May 31, 2012

Body jars reveal a previously unknown ancient people

A previously unknown ancient people in Cambodia have been discovered by their funeral practices.

The lost tribe of Cambodia: Mysterious 'body jars' buried on cliffs in death rituals by 'previously unknown ancient people'

Perched on cliff edges, jars and wooden coffins containing human remains offer tantalizing evidence of a completely unknown ancient people in Cambodia. Ten burial spots have been found by archaeologists in the past nine years, one 160ft above the ground.

'The idea,' says researcher Nancy Beavan in an interview with National Geographic, 'was that anyone trying to disturb the burials would break their neck.'


Beavan's team from New Zealand's University of Otago have radiocarbon dated the remains to between A.D. 1395 and 1650. Dr Beavan, who is currently in Cambodia, says that this period coincides with the decline and fall of the powerful Kingdom of Angkor - builders of the famous Angkor Wat temples - which was seated in the lowlands.

‘Funeral practices in the Angkor Kingdom and its successors involved cremation rather than anything remotely like those found at sites we are studying.

This stark difference suggests that, in cultural terms, these unidentified mountain dwellers were a 'world apart' from their lowland contemporaries.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:33 PM | Permalink

May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Away at my college reunion this past week, I didn't have a chance to read Memorial Day posts until late today.  But my gratitude for those who died in the service of their country is bottomless.

These were my favorites.

From the U,K, Tim Stanley writes about Memorial Day in America, the greatest country in the world

The USA is unique in that it was founded on an idea. That’s why I’ve headlined this piece with the controversial statement that it’s the “greatest country in the world.” To qualify: Britain is clearly God’s garden, but it belongs only to the British. America, because it is founded on the universal principle of free will, belongs to humanity. It can assimilate any individual, family or entire culture because the principle is so much more powerful than the nationality of the person who integrates into it. As a Briton living in America – even without being a citizen – I feel more American than British on the strength of enjoying free speech, a free market, the free exchange of ideas, freedom of faith. Most importantly, I am unencumbered by the European poison of class.

Neoneocon has a terrifically moving song and video by Tim McGraw I had never heard before, If You're Reading This

So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul is where my momma always prayed that it would go
If you’re reading’ this
If you’re reading’ this
I’m already home

And the modern modern photograph that continues to haunt by Todd Heisler

It is the one and only photo that makes me cry each time I see it.



Remembrance, which may seem a modest contribution in the moment, is a sacred act with long-term payoff — a singularly human gift that keeps on giving, year after war-fatigued year.

And a stunning image from the past, comprised of 18,000 men preparing for war in 1918 at Camp Dodge in Iowa via Jim Hoft

 Camp-Dodge Memorialday

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2012

Deathbed Confessions

Richard Fernandez on Crossing the Bar

When Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who told author Charles Brandt where, how, and when he put Hoffa down he was near the point of death. Sheeran, who was suffering from cancer, said he had just enough time to square things with God. “During his final illness … he told me he had made his confession and received communion from a visiting priest … the following day, a week or so before he lost strength and stamina, Frank Sheeran asked me to pray with him, to say the Lord’s Prayer and and Hail Mary with him, which we did together.”

Hugo Chavez, facing the prospect of personal extinction, temporarily forgot his Marxism and begged Jesus to grant him life. Richard “the Iceman” Kulinski, who worked as a hitman for the Mafia and killed and sometimes tortured people for fun, also got the urge to confess in face of a terminal illness.  Recently, a man confessed to murdering six year old Etan Patz in 1979 after learning that he was dying from cancer.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, confessed to police that he lured Patz to his death with the promise of a soda. He took police back to the basement of a Manhattan boedga and showed them where he claimed he strangled Patz …
What is it about dying that motivates people to confess to crimes on their deathbed? A cynical person might argue it is nothing but the same self interest that motivated them in life. After all when a person has reached a point essentially beyond any effective human retribution what downside is there to admitting to any crime?
People who gone through life outsmarting their marks might be making a mistake by thinking they were still playing the same game. What mathematics tell us about phase changes and broken symmetry is that the rules which govern transitions are anything but simple. They are driven by considerations which are not only subtle, but non-obvious.
Perhaps John von Neumann, who was the most rational of persons, got it right. “While at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he invited a Roman Catholic priest, Father Anselm Strittmatter, O.S.B., to visit him for consultation. This move shocked some of von Neumann’s friends in view of his reputation as an agnostic. Von Neumann, however, is reported to have said in explanation that Pascal had a point, referring to Pascal’s wager.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

May 24, 2012

First the Funeral, then the Wedding

Woman who 'came back from the dead' in car crash mistaken identity case weds in the church where her funeral was held

A young woman whose family mistakenly believed she had died in a car crash married in the same church where hundreds once mourned at her funeral.  The family of Whitney Cerak, 25, initially believed she had been one of five victims killed when their mini-van was struck by a tractor in 2006.

Another family kept a 24-hour vigil around Miss Cerak, believing it was their daughter Laura VanRyn due to the extent of the young woman's injuries following the collision in Indiana.  The two teenagers both had blonde hair and were around the same height. The young woman who survived suffered facial swelling, broken bones and cuts and bruises, and was in a neck brace.

Several weeks after the crash, Miss Cerak's family held a funeral for her which was attended by hundreds of friends and family.Then, five weeks after the crash, the sister of 22-year-old Laura VanRyn noticed that her sibling's teeth looked different  - and the horrifying mistake was discovered.

 Funeral First Then Wedding

Whitney, now 25, went on to marry her boyfriend Matt Wheeler, who had helped her recover from the accident. The couple wed in the same church in Gaylord, Indiana where the Cerak family once held her funeral.

Four weeks ago, Mrs Wheeler gave birth to the couple's first son Zachary Thomas. There is yet another challenge for the family to face - Mr Wheeler serves in the U.S. army and is due to deploy to Afghanistan in two weeks. Whitney said: 'This will be a whole different level of hard.'

What an amazing second chance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

May 21, 2012

Losing sight of the fact that living a good life includes a good death

Let's not be afraid to talk about death writes the Archbishop of York.

In a society where people are living longer and medical science is enabling us to add more years to our span of life, we should not have to live in fear – we should celebrate and live life to the full. But in evading one of the most important discussions of our lives, we lose sight of the fact that a good death is also part of a good life.

Until this Monday morning you were probably not thinking about the meaning of life and the inevitability of death. Why would you? Even when there is time to sit back and consider the important things in life, we very rarely talk about death, even though sooner or later it catches up with all of us, regardless of our ethnic background or status. Death is the most democratic of all happenings.
I speak to you now not as an archbishop, but as a grieving son who nursed and watched his mother die a long and painful death from throat cancer. The surgeon did a marvelous operation. She was with us for two more years.  But then, after a week in Trinity Hospice, with me at her bedside, my mother gently passed from this life, through death, to be with Christ. This time, though difficult, was actually very important to us. Our two children, aged 15 and 10, said: “Grandma is so peaceful. We haven’t lost her: she has simply departed from us. We will see her.” The look on their faces was awe-inspiring.

Hospice care is about providing a good listening friend for the journey. It is help for our fears and feelings of uncertainty. It’s also about addressing our wholeness; we need spiritual, social and medical care. For the army of volunteers, the doctors, the nurses and for all those who share the benefit of their expertise to help alleviate pain and suffering of patients and their families, I give thanks today.

We all have to die, but we can go some way towards dying with dignity if we first articulate our choices, such as the place where we want to die, the kind of spiritual support we may want, how we wish to be cared for and what our funeral plans may be. The Book of Common Prayer includes the exhortation to make a will – we should take this seriously. This may include whether to be an organ donor. Even choosing hymns for the funeral, songs or readings can help family members already trying to come to terms with their loss.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

Bankrupt scoundrel lawyer

Lawyer plundered his ailing aunts' £400,000 estate by changing their wills and 'decimating' their bank accounts

A solicitor plundered the estate of his elderly aunts and changed their wills when they were in hospital, a court heard yesterday. Michael Harris took advantage of the poor health of Hannah Harris and Rosette Harris Emmanuel to claim a third of their £400,000 estate.  He is also accused of using the power of attorney the two women granted him to empty their bank accounts.  Both disliked him and wanted all their money to go to his niece and nephew.

Yesterday a judge at the High Court in London overturned both new wills, saying there was considerable doubt that either woman had the capacity to agree to the changes.  But the court heard that the siblings, Sara Cushway and Sebastian Elliot, are unlikely to receive any money because their uncle decimated the estate and is now bankrupt.  Instead, they will have to apply to a fund which compensates victims of dishonest solicitors.

The elderly sisters – both former nurses living together in Southsea, Hampshire – were in hospital in failing health in January 2006 when Harris drafted the new wills.  Rosette died of cancer just two weeks later at the age of 84, while her sister, who was showing signs of Alzheimer’s, died a year later at 91.

Their great-niece and great-nephew challenged the wills as well as Harris’s alleged frittering away of their two-thirds share….After giving judgment, the judge directed that the case papers be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Harris, who practised in Southsea, is bankrupt and was last year suspended for two years by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for breaching a series of rules relating to accounts, costs and professional conduct. Last night Mrs Cushway said she had no idea of her uncle’s involvement until after her aunts’ deaths.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:33 AM | Permalink

Death by fish pie

Grandmother's trusted recipe triggered a fatal bout of food poisoning

A grandmother who cooked the same fish pie recipe for years died after the dish gave her food poisoning.

Alwyn Kelly, 66, ate the meal with her husband Frank but soon after both had upset stomachs.

While Mr Kelly recovered quickly, his wife briefly rallied but then began to hallucinate and was admitted to hospital. Three weeks later, she died of multiple organ failure, with doctors unable to treat the infection.

At an inquest this week, a coroner found that Mrs Kelly was killed by her  favorite fish dish.

Her husband told the hearing that on the night of July 8 last year she made her usual pie with fresh ingredients.

Mr Kelly said the meal tasted normal but that evening both  suffered upset stomachs, with his wife vomiting through the night.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

May 17, 2012

How NDE's affect people's outlooks

Near-death experiences alter outlooks of people

Here are some gleanings of what people have learned:

They speak of being received by a being of light and of overwhelming, total love and absolute knowledge. They do not question the reality of a loving God. They felt enveloped in his love. They were asked to give an accounting of their lives. They were given an understanding that they had a purpose in life and needed to return to fulfill that purpose which was to be more loving toward their families and all mankind.

They returned with a hunger for knowledge. They experienced absolute knowledge while in the presence of God, and while most of it was erased when they returned to mortality, they felt an insatiable desire to learn all they could.

They became more involved in a church, but some found it frustrating to see churches wrangling and contending with each other. They found various trappings of some religions distracting. What they really wanted was a greater understanding of things of the spirit. There had been an awakening of inward spirituality. They desired to serve, not to be seen of men or out of duty or obligation, but out of pure motives; they really cared.

They spoke of increased sensitivity to violence of any kind and even found old western movies with gunfights senseless and painful to watch.

They experienced increased awareness of the beauties of nature, of uplifting music and of inspiring artistic works.

They felt less desire to seek wealth and worldly possessions. Things were no longer important.

They had an increased interest in eating healthy foods and enjoying regular exercise. They clung to life feeling there was so much more they needed to do before they left this life again.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

Death by Macadamia Nut Cookie

And this poor boy thought he was just eating his favorite cookie.

Teen dies of allergic reaction after eating his favorite macadamia nut cookie at a buffet restaurant 

An Atlanta teenager has died after a white chocolate and macadamia nut cookie gave him a violent allergic reaction.

Diallo Robbins-Brinson, 15, from Macon, was rushed to hospital on Saturday night after eating the cookie at buffet restaurant Golden Corral, where he had been dining with his soccer teammates.

The Central High School freshman had been allergic to peanuts but regularly ate the macadamia nut cookies without developing a reaction.

 Diallo Robbins-Brinson Macadamianut
Mr Robbins-Brinson was accustomed to avoiding peanuts, having been allergic to them his whole life.

As such, he'd left his Epi-Pen, a device carrying medicine that stops an allergic reaction, at home, his mother said.

'He thought he was eating something safe,' Ms Robbins-Brinson said. 'He loved them. If he had smelled peanut butter, he wouldn't have picked them.'
School counselor Dorothy Krakow told the AJC the popular student was known for his constant smile.

'Diallo was just a wonderful student, she said. 'He was gracious and kind to everyone.

'He had an absolute bright future ahead of him. So much potential and possibility for him. It’s heartbreaking.'

Condolences to his family and may he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2012

"Coming back from the dead'

Mourners left stunned when 'dead' waiter, 28, wakes up at his own FUNERAL

Mourners at a funeral in Egypt swapped tears for cheers when the 'dead' body they were burying woke up.

Hamdi Hafez al-Nubi, a 28-year-old waiter from Naga al-Simmanm, near Luxor was declared dead after suffering a heart attack at work.  His body was being prepared for burial when a doctor, sent to sign his death certificate, discovered he was still warm.  Family members were so convinced Mr al-Nubdi was dead they had already washed his body, according to Islamic tradition, and were preparing to bury him on Friday evening.

After finding he was still warm, the doctor checked his vital signs and discovered he was still breathing.She quickly revived Mr al-Nubdi - along with his mother, who had fainted when she heard her son wasn't dead.

Rather than cancel the funeral, mourners turned the party into a celebration of Mr al-Nubdi's 'resurrection'.

It's not the first time someone has come 'back from the dead' at their own funeral.

Just last month a 95-year-old Chinese woman climbed out of her own coffin six days after she was thought to have died following a fall.

Li Xiufeng was found motionless and not breathing in bed by a neighbor two weeks after tripping and suffering a head injury at her home in Beiliu, Guangxi Province.

When the neighbor who found her could not wake the pensioner up, they feared the worst and thought the elderly woman had passed away.  She was placed in a coffin which was kept in her house unsealed under Chinese tradition for friends and relatives to pay respects.

But the day before the funeral, neighbors found an empty coffin, and later discovered the 95-year-old, who had since woken up, in her kitchen cooking.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:19 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2012

Near-death experiences scientifically inexplicable

Rod Dreher on Life After Death, Really

Neuroscientist Mario Beauregard writes that more and more research indicates that something inexplicable by the standard materialist model of human consciousness is happening with Near Death Experiences. Here’s an excerpt focusing on a medically well-documented case that cannot be explained as the bizarre firing of neurons in the mind of a dying patient:

Beauregard says the theory that NDEs are caused by a decrease of oxygen to the brain cannot be sustained. He points out too that people who have been born blind have the same NDE experiences as those with sight.


Dreher's update:

Forgot to say that I somewhat knew a Texas guy who claimed this happened to him after a near-fatal car crash — except his was a pretty dark story. He had been living a pretty bad life, and went to hell, or an approximation thereof. He claimed that Jesus Christ came to him there, told him it wasn’t his time yet, but that he should change his life, and turn to the Light. He said Jesus also told him “your days are numbered” — meaning that he didn’t have much time left. He had a dramatic, instant turnaround in his life, and became a far more peaceful and even saintly man. Sure enough, not long after this happened, he learned that he had a terminal illness. He’s dead now, but he spent the rest of his days serving God and doing good for others. Interestingly, after this experience, he had an almost preternatural spiritual sensitivity. I did not know the man before his alleged NDE, so I have no way of knowing if this was true. He was an exceptionally humble and gentle man when I met him, by the way, and didn’t like to talk about all this (I only found out about it because he’d told a friend of mine at his church, who asked.) FWIW.

More from the Beauregard piece

The scientific NDE studies performed over the past decades indicate that heightened mental functions can be experienced independently of the body at a time when brain activity is greatly impaired or seemingly absent (such as during cardiac arrest). Some of these studies demonstrate that blind people can have veridical perceptions during OBEs associated with an NDE. Other investigations show that NDEs often result in deep psychological and spiritual changes.

These findings strongly challenge the mainstream neuroscientific view that mind and consciousness result solely from brain activity. As we have seen, such a view fails to account for how NDErs can experience—while their hearts are stopped—vivid and complex thoughts and acquire veridical information about objects or events remote from their bodies.

NDE studies also suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

At the bigamist's funeral where two wives meet for the first time

'I should get the flag not her': Battle between two wives of bigamist soldier as they meet for the first time at his funeral.

The two wives of a fallen soldier sat in the front row at his today funeral after it came to light following his death that he was married to both of them at the same time.

But the relationship between the two women has turned ugly after the soldier's first wife received the folded flag for Army Specialist Moises J Gonzalez - and the second accused her of coming forward just 'for the benefits'.

The 29-year-old soldier was killed in a road accident in Afghanistan on April 25. He leaves three sons - one by each of his wives and a third by another woman.


The wives sat together in the front pew at Saint Matthias Catholic Church in Huntington Park yesterday.

They exchanged no more than a glance and did not try to comfort each other but sat at opposite ends of the row, tending to their sons.
The soldier's folded flag was presented to his first wife, who will also receive his Army benefits.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

The Great Legacy of Roy Campbell, who hid St John of the Cross’s letters from Spanish militiamen

Joseph Pearce recalls the extraordinary life of Roy Campbell, who hid St John of the Cross’s letters from Spanish militiamen,

The poet who saved a saint's priceless letters

It was March 1936. A series of anti-clerical riots swept through Toledo. Churches were burned and priests and monks were attacked in the streets. During these disturbances several Carmelite monks, disguised in lay clothes, sought shelter in the home of the South African poet, Roy Campbell, who had moved to the city with his wife, Mary, and their two young daughters in the previous year. Four months later, on July 21, republican forces advanced on the city. Under cover of darkness, the Carmelite monks once again called on the Campbells. This time, however, they were not seeking refuge for themselves but for their priceless archives, which included the personal papers of St John of the Cross. Campbell agreed to take possession of these precious archives and that night a heavy trunk of ancient documents was delivered secretly from the Carmelite library to the hallway of the Campbells’ house.

During the following day republican forces advanced through the city, forcing the defenders to fall back towards the Alcazar. Without the soldiers of the garrison to defend them, the priests, monks and nuns fell prey to the republican militiamen. The 17 monks from the Carmelite monastery were rounded up, herded into the street and shot

During this search of his home, as he revealed in a radio interview several years later, Campbell had prayed to St John of the Cross, making a vow that he would translate the saint’s poems into English if his family’s lives were spared. Campbell fulfilled his obligation to St John, translating the poems to great critical acclaim. The poet and critic Kathleen Raine, writing in the New Statesman, encapsulated the critical consensus that Campbell’s translations represented a superlative achievement in English verse: “Of all living English poets Roy Campbell is the most masterly in his use of rhyme, and he is able to use metro so as to convey a sense of intense passion. He has reproduced the Spanish rhymes and metros as closely as possible, and yet his English versions have the freshness of original poems.”
Tired of the brief interlude of urban life, the Campbells moved to the village of Altea, near Alicante, in May 1934. It was here that the whole family was received into the Catholic Church. “I don’t think that my family and I were converted by any event at any given moment,” Campbell wrote later. “We lived for a time on a small farm in the sierras at Altea where the working people were mostly good Catholics, and there was such a fragrance and freshness in their life, in their bravery, in their reverence, that it took hold of us all imperceptibly.”
In April 1957, Roy and Mary set off in their tiny Fiat 600 from their home in Portugal, destined for the Holy Week celebrations in Seville. En route they stopped off for several days in Toledo, “this heavenly place which means more than all the world to me”, as Campbell described it in a postcard sent to a friend. Throughout the week of processions in Seville, Mary noticed that her husband was unusually quiet and particularly serious in his devotions.

On April 23 they set off back to Portugal, crossing the border in the early afternoon. A front tyre burst, and the car swerved out of control and hit a tree. Mary survived but Roy died at the scene of the crash. Thus ended, at the age of 55, the life of one of the finest and most controversial poets of the 20th century, a poet who counted George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, T S Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis among his friends.

As regards his friendship with Tolkien, it is one of Campbell’s intriguing claims to fame that he was part of the inspiration for the character of Aragorn, who was played by Viggo Mortenson in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:23 AM | Permalink

May 7, 2012

She watched her husband die on Skype. Was he shot?

'He looked alarmed and fell out of the picture': Moment army medic died in Afghanistan during Skype chat with wife

The family of a Texas-based Army medic serving in Afghanistan says his wife witnessed the officer's death, which happened as the two were video chatting via Skype.

Captain Bruce Kevin Clark suddenly looked 'alarmed' and disappeared from his wife's computer screen during a conversation on Monday, according to an Army spokesman.

'Mrs Clark was Skypeing from the family home here in El Paso with her husband when he all of a sudden fell away from the computer keyboard and fell out of sight,' said Colonel John Modell.

'He assumed an alarmed look and fell back out of the picture,' he continued.

A spokesman at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center told MailOnline that Capt Bruce Kevin Clark's death on Monday came from natural causes and was not combat-related or suicide.

Family said: 'Although the circumstances were unimaginable, Bruce's wife and extended family will be forever thankful that he and his wife were together in his last moments'

Was he shot? Wife of Army captain who died on Skype with her says she saw a bullet hole behind her husband after he collapsed

The wife of a US Army captain who died while he was on Skype with her says she saw a bullet hole in the closet behind him after he collapsed.

An Army spokesman says medic Bruce Kevin Clark died of natural causes while he was serving in Afghanistan.

His wife, Susan Orellana-Clark, made a statement on Sunday saying she doubts that assessment.

'(Capt) Clark was suddenly knocked forward,' Mrs Clark said in remarks released by her brother.

'The closet behind him had a bullet hole in it. The other individuals, including a member of the military, who rushed to the home of Capt Clark's wife also saw the hole and agreed it was a bullet hole.'

Mrs Clark sat in in El Paso, Texas, and watched the computer screen helplessly for two hours on Monday as she frantically tried to contact her husband's colleagues 8,000 miles away in Afghanistan to get him help.

Finally, two Army personnel arrived in Capt Clark's room and checked his pulse. They did not, however, tell Mrs Clark what had happened to her husband, the family said.

A spokesman at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in Texas, where Capt Clark was stationed, told MailOnline on Friday that the officer's death came from natural causes and was not combat-related or suicide.

New Info on the case

Susan Orellana-Clark said she was revealing the details of what she saw “to honor my husband and dispel the inaccurate information and supposition promulgated by other parties.”

An Army spokesman had initially said Clark’s death appeared to be from “natural causes” but later said he misspoke, CNN reported.

The Pentagon has since said Clark’s death is under investigation.

Newest info..  Army investigators release statement:  ‘NO BULLET WOUND, NO TRAUMA’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:23 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2012

"After hearing his sweet grandmother's last words, he decided against killing his aunt and called 911"

I can tell Barbara Denmark was a remarkable woman for the brave and loving way she faced her death.

'I love you': The last words from grandmother as grandson 'stabbed her to death in the bath because she made him come home early from party'

The last thing a dying Florida grandmother said to the 23-year-old grandson who stabbed her was 'I love you'.

Police say Christopher Chase Whaley of Lake Wales stabbed his grandmother Barbara Denmark more than 25 times after a heated argument.

Whaley, who had lived with his grandmother for five years, was charged with first degree murder for slashing Denmark in the tub.
'Chris is angry because he's been forced to come home and couldn't stay with his new best friends and party so he decides, 'I'll just kill grandmother. Not only her but I'll kill my aunt,'' said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to Tampa Bay Online.

After hearing his sweet grandmother's last words, he decided against killing his aunt and called 911.

'Come get me,' he said to the dispatcher, according to police reports.

Emergency responders found Whaley inside the mobile home, leaning over his grandmother and cradling her head.

'The family is distraught in all ways that can be imagined,' David Alexander, Ms Denmark's nephew, said.

He called her death a 'tragedy.'

'Her whole life was children - she always took care of them, no matter what,' Mr Alexander said.

Condolences to all her family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 PM | Permalink

The fear of suffering prior to death

"Death with Dignity" or physician-assisted suicide will be on the Massachusetts ballot this fall.  The Massachusetts Medical Society has come out against, saying that it corrupts medicine and the doctor-patient relationship.  I'm against it and one of the reasons is my  strong intuition that such a death robs the patient of what is most valuable in dying.  That is the opportunity for forgiveness and the mental, emotional and spiritual growth that comes with the dying process.  That said, all medical efforts should be directed to alleviating physical suffering.

Dr. Ty Meyer, a  palliative care physician, makes this argument in  Palliative Care vs. Physician Assisted Suicide

As the reality of approaching death sinks in, it brings with it many uncertainties and certainly fears. Many of my patients are naturally scared, but when investigated further this fear is of suffering prior to death and not death itself. This may lead to requests for hastening of death or physician assisted suicide. Dr. Ira Byock in his book The Best Care Possible notes that “any serious request from a patient for help in ending his or her life must be seen as a red flag that signals either that a patient is suffering or fears uncontrollable suffering in the future.” Requests for physician suicide can be seen as a plea to provide reassurance of relief of pain and suffering and reassurance that they as patients will not be abandoned as they are dying.

Too many patients have heard, “I’m sorry. There is nothing more that can be done,” as they approach the end of their lives. The reality may be that the medical options for cure or extending life are exhausted, but there remains much that is available medically to afford patients comfort and to improve the quality of their lives. By receiving high quality palliative care, either while undergoing curative/life-prolonging treatments with significant side effects or through a hospice program at the end of life, patients and their families are able to both deal with the current circumstances of their medical condition and begin to prepare for the future.

As a Catholic physician, I am often struck by casual comments indicating the justifiability of physician assisted suicide in situations of patient suffering and prolonged dying. It strikes me because I believe the final stage of life is vitally important to the dying person as well as to their family and is the natural consequence of living. The days and weeks leading to death can be very fruitful and in many instances are a healing time. In finding relief from physical suffering, patients are able to address the emotional, psychological, and at times spiritual areas of their lives that go unnoticed when physical symptoms are poorly managed. Imagine the difficulty of healing a broken relationship with a family member or God if every breath causes a stabbing pain in your chest or if your nausea is so bad that the thought of food induces vomiting.

Our goal in Hospice and Palliative Medicine is to provide the best experience for patients and families prior to death, to diminish suffering and allow a peaceful passage into the next world, but never to expedite death as a means of relieving suffering. By helping patients and families understand their illness and what to expect as it progresses and by managing physical suffering, they regain some sense of control and are able to focus on what is most important to them at the end of their lives.

In reassuring patients that they will not be abandoned at the end of life, their symptoms will be properly managed and their fears of suffering are addressed, hospices utilizing quality palliative medicine skills can help negate the desire by some to pursue physician assisted suicide. It helps turn a scary and unknown time in a person’s life into an opportunity for emotion and spiritual growth and allows for healing of the fractured relationships that are a part of life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 PM | Permalink

May 3, 2012

Cody Green, Honorary Marine

Sometimes people are just wonderful.  Like these Marines.

12-Year-Old Boy Made Honorary Marine Before Succumbing To Cancer-Related Infection, Local Marine Stands Guard At His Hospital Door Entire Night Before He Passed Away…

 Codygreen, Honorary Marine

12-year-old Cody Green has always admired the strength and courage of the marines. At 12:35 Saturday afternoon, it was the Marines admiring the strength and courage of Cody.

Cody had leukemia since he was 22 months old, but beat the disease three times. Although he was cancer-free, the chemotherapy lowered his immune system and Saturday afternoon, he died from a fungus that attacked his brain. Members of the Marines decided to step in and do something.

"They decided Cody, with the strength and honor and courage he showed through the whole thing, he should be a Marine," said Cody's father David Snowberger.

Cody was given Marine navigator wings and was made an honorary member of the United States Marine Corps. For one Marine, that wasn't enough, so he did even more.

"The night before Cody passed, he stood guard at Cody's door at the hospital all night long for eight hours straight," said Snowberger.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:06 PM | Permalink

'He’s going to get a drive-by, see mom two hours, and that’s how you end a 46-year marriage.'

You have to wonder how some health care workers can be so inhuman that it takes a desperate battle to reunite dying husband and wife who had not been apart for 46 years.

Husband, 71, dies next to wife of 46 years after desperate battle for the pair to be reunited in hospital for his final days

A 71-year-old man who had battled to die next to his wife of 46 years has passed away in their shared hospital room.
Matt Monschein died from pancreatic cancer at 1am on Tuesday - six days after he was reunited with his wife Pat, who was in hospital after having both legs amputated due to diabetes.

In March, doctors told Mr Monschein that nothing else could be done for him in the final stages of his cancer and added that he might be restricted in the time he spent with Pat due to her operation. The couple, from Lorain, were left devastated that they might not be able to spend their last moments together at Grace Fairview Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio - as it did not offer the hospice care that Mr Monschein needed. Yet Mrs Monschein could not be looked after at a hospice as she required round-the-clock care including dialysis.
One of the couple's two sons, Mike Monschein, told Fox 8: 'He’s going to get a drive-by, see mom two hours, and that’s how you end a 46-year marriage.'  Mike had appealed to local politicians, authorities and media outlets in the hope of bringing his parents back together.  After being helped by a local TV station to navigate the bureaucracy, the elderly couple were  allowed to spend Mr Monschein's final few days lying in beds side by side at the hospital.
 Dyingwish Monscheins
Both remained in the same room and according to, the hospital chaplain renewed their wedding vows. But on Tuesday, Mr Monschein lost his fight with pancreatic cancer. His son Mike told The Chronicle Telegram: 'Seeing my mom again has meant the world to my dad and has put smiles on both of their faces.  'Dad will be missed greatly. Mom will go on with the support of family and friends.'_
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 PM | Permalink

"My death has become my life. And my life has gained a kind of intensity and power that it had never had before."

Philip Gould wrote I'm enjoying my death.  It's the most fulfilling time of my life

Philip Gould was the brilliant Labour Party strategist who helped bring Tony Blair to power in 1997, and was awarded a peerage in 2004. Here, in the first of two extracts from his new book serialized in the Mail he describes movingly the journey from being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2008 to being told he had three months to live. He died at 61 last November, with his wife Gail and their daughters, Georgia, 25, and Grace, 22, by his side.
Recurrence is a very different thing from the original diagnosis. My immediate response to being told I had cancer had been that I would battle through and win. I had a vision of a dark road leading to a light.

But the diagnosis of recurrence had a very different effect — the road ahead just collapsed, and I was left effectively with nothing, just the kind of fuzzy picture you get if your television stops working.
We spent Christmas out of London in the snow. Just us and the kids. There was no hiding here, we all knew the situation. The family was under strain, but we were close.

My relationship with my children was deepening all the time. We implicitly decided to bring the future forward, to compress ten years or so into one.

The kids sucked me dry. Georgia wanted to know all about the way I thought. How did I develop a concept? What were my values? Why did I believe what I believed?

Grace wanted hard, usable, practical advice. She asked me to write down every likely eventuality that might befall her and supply a satisfactory answer. Facing the possibility of my departure, she wanted a handbook for life.

For Gail it was different. She did not want intensity, or purpose, or accelerated living, she wanted quiet and normality — not the future brought forward, but the present extended. She had always envisaged a future free from work where we would just potter around, grow old as companions.

 Philip Gould Lastphoto

It is only when they said: Philip Gould, you are going to die. Get used to it. This is going to happen in months or weeks, but it is going to happen. Only then do you become aware of death, and suddenly life screams at you with its intensity.

I have entered the Death Zone.
But when cancer came, bringing with it a great deal of fear and pain, I found I could deal with it. Time and time again I found the courage to deal with this acute and terrible pain.

And so my death has become my life. And my life has gained a kind of intensity and power that it had never had before.

You can go for a walk in the park and have a moment of ecstasy. I go to the Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park opposite our house. I go to the exhibition tent and I sit there and have a coffee and I feel ecstasy after ecstasy after ecstasy.

This is built upon this feeling of certainty, of knowledge, of death. There is ecstasy because I am not dead yet.
What good is it to me to think in terms of conventional time? Six months or nine months no longer exist for me. So I am trying to make sense of the world not through time, but through emotion, through relationships, through feeling.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

May 1, 2012

Gateway to Heaven

The gates of heaven? Hubble telescope captures extremely rare picture of dying star emitting ethereal beams of light

It looks like the gateway to heaven - but this stunning image taken by the Hubble Telescope has captured the dramatic phase of a dying star's lifespan when it runs out of nuclear fuel and emits beams of light like searchlights.

 Cross Dyingstar

The Daily Mail dubbed this the 'gateway to heaven'.  To me it looked like the cross. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink