March 30, 2015

Turn yourself into compost?

Who asks themselves, how can we put dead bodies to good use?  Only those with a materialistic,  utilitarian outlook on life.   

Would you want your corpse to become COMPOST? Seattle firm proposes giant tower to turn dead bodies into plant food

Corpses could soon be turned into compost and used as plant food if a radical new plan to offer a new way to bury the dead succeeds.  Called the Urban Death Project, it proposes corpses are placed into a giant tower by families and left to decompose.
After six weeks, their body will have broken down into compost, which is them given to the grieving families as well as spread in national parks
Katrina Spade says she got the idea from animal composting, which is common. She plans to launch a  Kickstarter campaign later this month to build a prototypes system by 2020, and admits it also faces legal problems.

This  is a grotesque, horrible idea that would not occur to religious or spiritual people for whom respect for the dignity of the human being and the human body, before and after, is a principal value.

That goes for beautiful beads too.  Memorial Ash Beads: Artist Turns Your Loved Ones’ Ashes Into Jewelry


Ghoulish is what I call them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:45 PM | Permalink

"He died while smoking, drinking whiskey and telling lies"

His daughter penned this hilarious obituary for her father which was published in the Homer Tribune

Captain Donald Alexander Malcolm Jr., 60, died Feb. 28, 2015, nestled in the bosom of his family, while smoking, drinking whiskey and telling lies. He died from complications resulting from being stubborn, refusing to go to the doctor, and raising hell for six decades. Stomach cancer also played a minor role in his demise. 

Don cherished family above all else, and was a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He met his future wife, Maureen (Moe) Belisle Malcolm, after months at sea, crab fishing. He found her in his bed and decided to keep her. Their daughter Melissa was born “early” six months later. They decided to have a boy a couple years later, and ended up with another daughter, Megan. He taught his girls how to hold their liquor, filet a fish and change a tire. He took pride in his daughters, but his greatest joy in life was the birth of his grandson Marley, a child to whom he could impart all of his wisdom that his daughters ignored.

After spending his formative years in Kirkland, Wash. with a fishing pole in hand, Don decided his life’s calling was to yell at deckhands on commercial fishing boats in Alaska. As a strapping young man of 19, he moved to Dutch Harbor to fulfill this dream. Over the next 40 years, Don was a boat cook, mechanic, deckhand, captain and boat owner. Although Don worked nearly every fishery in the Pacific Northwest at one time or another, his main hunting ground was the Bering Sea. He cut his teeth crabbing; kept his family fed by longlining halibut and black cod; then retired as a salmon gillnetter in Southeast Alaska.

Don had a life-time love affair with Patsy Cline, Rainier beer, iceberg lettuce salads and the History Channel (which allowed him to call his wife and daughters everyday in order to relay the latest WWII facts he learned). He excelled at attempting home improvement projects, outsmarting rabbits, annoying the women in his life and reading every book he could get his hands on.

He thought everyone could, and should, live on a strict diet of salmon, canned peas and rice pilaf, and took extreme pride in the fact that he had a freezer stocked full of wild game and seafood. His life goal was to beat his wife at Scrabble, and although he never succeeded, his dream lives on in the family he left behind.

Don is survived not only by his wife, daughters and grandson, but by his father, Donald Malcolm Sr; brothers Howard and Mike Malcolm; sisters Lisa Shumaker, Nicki White, Melinda Borg and Patsi Solano.

He also has many nieces, nephews, aunts and cousins who love him dearly, and deckhands who knew him. He will be having an extended family reunion with his mother, Winifred Thorton; foster parents Marvel and Dutch Roth, brothers Larry and Steve Malcolm, sister Doodie Cake, and other assorted family and friends who died too young.


Writing it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and I wouldn't wish the task on anyone. However, it does allow you the chance to inject a bit of humor into an otherwise entirely awful situation,' Megan Malcolm wrote.
'I hope reading Papa M's obituary makes you smile and remember what an incredible man he was. He was the absolute best, and he will be missed.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:28 PM | Permalink

Stray dogs pay respects to animal lover

This is a wonderful story.  The amazing moment stray dogs showed up at a funeral to pay respects to the kindly lady who used to feed them

 Stray Dogs Pay Respects Funeral

A funeral for a woman in Mexico took an unexpected turn when a number of stray dogs unexpectedly showed up to pay their respects.  Animal lover Margarita Suarez of Merida, Yucatan, passed away earlier this month after battling illness.  During her life she was known for her kindness to all kinds of animals and every morning she would feed the stray dogs and cats that would show up at her home.

She was also known for taking a bag of food along when she went out so she could treat other strays she encountered.  Family members were stunned when the dogs suddenly appeared at the funeral parlor where Margarita's body was being kept.
Workers at the funeral home denied any knowledge of the animals and said they had never seen them before.  Realizing that the animals had come to pay their respects to Margarita, the staff allowed the dogs to come in and they laid peacefully on the floor near the woman's coffin.

On the day of the funeral, March 15, the dogs even formed a procession behind the hearse and then returned to the funeral home.They only left once Margarita's body was being prepared for cremation.  'In pain, they jumped for joy, it was wonderful,' said Margarita's daughter Patricia Urrutia.  She believes that the animals had wanted to be there to say goodbye to someone who had been so good to them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:06 PM | Permalink

March 21, 2015

You never know when death comes calling

Every one of these deaths is tragic most of all in the suddenness of all of them.

A 37-year-old woman was killed in Manhattan's West Village by a piece of plywood that was blown out of luxury condo development in high winds.

You are on a cruise of a lifetime and decide to debark for an escorted trip to the famed Bardo Museum in Tunis and are shot dead along with 16 others by Islamist gunmen.

You go a tandem paraglide with your 16-year-old and make sure she is harnessed correctly, but you don't check your own harness.  During the course of the ride, you become detached and fall 1000 ft to your death, but your daughter manages to crash land on a mountain and survive.

You are a new university graduate but the dog still has to be taken out for a walk and it's your turn, so out you go when you are killed by an icicle that falls 14 stories onto your head.

You're 13 years old and it's finally getting warmer, so you call your mom to say you want to walk home.  You fasten your earphones under your hoodie and walk along near the tracks where there's little snow, but you play the music so loud, you don't hear the approaching train or the engineer's whistle, so you are hit dead.

Your mother wouldn't let you sit in front because you're only 13, so you get out, sit in the middle of the road and argue with her until a 21-year-old drunken driver hits you and you die.

You're on vacation in Portugal and visiting the cliffs of Cabo Da Roca and decide to take selfies by the cliff when you both fall down the cliff and die.

You're only 15 and don't have a driver's license yet, but you want to go out with your girlfriend and pick up guys, so you take your father's SUV without permission and pick up up four teen-age boys to get breakfast.  On the way back, you lose control, flip the car over several times and end up killing three of the boys.

After a wonderful afternoon at the Giggle Factory with your 11-year-old daughter and the daughters of your two sisters,  you are driving home and almost there when you decide to chat on Facebook and your SUV spins out of control on the highway into the path of a truck, killing all three girls.

He never took a sick day in his 42 year-old career with the NYPD and weeks away from retirement,  he died of a heart attack at home.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2015

****Stupid deaths

Polish couple fall off cliff and die while taking selfies

Florida teen trying to stop his drunk friend from driving grabbed on to the spoiler of his friend's high-performance car when the car slammed into a palm tree and he was killed.

Joe Ianzano, 19, from Florida, died trying to stop his friend drink driving
He was hanging onto the car's rear spoiler when it slammed into a palm tree
The teenager, who wanted to be a fireman, suffered a severe head trauma
He was pronounced dead at the scene in Coconut Creek on Saturday
A memorial fund has been started in his honour, raising $1,410 so far
The driver has been identified by sources as Patricio Javier Arias

Girl, 9, dies; trapped in sandhole at Oregon beach

Witnesses told KATU-TV that the girl helped dig the hole along with her siblings and other friends at the beach located behind the Seagull Beach Front Motel.  The sand caved after the girl sat down in the hole to see how deep it was.

Lawyer, 42,  killed by train after crossing tracks 'wearing headphones and listening to music on her phone' in Minneapolis leaving behind a 14-year old son.

At the time of her death, Buchanan's law license was inactive due to an October 2012 ruling that found she suffered from serious mental health difficulties.

In Pennsylvania, A 15-year-old girl without a driver's license took her father's SUV without permission before crashing the vehicle, killing three teenage boys,

Boyfriend, 28, cycling across six states to propose to his girlfriend in Miami is stabbed to death by a homeless man during a snack stop at McDonald's in Vero Beach, Florida

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:51 PM | Permalink

March 17, 2015

Archaeologists find Cervantes in a forgotten crypt in same building where he was first buried

Remains discovered in Madrid chapel ARE those of Don Quixote author Cervantes: Archaeologists solve mystery of writer's resting place after bones vanished in 1673

Archaeologists have discovered the long lost remains of Miguel de Cervantes - the author of Don Quixote- in a Madrid chapel.  Forensic scientists said they found the bones of the famous Spanish writer and his family in Madrid's Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.

-Cervantes  Portrait of Miguel de Cervantes

The author of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha,' considered the most influential work of Spanish literature, was buried in 1616 and the church was later rebuilt.  But his remains were moved into the new building in the late 17th Century, and disappeared.

Cervantes was 69 when he died in 1616 and in accordance with his wishes, he was buried in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid's historic Barrio de las Letras, or Literary Quarter.  His remains were then lost for centuries after his bones mysteriously went missing in 1673 when building works was done at the convent. 

Earlier this year  archaeologists used 3D scanners, infrared cameras and ground-penetrating radar to discover a forgotten crypt under the building.  Inside the niche, they found the lid of a coffin with the initials MC - for Miguel de Cervantes - and bones of at least ten people were also found inside the niche. 

Investigators were able to use clues from the author's own stories to help them identify the remains. Shortly before his death Cervantes wrote that he only has six teeth, but the most obvious marks were his battle wounds.  In 1571, the writer was injured in the Battle of Lepanto, which pitted Ottoman Turkish forces against the Holy League, led by Spain. Aboard the ship La Marquesa, Cervantes was hit with three musket shots, two in the chest and one in his hand.
Investigator Luis Avial told a news conference on Tuesday that Cervantes would be reburied 'with full honors' in the same convent after a new tomb had been built, according to his wishes.

-Convento De Las Trinitarias Descalzas (Madrid) 05 Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians.

Quotes from Don Quixote which I read in college and again a few years ago, laughing out loud in places

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”

“I do not deny that what happened to us is a thing worth laughing at. But it is not worth telling, for not everyone is sufficiently intelligent to be able to see things from the right point of view.”

“Until death it is all life”

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

"Can we ever have too much of a good thing?

"Every man is as Heaven made him, and sometimes a great deal worse.

"Time ripens all things. No man is born wise.

"Honesty's the best policy.

Arnold Hauser on Cervantes "Before Cervantes there had only been good and bad characters, deliverers and traitors, saints and blasphemers, in literature; here the hero is saint and fool in one and the same person."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2015

"Cemeteries are for me like bookshops"

Theodore Dalrymple in And Death Shall Have His Dominion

Cemeteries are for me like bookshops; I find it difficult to resist the temptation to enter them and linger awhile.  I have been like this ever since my adolescence and I do not think I am morbid. On the contrary, I find it strange that some hurry past cemeteries either without a second look or even with a shudder. Meditation on the transience of life, intermittent rather than continuous and rejuvenating rather than paralysing, is important for achieving equanimity. And there is no better aid to such meditation, I find, than a good graveyard....

I prefer to wander at random among the 65,000 graves than seek out anyone in particular....Although I do not seek out the famous, it is pleasant to stumble across them from time to time.....Père-Lachaise, perhaps any cemetery, is an antidote to pride and self-importance....One of the more curious political tombs is that of Masih Rasti Mobarake (1946 – 2004). ‘Communism,’ says the inscription, ‘is humanity’s resurrection,’ a rather curious choice of words, when you come to think of it, of militant atheists.....

But most of the tombs in Père-Lachaise, as in every other cemetery, are of people who led ordinary lives. I liked the words of the wife of Émile Huron (1883 – 1949) inscribed on his tomb, not orthodox but surely deeply felt:

Your memory is my religion
This tomb is my homeland.
        You… my love.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

March 14, 2015

Miscellany for LM

Since I never got around to writing some posts, I decided to just leave you with some interesting links.

WSJ Facebook Heir? Time to Choose Who Manages Your Account When You Die
The Social Network Now Lets You Designate a ‘Legacy Contact’ for Your Digital Afterlife

In the Atlantic, Medical Technology Makes "Time of Death" Harder to Pinpoint

In the Smithsonian There Are Over 200 Bodies on Mount Everest, And They’re Used as Landmarks

DeathHacks  Tech tips for people who are going to die (someday)

Bringing Up Purgatory at a Funeral?  if you've read Dante's Purgatorio, this is a good thing

Buried together in a double coffin  Devoted husband and wife who died within days of each other after 60 years of marriage laid to rest holding hands

Two Ways of Dying

What happens when someone dies in an airplane? Move them to an empty seat in first class, cover them with a blanket and NEVER put them in the loo

Churchill’s Funeral, 50 Years On

The Federalist.  Ashes, Mannequins, And Corpses: What Will Happen To You After Death?
Death has become quite the creative enterprise, full of entrepreneurs eager to Americanize death and cash in on your corp$e. It’s time to reclaim a more humane way.

Headstone Makers Battle Newark Archdiocese for Business

The macabre museum exhibit designed to recreate the smell and sounds of the deaths of JFK, Princess Diana and even Whitney Houston

The Lost Bones. Ground Truth: In Dozier's neglected cemetery, a search for lost boys and the reasons why they died

The Long Thanatopsis  Over the next few decades, baby boomers will reinvent how America dies. That gives Generation X one last thing to roll its eyes about, as it follows a step behind.

DIY burials Home Burials Offer an Intimate Alternative

Beyond Goodbye: Are shared-death experiences real?

Historic Gravesite Lies In The Middle Of The Road

“What is your real value?”: what happened when inmates were assigned to write their own obits
The resulting obituaries were reflective, outlandish, candid, evasive, aspirational. Above all, they showed how people who have wronged society would like to be remembered.  The whole story in the LA Times.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:38 PM | Permalink

March 13, 2015

Honoring their dying wishes no matter how unusual

In the NYT.  A Hospice volunteer writes about Their Dying Wishes

I’ve purchased lottery tickets and fetched bialys from Zabar’s, the specialty grocery store on Broadway. I’ve scored weed in the Village for an 80-year-old doctor with lung cancer and schlepped it by subway to the Upper West Side. I rolled its sticky green leaves into a thin joint and watched her relax for the first time since I met her. I’ve read all 150 chapters of Psalms in one sitting and written tactful letters to childhood friends. I’ve bought Champagne for last birthdays and white carnations, their smell harking back to some unstated but precious memory from years gone by. Once, when Hostess briefly discontinued Twinkies, I scoured a dozen delis in Brooklyn for the cream-filled, spongy yellow cakes. I finally found a carton on eBay.

Some of the final wishes brought true for terminally ill patients by Dutch hospice

This 77-year-old woman, from Heemskerk, enjoyed a last look at a self-portrait by Rembrandt in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

 Final Wishes Dutch-Hospice

Cancer patient Mario, 54, says goodbye to the giraffes at Rotterdam Zoo, whose enclosure he used to clean

 Dying Man Giraffe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 PM | Permalink

"He became the train that was carrying his little girl"

Like any boy David Warren loves railways.  He never met his mother's father, Oliver Holmes,  was a railway engineer who drove steam engines carrying coal all around Cape Breton and passenger cars  between Halifax and Sydney.   

This is his family story, part of post entitled Narrow-gauge railways.

My mother was then a young nurse at Halifax. Old Oliver knew he was dying, in the hospital at New Waterford (since defunct), in the moments when he was in his wits; but there was some question how long he would take. His wife, Annie, and his elder daughter, Mildred, would sit with him, and by the account of the latter (died 1989), he was something to see when out of them (his wits). He would pronounce on various matters, “like an Old Testament Prophet.” In his delirium one day he suddenly demanded that his younger daughter, Florrie (my mother), be summoned from Halifax. A trunk call was placed, to her ward matron, and up came my mama on the day’s last train.

My Aunt Mildred, church organist and ecumenical saint, whose every word could be absolutely trusted, stayed by her father’s bedside that evening. Grandpa remained awake and extremely alert. In the course of the evening, he became the train that was carrying his little girl. He would take her home. He could remember the whole route, every signal and station, every cutting and bridge — the whole ten hours. He could count off the times by the minute and the half-minute, following the clock exactly.

She had made Port Hawkesbury.

She was skirting the shore of the Bras d’Or.

She was approaching North Sydney! She was at Sydney Mines! And finally, she was pulling into Sydney Station.

“She’ll take a cab, she’ll be right over.” And to the minute, she walked in the door.

Mama: still dressed in her nurse’s uniform, and cap, and cape. She’d run from the ward to catch that train, packing nothing. They embraced, and old Oliver, looking strangely well and almost youthful, said, “You girls go home now, get some rest. We’ll talk tomorrow. Florrie’s had a long journey. Tell your mother I’m well, I need some rest, too.”

It seems almost redundant to add that he died that night.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 PM | Permalink

Terry Pratchett on death

As I said, I've never read any books by Terry Pratchett and I wanted to get a sense of his writing, so I went looking for quotes.  Below are some of his quotes on death

Terry Pratchett on Death

It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It's called living.
By the time you've reached your sixties, you do know that one day you will die, and knowing that is at least the beginning of wisdom.
It's not morbid to talk about death. Most people don't worry about death, they worry about a bad death.
We have been so successful in the past century at the art of living longer and staying alive that we have forgotten how to die. Too often we learn the hard way. As soon as the baby boomers pass pensionable age, their lesson will be harsher still.

Death isn't online. If he was, there would be a sudden drop in the death rate. Although it'd be interesting to see if he'd post things like: DON'T YOU THINK I SOUND LIKE JAMES EARL JONES?
You're not going to die, are you sir?' he said.
'Of course I am. Everyone is. That's what being alive is all about.'
Perhaps, if you knew you were going to die, your senses crammed in as much detail as they could while they still had the chance…
I intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod. Oh, and since this is England, I had better add, 'If wet, in the library.'
The ideal death, I think, is what was the ideal Victorian death, you know, with your grandchildren around you, a bit of sobbing. And you say goodbye to your loved ones, making certain that one of them has been left behind to look after the shop.

 Prachett 2012

While he campaigned in favor of assisted suicide, "Terry passed away in his home, with his cat sleeping on his bed surrounded by his family."

His daughter Rhianna who will carry on writing Discworld books,  announced his death on Twitter.  His character Death always spoke in capital letters.

Rhianna Pratchett (@rhipratchett) March 12, 2015

Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
— Rhianna Pratchett (@rhipratchett) March 12, 2015

The End.
— Rhianna Pratchett (@rhipratchett) March 12, 2015
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 AM | Permalink

Revived by the power of love

Revived by the power of love: Incredible moment 'dead' premature baby came back to life after mother begged to cuddle him for a few last moments and ordered his father to take off his shirt and help
First-time parents Kate and David Ogg were heartbroken when they were told one of their twins - born two minutes apart at just 26 weeks - had stopped breathing and had just moments to live.

Thinking it was the only time they would have with the tiny boy they had already decided to name Jamie, Kate asked to be able to hold the lifeless child, and told David to climb into the hospital bed for a tender embrace.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle.

 Parents Cuddle 'Dead' Baby

In this mother's loving arms, the little boy started moving, and his breathing grew stronger. Hospital staff rushed back to his aid and together brought the baby back to life.

Five years on, Jamie Ogg is a healthy, happy kid whose biggest problem regarding his troubled entry in the world is having a little brother who tells anyone who'll listen that he used to be dead but now he's alive.

 Ogg Twins At 5

When the twins were first told of their miracle birth, Emily burst into tears and wouldn't stop hugging Jamie.  Remarkably, Jamie has not encountered one medical problem in the five years since his birth

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

What everyone forgets about euthanasia

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes What everyone forgets about euthanasia

The most frustrating thing about any discussion of euthanasia is the fact almost everyone forgets, a stubborn fact which is the only thing that truly matters on this issue.

And it is this: as most people who have worked in palliative care will tell you, almost every single time a terminally ill person professes that they want to die, it is a cry for help. And almost every single time, when the assertion that they want to die is met with increased care and compassion, the desire goes away.

Sometimes the reason is rooted in physical pain, though this is something we have become quite good at alleviating. Sometimes the reason is psychological — feeling diminished or stripped of autonomy can be crushing. But as anyone with even a smattering of human psychology knows, this is a feeling that must be confronted with love so that it leads to acceptance. Sometimes, most terribly and perniciously, the reason has to do with family, and the sincere sense that it is one's duty not to be a burden to loved ones — a feeling which loved ones, if they are loved and love back, will respond to with only more love.

And this is what makes any abstract debate about values and slippery slopes ultimately beside the point. When the dying who claim to want to die are really calling out for love, the temptation to talk about a right to die must be resisted at all costs.

In their beds of sorrow, the souls of the dying cry out to us with one voice, and they demand only one thing: love. And that is the only thing we ought to give them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett "took Death's arm and followed him through the doors…"

I  never read any of Terry Patchett's books, but I'm amazed that he sold 85 million. As I read the obituaries  and tributes, I'm impressed with how many people loved him and regarded him a friend.

Discworld author Terry Pratchett is dead at 66

Beloved fantasy author Terry Pratchett has died at the age of 66, according to a message from his publishers. Best known for the Discworld novels, Pratchett wrote more than 70 books, blending fantasy elements with cutting and humane satire. "The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds," said Larry Finlay, who worked with Pratchett at Finlay Publishers.

Pratchett's family made the announcement through a series of tweets on the author's official Twitter account. The tweets describe an encounter between Pratchett and the personification of Death, who was a frequent and beloved character in the Discworld novels.

 Lasttweets Terry-Pratchett-1

The link above links to the official statement from Penguin Random House announcing his death

BBC: Sir Terry Pratchett, renowned fantasy author, dies aged 66

 Bbc Terry Pratchett

Philip Pullman: "There is nothing spiteful, nothing bitter or sarcastic in his humour"
"But he was also very shy, and happiest with his family

"Everybody who reads his work would agree Death was one of his finest creations - Terry in some way has now shaken hands with one of his greatest-ever creations."
The Discworld series - which started in 1983 - was based in a flat world perched on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle.  By 2013, he had written more than 40 installments….
At the turn of the century, he was Britain's second most-read author, beaten only by JK Rowling.

The Guardian Terry Pratchett had the ability to make everyone feel at home in Discworld

[T]he key thing about Pratchett’s fantasy. It always has reality stitched into it, so people like me who don’t read much fantasy feel at home in his world of magic, monstrousness and mortality. We recognise our own chaotic lives, the exaggerated characteristics of the people we know and the institutions that make up our world.

Telegraph obituary

Considering the enormous scale of his success, he remained unspoilt by it. His attitude to his own work was invariably self-deprecating, and although from time to time the strain of unrelenting adulation left its mark on him, his attitude to his readers was one of gratitude for allowing him to do what he liked best. His statement that money was an unavoidable by-product of writing, rather than its motivation, was no mere pose; when Hollywood offered him large sums of money on terms he found unacceptable, he declined.

A Tribute at PC Gamer

Most books I buy, I eventually wind up giving to friends or donating to our library, but never his. They're too important to me, because in them I found more than just hours of entertainment. I found the desire to become a writer. I'm confident I would not be writing these words, nor any words, without him. There are plenty of authors who made me daydream about someday being a writer, but his books were different. They inspired me to sit down in front of a keyboard and actually become one. For this, I'm forever grateful.
It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that most comedic fantasy games have been in some way been influenced and inspired by the Discworld novels.

Leah Libresco writes Learning about Sainthood from Terry Pratchett

In the Telegraph, a short video of the author in the piece by Kat Brown Terry Pratchett: just think of it as leaving early to avoid the rush   The Discworld author's death is devastating, but he leaves his millions of fans some of the best books of the last century.

His death is devastating. Not just because it came so early, but because to millions Pratchett was more than an author: he was a friend, even if you never met him. His many books formed notches on the passing of your life. Pratchett had a good line for every occasion, and his wisdom was tempered with wit.

Sir Terry Pratchett helped rewrite our attitudes to death The Discworld author always put on a good show of relishing his grim role as the public face of Alzheimer’s

If anything, he became more present on the public stage post-diagnosis than he had been previously as a best-selling comic fantasy fiction writer. After revealing in 2007 that he had PCA – which slowly corrodes visual recognition, causes clumsiness and attacks short-term memory – he put on a very good show of relishing his new role as the public face of Alzheimer’s.
The humour that was a trademark of his books was also ever-present in his approach to living with Alzheimer’s. He called it, in a typical Pratchetty phrase, an “embuggerance”.

When Sir Terry walked onto a stage, he would usually do a routine that began: “Hello, my name is… ummm…” Laughing at Alzheimer’s was a new experience for most in the audience. And he merrily told the Telegraph in September 2012, when she asked how he was: “I thought I’d be a lot worse than this by now – and so did my specialist”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2015

Graverobbers and bodysnatchers

Smithsonian Grave Robbers Once Held Charlie Chaplin’s Body For Ransom

Months after his death, thieves stole the actor’s body in hopes of a $600,000 payout; it didn’t turn out as they had hoped

Almost forty years ago, on March 2, 1978, Oona Chaplin got a call from the local police. Three months earlier, her husband Charlie Chaplin—the British star of silent films and early “talkies”—had died peacefully at their home near Corsier-sur-Vevey, by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. He was 88.  Oona, his fourth wife, and their eight children had buried him in a quiet cemetery by their home.  That was what the police were calling about."They said, look, somebody dug up the grave and he's gone,” Chaplin’s son, Eugene, later recalled to the Independent.

That was the beginning of one of the most spectacularly unsuccessful body snatchings in history. The thieves soon called the home with their terms. They wanted the equivalent of about $600,000 for the safe return of Chaplin’s body and threatened the lives of the couple’s young children should their demands not be met.

Oona would have nothing to do with it. "Charlie would have thought it rather ridiculous"…,

But the body-snatchers were desperate and the local police diligent. In May of that year, expecting another call from the crooks, police had Oona’s phone tapped and every one of the area’s 200 phone booths monitored by detectives. The efforts paid out, and two mechanics and political refugees from Eastern Europe, Roman Wardas and Gantscho Ganev, were finally nabbed.

After the two led the authorities to the cornfield where they had temporarily re-buried Chaplin, they were prosecuted for grave robbing and attempted extortion. Wardas, the reported "mastermind," was sentenced to four years, while Ganev got an 18-month suspended sentence.
As for poor Charlie, he was reburied in his original plot. This time, however, the family opted for a concrete coating over the grave to deter any future robberies.

Woman digs up father's grave in search of 'real will' only to find vodka and cigarettes instead
Melanie Nash, 53, was one of four accused in the plan to open Eddie Nash's vault in Colebrook, then rifle through his casket last May in a scene a prosecutor compared to an Edgar Allan Poe story.

Police said she felt she was shorted in her share of the inheritance after her father died in 2004. They didn't find a will in the casket…..His body was left intact.

Nash, who faced trial in March, instead agreed to plead guilty to charges of criminal mischief, interference with a cemetery, conspiracy and abuse of a corpse on Monday.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

The Cannibal Monks of Varanasi

The Cannibal Monks of Varanasi

Feared across India, the exiled Aghori monks of Varanasi feast on human flesh and reside near cremation sites in search of spiritual enlightenment.  Showing the monks with painted faces and beads strung around their necks, these incredible images were taken by Italian photographer Cristiano Ostinelli, who spent time with the tribe to discover more about their way of life.

The mysterious tribe members live in cemeteries and feast on human flesh as part of their rituals, as well as drinking from human skulls, chewing the heads off live animals and meditating on top of cadavers in search of spiritual enlightenment….The monks use a combination of marijuana, alcohol and meditation to help them reach a disconnected state of heightened awareness and bring themselves closer to revered Hindu god Lord Shiva. The Aghori also believe that by immersing themselves without prejudice in what others deem taboo or disturbing, they're on course to achieving enlightenment.

They live among India's cremation sites - where Lord Shiva and goddess Kali Ma are said to dwell - and feed on what others throw away.
Bodies are often cremated and then scattered into the sacred Ganges river, but some bodies are disposed of without cremation. The Aghori are said to collect these remains and use them for their spiritual enlightenment, wearing the corpses, consuming them or building alters from them.

Italian photographer Cristiano Ostinelli captured some extraordinary images


Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:57 PM | Permalink

Pray for a slow death

David Warren Pray for a slow death

It is all very well for these saints to be martyred, “at the top of their game,” as it were. One suspects it may even be a worldly privilege in some cases, like the silk rope I mentioned two Idleposts ago. However, recent events have reminded us that most die slowly, whether or not they happen to be saints, and with or without good palliative care. To the contemporary secular mind, this is appalling. The “quality of life” having been defined without reference to any spiritual values (love is incidentally a spiritual value) — but instead by analogy to the life of a dog — it is easy to understand the desire for euthanasia.

To those of you who are not yet saints (and I have a spiritual director who will confirm that I’m with you), a slow death is of inestimable advantage. There is a great deal of sinful attachment to this world that needs burning off, and best to get about it this side of Purgatory. Pain, properly managed (which is to say, peacefully accepted if it is one’s unavoidable lot), can be helpful, too. But even if the pain can be palliated — which it can be, usually, when known treatments are properly applied — time is of the essence. The more of it one has, the better, once one has fixed upon the ambition for a good death.

Time can also be wasted. This is the most heartbreaking thing I see in the nursing homes and elsewhere, where patients receive no spiritual counsel, and their visitors, if they still have any, flash the smileyface when they come, usually as cover for a quick getaway. These patients are told lies, including silly lies about how they are getting better. People who tell you lies are not your friends.

People who want to kill you are also not your friends,
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:56 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2015

"Rehearsal for Death"

Msgr Charles Pope: The Night Prayer of the Church as a “Rehearsal for Death”

[T]he instinct of the Church has always been to link night prayer to death, by way of a kind of “dress rehearsal.” Consider these prayers:

1. Into your hands O Lord I commend my sprit. This is a reference to Jesus’ dying words, “Father! Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46).

2. Lord, now you let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of your people. These are the words of Simeon, who had been promised he would not see death until he had beheld the Messiah. Now that he has held the infant Jesus in his arms he can die peacefully.

3. May the Lord grant us a peaceful night and a peaceful death. This is the concluding line of night prayer just before the Salve Regina, where we ask the Blessed Mother to “tuck us in” for the night.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 AM | Permalink

March 3, 2015

Homeless man buried in Vatican cemetery

Homeless Man Buried at Vatican Cemetery

"Willy Herteleer went to mass every day for twenty five years straight. He was well know among local clergy and the Swiss Guard. He was regarded as happy and friendly, a man of rich faith who enjoyed chatting with pilgrims about confession and the Eucharist, which he called his “medicine.”  When he died he was given a funeral mass and buried in the Vatican cemetery established for Flemish and German nobility.

Willy Herteleer was not nobility. Not in the earthly sense. He was a homeless man."
 Homeless Outside Vatican

Many homeless people find shelter beneath the porticos and colonnades surrounding St. Peter’s square.

A homeless man who used to roam the streets around St. Peter’s Basilica has found his final resting place among bishops.  Willy Herteller, an 80-year-old Flemish man, died on a cold December night last year. According to the Holy See’s press office, Herteller has been interred in the Teutonic Cemetery, a medieval German burial plot inside Vatican City that is usually reserved for clergy and aristocrats.

……Vatican Radio reports that Herteller was a “familiar face” to people in Vatican City, and that some clergy members would bring him food….The man’s funeral was paid for by an anonymous German-speaking family. He was buried on January 9.

Vatican Radio

"The pastor of Sant’Anna in the Vatican, Father Bruno Silvestrini, had dedicated the Nativity Scene at Christmas to Willy, adding a homeless man among the shepherds. He loved to pray, he had a good heart, attended the morning Mass at St. Anna every day and always sat in the same place.

"For over 25 years he attended the 7:00 Mass”, Fr. Silvestrini told Vatican Radio, explaining why he wanted a homeless among the shepherds in the Nativity Scene. "He was very, very open and had made many friends. He spoke a lot with young people, he spoke to them of the Lord, he spoke of the Pope, he would invite them to the celebration of the Eucharist. He was a rich person, of great faith - said the pastor of St. Anne who added - there were prelates who brought him food on certain days. Then, we no longer saw him, and subsequently we heard about his death. I've never seen so many people knocking on my door to ask when the funeral was, how they could help to keep his memory alive … He never asked for anything, rather he was the one who would strike up a conversation and through his questions of faith, suggest a spiritual path to those with whom he spoke".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

March 2, 2015

The visions of family members at the time of death

Dr. Jared Bunch explores the spiritual visits at the time of death of his heart patients in Strengthening Experiences from Patients while Dying

Another rationale that I have heard is we develop hallucinations of family members near death because these come from stored memories that are pleasant to us.  For example, in a time of stress we may envision our mother who was a source of comfort to us when we were children.  This would account for similar experiences in diverse individuals when the brain is deprived of oxygen.  I have had a few experiences that have made me doubt this rationale.

The most interesting came from a man who was dying of chronic lung disease.  His lungs had become heavily scarred with fibrosis and could no longer exchange oxygen well.  I was leaving the hospital one afternoon and he asked if I would come in and talk.  We ended up talking for about 3 hours.  He was an extremely successful businessman and had grown to love developing and serving his employees more than growing his company.  He said he always wanted to be there for his employees.  He was like a father to many of his employees and had personally supported some of their children through school, paid for weddings, helped in times of crisis, etc. 

He told me he never had a father.  His biologic father was abusive and left his mother alone when he was a small child.  He said he hated his father for what he had done and as a consequence had spent his life becoming the opposite of his father.   During his hospital stay he decided to enroll in hospice and start the dying process.  As we made preparations for him to return to his home and die he shared on last experience with me.  The night before his father had come to him.  He told him he was sorry, that he loved him, and that he wanted to help him now.  My patient said that he felt an overwhelming love for his father immediately and that all his hatred and anger was gone.  He said he did not realize that he needed to forgive his father and that now he was completely ready to die.

He died within a week of returning to his home.  Our hospital put up the newspaper of his obituary that highlighted the life of a man who was defined by service and love.  I have thought back upon this experience.  If his brain was hallucinating and he needed comfort, then why bring up images of a person he did not know and professed to hate?  To me, his mother who was his true companion in this life would have been the person that his brain would have associated with comfort and peace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:42 PM | Permalink

'And I'll stand there until my arm gets tired, and another Marine comes.'

Homeless Marine with terminal cancer gets last wish to be buried in dress blues he couldn't afford to own

Donnie Loneman, 59, had been living on the streets of Oklahoma City for the last decade when doctors gave him three weeks to live.
Loneman, who had loved being a Marine, asked for three things: to be buried in dress blues, with a 'high and tight' Marine haircut and a corps flag for his casket.

The Oklahoma City Veterans Affair Medical Center put the word out and a number of veteran organizations banded together to make Loneman's wish come true.  A flag and the dress blues were donated, and the foundations also paid for Loneman's funeral expenses and gave him an honor guard for his burial, according to KOCO-TV.

 Homeless Marine Last Days

Loneman, who was Native American, was beloved by the local veteran affairs organization, who knew him to have 'a good heart' and a 'great sense of humor'.  We get guys like him once in a blue moon, who really make a difference for everyone here,' said Christine Cleary, who worked with the medical center.
Loneman wasn't even afraid of death. He told Cleary he was happy because he knew he was going to heaven, where he would get to see his mother and the Marines.  'He said "I'm going to enter the gates, and I'm going to tell all the Marines that are standing there that they're relieved of their duty, and I'm going to take their place"', Cleary recalled him saying.
'And I'll stand there until my arm gets tired, and another Marine comes.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

"Get back in"

Don't encourage anyone who is contemplating suicide.  It is wrong and you could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.  It will be a life-long tragedy

Michelle Carter, 18, an honor roll student in Massachusetts 'encouraged her friend to kill himself', organized a fundraiser in his name - and was only caught when cops found her texts telling him to take his life
Michelle Carter 'sent Conrad Roy III, 18, a series of texts encouraging to take his life in a parking lot in Fairhaven, Massachusetts last July'.  He was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his idling truck.  The night of his death, she wrote on Twitter: 'I will never understand why this had to happen'.  She raised $2,300 for suicide prevention through a softball event and often shared messages online about how much she missed her friend.  Carter, who was 17 at the time, was arraigned this month as a youthful offender, which means she could face punishment as an adult if convicted  She is free on bail and continues to study and take part in volunteer work.  Michelle Carter, 18, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Conrad Roy III, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his idling truck in Fairhaven, Massachusetts last July.

 Michelle Carter Conrad+Roy

The Boston Herald reported

As the deadly carbon monoxide fumes from a gasoline-powered generator filled his lungs, a suicidal Conrad Roy III got scared and stepped out of his truck, but police say his 18-year-old girlfriend goaded him into taking his life with three chilling words: “Get back in.

Roy, 18, was found dead on July 13 inside his truck in the parking lot of a Fairhaven Kmart. “The sickly sweet taste of exhaust gas still could be detected,” according to police….
“Michelle Carter not only encouraged Conrad to take his own life, she questioned him repeatedly as to when and why he hadn’t done it yet, right up to the point of when his final text was sent to her on Saturday evening, July 12, 2014 at 6:26 p.m.,” the police report states.

Police and prosecutors say Carter, of Plainville, texted back-and-forth with Conrad before he took his life in the parking lot of a Fairhaven Kmart on July 13, 2014.  Court documents show the two friends exchanged more than 1,000 text messages in the days leading up to his death, the Fairhaven Neighborhood News reported.

'Instead of attempting to assist him or notify his family or school officials, Ms. Carter is alleged to have strongly influenced his decision to take his own life, encouraged him to commit suicide and guided him in his engagement of activities which led to his death,' Miliote said.

Her parents have defended their daughter saying she is 'not the villain the media is portraying her to be' and was only trying to help Roy, who had been suffering from depression.  In a statement received by The Boston Herald, the family said: 'Our hearts have and remain broken for the Roy family.  'For everyone that does not know our daughter, she is not the villain the media is portraying her to be. She is a quiet, kind, and sympathetic young girl. She tried immensely to help Mr Roy in his battle with depression. We know that once all of the facts are released, our daughter will be found innocent.'

But classmates interviewed by police after the tragedy described her as someone who craves attention and is known as the girl who 'cries wolf'. … 'She was a very nice, outgoing person but she requires a lot of attention and reassurance…..Detective Scott R. Gordon wrote in a police report: 'I asked him if he had a lot to do with the fundraiser, and he said not too much but he did try and get her to move it back to Mattapoisett where all of Conrad's family and friends were but Michelle wanted to keep it in Plainville.  'He further explained that (Carter) was getting so involved in it, and he was just curious about how she knew Conrad, and Michelle said that they had been dating on and off for two years and (he) said at that point that he had never heard of her, so he didn't know exactly if that was true or not.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink