November 30, 2012

“PLEASE don’t leave me”

Some of the sad stories behind the Over 200 dead bodies on Mount Everest

“PLEASE don’t leave me,” the dying woman cried.  Two climbers heard the screams of Francys Arsentiev, an American woman who had fallen after succumbing to snow blindness and found herself separated from her husband.  They were in the “death zone,” low on oxygen, and the woman was on the side of a steep cliff; carrying her was not an option.  The trip just to get down to her would be a risk for their own lives.  The two climbers, Ian Woodall and Cathy O’Dowd, climbed down to her and did what they could to keep her company, but it was too late.  They administered oxygen and tried to tend to Fran, but there was nothing they could do. Ian and Cathy returned down to base camp to ask for help and report their findings.

 Dead Body Mt Everest-

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 AM | Permalink

November 29, 2012

Reuniting photos lost in Sandy with their owners

The memories washed away by Sandy: Hundreds of precious family photos found in aftermath of hurricane - now one woman wants to reunite them with their owners

Hurricane Sandy destroyed countless homes in New Jersey, knocking many from their foundations and sending furniture and belongings floating into the streets. Many of the items were lost forever but one local woman, whose own house was damaged beyond repair, is on a mission to reunite Sandy victims with one important thing - their memories.

Jeannette Van Houten, from Union Beach, is collecting old photos, many damaged from salt water, and uploading them on Facebook in the hope that the families they belong to will come forward to claim them.  Sandy destroyed metal and wood and steel and concrete,' Ms Van Houten told the New York Daily News. 'But we're finding these pieces of paper, these photos, and their images are still beautiful.'

The 42-year-old began the project the day after the storm struck, when she found a box full of damaged family photos on the ground.    She cleans the pictures then scans them and uploads them to Facebook and, mostly through word-of-mouth, she has managed to connect several local families with their treasured memories.

She now has a collection of more than 3,000 photos online, which Union Beach residents can browse through, looking for their loved ones' faces.

 Sandy Mother Baby

Good for her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink

In Britain's National Health Service, babies left to die of thirst

Horrible.  And it's being done by the British health service.

Now sick babies go on death pathway: Doctor's haunting testimony reveals how children are put on end-of-life plan

Sick children are being discharged from NHS hospitals to die at home or in hospices on controversial ‘death pathways’.  Until now, end of life regime the Liverpool Care Pathway was thought to have involved only elderly and terminally-ill adults.

But the Mail can reveal the practice of withdrawing food and fluid by tube is being used on young patients as well as severely disabled newborn babies.

One doctor has admitted starving and dehydrating ten babies to death in the neonatal unit of one hospital alone.
Writing in a leading medical journal, the physician revealed the process can take an average of ten days during which a baby becomes ‘smaller and shrunken’.
Earlier this month, an un-named doctor wrote of the agony of watching the protracted deaths of babies. The doctor described one case of a baby born with ‘a lengthy list of unexpected congenital anomalies’, whose parents agreed to put it on the pathway.
‘Their wishes, however, are not consistent with my experience. Survival is often much longer than most physicians think; reflecting on my previous patients, the median time from withdrawal of hydration to death was ten days.

‘Parents and care teams are unprepared for the sometimes severe changes that they will witness in the child’s physical appearance as severe dehydration ensues.

‘I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken, as the only route out of a life that has become excruciating to the patient or to the parents who love their baby.’
Bernadette Lloyd, a hospice pediatric nurse, has written to the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health to criticize the use of death pathways for children.  '‘I have also seen children die in terrible thirst because fluids are withdrawn from them until they die'

She said: ‘The parents feel coerced, at a very traumatic time, into agreeing that this is correct for their child whom they are told by doctors has only has a few days to live. It is very difficult to predict death. I have seen a “reasonable” number of children recover after being taken off the pathway.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:28 PM | Permalink

November 27, 2012

"With unimaginable courage – and despite being a marked woman – she remained defiant to the very end"

How Mexico's fearless female mayor sacrificed herself to save her daughter's life as she was abducted by drug gang, tortured and executed

The woman mayor who was kidnapped and murdered by a Mexican drug gang pleaded with her attackers for her young daughter’s life, it emerged today.  Maria Santos Gorrostieta, who had already survived two assassination attempts, was driving the child to school at around 8.30am when she was ambushed by a car in the city of Morelia.  The 36-year-old was hauled from her vehicle and physically assaulted as horrified witnesses watched, according to newspaper El Universal.  They described how she begged for her child to be left alone and then appeared to get into her abductors’ car willingly. The little girl was left wailing as her mother was driven away on Monday November 12.

For the next week, her frantic family waited by the phone for a ransom call that never came.  Gorrostieta’s body – stabbed, burned, battered and bound at wrist and ankle – would finally be found eight days on dumped by a roadside in San Juan Tararameo, Cuitzeo Township.  She left behind her daughter and two sons as well as her second husband Nereo Delgado Patinoran.

Hailed as a heroine of the 21st century, her death has prompted much soul-searching in a country ravaged by violence.

 Maria Santos Gorrostieta

The decision to withdraw her security team in November last year – and her police escort in January – has come under particular scrutiny.
Gorrostieta was elected as mayor of Tiquicheo, a rural district in Michoacan, west of Mexico City, in 2008.

Almost immediately, she received threats. The first assassination attempt came in October 2009 when the car she was traveling in with her first husband Jose Sanchez came under fire from gunmen in the town of El Limone. The attack claimed his life but Gorrostieta lived. She battled back from her injuries in the face of overwhelming tragedy, but she was not destined to know peace.

The next attempt on her life was just three months later, when an masked group carrying assault rifles ambushed her on the road between Michoacan and Guerreo state. The van she was traveling in was peppered by 30 bullets. Three hit her.  This time her wounds were more severe, leaving multiple scars and forcing her to wear a colostomy bag. She was left in constant pain.

But with unimaginable courage – and despite being a marked woman – she remained defiant to the very end.

In a statement to the public made at the time, the devout Catholic said: 'At another stage in my life, perhaps I would have resigned from what I have, my position, my responsibilities as the leader of my Tiquicheo.

'But today, no. It is not possible for me to surrender when I have three children , whom I have to educate by setting an example, and also because of the memory of the man of my life, the father of my three little ones, the one who was able to teach me the value of things and to fight for them. Although he is no longer with us, he continues to be the light that guides my decisions.'

Mexico has been torn apart by murderous drug gangs since President Felipe Calderon launched his drug offensive in 2006.  More than 50,000 people have been killed in clashes between rival drug cartels and security forces and about two dozen mayors have been murdered.  The cartels have ruled the streets with fear for years, enforcing their authority with murders, bribery and torture.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 PM | Permalink

Learning about your daughter's death on Facebook

Inexcusable behavior by the staff at Valdosta State University in Georgia.  Imagine learning about your daughter's death or murder on Facebook

Devastated parents found out about 17-year-old college student daughter’s murder on FaceBook

A mother and father from Lawrenceville, Georgia, were disgusted to first hear about the death of their 17-year-old daughter from a friend's post on Facebook.  Freshman nursing student Jasmine Benjamin was found dead in shared dorm student area on November 18.

But staff at Valdosta State University didn't notify the parents of her death. Furthermore, the girl's mother, Judith Jackson, and her stepfather, James Jackson, still haven't got many more answers about how Jasmine died.
The family was shocked further when police explained that someone had killed Jasmine.

'To find out it was a homicide and that somebody actually murdered our daughter changed everything,' Jackson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 'It was like hearing the news all over again.'

And what to make of the school staff at Manchester High School in Connecticut?

Student drowned at high school pool after he lay on bottom for 17 MINUTES while his classmates swam above

A student in Connecticut drowned at his high school's pool after he lay on the bottom for 17 minutes while his classmates splashed and swam above him.  Malvrick Donkor, 14, slipped below the water during a swimming class at Manchester High School on Wednesday. Surveillance video reportedly shows no splashing or struggling to swim.

He was only found after other students began to leave the pool after class ended and spotted him at the bottom of the deep end.
'There's no splashing, no flailing like you would typically think of,' a source who watched the CCTV tape told the Hartford Courant. 'He just slipped under water. Other kids were swimming over the top of him, not knowing he was down below.'

It is unknown how many adults were supervising the students and how the lifeguards never spotted Malvrick drowning.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 PM | Permalink

November 26, 2012

Funeral Home Fragrance

The distinctive smell of funeral homes captured in a bottle.

 Funeral Home Fragrance

Via Book of Joe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:41 PM | Permalink

November 23, 2012

Kiru, the "Laughing Death"

The Last Laughing Death 

After 55 years, the final patrol for cases of the mysterious ‘laughing death’ in remote Papua New Guinea has returned from the highlands. From this pursuit came Nobel-winning science, clues to ‘mad cow’ and insights into Alzheimer’s disease. It also revealed a little bit of cannibal hidden in us all.
Everyone understood too well that no-one recovered from kuru, which progressively stole control, mobility, speech but, tragically, not always faculty from the afflicted. Bursting into gales of uncontrollable laughter was another cruel quirk of the disease.
There have been just eight kuru cases this century — three in 2000, two in 2001, one each in ’03 and ’05, and the last in 2009. In each case, it is believed the victim had incubated the disease for an astonishing 50 years or more, having been exposed to infection as a child when participating in mortuary feasts that were an intrinsic part of Fore culture: that is, the cooking and consumption of the dead, every last piece of them, in order to hasten the journey of the departed loved-ones to the land of the ancestors.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:14 PM | Permalink

November 21, 2012

The Last Lonely Walk

Staff Sgt. Kenneth Wade Bennett, a bomb disposal expert, was on his third tour in Afghanistan. It proved to be his last. 

Bomb Disposal Expert Takes His Last ‘Lonely Walk’

 Bennett And Daughter

Bennett was on his third combat tour there and this time he had left behind a pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter. ...

“No bye bye, Daddy,” the girl said. “Don’t go away.”

“One more time, honey,” he told her.

As he spoke he had a patch on his uniform that is more respected in the military than four stars even before the scandal. The patch read EOD and it identified him as an explosive ordnance disposal technician, one of those extraordinarily brave souls such as are depicted in the movie The Hurt Locker.

Two months after that walk with little Lila across a parking lot near his unit’s headquarters in Fort Lewis, Wash., he was making that loneliest of walks into the most mortal danger in Afghanistan. He had made this walk many times in his three deployments and his motivation remained as simple as it was noble. It was what makes the EOD patch a true badge of honor.

Whatever the status of the war, whatever the latest American geopolitical objectives, whatever the outcome of the presidential election, whatever the behavior of generals, Bennett routinely faced sudden and incredibly violent death with the single and singular goal of saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. He had only to be told that he was needed and a grace would descend on him. He would once more become a figure made scruffily holy by another demonstration of that greatest love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

November 20, 2012

Groom dies at his wedding reception in freak accident

Brazilian groom dies at wedding reception after tripping onto a beer glass and bleeding to death 

A groom died hours after marrying his bride during the wedding reception after he tripped over and landed on a beer glass. Fabio Jefferson Maciel, 33, had wed fiancee Geise Guimaraes six hours before bleeding to death following the freak tragedy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Witnesses said Mr Maciel, a Brazilian navy sergeant, was fooling around with one of the young bridesmaids at 2am on Monday morning when he tripped and fell on his front. A beer glass which he had put in the left-side trouser pocket shattered and a piece severed his femoral vein - a major artery to the top of the leg - causing rapid blood loss.   
Friends said Mr Maciel had been planning the perfect wedding since the start of the year, when he had also started building a home for him and his wife-to-be to begin their married life. The house was finished just a week ago. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:57 PM | Permalink

Problems with digital death certificates, a doctor's view

Unintended consequences: Moving death certificates to the digital age

In the old paper system someone from the funeral home would bring me the death certificate, I’d complete it  as accurately as I could, and the grieving family could bury their beloved. That has all changed now.  In an attempt to speed the process up and make it more efficient, the state has created a website where I log on and complete the form.  I thought this would be an improvement, and it was presented to me as a way to simplify, expedite and improve the process.  I’m reasonably computer savvy, and so when the first EDRS (electronic death registry service) request came to me I logged on and tried to complete the form.
In a paper world the medical examiner could have just signed off on the death certificate and all would have been fine.  Now as an unintended consequence of the inflexible nature of this EDRS program, it seems we just have to be selective in our choices of contributing factors on the death certificate so that families can bury their dead and the computer programmers can have the answers they want. I had been told that the new electronic form was to insure more accurate and complete death certificates.  It seems that the result is that only answers the program likes are acceptable causes and contributing factors to death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:31 PM | Permalink

November 15, 2012

Manly funerals

The 10 Manliest Funerals of All Time

Jack Woodward tended bar at England's Boat Inn from age 14 to his death at 83. And now he's interred there. For this guy, it's happy hour forever.

-Have A Drink On Me
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2012

The last photo I took

 Last Photo Train

More last photos here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink

November 12, 2012

"Ancient and hallowed ritual"

Death is hard, but the ancient, hallowed ritual of the Catholic Church can provide lasting consolation

Death is hard enough as it is; but humans require more than secular rites of “closure” – and only an ancient, hallowed ritual can provide lasting consolation.

Father Dwight Longnecker on the solemnity of funerals

A funeral is not a ‘celebration of Stanley’s life’. A funeral is not ‘a time of joy because Mildred is in heaven now.’ How tacky and trite is that? No. A funeral should be sad. Someone had died for goodness sake. Furthermore, people need to grieve. They need to work through the terror of death. They need to face reality. A solemn, sad, sober and serious funeral helps them to do that. A silly, shallow, superficial and stupid memorial service or ‘celebration of Pat’s life’ only encourages them to look the other way and take a feel good cop out from reality.

No. Give me the funeral march. Give me solemn young men in black with serious faces to mourn my passing. Give me widows and women in black veils and gloves wiping away tears. Give me the smoke of incense to purify my bones. Give me the water of life to remind me of my baptism. Give me a requiem Mass and may all who are there–whether a multitude or the faithful few–grieve me with the dignity in death that I once hoped for in life.

The purpose of a Catholic funeral

"Catholic Funerals are not about the person’s past achievements. Since Holy Mass is part of it, first of all, the Funeral is about worship of God.

Secondly, it is a profession of our Catholic Faith…

Thirdly, Holy Mass is offered for the repose of the deceased immortal soul and asking God’s mercy on him.

Fourthly, we pray for the consolation of those who mourn…. "
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 PM | Permalink

November 11, 2012

Veterans Day and why WWI stands for the "Pain of all wars"

Born in England, Wilfred Owen, a soldier in World War I and a poet, was killed in action on November 4, 1918, one week before the Armistice.  He is one of 16 of the Great War poets commemorated in Westminster Abbey's Poet Corner.  The inscription on the slate is Owen's, "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

Pat Barker's novel Regeneration, the first of a trilogy of novels on the First World War, describes the experience of British army officers being treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh.  Dr. William Rivers, an army psychiatrist, treats the traumatized officers so they can be returned  to battle, among them Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, both poets.

In an interview referenced in the Wikipedia article about the book,  Pat Barker said, "The trilogy is trying to tell something about the parts of war that don't get into the official accounts".
Barker states that she chose to write about World War I "because it's come to stand in for other wars, as a sort of idealism of the young people in August 1914 in Germany and in England. They really felt this was the start of a better world. And the disillusionment, the horror and the pain followed that. I think because of that it's come to stand for the pain of all wars."

The book was made into a fine film, titled Behind the Lines, which you can find on Netflix.  It closes with this stirring rendition of a poem Wilfred Owen wrote.

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in the thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2012

In writing about death, all life is there

Tales from an obituaries page editor, Harry de Quetteville

There are two questions that I get asked when people discover that I am the obituaries editor at The Daily Telegraph. The first is: “How do you decide who gets an obit?”, to which I respond that, ultimately, we publish the lives that we think will most interest our readers. Eminence, celebrity, comedy, bravery – all are factors likely to pique their curiosity.
I confess, however, that I reserve a special place in my heart for the stories thrown up by two peculiar categories of obit. The first comprises cult leaders and tele-evangelists such as The Reverend Ike, who preached “the Prosperity Gospel” and exhorted his faithful to visualize “money up to your armpits, a roomful of money and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool”.

The second category is mountaineers. This is partly because I am awed by their courage; and partly because they are generally great characters. Of all the mountaineers we have done, however, it is Chris Dale whose obit I like most. It begins: “Chris Dale, who has died aged 49, was a 6ft 6in mountaineer with a passion for solo climbs among the hardest peaks of Scotland, Wales and the Alps. He was also an equally enthusiastic cross-dresser who went by the name of Crystal.” Who could not read on?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink

Elephants mourn the death of the 'Elephant Whisperer'

Lawrence Anthony, the "Elephant Whisperer" who saved and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe, most famously with the 2003 rescue of the elephants from the Baghdad Zoo, died on March 7, 2012.

On March 10, a solemn procession that defies human explanation took place outside Anthony's  rural compound.

How Did they know? 

For 12 hours, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives.The formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago as pests, were rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony,
For two days the herds loitered at Anthony’s rural compound on the vast Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu – to say good-bye to the man they loved. But how did they know he had died March 7?
There are two elephant herds at Thula Thula. According to his son Dylan, both arrived at the Anthony family compound shortly after Anthony’s death.“They had not visited the house for a year and a half and it must have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey,” Dylan is quoted in various local news accounts. “The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd, a day later. They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush.”Elephants have long been known to mourn their dead.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2012

All Saints Day


Who captures the joy and hope of heaven better than Louis Armstrong? "I want to be in that number" says Deacon Greg.

‘How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints," C.S. Lewis.  Monotonous Sinners and Sparkling Saints.

The saints are unique because they are ordinary people who have allowed an extraordinary power to bring them to their full potential. The saint is fascinating because she is the person she was created to be; and the more we become who we are, the less we will be like anybody else. The saint has no time for role models. She cannot spend time pretending to be someone else because she realizes it is the work of a lifetime to become oneself.

Msgr Charles Pope meditates on the Christian view of death, And Death is Gain

It is fitting at this time that we ponder the passing glory of things and set our gaze on heaven where joys will never end.

He embeds a video of a beautiful a cappella spiritual  Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world.  I know this spiritual well, having sung it with Mystic Gospel choir that I sing with every winter.    Singing it filled with me with the confidence of faith and hope that the slaves who wrote must have felt.    YouTube video here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:31 PM | Permalink

Take photos of your aging parents

How to shoot a photo of an aging parent to remember

 Woman Portrait-Wheelchair Steve Bedell portrait by Steve Bedell

Sometimes the realization comes almost too late — you sense that your parents or other loved ones may soon be gone, and it dawns on you that you don’t have any recent photos to remember them by.

1. Help your loved one get dressed for the occasion.
            Women, especially, may feel more relaxed in front of the camera if you’ve helped them apply some makeup or they have had their hair done (many nursing homes have salons).
2. Shoot in a cozy room, or at least in a comfortable position
3. Be sensitive to quirks and vulnerabilities
          If they have injuries or scars or IV tubes that make them self-conscious, reassure them that you’ll try to keep those things out of the photo.
4. Bring in friends or other family members to engage with the person.
          Never say “cheese!” Interacting with others will help animate their features and make them look — and feel — more cheerful and lively
8. Forget the flash.
9. Don’t take pictures of people eating.
15. Use these photo sessions as a chance to connect.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

Photos to remember

It's remarkable how a few lines of description enliven a photograph and make it meaningful.  We all have thousands of photographs - digital and printed - that we've saved in photo boxes, albums, on CDs, online and in iPhoto.  Most of these will be lost and forgotten after we're gone, but those set aside with a line or two that lay bare the meaning that particular photo has for us  will likely last and be passed on.

I'm So Lonesome



I am so awful lonesome and I wish that you were here': Black and white pictures with notes by their owners give touching insight into the lives of past Americans

Author Ransom Riggs has sorted through thousands of photographs at flea markets to compile his book Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past

'I have an unusual hobby: I collect pictures of people I don't know,' explained Riggs.

But he admitted he has a particularly odd way of sifting through thousands of photographs he comes across in thrift shops and flea markets, as he does  not even look at the image on the front if the words scribbled on the back do not interest him.

'When you're looking through bins of thousands of random, unsorted photos, every hundredth one or so will have some writing on it,' he said.

'It's generally just identifying information ("me and Jerry at the Grand Canyon, 1947"), but every once in a while I'll find a something surprising, emotional, candid, hilarious, heartbreaking - a few words that bring the picture to life in a profound new way, transforming a blurry black-and-white snapshot of people who seem a million miles and a million years away into an intensely personal sliver of experience that anyone can relate to.

'It becomes something not just to look at, but to listen to.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink