December 27, 2015

The Artisanal Undertaker, “It’s an exciting time to be in death”

In the New Yorker,  Our Bodies, Ourselves
A funeral director wants to bring death back home.  She's Caitlin Doughty, the "artisanal undertaker".

Doughty considered her business an “alternative funeral service” that would bring mourners into closer contact with the dead by helping people to tend to corpses at home. She did not plan to offer embalming services, although she was qualified to do so, having graduated in 2010 from the mortuary-science program at Cypress College.......
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Her new funeral parlor has a blunt name: Undertaking L.A. Along with Amber Carvaly, her business partner, Doughty intends to help people take care of their own dead, rather than outsource the task to professionals. “When I found myself in all these big industrial warehouses, alone with all these bodies, I thought, If I’m doing all this, there are all these other people who aren’t doing this,” Doughty said. That’s too much death for one person and not enough for all those other people.” Among the services offered by the fledgling company are help with home funerals, in which the body is bathed and dressed, then kept on ice for a few days, while the family grieves; natural burials, without casket or marker, at a green burial ground in Joshua Tree; and witness cremations, which permit family members to help load the body into the cremation machine and push the button that starts the fire.
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With an increasing demand among baby boomers for customized funerals that reflect the individuality of the deceased, funeral directors are expanding into the business of event production. Today’s funeral director might stage a memorial service featuring the release of butterflies at the grave site, or with the deceased’s Harley parked ceremonially at the entrance to the chapel. In such instances, the skills of a funeral director can seem to fall somewhere between those of a nurse and a wedding planner.

More about Caitlin

[She has a ]popular series of online videos, “Ask a Mortician,” in which she fields such viewer questions as “Are these really my mother’s ashes?” and “What is the best way to write into my will that my children will receive no inheritance unless they have my dead body taxidermied and propped up in the corner of the living room?” In 2014, she published a best-selling memoir, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory.” (“A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves,” it begins.) And she is the founder of the Order of the Good Death, a mostly online meeting place for morticians and academics who are interested in exploring new ways to guide mourners through the experience of death.
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“I am pretty secular, but the transformation from body to ash is still incredibly meaningful to me,” she said. “I may not think the soul is necessarily going anywhere—but just the physical transformation and the transformation of the mourners are transitions. It is ritual, and it is very real, and it is important, no matter what ideas of the body and the soul and the spirit the family comes in with.” She petted Gaines’s cat, which was moving promiscuously from lap to lap, sparing nobody. “It’s an exciting time to be in death,” Doughty said
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

December 14, 2015

Mystery of identity of crash victim dubbed 'Grateful Doe' solved by online sleuths 20 years on

Online sleuths solve mystery of ‘Grateful Doe’ crash victim in Va.

Authorities say that online sleuths helped crack a 20-year-old mystery involving an unidentified man known as “Grateful Doe” for the concert tickets found on his body.

Police say that Jason Callahan, 19, from Myrtle Beach, S.C., was reportedly following the Grateful Dead when he was involved in a fiery car crash  and was  killed instantly. He was burnt beyond recognition, and because his family never reported him missing, no one claimed his remains. All he left behind were the tickets, and a letter addressed to “Jason.” The only identifying information: a star tattoo, according to a New York Times account.

The paper lists a number of amateur investigators on Reddit, Websleuths and Facebook, who, armed with these few clues, sketches and a composite image of the victim, were able to piece together enough to build a profile over the years and spread the word. The last breakthrough came when an old roommate of Callahan saw the photo. After Callahan’s mother, Margaretta Evans, saw the story online, she contacted the operator of one of the sites dedicated to “Grateful Doe.” She identified her son and the news soon went viral. Condolences have been pouring in for the family, who told reporters that Callahan was a frequent runaway and that is why he was never officially reported “missing.”

“No one ever thought to report him missing because they thought he wanted to be missing,” his half-sister, Shannon Michelson, told The Associated Press.  ""I'm glad it was solved, but I'm also incredibly sad because I wanted so badly to reconnect with him," she said.

 Grateful-Doe Jason Callahan

In a post Wednesday announcing the news, the Grateful Doe Facebook group wrote that Callahan's disappearance was an "important lesson to reporting your missing loved ones or even trying to check up on them if you haven't had contact in years."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

Mystery of identity of crash victim dubbed 'Grateful Doe' solved by online sleuths 20 years on

Online sleuths solve mystery of ‘Grateful Doe’ crash victim in Va.

Authorities say that online sleuths helped crack a 20-year-old mystery involving an unidentified man known as “Grateful Doe” for the concert tickets found on his body.

Police say that Jason Callahan, 19, from Myrtle Beach, S.C., was reportedly following the Grateful Dead when he was involved in a fiery car crash  and was  killed instantly. He was burnt beyond recognition, and because his family never reported him missing, no one claimed his remains. All he left behind were the tickets, and a letter addressed to “Jason.” The only identifying information: a star tattoo, according to a New York Times account.

The paper lists a number of amateur investigators on Reddit, Websleuths and Facebook, who, armed with these few clues, sketches and a composite image of the victim, were able to piece together enough to build a profile over the years and spread the word. The last breakthrough came when an old roommate of Callahan saw the photo. After Callahan’s mother, Margaretta Evans, saw the story online, she contacted the operator of one of the sites dedicated to “Grateful Doe.” She identified her son and the news soon went viral. Condolences have been pouring in for the family, who told reporters that Callahan was a frequent runaway and that is why he was never officially reported “missing.”

“No one ever thought to report him missing because they thought he wanted to be missing,” his half-sister, Shannon Michelson, told The Associated Press.  ""I'm glad it was solved, but I'm also incredibly sad because I wanted so badly to reconnect with him," she said.

 Grateful-Doe Jason Callahan

In a post Wednesday announcing the news, the Grateful Doe Facebook group wrote that Callahan's disappearance was an "important lesson to reporting your missing loved ones or even trying to check up on them if you haven't had contact in years."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2015

The approach of death...as a lived reality with an accelerating decline in energy

And Death Shall Have Its Dominion  Theodore Dalrymple

For the first time in my life I feel the approach of death not as a certainty in the abstract but (if I may be allowed a seeming paradox) as a lived reality. My hands are increasingly deformed by osteoarthritis, the joints being both enlarged and inflamed; and I can no longer disguise from myself an accelerating decline in energy. Only a short time ago, or so it seems (the foreshortening of time being also a sign of age), I could work all day as a doctor, be on call at night, and still, when the occasion required, write three articles a day.

No longer. I can do only a fraction of what I once did if not with ease, then at least with very quick recovery from any tiredness. Nowadays I always take a siesta, for the hour after sleep is my best time for work and a siesta gives me two such hours a day rather than only one. In any case, I can hardly keep my eyes open after lunch.

For a short time after waking, however, I feel a deep sense of regret, almost of despair, at having woken. I must again face the world, with all its petty impositions which I find increasingly tiresome. Logan Pearsall Smith, I think it was (an American litterateur living in England, once famous but now largely forgotten), who said that he once knew a man who committed suicide because he could no longer face the boredom of having to tie his shoelaces every day. Most people would consider this absurd, no doubt, but I have a similar feeling, if to a lesser degree. The smallest task – washing a plate, say, preparing a drink or changing my shirt because I have stained the one I am wearing, necessitating a trip all the way upstairs – seems a terrible waste of such little energy as I have left, my irritation only adding to the sapping effect of the little task. And when I look into the future, I see these burdens of boring necessity weighing ever more heavily on me, until nothing else but they remains to me. I saw this in my own parents as they aged: their entire life was taken up by the process of continuing to live, an endless round (endless, that is, until stopped by death) of trivial tasks, each taking an unconscionable time and concentration to perform. Living perforce became an end in itself for them; and while we all need an end in itself, for me at least mere living cannot be it. The process of living has always bored me, from the earliest days that I can remember.

The sleep from which I regret having woken is not just oblivion, though in retrospect I enjoyed the oblivion too. There is an oneiric period between sleeping and waking in which a stream of interesting images effortlessly passes before me, not always pleasant but never dull, which I am reluctant to lose, shorten or interrupt: so reluctant, in fact, that by an effort of will I can refuse to wake fully and thereby keep it going. Eventually, however, full consciousness makes its claims and cannot be denied. I wake and, much to my regret, resume my life.
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By contrast, my oneiric state is delicious, even when the images that come to me on what seems very much like a cinema screen are mildly disturbing. The mind – or at least my mind – seeks interest much more than it seeks pleasure: or rather interest is its pleasure, so that the disturbing does not truly disturb me. And all this for free, not only in the financial sense but free of the expenditure of energy.

Perhaps this explains the peculiar grip that screens have on our lives nowadays. My oneiric state can now be enjoyed not merely in the quarter or half hour between waking and sleeping, but for much of the day. The burdens of consciousness are too great to be borne, certainly all the time. We all need to escape them from time to time, some of us much of the time. The half-sleep dream state relieves us of the necessity to decide, to choose, to be responsible......
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2015

“The truth is, like so many other kids, they lost their father years ago. What they truly lost on December 3rd was hope.”

Hats off to Mary Forsberg Weiland

‘Don’t Glorify This Tragedy'
Days after Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver singer Scott Weiland’s death, his ex-wife wrote a heart-wrenching open letter on his recent death and lifelong struggle with addiction. In the letter, Mary Forsberg Weiland urged readers not to glorify her ex-husband’s death and instead learn from his mistakes as a father and spend time with a child who needs love and mentorship.

She detailed Scott’s struggle to be a father to his children, Noah, 15, and Lucy, 13.

“December 3rd, 2015 is not the day Scott Weiland died,” Mary wrote. “The truth is, like so many other kids, they lost their father years ago. What they truly lost on December 3rd was hope.”

Mary explained that after Scott remarried, he no longer maintained contact with his children and would frequently skip child support payments, even excluding his children from his wedding.

Our once sweet Catholic boy refused to watch the kids participate in Christmas Eve plays because he was now an atheist. They have never set foot into his house, and they can’t remember the last time they saw him on a Father’s Day. I don’t share this with you to cast judgment, I do so because you most likely know at least one child in the same shoes. If you do, please acknowledge them and their experience. Offer to accompany them to the father-daughter dance, or teach them to throw a football.

Finally, she concluded the letter by urging fans not to glorify his death or romanticize his addiction, but to spend time with a child in need of love and support — much like Scott’s own children.

Our hope for Scott has died, but there is still hope for others. Let’s choose to make this the first time we don’t glorify this tragedy with talk of rock and roll and the demons that, by the way, don’t have to come with it. Skip the depressing T-shirt with 1967-2015 on it – use the money to take a kid to a ballgame or out for ice cream.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 PM | Permalink

December 8, 2015

They never imagined this was how they would die

'Burglar' eaten by alligator as he hid from police
Matthew Riggins, 22, is thought to have jumped into a lake to escape a police search team

The remains of 22-year-old Matthew Riggins, a resident of Palm Bay, Florida, were found in a lake in Barefoot Bay on November 23, ten days after he was reported missing.
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Riggins' body was found by police dive teams searching the area. While they were recovering the remains, a spokesman said, they were 'aggressively approached' by an 11-foot alligator near the body.

The animal was caught and put down by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

According to reports, forensic examination of the alligator "located remains consistent with the injuries to Riggins inside the alligator’s stomach.”  Investigators say Riggins drowned as a result of the alligator attack.


Suspected burglar stuck in chimney dies when homeowner lights fire
A homeowner heard screams coming from the chimney after lighting a fire

An alleged burglar who got stuck in a chimney died after an unsuspecting California homeowner lit a fire beneath him. Cody Caldwell, 19, was allegedly trying to burgle the property in the small town of Huron on October 27 before he became stuck overnight.

The homeowner heard a man calling for help from inside the chimney after lighting a fire. He called 911 and attempted to put it out until police and firefighters arrived. Firefighters used jackhammers to dismantle the chimney but were unable to get to the teenager in time. His cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation and thermal burns.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:40 PM | Permalink

Santa's obituary yanked

 Norwegianasanta Obit Norwegiansanta

Death Claus: Norwegian newspaper forced to apologise after printing obituary for SANTA saying he died at age of 226

Christmas may need to be cancelled. Santa Claus has died aged 226 - according to a Norwegian newspaper.
Readers of Norway's Aftenposten were shocked to read an obituary for the man in red, which was published in the country's second-highest selling paper this week.  The bizarre notice - which the publication claimed was published by accident - stated he had died at the tender age of 226.

Aftenposten now issued an apology, stating the fictional obituary was published due to an error with its internal procedures.
The notice stated he was born in the North Pole in 1788 and had died in Nordkapp, Norway's northernmost point, according to the BBC.  It did not specify how he died, though it noted his funeral would be held at the North Pole Chapel on December 13.

 Santa's Grave

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:10 PM | Permalink