August 16, 2017

"They kept a heart connection not just to his teachings but to something of him"

His Voicemails Were a Kind of Afterlife

My iPhone died last week. There was no warning. The phone just powered off, and no matter what I did, it wouldn’t come back on......there are some items on my phone that are special.

the voice memos... of my kids from when they were much younger. Some from my parents, some from my mentors — those are special ones to which I occasionally go back and listen to...And there are voice messages from Vincent Harding.

Those voicemails were the treasure chests where his gems were stored. How often I have come back to these voicemails over the last three years. I sobbed when he died, and I cherished his words, his voice. They would comfort me. They were my link to a world of justice and love, wisdom and beauty that seemed so urgently needed and yet so far away. They were a personal connection to Uncle Vincent and, through Uncle Vincent, to Martin King. Somehow the voicemails were a kind of afterlife. They kept a heart connection not just to his teachings but to something of him.

They lingered, even after his death. And they are gone....

And now those voicemails are lost somewhere on my iPhone. Inaccessible. Lost. Gone. No, I had not backed up my phone. Don’t ask me about the regret now.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 AM | Permalink

February 28, 2017

"Awareness of our mortality may be a major driver of civilization"

A sceptic ponders death in Climbing Mount Immortality: Death, Cognition and the Making of Civilization

In his book Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization (Crown, 2012), British philosopher and Financial Times essayist Stephen Cave calls this the Mortality Paradox. “Death therefore presents itself as both inevitable and impossible,” Cave suggests. We see it all around us, and yet “it involves the end of consciousness, and we cannot consciously simulate what it is like to not be conscious.”
Legacy is the driving force behind works of art, music, literature, science, culture, architecture and other artifacts of civilization. How? Because of something called Terror Management Theory. Awareness of one’s mortality focuses the mind to create and produce to avoid the terror that comes from confronting the mortality paradox that would otherwise, in the words of the theory’s proponents—psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski—reduce people to “twitching blobs of biological protoplasm completely perfused with anxiety and unable to effectively respond to the demands of their immediate surroundings.”
Given the improbability of the first three immortality narratives, making a difference in the world in the form of a legacy that changes lives for the better is the highest we can climb up Mount Immortality, but on a clear day you can see forever.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

January 4, 2017

Protection Against 'Digital Resurrection"

Actors now seeking posthumous protections from digital resurrection

As I noted in my review of Rogue One, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film was the digital return of Peter Cushing in the role of Grand Moff Tarkin, despite his 1994 death.

In the wake of Carrie Fisher’s sudden death, speculation is that this technique could allow the character of Princess Leia to continue despite the loss of the talented actress.....

The possibilities have launched a move by celebrities to protect their images from beyond the grave....

Robin Williams, who died over 2 years ago, was among the first to foresee these possibilities....
Robin Williams, who committed suicide in 2014, banned any use of his image for commercial means until 2039, according to court documents. He also blocked anyone from digitally inserting him into a movie or TV scene or using a hologram, as was done with rapper Tupac Shakur at Southern California’s Coachella music festival in 2012 – 16 years after his murder.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

September 5, 2016

'We knew in our heart that he was alive'

A US student who supposedly died in China in 2004 has reportedly turned up alive in North Korea after being kidnapped to serve as Kim Jong Un's personal tutor.

David Sneddon of Brigham Young University disappeared in Yunnan Province aged 24, in what Chinese police said was probably a hiking accident.  Chinese police said he probably died hiking but his body was never found.

 David Sneddon Not Dead Kidnapped By No. Korea

But the reality, according to Choi Sung-yong, head of South Korea's Abductees' Family Union, is that he was kidnapped to be an English tutor to Kim Jong Un, the then-heir to North Korea Yahoo News Japan reported Wednesday.
Sneddon is now living in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, where he teaches English to children and has a wife and two children, Choi said.

The news comes as relief - but little surprise - to Sneddon's parents, Roy and Kathleen, who have long doubted the official story of their son's disappearance.  'We just knew in our heart that he was alive, so we had to keep fighting,' said Kathleen Sneddon.

David's parents believe their son was targeted because of his fluency in Korean, which he used while serving on a Mormon mission in South Korea
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:57 PM | Permalink

November 23, 2015

She wasn't dead, only playing videogames for 10 years

Chinese woman, 24, who was missing for a decade and presumed dead is found living in an internet cafe after playing games for 10 years

A Chinese woman, who was missing for 10 years and - at one point - presumed dead by her parents, has been found living in internet cafe for a decade.  The woman, known under the pseudonym of Xiaoyun, was found by police at a cyber cafe in the city of Hangzhou, east China, reported the People's Daily Online.  She said she had been supporting herself by playing games at internet cafes.
Xiaoyun later confessed to the fact. She said she was a rebellious teenager and decided to leave home after an argument with her father. .... '[I] had ran away from home before. And at that time when I tried to ask my dad for some money, [my parents] wouldn't give it to me, saying I must be lying. 'So I decided to run away for good.'

Xiaoyun said during the decade she had lived in several places including Jinhua, Jiangxi and Hangzhou. She made a living by working at different internet cafes. She was particularly good with an online game called Cross Fire, so other gamers would pay her to play the game for them. Xiaoyun said she usually spent the night at internet cafes, or sometimes public bathhouses.

Her parents had presumed Xiaoyun was dead for a long time. They had even had her name removed from their household registrations at the local police station.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

November 8, 2015

"Numbers are unique, and they say: I was here. I existed"


Paul Ford examines The Final File and explores the Social Security administration’s list of America’s dead

Due to some flaw in my personality I love thinking about where my data goes after I fill out a form….This happens to me every few months, the desire to just grab and hold on to and explore a large database. …. Databases are interesting to read and explore. They’re one of the things that makes the web the web.

Which explains how I found myself in possession of the names of more than 85 million dead Americans—the Social Security Death Master File…..It’s a strange thing to be in possession of a massive list of dead people……The web site contains the work of a frustrated individual named Tom Alciere, who believes the Social Security administration is “unforgivably sloppy” and has added “tens of thousands” of individuals to the list who are not yet dead. Alciere has made the index available to all who want to download it. So I downloaded it, unzipped the files, and began to poke around.
The Death Master File is something of a political hot potato of late. 60 Minutes has covered the story of living people registered as deceased—apparently, if news of your death is greatly exaggerated, it’s hell on your credit.  In March 2015 the U.S. inspector general’s office announced that it had found 6.5 million people aged 112 or over in the living Social Security database who had yet to find their way into the database of the dead. Meaning there are 6.5 million more opportunities for fraud.
Look at all these people, assigned citizenship via nine digits, enjoying their duration on the mortal coil. Living people tend to this data, adding the newly gone in periodic updates. Almost all the names I saw were assigned to strangers; the Social Security numbers were a meaningless blur of digits. The checking accounts and properties are handed on to the next of kin. New people, like me, have come along to occupy the names. But numbers are unique, and they say: I was here. I existed. Bureaucracies organized me into folders. I was worth the paperwork.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2015

She donated her dead brother's face so another man could live

Woman Sees Her Dead Brother's Face on Another Man for the First Time

In 1997, Richard Norris's face was blown off in a terrible accident. Five years later, plastic surgeons attempted a revolutionary new type of treatment: a full face transplant. Surgeons have performed this operation since 2005. 23 of the 27 transplants have been successful. In this happily successful surgery, the donor was 21-year old Joshua Aversano, who died in a car accident.

Recently, the Australian news program 60 Minutes introduced Norris to Aversano's family. He met his donor's sister, Rebekah.

-My Brother's Face

(video link)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

May 15, 2015

Science confirms first hint of life after death

First hint of 'life after death' in biggest ever scientific study
Southampton University scientists have found evidence that awareness can continue for at least several minutes after clinical death which was previously thought impossible 

Scientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria.  And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.  One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room.
Dr Sam Parnia, a former research fellow at Southampton University, now at the State University of New York, who led the study said:
“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating,”  But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped.  The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three minute intervals. So we could time how long the experienced lasted for."

Of 2060 cardiac arrest patients studied, 330 survived and of 140 surveyed, 39 per cent said they had experienced some kind of awareness while being resuscitated.  Although many could not recall specific details, some themes emerged. One in five said they had felt an unusual sense of peacefulness while nearly one third said time had slowed down or speeded up.  Some recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the Sun shining. Others recounted feelings of fear or drowning or being dragged through deep water. 13 per cent said they had felt separated from their bodies and the same number said their sensed had been heightened.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:44 PM | Permalink

April 24, 2015

Why Lenin looks better than ever

 Lenin's Corpse

Why Lenin's corpse looks better with age: Scientists reveal experimental embalming methods used on the Soviet leader

Vladmir Lenin may have been dead for 90 years, but his corpse looks better than the day he passed.
This is the claim made by his embalmers, who have developed experimental techniques to maintain the look and feel of the communist revolutionary's body.  They brag that their technique has been the result of almost a century of fine-tuning, creating a science that has benefited real-world medical applications.
The gruesome job is the responsibility of a team known as the 'Mausoleum group' which, at its peak, involved 200 scientists working in a lab dedicated to the former leader's corpse.

'They have to substitute occasional parts of skin and flesh with plastics and other materials,' Alexei Yurchak, professor of social anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley told Mr Hsu. 'That makes it dramatically different from everything in the past, such as mummification.'
In his book, Yurchak describes how a mild bleach is often used to deal with occasional fungus stains on Lenin's face.  One such stain that appeared on Lenin's cheek had the embalmers worried for their lives when they were unable to remove it.  'They might have even killed us,' Ilya Zbarsky, who managed to bleach away the mould, told Jewish World Review.

'The atmosphere of fear and terror was there for us scientists, just as it was for everyone in the society.'

The skin is studied each week using precision instruments that can measure moisture, color and contour to look for signs of dehydration. Every two years and the body is immersed in a bath of glycerol and potassium acetate for 30 days – a technique which scientists say could make the body last for centuries.
While Lenin's blood, bodily fluids and internal organs were removed, his eyebrows, moustache and goatee are his own. A material made of paraffin, glycerin and carotene is used to replace most of the Lenin's skin.

More details in Scientific American

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 AM | Permalink

March 2, 2015

'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

February 14, 2015

Glimpses of the Life Beyond Life. Over 8 million Americans with near death experiences

Glimpses of the Life Beyond Life The evidence is becoming overwhelming.

Author and journalist Judy Bachrach started volunteering in a hospice in the late 1980s, and her real motive was to try to overcome her fear of death. About two decades later, when her mother came down with Alzheimer’s, Bachrach decided to look into the subject of near-death experiences.

So she delved into the literature, and journeyed around the United States and the world to interview near-death experiencers (NDErs or, as she calls them, “death travelers”) and leading researchers in the field. The result is her book Glimpsing Heaven. Her conclusion from her inquiries: “there are simply, as some of the doctors and scientists I’ve interviewed point out, too many experiencers and too many experiences to discount.”

How many? Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Pim van Lommel says that in the last 50 years over 25 million people worldwide have reported NDEs. A 1982 Gallup poll found eight million Americans reporting them. As Bachrach comments: “Not every self-proclaimed death traveler could be an arrant liar or deeply unbalanced or both.” If you want to hear accounts by “travelers” who are evidently balanced, mature, and intelligent, you can easily find them on YouTube.
Although there are accounts of NDE-type phenomena going back to Plato, over the past 50 years advanced resuscitation (CPR) techniques have enabled vastly larger numbers of people to return from death. The experience is usually blissful—and changes them dramatically. They lose all fear of death, care much less about material pursuits, and turn to spiritual and altruistic activities instead. They often have enhanced psychic, intuitive, or creative powers; and often—altered as they are—end up divorcing. Pretty powerful effects for hallucinations.

Bachrach tells the story of one of the most remarkable NDE cases, singer-songwriter Pam Reynolds Lowery (1956-2010). In 1991, doctors had to remove a large aneurysm from the base of her brain. She was put in the deepest possible state of sedation: blood drained, body cooled to 60°F, eyes taped shut, ears plugged. Yet, in the midst of the major, difficult operation, something happened that “shouldn’t have”: the patient felt herself rise out of her body, watch the medical staff working on her, then rise further to a transcendent realm where she encountered a “shower of light” and deceased relatives.

Subsequently, when Pam Reynolds Lowery described the operation to the doctors—in finely accurate detail—they were aghast. And in the aftermath of her death travel, her intuitive powers were so great that she had to stop going to public places; it can be unpleasant to read the thoughts and emotions of total strangers waiting in line at the supermarket.

Embedded in the post is a ten-minute excerpt of a BBC video that features Pam Reynolds Lowery and her story.  She had her near death experience in 1991 at age 35.  She  died from heart failure in 2010, age 53

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

February 9, 2015

Psychedelic therapy for the dying

In The New Yorker, The Trip Treatment by Michael Pollan. Research into psychedelics, shut down for decades, is now yielding exciting results.

This might help explain why so many cancer patients in the trials reported that their fear of death had lifted or at least abated: they had stared directly at death and come to know something about it, in a kind of dress rehearsal. “A high-dose psychedelic experience is death practice,” Katherine MacLean, the former Hopkins psychologist, said. “You’re losing everything you know to be real, letting go of your ego and your body, and that process can feel like dying.” And yet you don’t die; in fact, some volunteers become convinced by the experience that consciousness may somehow survive the death of their bodies.
How are we to judge the veracity of the insights gleaned during a psychedelic journey? It’s one thing to conclude that love is all that matters, but quite another to come away from a therapy convinced that “there is another reality” awaiting us after death, as one volunteer put it, or that there is more to the universe—and to consciousness—than a purely materialist world view would have us believe. Is psychedelic therapy simply foisting a comforting delusion on the sick and dying?….

Bill Richards cited William James, who suggested that we judge the mystical experience not by its veracity, which is unknowable, but by its fruits: does it turn someone’s life in a positive direction?…..

David Nichols, an emeritus professor of pharmacology at Purdue University—and a founder, in 1993, of the Heffter Research Institute, a key funder of psychedelic research—put the pragmatic case most baldly in a recent interview with Science: “If it gives them peace, if it helps people to die peacefully with their friends and their family at their side, I don’t care if it’s real or an illusion.”

Mettes was one man who had the psychedelic therapy, 17 months before his death

Oh God,” he said, “it all makes sense now, so simple and beautiful.”  Around noon, Mettes asked to take a break. “It was getting too intense,” he wrote. They helped him to the bathroom. “Even the germs were beautiful, as was everything in our world and universe.” Afterward, he was reluctant to “go back in.” He wrote, “The work was considerable but I loved the sense of adventure.” He put on his eye mask and headphones and lay back down.

“From here on, love was the only consideration. It was and is the only purpose. Love seemed to emanate from a single point of light. And it vibrated.” He wrote that “no sensation, no image of beauty, nothing during my time on earth has felt as pure and joyful and glorious as the height of this journey.”
After the psilocybin session, Mettes spent his good days walking around the city. “He would walk everywhere, try every restaurant for lunch, and tell me about all these great places he’d discovered. But his good days got fewer and fewer.” In March, 2012, he stopped chemo. “He didn’t want to die,” she said. “But I think he just decided that this is not how he wanted to live.”

In April, his lungs failing, Mettes wound up back in the hospital. “He gathered everyone together and said goodbye, and explained that this is how he wanted to die. He had a very conscious death.”

Mettes’s equanimity exerted a powerful influence on everyone around him, Lisa said, and his room in the palliative-care unit at Mt. Sinai became a center of gravity. “Everyone, the nurses and the doctors, wanted to hang out in our room—they just didn’t want to leave. Patrick would talk and talk. He put out so much love.” When Tony Bossis visited Mettes the week before he died, he was struck by Mettes’s serenity. “He was consoling me. He said his biggest sadness was leaving his wife. But he was not afraid.”

Lisa took a picture of Patrick a few days before he died, and when it popped open on my screen it momentarily took my breath away: a gaunt man in a hospital gown, an oxygen clip in his nose, but with shining blue eyes and a broad smile.


Despite the encouraging results from the N.Y.U. and Hopkins trials, much stands in the way of the routine use of psychedelic therapy. “We don’t die well in America,” Bossis recently said over lunch at a restaurant near the N.Y.U. medical center. “Ask people where they want to die, and they will tell you at home, with their loved ones. But most of us die in an I.C.U. The biggest taboo in American medicine is the conversation about death. To a doctor, it’s a defeat to let a patient go.” Bossis and several of his colleagues described the considerable difficulty they had recruiting patients from N.Y.U. ’s cancer center for the psilocybin trials. “I’m busy trying to keep my patients alive,” one oncologist told Gabrielle Agin-Liebes, the trial’s project manager. Only when reports of positive experiences began to filter back to the cancer center did nurses there—not doctors—begin to tell patients about the trial.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:39 PM | Permalink

October 20, 2014

Glimpses of the afterlife?

Top brain surgeon who claims he saw heaven while in a coma reveals the stories of others who say they have had similar life-changing experiences

Neurosurgeon Dr Eben Alexander was convinced out-of-body experiences were hallucinations — until he went into a coma himself and had what he now believes was a glimpse of heaven.  In this second extract from his book The Map Of Heaven, Dr Alexander, who has taught at Harvard Medical School, reveals many others have also seen what he described.
A man called David experienced exactly that, when his father died. With his three siblings, he was sitting in a private room at a hospice where his dad had been for 13 days. They had kept a constant bedside vigil, and it was plain that the end was near.  At 4am, with the room in darkness except for a single night-light in the wall, their father took his last breath — and as he did, a speck of glowing dust seemed to settle on his temple. It was like a pinprick of gold.

No light was shining on the old man’s face, yet this particle of dust was vivid and luminous. As David watched, it began to swell into a pea-sized orb. Now it was a translucent blue, like the light underneath a candle flame. White rays sparkled from it.

The orb lifted, hovered, and then drifted across the room, still effervescing with sparks, until it disappeared through the ceiling. David followed it with his eyes, not daring to speak, until it was gone — and then he turned to one of his sisters. ‘Did you see that?’ he asked.

His sister said: ‘You mean that light that just came out of the side of Dad’s head?’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:58 PM | Permalink

October 8, 2014

Medical study of clinically dead people later resuscitated

Life after death? Largest-ever study provides evidence that 'out of body' and 'near-death' experiences may be real

There is scientific evidence to suggest that life can continue after death, according to the largest ever medical study carried out on the subject.

A team based in the UK has spent the last four years seeking out cardiac arrest patients to analyse their experiences, and found that almost 40 per cent of survivors described having some form of “awareness” at a time when they were declared clinically dead.

Experts currently believe that the brain shuts down within 20 to 30 seconds of the heart stopping beating – and that it is not possible to be aware of anything at all once that has happened.

But scientists in the new study said they heard compelling evidence that patients experienced real events for up to three minutes after this had happened – and could recall them accurately once they had been resuscitated.
Dr Parnia’s study involved 2,060 patients from 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria, and has been published in the journal Resuscitation.

Of those who survived, 46 per cent experienced a broad range of mental recollections, nine per cent had experiences compatible with traditional definitions of a near-death experience and two per cent exhibited full awareness with explicit recall of “seeing” and “hearing” events – or out-of-body experiences.

Consciousness is not the brain.  Because it is non-material, scientists cannot explain it or how it came into being.  b  By contrast, people of faith have no difficulty in speaking of the soul and the spirit.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

May 20, 2014

“Lovely brightness — wonderful beings” at the Gates of Heaven 'Gates of Heaven

This Thursday, Simon and Schuster will publish Opening Heaven's Door by Patricia Pearson.  CBC radio has an interview with the author who is described as a serious thinker and a rational Scot.  " But when you vow to approach your topic with an open mind, you never quite know where you'll end up"

In an excerpt from chapter 1, What the Dying Know, Pearson recounts how she was inspired to write the book after her cancer-ridden sister had an uncanny experience and vision the night their father died in another city - a vision that helped the sister meet her own death in peace.

The  sense that the dying  might open  a door  to us that leads elsewhere  came first in hushed confidings. During the summer and  fall of 2008, people  began  to tell me  things. Some  were friends and colleagues I'd known for  years; others were people who sat beside me on an airplane or met me for the  first time in a bar. If I told them what I'd witnessed with my father and  sister, they    reciprocated.  Almost  invariably,  they  prefaced  their  remarks by  saying, "I've never told anyone  this, but . . . " Or, "We've  only ever discussed this in our family, but if you think you might do some  research . . ."  Then they would offer extraor- dinary stories about deathbed  visions, sensed presences, near- death experiences, sudden intimations of a  loved one in danger or dying.  They  were all smart, skeptical people. I had  had no idea that this subterranean world existed all around me.
Mayer needed to completely re-examine her understanding of how the world  worked. After my father and sister died, I felt much the same way. I wanted  to understand what we know and what remains unclear, unexplored, about these  controversial modes of awareness. It wasn't enough for me, as a journalist,  to accept the officially received wisdom. It certainly wasn't enough for me,  as a sister, to ignore Katharine's intelligence and discernment and what she  was willing to put on the line at our father's memorial service in favour of  some information technology guy saying, Oh, she was just making shit up.  Sorry, too much at stake here, in terms of defending her integrity and of  respecting our collective experience.

The following are from excerpts published serially in he Daily Mail.

At the gates of heaven: A new book, drawing on the stories of dying patients and doctors, will transform the way you think about your final days

Despite the concerned obstetrician by her bedside, Doris was unmistakably dying. Her baby had been born safely, but there’d been rare and unforeseen complications.  It was what happened next that stunned the obstetrician, Lady Florence Barrett, and later caused  a sensation.

‘Suddenly,’ Lady Barrett recalled, ‘she looked eagerly towards one part of the room, a radiant smile illuminating her whole countenance. “Oh, lovely, lovely,” she said.

I asked: “What is lovely?”

“What I see,” she replied in low, intense tones. “Lovely brightness  — wonderful beings.”

Then — seeming to focus her attention more intently on one place for a moment — she exclaimed: “Why, it’s my father! Oh, he’s so glad I’m coming, he is so glad.”’  Briefly, Doris reflected that she should, perhaps, stay for the baby’s sake. But then she said: ‘I can’t — I can’t stay; if you could see what I do, you would know I can’t stay.’

At this point, Doris saw something that confused her: ‘[Father] has Vida with him,’ she told Lady Barrett, referring to her sister, whose death three weeks earlier had been kept from her because of her advanced pregnancy. ‘Vida is with him,’ she said wonderingly.

Messages from the dead: The drowned son who returns for bedside chats. The astronaut who spoke to his father's ghost.

Research in Wales, Japan, Australia and the U.S. shows that between 40 and 53    per cent of the bereaved receive some kind of signal or visitation when someone close to them dies.

Usually they sense a presence; sometimes they actually see or hear one. Psychiatrists have labelled these experiences ‘grief hallucinations’, though they have not yet been studied neurologically.

In 2012, the psychologist Erlendur Haraldsson published a comprehensive study he’d done on 340 cases of extraordinary encounters with the dying. Usually people encountered their fathers or mothers — suggesting that the parental impulse to connect and reassure continues past death.

About a quarter of his subjects saw or heard the dead person at the hour of death or within the day it occurred. In 86 per cent of these cases, they weren’t yet aware of the death by ordinary means.
Other studies of telepathy by University of Virginia psychiatrist Ian Stevenson explored how people could know that someone physically distant was dying or in distress. Stevenson started by analysing 165 meticulously researched historical cases. Nearly 90    per cent had occurred, he discovered, when the person was awake, rather than asleep or dozing.

Two-thirds involved news of an immediate family member. Eighty-two per cent involved death, a sudden illness or accident.

The 9/11 survivors who were guided to safety by spirits… and other haunting stories from people who claim ghostly presences saved their lives

The Third Man. 

Who is the third who walks always beside you?’ wrote the poet T.S. Eliot in 1922. ‘When I count, there are only you and I together, / But when I look ahead up the white road /There is always another one walking beside you.’

These lines in Eliot’s great poem The Waste Land have been assumed to allude to the uncanny experience of Sir Ernest Shackleton, after his boat became mired in ice in 1916. With two of his crew members, he’d made a desperate, exhausted trek across a 25-mile, mountainous stretch of Antarctica. At some point, all three men became aware of a presence — another companion — accompanying and guiding them.

The Third Man — although in reality it was a fourth — then seemed to escort them safely to a whaling station. Yet none of the men spoke about him during the trek itself, each thinking that they alone had sensed the extra companion.
Later, when Shackleton was asked about this, he said the experience had been too transcendent to be the subject of casual ‘Ouija Board chatter’.

His sense of wonder has been shared by many explorers, sailors, divers and mountaineers who have experienced the Third Man in times of duress.  Their companions have sometimes been visible, sometimes not. Sometimes, the presence has spoken aloud to them, other times not. But, always, the presence has comforted them or led them to safety.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:32 AM | Permalink

May 12, 2014

Irreducible Mind

David Horne summarizes Irreducible Mind, a 600 plus page book by a group of academic psychiatrists, psychologists and philosophers in 4 Amazing Facts Suggesting the Mind Can Exist Independent of the Brain

One of the coauthors is Bruce Greyson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia and leading researcher of near-death experiences….

Greyson presents four lines of evidence for the mind as an independent entity, which I’ve taken the trouble to summarize, and they could be an eye-opener. First he gives this caveat:

The evidence that I’m going to discuss…is derived entirely from scientific research. But I do not want to give you the impression that this evidence is…accepted by Western scientists. In fact, most Western scientists are completely unaware that this evidence even exists.

1. Lucidity in the last moments….
2. Advanced mind, minimal brain….
3. Near death experiences (NDEs): Rich consciousness when there shouldn't be any…
4. Remembrance of lives past

If you go to the link there is an hour-long  long video of Greyson speaking in India with even more dramatic findings.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:15 PM | Permalink

February 10, 2014

Astonishing Deathbed Conversion

Rod Dreher writes about Sy Karvitz's Astonishing Deathbed Conversion.

In 2009, the Daily Telegraph interviewed the musician Lenny Kravitz, who had been living celibately for the past few years because he is, or was, a serious Christian. Who knew? He said back then that he had decided to turn his back on his sex god ways and save himself for marriage. He has since backslidden, it appears, which is a shame, but it’s not why I’m linking to the article. I’m linking to it because of what he said about his late father’s deathbed conversion.

Sy Kravitz, his son said, was a hard man, an ex-Green Beret who was a serial cheater on Lenny Kravitz’s mother, Jeffersons actress Roxie Roker. When confronted in front of their son about his adulterous behavior, Sy Kravitz put what Lenny considers a curse on him, telling him: “You’ll do it too.”

Years later, dying of cancer, Sy Kravitz had a deathbed conversion. From the story:

‘It sounds like…’ [Lenny] Kravitz begins, and then says, ‘It’s going to sound like whatever it sounds like, but this is what it was. I mean, spiritually hospitals are very intense places. It’s like death’s doorstep. And he was in his bed one night and he looked at me, and he wasn’t on drugs, and he said to me, “There are these things flying around my bed, and these things crawling on the floor. I said, “What are you talking about?” This is from my dad. He doesn’t do with any kind of spiritual thing. No heebie-jeebie kind of thing. And he’s, “There’s black-winged things and they’re flying around my bed… the things that are crawling on the ground, they look like they’re rats and they’re not… I see them.” I didn’t quite know how to take it. And he then began having this revelation and he accepted Christ – this is a non-religious Jewish man – and somehow the spirit world opened up to him. Almost like he had spiritually been bound his whole life and now this thing was released.’

After this spiritual experience, his father started answering some of the questions Kravitz would never get answers for. When Kravitz asked him before, “Why did you do what you did? Why did you do this to Mom?”, his father would stonewall. ‘That’s just the way it is,’ he would say. But a couple of nights after the experience, sitting in hospital with Lenny and his two half-sisters, Sy started talking. ‘He apologised to us in the most sincere, heartfelt manner. “I am sorry for what I’ve done, how I’ve been, how I’ve treated you, and I love you.” Real. And it was shocking… And what he said to me is that he always wanted to change his life, and he felt there was this thing on his back and he couldn’t get it off. His whole life, he knew inside himself that he wanted to change. But, he said, “I couldn’t.”?’

There would be one further unexpected moment: ‘As he got closer to his death, another night in the hospital, he was really tired and he looked over at me and he goes, “There’s angels all around the room. Because of Jesus.” And that was it. He turned and looked away. If you knew my dad – it was the furthest thing from him.’

These were the last words Sy Kravitz would say of this kind. But for the son, something real happened in those hospital days that changed everything. ‘The last three weeks of his life was the best relationship I had with him. And it cancelled out the 40 years before.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

January 31, 2014

Remarkable stories of near death experiences

There are a lot more stories in the Mail's serialized excerpts from Penny Sarton's new book on Near Death Experiences.

The  opening excerpt reveals dramatic evidence Penny Satori says should banish our fear of dying

I began my eight-year study as a cynic. But by the time it  ended, I was convinced that near-death experiences are a genuine phenomenon.

So what exactly is a near-death experience? At its simplest, it’s a clear and memorable vision that occurs when people are close to death — though only a small percentage of us will have one.

Children who have near-death experiences go on to live charmed lives

The evidence, however, suggests that children as young as six months can have lucid visions — and even remember them years later.

Of course, no one can see into the mind of a baby. But consider a case documented in the medical journal Critical Care Medicine. The researchers writing in the journal had kept in touch with the parents of a six-month-old boy who’d nearly died in hospital during a serious illness.

Three years later, that same child was told by his parents that his grandmother was dying. He had just one question: was she going through the tunnel to meet God?
The most common component children report is a sense of overwhelming happiness…Usually, children who experience NDEs report being given the option of returning to life and deciding to take it. The reason is often that the child doesn’t want to upset its parents.

Stories of those who have foreseen the death of relatives including the rare 'shared death' experience, deathbed visions

Older generations, who had far more experience of seeing loved ones die at home, often knew all about death-bed visions and what they signified. Indeed, they have been documented since Victorian times.
More recently, in the 1970s, death-bed visions were the subject of a large survey conducted in both the U.S. and India. This concluded that patients usually died within two to five days of the start of a vision.

The response to the excerpts has been unprecedented.  Many readers sent in their own remarkable stories.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:16 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2014

Remarkable stories of near death experiences

There are a lot more stories in the Mail's serialized excerpts from Penny Sarton's new book on Near Death Experiences.

The  opening excerpt reveals dramatic evidence Penny Satori says should banish our fear of dying

I began my eight-year study as a cynic. But by the time it  ended, I was convinced that near-death experiences are a genuine phenomenon.

So what exactly is a near-death experience? At its simplest, it’s a clear and memorable vision that occurs when people are close to death — though only a small percentage of us will have one.

Children who have near-death experiences go on to live charmed lives

The evidence, however, suggests that children as young as six months can have lucid visions — and even remember them years later.

Of course, no one can see into the mind of a baby. But consider a case documented in the medical journal Critical Care Medicine. The researchers writing in the journal had kept in touch with the parents of a six-month-old boy who’d nearly died in hospital during a serious illness.

Three years later, that same child was told by his parents that his grandmother was dying. He had just one question: was she going through the tunnel to meet God?
The most common component children report is a sense of overwhelming happiness…Usually, children who experience NDEs report being given the option of returning to life and deciding to take it. The reason is often that the child doesn’t want to upset its parents.

Stories of those who have foreseen the death of relatives including the rare 'shared death' experience, deathbed visions

Older generations, who had far more experience of seeing loved ones die at home, often knew all about death-bed visions and what they signified. Indeed, they have been documented since Victorian times.
More recently, in the 1970s, death-bed visions were the subject of a large survey conducted in both the U.S. and India. This concluded that patients usually died within two to five days of the start of a vision.

The response to the excerpts has been unprecedented.  Many readers sent in their own remarkable stories.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:15 PM | Permalink

January 25, 2014

Intensive care nurse writes about Near-Death Experiences

Penny Satori, an intensive care nurse, has a new book about to come out in Britain entitled The Wisdom Of Near-Death Experiences, 
which is excerpted today in the Daily Mail, Extraordinary new book by intensive care nurse reveals dramatic evidence she says should banish our fear of dying

Back in 1995, I began to wonder: is death so terrible that we must do everything in our power to delay it with powerful drugs and machines? What is death, anyway? What happens when we die? Why are we so afraid of it?
….. I decided to embark on a PhD on near-death experiences, while continuing to work in intensive care.

I began my eight-year study as a cynic. But by the time it  ended, I was convinced that near-death experiences are a genuine phenomenon.

So what exactly is a near-death experience? At its simplest, it’s a clear and memorable vision that occurs when people are close to death — though only a small percentage of us will have one.

Researchers now agree that each vision will contain at least one of several recognized components, such as travelling down a tunnel towards a bright light, meeting dead relatives, or having an out-of-body experience.
Throughout an NDE, hearing and sight become more acute, and awareness is heightened. Often, the experience has been described to me as ‘realer than real’.  Time ceases to have meaning. In many cases, it feels as if the vision has lasted for hours though the person may have been unconscious for only a few seconds or minutes. Sometimes, it feels as if time speeds up; sometimes it goes slower.
Yet NDEs are not a new phenomenon at all; they’ve been reported throughout history.

They also feature in some of the greatest books in history — including the Bible; The Republic, by the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato; and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, an ancient religious text about the interval between life and rebirth. It’s only in the past few decades, however, that scientists have tried to discover what causes NDEs.

The most common theory is that they’re a quirk of the brain when it’s starved of oxygen. But this now seems extremely unlikely….Could NDEs, instead, be a side-effect of high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, which can be another sign of approaching death? Again, unlikely.
Are NDEs merely hallucinations caused by drugs? Clearly not — as 20 per cent of the patients in my sample, including Tom Kennard, had received no drugs at all.

Indeed, when I analysed my research, I found that pain-killing and sedative drugs, particularly at high levels,  seem to make it less likely that a patient will have an NDE. In other words, well-meaning doctors who over-sedate dying patients may be denying them a natural and comforting final vision.
One thing is clear: research has shown that near-death experiences often lead to a spiritual reappraisal…. they generally become more considerate of others…..Two lesser-known after-effects of NDEs — reported by many researchers — are that some people develop a new sensitivity to electricity or have problems with their wristwatches. Sometimes they don’t even connect the fact that their watch can’t keep time — or stops altogether — with what they’ve been through.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 AM | Permalink

January 22, 2014

"He is always in my thoughts – and obviously in my heart"

Heart transplant patient falls in love at first sight with SISTER of the man whose heart now beats in his body

Connor Rabinowitz fell in love at first sight with the sister of the man whose heart was now beating inside his chest.
Lucky to get the donor heart of Kellen Roberts after his health collapsed because of a genetic heart condition, Rabinowitz was bowled over when he met Erin - just over a year after his transplant.

Although he was only 17-years-old at the time and she was 26 when they first met in 2004, the electric chemistry between the pair persisted until they got together in 2010 - with both feeling that deceased Kellen helped them to become lovers.
'We had an instant connection – we both feel that Kellen bought us together,' Connor said to the UK's Daily Mirror.
During his recovery, Connor decided that he wanted to write a letter to the family of the donor - who were protected by anonymity.
'Kellen’s mother Nancy got in touch immediately and a few months later my mum flew to meet her. Six months after that I was well enough to visit too.

'It was an emotional meeting and as Nancy put her hand on my chest to feel Kellen’s heart beating inside me, I saw Erin for the first time.
'We locked eyes – and I was smitten. Erin felt the connection too but she tried to dismiss it, thinking I was too young.

'She took me sightseeing for the weekend and we felt so comfortable together, like we’d known each other our entire lives. I visited twice more and felt the same, but we were both dating other people.'  While school assistant Erin thought that Connor was too young and had a teenage crush on her, the two lost contact for five-years - but got back in touch using Facebook in 2010.
We were both single for the first time and everything just fell into place,' said Connor.
All of the family tell me stories about Kellen. He is always in my thoughts – and obviously in my heart. He was a great guy – he always looked out for people. Through him, I hope I can do the same. If I was to meet him today, it would be like meeting my other half.'

'I was now forever connected with this young man who sacrificed his life and chose to save mine,' Connor told the West Seattle Herald.

'He is my hero, my guardian angel and I will be forever grateful for his decision to donate his organs.'

 Connor Rabinowitz Loves Erin

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 PM | Permalink

December 18, 2013

"He knew nothing except that his master was here, And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear."

Most Beautiful Explanation of Death One Could Ever Hear

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said,

'Doctor, I am afraid to die.  Tell me what lies on the other side.'

Very quietly, the doctor said, 'I don't know..'

'You don't know? You're, a Christian man and don't know what's on the other side?'

The doctor was holding the handle of the door;  On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining,
And as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room  and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, 'Did you notice my dog?  He's never been in this room before.  He didn't know what was inside.
He knew nothing except that his master was here,  And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.

I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing… I know my Master is there and that is enough.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:27 PM | Permalink

October 11, 2013

Legally Dead Man Walking

Ohio man legally declared deceased in 1994 after running out on his family loses bid to overturn his death status

Donald Miller Jr, of Ohio, may be alive and in fine health, but in the eyes of the law he is still dead.

The 61-year-old Fostoria resident went to court this week to ask a county judge to reverse his 1994 ruling that declared him legally dead after he had disappeared from his home eight years earlier.  But the judge turned down his request, citing a three-year time limit for changing a death ruling.

Hancock County Probate Court Judge Allan Davis called it a ‘strange, strange situation.’

‘We've got the obvious here. A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health,’ said Davis, who told Miller the three-year limit was clear.
‘I don't know where that leaves you, but you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned,’ the judge said.

Miller resurfaced about eight years ago and went to court so that he could get a driver's license and reinstate his Social Security number.
His ex-wife had expressed sympathy for the deadbeat dad but had opposed the move, saying she doesn't have the money to repay the Social Security benefits that were paid out to her and the couple's two children after Miller was declared dead.

Robin Miller said her former husband vanished because he owed child support payments and that the overdue payments had totaled $26,000 by 1994, The Findlay Courier reported.

Miller told the judge that he disappeared in the 1980s because he had lost his job and he was an alcoholic. He lived in Florida and Georgia before returning to Ohio around 2005.
Miller told the judge that he had remained estranged from his children during his protracted absence. Now, he expressed his desire to start his life again, or 'whatever’s left of it.'

The court, however, said ‘no.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:03 PM | Permalink

September 9, 2013

Out of this world

Out of this world! From ashes to an afterlife in space

Whether you want your ashes scattered, cremated or safely stored in an ornamental urn, there are dozens of ways to plan your final passage. But shooting them into space is definitely new on the list.

Elysium Space, a privately-owned new business that launched in 2013, may not be able to shoot you off to Mars for good. Instead, they offer something infinitely more affordable (and less dramatic) than a one-way ticket to the red planet. ….They will take the ashes of your loved one, launch them into space in a special capsule which you can engrave your own personal message on, and let it orbit the Earth for several months before it re-enters the atmosphere, burning into a shooting star.

You can track the event using the company's app, which shows you at all times where the memorial craft is. The launch will also be webcasted and recorded, so you can see off a beloved family member (yes, even the dog) in a meaningful way and have a record of it to look back on later.

Thomas Civeit, the founder of Elysium Space, spent years working as a NASA engineer on projects like Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope before he got the idea for the memorial project. He spoke to HLN about why he believes the service can dignify a loved one's memory…..
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2013

A baby girl pronounced dead at birth 'came back to life' three hours later on the altar of a hospital chapel


Baby girl pronounced dead at birth 'comes back to life' three hours later after being left on hospital chapel’s altar

The body of Yasmin Gomes had been placed in a box and left in the chapel at the hospital in Londrina, south Brazil, by a nurse who 'couldn't face sending her to the morgue', according to reports.  But when the newborn's grieving grandmother arrived with a mortician to pick up her body for burial they were stunned when the baby suddenly kicked one of her legs, then opened her eyes.

The baby's grandmother Elza Silva told Brazil's Globo G1 website: 'At first I couldn't believe it, we couldn't accept that it could happen.
'Then we saw that she was breathing. We hugged each other and started to shout, 'she's alive, she's alive'. It was a miracle.'

Hospital records show Yasmin was born alive after a normal birth on Tuesday morning at the Lincoln Graca hospital, but stopped breathing immediately after birth.  Doctors unsuccessfully tried to revive the baby several times but she was finally declared dead at 11am, and a death certificate issued.

Yasmin's mother Jenifer da Silva Gomes, 22, told Brazils Tanosite website she was the first to be told that he daughter had died.  She recalled: 'My world crashed down right then. It was the most desperate moment when all my dreams were snatched away.'

Nurse Ana Claudia Oliveira, who accompanied the birth, said she asked for the baby's body to be laid in the hospital chapel, instead of the normal procedure of being sent to the refrigerated morgue.  She said: 'She's a little angel, a child. I just couldn't face the thought of her being sent down to the morgue.'  She added that she washed and dressed the dead baby and had no doubt that she was dead.  She said: 'I can assure you, the child was dead. Her pupils didn't respond to light. All her signs pointed to the complete absence of life.

'I saw it with my own eyes. She was blue all over, completely dead,' she said.
Yasmin's body remained in a box in the chapel until 2pm, when her grandmother arrived with the owner of a funeral parlour, family friend Rosilis Ferro, carrying the baby's coffin. But as soon as they went to pick her up, the newborn kicked a leg, according to Ms Ferro.  She said: 'It was an incredibly emotional moment. I began to shake and I couldn't speak, I was overwhelmed with happiness.

'I called a nurse who at first didn't believe it, she told us they were just spasms. But then the baby opened her eyes.'

Mum Jennifer said she was still being comforted by family members when a nurse burst into the room and shouted: 'Your daughter's alive'.
She remembered: 'At first I had no reaction, I didn't know what to think. Then I started to be sick. But after that I couldn't contain my happiness.'
The baby was rushed to an intensive care unit at the nearby Sagrada Familia children's hospital, where her condition is described as stable.
Doctor Aurelio Filipak, who battled to save Yasmin and signed her death certificate, said: 'People can make their own conclusions, but only those who were there know what really happened.

'In 20 years of medicine, I have never witnessed anything like this.'

He said a team of medics tried to resussitate the baby for nearly an hour. 'All the equipment, like the cardiac monitor and oximeter, all showed that she was not breathing and had no heart beat,' he added.

Today Yasmin's family said they plan to change her name to include Victoria - 'victory' in Portuguese - and said they believed her 'ressurection' was a miracle.  Jennifer said: 'There is no explaining miracles. They happen as God wants. If it was his will that our daughter had died, we would have accepted it, but he brought her back, so there must be a higher purpose in all this.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:52 PM | Permalink

April 27, 2013

We do not want you to be like whose who have no hope

We do not want you to be like whose who have no hope – A Reflection on Modern Christian Attitudes Toward Dying

it is not necessarily death that we fear, but dying.  Dying is something none of us have ever done before, and we tend to fear the unknown. Further, most of us realize the dying involves some degree of agony. Instinctively, and understandably, we draw back from such things. 

Even Jesus, in his human nature, recoiled at the thought of the agony before him, so much so, that he sweat blood and asked if possible, that the cup of suffering could be taken from him. Manfully though he embraced Father’s will, and our benefit rather than his.  Still, he did recoil humanly at the suffering soon to befall him.  So then, here are some reasons that explain and make understandable why we do not run toward death. 

But it remains true, that for a faithful Christian, the day we die is the greatest day of our life.
Addiction to comfort has deceived, and seduced us such that we are no longer in touch with our hearts greatest long and we cling to passing things and (I would argue, as does my family friend) we seem little different from those who have no hope. Put most regretfully, we no longer witness to a joyful journey to God that says, “Closer to Home!….Soon and Very Soon I am going to see the King….Soon I Will be Done with the troubles of this World….Going home to live with God!”

As stated, there are legitimate reasons to be averse to dying. But how about even a glimmer of excitement from the faithful as we see the journey coming to an end.  St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians regarding death We do not want you to be like those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

“The evidence we have so far is that human consciousness does not become annihilated,”

Consciousness After Death: Strange Tales From the Frontiers of Resuscitation Medicine

Sam Parnia practices resuscitation medicine. In other words, he helps bring people back from the dead — and some return with stories. Their tales could help save lives, and even challenge traditional scientific ideas about the nature of consciousness.

“The evidence we have so far is that human consciousness does not become annihilated,said Parnia, a doctor at Stony Brook University Hospital and director of the school’s resuscitation research program. “It continues for a few hours after death, albeit in a hibernated state we cannot see from the outside.”
It sounds supernatural, and if their memories are accurate and their brains really have stopped, it’s neurologically inexplicable, at least with what’s now known. Parnia, leader of the Human Consciousness Project’s AWARE study, which documents after-death experiences in 25 hospitals across North America and Europe, is studying the phenomenon scientifically.

Wired interviewes Parnia

I decided that we should study what people have experienced when they’ve gone beyond cardiac arrest. I found that 10 percent of patients who survived cardiac arrests report these incredible accounts of seeing things.

When I looked at the cardiac arrest literature, it became clear that it’s after the heart stops and blood flow into the brain ceases. There’s no blood flow into the brain, no activity, about 10 seconds after the heart stops. When doctors start to do CPR, they still can’t get enough blood into the brain. It remains flatlined. That’s the physiology of people who’ve died or are receiving CPR.

Not just my study, but four others, all demonstrated the same thing: People have memories and recollections. Combined with anecdotal reports from all over the world, from people who see things accurately and remember them, it suggests this needs to be studied in more detail.
Wired: One of the first after-death accounts in your book involves Joe Tiralosi, who was resuscitated 40 minutes after his heart stopped.
When Tiralosi woke up, he told nurses that he had a profound experience and wanted to talk about it. That’s how we met. He told me that he felt incredibly peaceful, and saw this perfect being, full of love and compassion. This is not uncommon.

People tend to interpret what they see based on their background: A Hindu describes a Hindu god, an atheist doesn’t see a Hindu god or a Christian god, but some being. Different cultures see the same thing, but their interpretation depends on what they believe.
At the very least, it tells us that there’s this unique experience that humans have when they go through death. It’s universal. It’s described by children as young as three. And it tells us that we should not be afraid of death.
These observations raise a question about our current concept of how brain and mind interact. The historical idea is that electrochemical processes in the brain lead to consciousness. That may no longer be correct, because we can demonstrate that those processes don’t go on after death.

There may be something in the brain we haven’t discovered that accounts for consciousness, or it may be that consciousness is a separate entity from the brain
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:09 AM | Permalink

April 22, 2013

Dogs in Heaven

 Dog In Lightbeam-1

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” - Will Rogers

"If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons."
    - James Thurber

"Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe, we are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made."
    -Roger Caras

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:30 PM | Permalink

April 5, 2013

Memories of Near Death Experiences: More Real Than Reality?

Memories of Near Death Experiences: More Real Than Reality?

University of Liège researchers have demonstrated that the physiological mechanisms triggered during NDE lead to a more vivid perception not only of imagined events in the history of an individual but also of real events which have taken place in their lives!

Such a conclusion is in complete accord with all that I have read about NDEs. 

To catch up on all the discussion concerning NDEs, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on near-death experience including this bit about its lasting effects.

Kenneth Ring (professor of psychology) has identified a consistent set of value and belief changes associated with people who have had a near-death experience. Among these changes one finds a greater appreciation for life, higher self-esteem, greater compassion for others, a heightened sense of purpose and self-understanding, desire to learn, elevated spirituality, greater ecological sensitivity and planetary concern, and a feeling of being more intuitive. Changes may also include increased physical sensitivity; diminished tolerance of light, alcohol, and drugs; a feeling that the brain has been "altered" to encompass more; and a feeling that one is now using the "whole brain" rather than a small part. has the best links for NDE research conclusions and testimonies of NDEs.

The most recent is the experience of a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon, Dr Eben Alexander whose book, Proof of Heaven, was published last October.

Dr. Alexander, 58, was so changed by the experience that he felt compelled to write a book, “Proof of Heaven,” that recounts his experience. He knew full well that he was gambling his professional reputation by writing it, but his hope is that his expertise will be enough to persuade skeptics, particularly medical skeptics, as he used to be, to open their minds to an afterworld.
It took him two years, he said, to even use the word God in discussing his experience. But then he felt an obligation to all those dealing with near-death experience, and particularly to his fellow doctors. He felt compelled to let them know.
His messages to those who deal with dying is one of relief. “Our spirit is not dependent on the brain or body,” he said. “It is eternal, and no one has one sentence worth of hard evidence that it isn’t.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

Grave robbing and ghost marriages

Search for love in China fuels 'ghost marriages'; grave robbing

The marriage of two dead people in China is a centuries-old custom called "minghun," or "ghost marriage."

According to folklore, if people are alone when they die, they will be alone in the afterlife, too. Worse yet, lonely ghosts might come back and try to take family members back to their world to keep them company. So it becomes a family responsibility to make sure deceased relatives are happily married.

Carrying out a ghost wedding in modern China isn't easy. For one thing, it's not legal. The practice was officially banned after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, but it can still be found in remote regions of the country.

Also, ghost weddings can cost big bucks. They are performed much like regular weddings, except they usually involve a burial ceremony. Relatives and friends of the deceased eat and drink. Sometimes entertainment is provided. After the wedding, the two families typically socialize together, especially on major holidays. Some believe their bond can be closer than that of in-laws of living couples.

As is customary with a regular marriage, the family of the groom must give the bride's family a betrothal gift. When the couple is dead, that gift almost always comes in the form of cash. In total, Wei's children spent around $2,500 on the betrothal gifts to the bride's family, but they considered the price reasonable. A typical betrothal gift for a ghost wedding is between $4,500 and $5,500.

Finally, it's not exactly easy to find an available corpse.

Demand for female bodies is particularly high.

As a result, the fresh corpse of a young woman can fetch as much as $30,000 on the black market. That kind of demand has led to the grim crime of grave robbing.

In early March, four people were sentenced to more than two years for stealing 10 corpses from graveyards in Shannxi province and selling them on the black market.

Zhou Peng, a journalist at the Xi'an Evening News who reported on the story, told NBC the criminals even performed plastic surgery on corpses and dyed their hair to make them look younger, so they could fetch higher prices.

"Ghost marriage between two dead people is stable and lasts forever.  There is no such thing as divorce."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink

January 15, 2013

"Nobody runs away from it but embraces it, when time comes, with the great expectation of the encounter with Christ."

Looking Death in the Face or The Aesthetics of Dying

Eastern Orthodox Christianity has a different approach to the reality of our departure from life. Death is regarded as an integral part of life, as birth or growing old is. Of course death is still viewed as an unnatural state of mankind, a consequence of the great fall, but, nevertheless an unavoidable and necessary passage. Nobody runs away from it but embraces it, when time comes, with the great expectation of the encounter with Christ.

Fr. Gherorghe Calciu Dumitreasa, of blessed memory, was telling that in his old village, when someone would fall on the death bed, all the people, including the children, would go forth and ask for forgiveness from the one who was about to pass. After this forgiveness ritual the dying person would then confess his/her sins for the last time and receive Communion to prepare as much as possible for the inevitable encounter with Christ.

After passing, the body would be washed by members of the family, dressed in an outfit prepared in advance and would be deposed in a simple open coffin inside the house. The priest would come and read the eleven Resurrectional Gospels and the family and friends would keep vigil, reading from the Psalter.

On the day of the funeral the priest would bring the body in procession into the Church where the funeral service would take place. The deceased would lay there, resting in an open casket, in the midst of the community he/she belonged to. In the Orthodox Church the deceased are never considered as leaving the communion with the Church. Death is merely a passing from the Militant Church on Earth unto the Triumphant Church in Heaven. The departed are just temporarily missing physically from among us, but awaiting there, just us we do, the great reunion of Christ’s family in the Kingdom to come.
St. Basil the Great teaches therefore that the greatest philosophy is the continuous thought of death. Not in a fatalistic way, but in the spirit of a heightened awareness of our everyday actions and their impact of our state after leaving this life. Instead of being preoccupied on how to hide or make death more bearable by artificial means, we should embrace it and transform it in an element of change in our lives towards a more responsible existence
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:55 AM | Permalink

October 31, 2012

Can quantum physics explain the bizarre experiences of patients brought back to life from the brink of death?

Near-death experiences occur when the soul leaves the nervous system and enters the universe, claim two quantum physics experts

A near-death experience happens when quantum substances which form the soul leave the nervous system and enter the universe at large, according to a remarkable theory proposed by two eminent scientists.  According to this idea, consciousness is a program for a quantum computer in the brain which can persist in the universe even after death, explaining the perceptions of those who have near-death experiences.

Dr Stuart Hameroff, Professor Emeritus at the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology and the Director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, has advanced the quasi-religious theory.

It is based on a quantum theory of consciousness he and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose have developed which holds that the essence of our soul is contained inside structures called microtubules within brain cells. They have argued that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects in these microtubules, a theory which they dubbed orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR).

Thus it is held that our souls are more than the interaction of neurons in the brain. They are in fact constructed from the very fabric of the universe - and may have existed since the beginning of time
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 AM | Permalink

October 8, 2012

Harvard neurosurgeon experiences the afterlife

 Newsweek Heaven Is Real

The cover story in Newsweek:  Heaven is Real.  A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife.  Dr. Eben Alexander.

When a neurosurgeon found himself in a coma, he experienced things he never thought possible—a journey to the afterlife.

As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon. I followed my father’s path and became an academic neurosurgeon, teaching at Harvard Medical School and other universities. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.
In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.
There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.
Where is this place?

Who am I?

Why am I here?

Each time I silently put one of these questions out, the answer came instantly in an explosion of light, color, love, and beauty that blew through me like a crashing wave. What was important about these blasts was that they didn’t simply silence my questions by overwhelming them. They answered them, but in a way that bypassed language. Thoughts entered me directly. But it wasn’t thought like we experience on earth. It wasn’t vague, immaterial, or abstract. These thoughts were solid and immediate—hotter than fire and wetter than water—and as I received them I was able to instantly and effortlessly understand concepts that would have taken me years to fully grasp in my earthly life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:53 PM | Permalink

August 22, 2012

Can you inherit memories?

Doreen Carvajal went to Spain, to Andalusia, on the Trail of Inherited Memories

I still wonder how I ended up living in a former medieval bordello on the brink of a sandstone cliff on the southern frontier of Spain.
The other world worried about bills, real estate values, tourism, lost jobs, the immediate future. In contrast, I retreated into my quest, hoping to take new stock of my identity by reclaiming ancestral memories, history and DNA clues that I believe had been faithfully passed down for generations of my family, the Carvajals.

They had left Spain centuries ago, during the Inquisition. That much I knew. We were raised as Catholics in Costa Rica and California, but late in life I finally started collecting the nagging clues of a very clandestine identity: that we were descendants of secret Sephardic Jews — Christian converts known as converses, or Anusim (Hebrew for the forced ones) or even Marranos, which in Spanish means swine.

There are scientific studies exploring whether the history of our ancestors is somehow a part of us, inherited in unexpected ways through a vast chemical network in our cells that controls genes, switching them on and off. At the heart of the field, known as epigenetics, is the notion that genes have memory and that the lives of our grandparents — what they breathed, saw and ate — can directly affect us decades later.

Recent studies in Sweden explore the effects of famine and abundant harvests on the health of descendants four generations later. That is not exactly what I am looking for: I’m intrigued by the notion that generations pass on particular survival skills and an unconscious sense of identity that stands the test of centuries.

The French psychologist Anne Ancelin Schützenberger, now in her 90s, has spent decades studying what she calls the ancestor syndrome — that we are links in a chain of generations, unconsciously affected by their suffering or unfinished business until we acknowledge the past.

In the 1990s Dina Wardi, a psychotherapist in Jerusalem, worked with the children of Holocaust survivors and developed the theory that survivor parents often designated certain children as “memorial candles” who took on the mission of serving as a link to preserve the past and connect the future. The children of survivors who actively struggled against the Nazis, she found, had a compulsive ambition to achieve.
Reality is even stranger. Dr. Darold A. Treffert, a psychiatrist in Wisconsin, maintains a registry of about 300 “savants” who through a head injury or dementia acquire skills they never learned. Conceivably, he says, those skills, like music, mathematics, art and calendar calculating, were buried deep in their brains. He calls it genetic memory, or “factory-installed software,” a huge reservoir of dormant knowledge that can emerge when a damaged brain rewires itself to recover from injuries.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 PM | Permalink

August 21, 2012

50 years after her death, the Marilyn Monroe estate earns $27-$30 million a year

Marilyn Monroe's estate earned $27 million last year and is looking at earning $30 million this year.  Her Facebook page (3.5 million likes) and her twitter account keep her in the public eye, 50 years after her death.

@MarilynMonroe, "tweeting on behalf of the Estate of Marilyn Monroe"—which, at last count, has 64,352 followers and is even verified.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 PM | Permalink

July 10, 2012

What happens after death?

This video  presents the common theories of different religions is what exactly happens after we die. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:48 AM | Permalink

May 17, 2012

How NDE's affect people's outlooks

Near-death experiences alter outlooks of people

Here are some gleanings of what people have learned:

They speak of being received by a being of light and of overwhelming, total love and absolute knowledge. They do not question the reality of a loving God. They felt enveloped in his love. They were asked to give an accounting of their lives. They were given an understanding that they had a purpose in life and needed to return to fulfill that purpose which was to be more loving toward their families and all mankind.

They returned with a hunger for knowledge. They experienced absolute knowledge while in the presence of God, and while most of it was erased when they returned to mortality, they felt an insatiable desire to learn all they could.

They became more involved in a church, but some found it frustrating to see churches wrangling and contending with each other. They found various trappings of some religions distracting. What they really wanted was a greater understanding of things of the spirit. There had been an awakening of inward spirituality. They desired to serve, not to be seen of men or out of duty or obligation, but out of pure motives; they really cared.

They spoke of increased sensitivity to violence of any kind and even found old western movies with gunfights senseless and painful to watch.

They experienced increased awareness of the beauties of nature, of uplifting music and of inspiring artistic works.

They felt less desire to seek wealth and worldly possessions. Things were no longer important.

They had an increased interest in eating healthy foods and enjoying regular exercise. They clung to life feeling there was so much more they needed to do before they left this life again.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2012

Near-death experiences scientifically inexplicable

Rod Dreher on Life After Death, Really

Neuroscientist Mario Beauregard writes that more and more research indicates that something inexplicable by the standard materialist model of human consciousness is happening with Near Death Experiences. Here’s an excerpt focusing on a medically well-documented case that cannot be explained as the bizarre firing of neurons in the mind of a dying patient:

Beauregard says the theory that NDEs are caused by a decrease of oxygen to the brain cannot be sustained. He points out too that people who have been born blind have the same NDE experiences as those with sight.


Dreher's update:

Forgot to say that I somewhat knew a Texas guy who claimed this happened to him after a near-fatal car crash — except his was a pretty dark story. He had been living a pretty bad life, and went to hell, or an approximation thereof. He claimed that Jesus Christ came to him there, told him it wasn’t his time yet, but that he should change his life, and turn to the Light. He said Jesus also told him “your days are numbered” — meaning that he didn’t have much time left. He had a dramatic, instant turnaround in his life, and became a far more peaceful and even saintly man. Sure enough, not long after this happened, he learned that he had a terminal illness. He’s dead now, but he spent the rest of his days serving God and doing good for others. Interestingly, after this experience, he had an almost preternatural spiritual sensitivity. I did not know the man before his alleged NDE, so I have no way of knowing if this was true. He was an exceptionally humble and gentle man when I met him, by the way, and didn’t like to talk about all this (I only found out about it because he’d told a friend of mine at his church, who asked.) FWIW.

More from the Beauregard piece

The scientific NDE studies performed over the past decades indicate that heightened mental functions can be experienced independently of the body at a time when brain activity is greatly impaired or seemingly absent (such as during cardiac arrest). Some of these studies demonstrate that blind people can have veridical perceptions during OBEs associated with an NDE. Other investigations show that NDEs often result in deep psychological and spiritual changes.

These findings strongly challenge the mainstream neuroscientific view that mind and consciousness result solely from brain activity. As we have seen, such a view fails to account for how NDErs can experience—while their hearts are stopped—vivid and complex thoughts and acquire veridical information about objects or events remote from their bodies.

NDE studies also suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

May 1, 2012

Gateway to Heaven

The gates of heaven? Hubble telescope captures extremely rare picture of dying star emitting ethereal beams of light

It looks like the gateway to heaven - but this stunning image taken by the Hubble Telescope has captured the dramatic phase of a dying star's lifespan when it runs out of nuclear fuel and emits beams of light like searchlights.

 Cross Dyingstar

The Daily Mail dubbed this the 'gateway to heaven'.  To me it looked like the cross. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

April 16, 2012

From atheist to believer in one near-death experience

A very clear and detailed recount of a near-death experience.

As I lay dying a voice said: ‘Let’s go’

Howard Storm was an atheist until he had an extraordinary near-death experience. After that, everything changed. Indeed, he is now a Christian minister. His book, My Descent into Death, shot to prominence globally after the novelist Anne Rice called it “a book you devour from cover to cover, and pass on to others”.

She added that “Storm was meant to write it and we were meant to read it.”


“I was lying there, when I heard a voice say: ‘Pray to God.’ I said: ‘I don’t pray. I don’t believe in God.’ Then, it came a second time; and a third: ‘Pray to God.’

“So, tried to think of a prayer. I started to mumble some things. A mention of God came into a few of these phrases. With each mention the people around me became very, very angry, and started screaming at me: ‘There is no God’ and ‘Nobody can hear you.’ It angered them so much that they were retreating from me. The mention of God was unbearable to them.” Encouraged, he mumbled other jumbled half-remembered phrases: “Glory, glory hallelujah, God Bless America, Our Father who art in heaven…”

“I felt that there was some kind of justice in the universe and that if you lead a miserable life you go down the sewer pipe of the universe into the septic tank. And that’s where I was. Yet I knew I hadn’t been flushed down into the deeper part, just yet.

“In that state of hopelessness I had a memory of myself as a child in Sunday school, singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’. I also had a vivid feeling of being a child and feeling that there was a wonderful God-man named Jesus who was my friend and who loved me. With real sincerity, I called out: ‘Jesus, please save me.’ With that, a tiny light appeared in the darkness and it came down over me. Out of this light came two hands. They reached down and touched me, and all the gore and filth that was me just fell away.

“In two or three seconds I was healed and filled with an indescribable love. In this world there is no equivalent to that kind of love. These arms picked me up and brought me into this brilliant light. I was held against the body of this man. I knew that he was Jesus. I cried.

“We were moving straight up, faster and faster towards the world of light. It dawned on me then that everything I had believed in was wrong, and I was going to where God lived. I thought: ‘They’ve made a terrible mistake. I don’t deserve this. I’m garbage.’”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

March 28, 2012

"Beauty, shining, energy, love"

Chris Murphy, a trial lawyer from Chicago, describes near death experience and his 'Visit to Paradise'
that was full of "Beauty, shining, energy, love". 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:45 PM | Permalink

December 28, 2011

"There was this bright light above me"

Ben Breedlove, Teenager makes heartbreaking video about his near-death experiences - a week before he dies from heart attack

After cheating death three times, Ben Breedlove, 18, finally lost his life on Christmas night after suffering from a heart attack.
But not before he recorded videos of his life and near-death experiences and how at peace he felt when he believed he was leaving the world.

The Austin teenager had a life-threatening heart condition he fought every day as he was growing up.

He had a near death experience when he was four, fourteen and then less than a month ago.

In the video, he shares these experiences, including the bright light that brought him peace the first time around and the time he was wearing a suit and standing in a white room with his favourite rapper Kid Cudi.

Of this experience, he wrote: 'I then looked in the mirror, I was proud of myself of my entire life, everything I have done. It was the BEST feeling.'

This is a flash card video, so you can turn down the sound on the annoying music.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:21 AM | Permalink

December 27, 2011

Oh wow

I thought of a story told by a friend, whose grown son had died, at home, in a hospice. The family was ringed around his bed. As Robert breathed his last an infant in the room let out a great baby laugh as if he saw something joyous, wonderful, and gestured toward the area above Robert's head. The infant's mother, startled, moved to shush him but my friend, her mother, said no, maybe he's just reacting to . . . something only babies see.

Peggy Noonan on the best thing said in 2011, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow,"  Steve Jobs' last words.

"Before embarking, he'd looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life's partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve's final words were: 'OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.'"

The caps are Simpson's, and if she meant to impart a sense of wonder and mystery she succeeded. "Oh wow" is not a bad way to express the bigness, power and force of life, and death. And of love, by which he was literally surrounded.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:04 AM | Permalink

November 7, 2011

Despair over death leads to nihilism

Pope Benedict says modern day nihilism stems from despair over death

Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims to Rome on Sunday that a loss of faith in Jesus Christ has led many people to despair in the face of death.
“If we remove God, if we take away Christ, the world will fall back into the void and darkness,” he said in his Nov. 6 Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.

“And this is also reflected in the expressions of contemporary nihilism, an often subconscious nihilism that unfortunately plagues many young people.”

The Pope charted the impact that the Christian message had upon the ancient world where “the religion of the Greeks, the cults and pagan myths were not able to shed light on the mystery of death.” He noted that ancient inscriptions read “In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus,” meaning “How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing.”
Thus, St. Paul reminded the Christians of Ephesus that they were “without hope and without God in the world” before their conversion to Christianity, whereas afterwards they no longer grieved “like the rest, who have no hope.”

“Faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” said the Pope, is “a decisive watershed.” It is the “definite” difference between “believers and non-believers,” or “those who hope and who do not hope.”

Our Last Judgment, therefore, will be “based on the love we practiced in our earthly life.” That is why it is “true wisdom” to take advantage of mortal life to carry out works of mercy, because “after our death, it will no longer be possible.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2011

All Souls Day

Tradition is that Faure's Requiem is performed on All Souls Day, November 2.  Tonight I am going to hear the Boston Boys' Choir and the Men's Schola sing Faure's Requiem at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge. 

It is heavenly music.

Here is the Kings College Choir singing Pie Jesu and Agnes Dei from the Requiem

More from the Requiem, "In Paradisum"

from a Concert in Berne, May 2007, Agata Mazurkiewicz, conductor, Choir Konzertverein Bern, Berne Chamber Orchestra.

Insight Scoop traces All Souls Day

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once said so well, one major difference between Protestants and Catholics is that Catholics pray for the dead:

"My view is that if Purgatory did not exist, we should have to invent it." Why?

"Because few things are as immediate, as human and as widespread—at all times and in all cultures—as prayer for one"s own departed dear ones." Calvin, the Reformer of Geneva, had a woman whipped because she was discovered praying at the grave of her son and hence was guilty, according to Calvin, of superstition". "In theory, the Reformation refuses to accept Purgatory, and consequently it also rejects prayer for the departed. In fact German Lutherans at least have returned to it in practice and have found considerable theological justification for it. Praying for one's departed loved ones is a far too immediate urge to be suppressed; it is a most beautiful manifestation of solidarity, love and assistance, reaching beyond the barrier of death. The happiness or unhappiness of a person dear to me, who has now crossed to the other shore, depends in part on whether I remember or forget him; he does not stop needing my love.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 AM | Permalink

November 1, 2011

On All Saints Day, Dalrymple Visits a Guatemalan Graveyard

Theodore Dalrymple visits a Guatemalan graveyard on All Saints Day with a woman from North America

I like graveyards in general, and Guatemalan graveyards are particularly attractive. Every little pueblo has its cemetery, the plain block-like tombs gaily painted pink, yellow, white, purple, sky-blue or mauve. They are well cared for and not at all dismal.

On 1 November, All Saints' Day, I had been in the little town of Salama, some sixty miles distant from the capital. All Saints' Day is every cemetery's day of glory, the day on which Catholic Guatemalans go with their families to the tombs of their dead relatives and spend the day there. Flowers are taken: real flowers, beautiful but ephemeral, or plastic ones, gaudy but permanent. A few days beforehand, the family refreshes the tomb with a coat of paint and renews the inscription. On the day itself, everyone picnics over grandmama, eating a dish called fiambre - rice and twenty different kinds of cold meat - which is prepared only for this day.
No grave was totally neglected on All Saints' Day, and even the graves of the dead without descendants were newly painted or strewn with a flower or two.

 Guatemalan Cemetery

People from northern latitudes often find the customs of All Saints' Day morbid. I found them not only charming, but moving and wise. It seemed to me that death as the inevitable end of life was accepted better in Guatemala than in our own culture, where everything possible is done to disguise the fact of death until the last moment, when it comes as a terrible shock. And surely it is some consolation to the dying to know that at least once a year they will be remembered.

Nothing could illustrate better the contrast in our attitudes to death than the behaviour of the North American lady with whom I visited Salama cemetery on All Saints' Day. It happened that she was a member of the American Association of Graveyard Studies, which has a membership of 300, and as such I supposed she would be interested in the activities in the graveyard on this of all days. On the contrary, she regarded them as a hindrance to the proper study of gravestones as purely physical artifacts. I was rather embarrassed when, wishing to take a photograph of a particular tomb, she asked the family who had decorated it in remembrance to remove their flowers so that the tomb should appear in her photograph in its 'natural' state. She preferred her cemeteries dead in every possible sense, so that they were strange and alien places on the edge of town, with no connection to the world of the living. Thus death remained a taboo for her, despite her studies; she belonged to a culture in which death was warded off by facelifts, vitamin tablets, the magical avoidance of ubiquitous substances and even the freezing of corpses at -270°. Which was the wiser attitude?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink

October 20, 2011

Neurosurgeon speaks about his own near death experience

Near-Death Experiences: 30 Years of Research - Part 5
A neurosurgeon’s perspective

Eben Alexander was your typical neurosurgeon. A firm believer of scientific reductionism, he thought that all thoughts originate from the brain. But this changed in 2008 when he encountered a case of near-death experience (NDE).

Having contracted acute bacterial meningitis, which damages the neocortex—the part of the brain that is thought to involve complex cognitive functions like conscious thought—Alexander went into a coma and spent six days on a ventilator. The chance of survival was very slim, and less so was the possibility of recovering fully.

The normal glucose levels in a human’s cerebrospinal fluid are between 60 and 80 mg/dl (milligram per one-tenth of a liter), and the meningitis infection is considered severe when the level drops to 20 mg/dl. But the glucose level of Alexander’s cerebrospinal fluid was at 1 mg/dl, making it impossible for his brain to function.

However, during the time when he was in coma, Alexander encountered vivid experiences involving multiple senses, such as vision, hearing, and smell. He said that he couldn’t describe how amazing it was.

“What happened deep in coma was absolutely stunning,” Alexander said during an interview.

The whole situation seems to be much more real than our earthly life, and the sensory modalities were very strange because they were, you know, when I was remembering all this and trying to write it down, a lot of the kind of auditory and visual things that we would normally think of as things that we see or hear, were all kind of blended together.”

For example, he “saw” a beautiful melody appearing as colors in front of him, and he remembered gold and silver arcs of lights as transparent arcs of energy that he perceived as sounds.

“To compare it with sitting here and talking on the phone or working on my computer, it was much, much more real, very rich, and as if I were truly being alive for the first time,” Alexander said. “It was really amazing.”

“My brain right now—I think it recovered pretty well—could not do anything close to what my brain was doing deep in coma,” Alexander said in this year’s International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) conference.

“How does a dying brain end up getting far, far more powerful and able to handle these tremendous loads of information instantaneously and put it altogether?”

“The standard neuroscientific explanation […] absolutely does not address the real powerful elements of the experience,” he said.

“My conclusion is that the experience was very real and had to happen outside of my brain, and it had to happen outside of this physical universe. […] There is an element of our consciousness that is not dependent on the brain and that is what was set free, for me, and went on that journey.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2011

His life after dying

Dr. George Ritchie can be seen on this dramatized YouTube video witnessing to his near death experience when he was 20 and a private in the army.

The video promotes his book  My Life After Dying, published in 1991,  a re-titling of his original book Return from Tomorrow, published  in 1978.

George G. Ritchie  became a  physician, served his residency in psychiatry at the University of Virginia and then began a private practice in psychiatry in Virginia.  He died at 84, leaving his wife of  60 years, a son and a daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Raymond Moodie, a student at the University of Virginia, first became aware of Near Death Experiences after hearing Ritchie's story.  Moodie went on to investigate over 150 cases of NDEs

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2011

The Cloud of Witnesses

From an interview by Kathryn Lopez of Father George Rutler, Priest Walks among the Dead

Lopez: Is there a literal cloud of witnesses?

FATHER RUTLER: I do not know how people see in Heaven, without biological eyes, but their vision is better than 20/20. They see the essence of each other. Whatever that essence is, we can only surmise that it is akin to what was seen by Jesus when he looked into the hearts of men. In that sense, the “cloud of witnesses” consists of people who have become with inexpressible vividness what they were meant to be in this world.
Lopez: “It is an indictment of our time that [saints] are largely ignored, almost self-consciously so by our schools”?

FATHER RUTLER: No explanation, sociological or psychological or anthropological, can adequately explain how saints get to be saints. They are the evidence of divine grace, and to acknowledge their existence is to acknowledge that grace. So most of our schools prefer to destroy the evidence. Thus the greatest people who ever lived are treated nervously or ignored altogether. This is the biggest and most blatant lacuna in our curricula. For instance, how many Ph.D’s have ever heard of St. Lawrence of Brindisi? Yet, a good case may be made for saying that there would be no Doctors of Philosophy today, and no civilization at all as we know it, had it not been for him.
Lopez: What’s the most important lesson these people all helped impress upon you?

FATHER RUTLER: They only proved to me the doctrine of the greatest doctors of souls from Basil to Augustine to Newman: Each human soul is worth more than the entire universe.

Lopez: Is the main point of your book to love one another?

FATHER RUTLER: Yes, of course. But it is much easier to love one another than to like one another. I am happy that we are not commanded to do the latter.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:27 PM | Permalink

August 23, 2011

The Funeral Singer

You don't often think about the singers at a funeral, but here is a lovely story about a young woman who learned the
responsibilities of a singer when a remarkable young girl dies suddenly.

Losing a child: grief and hope

Maddy was having a hard time preparing as the last time she sang at a funeral at our church - Father Kelly's - she broke down while singing his favorite hymn - "Lead, Kindly Light." Saturday, she was to sing "Hallelujah" (Cohen), "Ave Maria" (Schubert), and "All Through the Night" which was Sara's favorite lullaby. She's also been on an emotional roller coaster with her job, moving and preparing to leave for college.

But Maddy knows that the discipline of a singer in this situation is that it's not about her - which was affirmed when we were walking towards the church and Sadie's mom Sara - whom we had never met - so graciously came out to greet us. She told Maddy that Sadie had been to hear her sing and had wanted to meet her afterwards, but that she (Sara) had discouraged her from interrupting Maddy talking with her friends.
Maddy didn't make it through the lullaby, but as she feared, began to cry - and as she has noted, while a musician can get away with crying, a singer can't. We had to leave quickly as she was so depleted afterwards. That's when we had the conversation in the car where she said she wished she'd had the opportunity to meet Sadie and I assured her that she certainly had today. And that she now has a very close friend in heaven.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:36 AM | Permalink

August 4, 2011

"Not through my death. But through yours."

After 5 years of writing an advice column about the end of life, Judy Bachrach says her letters fall into 3 categories: letters about inheritance and disinheritance, questions about death etiquette and how to dispose of corpses.

The New Death.Those seeking advice reveal a new attitude about the end

I marvel over people’s interest in all three categories, but especially their obsession with the fate of the outer wrappings. How can it matter? Why does it matter?...

And then, at odd moments, the answer comes to me. In these modern times, the Afterlife is now. That’s what it’s come down to. No one wants to wait. No one thinks waiting ages for some kind of final justice will improve the odds. Atheist or believer, pragmatist or romantic, we all consign to death, someone else’s death, a long hoped-for settling of accounts. We want our heavenly rewards, emotional or tangible, to arrive today, and the death of a relative is the doorway to those rewards.
But if there is a heaven, a Final Reward for sufferings here on earth, it will come, the newer general feeling goes, not through my death. But through yours.  And that is the death people write me about.

The narcissism of people today is astonishing and blinding.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:19 AM | Permalink

July 15, 2011

How a Bishop dies

Bishop Michael Evans faced death as a gateway to eternal life

I did not know Bishop Michael Evans, who has died at the sadly young age of 59 after a long illness, but I feel that the manner of his departure provides us with much food for thought.

The bishop knew he was ill, and that his condition was terminal, and (I was going to write “but”, but “and” is correct) he faced up to the prospect of death with Christian resignation.

In January 2011 Bishop Evans broke the news to his diocese that he did not have long to live. He wrote: “Rather than resign, I would like to continue among you as your bishop and the father of our diocesan family until this stage of my life ends. I do not know how long that will be. I am most grateful for the ways you have cared for and so prayerfully supported me in recent years. You remain very much in my thoughts and care.

“As I live now under the shadow of death, my prayer is very much that of St Paul that I may know something of the power of Christ’s Resurrection and a share in his sufferings, trusting that the Lord is with me. I pray that even now I can joyfully witness something of the good news we are all called to proclaim.”

I am sure that I am not alone in finding this exemplary. We are all going to die, and we will all have to deal with that one day. The bishop’s way of dealing with it – low-key, seeing death as just one stage in life, not making a fuss, not appealing to the emotions, but rather to the facts of faith – is a pretty excellent template we could all follow.
Robin Lane Fox, in his interesting book, Pagans and Christians, attributes the triumph of Christianity over paganism (if memory serves) to one factor above all others: Christianity could deal with the fear of death, whereas paganism could not. In other words the Christians had the answer to the great question raised by Epicurus, namely how to face up to the prospect of personal extinction.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

On believing in an afterlife

What Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams when Abigail Adams died.

Monticello, November 13, 1818

The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.

In Controversy over Heaven, Gary Smith looks at the controversy over Seven in Heaven Way, a street in Brooklyn renamed to honor seven firefighters who died trying to rescue victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks which the New York City Atheists Organization are protesting saying it violates the separation of church and state.

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice asserted that “the claim that somehow ‘Seven in Heaven Way’ violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is absurd. Acknowledging religion is not an endorsement of religion, and to suggest that this street name somehow crosses the constitutional line of establishing a religion is nonsense.”


Polls consistently find that high percentages of Americans believe in heaven and expect to spend eternity there. Various polls show that 80-90 percent of Americans believe in heaven. A Gallup Poll reported that 77 percent of Americans rated their chances of getting to heaven as “good” or “excellent.” Several near-death experience accounts of heaven — Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back,” and “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” — are all best sellers. Given this and the deep impact of 9/11 on Americans, the lively debate over the naming of this street in Brooklyn is not surprising. Belief in heaven has provided millions of Americans with hope as they face earthly struggles and death and has frequently helped inspire them to improve conditions on earth.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 AM | Permalink

July 1, 2011

I buried my mother 15 years ago... but now she's turned up ALIVE

You can't beat this headline.

I buried my mother 15 years ago... but now she's turned up ALIVE

A woman who thought she had buried her mother 15 years ago got a shock when the old woman turned up alive and in Florida.

Grace Kivisto, 56, from Knox County, Illinois, was told human remains found in a local brickyard in 1996 belonged to her mother.

But investigators using DNA analysis last week told her family the remains were not those of their missing relative.

Then, yesterday, detectives told Mrs Kivisto her missing mother had been found, alive and well, in Jacksonville, Florida.

She told 'I was out gardening, and a detective came to tell me that they had found my mother. Alive!'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

June 24, 2011

Corpse Bride: French woman marries her DEAD boyfriend

Another stunner headline

Corpse Bride: French woman marries her DEAD boyfriend

President Sarkozy gives blessing for marriage under obscure law

A woman has married her dead boyfriend at a ceremony in France - after getting permission from President Sarkozy.

Karen Jumeaux, 22, made use of an obscure French law to wed fiance Anthony Maillot - almost two years after he was killed in a road accident.

She wrote to President Nicolas Sarkozy to ask permission for a posthumous wedding, which was granted because she could prove they were already planning to marry.

The couple met in 2007 and had a baby boy in 2009, shortly before his death at the age of 20.

She tied the knot wearing a white dress and in the presence of family and friends at the town hall ceremony in Dizy-le-Gros, eastern France, yesterday.

She said afterwards: 'He was my first and only love and we were together for four years.

I vaguely remember such laws enacted in World War 1 because so many millions were killed so quickly.
Women who were engaged before their fiances left  home to fight and die could be declared 'white widows' and collect a survivor's pension.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 PM | Permalink

May 10, 2011

"Death is not the end, but a point of transition"

Vox Nova on the Christian view of death and how it affects the experience of dying.

There are two errors involved with life and death. The first is to ignore the value of life. Life is a precious gift, a good which should not be unnaturally taken away. Every life is precious, and every person is to be loved because they have life. The second is to try to hold on to life unnaturally, to extend one’s stay in the fallen world when it is time for one to enter into eternity. Those who neglect the care of others, those who ignore the inherent good which is the foundation for all life, are often the same ones who end up striving to prolong their own miserable existence, and they do so at the expense of others. They have not prepared themselves for eternity. They do not understand the meaning of life, and so they cannot understand the meaning of death.

Death is not the end, but a point of transition. We should prepare ourselves for death, for we will all face it one day. Life allows us to find out who we are, to come to know ourselves as we truly are. Once we have properly come to know ourselves, we can (thanks to grace) purify ourselves from all sinful contamination, and then in death, we will be the person we are meant to be, free from all sin, free from the sorrows of sin, in eternity. If we are prepared, eternal life is a blessing, because it allows us to experience ourselves as we truly are in an unfallen, beatified state. Life is a gift; it allows us the opportunity for such a preparation, but, because of sin, temporal existence is riddled with trials and tribulations; death allows us to have a final victory over sin, to overcome the “evils of this life.”


In the lives of the desert fathers, we find the remembrance and preparation of death was a significant component of their spiritual life. They understood and accepted the significance of death. They knew and understood that because death lies before us, it can be and should be contemplated during our earthly existence, so that we can be ready for death and not be found unprepared for eternity.

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers relates the death of Abba Sisoes

It was said of Abba Sisoes that when he was at the point of death, while the Fathers were sitting beside him, his face shone like the sun. He said to them, ‘Look, Abba Anthony is coming.’ A little later he said, ‘Look, the choir of prophets is coming.’ Again his countenance shone with brightness and he said, ‘Look, the choir of apostles is coming.’ His countenance increased in brightness and lo, he spoke with someone. Then the old men ask him, ‘With whom are you speaking, Father?’ He said, ‘Look, the angels are coming to fetch me, and I am begging them to let me do a little penance.’ The old man said to him, ‘You have no need to do penance, Father.’ But the old man said to him, ‘Truly, I do not think I have even made a beginning yet.’ Now they all knew that he was perfect. Once more his countenance suddenly became like the sun and they were all filled with fear. He said to them, ‘Look, the Lord is coming and he’s saying, “Bring me the vessel from the desert.”’ Then there was as a flash of lightning and all the house was filled with a sweet odour.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

March 10, 2011

"It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence grows most acute."

Pat Gohn writes No Anxieties: Confronting Our Dust in Faith

It's one of the touchstones of Lent, this intentional remembering that life on earth is short compared to the promise of eternity. Our time on planet Earth really means something. And the really big questions of life are always related to certainty of death, but more than that, they are subject to the economy of grace.

She quotes Gaudiam et Spes (Joy and Hope) (1965).

It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence grows most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. He rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. He rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter. All the endeavors of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm his anxiety; for prolongation of biological life is unable to satisfy that desire for higher life which is inescapably lodged in his breast.

Although the mystery of death utterly beggars the imagination, the Church has been taught by divine revelation and firmly teaches that man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery . . . For God has called man . . . so that with his entire being he might be joined to Him in an endless sharing of a divine life beyond all corruption. Christ won this victory when He rose to life, for by His death He freed man from death. Hence to every thoughtful man a solidly established faith provides the answer to his anxiety about what the future holds for him.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:34 PM | Permalink

March 8, 2011

Thinking Inside the Box

In Play Dead, Obituary Writer Tries Out a Coffin

"We realized that our own point of view is that when you’re dead, you’re dead. Therefore the only place you exist is inside those who know you. If you lived and you’re forgotten, you lived in vain.” He paused.

“It’s not a happy show,” he said, grinning. “But it’s fun.”

I said that I often felt, writing obituaries, that one reason death is interesting to people is that it is grim and engaging in equal measure. Dying and grieving are universal experiences, but so is wonderment at what death entails.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 AM | Permalink

February 11, 2011

"Earth was Heaven's womb"

Dr. Peter Kreeft on What Difference Does Heaven Make?

The answer to the question is only the difference between hope and despair in the end, between two totally different visions of life; between "chance or the dance."  At death we find out which vision is true: does it all go down the drain in the end, or are all the loose threads finally tied together into a gloriously perfect tapestry? Do the tangled paths through the forest of life lead to the golden castle or over the cliff and into the abyss? Is death a door or a hole?

To medieval Christendom, it was the world beyond the world that made all the difference in the world to this world. The Heaven beyond the sun made the earth "under the sun" something more than "vanity of vanities". Earth was Heaven's womb, Heaven's nursery,
The glory has departed. We moderns have lost much of medieval Christendom's faith in Heaven because we have lost its hope of Heaven, and we have lost its hope of Heaven because we have lost its love of Heaven. And we have lost its love of Heaven because we have lost its sense of Heavenly glory.
Heaven and Hell – suppose, just suppose it were really, really true! What difference would that make?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:04 PM | Permalink

November 15, 2010

The Afterlife of a Man Declared Dead

Despite being declared dead, Sanders had been able to move about the country easily. Investigators know he lived in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Nevada. He worked as a laborer, a welder and a scrap metal collector.

According to records obtained by the AP, his arrests included possession of drug paraphernalia and a number of traffic and motor vehicle incidents, all in Tennessee. He was sentenced to two years in Georgia for simple battery. State and federal authorities have said some of the charges involved minors, but they refused to elaborate.

'Dead' Man Arrested in Louisiana Girl's Kidnapping

Court documents obtained by The Associated Press show Sanders abandoned his family in 1987 and was declared dead by a Mississippi court 1994. He lived unnoticed for years despite being arrested several times.

Sanders was wanted in the kidnapping 12-year-old Lexis Roberts, whose skeleton was found by hunters early last month. Her 31-year-old mother, Suellen Roberts, is missing. Officials say she is not a suspect in her daughters death — and they hope she has not met with foul play.

Thorne said Sanders was alone when he was arrested at the Flying J Truck Stop by FBI agents and Harrison County Sheriff’s deputies.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:34 PM | Permalink


Father Robert Barron comments on "Hereafter", a film I haven't seen yet, but want to.  We all want to know whether there is life after death and I'm interested in what Clint Eastwood has to say about it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:23 PM | Permalink

October 11, 2010

" Just natural grief at the loss and hope in the mercy of God."

Funerals that pay tribute to the foibles and frailties of the deceased make me deeply uneasy

I was at a Requiem Mass this morning; nothing unusual in that, of course. Yet this Mass was highly unusual in this respect: there was no panegyric of the dead. The deceased man had made it clear to his widow before he died that he wanted the homily to focus on the faith – specifically the theology of death and resurrection, with accompanying prayers for the dead – and not on him.

This must be the first funeral I have attended since the death of my father more than 30 years ago when a “celebration of the life” has not been a central feature of the service. How and when did it creep in that a funeral has to concentrate on a deceased person’s achievements, foibles and lovable frailties – indeed, on his or her imminent canonisation – to the exclusion of almost everything else?
There you have it: no mournful pop songs, no tributes to the deceased’s love of a pint at his local pub, his efforts on behalf of mankind; just natural grief at the loss and hope in the mercy of God. I left this morning’s funeral more comforted and consoled than at many a funeral I have attended in recent years.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:08 PM | Permalink

July 14, 2010

" So far, it feels like the truth.’’

“Under my promise to always tell you the truth, I have discontinued chemo and other treatments,’’ he wrote, adding, “I’m beyond the place where chemo can help me. I have come home to die. I am near the end of my journey.’’

Father Field, who had stood in the pulpit month after month, performing pastoral duties through intense pain, sat in a wheelchair on June 27. Speaking into a microphone, he asked if anyone had questions. There were none. Instead, the parishioners took their turn to stand. They began to clap, their applause echoing through the church for minute after minute, as if to prolong his time with them.

A masterful teacher who deftly discovered new insights in familiar Gospel passages, Father Field spent the past two years using his own life as a lesson in how to let life shine in the shadow of death. “I am in a place of great peace and gratitude,’’ he wrote. Father Field, who lived in the church rectory, died Monday. He was 59 and had celebrated his 20th anniversary as an ordained priest last month.

As days dwindled, priest let his life be his lesson

While he said his illness provided “a teachable moment’’ for parishioners, it also helped him live a lesson he had taught, and learned, over and over.

“I believe we go into the hands of the God who loves us, and what’s next, we just can’t imagine how wonderful it must be,’’ he said in the interview. “This is a time when you have to figure out — do you believe this or not. You’ve been saying this your whole life. Is this really the truth or not? And, so far, it feels like the truth.’’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink

June 21, 2010

"Goose-bump" experiences in 9/11 families

ABC News looks at the eerie signs, premonitions, and sightings of the afterlife and finds that "goose-bump" experiences are common among the 9/11 Families who say they are touched by loved ones lost

Even more astonishing are reports of actual sightings. Monica Iken recalled waking up, to see her husband Michael standing at the foot of the bed.

"He was all glowing, and I just sat up, I said, 'Thank you for coming.' As quick as I said that, he left. But he was smiling. He was telling me he was there with me. It was not a dream. He was literally standing there," Monica Iken said.

"These kinds of things tend to happen with people when people lose someone very, very close to them," said Shear, who added that while there are rational explanations, she doesn't totally discount the possibility that the incidents might be something more. "Obviously, there's so many things that we just do not understand."  I

n the end, McEneaney and the others said they don't mind whether you believe them or not; the messages they have received brought them comfort they deeply needed. 

"It's not about death," said McEneaney. "It's about love and hope and loving connections that continue, even after death."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:25 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2010

The Pope on Eternal Life

Benedict XVI recalls life of cardinal, reflects upon eternal life

The Holy Father remembered the life and legacy of the recently deceased Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer on Monday morning. During his remarks, the Pontiff noted that in dying we achieve the "most profound desire of mankind," being reunited with God.

The funeral Mass for the 98-year-old cardinal, who died last Friday, was concelebrated by members of the College of Cardinals led by their dean, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. The Holy Father gave the homily.

"As is the destiny of the human existence," observed Pope Benedict, "it blossoms from the earth ... and is called to Heaven, to the homeland from whence it mysteriously comes."
The Pope recalled the words of Christ from the cross, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," and noted that every funeral celebration takes place "under the sign of hope."

Because in his last breath on the cross, Jesus sacrificed himself, taking on our sins and reestablishing the victory of life over death, he explained, "every man that dies in the Lord participates by faith in this act of infinite love, in some way returns his spirit together with Christ, in the sure hope that the hand of the Father will resurrect him from the dead and introduce him in the Kingdom of life.

"The great and unshakeable hope, resting on the solid rock of God's love, assures us that the life of those who die in Christ 'is not taken away but transformed' and that 'the abode of this earthly exile is destroyed, an eternal dwelling is being prepared in heaven'."

Amidst a climate in which a fear of death makes many despair and seek illusory consolations, "Christians stand out for the fact that they place their security in God, in a Love so great as to be able to renew the whole world," commented the Pope.

The vision is to achieve the "most profound desire of mankind," the Holy Father underscored, which is living in the "new Jerusalem," in peace, without the threat of death and in full communion with God and each other.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink

April 28, 2010

Rogue Wave Thwarts Man's Suicide Attempt

 The-Gap-Watson's Bay-Nsw
The Gap at Watson's Bay

Freak Wave Thwarts Man's Suicide Attempt

Sydney, Australia (AHN) - A freak wave in Australia prevented a suicidal man from carrying out his plans to leap to his death from a cliff.

The 45-year old man jumped from a cliff commonly used by people wanting to kill themselves, known as the Gap at Watson Bay.

But when he plummeted more than 650 feet, the wave broke his fall and washed him safely to shore.

I'd like to know what this man says in five years' time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

April 19, 2010

Near-death experience at 3

Only 3, Paul Eicke is the youngest person I have ever heard of who survived to tell of his near death experience.

 3-Year-Old Nde

Boy, 3, tells how he 'saw grandmother in Heaven' before being brought back from the dead after falling into pond

A boy of three claims he saw his great grandmother in heaven while he was clinically dead after falling into a pond.
Paul Eicke came back to life more than three hours after his heart stopped beating.

It is believed he was in the pond at his grandparents' house for several minutes before his grandfather saw him and pulled him out.

His father gave him heart massage and mouth-to-mouth during the ten minutes it took a helicopter to arrive.

Paramedics then took over and Paul was taken the ten-minute journey to hospital. Doctors tried to resuscitate him for hours. They had just given up when, three hours and 18 minutes after he was brought in, Paul's heart started beating independently.

Professor Lothar Schweigerer, director of the Helios Clinic where Paul was taken, said: 'I have never experienced anything like it.  'When children have been underwater for a few minutes they mostly don't make it. This is a most extraordinary case.'

The boy said that while unconscious he saw his great grandmother Emmi, who had turned him back from a gate and urged him to go back to his parents.

Paul said: 'There was a lot of light and I was floating. I came to a gate and I saw Grandma Emmi on the other side.

'She said to me, "What are you doing here Paul? You must go back to mummy and daddy. I will wait for you here."

'I knew I was in heaven. But grandma said I had to come home. She said that I should go back very quickly.
'Heaven looked nice. But I am glad I am back with mummy and daddy now.'

Paul is now back at home in Lychen, north of Berlin in Germany, and there appears to be no sign of brain damage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 AM | Permalink

April 6, 2010

Images of the Afterlife

Some interesting images that patients drew their near-death experiences appear in Newsweek, entitled Crossing Over.

The-Ascent-Of-The-Blessed H.Bosch
Hieronymus Bosch, "The Ascent of the Blessed"

The drawings and others like them are newly published in P.M.H. Atwater's "The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 AM | Permalink

March 22, 2010

“He became so much nicer after he died"

A.J. Ayer was a professor of logic at Oxford University, Britain's most eminent philosopher and most famous atheist.

Recuperating in hospital after a heart attack that nearly killed him, Professor Ayer choked on some smoked salmon smuggled into him by well-meaning friends.  He was 'clinically dead' for four minutes.

The doctor who treated for the heart attack returned to Ayer's bedside

“I came back to talk to him later that evening,” he told Cash. “Very discreetly, I asked him, as a philosopher, what was it like to have had a near-death experience? He suddenly looked rather sheepish. Then he said, ‘I saw a Divine Being. I’m afraid I’m going to have to revise all my various books and opinions.’

“He clearly said ‘Divine Being,’” said Dr. George. “He was confiding in me, and I think he was slightly embarrassed because it was unsettling for him as an atheist. He spoke in a very confidential manner. I think he felt he had come face to face with God, or his maker, or what one might say was God.

While he never spoke of this conversation publicly or to his family, he had changed.

When Ayer was released by his doctors a month later, friends and family did notice that he’d changed.

“He became so much nicer after he died,” was the mordant way my mother-in-law, Dee Wells, put it to Cash. “He was not nearly so boastful. He took an interest in other people.”

What she also noticed is that as his life ebbed away, Ayer began spending a great deal of time with Father Frederick Copleston,
“In the end, he was Freddie's closest friend,” said Dee. “It was quite extraordinary.”

An Atheist Meets the Masters of the Universe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:38 PM | Permalink

March 14, 2010

"Ain't No Grave"

Daniel Kalder reviews the new CD Johnny Cash-American VI: Ain't No Grave

Well there ain’t no grave
Gonna hold my body down
Well there ain’t no grave
Gonna hold my body down
When I hear that trumpet sound
I’m gonna get up out of the ground

The song mixes defiance with a joyful declaration that death is not the end. And it is this bedrock of faith, of an elemental Christianity that liberates Cash from fear and informs the rest of the album. This is the sound of a man at peace with himself, with his life, who is ready to meet his Redeemer. Indeed, he’s so at peace he can take a Sheryl Crow song, Redemption Song and make you forget about her musings on toilet paper and suspect for the first time that she might actually be a talented songwriter. Then he takes Kristofferson’s For the Good Times- basically a song in which a horny goat tries to emotionally blackmail his ex into giving him some pity sex- and turns it into a moving reflection on a long life nearly at its end. The fourth track, 1 Corinthians 15:55 is the last song Cash ever wrote and begins with the lines from scripture:

Oh Death where is thy sting?
Oh grave where is thy victory?

Before Cash continues with a plea to God for shelter, guidance, forgiveness and mercy; but it’s a plea given in the certainty that God is merciful, delivered over a cheerful waltz. Cash knows that if he asks, he shall receive.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:01 PM | Permalink

February 4, 2010

Evidence of Afterlife

Doctor claims he has evidence of afterlife that may convince skeptics without any active faith

In a new book “Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.”  medical doctor Jeffrey Long claims
that accounts of near-death experiences play out remarkably similarly among the people who have had them, crossing age and cultural boundaries to such a degree that they can’t be chalked up simply to everyone having seen the same Hollywood movie.
In his book, Long details nine lines of evidence that he says send a “consistent message of an afterlife.” Among them are crystal-clear recollections, heightened senses, reunions with deceased family members and long-lasting effects after the person is brought back to life.
Long noted that he was especially fascinated that very small children who have near-death experiences almost always recount the same stories as adults, even if the concept of death isn’t fully formed in their minds.
Long, a radiation oncologist, said that writing his book has actually made him a better doctor, as well as a believer in the afterlife.

“[It] profoundly changed me as a physician,” he said. “I could fight cancer more courageously. I found patients who died, it wasn’t the end. It made me more compassionate and more confident.

His interview with Time magazine

Medically speaking, what is a near-death experience?
A near-death experience has two components. The person has to be near death, which means physically compromised so severely that permanent death would occur if they did not improve: they're unconscious, or often clinically dead, with an absence of heartbeat and breathing. The second component [is that] at the time they're having a close brush with death, they have an experience. [It is] generally lucid [and] highly organized.

You say this research has affected you a lot on a personal level. How?
I'm a physician who fights cancer. In spite of our best efforts, not everybody is going to be cured. My absolute understanding that there is an afterlife for all of us — and a wonderful afterlife — helps me face cancer, this terribly frightening and threatening disease, with more courage than I've ever faced it with before. I can be a better physician for my patients.
You raise the idea that your work could have profound implications for religion. But is whether there is life after death really a scientific question, or a theological one?
I think we have an interesting blend. [This research] directly addresses what religions have been telling us for millenniums to accept on faith: that there is an afterlife, that there is some order and purpose to this universe, that there's some reason and purpose for us being here in earthly life. We're finding verification, if you will, for what so many religions have been saying. It's an important step toward bringing science and religion together.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:13 AM | Permalink

February 1, 2010

What lies on the other side

Explaining death

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, "'Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side."

Very quietly, the doctor said, "I don't know."

"You don't know? You're a Christian man, and don't know what's on the other side?'

The doctor was holding the handle of the door. On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, "Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, But I do know one thing... I know my Master is there and that is enough."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

December 17, 2009

Interpenetration of worlds

So long as people are grading themselves, Gagdad Bob jumps in to grade himself on his spiritual progress and gives himself a B+  and muses on near-death experiences and the real afterlife.

Back to the seeming closeness of heaven and earth in these troubled times. Father Rose writes that "never before has mankind been given such striking and clear proofs -- or at least 'hints' -- that there is another world, that life does not end with the death of the body, that there is a soul that survives death and is indeed more conscious and alive after death." But what do people do with it? Most seem to simply become more confused. It reminds me of the gift of literacy. What do most people do with it? Basically just waste it on garbage and trivia.

Now some intriguing details. Father Rose says that "the dying person's spiritual vision often begins even before death," apparently because the two worlds are drawing closer together, so to speak. It is as if the other world penetrates and infuses this one with a peculiar but distinct energy, something most people can experience when in the presence of the dying loved one.

Since premature death was so much more commonplace in the past, I wonder if people were much more aware of this space, or even lived in it most of the time? For them, the security we take for granted was an extreme rarity, if it occurred at all. People were not secure in their person, their health, their food supply, nothing. Thus, perhaps it was much easier for them to acknowledge the one true source of security in the Absolute.

This again speaks to the historical irony of contemporary man, whose increased security causes him to hold on that much more tightly to those very things that moth and rust doth corrupt, except a bit more slowly. Again, for this reason, spiritual progress is simultaneously easier and more difficult than ever before. Nevertheless, I give myself a B+.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:55 PM | Permalink

November 30, 2009

What happen when a person dies

A fascinating glimpse into the mind and work of a German expert in near-death research, Bernard Jakoby

What happens when a person dies?

One of Jakoby's goals is to disseminate the already-existing knowledge of the dying process, death, and the continued existence of consciousness.
According to Jakoby, the problem in our present-day society is our unwillingness to be open to these things. Once man accepts the observable processes and pays attention to the many existing reports, then consequently, he would also acknowledge the existence of life after death, the existence of a loving deity, and his responsibility for everything, including himself.

That’s exactly what the dying process actually reflects—we will be confronted with all of the unresolved issues in our lives, and that is something people would rather not hear,” Jakoby said.

“At the moment of death, people are like an open book. The time to waffle has passed, as has the time to blame others for our shortcomings. We are completely left to ourselves, and that is also the reason why some people die easily, and others with difficulty. The more unresolved issues pile up, the harder the process of dying. Presently, one of the biggest taboos is for people in their eighties to deal with unresolved issues from World War II that surface at the time of their deaths,” he continued.

On unresolved issues and forgiveness

Jakoby considers it a grave issue that despite the existing, well-documented knowledge about the death process, so many people don't translate it into their daily lives. For example, he believes that the preparation for death should not begin when a husband is already hospitalized, but much sooner. However, most of his seminar attendees come only after having witnessed death, or once they are overwhelmed by an event and can no longer deal with it.

In particular, Jakoby finds the huge number of reported after-death contacts between the departed and the living family members as an alarming sign of our times, as most of these contacts have to do with unresolved issues.

“As long as we harbor ill thoughts toward a deceased, or have negative thoughts about anyone, we are not free. That’s why forgiveness is so important, and that’s why so many dying people long for reconciliation during their last days."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 AM | Permalink

November 23, 2009

Remembering the Dead

Mgr Roderick Strange in Credo, Remembering those who died raises questions about loss and early death

Heaven is code for the presence of God where love is made perfect, and we are perfected in love. There we shall see one another as we really are, when all imperfection has been wiped away. Beauty will be revealed; those we love will be instantly recognisable, whatever the throng; whatever further journey there may have been, those who love will not have passed beyond each other, but will be united by love again; and those who had no hope of such a consummation, but were passionate for justice and truth, will find their deepest longings satisfied beyond their wildest dreams.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2009

Jesus Christ's 'death certificate'

Jesus Christ's 'death certificate' found on Turin Shroud

Barbara Frale, a Vatican researcher, claims to have discovered Christ's 'death certificate' on the Turin Shroud.

The historian and researcher at the secret Vatican archive said she has found the words "Jesus Nazarene" on the shroud, proving it was the linen cloth which was wrapped around Christ's body.

She said computer analysis of photographs of the shroud revealed extremely faint words written in Greek, Aramaic and Latin which attested to its authenticity.

The Associated Press adds Faint writing seen on Shroud of Turin

The Catholic Church makes no claims about the cloth's authenticity, but says it is a powerful symbol of Christ's suffering.
There has been strong debate about it in the scientific community.

Skeptics point out that radiocarbon dating conducted on the cloth in 1988 determined it was made in the 13th or 14th century.

But Raymond Rogers of Los Alamos National Laboratory said in 2005 that the tested threads came from patches used to repair the shroud after a fire. Rogers, who died shortly after publishing his findings, calculated it is 1,300 to 3,000 years old and could easily date from Jesus' era.

Another study, by the Hebrew University, concluded that pollen and plant images on the shroud showed it originated in the area around Jerusalem sometime before the eighth century.

While faint letters scattered around the face on the shroud were seen decades ago, serious researchers dismissed them, due to the results of the radiocarbon dating test, Frale told The Associated Press.

But when she cut out the words from enhanced photos of the shroud and showed them to experts, they concurred the writing style was typical of the Middle East in the first century — Jesus' time.
n her book "The Shroud of Jesus Nazarene," published in Italian, Frale reconstructs from the lettering on the shroud what she believes Jesus' death certificate said: "Jesus Nazarene. Found (guilty of inciting the people to revolt). Put to death in the year 16 of Tiberius. Taken down at the ninth hour."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 AM | Permalink

November 18, 2009

Posthumous marriage

Since death us did part: French mother-of-two marries her fiancé a year after he is killed in a car crash

A little-known section of the French civil code states it is possible for a bride or groom to marry a dead fiancé as long as there is clear evidence that they planned to marry before the loved one died.

 Posthumous Marriage

Magali wore a white dress and veil and a large colour portrait of the dead groom was on show during the ceremony, the Independent reported. The service was attended by 30 family members and friends.

The widow bride said at Saturday's service: ‘I am not really in the mood to have a wedding reception so we will just drink a cup of coffee and I will thank everyone who has supported me.
The sombre event ended with her placing a bouquet of flowers on the bride-groom’s grave.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:23 PM | Permalink

"Heaven:it ain't boring"

Now on his sixth installment of Heaven: It Ain't Boring, Berger is setting out to debunk what he says are "myths" about heaven and dying.

Forget about serenely playing the harp on a fluffy cloud. Berger says heaven is a dynamic place of fun, culture, creativity and happiness.

"When you read the Bible and see what's going on in heaven, there's nothing boring about it. There's nothing boring about God," he said. "Why would God's heaven be boring? The creator of the universe? Come on."

Son's death motivates pastor's study of afterlife

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 AM | Permalink

November 2, 2009

All Souls Day

 All Souls

To Trace All Souls Day by  Fr. Brian Van Hove, S.J.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once said so well, one major difference between Protestants and Catholics is that Catholics pray for the dead:

"My view is that if Purgatory did not exist, we should have to invent it." Why?

"Because few things are as immediate, as human and as widespread—at all times and in all cultures—as prayer for one"s own departed dear ones." Calvin, the Reformer of Geneva, had a woman whipped because she was discovered praying at the grave of herson and hence was guilty, according to Calvin, of superstition". "In theory, the Reformation refuses to accept Purgatory, and consequently it also rejects prayer for the departed

In theory, the Reformation refuses to accept Purgatory, and consequently it also rejects prayer for the departed. In fact German Lutherans at least have returned to it in practice and have found considerable theological justification for it. Praying for one's departed loved ones is a far too immediate urge to be suppressed; it is a most beautiful manifestation of solidarity, love and assistance, reaching beyond the barrier of death. The happiness or unhappiness of a person dear to me, who has now crossed to the other shore, depends in part on whether I remember or forget him; he does not stop needing my love."


As the sacraments on earth provide us with a process of transformation into Christ, so Purgatory continues that process until the likeness to Him is completed. It is all grace. Actively praying for the dead is that "holy mitzvah" or act of charity on our part which hastens that process. The Church encourages it and does it with special consciousness and in unison on All Souls Day, even though it is always and everywhere salutary to pray for the dead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:36 PM | Permalink

October 27, 2009

The order by which people are admitted to heaven

From the Deacon's Bench is this hilarious order by which people are admitted to heaven that appeared in Notre Dame magazine.

To be admitted without review by committee: children under the age of 12, sixth-grade teachers, the mothers of triplets, janitors, nuns (all religions), nurses, all other mothers, loggers, policemen with more than 10 years of service, Buddhists (see Appendix A), bass players in rock bands, librettists, gardeners, cartographers, eighth-grade teachers, cellists, farriers, veterinarians, magicians, compass-makers, firemen and firewomen, rare-book-room librarians, cobblers, anyone from the former Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific, breakfast cooks in diners, philologists, proofreaders, administrative assistants and secretaries, sauciers, mapmakers, cartwrights, cartoonists, essayists, people who manufacture thimbles, and Presbyterians (see Appendix B).

To be admitted after cursory review by committee: archaeologists, Catholics, Jews, doctors (except orthodontists; see Appendix C), plumbers, taxi-drivers, boatwrights, soldiers actually engaged in defending their clan or country from attack or threatened attack, undertakers, popes without children, longshoremen, tugboat pilots, coaches of any elementary-school sport whatsoever (precedence for basketball and Australian Rules football coaches), all other teachers, cellists, anyone who ever worked on an auction for a nonprofit, scuba divers, publishers of children’s books, people from Finland, people who sell life insurance (it turns out life insurance is something really, really close to the Director’s heart), anyone who ever took a tango lesson, hotel doormen, people who brew beer in their bathtubs, child-care-center directors, emergency dispatchers, detectives, monks, anyone in the peanut-butter industry, paddle surfers (female), bus drivers, fishmongers, anyone who ever repaired a copy machine or a child’s bicycle, and any father who ever wiped or bathed a child other than his own without complaint.

To be admitted under the special Mother of the Lord provision (“the back door”): Unitarians, Pete Maravich, exotic dancers, journalists (see Appendix D)

Appendix D: Unitarians, bless their earnest hearts, are admitted without further ado, but the debates over the qualifications of journalists as a class go back millennia and have generated many planets’ worth of legal records. For the year 2009, print and radio journalists are given precedence over web journalists. Television journalists are, as usual, not admitted, but this year for the first time are allowed to file appeals with Mr. Edward Murrow.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:35 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2009

He died mid-mediation

 Pandito Hambolama

From the Atlas Obscura comes this story of Ivolginsky Datsan and the mummified remains of Russia's most important Buddhist 

In 1927, the 75 year old Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov announced it was time for his death. Itigilov, who was the 12th Pandito Khambo Lama, the titular head of the Buddhist faith in Russia, had the other lamas join him in meditation. He died mid-meditation. His sitting body was set upright inside a wooden box and buried. Shortly thereafter Buddhism was all but wiped from newly communist Russia.

In 2002, Itgilov's body was exhumed (it had been secretly exhumed and checked on twice by the monks during the Soviet era) and transferred to the Ivolginsky Datsan, the most important Buddhist monastery in Russia. Itigilov's mummified remains there, sitting in the exact same lotus position as when he died more than three quarters of a century ago. Though his eyes and nose are now sunken, the body is nonetheless a wonder of preservation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2009

Stepping into eternity

Tom Foley, a 41-year-old tax advisor tells how he copes with terminal cancer.

‘I am stepping out of time into eternity'

But, why accept? Why not a solitary whine? Or perhaps even a trite: "This is not fair." Because all is grace, all is gift. And it is time to give the gift back, freely and willingly. A strong sense of Divine Providence strengthens me, a sense that I have been prepared for this. Both my wife and I had fairly dramatic conversions around the time of the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI. Since then the liturgy, particularly the Benedictine monastic liturgies at abbeys such as St Cecilia's, Quarr, Downside, Solesmes and Le Barroux, have become, for us, a foretaste of the Heavenly Liturgy. What can one say but when the cantor announces: "Deus, in adiutorium meum intende ("O God, come to our aid") our souls will fly to the stratosphere and we will be among the angels. And then, after the chanting of the psalm, the bow for the "Glory be" is a bodily enactment of what the soul proclaims at that moment: "All is well, God is in the heavens and we are his sons and daughters!"
Rather, one can be possessed by joy and, dare I say it, one can begin to taste a little excitement at the thought of stepping out of time into eternity. But the horror of the rupture and wrongness of death must not be denied and it is thus not right to be too joyful.
There is an oddness about modern funerals I simply cannot fathom. Why are people so chirpy? I will leave clear instructions: no jokes and no beatification ceremony (the modern custom). Instead: I desire that people pray unceasingly that my purgation will be short.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 PM | Permalink

August 9, 2009

Harry Patch, Britain's last World War 1 Warrior

John Burns on Britain's Oldest Warrior

He was a 19-year-old private when he was struck by the burst of a German shell over the British trenches in September 1917 and sent home to recover from his wounds. Working as a plumber in Wells until his retirement, he lived to the age of 111 before he died on July 25, when he was listed by Britain’s Defense Ministry as the last survivor among the millions of British soldiers who fought in the trenches on the Western Front. The last French and German veterans of the trenches died earlier this decade.
In his last years, he became a national celebrity, memorialized in a poem written by Andrew Motion, then the poet laureate, and in a song fashioned from Mr. Patch’s own words about the fighting in the trenches that was recorded by the pop group Radiohead (“I’ve seen devils coming up from the ground/I’ve seen hell upon this earth.”) He met it all with the same modesty, saying that it was not he who should be honored but the men who fell at the battlefront, “the ones who didn’t come home.”
When Mr. Patch finally broke 80 years of silence, it was in the final decade of a life that was honored by thousands of mourners who gathered at his funeral on Thursday in this quiet cathedral town set in rolling green hills 140 miles west of London. But his message was not the traditional story of valor and patriotism under fire. Rather, he took as his themes the futility of war and the common humanity of soldiers who meet as enemies on the battlefield.
the feature that would have been likely to please Mr. Patch more than any other was the presence, as honorary pallbearers, of two German soldiers in full dress uniform, part of a six-man contingent that also included soldiers from Belgium and France. A German diplomat, Eckhard Lübkemeier, offered a New Testament reading from Corinthians that spoke of Christ’s “message of reconciliation.”
A  Belgian diplomat read an excerpt from Mr. Patch’s 2007 autobiography, “The Last Fighting Tommy,” in which he described an offensive during the battle at Passchendaele, the bloodiest chapter in the Ypres fighting, when he came across a fellow soldier “ripped from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel” during a British assault on German lines.

The episode reinforced in Mr. Patch, a devout Christian, the belief that there is a life after death. “When we got to him, he looked at us and said, ‘Shoot me,’ ” he recalled. “He was beyond all human help, and before we could draw a revolver he was dead. And the final word he uttered was ‘Mother!’ It wasn’t a cry of despair, it was a cry of surprise and joy.”

He added, “I’m positive that when he left this world, wherever he went, his mother was there, and from that day, I’ve always remembered that cry, and that death is not the end.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 AM | Permalink

July 26, 2009

The Great Convivium

This is the most moving, lyrical and funny encomium I ever read: The Great Convivium by Father Raymond De Souza, being the homily delivered at the funeral Mass for Richard John Neuhaus.

In our first reading the prophet Isaiah has a vision of the Lord's celestial mountain. In the translation we used we hear of a "feast." We used the RSV translation, because it is never a good idea to set the deceased to spinning even before he gets to his grave, which may well have happened had we used the lectionary of the New American Bible, against which Fr. Richard regularly inveighed. There is another translation. In the Latin Vulgate, the word used is convivium. Convivium might just have been Fr. Richard's favorite word

Convivium strictly means "to live together," but it connotes a banquet or feast, indicating that a certain supply of rich food and fine wine are, if not required, at least desired. Isaiah says nothing about cigars. But then Fr. Richard was not a sola scriptura man. Convivium is an essential part of the Christian life. We are not meant to be disciples alone. Convivium is what Fr. Richard created over his whole life, delighting in the company of others and the delightful things the Lord had made. He drew people together who might not otherwise meet -- Christians and Jews, evangelicals and Catholics, Canadians and Americans, clergy and laity, theologians and journalists, entrepreneurs and evangelists, distinguished authors and aspiring writers.
At the conclusion of every convivium, every symposium, every meeting, Fr. Richard would look ahead to the next gathering, which he would announce with the proviso, "should the Lord delay his return in glory."

The Lord will delay no longer; there is no more waiting for Richard John Neuhaus. He wrote, in what turned out to be his valedictory at the end of the February First Things: "The entirety of our prayer is ‘Your will be done' -- not as a note of resignation but of desire beyond expression. To that end, I commend myself to your intercession, and that of all the saints and angels who accompany us each step through time toward home."

We pray that Fr. Richard is now experiencing the fulfillment of that desire, which eye has not seen, ear has not heard. We close the eyes of our dear Father. Our eyes are blurred by tears. We are afraid that when they dry, we may not see as clearly without him to show us. We close his eyes and pray that they may open upon the glory of the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the great convivium of all the blessed. Amen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:53 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2009

"The Resurrection of the Lord is our hope"

Urbi et Orbi message of his holiness Pope Benedict XVI

From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter. To quote Saint Augustine, “Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra – the resurrection of the Lord is our hope” (Sermon 261:1). With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.).

Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end.
This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message. As Saint Paul vigorously declares: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” He goes on to say: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14,19). Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.
The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his “Passover”, his “passage”, that has opened a “new way” between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20). It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.
The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the “emptiness” would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion. Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10). We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:01 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2009

Death on a Friday Afternoon

 Mary Footofthecross

Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus

Such was the curious bond between Jesus and Mary, in the cradle and on the cross. As a baby he first awoke to the Absolute—to “God”—in the loving presence of a mother who was for him the reassuring field of reality. She was the secure field of all being in which he received unqualified permission to be. The alternative to her was not to be, and that alternative was unimagined and unimaginable because she was. Only later, and with difficulty, does the child learn to distinguish between the love of God and the primordial love of the parent. For most of us the distinction is never absolute, and perhaps is not meant to be.
Her heart would break before she fully understood, with a shudder of fear and wonder, what it was that she had been telling him when she whispered to the baby, “You will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. And of your kingdom there will be no end.” Perhaps, she was at times tempted to think, it was a mistake to tell him. But she finally had no choice except to follow, step by step, the way of the strange glory to which she had said yes. She was the instrument, she was the mediator, of the secret into which he would grow. And now his “hour” had come, and it had come to this, here at Golgotha.

 Mary Cross

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2009

Remembering the Dead Redux

In going through the papers of her late husband, Amy Wellborn came across this column Michael Dubriel wrote in 1995 entitled Remembering the Dead.

If my great-grandfather was present when visiting his wife's grave, he would speak to her in his native Polish in a quiet voice as though he was informing her of the latest news. My father was more reserved in the visits to his father's grave, but somehow I knew that these visits somewhat the same purpose -- to keep in touch with those who had formed and shaped our lives by their presence. Even though they were gone, they were still very much present to us.

My parents and grandparents did not forget the past. The visits to the cemetery were an act of reverencing and honoring the memory that was still very much alive to them of their deceased par ents and spouses. They dealt with the image in the rearview mirror by pulling off the road and confronting the image ob an ongoing basis.

What allowed them to do this was a belief that life did not end in the physical death of their loved ones. As believers in God who had rescued their loved ones from death by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, they realized that those who had died were not gone.
That is not all. They believed tha they could still help their deceased love ones complete their spiritual journey toward God. These cemetery visits always concluded in the same way. All who were present would kneel on the ground over the grave, and we would pray, usually an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. These visits kept the memory of our loved ones before us as we remembered the way they lived and the impact they had on our lives as individuals.

Yet such is not the case anymore. During the past 14 years, I have been involved in various forms of pastoral ministry. I have witnessed a new phenomenon that is the opposite of my childhood memories. Rather than remember the dead, people actively try to forget that their loved ones ever existed. The ideal funeral of the 1990s seems to be the following, according to my experience: The deceased is cremated soon after death. The ashes are strewn either over the ocean or over some other peaceful spot. The problem with this is not that it is against any prohibition of the Catholic Church (it no longer is). The problem is that there is no place to reverence their memory or the effect that they still have on our lives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

February 13, 2009

Being in a mystery

Amy Wellborn on the death of her husband Michael Dubriel.

There are stages, there are layers, there are bridges. There is a void, my best friend in the world is just - gone.  But in this moment I am confronted with the question, most brutally asked, of whether I really do believe all that I say I believe.  Into this time of strange, awful loss, Jesus stepped in. He wasted no time. He came immediately. His presence was real and vivid and in him the present and future, bound in love, moved close. The gratitude I felt for life now and forever and what had prepared us for this surged, I was tempted to push it away for the sake of propriety, for what is expected, for what was supposed to be normal - I was tempted to say, “Leave me” instead of accepting the Hand extended to me and to immediately allow him to define my life.

But I did not give into that temptation, and a few hours later I was able to do what I dreaded, what I thought was undoable, to be in a mystery that was both presence and absence and to not be afraid. To not be afraid for him, and for the first time ever in my entire life - to not be afraid for myself , either.

At last.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

February 2, 2009

At the hour of their deaths

Abbot Joseph of Mt. Tabor Monastery in California is called to a Mop Up Ministry via Jennifer's Links

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way many people are going to be saved is if they are rescued at the last minute as they are departing this world. In a sense, I’m being spiritually placed in the last hours of souls. When all else fails, I’ll come in to mop up the mess with abundant prayers and offerings of the Divine Liturgy to save the souls who have slipped through everyone else’s fingers.

So, without further ado, I hereby inaugurate the “Abbot Joseph Final-hour Mop-up Ministry.” Now I say this in a somewhat light-hearted manner, but in fact I’m dead serious.


Here’s what’s in it for you. Are there any incorrigible teenagers, irascible old folks, lapsed Catholics, ardent unbelievers, or heedless profligates among your family or friends? Or do you know someone who is dying without faith or repentance or the sacraments? Well, just send their names to me at I will keep a list of these “hard cases” and will pray for them (including them also in the divine mercy chaplets I pray especially for this intention), and I will also regularly offer the Divine Liturgy for their salvation.

Imagining this priest saying prayers every day for those about to die gives me comfort and reminds me of what The Anchoress once wrote

Dame Laurentia McClachlen of Stanbrook Abbey, Sussex once said “a monastery is like a powerhouse; you do not lock up a powerhouse to restrain the power, but to keep anyone from coming in and gumming up the works. A monastery is a powerhouse of prayer, meant to give light to the whole world.”
Prayer is a force, and it has power.

There are things seen and unseen. Things corporeal and things spiritual. Things natural and supernatural. A society bent on utilitarianism serves only the seen, the corporeal, the natural, and neglects the things unseen - at great risk.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:45 PM | Permalink

January 27, 2009

Despair, Joy and Boredom

Peter Kreeft on the Three Philosophies of Life

There are ultimately only three philosophies of life, and each one is represented by one of the following books of the Bible:

1. Life as vanity: Ecclesiastes
2. Life as suffering: Job
3. Life as love: Song of Songs


The reason these are the only three possible philosophies of life is because they represent the only three places or conditions in which we can be. Ecclcsiastcs' "vanity" represents Hell. Job's suffering represents Purgatory. [1] And Song of Songs' love represents Heaven. All three conditions begin here and now on earth. As C. S. Lewis put it, "All that seems earth is Hell or Heaven." It is a shattering line, and Lewis added this one to it: "Lord, open not too often my weak eyes to this.

The essence of Hell is not suffering but vanity, not pain but purposelessness, not physical suffering but spiritual suffering. Dante was right to have the sign over Hell's gate read: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

Suffering is not the essence of Hell, because suffering can be hopeful. It was for job. Job never lost his faith and his hope (which is faith directed at the future), and his suffering proved to be purifying, purgative, educational: it gave him eyes to see God. That is why we are all on earth.

Finally, Heaven is love, for Heaven is essentially the presence of God, and God is essentially love. ("God is love.')
Despair is Job's mood. His suffering is not only bodily but also spiritual. What has he to look forward to except death? He has lost everything, even God--especially God, it seems.

Joy is the mood of love, young love, new love, "falling in love". That is the wonder in Song of Songs: that the beloved should be; that life should be; that anything, now all lit by the new light of love, should be--as mysterious a glory as it was to job a mysterious burden.

Boredom is the mood of Ecciesiastes. It is a modern mood. Indeed, there is no word for it in any ancient language! In this mood, there is neither a reason to die, as in Job, nor a reason to live, as in Song of Songs. This is the deepest pit of all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2008

" None of us know what happens in those infinitesimal moments between life and death"

The Anchoress eulogizes her "birth" brother who died yesterday after A sad painful life.

I don’t blame him for not having faith. I can’t think of any example of love he ever encountered that did not - ultimately - get distorted or misrepresented or prove itself to be wholly untrustworthy, not to be counted on, not to be believed.

I loved him, but I was much younger than he, and of a completely different nature. I doubt he believed it, that I loved him. He had no tools to believe it.

How tragically sad is that?

I say to hell with that. He was loved into being; he was baptized and sealed. The people who were supposed to teach him the way in which to go spun him madly, incessantly - then allowed him to get dizzy and lost. He lived a sad, tortured life the best way he knew how - quite imperfectly, but then his tools were also very insufficient and his trust was non-existent. I cannot claim to know anything, but I do not believe that a loving God would look upon this much-sinned against man and reject him once again, as he was rejected all his life.

For one thing, none of us know what happens in those infinitesimal moments between life and death, if mercy is offered one more time, and accepted.
Tonight, I am believing that my brother John is finally in the presence of the all-encompassing and unconditional love in which he can finally trust, finally surrender to…or that he has glimpsed enough of it to want more, however long it takes to become fit for it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2008

The First Few Minutes After Death

 Near Death Experiment

The First Five Minutes After Death - A three year study will explore the nature of death and consciousness

After countless accounts of near-death experiences, dating as far back as ancient Greece, science is now taking serious steps forward to explore the nature of the phenomenon. A new project aims to determine whether the experience is a physiological event or evidence that the human consciousness is far more complicated than we ever believed.
the near-death experience could be another state of consciousness with a different set of rules than what we currently understand, and beyond the limits of what current scientific methods can explain.
During the time that people report the feeling of detachment from their physical body, or an out-of-body-experience, they report a perception of floating above their body, or floating near the ceiling in the room where the experience occurs. This aspect of the experience plays an important role in the study.

Some speculate that St. Paul had a near-death experience that may have influenced the New Testament.

When folks have near-death experiences, they often return with a completely different view of the world, and their role in it.

Almost to a person, they become more spiritual. Their accent becomes love. They look at everyday worries -- in the light of eternity -- as trivial.
That question (and it is only a question) arises because of the famous line in 2 Corinthians 12:4, whereby the great disciple, Paul (once Saul), wrote, "I know this man -- whether in or outside his body I do not know, God knows -- was snatched up to Paradise to hear words, which cannot be uttered, words which no man may speak."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

November 2, 2008

The Prayer in the Pocket of the Soldier

The Homily on All Souls Day from the Preacher to the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa

Faith doesn't free believers from the anguish of having to die, but it soothes us with hope. A preface of the Mass (for All Souls' Day) says: "If the certainty of having to die saddens us, the hope of future immortality consoles us." In this sense, there is a moving testimony that also comes from Russia. In 1972, in a clandestine magazine a prayer was published that had been found in the jacket pocket of a soldier, Aleksander Zacepa, composed just before the World War II battle in which he would die.

It says:

Hear me, oh God! In my lifetime, I have not spoken with you even once, but today I have the desire to celebrate. Since I was little, they have always told me that you don't exist. And I, like an idiot, believed it.

I have never contemplated your works, but tonight I have seen from the crater of a grenade the sky full of stars, and I have been fascinated by their splendor. In that instant I have understood how terrible is the deception. I don't know, oh God, if you will give me your hand, but I say to you that you understand me …

Is it not strange that in the middle of a frightful hell, light has appeared to me, and I have discovered you?

I have nothing more to tell you. I feel happy, because I have known you. At midnight, we have to attack, but I am not afraid. You see us.

They have given the signal. I have to go. How good it was to be with you! I want to tell you, and you know, that the battle will be difficult: Perhaps this night, I will go to knock on your door. And if up to now, I have not been your friend, when I go, will you allow me to enter?

But, what's happening to me? I cry? My God, look at what has happened to me. Only now, I have begun to see with clarity. My God, I go. It will be difficult to return. How strange, now, death does not make me afraid.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:56 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2008

All Saints Day

The night of a thousand shining lights

Poland grinds to a standstill on All Saints' Day, says Jonathan Luxmoore, as even ardent atheists head to cemeteries to honour the dead

In the sullen, damp air of an autumn evening, flower-strewn crosses and marble tombstones are illuminated by the glow of candles, flickering in their thousands against a dark backdrop of gently rustling pines and birches. On the narrow walkways between groups of people, young and old, huddle silently over the grave surfaces, carefully weeding and clearing. Over a distant loudspeaker the voice of a priest intones prayers and meditations.

That scene will be repeated at hundreds of locations throughout Poland this weekend as the traditional All Saints' Day observances reach their poignant climax. Anyone who has not witnessed this national festival has missed a phenomenon that has survived essentially unchanged through centuries of war and occupation.

According to surveys 97 per cent of the country's 38 million inhabitants, irrespective of class or creed, converge on the cemeteries for All Saints' Day. A quarter take extra days off work to pay homage to dead relatives, often travelling hundreds of miles, while a similar proportion also places candles and flowers at military cemeteries and national monuments.

Stanis_awa Grabska, a veteran Catholic theologian, explains: "The grave's existence has greatest importance for the living, as a symbol of their faith in the resurrection. We believe the dead are the same people that we knew - with the one difference that they have reached their goal, while we are still on the way."

Strikingly, the most popular Christian feasts in Poland are marked as much by declared atheists as by believers. This suggests that non-Catholics also wish to maintain some link with Church and religion, and to ensure that, when the times comes, their mortal remains will also be treated with fitting reverence.

It also confirms that the survival of the Christian faith is linked to the durability of social bonds and cultural traditions. Come what may, the candles of All Saints' Day will go on shining amid the night breezes of a material world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2008

The French Mother Teresa Dies

Sister Emmanuelle, France's "Mother Teresa," dies aged 99.

Sister Emmanuelle, France's answer to Mother Teresa, who has died aged 99 was an unorthodox nun who spent 20 years helping the poor in a Cairo slum before returning to France to defend the homeless.

The diminutive Roman Catholic nun, whose real name was Madeleine Cinquin, was best known in France for her frequent appearances on television to campaign passionately for the poor and homeless.

She came to media attention with her work with some of the world's poorest people, the residents of the Ezbet El-Nakhl slum in Cairo who eke out their living by scavenging in the garbage produced in the giant city.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sister Emmanuelle was a woman who "touched our hearts," a "woman of action for whom charity meant concrete actions of solidarity and fraternity."
The Vatican said her work, like that of Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa, "showed how Christian charity was able to go beyond differences of nationality, race, religion."

           Sister Emmanuelle

Rocco Palmo writes about her funeral in "Life Does Not End For Those Who Know to Love"

Sent off by her expressed request from the small-town convent where she spent her last years, Paris came to a halt yesterday to commemorate Soeur Emmanuelle -- the "French Mother Teresa" who died Monday at 99. 

Following her private funeral liturgy and burial at Callian in the country's southeast, the capital's Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois celebrated a nationally-televised memorial Mass in Notre-Dame, its high-watt congregation led by President Nicolas Sarkozy, his predecessor Jacques Chirac and -- in a tribute to the two decades the self-described "rag woman with the rag pickers" spent working among the poor in Cairo -- Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, as a crowd of thousands packed the square outside.

She left a message with her publishers.

"When you hear this message, I will no longer be there. In telling of my life -- all of my life -- I wanted to bear witness that love is more powerful than death," she said, according to the text.

"I have confessed everything, the good and the less good, and I can tell you about it. Where I am now, life does not end for those who know how to love."...

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:05 PM | Permalink

Why We Can't Imagine Death

Jesse Bering in Scientific American writes Never Say Die. Why We Can't Imagine Death

yet people in every culture believe in an afterlife of some kind or, at the very least, are unsure about what happens to the mind at death. My psychological research has led me to believe that these irrational beliefs, rather than resulting from religion or serving to protect us from the terror of inexistence, are an inevitable by-product of self-consciousness. Because we have never experienced a lack of consciousness, we cannot imagine what it will feel like to be dead.
So why is it so hard to conceptualize inexistence anyway? Part of my own account, which I call the “simulation constraint hypothesis,” is that in attempting to imagine what it’s like to be dead we appeal to our own background of conscious experiences—because that’s how we approach most thought experiments. Death isn’t “like” anything we’ve ever experienced, however. Because we have never consciously been without consciousness, even our best simulations of true nothingness just aren’t good enough.

Yet we can imagine the time before our parents were born.  What's the difference?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:35 PM | Permalink

September 26, 2008

When Consciousness Continues

A fellow at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Sam Parnia is one of the world's leading experts on the scientific study of death. Last week Parnia and his colleagues at the Human Consciousness Project announced their first major undertaking: a 3-year exploration of the biology behind "out-of-body" experiences. The study, known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), involves the collaboration of 25 major medical centers through Europe, Canada and the U.S. and will examine some 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest. TIME spoke with Parnia about the project's origins, its skeptics and the difference between the mind and the brain

What Happens When We Die?

What was your first interview like with someone who had reported an out-of-body experience?

Eye-opening and very humbling. Because what you see is that, first of all, they are completely genuine people who are not looking for any kind of fame or attention. In many cases they haven't even told anybody else about it because they're afraid of what people will think of them. I have about 500 or so cases of people that I've interviewed since I first started out more than 10 years ago. It's the consistency of the experiences, the reality of what they were describing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

September 23, 2008

Surviving without God

Living without God isn't easy. But its very difficulty offers one other consolation—that there is a certain honor, or perhaps just a grim satisfaction, in facing up to our condition without despair and without wishful thinking—with good humor, but without God.

In the New York Review of Books, Steven Weinberg writes about living and dying Without God.

The problem for religious belief is not just that science has explained a lot of odds and ends about the world. There is a second source of tension: that these explanations have cast increasing doubt on the special role of man, as an actor created by God to play a starring part in a great cosmic drama of sin and salvation

On consciousness
The problem is how to integrate the conscious mind with the physical brain—how to reveal a unity beneath this apparent diversity. That problem is very hard, and I do not believe anyone has any good ideas about how to solve it.
I want just to offer a few opinions, on the basis of no expertise whatever, for those who have already lost their religious beliefs, or who may be losing them, or fear that they will lose their beliefs, about
how it is possible to live without God.

Warnings for those who want to try it.
First, a warning: we had better beware of substitutes. It has often been noted that the greatest horrors of the twentieth century were perpetrated by regimes—Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China—that while rejecting some or all of the teachings of religion, copied characteristics of religion at its worst: infallible leaders, sacred writings, mass rituals, the execution of apostates, and a sense of community that justified exterminating those outside the community.
Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature, of the sort imagined by philosophers from Anaximander and Plato to Emerson. We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our wives and husbands and children, are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years. And yet we must not sink into nihilism or stifle our emotions. At our best we live on a knife-edge, between wishful thinking on one hand and, on the other, despair.

To survive without God or a god-substitute, he recommends
Humor, the ordinary pleasures of life and the high arts
He admits the loss of great consolation
The more we reflect on the pleasures of life, the more we miss the greatest consolation that used to be provided by religious belief: the promise that our lives will continue after death, and that in the afterlife we will meet the people we have loved. As religious belief weakens, more and more of us know that after death there is nothing. This is the thing that makes cowards of us all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:17 PM | Permalink

June 28, 2008

10 things your body can do after you die

1. Get married in China
2. Unwind with a few friends
3. Tour the globe as a scandalous work of art
4. Fuel a city
5. Get sold, chop-chop style
6. Become a Soviet tourist attraction
7. Snuggle up with your stalker
8. Don't spread an epidemic
9. Stand trial
10. Stave off freezer burn

Complete gory and gruesome details at Mental Floss via CNN.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 AM | Permalink

June 7, 2008

Party for Heaven

With no family or relatives, worried that no one would care about throwing a feast after her death,  a rich 80-year-old Indian widow spent tens of thousands of dollars on a feast for 100,000 in the hope it would please the gods and open the doors of heaven.

Widow throws party to find place in heaven.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2008

On the immortality of souls

For nature appears to me to have ordained this station here for us, as a place of sojournment, a transitory abode only, and not as a fixed settlement or permanent habitation. 

But oh the glorious day, when freed from this troublesome rout, this heap of confusion and corruption below, I shall repair to that divine Assembly, the heavenly Congregation of Souls!
Now these, my friends, are the means (since it was these you wanted to know) by which I make my old age sit easy and light upon me; and thus I not only disarm it of every uneasiness, but render it even sweet and delightful.

But if I should be mistaken in this belief, that our souls are immortal, I am however pleased and happy in my mistake;nor while I live, shall it ever be in the power of man, to beat my out on an opinion, that yields me so solid a comfort and so durable a satisfaction.

Cicero's Discourse on Old Age

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2008

Your Odds of Dying

What are your odds of dying?  1 in 1. 

What you will die from is a totally different story.  Mother Pie tipped me to this wonderful graphic in a post
exploring for the first time the idea of the Singularity. 

I've written about the singularity in The Curve of Change, Digital Immortality or The Rapture for Nerds, and How We Are Going to Die,

It's no surprise that some, bedazzled at our technological progress, believe that the same progress can be made with biotechnology.  There is a human inchoate yearning for immortality that believers say points to heaven.  But to that age-old question Quo vadis or Where are we going,  the singularians answer  We ain't  going nowhere, we're staying.

They fail to recognize the very humanness of our nature, especially our susceptibility to boredom.  Even William Buckley,  by all accounts a prodigious lover of life, confessed to Charlie Rose near the end of hhis life confessed that he was tired of life.  The time will come, no matter how long we live, when the will to live is lost and death soon follows.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2008

"Alone in a room with the body of a deceased person"

An atheist until two  years ago, Jennifer visits a funeral home for the first time since her conversion  to Catholicism

The viewing

Yesterday I found myself alone in a room with the body of a deceased person.

What surprised me about that was that it didn't feel all that different from the last time I went to a viewing before a funeral, back when I was a teenager. Not that I expected a chorus of angels or to hear the voice of God or anything, but I guess I thought it would feel noticeably different to see death face-to-face now that I'm aware of God's existence. But it didn't. It didn't feel different because seeing death so close up, then as now, stripped away any high-minded theories or explanations I might try to invoke and left me only with a certain unmistakable feeling, a feeling that came from some primordial part of my mind.

Yesterday, I was able to put my finger on just what that feeling was. I realized in that moment, standing next to a body in an open coffin in a silent room, that I was aware of something at the very deepest level of my consciousness. It was something simultaneously obvious yet easy to ignore, like the fact that there was a ceiling above my head and a floor beneath my feet. It was something I'd felt before, when I looked at my grandmother in her coffin as an atheist teenager so many years ago:

This is only a body. The soul lives on

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:14 PM | Permalink