, repression and mass murder.

As the two-day funeral ceremony for ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong Il began yesterday, it was the signal for an all-ages orgy of synchronised sorrow meant to show how bereft the North Korean nation is without him.

 Grieving North Koreans

The photographs of the funeral are amazing, worthy of an old-fashioned totalitarian state.

Here's the late Christopher Hitchens on North Korea, Worse Than 1984

In North Korea, every person is property and is owned by a small and mad family with hereditary power. Every minute of every day, as far as regimentation can assure the fact, is spent in absolute subjection and serfdom. The private life has been entirely abolished…. Everybody in the city has to be at home and in bed by curfew time, when all the lights go off (if they haven’t already failed). A recent nighttime photograph of the Korean peninsula from outer space shows something that no “free-world” propaganda could invent: a blaze of electric light all over the southern half, stopping exactly at the demilitarized zone and becoming an area of darkness in the north.

Concealed in that pitch-black night is an imploding state where the only things that work are the police and the armed forces. The situation is actually slightly worse than indentured servitude. The slave owner historically promises, in effect, at least to keep his slaves fed. In North Korea, this compact has been broken. It is a famine state as well as a slave state.

UPDATE:  North Korea Is Sending Anyone Who Didn't Mourn For Kim Jong-II To A Labor-Training Camp 

North Korea is punishing citizens who didn't participate in the organized mourning period following Kim Jong-Il's death by sentencing them to six months in a labor-training camp, according to The Daily NK (via

The decision to ship North Koreans off to re-education camps follows a series of "criticism sessions" that began on Dec. 29.  A source from North Hamkyung Province told The Daily NK that officials are also punishing those "who did participate but didn’t cry and didn't seem genuine.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

Killed by severed deer head

Elderly driver, 70, killed in car crash after severed deer head flies through her windshield

An elderly motorist was killed in a freak road accident after she was hit by the severed head of a deer that was hit by another car.
Rosemary Bower, 70, died after a deer's head plunged through her windshield, causing her car to careen off the road in rural Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania.

Police said the deer had become airborne after being hit by another car traveling in front of her.  The impact sent the deer hurtling over a car driven by Rocco Ford and Scott Elgoff.

It landed on her vehicle and the impact caused the deer to be cut in half with the head and shoulders hurtling through 70 year old Bower's windshield.

 Deer In Headlights

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration there are about 1.5 million car accidents with deer each year that result in $1billion in vehicle damage.

Latest figures show that each year more than 100 people are killed with 10,000 injured after collisions with deer.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 AM | Permalink

No fistfights at the funeral home

Funeral homes are not the place for family arguments or fistfights.

Woman attacks her sister at their mother's funeral in battle over family heirloom jewels

A 'catfight' between two sisters at their mother's funeral broke out Monday following a dispute over missing jewellery.

Funeral home staff looked on in horror as the two women exchanged blows during a private visitation in a Texas funeral home.

Kilgore Police said Kimberley Lynn Briggs grabbed her older sister Debra Gail Goff by the hair and punched her several times.
The 45-year-old also shoved her sister to the floor before staff at the Chapel of the Radar Funeral Home managed to pull them apart.

It is believed a dispute over the whereabouts of their mother's jewellery was at the centre of their fight.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

December 28, 2011

"The strong voice of Great-Aunt Ada has completely converted me to family history"

Lisa Jardine, a professor of Renaissance Studies in London, tells how she became  A Convert to Family History.

For several years, my sister Judith has been researching the family history of the Flattos - my father's mother's family - inspired by the boxes of faded family photographs discovered among my parents' possessions, dating from the beginning of the 20th Century, and inscribed with locations ranging from Lodz in Poland to Kyverdale Road in London.

Her attempts to identify and connect the sitters in the photographs has led her deep into genealogy, and obliged her to learn about European history in the early decades of the 20th Century. She has journeyed intrepidly to the ends of the District and Metropolitan Tube lines, to Jewish cemeteries at East Ham, Rainham and Bushey, to read genealogical data off the family gravestones.

I confess that, as a professional historian, I did not always take her efforts seriously - in genealogy, so much depends on guesswork and surmise, so many of the documents defy interpretation. ..
In one of our family boxes, for example, is a formal wedding photograph of my grandmother, Celie Flatto, barely in her 20s, with her new husband Abram Bronowski. Taken in 1906, it is stamped with the address of the photographer's studio: 436 Whitechapel Road, London.

  Abram&Celie London1906

But her eldest son, my father, was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1908. He did not arrive in London with his parents and two siblings until 1920. Nothing in the records explains why the couple were in London earlier nor why they had returned to Poland.
Then, last summer, Judith telephoned me. She had discovered that two nieces of Grandma Celie were still alive and happy to meet us.

So in early October we went to tea with Ruth and Dorothy, sharp-as-mustard octogenarian daughters of Celie's much-younger sisters, Ada and Mary. Over biscuits and cups of tea they studied Judith's cache of photographs, casually identifying people she would never have been able to match to her family tree. "Oh look, that's me with my mother and Auntie Rose," and "There are my aunts, all dressed up to go out dancing."
I study the period 1500-1800. All those who play a part in the stories I endeavour to reconstruct are long dead. What a thrill, then, to encounter the miracle of oral history - of having a person in front of you who was actually there.

And then, out of the blue, Ruth recalled that 30 years ago, when her mother Ada - born in 1895, so then in her 90s - was living with her, she had sat her down and recorded several hours of reminiscences about her family. Perhaps she might be able to locate the cassette tapes and we might be interested in hearing them?

So it was that I was able to listen to four hours of a voice from the past recounting, with absolute clarity and lucidity, events of more than 100 years ago. Daughter Ruth is there too, firmly steering her mother back to the point, whenever she tends to digress - a tour-de-force in gentle interviewing guidance.
The strong voice of Great-Aunt Ada has completely converted me to family history. She has put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and given me a real sense of inhabiting my own history as British.

We did not wash up on England's shores by chance. In dangerous, prejudiced times, Britain welcomed my family not once but twice as economic migrants.

Like anyone else who has begun to explore their roots, I am, of course, determined to find out more. I will certainly never be disparaging about family history again.

What a treasure there was in those reminiscences recorded 30 years ago by a woman in her 90s.  I'm sure it was a pleasure for Great Aunt Ada to record her family stories, the real treasure was unearthed 30 years later. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:10 PM | Permalink

Santa killing 7 in Texas was likely an Islamic honor killing

About those terrible Christmas shootings where the father, Aziz Yazdanpanah dressed as Santa shot and killed seven, including his wife and children just after they opened their gifts.

Turns out it was probably an Islamic honor killing.  Santa was a Muslim who didn't like his daughter dating a non-Muslim.

Citing public records and interviews with friends and neighbors, media reports Monday identified Yazdanpanah and others who had died: his estranged 55-year-old wife, Fatemeh Rahmati, their 19-year-old daughter, Nona Narges Yazdanpanah, and 15-year-old son, Ali Yazdanpanah.

Friends of the family said Fatemeh Rahmati’s 58-year-old sister, Zohreh Rahmaty, and her husband, Hossein Zarei, 59, and daughter Sahra Zarei, a 22-year-old pre-med student at the University of Texas at Arlington, also were killed.
Grapevine police also searched the Colleyville home where Aziz Yazdanpanah had been living since he separated from his wife last spring. Public records show that the couple had filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and that the property was in foreclosure....

Yazdanpanah said he bought a gun after expressing concern that his daughter’s boyfriend was stalking him. He also insisted on picking up his daughter from her job at a phone kiosk inside Sam’s Club in Grapevine because of concerns about the alleged stalker.
But a more ominous portrait emerged of Yazdanpanah in interviews with some of his daughter’s other classmates.
“She would come to school crying and telling us her dad was crazy,” said Lacie Reed, 18. “He wouldn’t let her wear certain things. He was always taking her phone away, checking her call history and checking her text messages.”

Friends said Nona’s father had installed cameras all around the home so he could watch the family’s comings and goings. Others said he nailed her bedroom window shut so she could not sneak out at night and see her boyfriend.

“She couldn’t date at all until she was a certain age, but when he was going to let her date she couldn’t date anyone outside of their race or religion,” Reed said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink

"There was this bright light above me"

Ben Breedlove, Teenager makes heartbreaking video about his near-death experiences - a week before he dies from heart attack

After cheating death three times, Ben Breedlove, 18, finally lost his life on Christmas night after suffering from a heart attack.
But not before he recorded videos of his life and near-death experiences and how at peace he felt when he believed he was leaving the world.

The Austin teenager had a life-threatening heart condition he fought every day as he was growing up.

He had a near death experience when he was four, fourteen and then less than a month ago.

In the video, he shares these experiences, including the bright light that brought him peace the first time around and the time he was wearing a suit and standing in a white room with his favourite rapper Kid Cudi.

Of this experience, he wrote: 'I then looked in the mirror, I was proud of myself of my entire life, everything I have done. It was the BEST feeling.'

This is a flash card video, so you can turn down the sound on the annoying music.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:21 AM | Permalink

December 27, 2011

Final Tweets

It was bound to happen, someone collecting last tweets.  But who would have thought it would be the New York
Times in its annual The Lives They Lived feature?  None very interesting. 


Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:28 AM | Permalink

"Thousands of family pictures are useless when sitting, forgotten and disorganized, on a computer heading toward extinction"

Some very good advice

Oh Snap!: Stop Taking So Many Family Photos and Start Editing Them in More Interesting Ways

This holiday weekend, millions of family photos will be taken. Some images will make it onto Facebook or Picasa or even Flickr. Most, however, will sit on memory cards and computer hard drives for months, unviewed. 2011 was the year of too much picture-taking and too little picture-editing. When it comes to personal photos, I’m guilty of the same.

But it’s not too late. In fact, it’s the passage of time that often provides enough perspective to edit family photos in meaningful ways. I was reminded of this while looking through photographer Chris Verene’s book, Family.

Don't miss the slideshow of the images Verene made and the captions to them

Sometimes it’s the seemingly bland moment that makes what follows poignant. Often, images that seemed exciting in the moment get tossed, Verene says. Unable to let go on his own, after he'd pared 1,000 pictures of a subject down to 100 and then down to 2, he'd call over someone who had little familiarity with that story to see what spoke to them.

Digital photos have made us all excessively snap-happy. This makes editing harder. But as Verene demonstrates, taking the time pays off. Thousands of family pictures are useless when sitting, forgotten and disorganized, on a computer heading toward extinction. But when carefully—and honestly—selected, they can move even a total stranger.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 AM | Permalink

Oh wow

I thought of a story told by a friend, whose grown son had died, at home, in a hospice. The family was ringed around his bed. As Robert breathed his last an infant in the room let out a great baby laugh as if he saw something joyous, wonderful, and gestured toward the area above Robert's head. The infant's mother, startled, moved to shush him but my friend, her mother, said no, maybe he's just reacting to . . . something only babies see.

Peggy Noonan on the best thing said in 2011, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow,"  Steve Jobs' last words.

"Before embarking, he'd looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life's partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve's final words were: 'OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.'"

The caps are Simpson's, and if she meant to impart a sense of wonder and mystery she succeeded. "Oh wow" is not a bad way to express the bigness, power and force of life, and death. And of love, by which he was literally surrounded.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:04 AM | Permalink

December 26, 2011

"She has a legacy now"

Jackie Oddo thought it was too late when she  learned of the death of her birth mother whom she never meet.  Still, she felt compelled to go to her wake. 

When Grief bears a gift of joy,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 PM | Permalink

At the deathbed of Kateri Takawitha, the first American Indian saint

Ever since I learned about the Lily of the Mohawks, she has fascinated me.  I learned much more about  Kateri Takakwitha, daughter of a Mohawk war chief and a captured Christian Algonquin mother, in this article by Brian Fraga.

She will be the first American Indian saint.

During a Dec. 19 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree recognizing the miracle needed to canonize Blessed Kateri, whose intercession is credited with the miraculous healing of a Washington state boy who had been afflicted with a flesh-eating bacteria.

The young future saint’s parents gave her the name Tekakwitha, which means “she who puts things in order” or “she who advances or opens the way before her.”
In 1660, when Tekakwitha was 4 years old, smallpox, most likely originating from a nearby Dutch settlement, swept through the Mohawk settlement, killing many members of the tribe, who had never been exposed to the disease.

Tekakwitha’s father, mother and a young brother died in the epidemic. Tekakwitha also became deathly ill, but she was nursed back to health by the Mohawk matrons. However, the disease damaged her sight and scarred her face.
“Her prayer life was so strong and very deep,” said Sister Kateri Mitchell. “She is definitely a model for us of what it means to be a follower of Christ. She radiated that. She lived out her strong convictions and her strong relationship with God to follow that sacred path one day at a time, despite her own weaknesses.”

Kateri Dorothyspencer

Watercolor by Dorothy M. Speiser

In time, she took vows as a woman religious.

However, a year later, she fell fatally ill. She died on Wednesday of Holy Week, April 17, 1680. Her last words were Iesos konoronkwa (“Jesus, I love you.”).

Those gathered around her said her body suddenly took on a brilliant radiance. The mourners watched in astonishment as the scars disappeared from her face.

Jesuit Father Pierre Cholenec, a witness at her deathbed, later wrote that at the time of her death Kateri’s face, “so disfigured and so swarthy in life, suddenly changed about 15 minutes after her death, and in an instant became so beautiful and so fair that just as soon as I saw it (I was praying by her side) I let out a yell, I was so astonished....”

More on Father Pierre Cholenac's testimony

....and I sent for the priest who was working at the repository for the Holy Thursday service. At the news of this prodigy, he came running along with some people who were with him. We then had the time to contemplate this marvel right up to the time of her burial. I frankly admit that my first thought at the time was that Catherine could well have entered heaven at that moment and that she had -- as a preview -- already received in her virginal body a small indication of the glory of which her soul had taken possession in Heaven. Two Frenchmen from La Prairie de la Magdeleine came to the Sault on Thursday to be present at the service. They were passing by Catherine's cabin where, seing a woman lying on her mat and with such a beautiful and radiant face, they said to each other, Look at this young woman sleeping so peacefully and kept going. But, learning the next lminute that it was a dead body, and that of Catherine, they returned to the cabin and went down on their knees to recommend themselves to her prayers. After having satisfied their devotion for having seen such a wonderful scene, they wished to show their veneration for the dead girl by constructing then and there a coffin to hold such cherished remains
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 PM | Permalink

December 22, 2011

Sleepwaking into death

Woman drowns after SLEEPWALKING down street and falling into a lake

Friends and neighbours of 55-year-old Charlene Ferrero were shocked when they heard she sleepwalked to her death.

Police believe she left her Oaklyn, New Jersey apartment sometime Saturday night and fell from a train trestle into a lake, and drowned - all while she was asleep.

Her body was pulled from Newton Lake by search crews Monday night.

Local news video

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:22 PM | Permalink

December 21, 2011

Vaclav Havel, He Lived in Truth

He died in his sleep after many years of suffering with respiratory problems aggravated by the years he spent in prison.  Vaclav Havel's body now lies in state at Prague Castle.  His countrymen are paying their last respects before the state funeral on Friday at Prague's St Vitus Cathedral.
It will be the first in the history of the Czech Republic

 Mourners Wait Repsects Havel

Czechs mourn death of Vaclav Havel

"When I heard about his death I cried," said Jiri Moucka, one of the constant stream of mourners. "I owe him so much. He saved us from the mess we had to live in. I had to come here." Zuzana Hronova, from the eastern town of Pardubice, brought her two young children to Prague.

BBC obituary

from Mourning Havel slideshow in the Guardian

Telegraph obit

The tendency of communist officialdom to evolve modes of communication which masked its true meaning became a constant theme in Havel’s work...

The Memorandum, Tom Stoppard has observed, is the play “that best shows off the hallmarks of Havel’s gift: the fascination with language; the invention of an absurd society raised only a notch or two above the normal state of bureaucracy; and not least the playfulness, the almost gentle refusal to indulge a sense of grievance, the utter lack of righteousness or petulance or bile”.

He was the Playwright who rewrote history in The Australian.

The hero of Czechoslovakia's 1989 Velvet Revolution, which ended communist rule and inspired much of central Europe to rise against Soviet hegemony, was as resolute and uncompromising as ever in his pursuit of the humanity, decency and honesty that will be his epitaph...

Following his death, Mr Havel is being hailed as the greatest European of our times. His devotion to the pursuit of truth and principle has compelling relevance to political leadership across the globe. "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred," he famously declared.
At a time of growing disenchantment with political leadership just about everywhere, the manifold achievements of the playwright who became a president show how different things can be, how honesty can win, how the good guys can triumph. Not that Mr Havel enjoyed the trappings of political office. He was always happiest in Prague's restless intellectual milieu. But after Soviet tanks crushed the Prague Spring in 1968 and his works were banned, he saw involvement in politics as the only way the communist system of deceit and lies he ridiculed as "absurdistan" could be defeated. He was, as former US president George Bush put it, one of liberty's great heroes. Millions owe their freedom to his courage in confronting tyranny.

Time magazine

The Czechs have lost an irreplaceable moral leader. He led them out of totalitarianism and into democracy. He made the world care about their country and became the conscience of a confused region searching for a post-communist order.

Vaclav Havel Crushed Communism By Speaking the Truth

Europe's outpouring of grief over the death of Vaclav Havel, hero of Czechoslovakia's great Velvet Revolution, says much about its longing for more like him. His honesty and courage liberated Europe.

Some 75,000 Czechs bearing roses and candles lined up in Wenceslas Square beginning Sunday, as they once did in 1989, to pay tribute to one of the greatest freedom fighters of the 20th century. Havel died Sunday at age 75 after liberating his country, leading his nation as president from 1989-2003, and voicing his moral authority to scourge lingering tyrants in Cuba, Burma and China.

Havel, a playwright whose health had been weakened by years spent in communist dungeons, was an unlikely and yet perfect leader for leading Eastern Europe's liberation from communism. He unshackled Europe with the only weapon in his arsenal — words, which he animated and empowered by expressing them truthfully.

"We live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore each other, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility, or forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions. ... Only a few of us were able to cry out loud that the powers that be should not be all-powerful," Havel told his nation after being elected the first president of the restored democracy in December 1989.

Vaclav-Havel-Smiling-New Yorker

Richard Fernandez on The Last of the Old

What Havel had — and which seems to have been forgotten — was the self-possession that comes with an abiding faith in individual man. He did not live in a position of moral inferiority vis-a-vis the bullies of the world. Not Kim Jong Il; not the Soviet Union itself:

In the company of John Paul II and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Havel believed that political renewal starts in moral and personal renewal. In one letter from prison he wrote, “But who should begin? Who should break this vicious circle? The only possible place to begin is with myself. … Whether all is really lost or not depends entirely on whether or not I am lost.”

Bruce Bawer, Why We Need More Leaders Like Vaclav Havel

In 1978 Havel wrote a long essay that would have an extraordinary impact and that should be required reading in Western schools. “The Power of the Powerless” explained on a profound human level why Communist tyranny should be resisted with all one’s heart and mind and soul. It wasn’t a dry political treatise — it was a work of deep thought and feeling that accomplished the apparently impossible: it enabled many Eastern Europeans to look with fresh eyes at the oppression that they had long taken for granted as the way of the world. And in doing so, it persuaded them to abandon their meek passivity and stand up for their liberties. Only on a very few occasions in history has a writer attained a unique insight into his society and expressed it in words that moved mountains; Havel is one such writer. His essay took Eastern Europe by storm.
Communist ideology, Havel pointed out, obliges people to “live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it. For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system.” Moreover, while life in free societies “moves toward plurality, diversity, independent self-constitution, and self-organization,” life under Communism “demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline.”

Vaclav Havel was both a political and intellectual hero

Havel, who died today in the Czech Republic, was something rare in history. He was one of the heroes of the anti-Communist movement, but uniquely he was both one of the great intellectual heroes of the Eastern Bloc and one its political heroes. Indeed in politics, where more often than not vapidity and managerialism is rewarded, he was an unusual thinker-statesman. How many other politicians of his era had a Samuel Beckett play dedicated to them, or were genuine friends of leading musicians and poets? While the Communist leadership was ugly, old, predictable and pedestrian, its number one critic was cooler than a rock star.

It was Havel who helped, as much as anyone, to put across the idea that Communism was built on an illusion and that, once people began to doubt the illusion, it would collapse.

The courage of Vaclav Havel

It is given to few people to change the course of history. Václav Havel, who died yesterday aged 75, was one of them.

The Guardian obit

It is hard to think of a better provisional epitaph than that supplied in the midst of his later troubles by Martin Palouš, one of the first signatories of Charter 77: "Havel was the man who was able to stage this miracle play. The sacrifice was to cast himself in the main role."

Heartfelt quotes from leaders around the world

— “The most subversive act of the playwright from Prague was telling the truth about tyranny. And when that truth finally triumphed, the people elected this dignified, charming, humble, determined man to lead their country. Unintimidated by threats, unchanged by political power, Vaclav Havel suffered much in the cause of freedom and became one of its greatest heroes.’’ — President George W. Bush..
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 PM | Permalink

Extraordinary show of solidarity

New York City police officer Peter Figoski responded to a robbery in Brooklyn and was shot in the face.  He died in the hospital hours later.

At  his funeral, 10,000 police officers from around the country gathered to pay their respects.

 Fogoski Funeral 10,000 Cops

'Rest in peace Daddy': Daughters of fallen NYPD hero cop joined by 10,000 police officers at father's funeral

His four daughters, Christine, 20, Caitlyn, 18, Caroline, 16, and Corrine, 14, sat in the front row as they listened to friends, colleagues and city officials who recounted his bravery. They had lived with him since his divorce earlier this year.

A dedication by the four girls was read by family friend Juan Mendez.

‘We now feel connected to a side of our dad we rarely saw at home,’ it said. ‘He always put us first.

‘We will forever remember the memories with our dad and our loving family. Our father would be so honored and so proud by all of this, and is forever in our hearts. It is said when a hero falls an angel rises. Rest in peace Daddy.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 PM | Permalink

December 13, 2011

Regrets of the Dying

Bonnie Ware worked in palliative care for many years and so saw many people in their last weeks of life and came to know the most common Regrets of the Dying.

The most common regret of all:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me

Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. .... Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

Every male she nursed expressed the regret

I wish I didn't work so hard.

They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle

Other regrets

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Some developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice.

via Jennifer Fulwiler

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2011

"People who seemed vegetative for years were waking up"

The pharmaceutical drug Ambien has surprising effects on those who are prejoratively called "vegetables".

A Drug that Wakes the Near Dead

A growing body of case reports suggests that the popular sleep aid can have a profound — and paradoxical — effect on patients like Chris. Rather than put them to sleep, both Ambien and its generic twin, zolpidem, appear to awaken at least some of them. The early reports were so pronounced that until recently, doctors had a hard time believing them. Only now, more than a decade after the initial discovery, are they taking a closer look.
People who seemed vegetative for years were waking up.
According to several studies, about 40 percent of patients who have been declared vegetative are actually minimally conscious. Other studies have shown that a surprising number of vegetative and minimally conscious patients made huge strides toward recovery much later than conventional wisdom would predict.

It's hard to imagine what it would be like to be imprisoned in your own body.  Rom Houben was totally paralyzed and no one knew his brain was fully functioning.  He was a coma victim who screamed unheard.

For 23 years Rom Houben was ­imprisoned in his own body. He saw his doctors and nurses as they visited him during their daily rounds; he listened to the conversations of his carers; he heard his mother deliver the news to him that his father had died. But he could do nothing. He was unable to communicate with his doctors or family. He could not move his head or weep, he could only listen.

Doctors presumed he was in a vegetative state following a near-fatal car crash in 1983. They believed he could feel nothing and hear nothing. For 23 years.

Then a neurologist, Steven Laureys, who decided to take a radical look at the state of diagnosed coma patients, released him from his torture. Using a state-of-the-art scanning system, Laureys found to his amazement that his brain was functioning almost normally.

"I had dreamed myself away," said Houben, now 46, whose real "state" was discovered three years ago, according to a report in the German magazine Der Spiegel this week.

The moment it was discovered he was not in a vegetative state, said Houben, was like being born again. "I'll never forget the day that they discovered me," he said. "It was my second birth"

Experts say Laureys' findings are likely to reopen the debate over when the decision should be made to terminate the lives of those in comas who appear to be unconscious but may have almost fully-functioning brains.

Laureys, who is head of the Coma Science Group and department of neurology at Liege University hospital, has advised on several prominent coma cases, such as the American Terri Schiavo, whose life support was withdrawn in 2005 after 15 years in a coma.

Laureys concluded that coma patients are misdiagnosed "on a disturbingly regular basis". He examined 44 patients believed to be in a vegetative state, and found that 18 of them responded to communication.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

December 9, 2011

Prenatal hospice

A Hospice in the Womb

Perinatal (meaning, around the time of birth) hospice brings the principles of hospice care to those families who, as a result of prenatal testing, receive the heartbreaking news that their baby has a terminal condition. For those wishing to continue their pregnancy, embracing whatever life their baby may have, it provides a “hospice in the womb”. This includes planning the baby’s birth and looking into the question of whether medical treatment might be warranted, as well as more traditional hospice and palliative care at home after birth if the baby lives beyond the first few minutes or hours.

Palliative care teams can involve obstetricians, perinatalogists, nurses, neonatologists, social workers, clergy, genetic counsellors, midwives and therapists. So far, there are around 90 programmes based more or less on this approach in the United States and a handful in other countries. Not all are in hospitals.
The voices of more than 100 mothers and fathers interviewed for a recent book that Kuebelbeck co-authored with psychologist Deborah Davis, concur. In, A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy When Your Baby’s Life Is Expected to Be Brief, they talk about their suffering, yes, but also about the consolation of becoming a real parent to their baby during the months or weeks of pregnancy, the joy of actually meeting their child and holding him or her, however briefly, and the peace of knowing that they did the right thing.
And the choice she believes most mothers and fathers in this situation will want to make is the one that honours their baby’s life and their capacity to love their child. “They just want to be parents.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:16 AM | Permalink

December 8, 2011

Mass Burial in L.A.

There were 1639 people in LA without families to grieve for them or bury them and so they were interned in a mass burial in Los Angeles yesterday.

Supervisor Don Knabe said Tuesday, when he and his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors observed a moment of silence for the people being buried. “Sadly, not everyone shares this blessing.”

He said the 1,639 people designated for the mass interment at the Los Angeles County Crematory and Cemetery “are individuals that, for one reason or another, have no one but the county to provide them with a respectful and dignified burial.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2011

Doctors go gently

They focus on the quality of life, not the quantity.

How Doctors Die by Ken Murray

Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5 percent to 15 percent—albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.

It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.

Of course, doctors don’t want to die; they want to live. But they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits. And they know enough about death to know what all people fear most: dying in pain, and dying alone. They’ve talked about this with their families. They want to be sure, when the time comes, that no heroic measures will happen—that they will never experience, during their last moments on earth, someone breaking their ribs in an attempt to resuscitate them with CPR (that’s what happens if CPR is done right).

HT to Word Around the Net

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

Death on wheels

Are you lonely? Did your GP refuse to give you drugs to end your life?

Death on wheels: Dutch to send mobile clinics to euthanise people in their own homes

The mobile units are being aggressively promoted by Dutch euthanasia campaign groups who want to expand the eligibility criteria for euthanasia and also to open facilities specifically for euthanasia along the pattern of the Dignitas centre in Switzerland.

They claim that 80 per cent of people with dementia or mental illnesses were being 'missed' by the country’s euthanasia laws.

They are supported by the Dutch Medical Association which this summer issued guidance effectively saying even people who complained of being lonely could qualify for euthanasia if it constitutes 'unbearable and lasting suffering'.

Pro-life campaigners in Britain, however, were appalled. Phyllis Bowman of Right to Life said the incremental liberalisation of Dutch euthanasia practice sent a 'terrifying warning' to the British people.

She said she found the proposals to set up mobile death squads 'too dreadful for words'.

'Not even the Nazis thought of that one,' she said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:46 AM | Permalink

The Beauty of the Seed Bank

On the remote Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, you will find the Svalbard Global Seed Vault preserving samples of a wide variety of plant seeds from gene banks around the world.  Just in case.

What you wouldn't expect is its awesome beauty as you can see in this photoseries.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink

The Top 10 Causes of Death

The Top 10 Causes of Death in the United States from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

#10 Suicide - 11.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

#9 Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis (kidney disease) 14.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

#8 Flu and pneumonia - 16.2 deaths per 100,000 people.

#7 Diabetes mellitus - 20.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

#6 Alzheimer’s disease - 23.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

#5 Accidents (unintentional injuries) - 37.0 deaths per 100,000 people

#4 Cerebrovascular diseases (brain disease) - 38.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

#3 Chronic lower respiratory diseases (lung disease) - 42.2 deaths per 100,000 people

#2 Malignant neoplasms (tumors) - 173.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

#1 Heart disease - 179.8 deaths per 100,000 people

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:25 AM | Permalink

December 3, 2011

Mystery of reclusive heiress's TWO wills:

Lawyers are salivating over the Mystery of reclusive heiress's TWO wills: How copper magnate's daughter signed one document leaving her family $400m... and another bequeathing her fortune to her NURSE

The family of Huguette Clark have launched a legal battle for her vast fortune after it was revealed the reclusive heiress had signed two wills.

The first document left her estimated $400 million to relatives - while the second cuts them out completely.

The two wills were signed within six weeks of each other while Miss Clark was in a New York hospital in 2005.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 PM | Permalink

A Kentucky Funeral

A Kentucky Funeral

I sat across the table from the Amish neighbors and thanked them for helping, adding that I thought the burial was the simplest, most beautiful, and most deeply profound I'd ever seen.  "That's all right," they said.  "We wanted to help."  They seemed a little embarrassed to be thanked with such flowery language.  "Well," I said, trying to match their simple kindness with equally simple words, "Thank you."

"You are welcome," they said.
I reflected on how miraculous this gathering was.  Here was community -- family, neighbors, and church folk all bonded by love and Christian faith.

Here, gathered at my brother's funeral, was an America fast vanishing, often overlooked and sometimes openly despised.  Here were works of the hands, works of the plow, and works of faith. Simple things.  Profound things.  Things of the heart.  Things my brother loved.

Here, too, I thought, was the heart of our country.  If it were to stop beating forever, the land would perish.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

How crematoriums are cutting down on emissions

Crematorium to use burning corpses to create energy

Many industries are seeking out alternative energies to help cut costs and emissions, and crematoriums are no different. According to The Telegraph, crematoriums are required by U.K. regulatory agencies to cut emissions in half by next year, nixing them all together by 2020.

One crematorium is dead set on making the most of the resources available to it to achieve these emission-cutting requirements — literally. The Durham Crematorium wants use the heat generated by burning corpses to spin turbines and create enough electricity to power 1,500 televisions per cremation process, according to the Telegraph. And it isn’t the first crematorium to take on this efficiency endeavor. The Telegraph reports that other crematoria already have systems in place to generate energy for heating the building, offices and, it states in one case, a swimming pool at a sports center.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink