April 28, 2012

Proposed Virginia law offers a tax break to residents buried in space

Virginia law would offer tax breaks to residents buried in space

Looking for a really awesome way to lower your taxes? Virginia residents may want to consider having their cremated remains blasted into space. The state is considering a law that would give folks who want to mingle their ashes with the debris of space up to $2500 a year in deductions, with an $8000 cap.

If the measure passes, the final pitstop for folks who take advantage of the tax break will be the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The purpose of the law is to increase revenue for the spaceport, which is looking to expand in response to the cancellation of NASA's space shuttle program.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 PM | Permalink

" The obituary can be a powerful device to educate us about history, culture or simply the way the world once was."

Obituaries as an educational tool by Cory Franklin

Journalist and humorist Russell Baker once reminded us that the obituary can be a powerful device to educate us about history, culture or simply the way the world once was. The way we lived then, how we live now and in the future have all been affected by people who make one final appearance in an obit.

Two of the last main characters in the Watergate scandal recently died within a month of each other. The first, Henry Ruth, was a special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation and helped prepare charges that ultimately led to President Richard Nixon's 1974 resignation. The second was Charles Colson, a Nixon aide who served seven months in prison for obstruction of justice.

With the median age in the United States now 37, a majority of Americans have no practical memory of these two men or of the "third-rate burglary" that morphed into a genuine threat to our nation. Today, most students' knowledge of Watergate comes from our current crop of history books, many of which are poorly written, or from the Internet, rife with political bias from the right and left. How frequently do we hear Democrats, Republicans and journalists resort to specious Watergate analogies, as if any recent political scandal equaled its gravity?

Baker noted the vacuum created by death was not simply historical, but also cultural. He wrote: "The older one becomes, the more aware he grows of his culture collapsing and another culture, increasingly alien to his own, replacing it. … As youth turns to middle age, and middle age into grayness and failing vision, the cultural collapse accelerates. It becomes routine to arrive at the obituaries and find another part of your past has been moved out during the night."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 PM | Permalink

April 27, 2012

‘I feel so lucky that my parents wouldn’t take no for an answer.’

Dad rescues ‘brain dead’ son from doctors wishing to harvest his organs – boy recovers completely

LEICESTER, England, April 25, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - According to the Daily Mail newspaper, a young British man owes his life to an insistent father who would not allow his son’s organs to be removed from his body, despite assurances from four doctors that his son could not recover from the wounds he had suffered in a recent car accident.

Here's the Daily Mail story:  The boy who came back from the dead: Experts said car crash teen was beyond hope. His parents disagreed

They were told there was no chance of their son surviving after he suffered devastating injuries in a car crash.
But Steven Thorpe’s parents refused to give up hope – despite four specialists declaring that the 17-year-old was brain dead.
Convinced they saw a ‘flicker’ of life as Steven lay in a coma, John and Janet Thorpe rejected advice to switch off his life support machine.
They begged for another opinion – and it was a decision that saved him.

A neurosurgeon found faint signs of brain activity and two weeks later, Steven woke from his coma. Within seven weeks, he had left hospital.
And four years on, the trainee accounts clerk says he owes everything to the persistence of his parents.
From his home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, Steven, 21, said: ‘I feel so lucky that my parents wouldn’t take no for an answer.’

Ghoulish as it is, people in hospitals are looking for fresh organs to transplant.    If a loved one of yours is ever in this position, insist upon a brain wave test before agreeing with the person is brain dead.  Even then, insist on pain-killers to be administered during the harvesting.

You should put this in your end-of-life  instructions as well.

If you haven't read What You Lose When You Sign That Organ Donor Card, you should

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

April 24, 2012

Chuck Colson, A Man Redeemed R.I.P.

I remember hating Colson when he worked for Nixon.  His famous quote, "If you grab them by the balls, the hearts and minds will follow" seemed to summarize his politics first learned in Massachusetts.  I distrusted his seemingly too easy conversion.  But in the years that followed his conversion, my admiration for his work grew the more I learned about it.
His life began again with his conversion and he to me is the perfect example of a life redeemed by grace.

The Denver Post Chuck Colson, political saboteur for President Nixon, dies at 80.

The New York Times, Charles W. Colson, Watergate Felon Who Became Evangelical Leader Dies at 80

Charles W. Colson, who as a political saboteur for President Richard M. Nixon masterminded some of the dirty tricks that led to the president’s downfall, then emerged from prison to become an important evangelical leader, saying he had been “born again,” died on Saturday in Falls Church, Va. He was 80.
In 1956, Mr. Colson went to Washington as an administrative assistant to Senator Leverett Saltonstall, a Massachusetts Republican. He met Nixon, who was then vice president, and became, in his words, a lifelong “Nixon fanatic.” The two men “understood each other,” Mr. Colson wrote in “Born Again,” his memoir. They were “prideful men seeking that most elusive goal of all — acceptance and the respect of those who had spurned us.”
A sympathetic biography, “Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed” (2005), by Jonathan Aitken, depicts him in these years as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, amoral man with three young children — Wendell Ball II, Christian and Emily Ann — and a failing marriage. He divorced his first wife and married Patricia Ann Hughes in 1964.

 Chuck Colson

On Chuck Colson:Can Reports See Past Watergate?

It’s pretty interesting to read the obituaries of Charles Colson by those who were alive during Watergate and those who weren’t. It’s clear that some reporters are stuck in the 1970s, apparently unaware of how the state of evangelicalism was shaped by Colson’s complex life and legacy.
Part of what seems to complicate the media’s relationship might be that the Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein are the real heroes for journalists coming out of Watergate. Someone like Colson, who had a conversion experience and spent time in jail, does not fit the narrative of who was on right side at that time

Chuck Colson found freedom in prison writes Michael Gerson

Following Chuck’s recent death, the news media — with short attention spans but long memories — have focused on the Watergate portion of his career. They preserve the image of a public figure at the moment when the public glare was harshest — a picture taken when the flash bulbs popped in 1974.
Many wondered at Chuck’s sudden conversion to Christianity. He seemed to wonder at it himself. He spent each day that followed, for nearly 40 years, dazzled by his own implausible redemption. It is the reason he never hedged or hesitated in describing his relationship with Jesus Christ. Chuck was possessed, not by some cause, but by someone.
It is the central paradox of Christianity that fulfillment starts in emptiness, that streams emerge in the desert, that freedom can be found in a prison cell. Chuck’s swift journey from the White House to a penitentiary ended a life of accomplishment — only to begin a life of significance.

From Watergate to Redemption

After Chuck Colson passed away on Saturday, obituaries naturally remembered him first and foremost as the lawyer and Watergate conspirator who went to jail for obstructing justice.  They also noted that, while in prison, he found Christ and dedicated himself to prison ministries.  Alas, the mainstream media can be so dismissive of faith that many saw him only as a political warrior of the religious right, instead of a man who lived his faith and bridged the chasm between parties with his message of forgiveness and redemption.
Colson took literally Christ’s command to visit and comfort those in prison, a ministry that middle-class congregations had previously ignored.  He got prisons to set aside wings or buildings for inmates who wanted to live in a structured, faith-based environment.  He got congregations to see it as part of their mission to partner with prisons and individual inmates, leading prison programming aimed at turning men’s lives around.  Most of all, he got law-abiding citizens on the outside to encounter inmates, face to face, not as nameless, faceless threats but as their brothers to be redeemed.
Concern for prisoners used to be the exclusive province of the left and the whipping boy of the right.  By the end of his life, Colson had laid the foundation for the left and religious right to come together to endorse restorative punishment followed by forgiveness.  He brought Christian forgiveness and mercy into discussions of criminal justice, helping to break the ratchet that inexorably jacked up sentences and permanently exiled wrongdoers irrespective of need or public safety.

Symposium on Colson's Life and Legacy

Charlotte Allen
Charles Colson’s 35-year career as an unabashed Christian and evangelizer to prisoners won my profound respect. He combined compassion for the incarcerated with a refreshing lack of sentimentality, and he refused to blame “society” for the self-destructive habits that landed criminals behind bars. Colson also had to take a lot of guff from the mainstream media over his supposedly opportunistic conversion in 1973, and he bore that with admirable patience and charity.

William Bennett
It may not be possible to count the ways mean-spirited liberals hated Chuck Colson. His muscular Christianity was one. His fortitude on behalf of “the least of these” made him a true servant-leader. He used his strength and conviction to speak out and work in behalf of the weak and defenseless outside prison and the stunted souls inside prison.

Michael Cromartie
My very first job out of college was working for Chuck Colson. He had just been released from prison and was starting a prison ministry. I was his first “research assistant/travel companion.” Chuck had been humbled and broken by his experience in prison and vowed when he left never to forget those he left behind. And he did not. Despite job offers that would have paid him seven figures after prison, he turned them all down to start Prison Fellowship Ministries.

Chuck Colson and Second Chances

Still, for nearly four full post-Watergate decades, Colson, who died this past Saturday at age 80, steadfastly practiced what he preached about prisons, prisoners and penal reform. Where criminal justice was concerned, he was God's good man, not Nixon's bad man. He gave his ministry most of his adult life and almost all of his money, including royalties on about two dozen books, speakers' fees, and the $1 million Templeton Prize for spiritual endeavors that he won in 1993. While maintaining his Break Point radio show, he worked endless hours raising the tens of millions of dollars a year that supported the ministry's operations.

In the 2000s alone, Colson's Prison Fellowship mobilized more than 10,000 volunteers to work in 1,329 prisons from coast to coast and also mustered nearly 15,000 volunteers each year to purchase Christmas gifts for more than 350,000 children of prisoners. Recognizing that about 700,000 prisoners are released each year, the Colson ministry created eight InnerChange Freedom Initiative prisoner re-entry programs across five states, and found jobs for about 60% of all IFI parolees.

But Colson's most consequential criminal-justice legacy is still in the making. He nearly single-handedly put America on a bipartisan path to zero prison growth. With another born-again ex-prisoner, former California state legislator Pat Nolan, he led the charge against states' mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders and for the federal government's Second Chance Act, which gives grants to nonprofit organizations that help ex-prisoners find jobs, get drug treatment, and reconnect with loved ones.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

Actor playing Judas in Passion Play dies from accidental hanging

A terribly tragic death.

Brazilian actor playing Judas dies in accidental hanging

A Brazilian actor has died after accidentally hanging himself while playing Judas in an Easter Passion play.

Tiago Klimeck, 27, was enacting the suicide of Judas during the performance on Good Friday in the city of Itarare.

The actor was hanging for four minutes before fellow performers realized something was wrong.

Klimeck was taken to hospital suffering from cerebral hypoxia but died on Sunday.

Klimeck was re-enacting the scene in which Judas commits suicide in repentance for his betrayal of Jesus Christ.

Police are investigating the apparatus that was meant to support Klimeck. It appears the knot may have been wrongly tied.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink

Researchers Explore Psychedelic Drugs for the Dying

Just in time for the boomers, the New York Times reports  How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death.

Researchers acknowledge that it’s not clear how psilocybin reduces a person’s anxiety about mortality, not simply during the trip but for weeks and months following. “It’s a bit of a mystery,” Grob says. “I don’t really have altogether a definitive answer as to why the drug eases the fear of death, but we do know that from time immemorial individuals who have transformative spiritual experiences come to a very different view of themselves and the world around them and thus are able to handle their own deaths differently.”

“On psychedelics,” Halpern says, “you have an experience in which you feel there is something you are a part of, something else is out there that’s bigger than you, that there is a dazzling unity you belong to, that love is possible and all these realizations are imbued with deep meaning. I’m telling you that you’re not going to forget that six months from now. The experience gives you, just when you’re on the edge of death, hope for something more.”

 Dying Alexgrey

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:35 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2012

Levon Helm, R.I.P.

 Theband Woodstockny-1
The Band, Woodstock, N.Y.  From left, Richard Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson

Levon Helm, Drummer and Rough-Throated Singer for the Band, Dies at 71

Levon Helm, who helped to forge a deep-rooted American music as the drummer and singer for the Band, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 71 and lived in Woodstock, N.Y.
In Mr. Helm’s drumming, muscle, swing, economy and finesse were inseparably merged. His voice held the bluesy, weathered and resilient essence of his Arkansas upbringing in the Mississippi Delta.

Mr. Helm was the American linchpin of the otherwise Canadian group that became Bob Dylan’s backup band and then the Band. Its own songs, largely written by the Band’s guitarist, Jaime Robbie Robertson, and pianist, Richard Manuel, spring from roadhouse, church, backwoods, river and farm; they are rock-ribbed with history and tradition yet hauntingly surreal.

After the Band broke up in 1976, Mr. Helm continued to perform at every opportunity, working with a partly reunited Band and leading his own groups. He also acted in films, notably “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980). In the 2000s he became a roots-music patriarch, turning his barn in Woodstock — which had been a recording studio since 1975 — into the home of down-home, eclectic concerts called Midnight Rambles, which led to tours and Grammy-winning albums.
Mark Lavon Helm was born on May 26, 1940, in Elaine, Ark., the son of a cotton farmer with land near Turkey Scratch, Ark. In his 1993 autobiography, “This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band,“ written with Stephen Davis, Mr. Helm said he was part Chickasaw Indian through his paternal grandmother. He grew up hearing live bluegrass, Delta blues, country and the beginnings of rock ’n’ roll; Memphis was just across the river.
His voice strengthened, and the core of his Midnight Ramble bands became a touring and recording group; it performed in 2009 at the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival on its site in Bethel, N.Y., although Mr. Helm was unable to sing that night. Mr. Helm’s 2007 and 2009 studio albums, “Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt,” won Grammy Awards, as did his 2011 “Ramble at the Ryman,” recorded live in Nashville and broadcast on PBS.

Nearly to the end, Mr. Helm spent his life on the bandstand. “If it doesn’t come from your heart,” he wrote, “music just doesn’t work.”

A wonderful video appreciation from the Wall St Journal's Jim Fusilli


London Telegraph obit

Regarded as one of rock’s greatest drumming polymaths — he also played mandolin, rhythm guitar and bass — Helm laid down a warm, dry “thuddy tom-tom” beat that drove The Band’s rootsy sound. With their stories of medicine shows and moonshine, many of his songs recalled his Deep South upbringing, notably The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up on Cripple Creek.

 Levon Helm 2011-1

Chicago Tribune obit

Levon Helm was the rarest of musical multi-taskers: an unflappable drummer and a singer who wrung soul out of every note. He also was a terrific team player and bandmate; he made the people around him sound good.

Helm was "the only drummer who could make you cry," critic Jon Carroll once wrote.

"It's nearly impossible to sing so smoothly and hit that hard at the same time," singer Neko Case wrote on Twitter this week.

In the Atlantic, Jack Hamilton says Levon Helm Was Perfect

Levon Helm, who died Thursday at age 71, might have been the greatest drummer to ever play rock and roll, a player of such boundless musicality and invention that his kit seemed to build and rebuild whole worlds. He was born in Marvell, Arkansas in 1940 and displayed astonishing talent from a young age. Upon graduating high school he joined the Hawks, a band fronted by rockabilly singer and fellow Arkansan Ronnie Hawkins. In 1959 Helm and Hawkins moved to Canada, and by the early 1960s had reassembled the Hawks with a collection of youngsters from southern Ontario: bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel, organist Garth Hudson, and guitarist Robbie Robertson.

Gerard Vanderleun of the  American Digest appreciates the man who sang , 'Vergil Caine is the name and I served on the Danville Train.        Do not miss the first clip.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:46 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2012

Death by Coca-Cola

Mother-of-eight died suddenly 'because she drank 18 pints of Coke a day'

 Natashaharris Death Cocacola

A mother-of-eight died suddenly because she drank 18 pints of Coca-Cola a day for years, an inquest has heard.

Natasha Marie Harris would go 'crazy' if she ran out of the fizzy drink which she guzzled by the bottle.

The 30 year-old died suddenly at her home in Invercargill on New Zealand's south island.

Her partner, Christopher Hodgkinson claimed it was a result of drinking too much Coca-Cola.
Mr Hodgkinson told the court that she had been unwell up to a year before her death, including vomiting six times a week, but they believed it was caused by the stress of looking after her eight children and gynecological problems.

'She drank at least 10 litres a day,' he said. 'As a family we would buy four 2.5 litres a day, the maximum on special.

An autopsy showed Miss Harris had a diseased liver but the cause of death was undetermined.

Her partner said he had been told she had a heart aneurysm caused by too much Coke.

Medical evidence stated that the main finding of death was from a cardiac arrhythmia.

Dr Dan Mornin told the court Miss Harris probably had severe hypokalemia, a lack of potassium in the blood, relating to excessive consumption of soft-drink.

He said although it was difficult to confirm this from postmortem tests, it was consistent with her symptoms of tiredness and lack of strength and other cases of heavy soft-drink consumers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

Actress beheaded by fellow actors

Aspiring Bollywood actress beheaded and thrown into a tank 'by actors she befriended on film set'

Meenakshi Thapa, 26, was kidnapped and beheaded last month by Amit Jaiswal and his lover Preeti Surin in an attempt to receive a ransom payment.

She had met the pair on the set of Madhur Bhandarkar's yet-to-be-released film Heroine, where she had a bit-part role.

Thapa's mother is believed to have paid 60,000 (£730) Rupees for her release, but never saw her daughter again.

A detective told The Telegraph: 'They wanted to extort money from her family. They have confessed to the crime. She was strangled in a hotel and her body was hacked into pieces and thrown in a water tank.

'They threw her head from a moving bus while traveling back to Mumbai.'
Jaiswal and Surin confessed the crime to the Mumbai Police after their arrest on Saturday night and said they were taken in by Thapa's pretentious stories about her 'affluent family'.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

April 19, 2012

Fakhra Younus who gave a face to thousands of Pakistani women disfigured by 'honor' attacks

The Telegraph has a powerful and moving obituary of Fakhra Younus who committed suicide at 33 after 39 major operations to save her face after she escaped the sustained abuse by her husband to return to her mother.  Feeling dishonored, her husband found her and attacked her with acid.

 Fakhra Younus

Fakhra Younus, the face of thousands of Pakistani women who are disfigured by men who want to restore their family honor.

May she rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

April 17, 2012

Death by Swan

Killer Swan Blamed for Man’s Drowning

An angry swan is being blamed for knocking a man out of his kayak in a Chicago pond and then continuing to attack until the man drowned.

Anthony Hensley, 37, of Villa Park, Ill., worked for a company called Knox Swan & Dog which used swans and dogs to keep geese off the condominium’s properties.

Hensley was in a kayak on the condo’s retention pond checking on the animals Saturday morning when one of the swans swam at him, causing him to fall out of his kayak into the water.

Frank Bilecki of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, told ABCNews.com that Hensley struggled to stay above water.  Two witnesses saw Hensley resurface a few times in the pond and called police, but by the time crews arrived he had been fully submerged. He was not wearing a life vest, Bilecki said.

The Chicago Sun Times reported that while Hensley struggled in the water, the swan continued to harass Hensley.
Dive teams pulled Hensley, a husband and father of two, from the water, but he was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly after.

Investigators believe Hensley had traveled too close to the swan or swan’s nesting area, prompting the attack.  Family and friends are puzzled.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 AM | Permalink

April 16, 2012

Four perfect questions for doctors when discussing the end of life

4 perfect questions when facing an end of life situation

She told Dr. Gawande that there are four questions she mentally carries around that guide her through the difficult but important conversations. And those conversations are not about sophisticated hard choices or last minute “epiphanies.” Instead, they are about the process of understanding hopes and fears.

Here are her four questions:

Do you understand your prognosis? What are your fears about what is to come? What are your goals as time runs out? What trade offs are you willing to make?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:20 PM | Permalink

From atheist to believer in one near-death experience

A very clear and detailed recount of a near-death experience.

As I lay dying a voice said: ‘Let’s go’

Howard Storm was an atheist until he had an extraordinary near-death experience. After that, everything changed. Indeed, he is now a Christian minister. His book, My Descent into Death, shot to prominence globally after the novelist Anne Rice called it “a book you devour from cover to cover, and pass on to others”.

She added that “Storm was meant to write it and we were meant to read it.”


“I was lying there, when I heard a voice say: ‘Pray to God.’ I said: ‘I don’t pray. I don’t believe in God.’ Then, it came a second time; and a third: ‘Pray to God.’

“So, tried to think of a prayer. I started to mumble some things. A mention of God came into a few of these phrases. With each mention the people around me became very, very angry, and started screaming at me: ‘There is no God’ and ‘Nobody can hear you.’ It angered them so much that they were retreating from me. The mention of God was unbearable to them.” Encouraged, he mumbled other jumbled half-remembered phrases: “Glory, glory hallelujah, God Bless America, Our Father who art in heaven…”

“I felt that there was some kind of justice in the universe and that if you lead a miserable life you go down the sewer pipe of the universe into the septic tank. And that’s where I was. Yet I knew I hadn’t been flushed down into the deeper part, just yet.

“In that state of hopelessness I had a memory of myself as a child in Sunday school, singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’. I also had a vivid feeling of being a child and feeling that there was a wonderful God-man named Jesus who was my friend and who loved me. With real sincerity, I called out: ‘Jesus, please save me.’ With that, a tiny light appeared in the darkness and it came down over me. Out of this light came two hands. They reached down and touched me, and all the gore and filth that was me just fell away.

“In two or three seconds I was healed and filled with an indescribable love. In this world there is no equivalent to that kind of love. These arms picked me up and brought me into this brilliant light. I was held against the body of this man. I knew that he was Jesus. I cried.

“We were moving straight up, faster and faster towards the world of light. It dawned on me then that everything I had believed in was wrong, and I was going to where God lived. I thought: ‘They’ve made a terrible mistake. I don’t deserve this. I’m garbage.’”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

Getting an obituary published in The New York Times

Someone Dies. But That Is Only the Beginning.

THEY pour in by the dozens every day: reports of the dead from near and far. Daniel Slotnik, a news assistant, handles them, including the heartfelt pleas from family members hoping their departed loved one will be elevated to that special form of life after death: an obituary in The New York Times.
as Mr. McDonald put it: “Death is just the news peg. It’s the lives that make it interesting.”
Appreciating a life in the context of its own time is essential. It was Mr. Vitello who wrote the Iowa butter-cow lady obit. He noted it wasn’t just her quirky story that made Norma Lyon interesting. He saw her as a woman of her time (born in 1929), with an artistic bent but few career paths open. So she became the official sculptor, in butter, of cows — and once, of a diorama of the Last Supper — at the Iowa State Fair.

Then she lived on in the Times obituary archive, where resides a most unusual collection of the powerful and the brilliant and those who were saved by a writer’s touch.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2012

Things I didn't know about the Titanic

There are thousands who "Just found out Titanic really happened!'  Brittany tweets, "Nobody told me titanic was real:/I thought it was just another movie I haven't seen."

Father Thomas Byles, a Catholic priest who gave up two spots on a lifeboat to stay behind and hear confessions.

Agnes McCoy, one of the survivors, says that as the great ship sank, Fr. Byles “stood on the deck with Catholics, Protestants and Jews kneeling around him.”

“Father Byles was saying the rosary and praying for the repose of the souls of those about to perish,” she told the New York Telegram on April 22, 1912, according to the website devoted to his memory, FatherByles.com.

Did anti-Catholic sentiment help doom the unsinkable ship?

Harland and Wolff, the East Belfast shipyard  where the ship was manufactured, was notorious for not hiring Catholics.In the 1900’s the workforce was entirely  Protestant and virulently anti -Catholic.

“At Harland and Wolff it was not unknown for workers to paint on the sides of ships under construction the words “NO POPE” in letters ten feet high or more,” writes naval historian David Allen Butler.

There were widespread stories that each rivet hammered into the Titanic was accompanied by a ‘f.. the pope epithet

Daily Mail archives reveal how Britain learned of the Titanic disaster

The BBC News on Five Titanic myths spread by films

Neoneocon on the complex truth behind Class and gender on the Titanic

there is no escaping the conclusion that gender was an even greater factor than class, and that this was deliberate: Many first-class male passengers either elected to die in order that third class female passengers might live, or were forced by the crew to refrain from saving themselves at the expense of those third class women. That’s a different–and more accurate–narrative, although it’s not quite as politically correct. And it’s one that has gotten very little traction over the years.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

He enjoyed 'booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died'

What you can say if you write your own obituary and pay for it.

He enjoyed 'booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died': Unusual obituary becomes internet sensation

 Michael "Flathead" Blanchard

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 AM | Permalink

Miami mourns its Cuban "Saint"

"A Holy Man, A 'Friend of God'" -- Miami Mourns Its Cuban "Saint"

Bishop Agustín Román -- the retired Miami auxiliary revered as the "godfather" of the Cuban exile community on these shores -- died Wednesday night at 83.

Expelled from the island at gunpoint alongside some 130 other clerics in the wake of the Castro Revolution, Román served as the exile's spiritual "beacon" in South Florida since the late 1960s, when he was charged with building the National Shrine to Cuba's patroness, the Caridad de Cobre. Named the US' first Cuban bishop in 1979, he continued to live in a one-room apartment at the Ermita -- built facing Cuba on Miami's Biscayne Bay -- following his 2003 retirement, and died there just before he was to teach an evening catechism class in a new facility on its grounds that bears his name.

Famed for an example of deep humility, tireless spirit and simple wisdom, the prelate (who never stopped perceiving himself as the "peasant" of his boyhood) made national headlines in 1987 after defusing an outbreak of riots in US prisons led by Cuban detainees. Having cared for many of the rioters' family members over the years of their confinement -- a witness that, so it's said, led the men to drop their weapons at the mere sight of him -- Román reportedly declined Hollywood overtures to buy the rights to the story for a film.

 Bishop Augustin Roman

Miami Herald

"He was a saint to me," said Silvia Gonzalez, 66, who went to school with Román in Cuba and had since kept in touch. "He devoted his entire life to God. He never even took a vacation."

Gonzalez last saw Román at a Mass during Holy Week.

"We've lost someone who was tremendous," Gonzalez said, her eyes filling up with tears. "But from Heaven, he'll be with me -- and all Cubans."

A humble, gentle man with an iron will and a steadfast moral compass, he was viewed by older Cuban exiles as a champion of freedom and faith
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:32 AM | Permalink

April 14, 2012

Britian's "odd relationship with grief"

As a nation we have developed an odd relationship with grief. It’s not just that we are fascinated by tragedies; we are deeply moved by our own reaction to them.

Damian Thompson on The celebration of grief

This is where those teddy bears come into the picture. The soft toys weren’t intended as comfort for the families of two horribly murdered girls. Their purpose was to provide emotional satisfaction for the people who sent them – a “personal” tribute to Holly and Jessica by members of the public who, a decade later, probably have difficulty remembering their names.

When Diana, Princess of Wales died, some critics were appalled by the “mourning sickness” symbolized by the mountains of flowers. That’s harsh, given that the public felt that they knew Diana. But there’s no getting away from it: some of those bouquets gave off the same aroma of narcissism as the teddies.

Although the vicarious grief over Diana was unusually intense, it was a classic demonstration of post-religious spirituality. The same goes for the outpouring of sympathy for Fabrice Muamba, a footballer few people had heard of before he collapsed.

Modern Westerners, including Christians, no longer believe in the supernatural in the taken-for-granted fashion of our ancestors. Confronted by major life events, we find solace in our own compassion.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2012

Artist of the Doll Hospital dies

Michael Leeden pens a wonderful tribute to Luigi Grassi, artist and manager of  Ospedale delle Bambole,  the Doll Hospital in Naples.

You never heard of Luigi “Gigi” Grassi, but he was a great man, a dear friend, and an indispensable guide for me, and I must honor and mourn him here.  I dedicated my study of Neapolitan creativity to him and his daughter, Tiziana, the artists who have managed the legendary “Doll Hospital” in the heart of Naples.  Tiziana called a couple of hours ago, with the sad news that Gigi has passed away.
The Ospedale was founded by Luigi’s grandfather–also Luigi–in 1800.  Grandpa was a set designer for a famous puppet theater in town, and he repaired some of the injured puppets, leaving them outside his shop to dry.  One day a woman passed by and said “wow, it looks like a doll hospital,” and that was that.

The Ospedale is located on one of Naples’ most famous streets, known as “Spaccanapoli” (shatter Naples) because it runs in an absolutely straight line (the Romans did it, natch) through the center of town.  It’s a couple of blocks from the street where the locals create and sell creche figures at Christmastime, everything from the participants in the Nativity to contemporary politicians, a true artisans’ quarter, with baroque palaces and churches mixed in.  And Gigi was one of the most beloved characters.

 Luigi Grassi Doll Hospital

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 PM | Permalink

Last Civil War veteran buried

Civil War vet to be laid to rest -- 88 years after death

He was the youngest of 13 children, and the last one to die. And so, after he passed away, his remains laid unclaimed for 88 years. 

Alice Knapp's curiosity about her own family tree led her to Peter Knapp's remains. She still remembers taking possession of the box Peter's remains are in.

"It was a gold box -- both he and his wife were placed in this gold box," Alice Knapp said. "It had a ribbon around it and it had a seal on it."

Peter volunteered for the Union Army in 1861 as part of the 5th Iowa Infantry. Captured by confederates at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, he survived the notorious Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp.

After the war he moved to the Longview-Kelso area. His obituary says he died there, in the arms of his wife, April 13, 1924. 

His remains were sent to the Old Portland Crematorium, which is now Wilhelm's Funeral Home at Southeast 14th Avenue. When Knapp’s wife Georgianna died in 1930, her remains also were cremated in Portland and placed next to those of her husband.

For all these years their boxed-up remains have sat on a shelf, unclaimed until now.

On Friday Peter and his wife will finally be buried. They will be laid to rest at Willamette National Cemetery, the military burial ground on Portland's Mount Scott. Peter will be the only Civil War veteran laid to rest here. 

Alice says the burial service will help bring her family closer, and link them a little more to their past. And Alice hopes, in some unknown way, it also will bring some satisfaction to Peter -- 88 years to the day after he died.

"This is really just overwhelming -- really," Knapp told KOIN. "I think he and his wife would have some kind of satisfaction in being laid next to each other."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:02 PM | Permalink

April 11, 2012

"I fell to my knees when I saw her"

 Analia Bouter+Husband

Analia Bouter finds 'stillborn' baby ALIVE in morgue 12 hours after she was pronounced dead.

A 'stillborn' baby was found alive in a drawer in a hospital morgue by her distressed mother 12 hours after the girl was declared dead, it emerged today.

Analia Bouter was 26 weeks pregnant when she gave birth to her fifth child prematurely at a hospital in Resistencia, in Argentina's northern Chaco province.

But after medical staff told her that the infant was born with no vital signs, her distraught parents went home with a death certificate.

Twelve hours later, Mrs Bouter and her husband decided to go to see their baby's body, which was being kept in a refrigerated drawer at the Perrando hospital morgue.

She  told Argentina's Clarin newspaper: ‘That night, we went to the morgue. We wanted to take a photo of our daughter.

'But when a worker opened the drawer, we heard a cry and she was alive.’

She said she ‘stepped back and fell to my knees’ after she ‘saw her stretching,' the mother added.

My baby was born at 10.24am and at 11.05am was already in the drawer. She spent 12 hours in the freezing cold of that morgue. I saw for myself the ice on her body.’
She said: ‘At first the doctors said that she was born dead, then said she had died shortly after birth because she was too small to survive.

‘I don't know who is to blame, and I'm not thinking about it at this moment. The joy of knowing she's alive is covering every other feeling. I'm a Christian, and I believe this was a miracle of God.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

His Heroic Last Year

Ulysses S. Grant, Commander of the Union Army and President for two terms, became embroiled in a Ponzi scheme that wiped out his entire fortune.  Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with terminal mouth and throat cancer. 

Wanting to leave his widow financially secure, he rushed to write his account of the war, something he had no interest in before he was financially ruined.

Ray Nothsine reviews  Grant's Final Victory

As he toiled away with his pen, sometimes writing as many as 25 – 50 pages a day, The New York Times and publications across the country offered daily updates on Grant’s condition. His suffering was immense. His throat had to be constantly swabbed with cocaine to relieve the pain. As the illness progressed, it literally began to suffocate him and he would often wake at night in a panic, trying to gasp for air. Just swallowing was especially agonizing.
Grant received an abundance of personal letters and well wishes from North and South. He felt his illness was helping to further heal the sectional divide and noted as much.
Grant had his share of well wishers in the South because of the respect he showed for General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox and the brave men of the Army of Northern Virginia. Grant also later intervened on Lee’s behalf when President Andrew Johnson and others in the federal government wanted to arrest Lee and have him tried and hung for treason.
Grant died three days after completing his memoirs in 1885. He dedicated the publication to the “American soldier and sailor.” When it was suggested that maybe he should change the dedication so that it read “the Union soldier and sailor,” he declined.
The well wishes poured in for one of the most beloved leaders in American history. Church bells across the country chimed 63 times, one for each year of Grant’s life. The former Confederate General James P. Longstreet called him “the soul of honor,” adding that Grant “was the highest type of manhood America has produced.”

His funeral procession was 7 miles long.

Charles Bracelen Flood is the author of Grant's Final Victory available at Amazon.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:44 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2012

Suicide Forest and Dying a Lonely Death

The suicide forest of Japan: Mount Fuji beauty spot where up to 100 bodies are found every year

The Aokigahara Forest is a lonely place to die.

So dense is the vegetation at the foot of Japan's Mount Fuji, it is all too easy to disappear among the evergreens and never be seen again.

Each year the authorities remove as many as 100 bodies found hanging at the country's suicide hotspot - but others can lie undiscovered for years.

Exactly why so many choose to end their lives in the forest remains something of a mystery, though it has been suggested that the first among them were inspired by a novel set there.

 Suicide Forest

Mr Hayano, for all his familiarity with death, appears shaken. His job has given him a unique perspective on those who kill themselves.

For him, suicide in Japan has changed over the years. Whereas it was once the preserve of samurai, who would commit ritual 'harakiri' to preserve their honor, today it is merely a mark of social isolation in the modern world.

'I think it's impossible to die heroically by committing suicide,' he says.

Mr Hayano believes it is a symptom of an increasingly impersonal and lonely way of life that emerged with the internet.

He adds: 'Now we can live our lives being online all day. However, the truth of the matter is we still need to see each other's faces, read their expressions, hear their voices so we can fully understand their emotions - to coexist.'

In Japan "kodokushi" means "lonely death" something I learned while reading a piece in the New York Times, Afraid of Dying Alone.

In February, a 45-year-old woman and her mentally disabled four-year-old son were discovered dead in their Tokyo apartment. Authorities believe the mother passed away from a stroke a month or two previously, and the boy, emaciated when recovered, had subsequently starved to death. Last month, an 87-year-old woman living in a private apartment in a retirement complex was found collapsed and dead in her bathroom an estimated one week after her demise.
Of course, not every death alone should be classified as “lonely.” In fact, Japanese government and academic papers tend to use a more emotionally neutral term, “koritsu chi,” which means isolated death. 

The media frenzy likely reflects the country’s ongoing struggle to fill the void in the safety net left by the breakdown of once-strong family and neighborhood ties. There is also confusion about how to get a population that often wants to keep personal difficulties private to reach out to social services.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 AM | Permalink

April 9, 2012

'They killed that woman. They killed her and kept going.'

Driver charged with hitting woman, 58, in wheelchair who was run over by THREE vehicles and left to die...on the same road she lost her leg in hit-and-run 25 years ago

All three drivers fled the scene in Philadelphia

'They killed that woman. They killed her and kept going.'

In another hit and run, Heroic grandmother dies after pushing grandson out of the path of hit and run driver on their way back from church

I'll tag the first, No Way to Go and the second, a Great Legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2012

'This is a dignified end before I have to start scrounging food from the trash'

'This is a dignified end before I have to start scrounging food from the trash': Desperate man, 77, shoots himself dead outside Greek parliament during rush hour.

A cash-strapped Greek pensioner shot and killed himself outside parliament in Athens today after saying he refused to scrounge for food in the rubbish.

The public suicide by the 77-year-old retired pharmacist quickly triggered an outpouring of sympathy in a country where one in five is jobless and a sense of national humiliation has accompanied successive rounds of salary and pension cuts.

After becoming desperate at his financial plight, the Greek pensioner is said to have put a handgun to his head in the busy central Athens square before declaring, 'So I won't leave debts for my children', and pulling the trigger.

 Greek Age77 Suicide

How terribly sad.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

Human sacrifice in modern day Mexico

This is an horrific story about human sacrifice in modern day Mexico.

Cult of the 'Holy Death': Eight arrested in Mexico after woman and two 10-year-old boys are 'ritually sacrificed'

The 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death) cult in Mexico places great importance on the dead

Eight people have been arrested in northern Mexico have over the killing of two 10-year-old boys and a woman in what appears to be ritual sacrifices.

Prosecutors in Sonora, in the north-west of the country have accused the suspects of belonging to the La Santa Muerte (Holy Death) cult.

The victims' blood has been poured round an altar to the idol, which is portrayed as a skeleton holding a scythe and clothed in flowing robes.

The cult, which celebrates death, has been growing rapidly in Mexico in the last 20 years, and now has up to two million followers.
Mr Larrinaga said the murders took place at a ritual during the night, lit by candles.

'They sliced open the victims' veins and, while they were still alive, they waited for them to bleed to death and collected the blood in a container,' he said.

Many of those arrested belonged to the same family, reports said.

Silvia Meraz, one of the suspects, and her son, Ramon Palacios, were allegedly leaders of the cult, according to prosecutors.  Speaking to reporters, she said: 'We all agreed to do it. Supposedly she [one of the victims] was a witch or something.'

Human sacrifice has existed from the beginning of human history.  I thought immediately of Father Barron who says in his review of The Hunger Games that as society de-Christianizes, you can expect human sacrifice to return.

Brian Greene explains Rene Girard's theory of scapegoat and sacrifice - 'something is wrong and somebody has to pay for it,'  reality-TV, and Christ's sacrifice which exposed the scapegoating ritual thus ending it in Christendom.

You can read Shirley Jackson's story of The Lottery online.  One teacher who has taught the story over 20 years noticed a disturbing change in the attitude of the students.  Archbishop Chaput writes 

A few years ago, a college writing professor, Kay Haugaard, wrote an essay about her experiences teaching “The Lottery” over a period of about two decades.

She said that in the early 1970s, students who read the story voiced shock and indignation. The tale led to vivid conversations on big topics -- the meaning of sacrifice and tradition; the dangers of group-think and blind allegiance to leaders; the demands of conscience and the consequences of cowardice.

Sometime in the mid-1990s, however, reactions began to change.

Haugaard described one classroom discussion that -- to me -- was more disturbing than the story itself. The students had nothing to say except that the story bored them. So Haugaard asked them what they thought about the villagers ritually sacrificing one of their own for the sake of the harvest.

One student, speaking in quite rational tones, argued that many cultures have traditions of human sacrifice. Another said that the stoning might have been part of “a religion of long standing,” and therefore acceptable and understandable.

An older student who worked as a nurse, also weighed in. She said that her hospital had made her take training in multicultural sensitivity. The lesson she learned was this: “If it’s a part of a person’s culture, we are taught not to judge.”
Haugaard’s experience teaches us that it took less than a generation for this catechesis to produce a group of young adults who were unable to take a moral stand against the ritual murder of a young woman. Not because they were cowards.  But because they lost their moral vocabulary.

Haugaard’s students seemingly grew up in a culture shaped by practical atheism and moral relativism. In other words, they grew up in an environment that teaches, in many different ways, that God is irrelevant, and that good and evil, right and wrong, truth and falsehood can’t exist in any absolute sense.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

Death by police recorded by medical alert device

Killed at home;  Killed at Home: White Plains, NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Dead Black Veteran, 68

Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old African-American Marine veteran, was fatally shot in November by White Plains, NY, police who responded to a false alarm from his medical alert pendant. The officers broke down Chamberlain’s door, tasered him, and then shot him dead. Audio of the entire incident was recorded by the medical alert device in Chamberlain’s apartment.

We’re joined by family attorneys and Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., who struggles through tears to recount his father’s final moments, including the way police officers mocked his father’s past as a marine. "For them to look at my father that way, (with) no regard for his life, every morning I think about it," he says.

Condolences to his family.  May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 AM | Permalink

The Astonishing Toll of the Civil War

A new analysis ups the number of the Civil War dead by 20% , an equivalent to 6.2 million deaths today.

U.S. Civil War Took Bigger Toll Than Previously Estimated, New Analysis Suggests

Historian David Hacker says

"The traditional estimate has become iconic.  It's been quoted for the last hundred years or more. If you go with that total for a minute -- 620,000 -- the number of men dying in the Civil War is more than in all other American wars from the American Revolution through the Korean War combined. And consider that the American population in 1860 was about 31 million people, about one-tenth the size it is today. If the war were fought today, the number of deaths would total 6.2 million."
Like earlier estimates, Hacker's includes men who died in battle as well as soldiers who died as a result of poor conditions in military camps.

"Roughly two out of three men who died in the war died from disease," Hacker says. "The war took men from all over the country and brought them all together into camps that became very filthy very quickly." Deaths resulted from diarrhea, dysentery, measles, typhoid and malaria, among other illnesses.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

April 2, 2012

"To acknowledge the dignity of every human life"

Deacon Greg points to this extraordinary undertaking

For the last two years, Lafayette Catholic Service Centers have been working towards burying the unclaimed at the Lafayette Parish Coroner’s office. 

This unexpected journey began when Kimberly Boudreaux, Executive Director at Lafayette Catholic Service Centers, contacted the coroner’s office to claim a formerly homeless man, whom I had befriended at St. Joseph Shelter. Within that phone call she learned that Brian was one of many who had been left at the coroner’s office for an extended period of time unclaimed, unidentified or simply unwanted. She was told that some of the 70+ remains had been unclaimed and stored for longer than ten years.  Through a partnership with Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Lafayette Catholic Service Centers were able to claim these individuals and plan a proper burial. 

The funeral and burial for 87 people has been scheduled for April 28th at 10:00am at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.  Bishop Michael Jarrell will conduct the service and residents of St. Joseph Shelter for Men will serve as pallbearers. There will be a wake from 9:00am – 10:00am with a rosary lead by the Missionaries of Charity. Internment will follow at the Cathedral Cemetery, where will honor those who were veterans with a graveside military service. In an attempt to create an ecumenical service, we are inviting ministers of other faiths to participate in the service. The service will be open to the public to attend.

The intent of this project is to acknowledge the value and dignity of every human life. To show the homeless, and those who feel forgotten among us today that we are community that cares for its neighbors. No one will go unclaimed in Lafayette.

This is a wonderful work of mercy and an example that could be followed across the country.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink