February 28, 2013

"Grief counseling after traumatic events may be more harm than help"

Doing More Harm Than Good By Pathologizing Grief

It seems like such a good thing, doesn't it, offering grief counselors to those who suffer a tragic event? After all, who doesn't want and need some comfort then? But research reveals that really we should leave it to the people who suffer to determine what if anything they need….grief counseling after traumatic events may be more harm than help.
Wakes and funerals already exist to serve the immediate needs for mourning and recognition of the loss. Participation in normalizing rituals is probably far more helpful than therapy in the immediate aftermath of such a loss.

Reading books about death, grief and loss can also help.    Self Help Books and Websites Can Benefit Severely Depressed Patients

Patients with severe depression show at least as good clinical benefit from 'low-intensity' interventions, such as self help books and interactive websites, as less severely ill patients, according to new research by The University of Manchester.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:40 PM | Permalink

February 22, 2013

Death certificates

Death certificates present final medical complication

Signing the documents can pose challenges for physicians in determining the cause of death. Inaccuracies can have widespread consequences.  Death certificates are vital documents that serve as the primary source of information for families, insurance companies and authorities about a patient’s cause of death. The information also helps policymakers set public health goals and research funding priorities.

But signing a death certificate is not always a straightforward process. Physicians often face uncertainties about an individual’s cause of death or how to answer the portions of certificates they are responsible for. Although the basic format has changed little in the last few decades, doctors face difficulties as some states attempt to convert from paper to electronic certificates.

Doctors need to recognize the importance of the documents and be as specific as possible, said Gregory McDonald, DO, chief deputy coroner of Montgomery County in Pennsylvania.  Information on death certificates is reported to the CDC and used in compiling national mortality data.  “Their duty doesn’t end when the patient dies,” Dr. McDonald said. “A lot of physicians when they’re signing a death certificate don’t realize that what they put down has some real, long-term ramifications.”

Most doctors are never taught how to fill out the documents....The basic information required on a death certificates hasn’t changed much in recent decades....In signing death certificates, physicians need to be aware of the difference between the “manner of death” and “cause of death” entries, Dr. McDonald said. He often sees certificates where physicians have mistakenly filled out the manner of death portion of a certificate.

In most states, the manner of death would be either natural, suicide, homicide, accident or undetermined. In many states, such as Pennsylvania, only a medical examiner or coroner can answer that question on the form. Errors can have serious consequences, Dr. McDonald said.  In one instance, a person died of a seizure, and the physician thought it was a natural death. It turned out that the seizure occurred as a result of injuries from an assault, making it a murder. “In that case the homicide was almost missed, and a murderer almost went free,” Dr. McDonald said.

For the cause of death, it’s important that physicians list a disease and not a mechanism, said Yul Ejnes, MD, immediate past chair of the ACP’s Board of Regents. For example, one would list “pneumonia” and not “respiratory arrest,” he said.
Filling out certificates inaccurately can have widespread consequences, said Edward W. Martin, MD, MPH, medical director of Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island. Many patients have more than one illness, and some causes of death, such as dementia, are grossly underreported, he said.

Providing more clinical information to be as accurate as possible “benefits us all,” Dr. Martin said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:13 PM | Permalink

Doctor rapes, kills and then desecrates the corpse

After a 23-year-old woman who was nine months pregnant with two kids at home responded to a job posting in Craig's List for a housecleaner, an Ohio doctor 'raped, killed and did 'inhumane' things to her corpse.

 Deanna Ballman+Her Kids

Pakistani-born Dr Ali Salim is accused of murdering Deanna Ballman, of Pataskala, and her unborn baby last summer by injecting her with a lethal dose of heroin and then doing 'inhumane' things to her corpse.

Ballman, who was nine-months pregnant and had two kids at home, was found dead in the backseat of her car in woods outside of New Albany on August 1.

Salim, 44, pleaded not guilty today to two counts of murder as well as rape, felonious assault, corrupting another with drugs, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. He is expected to be released on $1 million bail as soon as Friday.


Licensure information from the state indicates Salim was born in Pakistan and trained there at King Edward Medical College, graduating in 1993. He told the State Medical Board of Ohio that his specialties were internal medicine, emergency medicine and psychiatry.

Do not go this doctor

 Charged Dr Ali Salim

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

Death by Fat-Burning Pills

University student, 18, known to his friends as Mr Muscles dies 'after taking fat-burning pills' he boasted about on Facebook

A university student known as 'Mr Muscles' has died after apparently taking 'lethal' bodybuilding pills to help him lose weight.

 Sarmad Alladin 18 Fat Burning Pills

Fitness fanatic Sarmad Alladin, 18, who had posted snaps of his new muscles online, was taken to hospital just hours after praising the fat-burning tablets called DNP on Facebook.
Mr Alladin, an international student and son of an Indian millionaire, called an ambulance as he suddenly collapsed.

Last week the University for the Creative Arts warned its students: 'It has come to the University's attention that some very dangerous weight-loss and body-building drugs could be circulating among students.  'If you have bought or obtained Dinitrophenol or Dymetadrine tablets online or anywhere else, please stop using them immediately. The drugs are potentially lethal.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

'Surprise - It's a double header'

Heartbroken husband, 94, dies on the way to his 89-year-old wife's funeral after inseparable couple had joked they would 'never leave one spouse behind'

A heartbroken husband who died on the way to his wife's funeral on Saturday was honored by his family in the way that he had lived - and laid to rest alongside his beloved spouse.
Norman Hendrickson, 94, died suddenly en route to his 89-year-old wife Gwendoline's funeral on February 16. The couple had been married for 66 years.

In the midst of their grief, the couple's daughters knew that there was only one thing to do - hold a joint service for their parents who had been inseparable throughout their lives.
Mr Hendrickson, a World War II veteran, was mourned at the same New York funeral home where his wife Gwen's funeral was already scheduled last Saturday.

Mrs Hendrickson was 89 when she died on February 8. Her husband died just steps from the funeral home where he had planned to say goodbye to his wife.  The couple's two daughters Norman and Merrilyne said it was a fitting way to say goodbye to a couple who had been together since meeting in Britain during World War II.  Norman was overseas with the U.S. Army when he met Gwen, who was serving in the British Royal Air Force. She immigrated to America and they were married in May 1947.

 Norman&Gwendoline Hendrickson

Norma Howland told the Post-Star of Glens Falls: 'After we had a little time to process the shock and horror, we felt we couldn't have written a more perfect script.
'My sister said the only thing he didn't do was fall into the casket.'

Mr Hendrickson, a former assistant postmaster in Cambridge, was being driven in a limousine to the Ackley and Ross Funeral Home for his wife's service when he stopped breathing.
After the limo pulled up, funeral director Jim Gariepy, who is also the local coroner, and funeral home owner Elizabeth Nichols-Ross helped move Norman to the sidewalk outside the business.
Gariepy began CPR while Ms Nichols-Ross and one Norman's sons-in-law raced across town to retrieve his do-not-resuscitate orders from the Hendricksons' refrigerator door.

Once the orders were in hand, an emergency crew that had arrived ceased attempts to revive Norman. He died on the sidewalk.

Nichols-Ross said daughter Merrilyne Hendrickson then requested that her father's body be put into a casket and placed in the viewing room with her mother's cremated remains, which had been placed in an urn.

Mourners who started arriving soon after for Gwen's funeral were greeted by a note Merrilyne posted at the entrance: 'Surprise - It's a double header - Gwen and Norman Hendrickson - February 16, 2013.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

February 20, 2013

Cadaver Porn

I have decried Gunther von Hagen's  popular exhibitions of plastinized dead bodies before.  Disgust is the proper emotion at his exhibition of dead bodies copulating.

Should I be surprised that Some People Want to Become "Cadaver Porn"?

Even though von Hagens is in ill health, his work continues. Indeed, people are apparently lining up to be plasticized and posed for eternity

Even though
Donors to the plastination program sign away their right to say how their bodies might be posed. (The consent form does ask if they agree to be “exhibited in public” or “interpreted as anatomical works of art,” but it also says their answers to these questions are “recommendations rather than binding terms.”) Von Hagens can arrange his corpses in a mock coitus or cast a mold of them to make an ersatz Jesus Christ—both of these are on display in Guben—or he can carve them up and ship the parts for use in classrooms. He can do with them exactly as he pleases.

Wesley J Smith comments

How we treat the dead tells us how much about how we perceive the importance of life. Context is everything in matters such as these, of course. We display mummies, for example, but that is more a matter of awe and absorbing human history than getting an adrenalin thrill out of death. It is also true that some religious orders display skeletons and bones to be viewed. But, however misguided these endeavors might be, they are not meant as entertainment in the same sense as von Hagens’ plastinated bodies. To the contrary, the point is to remind people to pay heed to eternal things, e.g., that dust they were and dust they shall become again.

This seems very different to me. Slicing, plasticizing, and displaying cadavers to provide a nihilistic or hedonistic thrill proclaims that our lives have no inherent meaning beyond the sensations of the moment. If I am right about that, von Hagens’ continued popularity is a very disturbing sign of the times.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2013

Trying a dead man for fraud

In (Post-Soviet) Russia, First They Kill You, Then They Try You

Russian news headlines frequently walk the fine line between plausibility and The Onion. This week is no different: Russia is trying a dead man for fraud.

Sergei Magnitsky, an auditor who exposed a $230 million tax fraud by Russian police and officials and was then thrown into prison, tortured, and killed nearly a year later, will now finally get his long-awaited trial. The move is seen as a pushback by the Russian government against the Magnitsky Act, which black-listed the Russian officials involved in the scandal. As the FT reports many observers believe this is little more than an attempt to further blacken his name:

“First, there is the statute of limitations, secondly, [Magnitsky] had nothing to do with the company in question, and thirdly, he’s dead,”
said Mr Browder, who said the trial showed that there was “absolute desperation in the government of Russia to try to blacken Magnitsky’s name after the Magnitsky law was passed in the United States”.

This sounds right; with the defendant not only absent but killed before trial, justice will not be served. Instead, the world is likely to watch a show-trial aimed directly at consolidating Russian public opinion behind the Kremlin.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 PM | Permalink

On the way home from his friend's funeral

Michigan man wins $7.2M jackpot in Mississippi casino after attending friend's funeral

A Michigan man returning from a friend’s funeral won a $7.2 million jackpot after stopping in a Mississippi casino to play the slot machines in memory of his friend.  Tyler Morris of Montague said he was compelled to stop at the Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi on Friday only because the casino’s penny-slot machines was a pastime he friend loved to do.

Between 10 and 10.30pm Mr Morris struck the highest jackpot possible while playing The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship penny-slot machine, earning him an astonishing $7,217,175.15
Mr Morris' wife says that they plan to use the money to pay off a car they bought specifically to make the trip to Southern Mississippi to attend the funeral. Their old car she said had more than 200,000 miles on it already.

They'll also use the money to repair the roof of their small business and put some away for their children, granddaughter, and a second grandchild who's still on the way.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 PM | Permalink

Grave robbers in the Bronx

Bronx grave robbers loot $160,000 worth of precious metal from mausoleums in historic New York cemetery

Grave robbers have stolen $160,000 worth of valuable bronze from at least 65 mausoleums in a historic Bronx cemetery.

Police sources told the New York Post that the thief or thieves sliced off door handles, vents and name plates from 65 mausoleums at St. Raymond Cemetery in Throgs Neck between Friday and yesterday.

The arrests were discovered yesterday and no arrests have been made yet. Police are uncertain whether this was a lone criminal or a gang.
Bronx resident Anthony Messina, 53, visited his grandmother’s grave yesterday. He was horrified at the ghoulish thefts.

'I think it’s despicable to disturb someone’s eternal rest just to make money,' he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:10 PM | Permalink

Police: Don't notify a mother of her son found dead using Facebook and the moniker 'Misty Hancock'

Where was Lt Schindler when they handed out common sense and decency? 

Police tried to message mother on Facebook to tell her son was dead - while she spent weeks hunting for him

An Atlanta woman is infuriated after police used Facebook to notify her of her 30-year-old son's death, rather than calling her or paying a visit to her home.

Anna Lamb-Creasey had been calling hospitals and jails for weeks, searching for her son Rickie, who went missing on January 25.  She even posted a message on his Facebook page that read, 'Rickie, where are you? Love mom.

But it wasn't until February 14 that she discovered her son's fate, when her daughter opened a Facebook message from someone named 'Misty Hancock.'  It was the same 'Misty Hancock' - whose profile picture featured Atlanta rapper T.I. - that had sent Lamb-Creasey a Facebook message on January 31.

But Lamb-Creasey had never read the message because the sender's strange name and profile picture led her to assume it was some sort of scam.

'I'm thinking it's just a fake,' she told wsbtv.com.

When Lamb-Creasey's daughter opened the message, however, she discovered it was regarding Rickie.

'Anna, This is Lt Schindler with the Clayton County Police Dept.,' the message read. 'It is important that I speak with you immediately. Call me at 678-***-****. Thanks so much.'

Click the link to see the Facebook profile of Misty Hancock.   

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 PM | Permalink

Death by Spontaneous Combustion - An 'inside out candle'?

Man, 65, believed to have died from spontaneous combustion after a pile of charred remains is found and no trace of fire source or other damage

Police believe a man may have died from spontaneous combustion after they found his burned body in his home but no other fire damage or evidence of accelerant use.

Sequoyah County authorities are determining the circumstances surrounding the death of 65-year-old Danny Vanzandt after his charred remains were found at his Tulsa home on Monday.  After neighbors saw smoke coming from the house they called the fire service and attempted to put out what they thought was a pile of burning trash.

They soon realized it was in fact a body.

Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart said: 'This is very bizarre. You’re thinking someone poured something on him, but there was no fire source.
'The body was burned and it was incinerated. I think there is only about 200 cases (of spontaneous combustion) worldwide. I'm not saying this is what it is, but I haven't ruled it out.'

Sheriff Lockhart spent about 20 years as an arson investigator for the Fort Smith, Arkansas Police Department, and said he had never seen anything like it.
The floor below the 65-year-old was not damaged and there was no sign that any accelerant was used.

Authorities said the man had a history of heavy drinking and smoking, according to Tulsa World.  But Lockhart said the way his body was burned was inconsistent with an accidental fire - such as from a cigarette dropping.


There have been a number of documented cases where police have found corpses burned almost to ashes but no burned furniture around them.
Temperatures of 3,000 degrees would be required to burn a human body to this extent, yet in these cases only smoke damage is reported.

Puzzled scientists have come up with the ‘wick theory’ to explain such events. The theory is that the human body can become an ‘inside out’ candle.
The person’s clothes are the wick, while their body fat is the wax or flammable substance, that keeps the blaze going
. Limbs may be left intact because of the temperature gradient, with the bottom half of the body being cooler than the top.A grisly aside is that greasy stains left after such an event could be a residue for the person’s body fat.

The combustion would not be ‘spontaneous’ however, because it would need an external source to start it off, such as a cigarette. Some have postulated that static electricity could cause the needed spark.

A body would take around five hours to burn in this way to ashes. Victims are often elderly, sick, or under the influence of alcohol, which might explain why they would not have been able to escape.

Charles Dickens provides a very graphic depiction of the death of the shopkeeper Mr Krook by spontaneous combustion in his 1852 novel Bleak House, where the author does away with the alcoholic rag-and-bone man Krook by making him mysteriously burst into flames.

Dickens had done his research: in the 1850s, the main theory used to explain these occurrences was alcohol — that, if you drank enough, it seeped into your skin  and made it possible to catch alight if you brushed past a flame.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 PM | Permalink

February 18, 2013

All is Vanity

 All Is Vanity C.Allen Gilbert
All is Vanity by C. Allan Gilbert

From Wikipedia

Charles Allan Gilbert (September 3, 1873 – April 20, 1929), better known as C. Allan Gilbert, was a prominent American illustrator. He is especially remembered for a widely published drawing (a memento mori or vanitas) titled All Is Vanity. The drawing employs a double image (or visual pun) in which the scene of a woman admiring herself in a mirror, when viewed from a distance, appears to be a human skull. The title is also a pun, as this type of dressing-table used to be called a vanity. It is less widely known that Gilbert was an early contributor to animation, and a camouflage artist  for the U.S. Shipping Board during World War I.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 PM | Permalink

"Does a man good to see so many people out to bury him"

The Man Who Rehearsed His Own Funeral

Look around you. Do you trust these idiots to handle your funeral properly? Neither did Jim Gernhart. In 1951, this Colorado farmer planned his own funeral in detail and conducted a full dress rehearsal so people would know what to do when he wasn't around to supervise them.

The full story is in Life Magazine, June 18, 1951.

The Rev. S. H. Mahaffey's funeral sermon extolled Jim as a man who had done many kindnesses for individual townspeople without general knowledge (which is true), "Ain't that guy a preaching fool?" whispered Jim.  And when the recorded strains of The Old Rugged Cross, one of the musical numbers he had personally selected, blared forth, tears came to Jim's eyes. "Real nice funeral, ain't it?" he sighed contentedly.

 Live Jim Gernhart In Casket

"It's real comfortable," said Jim, fingering the peach-colored velvet lining of his casket. "There aren't many guys get in one of these things and then get out"

"The Deceased" drove to the services in hearse, leaned out to wave gaily to friends seen en route.

"Does a man good to see so many people out to bury him"

'Turk'  who threw himself a funeral every year  would say the same thing.

The tombstone of Francis J. Moriarty is engraved, "It's better than waiting in line"

Francis J. Moriarty, known as Turk to his friends, because he loved Wild Turkey, decided on his tombstone at Mt. Benedict Cemetery in West Roxbury, well before he died.

He  threw himself a funeral there each year near the end of his life. (He died at 73 in 1985.) It was always an affair to remember.

''We made a plywood coffin we'd strap to the top of Billy Hunt's '66 Rambler American -- the car was worth about six cents -- and we'd drive to the cemetery," recalls Richie Polin, a friend of Turk. ''We'd put the bottles on top of the grave -- the headstone was already there. There'd be maybe a hundred of us. Turk would watch from a distance to see who came."

Some of the women who attended actually cried, despite the fact they knew Turk was lurking nearby. (According to Polin, Turk was a bank robber who did hard time for this pastime, later an employee of the Boston Housing Authority, and a poet whose talent was inversely proportional to the amount of bourbon he consumed.)

The whole motley crew would then repair to the now-defunct Sydney's on Green Street in Jamaica Plain -- a bar so named for the leviathan actor Sydney Greenstreet -- to continue the festivities. Perpetual gadfly Dapper O'Neil called the rite ''a most impressive ceremony," according to Jerry Burke.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink

February 14, 2013

"My love for you is eternal"

 Valentine Flowers After Death

Source Beauty in Spectras via Mme Scherzo

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:39 PM | Permalink

Artist gives dignity to "world's ugliest woman" after her death

 Julia Pastrana Burial

World's 'ugliest woman' Julia Pastrana buried 153 years after her death

An indigenous woman exhibited in 19th-Century Europe as the "world's ugliest woman" has been buried in her native Mexico some 150 years after her death.

Julia Pastrana, who suffered from a genetic condition that covered her face in hair, performed in circuses as a freak of nature.  After she died in 1860, her American husband toured with her embalmed body, which ended up in Norway.

Her remains were returned this week for a proper burial, after a long campaign.  People flocked to the town of Sinaloa de Leyva on Tuesday where Julia Pastrana was laid to rest in a white coffin adorned with white roses.

"Imagine the aggression and cruelty of humankind she had to face, and how she overcame it. It's a very dignified story," said Sinaloa Governor Mario Lopez.

"A human being should not be the object of anyone," Father Jaime Reyes Retana told mourners.

An Artist Finds a Dignified Ending for an Ugly Story

Her own husband called her a “bear woman.” An 1854 advertisement in The New York Times said she was the “link between mankind and the ourang-outang.” She became known in the popular imagination during the mid-19th century as “the ugliest woman in the world.” After she died from complications of childbirth, her body and the body of her baby appeared for decades in “freak” exhibitions throughout Europe.

 Julia Pastrana Bear Woman Apewaman Small

On Tuesday, more than a century and a half after her death, in 1860, the woman, Julia Pastrana, will finally be given a proper burial near her birthplace in Sinaloa, Mexico.  Her return home from a locked storage room in an Oslo research institute would not have been possible without the nearly decade-long efforts of the New York-based visual artist Laura Anderson Barbata.--

“By ending up as part of a collection in a basement, she lost any trace of dignity,” Ms. Barbata said. “My ultimate dream goal was that she should go back to Mexico and be buried.”

In 2005, during a residency in Oslo, Ms. Barbata began petitioning the university for Pastrana’s repatriation. “With the initial replies I was getting, I thought it was going to be very difficult,” she said.

But Ms. Barbata, who is 54, continued to apply pressure. In September 2005, she placed a death notice for Pastrana in an Oslo newspaper and had a Mass said for her there. (Pastrana was Roman Catholic.) In 2008 Ms. Barbata sent documents making her case for Pastrana’s release to Norway’s National Committee for the Evaluation of Research on Human Remains. Last June that panel offered its opinion that “it seems quite unlikely that Julia Pastrana would have wanted her body to remain a specimen in an anatomical collection.”
Last Thursday Ms. Barbata confirmed the identity of Pastrana’s body in Oslo before the coffin was sealed. Ms. Barbata and a University of Oxford forensic anthropologist, Nicholas Márquez-Grant, noticed that Pastrana’s feet still had bolts and metal rods that were used for exhibiting her body. The bolts were removed and placed at the foot of her coffin.

“Her hands were tiny and perfect,” Ms. Barbata said.

Pastrana will be buried on Tuesday in a cemetery in Sinaloa de Leyva, a town near her birthplace. She has become a minor celebrity in the Mexican press. Maria Luisa Miranda Monrreal, the director of the Sinaloa Cultural Institute, held a news conference last week and said the burial marked an end to a cycle “of exploitation.”

Governor Valdez, who has criticized the press for scaring away tourists by focusing on the drug violence in Sinaloa, will attend the service. His letter last year to Norway’s human-remains ethics board appealed for Pastrana’s return out of a “respect for human dignity and a high sense of justice.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:40 AM | Permalink

February 13, 2013

Death by CocaCola

New Zealand mother of eight, 30, who drank 18 PINTS of Coke a day, dies from cardiac arrest

A mother-of-eight, 30, died suddenly from a cardiac arrest because she drank up to 18 pints of Coke every day for years, a coroner has ruled.  Natasha Harris died on February 25, 2010, after her partner Christopher Hodgkinson found her seated on the toilet, slumped against the wall and gasping for air at their home in Invercargill on New Zealand's south island.

An inquest last year revealed that she would drink at least four 2.5 litre bottles of the fizzy drink each day, consuming more than twice the recommended daily caffeine consumption and more than 11 times the recommended sugar intake.
The coroner's report revealed Ms Harris suffered from a myriad of medical conditions, including a racing heart and 'absent teeth', which her family say was caused from Coke consumption.
An autopsy showed Miss Harris had a diseased liver.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

It wasn't the cola.  She could have drunk the same amount of Sprite or Mountain Dew with the same result.  Anyone who consumes that much sugar-- more than 11 times the recommended sugar intake - day after day, year after year, so much so that her teeth fell out, is seriously damaging her body.

 Soft Drink-Cans

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

February 11, 2013

Sliding down the slippery slope

Belgium is a vivid demonstration of the abandonment and darkness that euthanasia can’t help but eventually become.

Only weeks after learning that twin disabled men were euthanized, we find out a young woman with the mental illness of anorexia nervosa has been killed by her psychiatrist–after being sexually abused by another psychiatrist.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

"Neither living here, nor dead here"

 Neque Illic Mortuus

Detail of Gisleni’s grave in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome Via Mme Scherzo

From the Churches of Rome Wiki
To the left of the main door is the tomb of Giovanni Battista Gisleni, died 1672. He was a Baroque architect who was born and died in Rome, but did much work in Poland. He designed his memorial himself in 1670. It is a macabre piece, but great fun also. At the top is his portrait in a tondo, above a long memorial inscription. Below the latter is a skeleton wrapped in a shroud "facing"  the viewer, above which are two bronze medallions which demonstrate a hope in the resurrection. The left hand one shows a tree with its branches pruned but sprouting new shoots and containing an empty nest, while the right hand one shows the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a moth. Both of these are symbols of death in this world, and new life in the next. The left hand one says In nidulo meo moriar ("in my nest I die" -a reference to his dying in Rome after a long expatriate career), while the right hand one says Ut phoenix multiplicabo dies ("as a phoenix I multiply [my] days"). Below the portrait it says Neque hic vivus, and under the skeleton it says Neque illic mortuus; together this means "Neither living here, nor dead there".

 Gisleni Tomb "Neither living here, nor dead here"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

February 10, 2013

Detail of tomb of King Louis XII

 Detail Tomb Louisxii Anne De Bretange
Detail of the tomb of King Louis XII and Anne de Bretange via Mme Scherzo

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:34 PM | Permalink

She served below stairs and died at 100

Florence Wadlow

Florence Wadlow, who has died aged 100, was one of the last survivors of the pre-war generation which served “below stairs” in the great houses of England.

 Florence Wadlow

As a young woman in the 1930s, Florence Copeland (as she then was) worked as a kitchen maid at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, then home to the 4th Marquess of Salisbury, before securing a post as cook to the 11th Marquess of Lothian at Blickling Hall in Norfolk.

Her days were long, her accommodation spartan, her pay meagre. Yet she looked back on those days with affection, and in old age became a much sought-after source of information about what it was like to have a “life in service”. She was unimpressed by the ITV series Downton Abbey, saying: “They have got it wrong. They should have talked to people like me.”

Florence Georgina Copeland was born on December 8 1912 in West Ham, London, the daughter of a Billingsgate fish porter who was killed in the Great War. Having taken Flo and her younger brother to live at Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, her mother remarried and had three more daughters.

Aged 16, Flo went to London, where she found work as a kitchen maid for a retired Army officer and his two unmarried sisters in South Kensington for £20 a year….She was allowed one bath a week. For time off, she had one half-day a week and every other Sunday.
Late in her life she reflected: “Somebody asked me once if living in a big house like [Hatfield], and seeing all the marvelous furniture and silver and everything they had, was I ever envious? I never was really. I was always very interested but I can’t ever remember wanting it.”
Still in her mid-twenties, she was young to be in charge of a kitchen. She generally worked a 15-hour day, getting up at 7am to make the bread rolls for breakfast and prepare the rest of the meal — “eggs of some kind with bacon, fish (perhaps haddock, kippers or kedgeree). There might be kidneys or sausages, and cold ham on the sideboard.”
In 1940 she married Robert Wadlow, who worked at a limekiln at Heydon and served with the Royal Norfolks in the Far East during the Second World War. He was taken prisoner in 1941, and she did not see him again until the end of the war.

Florence Wadlow had two sons with Robert, and lived in a cottage at Heydon for 50 years before retiring to Fakenham in 1998. Her husband died in 1983.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:20 PM | Permalink

February 4, 2013

Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York City, dies at 88, RIP

New York mourns the death of its 'irrepressible icon': Former mayor Ed Koch - the man who saved the city from financial ruin - dies aged 88

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, the combative, acid-tongued politician who rescued the city from near-financial ruin when he took over office in 1978, died today at the age of 88.
After leaving City Hall in January 1990, Koch battled assorted health problems and heart disease.  Mayor Bloomberg led the tributes for 'a great mayor, a great man, and a great friend'. 'In elected office and as a private citizen, he was our most tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader,' he said.
'I don't think there was anybody who had more fun being mayor as Ed Koch,' City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is in the race to be the city's next mayor, said at the event.

When Koch took over the city from accountant Abe Beame in 1978, reporters covered him around the clock because of 'the Koch factor' - his ability to say something outrageous any place, any time. The larger-than-life character, who breezed through the streets of New York flashing his signature thumbs-up sign, won a national reputation with his feisty style.

'How'm I doing?' was his trademark question to constituents, although the answer mattered little to Koch. The mayor always thought he was doing wonderfully.  Bald and bombastic, paunchy and pretentious, the city's 105th mayor was quick with a friendly quip and equally fast with a cutting remark for his political enemies.
'You punch me, I punch back,' Koch once memorably observed. 'I do not believe it's good for one's self-respect to be a punching bag.'
Among his favorite moments as mayor was the day in 1980 when, seized by inspiration, he walked down to the Brooklyn Bridge during a rare transit strike and began yelling encouragement to commuters walking to work.
'I began to yell, "Walk over the bridge! Walk over the bridge! We're not going to let these b******* bring us to our knees!" And people began to applaud,' he recalled at a 2012 forum.

 Ed Koch

“Who Can Imagine Ed Koch Anywhere But in New York?”  Loving a broken city, which mostly loved him back.

Koch had no glamour when he was elected, and he managed not to acquire any during three terms in office. He was that rare politician who somehow became more ordinary, more real, even as he grew larger-than-life. He was obnoxious but not pretentious, deeply loved and deeply loathed, all of which only confirmed his essential New York–ness. We know that he achieved international fame, that he met statesmen and women all over the world, but who can imagine Ed Koch anywhere but in New York?

Neo  Quintessential New Yorker…

…and former NY Mayor Ed Koch is dead of heart failure at 88.  He was mayor from ’78 to ’89. The adjectives that quickly come to my mind—and probably to everybody’s mind—when thinking of him are colorful, flamboyant, outspoken. He was a special kind of character that New York City seems to specialize in.
The following is just about what you’d expect of Koch, isn’t it?:

Koch was born in the Bronx on Dec. 12, 1924, the second of three children of Polish immigrants Louis and Joyce Koch. During the Depression the family lived in Newark, NJ.

The future mayor worked his way through school, checking hats, working behind a delicatessen counter and selling shoes. He attended City College and served as a combat infantryman in Europe during World War II, earning his sergeant stripes.

I hadn’t known this, either:

While mayor, he wrote three books including the best-seller “Mayor,” ”Politics” and “His Eminence and Hizzoner,” written with Cardinal John O’Connor. He wrote seven other nonfiction books, four mystery novels and three children’s books after leaving office.

In The New York Times, a 2007 interview, Last Word, Ed Koch

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 AM | Permalink

Chris Kyle, R.I.P.

Renowned Navy SEAL sniper shot dead at Texas gun range; suspect charged

Chris Kyle, known as “the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history,” was reportedly shot and killed at the Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, Texas on Saturday.

Kyle, a former Navy SEAL sniper and author of the best-seller “American Sniper,” and a friend were found dead at the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range. According to WWFA-TV in Dallas, “Kyle was shot point-blank while helping another soldier who is recovering from post traumatic stress syndrome.”

Jack Murphy at the Special Operations Forces Situation Report (SOFREP) published a post regarding the tragic murders on Saturday night, reading in part: “Chris had been volunteering his time to help Marine Corps veterans suffering from PTSD and mentoring them.  Part of this process involved taking these veterans to the range where one of them snapped and killed Chris and his neighbor for reasons that remain unknown at this time.  The perpetrator then stole Chris’ vehicle in an attempt to escape but we have received word that the police have arrested him.”

 Chris Kyle American Sniper

Untouchable in Iraq, Ex-Sniper Dies in a Shooting Back Home

From his perch in hide-outs above battle-scarred Iraq, Chris Kyle earned a reputation as one of America’s deadliest military snipers. The Pentagon said his skills with a rifle so terrorized Iraqi insurgents during his four tours of duty that they nicknamed him the “Devil of Ramadi” and put a bounty on his head.

The insurgents never collected, and he returned home to become a best-selling author and a mentor to other veterans, sometimes taking them shooting at a gun range near his Texas home as a kind of therapy to salve battlefield scars, friends said. One such veteran was Eddie Ray Routh, a 25-year-old Marine who had served tours in Iraq and Haiti. 

But on Saturday, far from a war zone, Mr. Routh turned on Mr. Kyle, 38, and a second man, Chad Littlefield, 35, shortly after they arrived at an exclusive shooting range near Glen Rose, Tex., about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth, law enforcement authorities said Sunday. The officials said that for reasons that were still unclear, Mr. Routh shot and killed both men with a semiautomatic handgun before fleeing in a pickup truck belonging to Mr. Kyle.

“Chad and Chris had taken a veteran out to shoot to try to help him,” said Travis Cox, a friend of Mr. Kyle’s. “And they were killed.”

Mr. Routh was captured a few hours later near his home in Lancaster, a southern Dallas suburb, following a brief pursuit. He will be charged with two counts of capital murder, law enforcement officials said.

“He served this country with extreme honor, but came home and was a servant leader in helping his brothers and sisters dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Mr. Cox, also a former military sniper. “Everyone has their own inner struggles, but he was very proactive about the things he was dealing with.”

In 2011, Mr. Kyle created the Fitco Cares Foundation to provide veterans with exercise equipment and counseling. He believed that exercise and the camaraderie of fellow veterans could help former soldiers ease into civilian life.

Mr. Kyle, who lived outside of Dallas with his wife and their two children, had his own difficulties adjusting after retiring from the Navy SEALs. He was deployed in Iraq during the worst years of the insurgency, perched in or on top of bombed-out apartment buildings with his .300 Winchester Magnum. His job was to provide “overwatch,” preventing enemy fighters from ambushing Marine units.
In an interview with The New York Times in March, Mr. Kyle — who received two Silver Stars and five Bronze medals for valor — said he had hesitated to write about his experiences. But he was persuaded to move forward after hearing that other books about members of the SEALs were in the works.

“I wanted to tell my story as a SEAL,” he said. “This is about all the hardships that everybody has to go through to get the respect and the honor.”  But he also wanted his sense of humor to come out, he said, noting that he tried to “write in a Texas drawl.”

This man of valor who served his country with honor leaves a wife and two children behind as well.  He also leaves a great legacy but the manner of his death was a fitting one.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 AM | Permalink

"Not only did I get to see how many people care for me, but I also woke up before they took me to the crematorium."

'Dead' woman, 101, wakes up in coffin

Mourners couldn't believe their eyes when a 101-year-old woman sat up and spoke - just as she was being put in her coffin.

Peng Xiuhua wanted to know why so many people were in her house in Lianjiang, Guangdong province, China.  Peng, who lived alone, had taken a tumble and hurt herself so her two daughters, who are in their 70s, were looking after her.    However, 10 days later her daughters could not detect a heartbeat and her body had gone stiff so she was declared dead.

The daughters gave her a bath, an undertaker dressed her and they were about to put her in her coffin when she came back to life.
Peng said: "I am a lucky woman. Not only did I get to see how many people care for me, but I also woke up before they took me to the crematorium."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 AM | Permalink

'We were doing what we loved when tragedy struck'

Boyfriend's heartbreak his girlfriend dies in his arms after getting caught in avalanche

Elizabeth ‘Liza’ Benson was backcountry skiing with her boyfriend, Jason Ray, near Clause Peak in Wyoming last weekend when the slide drew her into the tree, causing fatal head and body trauma.

 Lisa Benson

On Sunday afternoon, Ms Benson was skiing with her boyfriend, and two other friends, including a physician. The group was skiing in the backcountry, where the powder is often fresher, but there is a significant risk of avalanches.  According to the Sublette County Sheriff’s Department, the 28-year-old athlete was caught in a small slide west of Bondurant. Trapped in the snows, she hit a tree. Mr Ray, who works as a seasonal administrator for the Sublette County Search & Rescue team, rushed down to her aide.  The physician was quick on the scene as well and administered CPR to Ms Benson, but realized the young woman had died in her boyfriend’s arms.  Ms Benson was slated to graduate with a physician’s assistant degree, according to the Jackson Hole News and Guide.

I know she died happy and with someone she loved so much,’ her sister, Adrienne Benson, told the paper. ‘And it was really fast.’

Other friends and co-workers described her as passionate, with a deep love for the outdoors. She had met Mr Ray at a clinic last October, and told her sister that only after a week, she had met her soulmate. Mr Ray told the News and Guide that they were ‘doing what we loved together when tragedy struck.’ He added that the two had plans to marry.

What a sad death for this young woman.  Does the fact that she was doing what she loved and died in the arms of her boyfriend make it a good death?  I'm not sure, but I'll call it that anyway.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:13 AM | Permalink

February 1, 2013

Do-it-yourself home funerals

Growing trend towards home funerals

What happened after Caroline's death was anything but typical.

Alison and Doug carried Caroline upstairs to the bathtub, where they washed her skin and hair, dried her limp, 45-pound body with a towel and placed her head on a pillow on the bed in her old room. Alison slipped a white communion dress on Caroline, turned up the air-conditioning and put ice packs by her daughter’s sides. She put pink lipstick on the child's paling lips, and covered up Caroline's toes and fingers, which were turning blue at the nails, with the family quilt.

Caroline stayed in her bedroom for 36 hours for her final goodbyes. There was no traditional funeral home service, and no coroner or medical examiner was on hand. Caroline's death was largely a home affair, with a short cemetery burial that followed.

"We had taken care of Caroline her whole life," recalls Alison, whose other daughter, Kate, has the same disease and will also have a home funeral. "Why would we give her to someone else once she died?"
A small and growing group of Americans are returning to a more hands-on, no-frills experience of death. In the world of "do it yourself" funerals, freezer packs are used in lieu of embalming, unvarnished wooden boxes replace ornate caskets, viewings are in living rooms and, in some cases, burials happen in backyards.

Nobody keeps track of the number of home funerals and advocacy groups, but home funeral organizations have won battles in recent years in states such as Minnesota and Utah that have attempted to ban the practice. Most states have nearly eliminated any requirements that professionals play a role in funerals. It's now legal in all but eight states to care for one's own after death. And the growth of community-based, nonprofit home funeral groups and burial grounds that are friendly to the cause point to an increasing demand.

The reasons vary from the economic to the psychological and cultural. The average funeral costs $6,560, while a home funeral can cost close to nothing. In a society where seeing death and speaking of it is often taboo, home funeral advocates are challenging the notion that traditional funerals are anything but a natural end to life. Instead, they assert, death and mourning should be seen, smelled, touched and experienced.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

Six Lessons from Death in Belgium


When Belgian doctors euthanized deaf twins because they were slowly going blind and couldn't bear not to see each other,  the world was shocked.   

Their family opposed their decision to die as did the local hospital, but they found a willing doctor.

Michael Cook at MercatorNet explores Six lessons from death in Belgium  and what it reveals about a legalized right to die.

Lesson one: the expanding circle.
Lesson two: euthanasia-minded doctors prefer easy deaths to complicated social work.
Lesson three: safeguards are meant to be hurdled.
Lesson four: if you’re disabled, you’re in trouble.

Lesson five: compassionate euthanasia has a price tag. Both Eddy and Marc were charged 180 Euros each for transporting their bodies back home. This macabre detail shouldn’t surprise us. China also charges the families of the people it executes. It's called a bullet fee.

Lesson six: not enough Belgians are being euthanased but the government has a plan. In 2011, the last year for which official figures are available, 1133 people were euthanased in Belgium. A few days after the Verbessem brothers died, the government announced that it would amend the law to allow minors and people with dementia to be euthanased as well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 AM | Permalink

The Victorian lady undertaker

Lady of Ashes

has as its heroine a Victorian undertaker, Violet Morgan. Although Violet marries into the profession she becomes quickly adept at running the family business. While her husband Graham becomes involved in a shady enterprise involving blockade running for the Confederacy, Violet assumes full control of operations at Morgan Undertaking. Graham complains that she is neglecting the house, even though he does not leave her with many options, since he is unwilling to devote himself to the care of corpses. Violet, however, sees her role not just as work but as a vocation, burying the dead being a work of mercy. She approaches the dead with respect and the survivors with sympathy and comfort
What I appreciate most about this novel is the fascinating information on Victorian mourning customs. People in mourning, especially widows, were allowed to withdraw into seclusion. Everyone understood the requirements of the grieving process, at least where the middle and upper classes were concerned. Outward expressions of sorrow were not only commonplace but expected. In our eyes the accoutrements of mourning may seem exaggerated, since now many do not have burial services but "celebrations of life." In Victorian times, a period of mourning was part of the healing process,
Did you know that Victorians did not embalm their dead?  In fact, the practice only took off in the United States during the Civil War, in order to cope with preserving dead soldiers—on both sides—while being sent home on trains.

Do you know why the Victorians didn’t embalm their dead?  They thought it an unseemly—and un-Christian—practice to fill a body with chemicals before placing it in the ground. 

Guess why lilies are traditionally associated with funerals?  Their scent is so intense that they masked the odor of decomposing bodies.  While Prince Albert’s coffin stood inside Windsor Chapel in 1861, the profusion of lilies was so overpowering that the guards had to be switched out every hour to prevent them from fainting.

First class or coach?  The Victorians were still a class-conscious society, even if some of those barriers were breaking down.  In planning your funeral, the undertaker—wearing a top hat swathed in black crape—would offer your family options appropriate to your social status.  For example, if you were of high enough rank, you might have a funeral car with glass sides, interior curtains, and plumes adoring the top.  Were you just middle class?  Well, a smaller carriage then, no curtains and no plumes.  For those of little means, your funeral carriage was more like a long, black open cart.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

A boomer's death

Featured in the New York Times,

 Have Some Fun

Living and Dying on His Own Terms

About 5 p.m. he woke one last time. “He said, ‘I love you, I’m tired. It’s time to turn it off,’ ” recalled Ms. Butler.

He looked at her and winked.

Then the doctors turned off the oxygen and pulled out the intravenous tube.

On Friday, Dec. 14, at 5:05 p.m. Mr. Lambros died.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

Daughter buries father with one last Whopper

Showing respect in a fast-food nation.  You've probably heard about this story

He had it his way: Father's funeral stops at Burger King drive-thru so tearful daughter can bury him with one last Whopper Jr.


Marking 88-year-old David S. Kime Jr.'s love of the popular restaurant chain, family and friends picked up 40 Whopper Jr. burgers on the way to the cemetery - including one they buried with him.

If everyone's eating burgers at the cemetery, did they bother with a reception after?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink