February 27, 2016

"She is now ill-gotten gains for thieves."

Shock in Chinese village as women’s corpses stolen for use in "ghost weddings"

Grave robbers in rural China are stealing women's corpses to feed a new demand for "ghost weddings", an ancient ritual whereby elderly bachelors are given a "bride" to buried with when they die.

Under a rural tradition that began nearly 3,000 years ago, families in rural China consider it bad luck for a single man to pass into the afterlife without a female companion at his side. One way to prevent his spirit becoming restless is to provide a female corpse for him to be buried with.

While the ghoulish practice has long been outlawed under communism, it has now revived as newly-wealthy country dwellers pay up to £10,000 per "bride".

The Sunday Telegraph visited the village of Dongbao in China's northern Shanxi province, which has suffered 15 corpse thefts in the last three years alone. At least 15 others have vanished from other hamlets across the region.

“Who knows where they took my mother?” said Li Fucai, 53, standing over a tomb where his father now rests alone. "She is now ill-gotten gains for thieves."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:43 PM | Permalink

February 26, 2016

"Tapping the Admiral"

What did people do before embalming became widespread? Or, if an important someone died at sea and his body had to be delivered home which could take weeks, even months?

Well, they decided to PickleAdmiral Horatio Nelson in Brandy!

In the middle of the Napoleonic War, Britain's most famous naval hero is struck by a fatal musket ball at the very moment of his greatest strategic triumph. Rather than bury his body at sea, a quick-thinking Irish surgeon preserves it in a cask of brandy lashed to the deck of the ship. A hurricane is on the horizon and the mast has been shot off; there is no way to hang the sails that would get ship (and body) to England quickly.

The two words that stand out in this story? Brandy and surgeon.

 Battle Trafalger.Jpg
A painting of the Battle of Trafalgar, showing the fatal wounding of Lord Nelson on the deck of the HMS Victory.

---
Nelson was barely less famous in his lifetime. Britain was an island nation with an overseas empire; the strength of its navy was central to national pride and economic security. Nelson was not merely a vice-admiral; was not merely the man beating the fearsome Napoleon's fleet with aplomb and  derring-do. Nelson was an officer who led from the front instead of the rear, who promoted men on the basis of merit instead of political connection, who referred to his missing arm as his fin, and flashed it at people who doubted his identity. His ongoing and blatant extramarital affair with a diplomat's wife was tabloid gold that added an air of scandalous romance to his exploits.

News of Nelson's death took 16 days to reach London; for the next two months, England was in a frenzy.

 Lordnelson Trafalgarsquare
Lord Nelson atop his 169 foot-tall-column in Trafalgar Square, London 

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By keeping Nelson's remains in brandy and ethanol—"spirit of wine" in the lingo of the day—Beatty (the surgeon) was setting himself against popular wisdom. As a scientist, he knew Nelson's body had the best chance of surviving the journey if he used the strongest proof liquor on board. But if it didn't work—and there was no guarantee it would—standard rum was the politically safer choice.

Before he could be proven right or wrong, the ship had to limp its way back to England—grieving, wounded, jury rigged. And Beatty's best impromptu efforts could only slow the decomposition of Nelson's corpse, not arrest the process entirely. The body was slowly rotting. Two weeks into the journey, gaseous pressures burst the lid of the cask, startling one of the watchmen so much he thought Nelson had returned to life...[After} a closed-casket farewell tour, London held a funeral which cost around $1.2 million, inflation adjusted. Nelson was buried. His corpse had spent 80 unrefrigerated days above ground. It was over.

The gossip wasn't.

Beatty was now famous, partly by his own doing. Why didn't you use rum instead of brandy, people wondered, sometimes to Beatty's face. Countless printed accounts said Beatty did use rum, because of course he did: it's what you use. Popular slang popped up; navy rum was now "Nelson's Blood." Surreptitious tippling was "tapping the Admiral," and legends abounded that the cask had been drunk down to nothing during the journey. (It hadn't.).....

Beatty died wealthy—a king's physician, and a knight. However, the Nelson-rum connection remains tenacious, with several liquor companies selling bottles of spiced rum named after the Admiral pickled in brandy. There are still pubs all across England called The Lord Nelson.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:55 PM | Permalink

February 22, 2016

World's safest dad

The obituary for Dean Jason Stewart Smith, 1992- 2015, reprinted in full from MacLean's

Dean Jason Stewart Smith was born on May 29, 1992, in Winnipeg to Audra, an IT support worker, and Kelly, an electrician. His half-brother, Aaron, from Audra’s previous relationship, was five years his senior.

Dean was born with helping hands. At daycare, he helped the staff clean instead of taking naps. “They would send him into the toy room with a cloth and a bucket of water,” says Audra. Soon after, she says, “he got me to adopt a cat because it was starving in the back alley.”

Kelly and Audra split up when Dean was three, and he spent alternate weekends with Kelly, as well as time with his aunt and grandmother. Dean helped his mother and brother fish in Winnipeg rivers, and he tagged along when his father hunted elk, moose and deer, learning to stay safe around dangerous equipment. “I raised him to be gun-safe probably from age four or five,” says Kelly. When Dean’s aunt, Carrie Deleeuw, offered him a ride on the back of her motorcycle but didn’t have extra eye protection, Dean wore lime-green swimming goggles while cruising down the highway. Dean even wore safety goggles when playing with Nerf guns. “They might be foam, but they could still take your eyes out,” says Kelly. “That’s called instilling safety.”

Dean never grew out of his cautious ways. After moving to live with Kelly and his stepfamily in Hinton, Alta., at age 12, he preached to his friends about safety while driving four-wheelers and dirt bikes. “He always made me wear a helmet,” says one of his best friends, Brian Scotland. “I hate helmets. Somehow I listened to Dean.” Dean was equally prudent at home. He never turned on the lawnmower without boots and eye protection, and “there’s safety stickers all around our house,” says his stepbrother, Brendan Bieker.

Dean would often share with Brian the game from his family’s hunting trips—a favourite was barbecued elk steak. If Brian’s front door was locked, Dean would climb through the window, leave the meat in the sink and check to make sure his friend was all right. “He’d break into my house just to see if I was okay,” says Brian.

After working at Canadian Tire and Smitty’s through junior high and high school, Dean became an apprentice to a heavy-duty mechanic and later got hired at a company that installs and maintains machinery. Dean followed mottos such as “look up and live,” which applied when working around suspended loads and power lines. Another phrase, “when in doubt, lock it out,” reminded him to secure motors and wires with locks that each have only one key. On work sites, Dean never removed his hard hat or safety harness, not even at lunch.

In a pub at age 20, Dean met Michelle Rogers, who had previously worked as a welder on pipelines. They hit it off and soon after moving in together, the couple got married, and Michelle got pregnant. Dean saved money to rent a spacious trailer in Hinton and buy a new car. The couple often drove past their former ramshackle rental, laughing at where they used to be. “We cleaned up our lives,” says Michelle. One day Dean spotted a mouse in their new home. “As soon as he saw it, he went berserk,” says Michelle. “He had to work the next day and he got, like, three hours of sleep because he was up stressing over this mouse.”

When their son, Kingston, was born in September 2014, Dean became known as the world’s safest dad. He insisted on buying a $300 car seat, with help from his grandmother, Donna Smith. “He had to get the top safety brand,” says Donna. Worried that Kingston might knock his head on a sharp corner, Dean moved all four coffee tables out of the living room.

On Nov. 23, 2015, Dean set out for a contract job at the West Fraser pulp mill in Hinton. Kelly called him that afternoon, and, before hanging up, reminded his son to “have a safe day.” Dean replied, “I always do.” Hours later, Dean was installing a safety handrail for mill employees to cross a tower without needing to wear a harness. “It was literally to make it 100 per cent safe for them,” says Kelly. According to Kelly, Dean’s safety lanyard got caught in the coupling of a motor and sucked him into the machinery. Alberta Occupational Health and Safety is investigating the death. Dean was 23.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 AM | Permalink

February 21, 2016

***Lying in State - Funeral Antonin Scalia

Lying in State at the Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made one final visit Friday to the marble palace he dominated for the past three decades.  His baritone voice silenced and his mighty pen relinquished, Scalia was carried in a flag-draped casket into the court's Great Hall and placed on the Lincoln Catafalque, which first supported President Abraham Lincoln's casket across the street in the U.S. Capitol after his assassination in 1865.

There he was honored by the remaining eight justices and 98 of his former law clerks, all of whom stood as one of Scalia's nine children, Rev. Paul Scalia, recited a brief prayer. The justice's widow, Maureen and his eight other children sat before the casket, with dozens of grandchildren standing behind them.
--
Friday's ceremonies began in below-freezing weather when eight Supreme Court police officers carried Scalia's casket up the steps of the marble courthouse and into the Great Hall. Scalia's large retinue of former law clerks, as well as his super-sized family that includes 36 grandchildren, lined the steps.

"As is the tradition, Justice Scalia's law clerks will stand vigil by his side at the Court all day tomorrow and through the night," tweeted Kannon Shanmugam, who clerked for Scalia.

Scalia-Fullview Lying In State-1

The funeral of Antonin Scalia, the Mass of Christian Burial in the beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. was live streamed on several news channels.  I was fortunate to be able to see the whole beautiful ceremony.

 Scalia Casket Enters Basilica-1

The Washington Post reported

The occasion put aside — momentarily — the partisan battle over the court that Scalia’s death has occasioned and was remarkably free of the encomiums that usually mark the send-offs of Washington’s political class. Instead, it followed the dictates of religion and placed the emphasis on the Christian promise of resurrection and the sinner’s need for God’s grace.
---
It took all seven verses of “O God, Our Help In Ages Past”— and then some — for his wife, Maureen, his eight other children and his three dozen grandchildren to accompany his body to the altar. An angelic-sounding choir provided song, and it appeared that every priest in the region had donned a white robe to stand at attention.

 -Scalia-Funeral Wide Basilica-1

 Scalia Casket Approaches Altar

His son Paul Scalia, a Catholic priest, celebrated the Mass and delivered the funeral homily which began in a shocking fashion for those accustomed to funeral homilies that celebrate the lives of the deceased.

"We are gathered here because of one man,....A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth. It is He whom we proclaim. Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of Him. because of His life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God."
--
But don’t take my word for it. Dad himself—not surprisingly—had something to say on the matter. Writing years ago to a Presbyterian minister whose funeral service he admired, he summarized quite nicely the pitfalls of funerals (and why he didn’t like eulogies). He wrote, “Even when the deceased was an admirable person—indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person—praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thank for God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner.” Now, he would not have exempted himself from that. We are here, then, as he would want, to pray for God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner; to this sinner, Antonin Scalia. Let us not show him a false love and allow our admiration to deprive him of our prayers. We continue to show affection for him and do good for him by praying for him: that all stain of sin be washed away, that all wounds be healed, that he be purified of all that is not Christ. That he rest in peace.

Finally, we look to Jesus, forever, into eternity. Or, better, we consider our own place in eternity, and whether it will be with the Lord. Even as we pray for Dad to enter swiftly into eternal glory, we should be mindful of ourselves. Every funeral reminds us of just how thin the veil is, between this world and the next, between time and eternity, between the opportunity for conversion and the moment of judgment. So we cannot depart here unchanged. It makes no sense to celebrate God’s goodness and mercy to God if we are not attentive and responsive to those realities in our own lives. We must allow this encounter with eternity to change us, to turn us from sin and toward the Lord. The English Dominican Father Bede Jarrett put it beautifully when he prayed, “O strong Son of God . . . while You prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place, that we may be with You and with those we love for all eternity.”

It was the most perfect funeral homily I have ever heard.

 Paul Scalia Homily-2

The Beauty of Fr. Scalia's Funeral Homily by Michael Pakaluk

Fr. Scalia’s homily has rightly been praised for implicitly refuting the common abuse of a funeral homily to eulogize the decease. It also showed how a funeral Mass for a public figure might be something other than a political spectacle. After all, a funeral Mass concerns the meaning and destiny of an individual soul, under the merciful gaze of a living Savior.
--
Third, the homily was bracing and masculine in its presentation of the truths of the faith. It avoided sentimentalism and those sappy family stories, of the sort so common now at funerals, which would have little significance beyond the Scalia family. It was masculine because it avoided emotions and rested upon reliable structures and truths.

Covering the funeral of Antonin Scalia, while ignoring what the Mass was really about by Terry Mattingly.
After noting the secular approach both the New York Times and Washington Post took on reporting the funeral,

The question for me is whether it was possible, in a hard-news report, to have actually covered some of the contents of this funeral Mass in a story about the funeral Mass. This issue is especially important, since since the family of the deceased – led by the priest/son in the pulpit – issued such a direct challenge for those in attendance to realize that this Mass was, first and foremost, not about the public figure named Antonin Scalia.

A Salutary Corrective in Scalia’s Funeral

I couldn’t help feeling tremendously lifted by his words. Further, he stated that he also was fulfilling what he was certain was the will of his father, whom he told us really despised eulogies if for no other reason than that they tended to deprive the deceased of the prayers he would otherwise benefit from if the focus were not on his virtues.

Maggie Gallagher who went to funeral writes that she wept for Justice Scalia

I did not know Justice Scalia except slightly, and I do not cry easily or often. Something inside me was stirred by the simple things. How ponderous the casket was, carried by those eight strong men slowly up the steps — the simple, heavy physicality of death we too often cover up and elide. Then there was the sudden access to the ceremonious, to the symbolic — how rare that is in contemporary life...

I watched Ginny Thomas and then her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, wipe their eyes. I saw Justice Ginsburg stand in silent sentinel and remind us of the friendship that has touched so many, stirred indeed the artist’s soul. Justice Scalia is an icon of judicial principle, yes, but he is also the only Supreme Court justice to inspire both an opera and a play, each pointing to friendship, a love of the human other that cannot be reduced to a principle and that points to something larger than our positions...
...suddenly, unexpectedly, I wept out loud and alone, not for a principle but for a man, for a man in full, for a life so well-lived. 

As the U.S. Supreme Court sat for the first time since Scalia's death, next to the empty seat draped in black, Chief Justice John Roberts, said, "He was our man for all seasons, and we shall miss him beyond measure."

 Scalia's Sc Chair-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 PM | Permalink

Lying in State and the Funeral of Antonin Scalia

Lying in State at the Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made one final visit Friday to the marble palace he dominated for the past three decades.  His baritone voice silenced and his mighty pen relinquished, Scalia was carried in a flag-draped casket into the court's Great Hall and placed on the Lincoln Catafalque, which first supported President Abraham Lincoln's casket across the street in the U.S. Capitol after his assassination in 1865.

There he was honored by the remaining eight justices and 98 of his former law clerks, all of whom stood as one of Scalia's nine children, Rev. Paul Scalia, recited a brief prayer. The justice's widow, Maureen and his eight other children sat before the casket, with dozens of grandchildren standing behind them.
--
Friday's ceremonies began in below-freezing weather when eight Supreme Court police officers carried Scalia's casket up the steps of the marble courthouse and into the Great Hall. Scalia's large retinue of former law clerks, as well as his super-sized family that includes 36 grandchildren, lined the steps.

"As is the tradition, Justice Scalia's law clerks will stand vigil by his side at the Court all day tomorrow and through the night," tweeted Kannon Shanmugam, who clerked for Scalia.

Scalia-Fullview Lying In State-1

The funeral of Antonin Scalia, the Mass of Christian Burial in the beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. was live streamed on several news channels.  I was fortunate to be able to see the whole beautiful ceremony.

 Scalia Casket Enters Basilica-1

The Washington Post reported

The occasion put aside — momentarily — the partisan battle over the court that Scalia’s death has occasioned and was remarkably free of the encomiums that usually mark the send-offs of Washington’s political class. Instead, it followed the dictates of religion and placed the emphasis on the Christian promise of resurrection and the sinner’s need for God’s grace.
---
It took all seven verses of “O God, Our Help In Ages Past”— and then some — for his wife, Maureen, his eight other children and his three dozen grandchildren to accompany his body to the altar. An angelic-sounding choir provided song, and it appeared that every priest in the region had donned a white robe to stand at attention.

 -Scalia-Funeral Wide Basilica-1

 Scalia Casket Approaches Altar

His son Paul Scalia, a Catholic priest, celebrated the Mass and delivered the funeral homily which began in a shocking fashion for those accustomed to funeral homilies that celebrate the lives of the deceased.

"We are gathered here because of one man,....A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth. It is He whom we proclaim. Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of Him. because of His life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God."
--
But don’t take my word for it. Dad himself—not surprisingly—had something to say on the matter. Writing years ago to a Presbyterian minister whose funeral service he admired, he summarized quite nicely the pitfalls of funerals (and why he didn’t like eulogies). He wrote, “Even when the deceased was an admirable person—indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person—praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thank for God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner.” Now, he would not have exempted himself from that. We are here, then, as he would want, to pray for God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner; to this sinner, Antonin Scalia. Let us not show him a false love and allow our admiration to deprive him of our prayers. We continue to show affection for him and do good for him by praying for him: that all stain of sin be washed away, that all wounds be healed, that he be purified of all that is not Christ. That he rest in peace.

Finally, we look to Jesus, forever, into eternity. Or, better, we consider our own place in eternity, and whether it will be with the Lord. Even as we pray for Dad to enter swiftly into eternal glory, we should be mindful of ourselves. Every funeral reminds us of just how thin the veil is, between this world and the next, between time and eternity, between the opportunity for conversion and the moment of judgment. So we cannot depart here unchanged. It makes no sense to celebrate God’s goodness and mercy to God if we are not attentive and responsive to those realities in our own lives. We must allow this encounter with eternity to change us, to turn us from sin and toward the Lord. The English Dominican Father Bede Jarrett put it beautifully when he prayed, “O strong Son of God . . . while You prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place, that we may be with You and with those we love for all eternity.”

It was the most perfect funeral homily I have ever heard.

 Paul Scalia Homily-2

The Beauty of Fr. Scalia's Funeral Homily by Michael Pakaluk

Fr. Scalia’s homily has rightly been praised for implicitly refuting the common abuse of a funeral homily to eulogize the decease. It also showed how a funeral Mass for a public figure might be something other than a political spectacle. After all, a funeral Mass concerns the meaning and destiny of an individual soul, under the merciful gaze of a living Savior.
--
Third, the homily was bracing and masculine in its presentation of the truths of the faith. It avoided sentimentalism and those sappy family stories, of the sort so common now at funerals, which would have little significance beyond the Scalia family. It was masculine because it avoided emotions and rested upon reliable structures and truths.

Covering the funeral of Antonin Scalia, while ignoring what the Mass was really about by Terry Mattingly.
After noting the secular approach both the New York Times and Washington Post took on reporting the funeral,

The question for me is whether it was possible, in a hard-news report, to have actually covered some of the contents of this funeral Mass in a story about the funeral Mass. This issue is especially important, since since the family of the deceased – led by the priest/son in the pulpit – issued such a direct challenge for those in attendance to realize that this Mass was, first and foremost, not about the public figure named Antonin Scalia.

A Salutary Corrective in Scalia’s Funeral

I couldn’t help feeling tremendously lifted by his words. Further, he stated that he also was fulfilling what he was certain was the will of his father, whom he told us really despised eulogies if for no other reason than that they tended to deprive the deceased of the prayers he would otherwise benefit from if the focus were not on his virtues.

Maggie Gallagher who went to funeral writes that she wept for Justice Scalia

I did not know Justice Scalia except slightly, and I do not cry easily or often. Something inside me was stirred by the simple things. How ponderous the casket was, carried by those eight strong men slowly up the steps — the simple, heavy physicality of death we too often cover up and elide. Then there was the sudden access to the ceremonious, to the symbolic — how rare that is in contemporary life...

I watched Ginny Thomas and then her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, wipe their eyes. I saw Justice Ginsburg stand in silent sentinel and remind us of the friendship that has touched so many, stirred indeed the artist’s soul. Justice Scalia is an icon of judicial principle, yes, but he is also the only Supreme Court justice to inspire both an opera and a play, each pointing to friendship, a love of the human other that cannot be reduced to a principle and that points to something larger than our positions...
...suddenly, unexpectedly, I wept out loud and alone, not for a principle but for a man, for a man in full, for a life so well-lived.

As the U.S. Supreme Court sat for the first time since Scalia's death, next to the empty seat draped in black, Chief Justice John Roberts, said, "He was our man for all seasons, and we shall miss him beyond measure."

 Scalia's Sc Chair-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 PM | Permalink

February 19, 2016

Moka funeral

 Coffeepot Urn-1

Italian coffee pot tycoon Renato Bialetti who turned his aluminium espresso maker into a global icon has his ashes placed inside one of his own designs after dying aged 93

Renato, who died aged 93, has now been laid to rest in an iconic 'Moka' pot in the church of his home town.  Although he did not invent the design for the octagonal Moka coffee pot, he is the man credited with making it famous and is a household name around the world.

When their father passed away, it was his children, Alessandra, Antonello and Alfonso, who put his remains into a stove-top espresso maker and took it to his hometown of Casale Corte Cerro, in the north-eastern region of Piedmont.  There, in the church of his childhood, the coffee pot urn was blessed by the priest during a funeral service.  Renato was then taken to the family tomb and laid to rest next to his beloved wife Elia.

The coffee-lover dedicated his life’s work to making the Moka a household must-have and giving families worldwide the opportunity to drink quality coffee at home. The simple but effective aluminum kitchen appliance was soon a must-have item that coffee drinkers could not go without. This was after his father, Alfonso, secured the patent for the design in 1933 which he then turned into a success story with 330million Moka pots sold worldwide.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

Justice Antonin Scalia - A Man in Full

Antonin Scalia, 1936-2016.  His accomplishments as a Supreme Court Justice for over thirty years are well-known as his brilliance, his vivid writing, and his quick wit.  Unknown, except for those who knew him, are many of his personal qualities that make his legacy great.  His Catholic faith was real and deep. Married for over fifty years, he and his wife raised nine children and delight in all their 30 plus grandchildren.  He had a deep capacity of friendship with all sorts of people  and a skill in mentoring to which more than 180 of his law clerks attest.  He was a man of self-discipline who would not go beyond the words of the laws he interpreted to do what he thought ought to be done. And he was a man of humility who could embrace a woman with lashing sores to comfort her.  He was a man in full who leaves a great legacy.

 Antonin Scalia Official Scotus Portrait Crop

LA Times obit "An eloquent conservative who used a sharp intellect, a barbed wit and a zest for verbal combat to resist what he saw as the tide of modern liberalism, has died. He was 79.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, the only child of a Sicilian immigrant who became a professor of Romance language and a mother who was an elementary school teacher, "Nino"  was rejected from Princeton (“I was an Italian kid from Queens, not quite the Princeton type,” he said years later) and went to Georgetown University, and then  to  Harvard Law School in Cambridge, where he met and married Maureen McCarthy, a Radcliffe student.

He began practicing as a lawyer with Jones, Day, but soon became a law professor at the University of Virginia and a few years later a lawyer at the Department of Justice, then its head of the Office of  Legal Counsel under President Ford.  In the Reagan administration he was named to the US Court of Appeals until  President Reagan appointed him U.S, Supreme Court Justice in 1986.

Despite his conservative credentials, Scalia had an easy time at his Senate hearing. He coolly puffed on a pipe and joked with the senators. When Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, a fiery liberal Democrat from Ohio, noted that the nominee had beaten him on the tennis court, Scalia replied: “It was a case of my integrity overcoming my judgment, senator.” He drew a laugh and went on to win a unanimous confirmation.

--

President Obama paid tribute to Scalia as a "brilliant" jurist who “influenced a generation of judges, lawyers and students.” He said Scalia “will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.”

Telegraph obit

Antonin Gregory Scalia was born March 11 1936 in Trenton, New Jersey. His parents were Sicilian immigrants who became teachers. Scalia was an only child and an academic high achiever. He earned his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University and his Law degree at Harvard graduating with honours from both.  While at Harvard he met Maureen McCarthy, an undergraduate at Radcliffe College, on a blind date. The couple wed in 1960.

 Scalia+Wifemaureen
Scalia and his wife Maureen in 2012

In 1982, Ronald Reagan appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It was here that Scalia built his reputation. He became famous for his occasionally witty, frequently acerbic, questioning of lawyers arguing before him. Some very high-priced advocates were made to feel like students in a law school seminar by his pointed questioning. Indeed, many Washington lawyers would turn up in his court just to watch the show. For Scalia the Court of Appeals proved to be a successful stepping stone to the Supreme Court and in 1986 Reagan appointed him an Associate Justice.
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At the time Scalia’s conservatism was well-known. He was an advocate of a legal theory called “originalism”, which seeks to interpret legal questions through the original intent of the authors of the Constitution. For Scalia, originalism provided a way of pushing back against the liberal decisions that characterized the Court’s rulings of the 1960s and 1970s, especially the landmark ruling Roe v Wade in 1973, the decision that effectively legalized abortion.  Scalia’s view, simply summarized, was that the authors of the Constitution did not discuss abortion, therefore it was not their “original intent” to make abortion a constitutional right.
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At his death Scalia was arguably the most important and effective conservative in America. Praise came from many quarters but a statement of Vice-President Joe Biden from 1993 was in the tone that Scalia himself might have appreciated: “The vote that I most regret of all 15,000 votes I have cast as a senator … was to confirm Judge Scalia.” The reason? “Because he was so effective.”

New York Times obit

His transformative legal theories, vivid writing and outsize personality made him a leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance in his three decades on the Supreme Court,
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Justice Scalia and his wife, the former Maureen McCarthy, had nine children, the upshot of what he called Vatican roulette. “We were both devout Catholics,” Justice Scalia told Joan Biskupic for her 2009 biography, “American Original.” “And being a devout Catholic means you have children when God gives them to you, and you raise them.”
--
In a C-Span interview in 2009, Justice Scalia reflected on his role and legacy, sketching out a modest conception of the role of a Supreme Court justice.

“We don’t sit here to make the law, to decide who ought to win,” Justice Scalia said. “We decide who wins under the law that the people have adopted. And very often, if you’re a good judge, you don’t really like the result you’re reaching.”

The Economist

Words had meaning. He revered them and used them scrupulously, even in insult. The law was written in words, and those ideally laid down bright lines for everyone to follow. As a committed textualist, he wasted no time looking to legislative history, the purported purpose of a law or the comments of some egregious congressman. It meant what it said.

"We were best buddies," said Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

 Ginsberg&Scalia

In an colorful statement that began like a theater review, Ginsburg wrote:
Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: "We are different, we are one," different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve.

From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation.

Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots — the "applesauce" and "argle bargle"—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh.

Scalia’s Little Acts of Faith Emerge in Letters, Recollections

After attending the funeral of Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., which was held at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Va., Scalia wrote to Dr. James C. Goodloe to tell him “how reverent and inspiring I found the service that you conducted.”

Scalia lamented that often the eulogy is the centerpiece of a funeral, “rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that.” Praise for the deceased “can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner,” he said.

Jeffrey Tucker from the Foundation of Economic Freedom writes  Justice Scalia's Great Heart.

Now that he is gone from this earth, I can tell a story I’ve held inside for many years, a scene that touched me deeply and profoundly. I cannot think of him without remembering this moment.

It was a spring afternoon some years ago, and he was attending church services, sitting in a back pew, holding his prayer book in his hands. The Mass had ended and most people had gone. He was still saying prayers, alone in the back pew.

He finally got up and began to walk out. There were no reporters, nobody watching. There was only a woman who had been attending the same services. She had no idea who he was. I was a bystander, and I’m certain he didn’t know I was there.

What was a bit unusual about this woman: she had lashing sores on her face and hands. They were open sores. There was some disease, and not just physically. She behaved strangely, a troubled person that you meet in large cities and quickly walk away from. A person to avoid and certainly never touch.  For whatever reason, she walked up to Justice Scalia, who was alone. He took her hands, though they were full of sores. She leaned in to say something, and she began to cry.

He held her face next to his, and she talked beneath her tears that were now streaming down his suit. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t try to get away. He just held her while she spoke. This lasted for perhaps more than 5 minutes. He closed his eyes while she she spoke, gripping her back with his hand.

He didn’t recoil. He stood there with conviction. And love.

There were no cameras and no other onlookers besides myself, and he had no idea I was there.

Finally she was finished. What he said comforted her, and she gained composure. She pulled away, ready to go. He held her rough, sore-filled hands and had a few final words that I could not hear. He gave her some money. And then she walked away.

And then he walked away, across the green grass, toward the Supreme Court building, alone. He was probably preparing for an afternoon of work.

This story, more than any other, moved me almost to tears.  What a great man.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:55 PM | Permalink

"I saw what you did that day when the officer wanted to hang you. Will you marry me?”

A story, so unbelievable, so moving, it will be will be passed on for generations.  Dani Rakoff recounts it on Facebook

Rabbi Yosef Wallis, director of Arachim of Israel, talks to Project Witness about his father, Judah Wallis, who was born and raised in Pavenitz, Poland.

While he was in Dachau, a Jew who was being taken to his death suddenly flung a small bag at my father, Judah Wallis. He caught it, thinking it might contain a piece of bread. Upon opening it, however, he was disturbed to discover a pair of tefillin. Judah was very frightened because he knew that were he to be caught carrying tefillin, he would be put to death instantly. So he hid the tefillin under his shirt and headed for his bunkhouse.
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At the 25th lash, Judah lost consciousness and was left for dead. He was about to be dragged to a pile of corpses , after which he would have been burned in a ditch, when another Jew saw him, shoved him to the side, and covered his head with a rag so people didn’t realize he was alive. Eventually, after he recovered consciousness fully, he crawled to the nearest bunkhouse that was on raised piles and hid under it until he was strong enough to come out under his own power. Two months later he was liberated.

"I saw what you did that day when the officer wanted to hang you. Will you marry me?”
During the hanging and beating episode, a 17-year-old girl had been watching the events from the women’s side of the fence. After liberation, she made her way to Judah. She walked over to him and said, "I’ve lost everyone. I don’t want to be alone any more. I saw what you did that day when the officer wanted to hang you. Will you marry me?”

My parents walked over to the Klausenberger Rebbe and requested that he perform the marriage ceremony. The Klausenberger Rebbe, whose Kiddush Hashem is legendary, wrote out a kesubah [marriage contract] by hand from memory and married the couple. I have that handwritten kesubah in my possession to this day.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:02 AM | Permalink

"Today we are his family: we are here as his sons"

Inspired by a program at his alma mater, the Assistant Headmaster of Roxbury Latin Mike Pojman organized his students  to serve as pallbearers at the funerals of people who remained unclaimed by any kin.

-Homeless-Pallbearers-Vet-University-Of-Detroit-Jesuit

Boston HS Students Bury the Dead When No One Else Is There To

“To reflect on the fact that there are people, like this gentleman, who probably knew hundreds or thousands of people through his life, and at the end of it there’s nobody there — I think that gets to all of them,” Pojman says. “Some have said, ‘I just gotta make sure that never happens to me.'”

The students, dressed in jackets and ties, carry the plain wooden coffin and take part in a short memorial. They read together, as a group:

“Dear Lord, thank you for opening our hearts and minds to this corporal work of mercy. We are here to bear witness to the life and passing of Nicholas Miller.

“He died alone with no family to comfort him.

“But today we are his family; we are here as his sons.

“We are honored to stand together before him now, to commemorate his life and to remember him in death, as we commend his soul to his eternal rest.”

One student said, "When you kind of get out of that bubble that you can kind of stuck in, you get perspective on what’s really important in life.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 AM | Permalink

February 15, 2016

Gifts from one generation to the next

Farmer Boy and the Value of Handing Down Stories

Whose sled is that, Father?” he asks, bewildered. “Is it—it isn’t for me?”

Mother laughs and Father twinkles his eyes and asks, “Do you know any other nine-year-old that wants it?”

It is Almanzo’s ninth birthday. In his family’s farmhouse in upstate New York, his parents have just sent him to the woodshed, where a new sled surprises him.

The reason Almanzo cannot believe it is for him is that he already received his birthday present earlier that morning—a new calf-yoke that Father had made him for harnessing his own little oxen, Star and Bright. His father had helped him put the yoke on the calves, and then told Almanzo he would leave him to figure out the rest.
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I don’t remember a thing about my ninth birthday, but I know all about Almanzo Wilder’s from the pages of Farmer Boy. The stories Laura Ingalls Wilder tells in this book about her husband’s childhood are as endearing as they are astounding.

Almanzo’s stories, like the gifts he received on his ninth birthday, are gifts from one generation to the next. They are gifts he gave to his wife and child, and to all of us who meet his boyhood self through these pages. As his calf-yoke signified a bond of trust, so do the stories that entrust to us his personal memories. As his hand-sled entertained and delighted him, so do his youthful adventures entertain and delight all of us who turn the pages where his childhood stays imprinted forever.

We have the treasure of these stories today because Almanzo told them to Laura, and Laura wrote them down. If he had not taken the time to share so many details about his life, would their daughter Rose ever have known so much about her father’s youth, and about her grandparents, aunts, and uncle? Or would the childhood of Almanzo Wilder—which has enchanted readers of Farmer Boy for nearly a century—have been lost to the winds of time?

When I read aloud (again) this book recently with our children, I wondered: When was the last time I told them stories of my childhood? How much do they know about what it was like for me growing up? Have I given them the gift that Almanzo gave his wife and child—the same gift my grandfather also gave to me?
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Our children are a part of us—sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and students and friends. When we tell them about ourselves, like Almanzo told Laura and Rose, or like my grandfather told me, we give them a lasting gift—a gift that knits generations together. Through sharing our words and our memories, we leave a part of ourselves with those we already know and love, and with those yet to be born, whom we may never meet in this life but already love.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:10 AM | Permalink

February 14, 2016

One of the greatest condolence letters ever written

President Lincoln takes the time to write a condolence letter to Fanny McCullough who was grieving with "alarming intensity" with one of the "greatest condolence letters ever written"
A Common Bond of Grief

“In this sad world of ours,” Lincoln counseled, “sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it.” Here, with rare candor, Lincoln was reopening a painful old wound of his own: the loss of his beloved mother, who had suffered a horrible death before his eyes when Abe was only 9. Promising “some alleviation of your present distress,” Lincoln knowingly walks Fanny through a multistep recovery program, from overwhelming sorrow to the “perfect relief” that would come only with time. “You are sure to be happy again,” he promised her. “The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer, and holier sort than you have known before.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:29 AM | Permalink

February 5, 2016

Memorial banned

Migrant centre banned from holding memorial to Swedish social worker 'stabbed to death by Somali boy, 15' in case it upsets refugee children

Staff at a housing centre for child migrants in Sweden have been banned from holding a memorial service in honor of a fellow social worker who was murdered last week.  Alexandra Mezher, 22, was stabbed to death when she tried to break up a fight between two teenage boys at a home for unaccompanied minors in Molndal, Gothenburg.

When staff at a similar accommodation in Örnsköldsvik, north-east Sweden, wanted to hold a memorial for Miss Mezher, the council said no.  Staff and social workers at a home for unaccompanied minors in Örnsköldsvik, a town on the north-east coast, were deeply affected by the killing of a colleague in the workplace

....Mr Lindahl wanted to do a memorial service for 'colleague' Miss Mezher, but said that a superior immediately got in touch and forbade them from using council premises. They were also told not to fly the Swedish flag at half-mast, SVT reports.
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A service for Miss Mezher was later held at a nearby church in Örnsköldvik, but staff at the housing facility who were scheduled to work, were told they could not attend during working hours
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The alleged attacker, a boy claiming to be a 15-year-old from Somalia, is being held in a secure psychiatric hospital in Gothenburg and has been remanded in custody until February 11.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 AM | Permalink

No sympathy, no condolences

Man sucked out of passenger jet after bomb exploded was suicide bomber who smuggled his device on board in his WHEELCHAIR, claim investigators

A wheelchair bound suicide bomber may have been responsible for the explosion which tore a hole in the side of a jet in Somalia, investigators have said.  They said the suspected terrorist, thought to be part of the Al-Shabaab Islamist group, may have faked a disability to bypass security checks at Mogadishu airport.
The suspected bomber is also thought to be the man who was sucked out of the plane after blowing a hole in the fuselage, shortly after the plane filled with more than 70 passengers took off from the Somali capital.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 AM | Permalink

February 1, 2016

Dead hand

Puerto Rican man's corpse embalmed to allow poker fanatic to play one final hand with loved ones

The family of Henry Rosario Martinez, 31, organized for his wake to be centered around the card game following his sudden death on Jan. 19....Martinez was seated at the poker table, as friends and family posed for pictures with the deceased, who was wearing a New York Yankees cap.

 Henry-Rosario-Martinez Dead Poker
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink