October 26, 2017

The Only Man Buried on the Moon

An ounce of his ashes actually.

Eugene Shoemaker Is Still the Only Man Buried on the Moon

To date, the late scientist Eugene Shoemaker is still the only person whose remains have been sent to the moon. Even casual stargazers are likely to recognize Shoemaker’s name from the famed Shoemaker-Levy comet (which had broken into fragments) that impacted Jupiter in 1994. The comet, which Shoemaker discovered with his wife Carolyn alongside David Levy, was remarkable because it marked the first time humans were able to witness a first-hand planetary collision....

 Eugene Shoemaker Moon Model

Shoemaker enjoyed a celebrated career combining his main discipline of geology with more astronomical applications, helping to create the field of planetary science. He studied a number of craters here on Earth, and in the early 1960s, he founded the Astrogeology Research Program within the United States Geological Survey. Shoemaker used his knowledge to train a number of Apollo mission astronauts about what they could expect to find on the surface of the moon, in terms of terrain.

His fascinating life came to an abrupt end on July 18, 1997, when he died in a car crash while exploring a meteor crater in Australia. ....A close colleague of Shoemaker’s, Carolyn Porco, had decided to try and finally get the deceased scientist, who had wanted to be an astronaut in life but was disqualified for medical reasons, to the moon. "It was legend in the planetary science community that Gene had always wanted to go to the moon as an Apollo astronaut and study its geology firsthand," Porco said. "He said only last year, 'Not going to the moon and banging on it with my own hammer has been the biggest disappointment in life.' I felt that this was Gene's last chance to get to the moon, and that it would be a fitting and beautiful tribute to a man who was a towering figure and a pioneer in the exploration of the solar system."
On January 6, 1998, NASA’s Lunar Prospector blasted off for the south pole of the moon, looking for ice, and carrying an ounce of Shoemaker’s ashes. According to a memorial website set-up by Porco, the ashes were carried in a polycarbonate capsule provided by Celestis. It had been wrapped in a piece of brass foil, laser-etched with his name and dates over an image of the Hale-Bopp Comet; an image of Arizona’s Meteor Crater, where he had trained the Apollo astronauts; and a quote from Romeo and Juliet.

 Shoemaker Tribute Composite
Source Tribute composite

On July 31, 1999, the mission ended when NASA deliberately crashed the craft on the surface of the moon, taking Shoemaker with it, and making him the first and only person to be buried off-world.

Eugene Shoemaker - Biographical Memoirs

Eugene Merle Shoemaker

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

October 12, 2017

Preparations for a Royal Funeral in Thailand

King Bhumibol Adulyadej ruled Thailand for 7 decades. 

 King Bhumibol  Adulyadej

The preparations for his funeral have taken a year.  Thailand's Royal Funeral - A Photo Essay

 Aerial View Royal Crematorium
Aerial view of Royal Crematorium (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Artisans have worked for ten months in Bangkok's ancient quarter to build an elaborate cremation site fashioned after a vision of heaven where Thais believe dead royals return to live above Mount Meru, a golden mountain in Hindu mythology. The late king will be cremated on the night of October 26, when more than 3,000 performers will join in a nightlong final tribute of music and puppet shows to end a year of mourning following King Bhumibol's death in 2016.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand was the world's longest reigning monarch.

He was viewed by his subjects as a stabilizliing influence in a country that saw numerous military coups during his reign.
Despite being seen as a benign father figure who remained above politics, he also intervened at times of heightened political tension. And although he was a constitutional monarch with limited powers, most Thais regarded him as semi-divine.
It said much for his skills as a diplomat, and his ability to reach out to ordinary people in Thailand, that his death leaves the country's monarchy far stronger than it was at his accession.

Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in Cambridge in the US state of Massachusetts on 5 December 1927. His father, Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, was studying at Harvard when his son was born. The family later returned to Thailand, where his father died when he was just two years old....His mother then moved to Switzerland, where the young prince was educated. As a young man he enjoyed cultured pursuits, including photography, playing and composing songs for the saxophone, painting and writing....
In 1946, King Ananda died in what remains an unexplained shooting accident at his palace in Bangkok. Bhumibol acceded to the throne when he was 18 years old. His early years as king saw Thailand ruled by a regent, as he returned to his studies in Switzerland. While on a visit to Paris he met his future wife, Sirikit, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. The couple married on 28 April 1950, just a week before the new monarch was crowned in Bangkok. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 AM | Permalink

August 31, 2017

Marine laid to rest after 74 years

Marine Corps Pfc. George B. Murray was buried with full military honors Friday at the Arroyo Grande Cemetery, nearly 74 years after his death in World War II.

 Marine Murray 74 Years

Pfc. Murray, of Oceano, died during a battle in the Tarawa Atoll and was buried on the island. In recent years, according to the Department of Defense, his remains were recovered during an archaeological mission and positively identified thanks to laboratory testing.

Murray's remains arrived back in California on Wednesday. On Friday, people waving American flags lined Highway 1 as the procession escorting his casket made its way through Oceano to the cemetery where Murray was buried. His casket was placed on top of his mother's...

"The family has been working on it for the last 8 years, and we finally succeeded in bringing him back to his mother. His mother has always waited and has waited for him to come back," said George Winslett, George Murray's nephew.

"There is nothing in words to really say. It just chokes me up to think about it. It's amazing and I'd like to thank everybody that's done it," Winslett said. "He's finally home at rest where he belongs."

 Marine Murray Honor Guard

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:23 PM | Permalink

August 26, 2017

"Does this look beautiful? Am I treating the deceased kindly?'

Drop dead gorgeous


 Corpse Dressing Contest

The Life Ending Industry EXPO 2017 in Tokyo is Japan's biggest funeral exhibition and celebrates rituals of dressing the dead. In Shinto teaching, the practice is thought to help purify the soul of corpses. The contestants dress live volunteers on a stage in front of undertaking experts.  The four contestants were judged on the grace of their movements and their ability to dress the body without revealing too much bare skin.

Female Japanese undertaker, Rino Terai, 23, won the contest by dressing the best-looking corpses before three judges as funeral music played gently in the background. After the ritualistic competition, she  said: 'I practiced every day to prepare for this competition.  I took videos and made improvements by asking myself, does this look beautiful? Am I treating the deceased kindly?'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2017

Why she secretly buried her husband in the backyard

Wife of cop killer mobster harbored him in secret room for a decade before he died of a stroke and she was forced to dig him a shallow grave in her backyard

 Lillian&Donald Webb
Lillian and Donald Webb

Last week, the wife of a mobster who murdered a police chief 37 years ago told the FBI she had to dig him a shallow grave in her backyard after he died while hiding out in a secret room at her home. Donald Webb was  accused of killing Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, police Chief Gregory Adams during a traffic stop 37 years ago. He was on the FBI's 'Ten Most Wanted Fugitives' list from 1981 to 2007.

In a separate investigation into an illegal gambling operation, Massachusetts state police detectives obtained a search warrant for Lillian Webb's property.  They found a secret room and a cane that suggested Webb had lived there.  Thereupon, the police chief's widow filed notice of an intent to sue Lillian Webb and her adult son unless they revealed Donald's location. .

Mary Ann Jones (the remarried widow of the police chief) agreed to drop her claims after Lillian Webb agreed to tell authorities where her ex-husband was buried.

Lillian Webb told the police she had hidden Donald Webb for almost ten years after he went on the run in 1980 following the shooting of Adams. Webb was staying in a secret hidden room in Lillian's home when he suffered a stroke in 1999.  Realizing her husband was dying, she knew she would have to dig a grave in her back yard in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

'She said she started working on it in the nights, a little at a time. It was winter and she said it was hard to dig through the frozen soil, but it was a shallow grave, about three feet deep,'  On Dec. 30, 1999, Webb died, his wife told investigators. She put his body into a plastic tub, pushed it down three steps, dragged it into the backyard 'and dumped his body into the hole.'

A widow gets answers, 37 years later:

The widow of the murdered police chief Mary Ann Adams Jones went on with her life, working and raising her sons and, ultimately, remarrying.  She said she learned to live with the lack of resolution, the nagging mystery surrounding her husband’s murder, the unanswered questions.
Then, in April, she received a telephone call from the FBI, saying the case had taken a turn; the secret room had been discovered in Mrs. Webb’s home.
Saxonburg police Chief Greg Adams didn’t go down without a fight. In fact, in the words of police, he “fought like a lion.”  The 31-year-old husband and father of two was shot in broad daylight Dec. 4, 1980, but before he died, he had nearly bitten off the lip of his assailant and had broken the man’s left leg in at least two places. That assailant — Donald Eugene Webb of North Dartmouth, Mass. — was so badly injured, he required a month of hospital care and, until his death, walked with a limp.

“When [the police told me] Greg gave him a compound fracture and just about bit off his lip, I was glad. I was glad to hear he fought as hard as he did. That the only way Webb was going to stop [Greg] was to shoot him dead. That’s the man I remember marrying,” she said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:36 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2017

"You Can't Give In"

Monty Williams is an American retired professional basketball player and coach and vice president of basketball operations for the San Antonio Spurs. He was the head coach for the New Orleans Hornets / Pelicans of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 2010 until 2015. 

I rarely follow professional basketball, so what I know of him I learned only after the funeral of his wife Ingrid.


After reading, this article in Sports Illustrated, I've become mightily impressed.  Monty Williams Stares Down Tragedy 'You Can't Give In':

The death of Monty Williams's wife has taught the former NBA coach two lessons:
the beauty of forgiveness and the need to move on, no matter how painful that might be.
The morning of Feb. 9, 2016, began like so many others. Monty awoke at 7:00, still groggy from the previous night’s flight back from Phoenix, where the Thunder had beaten the Suns. Ingrid was already downstairs, conquering the morning. They’d been together 26 years, through five kids and eight cities, and he remained in awe of her. While many NBA wives contracted out the more mundane duties of parenting, Ingrid would not consider hiring a cook, a cleaner or a nanny. On game nights she bundled up the kids and brought them to the arena, but only after their homework was done. Then, at the end of the first quarter—sharp—they’d file out, because Dad may be an NBA coach, but nothing overrules bedtime.

On this morning Ingrid was out the door by 7:15, trailing five clean, neatly attired Williams children between the ages of five and 18, all of whom unfailingly addressed adults as Sir and Ma’am. She spent the rest of the day driving from this day care to that high school to this basketball practice to that doctor’s appointment, in addition to making her regular stops at the church and the center for inner-city kids, where she volunteered.

Later that night, Williams received the phone call. A little after 8 p.m., Ingrid was driving north on a four-lane road in downtown Oklahoma City in the family’s SUV with Faith, then 15; Janna, 13; and Micah. A sedan driven by a 52-year-old woman named Susannah Donaldson approached from the opposite direction. During the preceding hours, toxicology reports would show, Donaldson had taken a substantial amount of methamphetamine. Police also believe she may have been cradling a dog on her lap
Monty clung to the fact that the children all survived, and without life-threatening injuries. For a while it seemed Ingrid might too, but the following afternoon she slipped away, at the age of 44.

The Funeral

 Montywilliams Funeral Of His Wife-1

Monty focused on just making it through the memorial service, on Feb. 18. Then maybe he’d take the kids and bolt to some state where no one knew him. Wyoming. South Dakota. Just hunker down and disappear.
First, though, he had to survive the week. He wished Ingrid were there. She’d know what to do. She always had.
“Everybody’s praying for me and my family, which is right,” Monty said, left hand jammed in his pocket like an anchor. “But let us not forget that there were two people in this situation. And that family needs prayer as well.” He paused. “That family didn’t wake up wanting to hurt my wife.

“Life is hard. It is very hard. And that was tough, but we hold no ill will toward the Donaldson family, and we”—he made a circling motion with his right hand, indicating the whole room—“as a group, brothers united in unity, should be praying for that family because they grieve as well. So let’s not lose sight of what’s important.”

Not long after, he wrapped up with a simple message: “And when we walk away from this place today, let’s celebrate because my wife is where we all need to be. And I’m envious of that. But I’ve got five crumb-snatchers that I need to deal with.”

Monty paused as some in the crowd chuckled. “I love you guys for taking time out of your day to celebrate my wife. We didn’t lose her. When you lose something, you can’t find it. I know exactly where my wife is.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

The purpose of a funeral in the Christian tradition

When funeral sermons fail, a review of Speaking of the Dead by Russell Salzman

". . .how does death serve God's purpose? The answer -- biblically and theologically -- is it does not. This is why God must promise to restore all that death claims. The promise of God is to destroy death, the final enemy of God's creation. There is the Good News. But it must be said so we can hear it in our lowest moments. It must be spoken at a funeral."

 Catholic Funeral

An interview with Russell Saltzman, author of Speaking of the Dead, When We All Fall Down, which was written when he was still a Lutheran pastor before he entered into full communion with the Catholic church in 2016.

I wanted to pay tribute to some memorable people to whom I was pastor, their last pastor. The funerals are categorized — children, atheists, nice old ladies, others. But each includes a biography of the person, to the extent I knew it, and the funeral sermon as it was delivered. And each reflects my notion that every Christian life (even for the non-Christian) reveals to us something of the Gospel. That’s what I fish for in the death of the Christian, the proclamation of the Gospel as ordinary people lived it, sometimes in ways they never imagined. Also there are essays on death and dying; my distaste for the “death awareness movement,” and my opinion on what the funeral sermon should say, and what it should not. I had started on the book in 2010, and stalled. I was able to resume work only after the deaths of my parents.
Death is a hard thing to look at. Christian pastors must not, cannot treat it as a “celebration of life,” just another phrase for denial. Death is the penalty for being human, our reality. And without saying that bluntly, we have no real opportunity to grasp the the equally blunt wonder of resurrection. We must be able to say “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all rise.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 PM | Permalink

"After 75 years of waiting this news gives me a deep sense of calm."

Melting glacier reveals Swiss couple who went missing 75 years ago

The mummified remains of a Swiss Couple (Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin) who went missing 75 years ago and who were found in a glacier in the Diablerets mountains, in southern Switzerland. The perfectly preserved bodies lay close to each other, with at their side backpacks, a bottle, a book and a watch.

""They were perfectly preserved in the glacier and their belongings were intact.We think they may have fallen into a crevasse where they stayed for decades. As the glacier receded, it gave up their bodies," said Bernhard Tschannen, director of Glacier 3000.

Marcelin Dumoulin, 40, was a shoemaker, while Francine, 37, was a teacher. They left five sons and two daughters
on that August day in 1942 when they went to milk their cows in a meadow above Chandolin in the Valais canton.

 Chandolin Swsuisse
Chandolin in south-western Switzerland. The bodies of Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin were found 75 years
after they went missing in the meadows above the village.

Their youngest daughter Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, now 79, said in an interview:

"We spent our whole lives looking for them, without stopping. We thought that we could give them the funeral they deserved one day. ...It was the first time my mother went with him on such an excursion. She was always pregnant and couldn't climb in the difficult conditions of a glacier."

"I can say that after 75 years of waiting this news gives me a deep sense of calm.... For the funeral, I won't wear black. I think that white would be more appropriate. It represents hope, which I never lost."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

May 26, 2017

They died while defending Leningrad (St Petersburg) when it was under siege for more than 2 years in WW2

Remains of 602 Russian WWII soldiers are re-buried near St Petersburg after being found by volunteers .

Volunteers who found the remains of 602 Soviet soldiers slaughtered by the Nazis give fighters proper burial  The group discovered the skeletons on the bank of the River Neva, near St Petersburg during a voluntary dig Around 200,000 Soviet soldiers were killed there when the Nazis laid siege to Leningrad for 900 days in 1941.

Russia lost around 11 million soldiers in total and up to four million who have never been found. This has inspired younger generations of Russians to volunteer their spare time to searching for the missing fighters, with the hope of being able to give them a proper burial.

 Reburial Ww2 Russia


The Siege of Leningrad, was a prolonged military blockade undertaken mainly by the German Army Group North against Leningrad, historically and currently known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. The siege started on 8 September 1941, when the last road to the city was severed. Although the Soviets managed to open a narrow land corridor to the city on 18 January 1943, the siege was only lifted on 27 January 1944, 872 days after it began. It was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history and possibly the costliest in terms of casualties.
When the German High Command considered how to destroy Leningrad, they ruled out occupying the city  "because it would make us responsible for food supply". The resolution was to lay the city under siege and bombardment, starving its population "
The two-and-a-half year siege caused the greatest destruction and the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city. On Hitler's express orders, most of the palaces of the Tsars, such as the Catherine Palace, Peterhof Palace, Ropsha, Strelna, Gatchina, and other historic landmarks located outside the city's defensive perimeter were looted and then destroyed, with many art collections transported to Nazi Germany. A number of factories, schools, hospitals and other civil infrastructure were destroyed by air raids and long range artillery bombardment. .....

The 872 days of the siege caused extreme famine in the Leningrad region through disruption of utilities, water, energy and food supplies. This resulted in the deaths of up to 1,500,000 soldiers and civilians and the evacuation of 1,400,000 more, mainly women and children, many of whom died during evacuation due to starvation and bombardment. Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery alone in Leningrad holds half a million civilian victims of the siege. Economic destruction and human losses in Leningrad on both sides exceeded those of the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Moscow, or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The siege of Leningrad is the most lethal siege in world history, and some historians speak of the siege operations in terms of genocide, as a "racially motivated starvation policy" that became an integral part of the unprecedented German war of extermination against populations of the Soviet Union generally.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:46 PM | Permalink

Lady Dai, more than 2000 years old and skin still soft to the touch

This 2,000-Year-Old Chinese Woman Is One Of The Most Well-Preserved Mummies In The World

She died in 163 BC. When they found her in 1971, her hair was intact, her skin was soft to the touch, and her veins still housed type-A blood.


Now more than 2,000 years old, Xin Zhui, also known as Lady Dai, is a mummified woman of China’s Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) who still has her own hair, is soft to the touch, and has ligaments that still bend, much like a living person. She is widely recognized as the best-preserved human mummy in history.

Xin Zhui was discovered in 1971, when workers digging near an air raid shelter near Changsha practically stumbled across her massive tomb. Her funnel-like crypt contained more than 1,000 precious artifacts, including makeup, toiletries, hundreds of pieces of lacquerware, and 162 carved wooden figures which represented her staff of servants. A meal was even laid out to be enjoyed by Xin Zhui in the afterlife.

An array of additional ailments was also found throughout Xin Zhui’s body, including gallstones, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and liver disease.  While examining her body, pathologists even found 138 undigested melon seeds in her stomach and intestines. As such seeds typically take one hour to digest, it was safe to assume that the melon was her last meal, eaten minutes before the heart attack that killed her.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:28 PM | Permalink

Why did they bury the killer in the same grave as his victims in the first place?

Body of father who stabbed his family to death before killing himself is exhumed so they won't have to share grave with him

The body of a deputy school principle who stabbed his wife and children to death has been exhumed so they will no longer have to share a grave with their killer. Alan Hawe took his own life after killing his schoolteacher wife Clodagh and their three children Liam, 13, Niall, 11, and Ryan, six, in County Cavan, Ireland in August.  All five family members were then buried in a single grave in the cemetery at St Mary's Church, Castlerahan in September for around 250 days until the exhumation.

Mrs Hawe's sister Jacqueline Connolly and her mother Mary Coll said 'evil' Hawe was a 'wolf in sheep’s clothing' who 'fooled us all'. She added that the boys were 'pure, lovely, kind, talented, intelligent and wonderful' and their mother was 'their friend and protector, their guide, counsellor and teacher'.Mrs Hawe's family believe she had no idea she was in danger and had always protected the boys until Hawe carried out the murders. The family believe he carried out the killings 'to escape a fall from grace'.

The family have said they will now fight to raise awareness of 'silent' domestic violence, adding: 'We need to learn to recognize where dangers lie in the home, see how the desire for control can get out of control and act before it is too late.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:23 PM | Permalink

May 8, 2017

Operation Identifcation

More Have Died Crossing US-Mexico Border Since 2000 Than In 9/11 And Katrina Combined

That’s 6,023 recorded deaths in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, compared to a combined 4,800 between 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.....“I would say for every one we find, we’re probably missing five,” the local sheriff said.


Operation Identification is now trying to give the issue a more human face.

“When we get them, we assign them a case number because we have to have a way of tracking cases, but no one deserves to be just a number,” Timonthy P. Gocha, a forensic anthropologist with the project told The New York Times. “The idea is to figure out who they are, and give them their name back.”

212 bodies and more than 2,000 objects belonging to U.S.-Mexico border crossers sit in a collection at the Texas State University morgue. There are baseball caps and Bibles, bracelets and stuffed animals — treasures that reminded their owners of the loved ones that they had left behind.
It’s a big project; there are a lot of bodies.

Most of the immigrants died from dehydration, heatstroke, or hypothermia. The Trump administration’s approach to illegal border crossings does seem to have deterred some potential migrants. Arrests at the border have declined sharply from 40,000 a month at the end of 2016, to just 12,193 in March.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:02 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2017

Roundup of Dying wishes and burials

Dying Paralyzed Veteran Granted Final Wish of Seeing Horses

A seriously ill paralyzed Vietnam veteran in Texas had one final wish — to see his two best friends - Sugar and Ringo - horses that he has trained and raised for a long time. Roberto is one of the only disabled licensed horse trainers in Texas. He had been in Vietnam for just a few months before being shot and injured on May 21, 1970, which left him paralyzed. He recently went to the hospital for a wound on his back, which is when it was discovered he also needed treatment for liver problems and that his kidneys were starting to shut down.

 Vietnam Vet Horse

“Horses are his life,” Rosario Gonzales told reporters of her husband, Roberto. “We’ve been training and raising horses for 30, 40 years.”  ...“When the horses came up to him, he actually opened his eyes,” Rosario said. “They came up to him and I think they were actually kissing him.”

A Tesco worker who died without any family is to have his ashes scattered – in the supermarket car park.

Much-loved Andy Hughes manned checkouts at the Stroud branch of Tesco ever since it opened 27 years ago. His sudden death aged 55 from respiratory failure on March 26 left colleagues in shock. But now they have discovered that Andy – who had learning difficulties – faces a simple, council funeral this Friday as his next of kin could not be located. The store’s personnel manager, Helen Skinner, said: “Andy was one of our original members and we all had an emotional attachment to him – we were his family, really.  Helen said there was “nobody in the area that didn’t know him” and that he “had a heart of gold.”  Staff are hoping to set up a memorial bench and rose bush in a quiet corner of the car park, and eventually scatter his ashes there.

A suspicious white hearse north of Tombstone alerted Border Patrol agents who used a K9 dog to inspect the vehicle.

The K9 alerted agents about a suspicious odor coming from the hearse, authorities said. During a search of the vehicle, agents discovered that a casket was filled with over 67 pounds of pot worth $33,000 worth of pot. the 67 pounds of marijuana was hidden between several bags of manure in an attempt to disguise the smell.  A man, 28, a U.S. citizen, was arrested.


Archaeologists discover medieval villagers hacked up dead bodies to prevent them returning as ZOMBIES

Medieval villagers feared the dead could return from the grave by the devil. To prevent the dead from attacking, the corpses were beheaded and chopped up. Some even had their hearts gouged out before being set on fire before burial. Researchers found the evidence in a medieval village of Wharram Percy in Yorkshire.

Their Hearts Were in It: One Renaissance Couple's Final Gesture

Researchers have discovered a Renaissance man had his heart removed after he died and buried with his beloved wife. Toussaint de Perrien, who died on 30 August 1649 had his heart put in an urn and buried with his wife - who was laid to rest 125 miles away and 7 years later...The body of his wife, Louise de Quengo, had been opened after death and her heart removed, perhaps to rest with her husband (though it has not been found).  The heart-swap burials are believed to have allowed 'for couples to be reunited in death'.

The Suicide Note as Literary Genre

After the great confessional poet John Berryman leapt from the Washington Avenue Bridge onto the icy banks of the Mississippi River (he waved at a passing car first), his wife Kate found a crumpled note in the wastebasket, written on the back of an envelope. It read simply:
O my love Kate, you did all you could.

I’m unemployable & a nuisance.
Forget me, remarry, be happy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:36 PM | Permalink

May 1, 2017

Miscellaneous links

Fury as officials place 'undignified' signs advertising 'space available' on vacant plots at a cemetery

A Texas cemetery is facing backlash after posting 'Space Available' signs to advertise open plots. The bright yellow signs are scattered around the San Jacinto Cemetery in Harris County, and many believe that they are in poor taste. The signs feature the words 'Space Available' alongside the cemetery's phone number for those interested to call....

 Space Available Cemetery

25-year-old female FUNERAL DIRECTOR who began working with dead bodies at age 17

Amy Sagar, from Sydney, began working at funeral homes when she was just 17.  Sitting in a classroom watching morticians work on a dead body, 16-year-old Amy Sagar knew she had found her calling. "It was just a very ordinary experience and they were just so casual. It was the first time I'd seen any form of media presenting the body as a normal thing as opposed to being spooky."

Amy, who recently married, said being exposed to death on a daily basis has taught her to not take life for granted.
"I certainly value life and the people around me a lot more. I never leave the house without kissing my husband goodbye and I never leave an argument without saying I love you."

Excessive fat from an 'overly obese' body being cremated causes funeral home to go up in flames

The 4 lines from an obituary that inspired so many

When Jeanne Esther Barbour, 91, died on March 8, she passed on a bit of her philosophy of life with the world in her obituary:  “In lieu of flowers, please be kind to someone. Call a friend or relative you haven’t reached out to recently. Visit a shut-in or nursing home resident. Forgive someone. All acts of kindness are appreciated.”

New York newscaster Michael Benny posted Barbour’s message on his Facebook page, noting, “Central New York woman’s obituary has a wonderful idea…RIP lady, wish I knew you.”  Hundreds of people responded to his post, and many left comments about how her inspiring words had moved them:

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:26 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2017

Operation London Bridge

Operation London Bridge: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death

In the plans that exist for the death of the Queen – and there are many versions, held by Buckingham Palace, the government and the BBC – most envisage that she will die after a short illness. Her family and doctors will be there....
Her eyes will be closed and Charles will be king. His siblings will kiss his hands. The first official to deal with the news will be Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, a former diplomat who was given a second knighthood in 2014, in part for planning her succession.
For a time, she will be gone without our knowing it. The information will travel like the compressional wave ahead of an earthquake, detectable only by special equipment. Governors general, ambassadors and prime ministers will learn first. Cupboards will be opened in search of black armbands, three-and-a-quarter inches wide, to be worn on the left arm.
When the Queen dies, the announcement will go out as a newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously. At the same instant, a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates. While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background.
Buckingham Palace, meanwhile, has a policy of not commenting on funeral arrangements for members of the royal family.

And yet this taboo, like much to do with the monarchy, is not entirely rational, and masks a parallel reality. The next great rupture in Britain’s national life has, in fact, been planned to the minute. It involves matters of major public importance, will be paid for by us, and is definitely going to happen......

Coping with the way these events fall is the next great challenge of the House of Windsor, the last European royal family to practise coronations and to persist – with the complicity of a willing public – in the magic of the whole enterprise. That is why the planning for the Queen’s death and its ceremonial aftermath is so extensive. Succession is part of the job. It is an opportunity for order to be affirmed. Queen Victoria had written down the contents of her coffin by 1875. The Queen Mother’s funeral was rehearsed for 22 years. Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, prepared a winter and a summer menu for his funeral lunch. London Bridge is the Queen’s exit plan. “It’s history,” as one of her courtiers said. It will be 10 days of sorrow and spectacle in which, rather like the dazzling mirror of the monarchy itself, we will revel in who we were and avoid the question of what we have become.
The first plans for London Bridge date back to the 1960s, before being refined in detail at the turn of the century. Since then, there have been meetings two or three times a year for the various actors involved (around a dozen government departments, the police, army, broadcasters and the Royal Parks) in Church House, Westminster, the Palace, or elsewhere in Whitehall. Participants described them to me as deeply civil and methodical. “Everyone around the world is looking to us to do this again perfectly,” said one, “and we will.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:51 PM | Permalink

March 1, 2017

The Coffin Club

Elderly DIY-ers come together to build their own coffins

When Davo was a boy growing up in Rotorua, New Zealand, he always wanted to have his own Go Kart. But his childhood dream of zipping around a track in his miniature racing car, and maybe one day becoming a world-famous Formula 1 driver, was never realized. However, if Davo couldn’t have a Go Kart in life, he decided he would have one in death, and he was in the right town to make it happen.

At barely forty years old, with two young daughters, the professional chef was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Davo’s coffin, painted in camouflage, had four wheels with black tires and silver hubcaps, an intricately carved grill, a steering wheel, a vanity license plate with his name in all caps, and the number 43 emblazoned on either side.

Katie Williams, 76, the white-haired, motherly founder of “the Coffin Club,” a non-profit organization that helps members design and construct their own coffins, recounts the story of Davo – of whom Williams requested that only his first name be used – with tenderness and modest satisfaction. He was, after all, one of the first and youngest members in the history of the club, and his casket is still among one of the collective’s most elaborate creations.
every Wednesday morning, dozens of Rotoruans congregate at the club’s headquarters – a small converted warehouse – to build their own coffins, decorating them any way they wish, usually representing their life’s work, interests and obsessions. One man even put a pocket on the side of his casket for his wallet; he wanted to prove “you can take it with you.”

Since its first meeting, the Coffin Club has helped hundreds craft their own caskets. There’s the lifelong farmer with photographs of his favorite cows and sheep that will accompany him into the afterlife; the musician whose coffin looks more like a Steinway piano than a stairway to heaven; and the Vietnam War veteran who strapped an outboard motor to the vessel for his “final voyage,” and raised a few eyebrows when he lined it with the finest, dainty lace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink

February 15, 2017

Undertakers gatecrash funeral and walk off with corpse

Undertakers gatecrash funeral and walk off with the CORPSE because bereaved family failed to pay their fees 

This is the shocking moment two undertakers at a cemetery remove a dead body from its coffin and hold it hostage over an unpaid debt. The chilling scenes, allegedly in Greater Accra in Ghana, took place because the bereaved family failed to pay for the services of the mortuary men.  It is claimed the amount owed was 150 Ghanaian Cedi - roughly £27.
 Undertakers Grab Corpse At Funeral
The drama begins with the two men standing over the open coffin while hundreds of onlookers rush over to see what is happening.The angry undertakers shout at the crowd while trying to loosen the dead man's body from its surroundings. Immediately after, the clip shows an empty coffin with the two men carrying the corpse on their shoulders.

This being the Daily Mail, the headline begins ...When are you coffin up the cash?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:43 PM | Permalink

January 12, 2017

Skull smuggling, bunny tombstone, 'vampire' burials and funeral pole dancers

Mexican Cartels Using Artisanal Skulls for Smuggling into UK

Thousands of art pieces are shipped out of Mexico each year to buyers worldwide who seek their unique designs and colors. This art niche is now being used by Mexican cartels to hide drug packages in quartz and ceramic skulls or other sculptures to avoid customs inspections.  This art niche is now being used by Mexican cartels to hide drug packages in quartz and ceramic skulls or other sculptures to avoid customs inspections.


Found: The Tiny, Century-Old Headstone of a Pet Bunny

 Bunny Tombstone

Out walking in the woods in Sussex, England, Sid Saunders came across a headstone for a pet rabbit...

He said: “It says on there ‘In memory of the little Duchie’,  Sid says he wants to do some research in a bid to find out more about the family who left this tiny headstone behind.returned to the site recently to once again clean up the tiny headstone. “It’s something for this 73-year-old man to keep his brain active.”

'Vampire' Burials Uncovered in Poland

The skeletons have holes in the spine, most likely from someone nailing the bodies into the ground.
 Hole In Spine Vampire Burial
Polish archaeologists have uncovered the medieval remains of three "vampires" — individuals whose bodies were mutilated before interment to physically prevent any attempts to rise from the grave.  Dating to the 13th and 14th centuries, the deviant burials were unearthed in the village Górzyca in western Poland near a former bishop's residence. A Gothic cathedral once stood somewhere near the graves,

50 pole dancers escort Taiwan politician's funeral procession

These aren't your grandfather's pall bearers.  In the funeral procession of former Chiayi City county council speaker Tung Hsiang in Chiayi City, southern Taiwan were 50 pole dancers standing atop multicolored Jeeps.  Tung's son said his father appeared in a dream and told him he wanted his memorial to be "hilarious" and so it was according to one spectator.

Earlier this year on the China Policy Institute website, anthropologist Marc Moskowitz, a professor at the University of South Carolina, wrote, "The stripping performances started out as something that gangsters did, but generally spread out to become common practice throughout Taiwan. They are primarily associated with the working class or poorer communities."  It's now illegal to have full nudity at funerals, according to Moskowitz.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:44 PM | Permalink

January 4, 2017

"We humans can live with a broken heart; and we can live with a shaken faith; but we cannot live with a corpse on the floor.”

Thomas Lynch, an American poet and undertaker reviews "The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains" in The Weight of Bodies.

“Why?” a priest asked me years ago, “Why is it they always call you first?” I was calling to set the time of a funeral for the coming Saturday, which would further beset a churchman’s schedule already stuffed with duties and detail.  ....“Well, Father,” I told him, “it’s because we answer the phone.” And it was and remains so: the 3 a.m. phone call most likely to be answered is not to the church, the therapist, the bank or insurance company, the accountant or doctor—each of them buffered by business hours and answering machines. The “first call,” as we undertakers call it, is reliably answered at the funeral home, where someone who knows what to do is up and waiting, or sleeping with an ear cocked to the call for help when someone dies.

And why is that?” the good priest continued.

“Because, Father”—and you can try this at home—“we humans can live with a broken heart; and we can live with a shaken faith; but we cannot live with a corpse on the floor.” 

In the early going we do not need liturgy or sympathy or therapy or pharmacy so much as we need someone to help with the heavy lift: to get the dead off the floor and out the door, whether from the E.R., the O.R., the ICU or hospice ward, kitchen or bedroom, bathroom or backyard. 

The work of the dead falls first to the living—the shoulder and shovel work required to get the dead where they need to go because only by the honorable completion of these tasks do the living get where they need to be. 
More and more, our funeral customs treat the corpse like a nuisance to be disposed of with dispatch rather than sacred remains to be borne on its journey “home.” In a book, co-authored with the theologian Thomas G. Long (The Good Funeral, 2013) this reviewer argues that the fashionably ubiquitous “celebration of life,” which has increasingly replaced the requiem and obsequy, is notable for its dismissal of the corpse, in trade for uplifting music, hobby-themed memorial knick-knackery (the golfer, the gardener, the biker, or bowler), Hallmarky theology, and no real work because the corpse is notably nowhere to be found. It is the mortuary equivalent of a baptism without the baby or nuptials without a bride or groom. The modern funeral cannot bear the incarnate, according to Long, because we have “lost our eschatological nerve.”
The Work of the Dead is nothing if not a history of how the churchyard gave way to the public cemetery, which in turn is giving way to the crematory, which has, not incidentally, no clerical gatekeeper. If the church wants to reassert its place in the care and disposition of the dead, it must boldly declare that a faith whose claims are based on an empty tomb ought to reacquaint itself with the weight, the gravity, of bodies. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink



Mortsafes were contraptions designed to prevent grave-robbing.  Invented around 1816 to deter grave robbers whose lucrative trade supplied medical schools with fresh corpses so that its students could study human anatomy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2016

Air-conditioned tombs for drug cartel lords

Mexican drug lords spend $300,000 each building air-conditioned tombs with bulletproof glass, elaborate security systems and even living rooms

 Air-Conditioned Tombs Drug Cartel Leaders

Juan Carlos Ayala, philosophy professor at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, who specializes in 'Narco Culture' said the ostentatious graves are important for the drugs lords. He said: 'It's an expression of the power that they once had and a manifestation of their desire for eternity, which is natural in any human being. It's also a demonstration for those who survive them that this man was important.'

New lavish mausoleums were under construction this week, awaiting for more drug cartel honchos to be gunned down. Ayala estimates that some of the crypts cost as much as $290,000 to build
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 AM | Permalink

October 5, 2016

Buried in a shroud of marijuana plants

Ancient Cannabis 'Burial Shroud' Discovered

An ancient burial site in northwest Chin ahas yielded some surprising discoveries. A team led by archaeologist Hongen Jiang are analyzing a grave that contained a 35-year-old man with Caucasian features who was buried over 2,000 years ago. One of the treasures buried with him was a stash of marijuana plants.

Thirteen cannabis plants, each up to almost three feet long, were placed diagonally across the man's chest, with the roots oriented beneath his pelvis and the tops of the plants extending from just under his chin, up and alongside the left side of his face. (Read how Eurasian gold artifacts tell the tale of drug-fueled rituals.)

Radiocarbon dating of the tomb's contents indicates that the burial occurred approximately 2,400 to 2,800 years ago.

This discovery adds to a growing collection of archaeological evidence showing that cannabis consumption was "very popular" across the Eurasian steppe thousands of years ago, says Jiang.

The burial site is at the Turpan oasis, which was an important stop on the ancient Silk Road trade route. Cannabis seeds have been found at burial sites before, but this is the first from the period that contained whole plants. Read more about the discovery at National Geographic.

 Marijuana Shroud

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

July 27, 2016

Buried with their favorite games

Vikings buried with their favorite board games Archaeologists have found board games at 36 Viking burials across Europe

Now researchers believe these were placed alongside the bodies of the dead to commemorate their skill in the games during life and to provide them with entertainment in the afterlife.
Mark Hall, a curator at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, has published a new study on Viking board game burials across Northern Europe.He says there have been 36 burials where board games of some description have been found in the graves around Northern Europe.  Among those he highlights are two on the Orkney Isles of Rousay and Sanday, which remained under Norwegian rule until the 15th century when they passed to the Scottish crown.

Writing in the European Journal of Archaeology, Mr Hall said: 'Placing the gaming kit in the grave served to remember or commemorate that status and skill and to make it available for the deceased in the afterlife.'

He writes: 'Just as in life, where success on the gaming board – which needed strategic thinking as well as fighting ability - could be seen to confirm and add to the status of an accomplished warrior, in death the inclusion of a board game signalled ability and success as a warrior and by implication preparedness for the challenge ahead.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:59 PM | Permalink

July 25, 2016

A "rolling wake"

Widow takes dead husband on road trip in Alaska

An American woman took her dead husband’s body on road trip in Alaska, using ice from local canneries to keep the corpse cold, police have said. Officers responded to a call last week to find the body of a 78-year-old man inside an aluminum transport casket.

Ketchikan police chief Alan Bengaard told the Ketchikan Daily News that during the journey, which took place over several days, the woman stopped at canneries for ice to put in the truck bed during the “rolling wake.”  Bengaard told the Juneau Empire that the body was supposed to be en route to the mortuary, but “for some reason she decided to not go directly to the mortuary and had been driving around with him for a couple days.

“My understanding is kind of — leading up to the events of the last couple days — there’s been a rolling wake or viewing. It was pointed out to me that, evidently, she had stopped at a couple of the canneries and got ice and filled the bed of the truck with ice to keep the body chilled.”

The woman is not facing any charges, police said. The man had died of natural causes. A mortuary took custody of the body after the authorities were called.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:51 PM | Permalink

July 1, 2016

Awarded the Legion of Merit at her funeral for her work as a secret spy

Groundbreaking female spy finally gets Legion of Merit on the day of her funeral for her services in WWII

For nearly six decades, she was the wife of a famed military aviator. Nobody - not even close family - knew she was a hero in her own right, a spy who reported on Soviet troop movements from behind what came to be called the Iron Curtain.  Now Stephanie Czech Rader is finally being recognized for her work.  Rader received the Legion of Merit posthumously on Wednesday, during funeral services with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
 Funeral Stephanie Rader
She died in January at the age of 100, a longtime resident of Alexandria and native of Poughkeepsie, New York.

 Stephanie Radar
Rader worked for the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA.  The daughter of Polish immigrants, her fluent Polish caught the attention of the OSS. The office recruited her from her job with the Women's Auxiliary Air Corps and put her in Poland from October 1945 to February 1946.  She was employed as a clerk at the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, but her real job was to report on Soviet troop movements.

She traveled the countryside on her own and while her bosses offered her a gun for protection, she refused it, saying 'What was I going to do with a dumb gun?', according to Charles Pinck, president of The OSS Society in Falls Church.
Her bosses recommended her for the Legion of Merit in 1946, but the recommendation was never acted upon — perhaps because she was a woman, and perhaps because the OSS soon dissolved and there was no organization to advocate for her.
Pinck said OSS was ahead of its time in employing women. About a third of the 13,000 people who served in the OSS were women, he said. He estimated that OSS veterans still alive number only in the hundreds now. In 2008, when records of the OSS were declassified, The OSS Society and other historians learned of Rader's work and began to lobby for her to receive the award.
Rader served in the OSS under her maiden name, Stephanie Czech, but went on to marry William S. Rader, a decorated World War II bombing commander who became an Air Force brigadier general and himself received the Legion of Merit.  They had been married for 57 years when he died in 2003.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:51 PM | Permalink

May 28, 2016

The Changing Funeral Industry

Dying traditions, and new life, in the funeral industry

Death is inevitable, but, increasingly, traditional burials are not. From diamonds made from cremated remains to eco-friendly interments, the $20 billion funeral industry is being reshaped, creating opportunities for the entrepreneurially minded — and financial hardship for those with business models more set in stone.

At Rockland Golf Course a few years ago, a kayaker paddled to the middle of a pond with the cremated remains of a golfer who had hit many an errant ball into the water. As the rower released the biodegradable container and the ashes dispersed, a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” and 75 members of the man’s golf league chipped shots into the water.

A Great Barrington woman wrapped her mother’s body in a cotton sheet and laid her in a cardboard coffin lined with dry ice. The family then held a three-day vigil at her home dance studio, inviting people to play music and see and touch her face for the last time.

In Woburn, a carpenter with a degenerative brain condition is set to be buried in a suit embedded with mushrooms, which will neutralize the toxins in his body as it decomposes into the earth.

In Seattle, plans are underway for a facility to turn corpses into compost; in Italy, a pair of designers is working on a biodegradable burial seed pod that will allow a person’s decaying body to provide nutrients for a tree planted on top of it.

But the number of alternatives to caskets and cemeteries is making life tough for undertakers and monument makers.
“People always say to me, ‘You’re set, people are always going to die,’” said Jeff Hardy, of the Chelmsford burial vault company Hardy Doric Inc. “Well yeah, it’s what happens to them after that keeps changing.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 AM | Permalink

May 12, 2016

Peter Stefan is the man who buried those bodies who had no where else to go

Never have I read of a man who so completely fulfilled the 7th corporal work of mercy - to bury the dead - no matter how dangerous it was or how many death threats he received.  With his example of courage and compassion for the most needy, he will leave a Great Legacy.

The Man Who Buries Everyone  Peter Stefan has a job few people ask for: laying to rest society’s forgotten and unwanted.

 Peter Stefan
He is the man who buried those bodies who had no where else to go  - AIDS patients in the ’80s and ’90s; the homeless and impoverished living near his funeral parlor, Graham Putnam & Mahoney, in Main South, one of Worcester’s toughest neighborhoods; and the elder of the two brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon three years ago.
In Massachusetts, the state medical examiner told the State Senate that 29 bodies were currently in holding, with just three funeral homes willing to accept them for the state’s paltry $1,100 fee. “Of these, only one funeral director routinely handles the majority of our cases,” wrote the medical examiner — referring, of course, to Stefan.
“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.” Like many funeral home directors, Stefan likes to paraphrase this quote from William Gladstone, the 19th-century Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but most funeral home directors don’t make it their mission the way Stefan does.
Stefan got his embalming license in 1966, but the funeral business wasn’t his first career. Stefan played the saxophone and traveled between clubs and studios across the country while working his way up in the local funeral home in Dorchester. ....Stefan continued to work as a musician until the ’90s because, even as he took on more clients, his funeral parlor still wasn’t making any money, and he needed another source of income to keep his doors open. Eventually, though, his reputation as the man who would bury anyone made him busy enough that he could afford to quit jumping in at nightclubs and focus on his family life and the parlor.
“I got a call from them down there,” Stefan remembers — a funeral parlor in North Attleboro where the body arrived during the middle of a wake, complete with a coterie of protesters and media. “They were basically living in a state of terror,” and they needed Stefan to come collect the body as soon as possible. “They were thinking of waiting until the morning, but they said, ‘Nah, we better do something now.’ So we went and got the body in the middle of the night,” Stefan recalls.
“We bury the dead, that’s what we do,” Stefan says. Doesn’t matter who it is. I can’t separate the sins from the sinners.”

This is how I met Stefan. I was assigned to stand outside the funeral home for my job as a daily reporter at the time. I was there the morning the news broke that Tsarnaev’s body was in the city where I lived and worked. During an unseasonably warm week, I watched protesters shouting from across the street. As the death threats streamed in, Stefan worked the phones among his contacts at cemeteries, searching for a burial plot. Eventually, he connected with a cemetery in Richmond, Virginia that agreed to do the burial, and on May 9, Tsarnaev’s body was moved.

“I never kept a nickel,” Stefan says. “I didn’t want anyone to say, ‘You did the funeral for the money.’ I didn’t get a dime.” Instead, he put the money he received for it into a fund for people who can’t afford prescription medication. It’s something he’s been doing for the last five years as he advocates for a medicine recycling bill in the state. It’s not something he has to do, but it’s like Stefan to turn take something positive from a bad situation.

The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy

 7 Worksmercy Masterofalkmaar,
Seven Works of Mercy by Master of Alkmaar, 1504,  Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

In the Catholic Church, six of the seven corporal works of mercy are listed in the Biblical parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25 vv 31-46) as the model criteria by which Christ will judge people.  They are a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. They are corporal because they are practical deeds aimed at relieving the bodily distress of our fellow humans. 

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbor the harborless (today interpreted as shelter the homeless)
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive (today interpreted as visit the imprisoned)
  • To bury the dead.

By the third century, burying the dead was added because it is highly praised in the Book of Tobit (Tobit 1, vv 17-19) to bring the number up to seven, a sacred number. Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God's creation of all things. 

Here are the relevant verses from the Book of Tobit which illustrate how dangerous burying the hated dead can be.

17 If they were hungry, I shared my food with them; if they needed clothes, I gave them some of my own. Whenever I saw that the dead body of one of my people had been thrown outside the city wall, I gave it a decent burial.

18 One day Sennacherib cursed God, the King of Heaven; God punished him, and Sennacherib had to retreat from Judah. On his way back to Media he was so furious that he killed many Israelites. But I secretly removed the bodies and buried them; and when Sennacherib later searched for the bodies, he could not find them.

19 Then someone from Nineveh told the emperor that I was the one who had been burying his victims. As soon as I realized that the emperor knew all about me and that my life was in danger, I became frightened. So I ran away and hid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:43 PM | Permalink

May 10, 2016

Professional mourners, weepers, wailers, keeners and funeral strippers

Down through the centuries, many believed that the more people who attended a funeral, the greater the honor accorded the dead person.
Professional mourners -- and there's a word for them: moirologists -- were widely used in ancient Greece, Rome and the Middle East  to swell the ranks at a funeral.

 Classical Pro Mourners

They are mentioned in the Old Testament:  "Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them" (Jeremiah 9:17). 

Most Professional Mourners Are Women

In ancient Greece, women mourners performed the funeral dirge at a person’s death.  In ancient Rome, female mourners would be hired to keep long vigils while the body lay in state and then accompany it to its final resting place.I n ancient Egypt, women hired as mourners followed the funeral procession, wailing loudly. They were also depicted on the tomb walls.  In Ireland, women mourners would keen over the body.  This keening was more of a poetic nature set to a vocal wail while the women would rock or clap.....
Known as professional mourners, wailers, criers, weepers and keeners ..., these women were hired to lament the deceased with loud weeping, wailing, hair-pulling, clothes-tearing, even tambourine and chest beating, depending on the dead’s status and the amount of money invested in the mourning. This was done to encourage others to join in with organized, rhythmic expressions of grief.  In some countries, a hired mourner expressed all of the grief that the family could not bring themselves to do in public.

Today, professional mourners or weepers are common in some African countries, China, India and in MiddleEastern countries.

Actors fill in at family funerals: Chinese mourners hiring professionals to wail loudly as traditional ritual dictates

For about £300, seven professionals will wail loudly – as expected of family mourners in a traditional Chinese ritual – and encourage others not to be embarrassed to join in.  An absence of tears indicates the deceased was not loved, and disgraces the family.

Taiwan's most famous professional mourner  is Liu Jun-Lin, 30, who is hired every day to cry at funerals for people she never knew. You can hear her wail in a 13 second clip at the link.

Traditional Taiwanese funerals are elaborate, combining sombre mourning with louder, up-tempo entertainment to fire up grieving spirits.
For the entertainment portion, 30-year-old Liu and her Filial Daughters Band wear bright costumes, and perform almost-acrobatic dance numbers. They do the splits, back-bends, and somersaults. Her brother, A Ji, plays along on traditional stringed instruments.
Later, Liu will change into a white hood and robe, and crawl to the coffin on her hands and knees. There, in time to her brother's organ playing, she performs her signature wail. 

Even Britain, determinedly multi-cultural now has  Mourners-for-rent discrete and dignified

British mourners are renting "professional sobbers" to cry at funerals for to make people believe the deceased was really popular . For £45 an hour, the fake mourners can be rented to cry for the duration of a funeral service in order to swell the numbers at funerals.  Ian Robertson, the founder of Rent-a-Mourner, in Braintree, Essex...The mourners-for-hire are briefed on the life of the deceased and would be able to talk to friends and relatives as if they really had known their loved one.

"The Middle Eastern way is to provide wailers - crying women - as opposed to the quiet, dignified methods we use.  Our staff will meet with the client beforehand and agree 'the story', so our staff will either have known the deceased professionally or socially. They will be informed of the deceased's background, achievements, failures etc. so they can converse with other mourners with confidence."

 Professional-Mourners Dignified

But as long as there have been professional mourners, they have always gone too far

In the 6th century B.C.: Greek legislator Solon instituted curbs against the use of professional mourners.  In the 4th century B.C., Plato forbids hired mourners in his Laws. In the 4th century, Saint John Chrysostom derides the use of "hired women… as mourners to make the mourning more intense, to fan the fires of grief" and threatened to excommunicate anyone who hired professional mourners.  In the 12th century, the epic about Spanish hero El Cid shows him requesting only unpaid grief:

When I die, heed my advice:
Hire no mourners to weep for me.
There is no need of buying tears;
Those of Jimena will suffice.

In the 17th century, the Irish church forbade the hiring of professional mourners. In 1800, the Archbishop of Cashel in Ireland prohibits "all unnatural screams and shrieks, and fictitious, runeful cries and elegies, at wakes, together with the savage custom of howling and bawling at funerals."
 Keening At Wake

Going too far is why China is vowing to stamp out Funeral Strippers

This week, China's Ministry of Culture told people to stop hiring strippers and vowed to work with police to stamp out the practice.  "This type of illegal operation disrupts order of the cultural market in the countryside and corrupts social morals and manners," the ministry said in a statement.

Rural families hire strippers to perform at funerals to drum up crowds.  A 2006 story by the state-run New China News Service said villagers in parts of Jiangsu believed that "the more people who attend the funeral, the more the dead person is honored." For other families, the displays are a way to show off wealth and filial piety for the deceased...

The vast majority of Chinese think stripping is utterly inappropriate for a funeral, but some in the countryside really enjoy it....The practice isn't isolated to rural China — the island of Taiwan also has funeral strippers who perform on the tops of trucks to make for a faster getaway. Here is a National Geographic video.

Although professional mourning has largely disappeared from the consciousness of Western culture, it has left its mark on the language. The word "placebo," Latin for "I will please," was used to refer to paid lamentations before it meant "non-active medication." And "threnody" (sad song) comes from the Greek threnos -- the carefully constructed song of the professional mourner, as opposed to the disorganized weeping of family and friends.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

May 3, 2016

Japanese corpse hotels for "funeral refugees"

In the rapidly aging society of Japan, so many people are dying resulting in overworked crematoriums and the bizarre phenomenon of corpse hotels.

The corpse hotels where loved ones pay £50 a night for a room for their dead relatives: Family's forced to store bodies as Japan's overworked crematoriums struggle to cope

With an aging population dying off at an increasing pace, Japan's crematoriums are struggling to cope, and families are forced to put their deceased loves ones in 'corpse hotels'. Sousou, one of Japan's latest so-called corpse hotels, is a refurbished workshop with a plain silver exterior and black draped windows, located on a quiet residential street in Kawasaki city. For £58-a-night (9,000 yen) family members can keep their deceased relative in an air-conditioned room for up to four days until a crematorium can be found.

 Japanese Corpse Hotel Sousou

Crematories need to be built, but there isn't any space todo so and that is creating funeral refugees,' said Hisao Takegishi, who opened the business in 2014. Unlike other such morgues-in-disguise, which try to blend in by looking like hotels, Sousou doesn't refrigerate corpses,relying on air conditioned rooms instead.

As Japan ages its people are dying off at a faster pace.About 20,000 more people per year are expiring with the death rate expected to peak at about 1.7 million a year by around 2040, according government estimates. By then, barring any major influx of immigrants, Japan will have 20 million fewer people.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2016

"Jewish rituals serve to sanctify the dead—and to humanize the living"

Bari Weiss, Associate Books Editor for the Wall Street Journal describes  Watching Over My Grandmother

How do the rituals of death teach us how to live more meaningful lives? As religions go, Judaism is far more concerned about what happens in this world than the world to come. But as I learned this past weekend while burying my grandmother, Jewish rituals can serve not only to sanctify the dead, but also to humanize the living.

My grandmother, Sandy Steiner, who moved in with my family from Los Angeles 25 years ago to help raise my three younger sisters and me, was 81 years old when she died at home shortly after the Sabbath began on Friday night. In Judaism, a dead body is never to be left alone between the time of death and the time of burial. It’s a tradition called shmirah, or guarding, which dates to an ancient time when fear of rodents and grave-robbers was real.  Typically, the task is performed by volunteers, members of the community’s hevra kadisha—holy society—who do the watching in the funeral home. But if a person dies over the Sabbath the body cannot be buried or even removed.

And so my grandmother’s family became her guardians: Over a 24-hour period, her body covered on her bed, we watched over her.  My grandmother’s younger sister kept watch over Friday night. In the early-morning hours Saturday, I sat with my younger sister. In the afternoon, my father sat with my uncle, followed by other family members who took their turns as the shomer or guard.
An hour after sundown on Saturday, which marks the end of the Sabbath, her body was taken from the house by members of the hevra kadisha. These are not strangers, but people we sit next to in synagogue—my father’s doctor, my best friend’s mother, volunteers all.

The members of this holy society prepare bodies for burial according to detailed rituals meant to honor the deceased and preserve their modesty. (It is for this same reason that Jews prohibit open caskets.) Men prepare the bodies of men; women prepare women. The atmosphere in the room is quiet; only prayers are spoken in Hebrew, including a final one asking for forgiveness if the dignity of the deceased has been violated in any way. First the body is washed, then there is a ritual washing before it is dressed in simple linen shrouds....

My grandmother was buried in a plain wooden box. In keeping with Jewish law, the coffin had no metal—even the sides were connected by wooden dowels. The aim is to ensure its complete disintegration, fulfilling the verse from Genesis: “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

At the burial, her family and friends filled in her grave. In shoveling the dirt, we were performing a chesed shel emet—a true act of kindness—because it is something that cannot be repaid.
When so much in modern life is outsourced, there is something clarifying, maybe even purifying, about witnessing a loved one’s final days. In caring for someone after death, and being expected to take part in rituals at once deeply uncomfortable and comforting, I realized that Judaism was forcing us to examine our own lives and deeds—and to ask ourselves: Are we putting our own vessels to their best use?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

March 22, 2016

"That body was not your mother. Your mother is still here"

After Funeral and Cremation, a Shock: The Woman in the Coffin Wasn’t Mom

After a long battle with cancer, Val-Jean McDonald, mother of eight sons, with more than 20 grandchildren, almost as many great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, died on Dec. 18 at the age of 81.  Her funeral, 11 days later, attracted scores of mourners to Union Baptist Church in Harlem: her sons, from Manhattan, New Jersey, Georgia, Texas and Australia; other relatives and friends; and people who had never met her but knew her children.

They all filed past the open coffin, seeing familiar remnants of Ms. McDonald’s life: a favorite pink blouse and white suit, and her finest jewelry. “Why did they cut off all her hair?” a son, Errol McDonald, 57, remembers thinking. “Maybe it’s the cancer.” He bent and kissed her.

But sometimes children see what adults cannot. Adults rationalize. Children call it like it is. “My 10-year-old son said, ‘Daddy, that’s not Grandma,’” recalled Mr. McDonald, a school maintenance worker in Manhattan. “I said, ‘Yes, that’s what happens,’” he told the boy, explaining that people can look different in death. The next day, the family attended Ms. McDonald’s cremation at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Six days passed. Then, a manager from McCall’s Bronxwood Funeral Home in the Bronx, which had handled the arrangements, called another of Ms. McDonald’s sons, the Rev. Richard McDonald, with shattering news, he said.  “She says, ‘That body was not your mother,’” Richard McDonald said in an interview. “‘Your mother is still here."

The woman who had been in that coffin, seen by all those people, kissed by her sons, was not Val-Jean McDonald at all.

The revelation left Ms. McDonald’s family angry and incredulous, and asking themselves hard questions: How could so many people not have recognized that the woman in the coffin was not Ms. McDonald? How could her sons have convinced themselves, to a man, that this stranger was their mother?

And how could a funeral home make such a mistake?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

February 26, 2016

"Tapping the Admiral"

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

Well, they decided to PickleAdmiral Horatio Nelson in Brandy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gossip wasn't.

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:55 PM | Permalink

February 21, 2016

***Lying in State - Funeral Antonin Scalia

Lying in State at the Supreme Court

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

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

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

Scalia-Fullview Lying In State-1

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

 Scalia Casket Enters Basilica-1

The Washington Post reported

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

 -Scalia-Funeral Wide Basilica-1

 Scalia Casket Approaches Altar

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

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

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

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

 Paul Scalia Homily-2

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

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

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

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

A Salutary Corrective in Scalia’s Funeral

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

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

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

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

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

 Scalia's Sc Chair-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 PM | Permalink

Lying in State and the Funeral of Antonin Scalia

Lying in State at the Supreme Court

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

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

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

Scalia-Fullview Lying In State-1

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

 Scalia Casket Enters Basilica-1

The Washington Post reported

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

 -Scalia-Funeral Wide Basilica-1

 Scalia Casket Approaches Altar

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

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

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

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

 Paul Scalia Homily-2

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

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

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

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

A Salutary Corrective in Scalia’s Funeral

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

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

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

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

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

 Scalia's Sc Chair-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 PM | Permalink

February 19, 2016

Moka funeral

 Coffeepot Urn-1

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“He died alone with no family to comfort him.

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

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 AM | Permalink

January 14, 2016

Returning the favor

WWII hero, 92, who spent his final years attending funerals of other veterans is laid to rest in front of hundreds of mourners returning the favor

Harry Thrush died on Christmas Eve, just two days after turning 92, and the church was packed to the rafters for his funeral held at St Mary's Church in Leeds today. ....

Veterans and serving personnel from across the Navy, Army and Air Force were there to show solidarity for the World War Two hero......Many of the servicemen who paid their respects to the WW2 veteran wore their regimental berets and displayed their medals proudly on their breast pockets.

 Harry Thrush Funeral-2
Mr Thrush, a grandfather-of-five, spent his final years paying tribute to other veterans and servicemen.
His eldest son David, 65, said: 'When the soldiers started coming back he read what was going on in the newspapers and would find out where their funerals were being held and hop on the bus and the train and turn up at the funeral.

'If we popped round to visit him we would find a note on the table saying he had gone to a funeral and the announcement circled in the paper so we knew where he was.  'He went because he had that compassion and he used to speak to the family at the end to give them comfort.'
Giving the eulogy in honor of her father, his daughter, Janet Smith, said: 'He and my mum, Carrie, were happily married for 57 years and now they are reunited  'He was lucky to have such a long life. He was a teller of bad jokes. He used to make us cringe sometimes but could make strangers fall in love with him almost instantly. 'He was a fisherman that always had the one that got away. He would play the spoons at Christmas parties and would tap dance on the kitchen lino. 'He went to many soldiers' funerals and always said he was going to represent the soldiers that didn't make it back and he wanted to pay his respects.. 'I remember more than once that he got a lift from a stranger who took pity on him after he had got lost on his travels.

'I'm so happy me and my dad made it to the VE celebrations in Westminster last May. 'When we arrived in Westminster he was in his element with the crowds and the well wishers. 'But the best part for him was the parade along the Mall. My dad was treated as a hero that day. I am glad he could experience it while he was still alive.'

The second hymn selected by the family was the highly appropriate 'Onward Christian Soldiers' which was belted out by the congregation.The ceremony ended with 'The Last Post' and the Ode of Remembrance, taken from Laurence Binyon's poem 'For the Fallen'.

 Harry Thursh

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 PM | Permalink

December 27, 2015

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

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

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

More about Caitlin

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

November 24, 2015

State Funeral in Venice for Bataclan massacre victim Valaria Solesin

Valaria Solesin, a PhD student studying demographics at the Sorbonne University, was the only Italian among the 130 victims of the ISIS attacks in Paris.  A beautiful girl cut down at the start of her life is always a tragedy, but this one is more so because of the horrifying circumstances of her death.

 Valeria Solesin Venice Bataclan

She was given a state funeral in Venice that was broadcast live nationally as thousands gathered in St Mark's Square.

Thousands gather for Italian state funeral of Bataclan massacre victim as her body is rowed in flower-draped gondola along Venice's Grand Canal

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti attended the ceremony.
At her family's request, Solesin's friends and religious leaders of various faiths spoke at the funeral, which was held outdoors on a sunny morning in front of the arched doors and domes of St. Mark's Basilica.

'I want to thank the religious figures - Christian, Jewish and Muslim - who are here together in this square as a symbol of our common humanity at a moment when fanatics try to turn a massacre into an honourable act by invoking a faith,' Solesin's father, Alberto, said with her mother, Luciana, by his side.

The ceremony, which began with the playing of both the Italian and French national anthems, was broadcast live nationally by Italy's state broadcaster RAI.

The sheer beauty of the funeral from the flower-decked gondola carrying her body up the Grand Canal to St Mark's Square, the tolling of the bells, and the final notes of Beethoven's Ode to Joy provided consolation to the grieving family and nation.

 Black Gondola Venice Funeral

 Venice Funeral Solesin

There is a gallery of photos at the link

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 PM | Permalink

November 9, 2015

"For the wake does not so much wake up the dead as wake up the living"

Mark Milburn writes In Praise of Wakes in First Things.

As a social gathering, the wake is numb business right from the start.,,,,the call of the traditional wake, followed by a Mass and burial, is stronger than you know. Because, despite your neurotic apprehensions, you don’t send flowers. You go. To the wake. You almost always decide to go to the wake. Why?

You go because the casket visit, the pious obsequies, and the shunt into wet, cold mud—not to mention the little after party offered to the remnant who have followed the cortege to the grave—all these ceremonies, together create, an oddly restorative effect. You go because the spritz of something foreign to the soul follows the trinity of wake, funeral and cemetery. The feeling is so oddly beautiful it’s something a Catholic has to think of as grace.  Then again, maybe you feel better just knowing you’re still alive.

….You go because a wake, and funeral, and burial are the greatest cure ever for that miasma which medieval philosophers called acedia, or sloth. The funeral wake is a tonic that shakes into vivacity the sluggard soul. For the wake does not so much wake up the dead as wake up the living—we—who sleepwalk in the anesthesia of everyday life. The wake startles out of dropsy the listless soul. I mean the modern soul who gazes at the chasm between himself and a life of holiness, and who can only respond by reaching for his smartphone to touch-start his new app, thinking “Oh, Hell, I’ll just send flowers?”

….Whether we are at the casket or at the graveside, or at Mass, there we join the community of the living and the dead. And so as in The Odyssey, Book XI where the dead tell their stories, here at a wake and funeral we hear the stories of our dead.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 AM | Permalink

July 13, 2015

Simulated Cremation

Bizarre thrill.  Tourists flock to experience real-life CREMATION in ‘death simulator’ at Chinese amusement park

The ride, called 'The Cremator', offers the morbidly curious to opportunity to find out what it might feel like to be cremated using a system of hot air and light projections.

The experience begins with a journey through the 'morgue', following which they are placed in a coffin and put on a conveyor belt…..They are then carried through a chamber filled with hot air, to simulate the flames used during cremation. Screams and shrieks echo through the chamber, and everyone who tries the ride comes out drenched in sweat. Although whether the sweat is from fear or from the extreme heat has not been made clear.

'I am never coming back,' said a number of women on leaving the ride, while laughing nervously. Another added: 'It was horrifying.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

April 24, 2015

Strippers at funerals in China "“Otherwise no one would come."

Just when I think I've heard it all, I learn about Funeral Strippers in China

The government has been trying to fight the country’s funereal stripper scourge for some time now. In 2006, the state-run broadcaster China Central Television’s leading investigative news show Jiaodian Fangtan aired an exposé on the practice of scantily clad women making appearances at memorial services in Donghai in eastern China’s Jiangsu province.

The point of inviting strippers, some of whom performed with snakes, was to attract large crowds to the deceased’s funeral – seen as a harbinger of good fortune in the afterlife. “It’s to give them face,” one villager explained. “Otherwise no one would come."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 PM | Permalink

March 3, 2015

Homeless man buried in Vatican cemetery

Homeless Man Buried at Vatican Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

Vatican Radio

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

February 23, 2015

Meditating monk mummified

-Mummified Remains Of A Monk Have Been Found Encased In A Buddha

CT scan of 1,000-year-old Buddha statue reveal mummified remains of meditating monk

Mummified remains of a monk have been found encased in a Buddha statue dating back to the 11th or 12th Century.
Erik Bruijn, an Buddhism expert, led the study that determined the mummy was of Buddhist master Liuquan, who belonged to the Chinese Meditation School.  The CT scan and endoscopy were carried out by Drents Museum at Meander Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

While it was known before the scan that a mummy was inside the statue, it wasn't until then that researchers discovered that the monk's organs had been removed from his body.  Rolls of paper scraps covered in Chinese writing were discovered alongside the monk
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:17 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2014

“I always tie the shoelaces together of the dead. Cause if there is ever a zombie apocalypse, it will be hilarious” 

Since 1850, The Wilde Funeral Home has been conducting funerals and burying people near or in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania.  Caleb Wilde is the sixth generation of Wildes to become a funeral director and run the home and he's a hoot.

His blog, Confessions of a Funeral Director with his irreverent humor and 'eloquent candor' has garnered 50,000 views a month.  So Eric Puchner followed Caleb for a few days to write Confessions of a Mortician.  Death Becomes Him.

“I always tie the shoelaces together of the dead. Cause if there is ever a zombie apocalypse, it will be hilarious” 
"When you are dead, you don't know that you are dead. It is difficult only for the others. It is the same when you are stupid."
He calls death a “sacred space where we can embrace the silence.” Perhaps there’s no greater freedom, he says on his website, than to live life with a healthy relationship to death. Before he buries us, he wants to make us more human.
“Death makes us better people,” he said. “I really believe that. The more we embrace mortality, the more human we become. We look deeper into things: our lives, our relationships, the earth even. We value these things more.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:19 PM | Permalink

December 2, 2014

"All I can say is that the coffin is glued down, so if anything happens Seth will be okay."

Hearse with Deceased Inside Stolen from Funeral

Prominent Sydney human rights lawyer Seth Richardson died at age 52 and the funeral was held Thursday, but not without incident. During funeral preparations, a man jumped into the hearse and drove off- with Richardson in his coffin in the back! Richardson’s brother Tobias called police, who at first thought he was reporting a murder when he said a man drove off with his dead brother. 

Tobias Richardson took matters into his own hands, jumping into his car and giving chase. Fortunately the hearse had turned into a cul-de-sac and Tobias Richardson blocked the only way out with his own car.

The police arrived moments later and detained the driver. The driver turned out to be a man with dementia who had walked away from his nursing home. He was taken to a hospital and no charges were filed. The incident was resolved in 20 minutes, and the funeral proceeded on time.

More details from the Sydney Morning Herald

As his family prepared for the funeral of the 52-year-old, also a regular contributor to letters to the editor in the Herald, in the Blue Mountains on Thursday a man jumped in the hearse and stole it – with Mr Richardson still in a coffin in the back.

"One of the funeral guys who works for the funeral home went out to the hearse to grab the trolley to put it under the coffin and in a split second this guy jumped out of the bushes, jumped straight into the hearse and started it up," Mr Richardson's sister-in-law Hayley West said.

"The funeral guy was banging on the window going 'what the hell are you doing? You can't drive away in the hearse'.
Mr Richardson's brother, Tobias Richardson, was in the foyer of the Wentworth Falls School of Arts preparing for the service as the drama unfolded. He called police telling them "someone had stolen a car with my dead brother in the back".

"And the police thought it was a murder," Ms West said. "And there was this weird confusion, and he was like 'no, he's already dead, it's a hearse'."

"The funeral director didn't know what to say to us, he was saying 'this had never happened before, and all I can say is that the coffin is glued down, so if anything happens Seth will be okay."

The whole incident unfolded over 20 minutes and Mr Richardson's funeral still proceeded on time at noon.
"Seth would have thought this was so funny, he had a wicked sense of humor," Ms West said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

November 3, 2014

"This is how bad persecution gets in Pakistan: You can't escape it even if you're dead."

Washington Post  Attacking graveyards: Washington Post probes unusual form of oppression in Pakistan

Denying a final resting place to a despised group is the topic of an enterprising newsfeature by the Washington Post. For Christians and other minorities there, enduring contempt even in death is a way of life.

"Bleak" seems hardly adequate to describe the picture painted by the article. Here's a painfully eloquent passage:
Christians say they earn less than $2 a day working in the sugarcane fields. They must shop at the sparsely stocked Christian-run rice and vegetable store. They are not allowed to draw water from wells tapped for Muslim neighbors. Now, in what many consider to be a final indignity, they and other Pakistani Christians are struggling to bury their dead.

Pakistan, whose population is overwhelmingly Muslim, is nearly twice the size of California. But leaders o
f the tiny Christian minority say their burial sites are being illegally seized by developers at an alarming rate, while efforts to secure new land are rejected because of religious tenets barring Muslims from being buried near people of other faiths. Increasingly, the remaining Christian cemeteries are packed with bodies atop bodies.
The WaPo story is a textbook example of reporting both in breadth and depth. It reports from three towns, from a remote hamlet to Lahore, the nation's second-largest city. It quotes 12 sources, Muslim as well as Christian.
But you can judge a group not by its most extreme members, but by how everyone else reacts to them. And thus far, Pakistani society hasn't responded well. In fact, it “has been cultivated to develop indifference and animosity” toward Christians, says a rights advocate.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

Amazing Hearses


Tokyo Buddhist Hearse


Motorcycle sidecar hearse


Tank hearse


1929 Cadillac Hearse

 1926-1928 Studebaker-Hearse-01

1926 - 1929 Studebaker Hearse

More at 20 Bizarre Hearses around the world

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

September 27, 2014

Parting words after practical joke turns painful

Parting Words

The 2007 funeral of Amir Vehabović was poorly attended — 46 people had been invited to the ceremony, but only his mother turned up.  The other 45 received this letter:

To all my dear ‘friends,’

Some of you I have known since early school days, others I have only forged a relationship with in the last few years. Until my ‘funeral,’ I considered all of you close friends. So it was with shock and, I admit, sadness and anger that I realized not one of you managed to find the time to come and say goodbye to me when you heard I was to be buried. I would have understood if just some of you came, bearing flowers or words of apology from others who could not make it. But no. Not a single one of you turned up to pay your last respects. I lived for our friendships. They meant as much to me as life itself. But how easy it was for you all to forget the pledges of undying friendship I heard on so many occasions. How different our ideas of friendship seem to be. I paid a lot of money to get a fake death certificate and to bribe undertakers to handle an empty coffin. I thought my funeral would be a good joke — the kind of prank we have all played on one another over the years. Now I have just one last message for you: my ‘funeral’ might have been staged, but you might as well consider me dead, because I will not be seeing any of you again.

Amir should read about Francis J Moriarty better known as "Turk"  who threw himself a funeral every year

It was always an affair to remember.

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

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

The whole motley crew would then repair to the now-defunct Sydney's on Green Street in Jamaica Plain -- a bar so named for the leviathan actor Sydney Greenstreet -- to continue the festivities. Perpetual gadfly Dapper O'Neil called the rite ''a most impressive ceremony," according to Jerry Burke.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2014

Grave fashion

In Egypt.  3,000-year-old remains of woman unearthed with 70 hair extensions tied in intricate layers

The skull was one of hundreds found in the ancient city of Amarna, many of which had their final hairstyles incredibly well-preserved using fat….Some of the skulls shows evidence of a dye, possibly henna, used on hair.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:12 AM | Permalink

September 19, 2014

The Weight of Honor

Monsignor Charles Pope: What is Honor? Today, I Felt its Weight

This morning, I celebrated one of the most remarkable funerals of my 25 years as a priest. With the body present, I sang a Requiem Mass for a man who died ten years before I was born.

On January 1, 1951, Private First Class Arthur Richardson of A Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division went north with his platoon into what is now North Korea. The platoon was overtaken by a much larger group of North Korean soldiers and he was taken prisoner. This was the last that was heard of Pfc. Arthur Richardson. It was reported to his wife later that month that he was missing in action. In 1954, he was declared Killed in Action, though his body was not recovered and no definitive word had been received about him. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

It now seems certain that he died in or near a Prisoner of War camp in Suan since his remains were returned by North Korea in 1994, along with those of as many as 800 other soldiers from that region. After years of painstaking work, the U.S. Army was recently able to definitively identify his remains using DNA evidence, and informed his family.

The family asked me if I would offer the old Latin Requiem Mass for him since this was the only form of the Mass he had ever known. And so this morning I had the great privilege of celebrating a Missa Cantata Requiem Mass.

The burial that followed at Arlington was with full military honors…

What is honor? The full etymology of the word is debated. But what seems most likely is that it comes from the Latin word honos, which, though translated as “honor,” also points to the word “onus,” which means “weight” or refers to something that is heavy. Hence, to “honor” someone is to appreciate the weight, significance, or burden of something he has done. It is to acknowledge that he carried a great burden well, that he withstood a heavy load, that what he did was weighty, significant……

War remains controversial (as it should). But soldiers do not create the politics they are sent to address. They are simply told that there is a danger to be addressed, an injustice to be ended, and so they go. Private First Class Arthur Richardson went north during the Korean War. He did not return to us. But he carried well the great weight of being a solider. He also carried the weight of collective human sinfulness (which is what brings war) and felt its burden keenly. He gave his life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 AM | Permalink

September 16, 2014

Unclaimed in morgue, 13 veterans laid to rest with full honors

Joseph Bottum wrote "The fundamental pattern for any community is a congregation at a funeral" and  "A healthy society requires a lively sense of the reality and continuing presence of the dead."

If what he said is true, and I believe it is, the following story is a sign of the recovery of Detroit.  While it is truly sad to think of any veteran dying alone and unloved, t's a truly moving sight to learn how a community coalition sprang up to insure that these 13 veterans would have a proper burial.

They served their country but died alone: 13 military veterans who lay unclaimed in morgue for up to three years are finally laid to rest with full honors

The unclaimed bodies of 13 military veterans were finally laid to rest in side-by-side plots following a poignant 60-mile funeral procession yesterday. The dead soldiers, seven of whom served in Vietnam, were driven from a morgue in Detroit to Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly Township, Michigan - their hearses flanked by state troopers on motorbikes.

 Thirteen Flag Draped Cask Detroit

All of the men died alone in the last three years, but tragically, their remains were left unclaimed at the Wayne County medical examiner's office. While some fought in Vietnam, others served as far back as the 1950s - with at least one going to fight in the Korean War.
The veterans were identified by the Missing in America Project, who 'locate and inter the unclaimed remains of American veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations'. 

Sadly, they were among 200 unclaimed bodies from the same morgue, which have all now been buried - as the county could not bear the cost of holding on to them.
Of the 13 who were laid to rest with full military honors, only one - Vietnam-era veteran Roland Dukes - had a family member present who received a flag from the casket.  Shimeca Jackson, Mr Dukes' niece, said: 'We appreciate them honoring him. A lot of time has passed by. It was a beautiful ceremony.'
David Techner, funeral director of the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield and a member of the coalition responsible for the burials, said having 'hundreds of bodies stacked up in the morgue' will never happen again.

He stated that the group have come up with 'Initiative 91', which calls for the coalition to step in and either bury or cremate a body that is not claimed within 90 days…..The Jewish Fund played a key role in coordinating the burials. T
heir chairman, Dr. Richard Krugel, said: 'This brings to an end a very tragic time in our community,'

May they rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 PM | Permalink

August 11, 2014

Ebola burial team - the world's bravest undertakers

Meet the world's bravest undertakers - Liberia's Ebola burial squad

In calmer times in Liberia, before the fear of Ebola became as feverish as the onset of the disease itself, Cecilia Johnson’s funeral could have been a dignified affair.
But when she died of an unspecified illness on Thursday, her family in St Paul's Bridge, a slum district of the capital, Monrovia, ignored government edicts to hand her body over for cremation.  Instead, fearing the prospect of being quarantined themselves if they reported it, they sneaked it to the cemetery in neighbouring Tyre Shop Community for burial the following morning.

The problem was that nobody wanted it there. Halfway through the burial, they were confronted by an angry crowd of Tyre Shop residents, demanding to know why a potentially-infected corpse was going in "their" cemetery. A scuffle ensued, and eight hours later, Ms Johnson's corpse lay parked by the roadside in a rusting, mud-spattered wheelbarrow, covered by a piece of carpet and still seeking a final resting place.For the two distressed relatives who remained by her side, standing drenched in a tropical storm, it was a case of Not in My Backyard, and Not in My Graveyard either.

 Ebola Undertakers

Such was the scene that greeted the Liberian government's new Ebola "burial team" on Friday, as their convoy arrived, sirens blaring, to pick the corpse. Set up specifically to deal with the Ebola outbreak, which has now claimed nearly 1,000 lives across west Africa, theirs is probably the most dangerous undertakers' job in the world.

It is not just the threat of the deadly virus itself, which is still highly contagious in dead bodies. It is also an extremely sensitive issue with locals, for whom a visit from a team in boiler suits and masks is the modern-day equivalent of having an "X" marked on their door during the days of Europe's Black Death.

"We have been attacked by mobs of people many times," said the team's leader, Mark Korvayan, who sports a scar on his shaved head from one recent battle, and whose team is now routinely escorted by the police. "The police escort helps, but this is still a dangerous job."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:38 PM | Permalink

"If people can’t be bothered to dress for the occasion, they are not welcome at my funeral" "

Theodore Dalrymple in Taki's Magazine

My problem with my own funeral is not how to pay for it: I will leave enough for even quite a grand affair, should anyone wish it. My problem, rather, is this: that if I were to die after my wife there would be no one to arrange it, and quite possibly no one to attend it either. Relatives are the great mainstays of funerals, and I have none within reasonable distance of wherever I am likely to die. As to my friends, they are scattered and lead busy lives; they probably won’t hear of my death for days or weeks after the date of my funeral, if any, has passed. This doesn’t worry me much: I don’t regard a large attendance at a funeral as young people regard large numbers of friends on Facebook, as the sign of a successful life.

I have no right to a religious ceremony, but I have observed that nonreligious ceremonies are embarrassing, with everyone hanging around and feeling that they ought to hug a tree in pagan fashion, thereby pretending that it is not so terrible a fate to die because the atoms of which one is composed are eternal and will be absorbed into the vegetation of the world, so that, in a sense, the dear departed hasn’t really died after all.

On the whole I would prefer to be buried than cremated, because I like cemeteries and feel they ought to be supported; my reason for my preference is not the same as that of an ordained priest of the Church of England of my acquaintance, who said that he wanted to give God as little trouble as possible on the Day of Resurrection. Nor do I like the modern custom, particularly strong in France, of turning up at funerals dressed casually, as if a funeral were merely a brief interval between a shopping expedition and a sporting event watched on television. If people can’t be bothered to dress for the occasion, they are not welcome at my funeral.

Taking everything in the round, I think the best thing for me would be a pauper’s funeral at a pauper’s grave: that is, if I can’t have a proper cortege with jet-black horses decorated with equally black plumes followed by thousands of somber mourners.               
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

August 2, 2014

The Kindness of Strangers

To the haunting refrains of Amazing Grace, 150 strangers on Thursday attended the funeral of a seven-month-old girl who died of starvation in a basement that resembled a 'dungeon' in January.

Police, firefighters and members of the public who never knew little May Edwards arrived at St. Anne Catholic Church in Barrington, Chicago, to mourn the baby and released a solitary balloon at the cemetery as she was buried.

 Maya's CasketThe ceremony and burial were organized by a non-profit organization and attended by community members and the police and fire officials who were among the first to see Mya after she died

Deacon Jim Pauwels, gave a eulogy in which he asked those present not to think of their anger at the child's passing but to mourn her.
'When we're confronted with a case of innocence suffering, a case of death coming where there should have been life and growth and promise, it's not possible to not react,'

The turnout of so many was in part sparked by the shock and horror in the community after the death of Mya - after her parents allegedly allowed her to starve to death because they couldn't afford food for her…

Mya's parents, Gene Edwards, 22, and Markisa Jones, 19, have pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment stemming from the girl's death after they stopped feeding her and her twin sister Mia formula.
At the funeral was Mya's uncle, Joaquin Edwards.  He said he was 'grateful' for the service but wished his family was involved.
'I feel very pleased and at ease to know that she is buried,' Edwards said to The Daily Herald.

One firefighter, Chris Alioto, played the bagpipes during the burial, giving an emotional rendition of Amazing Grace.Detective Sgt. Kevin Croke, who is leading the investigation, said the funeral was necessary.  'It's not common you get this kind of closure in this kind of case,' he said.

 Maya's Funeral1
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2014

Funeral of Hero Firefighter

Heartbreaking moment fallen firefighter's daughters are presented with his helmets at funeral as thousands of comrades line the streets to honor the hero

Pain and sadness were almost palpable in Staten Island today as the community said a final farewell to a New York City firefighter killed in the line of duty.  Amidst a crowd of sombre uniformed men and grieving women stood Lt Gordon 'Matt' Ambles' two little girls, Gabriella, 7, and Giovanna, 5, each of them wearing one of dad's old fire helmets.

 Firefighters Daughters

Lt. Ambelas died Saturday night searching for victims in a burning, cluttered Brooklyn high-rise apartment building. His was the first Fire Department of New York line-of-duty death in more than two years.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his eulogy that the 40-year-old FDNY veteran was dedicated, hardworking, kind and, above all, a family man.  'All members of the FDNY but really, all New Yorkers, are feeling this moment with pain and sadness because we’ve lost a true hero,' de Blasio said. 'Our city is inspired by his courage and deeply saddened by his loss.'  That theme was poignantly accentuated when fire helmets from Ambelas’ old commands were placed on the heads of his daughters Gabriella, 8, and Giavanna, 5.

Lt Ambelas was a 14-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department who only recently was honored for saving the life of a seven-year-old boy

 Lt-Ambelas Firefighter Hero

Thousands of uniformed firefighters from across the country gathered for the funeral of the fallen fireman who the mayor said was ‘a true hero.’

 Firefighters Ambelas Funeral
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink

July 7, 2014

"'They want noise and they want speed"

Funeral home finds its niche with motorcycle hearses

Easy riders until the end: Funeral home offers motorcycle hearses to lay bikers to rest with a thunderous roar

 Motorcycle Hearse

A funeral home in a small town in Pennsylvania has added a motorcycle hearse to its lineup last month in hopes of better serving bereaved bikers by bearing their deceased loved ones to the afterlife with a thunderous roar.

Heintzelman Funeral Home six months ago tapped Orange County Chopper in Newburgh, New York, to craft a one-of-a-kind two-wheeled hearse with all the trimmings, including an S&S V111 engine and a reverse gear that allows it to back up, according to a press release on the company's website.

'The last thing they want is to be in a four-wheel drive vehicle,' said David Heintzelman, co-owner of the Hellertown-based funeral home. 'They want noise and they want speed.'

As for why he did it, Heintzelman said it only makes sense to let people who spent their lives on a motorcycle take their final journey on one as well. The funeral home also offers clients the option of using a horse-drawn coach , in addition to the more conventional Cadillac and Lincoln hearses.

But the motorcycle hearse doesn't appeal only to bikers, Heintzelman said.  "I actually had a person who had died, a female who was never on a motorcycle, that was in her late 80s,' he said. Her children 'saw a picture of [the motorcycle hearse] in my arrangement conference room, and they thought this was so cute and unique, they wanted to have that for their mom.'"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:01 PM | Permalink

June 20, 2014

"The dead are no longer welcome at their own funerals"

Thomas Lynch on the good funeral : Mortal remains  The dead are no longer welcome at their own funerals. So how can the living send them on their way?

For many bereaved Americans, the funeral has become instead a ‘celebration of life’. It has a guest list open to everyone except the actual corpse, which is often dismissed, disappeared without rubric or witness, buried or burned, out of sight, out of mind, by paid functionaries such as me ...

Most of nature does not stop for death. But we do. Wherever our spirits go, or don’t, ours is a species that down the millennia has learned to process grief by processing the objects of our grief, the bodies of the dead, from one place to the next. Whatever afterlife there is or isn’t, human beings have marked their ceasing to be by going with their dead — to the tomb or the fire or the grave, the holy tree or deep sea, whatever sacred space of oblivion we consign them to.

The formula for human funerals was fairly simple for most of our history: by getting the dead where they needed to go, the living got where they needed to be. By acting out the necessary tasks to rid ourselves of dead human bodies, we came to understand the meaning of death.
Contemplation of the existential mysteries, those around being and ceasing to be, is what separates humans from the rest of creation; our humanity is directly tied to how we respond to mortality. In short, how we deal with our dead in their physical reality and how we deal with death as an existential reality define and describe us in primary ways.
And this formula — dealing with death by dealing with the dead — defined and described and, by the way, helped humans for 40,000 or 50,000 years all over the planet, across every culture until we come to the most recent generations of North Americans who for the past 40 or 50 years have begun to avoid and outsource and ignore their obligations to deal with the dead. They are willing enough to keep ‘their presence in the memory of descendants’ (the idea of the thing), so long as they don’t have to deal with ‘the treatment of deceased bodies’ (the thing itself). A picture on the piano is fine but public wakes, bearing the dead to open graves, are strictly out of fashion.
Only in North America has cremation lost its ancient connection to fire, because it is so rarely actually witnessed. In the past 50 years, cremation in North America has become synonymous with disappearance, not so much an alternative to burial or entombment, rather an alternative to having to bother with the dead body……

The bodiless obsequy, which has become a staple of available options for bereaved families in the past half century, has created an estrangement between the living and the dead that is unique in human history….this estrangement, this disconnect, this refusal to deal with our dead (their corpses), could be reasonably expected to handicap our ability to deal with death (the concept, the idea of it). And a failure to deal authentically with death might have something to do with an inability to deal authentically with life….

what the British gadfly and writer Jessica Mitford envisioned when she wrote The American Way of Death (1963) — a funeral without the ‘downers’ — notably a corpse and a creedal obligation.

Thus, on my short list of the essential elements of the good funeral, the presence of the dead is the first and definitive element. Memorial services, celebrations of life, or variations on these commemorative events – whether held sooner or later or at intervals or anniversaries, in a variety of locales – while useful socially for commemorating the dead and paying tribute to their memories, lack an essential manifest and function: the disposition of the dead. The option to dispose of the dead privately, through the agency of hirelings, however professional they might be, and however moving the memorial that follows, is an abdication of an essential undertaking and fundamental humanity.

A second essential, definitive element of a funeral is that there must be those to whom the death matters. ...

A third essential, definitive element of a funeral is that there must be some narrative, some effort towards an answer, however provisional, of those signature human questions about what death means for both the one who has died and those to whom it matters. Thus, an effort to broker some peace between the corpse and the mourners by describing the changed reality that death occasions is part of the essential response to mortality. Very often this is a religious narrative. Often it is written in a book, the text of which is widely read. Or it might be philosophical, artistic, intellectual — a poem in place of a psalm, a song in place of prayer — either way, there must be some case to be made for what has happened to the dead and what the living might expect because of it….

A fourth and final essential, definitive element of a funeral is that it must accomplish the disposition of the dead. They are not welcome, we know intuitively, to remain among us in the way they were while living. Furthermore, it is by getting the dead where they need to go that the living get where they need to be.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

May 7, 2014

Funeral of a Viking Warlord

On the occasion of a new exhibition of Viking Treasures at the British Museum comes this story of the funeral of a Viking warlord in the 10th century

Human sacrifice, a female angel of death and why the Vikings were even more savage than you thought

Another chronicler, an Arab traveller named Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, came across Vikings in what is now Russia, and was scandalised by their lack  of hygiene.  They were tall and their bodies ‘perfect’ in shape, he recorded, but they were ‘the filthiest of God’s creatures’, as dirty as ‘wild asses’ and had shocking sexual habits.

These were displayed at an extraordinarily lavish but dreadful ritual he witnessed for a chieftain who had just died — in reality, an orgy, a pagan gang-bang, no less.  A third of the man’s possessions went to his family, a third on the clothes for his funeral, and the remaining third on booze for his wake, ensuring everyone was drunk enough to perform what came next.

At the centre of the ten-day proceedings was a slave girl from his household, apparently a volunteer, who would be cremated with her master. A boat was hauled on land and a couch placed on deck, covered by a tent. The chief’s body was dressed to the nines in stockings, trousers, boots, and a tunic of brocade with gold buttons, and propped up on the couch. Mead, fruits, and flowers were laid beside him for his journey into the afterlife, along with his weapons.

‘Then they brought a dog, cleft it in two halves and laid it in the boat. Then they took two horses, cleft both of them in twain with a sword and laid their flesh in the boat. ‘Then they brought two cows, cut them in two likewise and laid them in the boat.’

Meanwhile, the ‘maiden’ who was to die had death duties to perform — ‘she went here and there, and entered each of a series of tents where the head of the household quartered within had intercourse with her, saying “Say to thy lord, I have done this out of love of thee”.’

The climax of the ceremony approached with the poor girl being lifted onto a platform. ‘Behold, I see my father and mother,’ she called out, before being let down. Then she was lifted up again and declared that she could now see all her dead relatives. Lifted a third time, she cut off the head of a live chicken, and announced: ‘There I behold my lord sitting in paradise, and paradise is fair and green, and around him are men and servants. He calls me. Bring me to him.’

‘Then,’ wrote the chronicler, ‘they led her to the boat. She took off the two armlets that she wore and gave them to the old woman whom they call the Angel of Death, who was to kill her.  ‘The slave girl then took off two anklets and gave them to the two maidens who had waited on her, the daughters of the old woman known as the Angel of Death.

‘Then the people lifted her onto the boat, and men with shields and staves gave her a bowl of mead, whereupon she sang a song bidding farewell to her friends and drank it. ‘She was given another beaker, took it and sang for a long time, while the old woman was urging her to finish the goblet, and to go into the tent where her lord lay. I saw then how disturbed she was.’

The now frightened girl hesitated — ‘until the old woman took her by the head, made her go into the tent and also entered with her. Whereupon the men began to beat their shields so her shrieks would not be heard. ‘Six men went into the tent, and all had intercourse with the girl. Then they placed her beside her dead lord. Two men seized her by the feet and two by her hands.  ‘The old woman took out a rope into which a loop had been made, and gave it to two of the men. The old woman jabbed her with a broad-bladed dagger, while the two men strangled her until she was dead. The relatives of the dead man then took torches and set fire to the ship.’

It was over in a great blaze — master cremated, slave girl sacrificed, a brutal and violent end, but a death seemingly in keeping with the way Vikings chose to live and die.

This vividly-told story from the 10th century is remarkable, not just for its content, but for where it took place — on the banks of the River Volga, which runs through what is now modern Russia. It indicates how far and wide the daring of the Vikings took them, in what was almost an obsession to find new lands and wealth to plunder — economic migrants prepared to risk all. From Denmark and Norway, they went wherever sea and rivers would take them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink

March 25, 2014

100 FedEx Trucks in Funeral Procession

When Michael J. "Mickey" Petronchak died last week, he was deeply beloved by his fellow co-workers. 

As a proof of love and to pay him respect, 100 FedEx delivery vans joined his funeral procession.

 Fedex Funeral For Mickey

One friend described him thus

He was a ramp agent at Fedex Express. He was basically a manager, and he was on top of his game all the time. God, he had to be working there forever! He never called off, took a vacation, or worked less than 8 hours a day. Mickey loved everyone, and did so many generous things for people. He had no selflishness what so ever. He was so special to me because he was the first person I met at Fedex. He trained me and made me always be happy to be at work. He is a role model to me, and a lot of other people. He is one of those people that never take credit for what tasks he achieved. No one disliked him and he was the hardest worker I knew. Mickey used to give me 5 bucks for the vending machine. Why, I don't know. He just did it all the time.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:38 AM | Permalink

February 22, 2014

Funeral of a Viking Warlord

On the occasion of a new exhibition of Viking Treasures at the British Museum comes this story of the funeral of a Viking warlord in the 10th century

Human sacrifice, a female angel of death and why the Vikings were even more savage than you thought

Another chronicler, an Arab traveller named Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, came across Vikings in what is now Russia, and was scandalised by their lack  of hygiene.  They were tall and their bodies ‘perfect’ in shape, he recorded, but they were ‘the filthiest of God’s creatures’, as dirty as ‘wild asses’ and had shocking sexual habits.

These were displayed at an extraordinarily lavish but dreadful ritual he witnessed for a chieftain who had just died — in reality, an orgy, a pagan gang-bang, no less.
A third of the man’s possessions went to his family, a third on the clothes for his funeral, and the remaining third on booze for his wake, ensuring everyone was drunk enough to perform what came next.

At the centre of the ten-day proceedings was a slave girl from his household, apparently a volunteer, who would be cremated with her master.
A boat was hauled on land and a couch placed on deck, covered by a tent. The chief’s body was dressed to the nines in stockings, trousers, boots, and a tunic of brocade with gold buttons, and propped up on the couch. Mead, fruits, and flowers were laid beside him for his journey into the afterlife, along with his weapons.

‘Then they brought a dog, cleft it in two halves and laid it in the boat. Then they took two horses, cleft both of them in twain with a sword and laid their flesh in the boat. ‘Then they brought two cows, cut them in two likewise and laid them in the boat.’

Meanwhile, the ‘maiden’ who was to die had death duties to perform — ‘she went here and there, and entered each of a series of tents where the head of the household quartered within had intercourse with her, saying “Say to thy lord, I have done this out of love of thee”.’

The climax of the ceremony approached with the poor girl being lifted onto a platform. ‘Behold, I see my father and mother,’ she called out, before being let down. Then she was lifted up again and declared that she could now see all her dead relatives. Lifted a third time, she cut off the head of a live chicken, and announced: ‘There I behold my lord sitting in paradise, and paradise is fair and green, and around him are men and servants. He calls me. Bring me to him.’

‘Then,’ wrote the chronicler, ‘they led her to the boat. She took off the two armlets that she wore and gave them to the old woman whom they call the Angel of Death, who was to kill her.  ‘The slave girl then took off two anklets and gave them to the two maidens who had waited on her, the daughters of the old woman known as the Angel of Death.

‘Then the people lifted her onto the boat, and men with shields and staves gave her a bowl of mead, whereupon she sang a song bidding farewell to her friends and drank it. ‘She was given another beaker, took it and sang for a long time, while the old woman was urging her to finish the goblet, and to go into the tent where her lord lay. I saw then how disturbed she was.’

The now frightened girl hesitated — ‘until the old woman took her by the head, made her go into the tent and also entered with her. Whereupon the men began to beat their shields so her shrieks would not be heard. ‘Six men went into the tent, and all had intercourse with the girl. Then they placed her beside her dead lord. Two men seized her by the feet and two by her hands.  ‘The old woman took out a rope into which a loop had been made, and gave it to two of the men. The old woman jabbed her with a broad-bladed dagger, while the two men strangled her until she was dead. The relatives of the dead man then took torches and set fire to the ship.’

It was over in a great blaze — master cremated, slave girl sacrificed, a brutal and violent end, but a death seemingly in keeping with the way Vikings chose to live and die.

This vividly-told story from the 10th century is remarkable, not just for its content, but for where it took place — on the banks of the River Volga, which runs through what is now modern Russia. It indicates how far and wide the daring of the Vikings took them, in what was almost an obsession to find new lands and wealth to plunder — economic migrants prepared to risk all. From Denmark and Norway, they went wherever sea and rivers would take them.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2565331/Human-sacrifice-female-angel-death-Vikings-savage-thought-As-British-Museum-unveils-treasures-ferocious-invaders.html#ixzz2u5shWpPo
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Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:53 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2014

On His Highway to Heaven

Ohio biker is buried in leathers astride his beloved 1967 Harley-Davidson in a huge transparent casket

The family of an Ohio biker has fulfilled his dying wish by burying him astride his beloved Harley-Davidson in a see-through casket.

Dressed in his leathers and sunglasses, and sitting on top of his 1967 Electra Glide cruiser, Billy Standley, who died on Sunday, was taken for one last ride. The body of the 82-year-old, who died of lung cancer, was visible through the transparent Plexiglas coffin that his bike has been placed in.

 Biker On-Harley Buried Transparent Casket

For years the Mechanicsburg man had told family and friends that he didn't just want to ride off to heaven, he wanted the world to see him do it in a big see-through box.

He started the funeral preparations himself, buying three large burial plots next to his wife, Lorna so the hole would be big enough to accommodate his unique casket.  His sons Pete and Roy fashioned a casket out of Plexiglas and reinfornced the bottom with wood and metal.mmTo ensure Mr Standley didn't become unseated on his final journey, embalmers prepared his body with a metal back brace and straps.

'We’ve done personalization … but nothing this extreme,' Tammy Vernon, who works at the funeral home, told the Dayton Daily News.  'He was the one who kept throwing this idea out there, to be buried on his bike. We were glad to assist him.'

The family man was pleased with his funeral plans and would show off the casket, which was stored for five years in a garage, to visitors.  'He was proud of it,' Roy Standley said.  While his family agreed that the procession to the cemetery, during which the body was on display, may be shocking, they wanted to honor their father's last wish.

'He'd done right by us all these years, and at least we could see he goes out the way he wanted to,' Pete Standley said. His daughter, Dorothy, added that he was 'a quirky man'.

Mr Standley, who used to work as a bareback rodeo rider, was be escorted to the ceremony by a procession of bikers. Some of the mourners at his graveside donned motorcycle jackets for the occasion as they watched the extra large coffin be lowered into its massive plot.

Anyone can be a pharaoh these days.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

January 8, 2014

Private Deaths

Richard Rodriguez interview in Salon

Fewer and fewer people are being buried. More and more of my friends now are being cremated and their ashes, I don’t know where their ashes are anymore. They’re somewhere in Idaho, they’re somewhere on Muir Woods in someplace. That revolution, which I think is related to the fact that we don’t want to live on the earth anymore that there is an anxiety about being here, about being in this place at the same time that the cultural left has come up with this idea of green nature. We all have to become green. Well, nature is primarily brown in the world, you know, and the lessons of nature lead to nature, they don’t lead to this perennial spring.

Or to say it another way, you cannot have spring without winter. That this sentimentality about our lives where people are not buried. So a good friend of mine died; he asked two women friends of his to take his ashes, we know not where. And another friend of mine calls up and says, “I’d love to go see. I’d love to pay my respects, I couldn’t come to the funeral, could I go to the cemetery?” I say, well I have no idea where he is. The death of the newspaper is being told in the cemetery, in the fact that we are not writing obituaries, many of my friends have died without obituaries, because it’s no longer a civic event to die — it’s a private event. You understand? And so, you know, that fact that the newspaper was the receptacle not simply of news of our birth, but of our death, that fact is really the reason why an obituary for a newspaper becomes in the last several pages an obituary for a cemetery.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:42 AM | Permalink

December 13, 2013

Downplaying Death, the Demise of the Funeral

Funerals should be sad and offer catharsis for the overwhelming emotions of the family and friends,  Funerals should remind us all of the shortness of our lives.  After the body is buried, there always can be an after party when people can eat and drink, remember, reminisce  and tell stories about the deceased.  In fact, I think it's a good idea, but it should never supplant the grave solemnity of a funeral.

In The Federalist, Chad Bird questions the "celebration of life" , the 'happier'  alternative that is quickly supplanting those old and sad funerals.

The Tragic Death Of The Funeral Baby Boomer narcissism crowds out Christian meaning from a familiar ritual

So what makes a Celebration of Life different? Rather than a focus upon the loss of a loved one, this service rewinds the present into the past, to draw the mourners back into the life lived by the deceased. It’s like a miniature, enacted biography of the person, with a focus upon those qualities, interests, and achievements that his family and friends found most endearing about him. Whereas a traditional funeral is structured around a liturgy, in this ceremony stories about the person—serious or lighthearted—take center stage. It is his funeral, after all, so shouldn’t it be about him?
To guarantee that the Celebration of Life dovetails with the desires of the departed, pre-death planning is strongly encouraged. Indeed, it’s almost a must. What better way to have the celebration you want than to plan it yourself? In fact, this is a large part of its appeal. This possibility resonates especially well with that aging, voluminous generation for whom self-determination is the spice of life:  the baby boomers.  According to Mark Duffey, the CEO of Everest, a funeral planning and concierge service, the boomer generation is revolutionizing the funeral industry:

“If you're 75 or older, the mentality is: ‘I want to have the same funeral that we had for Aunt Mildred; I don't want to be a bother, I don't want to be showy,’” he said. “You get below 70 and, all of a sudden, it's changing. Now people are saying, I'm a boomer and I want to be talked about.”
…. Although they may initially appear innocuous, or even attractive, these celebrations represent a dual danger: they perpetuate and even formalize our culture’s egocentrism, and they rob life of its true value by refusing to address its end and the meaning thereof. Let’s take a look at each of these dangers.
What makes community life viable, in groups as small as a family or large as a country, is the will of individuals to makes sacrifices for others, to consider more than their own needs and wants, and to act accordingly. The more robust this other-focused approach to life is, the healthier the community will be. For that reason, there is no greater threat to the cohesion and perpetuation of a society than narcissism. The narcissist operates not according to an objective set of values or beliefs, nor are the needs of others an impetus for his actions, but his whole world is centered in the navel at which he gazes. The be-all and end-all reason for his existence is the man in the mirror. Therefore, the question he poses, whenever any decision must be made, is quite simply this: “What’s in it for me?”

Let it be said that, yes, it is well and good to be involved in planning your own funeral: choosing hymns and readings; pallbearers and the minister; and dealing with the nitty-gritty of casket selection, plot purchase, and the like. Such planning can relieve the family of making decisions under the stress of grief. What is at issue is not planning but priority. Will the priority of the end-of-life service be the exaltation of the individual or will it confront the reality of death honestly and constructively. And that brings up a second, more serious, concern with a Celebration of Life.

The other danger revolving around a Celebration of Life is harder to detect, for it is camouflaged by euphemistic language and wears a smiling mask that whispers half-truths that we, especially in the throes of grief, want to believe …. The danger is simply this: that we downplay death and, in so doing, fail to fully appreciate life. Stripped of its euphemistic language, the get-together billed as a “celebration” or even a “party” is, in truth, a gathering of mourners around a corpse.
To the extent that we bury our head in the sand when confronted with the reality of death, to that same extent we miss out on an opportunity to learn more about, and to appreciate more deeply, the life that is ours.

Whereas a funeral, at least in traditional Christianity, takes death seriously, and balances the truth of grief and loss with the hope of life and resurrection, the Celebration of Life looks neither to the present of grief nor the future of hope, but solely to the past. Its focus is neither faith nor hope but only love of what was lost. And in this case, the greatest of these is not love. Call it a celebration all you want; life is not so much celebrated as death is ignored. Therein lies a great tragedy, for a Celebration of Life is a missed opportunity to understand death aright.
The bereaved need, and deserve, something better. They deserve a service that speaks frankly and honestly about death, while anchoring the survivors in a hope that extends beyond this world. If any life is to be celebrated, let it be the life of the One who alone can lighten the load of grief borne by the survivors, and who shines a ray of his life into the gloom of death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

Mushroom Burial Suit


Mushroom burial suit turns heads at convention 

Few things shock funeral professionals, but a new a mushroom burial suit designed to help the body decompose after death is the latest earthy concept turning heads at a convention downtown.

The setup at the National Funeral Directors Association looks like any other convention, but when you venture over to one corner, you notice something different going on. A body lying in rest, wearing a black suit and surrounded by mushrooms.

It's all part of the "design for death" world competition involving more than 1,300 entries from more than 700 designers.

One of the winners, a mushroom death suit, created by artist Jae Rhim Lee, is embedded with infinity mushroom spores that supposedly speed up decomposition of the body after death. The idea is to protect the environment from the body's toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, lead and mercury. Lee said those chemicals are often associated with cremations and graveyards.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2013

Open-holed, dirt-moving burial was cathartic

John Cuddleback found that a hands-on burial helped him come to terms with the "truth of what happened" in a cathartic release of sorrow

Touching Death: Mourning Physically through Burial

In mid-September of this year my father passed away after a several year decline with dementia. With the help and support of family and friends we were able to give him a very special burial—in that we buried him ourselves: opening the earth, setting him in it, and mounding the earth back. The experience was extraordinary, and one I found to be a gift….

t was all about the earth. Opening it, placing something it, and closing it. Like planting a seed. We started with the assumption that the more we did with our own hands the better. We knew that my father had enough hearty pall-bearers that we could actually carry his casket. With an open casket wake, we knew we could at least put a hand on his breast or hands and feel him dead.
It was all about the earth. Opening it, placing something it, and closing it. Like planting a seed. We started with the assumption that the more we did with our own hands the better. We knew that my father had enough hearty pall-bearers that we could actually carry his casket. With an open casket wake, we knew we could at least put a hand on his breast or hands and feel him dead.

It seems fitting to ask: what kind of burial is good for those left behind? After all, though much of what we do after the death of a person is done for the sake of and in memory of the deceased, the needs of those left behind must also be considered. Prominent among these is surely the need for help in coming to terms with the truth of what has happened. We humans are prone to live in denial, especially of truths that make us uncomfortable. The death of a loved one, with all that it implies, is often just such a truth that we do not want to face. Often even if we want to, we find that we just can’t get our minds, or arms, around it.
The discomfort we spare ourselves now we reap later in unresolved sorrow. The Greek word catharsis refers to the release of an emotion that needs to be released. Loved ones of a deceased person stand in need of the cleansing experience of catharsis, and this especially through the fitting expression of sorrow.
The common emphasis on ‘celebrating the life’ of the deceased can in practice both invalidate the need and remove the occasions for mourning. We are coached and coaxed to look on the bright side, and then when it is all over we find ourselves ill-prepared to face life without the deceased. We know we need to mourn, but we deprive ourselves of many of the best contexts for mourning. Such as an open-holed, dirt-moving burial.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:28 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2013

Running procession

Jim's Last Group Run  Jim Kelley got many to the finish line. Then they returned the favor.

My friend Jim died this month while out on a run, doing one of his favorite things in the world. A car struck him as he was crossing the street.

Jim was amazing and selfless. He placed in the top three in his age group 90 percent of the time. He loved to run, more than anybody I know, whether by himself or supporting others.

He was at all the races, cheering everybody on, always running somebody in. He would often sacrifice his own goals and run a race with somebody so they could meet their goal. If he were running for himself, he could have gone a lot faster.
I was one of Jim’s pallbearers. When it was time to go to the cemetery, the funeral director had this idea. The cemetery was only a mile away, he said to us. Instead of vehicles following behind, would we want to honor Jim by running behind the hearse?

It was a genius idea.

 Running Procession Jim Kelley
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

November 12, 2013

Hundreds attend the funeral of a veteran they didn't know

Harold Jellicoe Percival, who was known as Coe, served as ground crew on the famous Dambusters raids carried out in May 1943 by 617 Squadron.

Mr Percival, who died last month aged 99, never married or had children.

The funeral home organizing the service put an advert in a newspaper appealing for people to attend.

Hundreds attend war veteran's funeral after newspaper ad

 Funeral Dambuster

Mr Percival's nephew, Andrew Colyer-Worrsall, said the attendance was "just remarkable".

"He was a quiet man, he was an ordinary man who did his duty and served in the war and to see so many people turn up, it's just overwhelming," he said.

"I can only say thank you so much to everybody.

"We thought there would just be two or three of us, so to see this many hundreds of people turn up is stunning."
About 100 people were inside with another 400 standing silently outside in the rain.

The Dambusters March played as Mr Percival's coffin was carried into Lytham Park Crematorium at 11:00 GMT on Armistice Day.

A two-minute silence was observed around the coffin to mark the anniversary of the World War One armistice before it was carried into the crematorium.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:23 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2013

Touching Death

A very wise piece on burial. 

Touching Death: Mourning Physically through Burial by John Cuddeback

In mid-September of this year my father passed away after a several year decline with dementia.

With the help and support of family and friends we were able to give him a very special burial — in that we buried him ourselves:  opening the earth, setting him in it, and mounding the earth back.  The experience was extraordinary, and one I found to be a gift. It was the catalyst for these reflections.
It was all about the earth.  Opening it, placing something it, and closing it.  Like planting a seed.  We started with the assumption that the more we did with our own hands the better.  We knew that my father had enough hearty pall-bearers that we could actually carry his casket.  With an open casket wake, we knew we could at least put a hand on his breast or hands and feel him dead.

A body deserves to be buried.  There is an apparent if somewhat disturbing  proximity between human body and earth, as evidenced in the body's relatively quick 'return' to it, fortifying it as a kind of organic soil amendment.  Having buried a body — whole or cremated — in earth or sea, we feel we have somehow done what needed to be done for the body.  An oft overlooked issue is:  have we done what needed to be done for us?

It seems fitting to ask:  what kind of burial is good for those left behind?  After all, though much of what we do after the death of a person is done for the sake of and in memory of the deceased, the needs of those left behind must also be considered.  Prominent among these is surely the need for help in coming to terms with the truth of what has happened. We humans are prone to live in denial, especially of truths that make us uncomfortable.  The death of a loved one, with all that it implies, is often just such a truth that we do not want to face.

The discomfort we spare ourselves now we reap later in unresolved sorrow.  The Greek word catharsis refers to the release of an emotion that needs to be released.  Loved ones of a deceased person stand in need of the cleansing experience of catharsis, and this especially through the fitting expression of sorrow.  Though common wisdom speaks of the necessity of mourning, for some reason this wisdom does not seem to affect most of our post-mortem practices.
As we hefted the casket, the tension in the crowd was palpable, and my mother gasped "Dear God."  Through my strain I whispered in her direction, "We'll make it Mom.  We've got Dad just fine."  A brother, three sons, son-in-law, God-son, and two grandsons eased Dad into the ground.  And so the final committal was underway.

The prayers were brief.  I stepped up to address the hundreds gathered and invite them to join us in backfilling.  After the widow and the family, the guests were welcome to come forward and shovel earth in the hole.  My brother handed a shovel-full to my mother.  Supported by my sister, she dropped the first bit of dirt that would seal the body of her husband of fifty-seven years in the ground.  The hollow thud was bracing.

It is very difficult to capture what happened over the course of the next half hour or so.  Slowly, surely, the varied group of mourners came forward to do their part.  It was as though they were playing a role they had played before — which, as far as we know was not the case:  few had ever filled such a large hole and perhaps none had enclosed a coffin.

Everyone seemed to understand and be drawn in.  The atmosphere was a unique blend of sorrow, communion, and hope.  One young mother, nursling in arm, didn't wait for a shovel, and grabbing a handful of earth tossed in her contribution.  Children were as engaged in the filling as they had been in marveling at the hole.
The act of burying is an act of piety that is fitting for the dead.  It is also an act of mourning that is fitting for the living.  Our fellow-mourners who blessed us with their presence that overcast Saturday afternoon have expressed what a profound experience my father's burial was.  I think that we all experienced it as a gift:  a gift that rends the heart, giving a healing and closure that lays it open to the consolation of new life beyond the grave.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:50 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2013

Photo of funeral at sea for Titanic victims

Never-before-seen photo of Titanic mass funeral showing the 'dignified burial' of pile of bodies set for auction


  • A never-before-seen photograph taken on board the CS Mackay-Bennett recovery ship days after the sinking of the Titanic exposes the truth behind what was believe to be a dignified burial of the hundreds who perished on that fateful day.
  • On 15 April 1912, the 'unsinkable' RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and went down in the Atlantic, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
  • Records show that 166 out of 306 bodies collected by the Mackay-Bennett were buried at sea but until now there was no photographic evidence of this.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

October 1, 2013

Sea burials: Last stitch is through the nose

One Last Stitch to Make Sure That He's Dead  John Farrier at Neatorama

Before ships had refrigerated morgues, it was common to bury the dead at sea. A sailor's body and weights would be sewed up inside a hammock. His mates would finish the task by sewing the last stitch through the dead man's nose--to be certain that he was really dead.

Here's a description provided by one sailor from his experiences in the 1960s:

The mate sent me down to assist the bo'sun to prepare and stitch up the corpse, as he said I would be unlikely to witness such an occurrence again. The bo'sun, a North Sea Chinaman (ie, he hailed from the Orkney Isles), was in his sixties and had performed the task several times before. He was a deft hand with the palm [leather glove] and needle used to sew the heavy canvas into a shroud around the body, and when he came to the final stitches around the face he pushed the large triangular-shaped needle right through the nose. I winced, and he looked up at me and said, "That's the law of the sea, the last stitch through the nose, if that don't wake him up I know he's dead."

Apparently, it was not uncommon for sailors or passengers to be mistakenly pronounced dead. This was the final test.

 Burial At Sea

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:40 AM | 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

September 4, 2013

"Nolle Timere"

Nolle Timere, Don't Be Afraid:  The last words of Seamus Heaney who texted them to his wife.

At his funeral, his son Michael revealed

Michael spoke briefly at the end of the service to thank those who cared for his father, who died on Friday aged 74, and those who have offered support and praise since his death.

'His last few words in a text message he wrote to my mother minutes before he passed away were in his beloved Latin and they read - "nolle timere" ("don't be afraid"),' he said.

Hundreds watch Nobel poet Seamus Heaney laid to rest in Irish village which inspired much of his work

Among those packing the pews of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart for his funeral were Irish government leaders, poets and novelists, Bono and The Edge from rock band U2, and former Lebanese hostage Brian Keenan.

Ireland's foremost uilleann piper, Liam O'Flynn, played a wailing lament before family members and friends offered a string of readings from the Bible and their own often-lyrical remembrances of the country's most celebrated writer of the late 20th century.
The legendary wordsmith won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995.

Mourners at his funeral were led by his widow Marie and children Michael, Christopher and Catherine Ann.
Chief celebrant of the Mass, Monsignor Brendan Devlin, opened the service with the remark that Heaney might have liked to have his funeral celebrated by someone with a Northern accent.


The Guardian Seamus Heaney's death 'leaves breach in language itself'

He was a snowy-haired, craggy mountain of a man; a man who radiated granite integrity and deep kindness. He was a poet, among the greatest of our era, and the first of his nation to win the Nobel prize since Yeats.

Seamus Heaney, who has died in hospital in Dublin, aged 74, leaves family, friends and readers in Ireland and beyond "feeling personally bereaved", in the words of his longtime friend, the poet Michael Longley. "Just as his presence filled a room, his marvellous poems filled the hearts of generations of readers."

LA Times.  An Appreciation: Seamus Heaney, animator of words

Heaney, who died Friday in Dublin at age 74, was powerful and widely read, receiving countless honors, including the Nobel Prize. With stunningly fresh language, his poetry dug deep into the roots of human attachments but also of human violence. The author of the stunning pastorals "The Glanmore Sonnets" also created the haunting Dantean poems of "Station Island." His versions of Sophocles, "The Cure at Troy" and "The Burial at Thebes," reached to the heart of human suffering and alienation. His work embraced a vision of hope and the possibility of seeing, as he titled one poem, "From the Republic of Conscience." And he made a fool of Woody Allen ("Never take a course where they make you read 'Beowulf'") by making his version of the Old English epic a bestseller.

But Heaney was that rare thing, an unofficial international poet laureate who had become an ambassador for the entire institution of poetry.

Harvard Gazette.  Heaney’s death caught ‘the heart off guard’     Noted Irish poet had long and deep ties to Harvard

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2013

Buried alive and discovered 95 years later

Finally laid to rest 95 years on, 21 German soldiers found perfectly preserved in trench where they were buried alive by Allied shell

A troop of 21 German soldiers found entombed in an perfectly preserved First World War shelter have been given a full military burial nearly a century after their deaths.  Not a single member of the men's families attended the moving service at a war cemetery in northern France.  The soldiers were buried alive in 1918 when a huge Allied shell exploded above the shelter causing it to cave in.

Last year, French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave at Carspach in Alsace, on the former Western Front, during excavation work for a road building project.  Many of the remains were found in the same positions the men had been in at the time of the collapse, prompting experts to liken the scene to Pompeii.

 Tunnels Ww1Germans Buried Alive

As well as the bodies, poignant personal effects such as boots, helmets, weapons, wine bottles, spectacles, wallets, pipes, cigarette cases and pocket books were also found.  Even the skeleton of a goat was found, assumed to be a source of fresh milk for the soldiers.
Archaeologists believe the items were so well preserved because hardly any air, water or lights had penetrated the trench.

Now, 95 years later, the soldiers have been laid to rest in a poignant service at the nearby German war cemetery at Illfurth.  Around 150 people including German and French dignitaries, war veterans and serving soldiers attended the hour-long funeral.

Two prayers were read before a lone bugler played a haunting rendition of the German equivalent of the Last Post called 'Der gute Kamerad' - The Good Comrade.
Guests paid their respects by laying white roses at the foot of the graves.

Fritz Kirchmeier, spokesman for the German War Graves Commission, said: 'The service was very simple but dignified and moving.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

July 24, 2013

Tibetan sky burial

Chopped up and fed to the vultures, a haunting glimpse into the closely-guarded tradition of the Tibetan sky burial

These remarkable photos give a glimpse into the closely-guarded tradition of Tibetan sky burials, where bodies are chopped up and fed to the vultures. 
Sky burials are a funerary practice in the Chinese provinces of Tibet, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia and in Mongolia.

The majority of Tibetans and many Mongolians adhere to Vajrayana Buddhism, which teaches the transmigration of spirits.  This means they do not see a need to preserve the body, as it is now an empty vessel, so they dispose of it through a sky burial.

 Lama+Vultures Lama and vultures

In the days leading up to the ceremony monks - known as lamas -  may chant mantra around the body and burn juniper incense.  The body is then chopped into pieces by either monks - known as lamas - or more commonly, by rogyapas (body-breakers).

Eyewitness accounts suggest the body-breakers do the grim task in high-spirits - according to Buddhist teaching, this makes it easier for the soul of the deceased to move on.  It is difficult to ascertain the exact process as Tibetans strongly object to visits by the merely curious, but it is thought the whole body is given to the vultures.

When only the bones are left, the pieces are broken up with mallets, ground with tsampa (barley flour with tea and yak butter, or milk), and given to the crows and hawks that have waited for the vultures to depart.
The function of the sky burial is simply to dispose of the remains in as generous a way as possible  - this donation of human flesh to the vultures is considered virtuous because it saves the lives of small animals that the vultures might otherwise capture for food.

 Skull Temple Lamas

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:22 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2013

Burying Suspected Vampires

Archaeologists unearth 'vampire graves' containing decapitated skeletons with skulls placed between their legs on Polish building site

Archaeologists have unearthed what they believe to be a vampire burial ground on a building site in Poland.  The team of historians discovered graves containing four skeletons with their heads removed and placed between their legs near the southern town of Gliwice.

Decapitating a suspected vampire was common practice in medieval times because it was thought to be the only way to ensure the dead stay dead. ….initial estimations suggest they died sometime around the 16th century.

It comes a year after archaeologists in Bulgaria claimed to have discovered two ‘vampire’ corpses in excavations near a monastery in the Black Sea town of Sozopol, both more than 800 years old and pierced through the chest with heavy iron rods.  Bulgaria’s national museum chief Bozidhar Dimitrov said as many as 100 such ‘vampire corpses’ have been found in the country in recent years.
The notion of blood-sucking vampires preying on the flesh of the living goes back thousands of years and was common in many ancient cultures, where tales of these reviled creatures of the dead abounded.

Archaeologists recently found 3,000 Czech graves, for example, where bodies had been weighed down with rocks to prevent the dead emerging from their tombs.
 Brick-In-Mouth-Skeleton   Head-Between Legs Skeleton
In medieval times, when the Church was all-powerful and the threat of eternal damnation encouraged superstition among a peasantry already blighted by the Black Death, the fear of vampires was omnipresent. In some cases, the dead were buried with a brick wedged in their mouths to stop them rising up to eat those who had perished from the plague.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2013

Bride and Tomb

Bride and tomb: The 1,500-year-old murals discovered buried with Chinese warlord and his wife that have been impeccably preserved

Stunning murals estimated to be nearly 1,500-years-old have been discovered buried with a Chinese warlord and his wife.

The orate drawings were painted on the wall of a doomed tomb in Shuozhou City, about 200 miles (330 kilometres) southwest of Beijing.

Their original colours are largely preserved - the murals are in a remarkable condition given their age.

 Bride And Tomb

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

July 5, 2013

Building Dad's Casket

Family Pulls Together to Build Dad's Casket

 Building Dad's Casket

The father of redditor gooddrunky died. Her brother, uncle and friends came together to build him a casket in 2 days. She writes in response to comments:

Thank you all for your kind words and wishes. I'm sharing this because my dad spent his life building a family, and I feel like this project was a true testimony to the success of his life's work. I'm so grateful for all of your support and positivity.

More photos here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 AM | Permalink

June 13, 2013

Online help for funeral planning

Rachel Zeldin, who holds a business degree from Drexel University, makes a good case for why her website, www.imsorrytohear.com, addresses a real need: providing reliable, local information to consumers when they're at their most vulnerable.

Online help for funeral planning

That's the position Zeldin's mother found herself in when her uncle died in January 2011 and his elderly siblings seemed overwhelmed by logistics and costs. She stepped in, with an assist from her web-savvy daughter, and both were underwhelmed by the resources they found - mostly phone book-like lists of funeral homes.

Prices were baffling, with inconsistent package deals that made comparisons difficult. Some funeral directors were less than comforting.

"When all was said and done, we ended up with a wonderful funeral," Zeldin recalls. But it was painful to reach that point. She came away thinking, "There should be a better way to do this."

She reasoned that people spend weeks or months planning other important events, such as vacations or weddings, using online resources such as TripAdvisor. Why not something similar for events that must be planned in hours or days by grieving relatives?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:09 PM | Permalink

June 3, 2013

Police dog bids farewell to slain cop

 Policedog Farewell Slain Cop

Police dog bids farewell to slain cop

More than 1,000 people—including hundreds of fellow police officers from surrounding states—turned out at a funeral in rural Kentucky late last week to pay their respects to Jason Ellis, a 33-year-old K-9 officer gunned down last month in what authorities believe was an ambush.

Fido, Ellis' police dog, was there, too, placing his paw on the closed casket—a moment captured in a heartbreaking image by photographer Jonathan Palmer.

Fido was not with Ellis on May 25 when he was shot multiple times while collecting debris on a highway off-ramp in Bardstown, Ky., a close-knit community of about 12,000 located 40 miles southeast of Louisville. Ellis' slaying remains unsolved.

Dozens of fellow K-9 officers attended the funeral and, according to the Herald Leader, their dogs could be heard barking from their cruisers:

Hundreds of officers snapped to attention when the honor guard was called; the 60 or so police dogs at the ceremony barked with the sound of the guards' 21-gun salute.

Ellis, a six-year veteran of the police force, was remembered by Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin, who pledged to hunt down the killer.

"I am your chief, Jason, but you're our hero and you need to know this chief will not stand down," McCubbin said. "Jason, my friend, rest easy. We've got it from here."

Ellis is survived by his wife, Amy, and two sons: Hunter, 7, and Parker, 6.

"He paid the ultimate sacrifice doing what he loved, being a police officer," McCubbin added.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2013

The Coffinmaker and handcrafted wooden caskets

I wish I could embed this beautiful and powerful video by Dan McComb on Vimeo, but I can't so you have to go here to see it

The Coffinmaker

The description:

Every year, Americans bury enough metal in the ground to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge, says Vashon Island coffin maker Marcus Daly. His simple, handcrafted wooden coffins are an economical and environmentally friendly burial alternative. But Daly believes a coffin's most important feature is that it can be carried. Here's why.

"I think one of the most important aspects of the coffin is that it can be carried.  And I think we're meant to carry each other and I think carrying someone you love and committing them is very important for us . When we deal with death, we want to know that we have played a part and that we have shouldered our burden.  So, if we make it too convenient then we're depriving ourselves of a chance to get stronger so that we can carry on."

Watching Marcus Daly work is mesmerizing, so is listening to him.

"When I'm out here by myself early in the morning or in the middle of the night or something like that, I can get a sense of how work is love made visible ……. I'm building something for someone that people tend to think is a destination; they think of the grave as the end and I'm trying to illuminate that it's a doorway."


Handmade wooden caskets are beautiful, environmentally sound and far less expensive than caskets sold in funeral homes.  Apart from craftsmen like Marcus Daly, just about the only place you can find wooden caskets made with love are monasteries.

A Casket Cartel and the Louisiana Way of Death

This story begins 1,600 years ago when Benedict of Nursia founded an order of monks and instructed them to put bread on their table through the labor of their own hands. Following this dictate, the entrepreneurial brothers of St. Joseph Abbey—a century-old monastery in Covington, La.—opened a tiny business on All Souls' Day in 2007 to sell the unadorned wooden caskets that they have made for generations.

That's when their ancient ways collided with modern America. The monks had not sold a single casket before the Louisiana State Board of Funeral Directors—acting on a complaint from a government-licensed funeral director—shut them down. In Louisiana, the government had made it a crime to sell caskets in the state without a license. To do so, the monks would have had to transform their monastery into a funeral home, including building an embalming room, and at least one of the monks would have had to leave the order to spend years becoming a licensed funeral director. All of that just to sell a wooden box.

It didn't take a divine revelation to recognize that funeral directors were using the law, the government licensing entity they controlled, and their political clout to monopolize the lucrative casket market. Lacking the worldly guile of their adversaries, the monks put their faith in democracy, petitioning state legislators in 2008 and 2010. Each time, the funeral-industry lobby mobilized to kill the monks' common-sense reform proposals. 

They then went to court.  On March 20, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Benedictine monks of St. Joseph Abbey near Covington, La., have a right to sell caskets in their home state.

“Funeral homes, not independent sellers, have been the problem for consumers with their bundling of product and markups of caskets,” the 19-page opinion said. The “grant of an exclusive right of sale (for licensed funeral directors) adds nothing to protect consumers and puts them at a greater risk of abuse including exploitative prices.”

Saint Joseph Woodworks in LA
Abbey Caskets in Indiana

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:52 AM | Permalink

Richard III buried in hurry, squashed in a grave with his hands tied behind his back

The final moments of Richard IIIs burial revealed: King was squashed into tiny grave with his hands still tied by gravediggers 'in a hurry'

Richard III was squashed into a tiny, badly prepared ‘lozenge’ shaped pit with his hands tied as gravediggers rushed to bury him, a new paper reveals.
The University of Leicester researchers found Richard was casually placed in a badly prepared grave, which suggests the gravediggers were in a hurry to bury him.

The grave was too short for him and was 'lozenge' shaped, with the bottom of the much smaller than opening at ground level.  His head was propped up against one corner of the grave - suggesting the gravediggers had made no attempt to rearrange the body once it had been lowered in - and there were no signs of a shroud or coffin.

-Richard Iii Earliest Surviving Portrait

Richard III  was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, is sometimes regarded as the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the subject of the play Richard III by William Shakespeare.
Because of the circumstances of his accession and in consequence of Henry VII's victory, Richard III's remains received burial without pomp and were lost for more than five centuries. In 2012, an archaeological excavation was conducted on a city council car park using ground-penetrating radar on the site once occupied by Greyfriars, Leicester. The University of Leicester confirmed on 4 February 2013 that a skeleton found in the excavation was, beyond reasonable doubt, that of Richard III, based on a combination of evidence from radiocarbon dating, comparison with contemporary reports of his appearance, and a comparison of his mitochondrial DNA with two matrilineal descendants of Richard III's eldest sister, Anne of York

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 AM | Permalink

May 23, 2013

Mourners flee funeral as the 'deceased' wakes up in his coffin

Dead man 'resurrected' after waking up in the middle of his own funeral

Mourners at a funeral in Zimbabwe were stunned when the dead man woke up as they filed by his coffin, state media reported today.

Brighton Dama Zanthe, 34, was being laid to rest inside a coffin last Monday after he apparently died at his home following a long illness.
The transport worker's grieving family covered his body with blankets and made arrangements to transfer him to a local mortuary, according to a report in the Herald newspaper.

But the next day Mr Zanthe's friends and relatives scattered in disbelief when he started moving as they filed past to say their emotional goodbyes.

The dead man's boss Lot Gaka told the Herald of the moment he realised his employee was still alive.  He said: 'I was the first to notice Zanthe's moving legs as I was in the queue to view his body. This shocked me.  'At first I could not believe my eyes but later realised that there was indeed some movements on the body as other mourners retreated in disbelief.'

Mr Gaka, who runs a bus company in the midlands city of Gweru, told the newspaper Mr Zanthe had been persistently unwell before his 'death' last week. Zanthe's body had already been put in a coffin and people were preparing to conduct a body viewing procession so that his body could be taken to a mortuary.

'It was during the body viewing procession that he "resurrected".'  Another witness told the state-controlled newspaper how the family desperately pulled blankets off Mr Zanthe's body to try to revive him after realising he was still alive.

He said: 'Gaka later removed some blankets from Zanthe's body after we noticed some movements and this was when we all realised that there was still life. 'We then called an ambulance which came within seven minutes.  'It's really a miracle and most people are still in disbelief.'

The Herald, which is owned by Zimbabwe's government, reported that Mr Zanthe spent two days on life support after being rushed to the Gweru Provincial Hospital following the incident.  He was discharged last week and has since returned home.

The shaken family man told the newspaper he had only a hazy recollection of the event.  He said: 'This issue can be best told by people who came to my house to attend my funeral. 'I don't know what happened and I only remember being on a life support system in hospital.'

He added: 'Everything is history to me. 'What I can only confirm is that people gathered at my house to mourn but I was given another chance and I am alive. I feel okay now.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:27 PM | Permalink

May 14, 2013

A botched funeral for Navy Seals leads to call for a congressional investigation

Navy Seal Team 6 were the special forces that hunted down and killed Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011

Just 93 days later, 30 American troops, most of them members of Team 6 were among 39  killed in Afghanistan when the Chinook helicopter they were riding in was shot down by a Taliban fired rocket-propelled grenade in the largest single loss of life since the war in Afghanistan began.   

Last week, families of the fallen soldiers held a press conference to claim that the US government is as responsible for the deaths of their sons as the Taliban.

• Both Vice President Biden and President Obama broke protocol to reveal Navy Seal Team 6 as Bin Laden's killers and by so doing put a  target on their backs.    Protocol would require that they be referred to only as "special forces".

• These men were sent on a hastily planned mission intended to aid 47 Army Rangers in the Tangi Valley even though the Rangers controlled the battle zone

without special operation aviation but with a standard transport Chinook helicopter, without proper air support, i.e. no escort, without the requested pre-assault fire, but with Afghani forces inserted at the last minute who were not properly vetted.

Even more disturbing was their funeral.    It was a bizarre mixed Judeo-Christian funeral for the servicemen mixed in with a Muslim funeral for the Afghanis.

Military brass prohibited any mention of a Judeo-Christian God at their funeral, but instead invited a Muslim cleric whose prayer over the fallen has the families up in arms.  You can see the imam prayer here in this video.  I have copied the subtitles below>

“Amen I shelter in Allah from the devil who has been cast with stones. In the name of Allah the merciful giver. The companions of the fire (the sinners and infidels who are fodder for hell fire )are not equal with the companions of heaven( muslims). The companions of heaven are the winners. Had we sent this Koran to a mountain, you would have seen the mountain prostrated in fear of Allah, (mocking the God of Moses).  Such examples are what we present to the people; to the people, so that they would think (repent and covert to Islam). Blessings are to your God, the God of glory of what they describe. And peace be upon the messengers and thanks be to Allah the lord of both universes.(mankind and Jinn)”

Stephen Coughlin, an Islam expert, was commissioned to provide a 2nd translation. and he claims that the funeral rite that was delivered over the dead soldiers is “a standard funeral rite among Muslims.” Naturally, non-Muslims may be surprised by this claim, but the Islam expert expounded in detail:

“Even a standard prayer is actually a little bit offensive because … it comes from a book of the Koran or a chapter of the Koran that’s basically about defeating the infidels. And [in exploring the issue] I basically showed that there were two verses quoted in the funeral rite.
If you back it up one verse, it gives you the greater context of the fact that the people who are not Muslim are condemned to hell, by those prayers and so I basically showed that. So my point isn’t that the imam was deliberately inflammatory — my point was that it’s inflammatory even when they’re not trying to, because it goes to the issue of the fundamental and irreconcilable difference between Islamic orientation and a non-Muslim orientation.”
While they initially expected footage from the event to arrive (it is apparently standard procedure for military families to get video of funeral proceedings before the body is sent back home), they purportedly never receive it. But in January, a source that the family declined to name finally sent it to them.

The Vaughn family held onto the footage for a few weeks before watching, understanding that it would be an emotional experience for them. While Karen enjoyed the prayer that was seemingly offered by a U.S. chaplain — the one that came before the imam’s — she said that her “jaw literally dropped” when she heard the cleric’s portion of the address.

“We knew instantly we needed to translate this,” she said, noting that she contacted a friend who has experience with Arabic translations.

The family sat on the video for months, as the grieving parents considered how to proceed. Now, it appears they have come forward not only about the cleric’s alleged verbal offense, but also about other issues that were highlighted earlier today at the press conference.

“Our sons were subjected to a final act of betrayal by their government,” Karen Vaughn told TheBlaze of the prayer being read.

The families are now seeking a congressional investigation

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:44 AM | Permalink

May 10, 2013

The Burial of Tamerlan

Nobody wanted his body. The Worcester police chief asked for assistance in burying the terrorist, the Boston bomber.  An anonymous individual stepped up and the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev was buried at an undisclosed location in the middle of the night.

Thomas L. McDonald reminds us that burying the dead is one of the seven corporal acts of mercy.  Tobit, and Tamerlan: The Dignity of Burial

Tobit was a righteous man. His story is told in the book of the Bible that bears his name….

Tobit is a man who performs many acts of charity, but the most dangerous is his burial of the dead, particularly strangers, and, notably, those who have been executed.
Touching the dead rendered one impure for a period of time. Although it was a necessary thing to do, performing the act for strangers is a profound act of charity. Indeed, Tobit is forced to sleep outside after performing the burial because he is impure, and he winds up blind as a result.
Some of the bodies buried by Tobit have been cast “beyond the wall,” where the unjust would have been thrown. It’s interesting to note, however, that the only place in the law where rapid burial is explicitly commanded is in the case of criminals who have been executed….
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:35 PM | Permalink

April 18, 2013

Noonan on the Thatcher funeral

 Thatcher-Funeral Casket Roses

Britain Remembers a Great Briton

Thatcher's funeral was striking in that it was not, actually, about her. It was about what she thought it important for the mourners to know. The readings were about the fact of God, the gift of Christ, and the necessity of loving your country and working for its betterment. There were no long eulogies. In a friendly and relatively brief address, the bishop of London lauded her kindness and character. No funeral of an American leader would ever be like that: The dead American would be the star, with God in the position of yet another mourner who'd miss his leadership.
At the end of the funeral they all marched down the aisle in great procession—the family, the queen, the military pallbearers carrying the casket bearing the Union Jack. The great doors flung open, the pallbearers marched forward, and suddenly from the crowd a great roar. We looked at each other. Demonstrators? No. Listen. They were cheering. They were calling out three great hurrahs as the pallbearers went down the steps. Then long cheers and applause. It was electric.

England came. The people came. Later we would learn they'd stood 30 deep on the sidewalk, that quiet crowds had massed on the Strand and Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill. A man had held up a sign: "But We Loved Her."

-Thatcher-Funeral "We Loved-Her"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 PM | Permalink

Lessons from the Thatcher funeral

When planning a funeral, there are important lessons that can be learned from the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.

1.  Funerals should not be a celebration of the life of the deceased.  That's the important function of the after-party or memorial when people get together to share stories of the deceased and to laugh and cry together.    Funerals should be a ritual of well-chosen words and hymns that by their very unoriginality bring order to troubling feelings and awaken a sense of mortality in all present.    By remembering that we all will die, we become more alive. 

2.  Choose beautiful music to express what can not be said.

Christopher Howes Margaret Thatcher's funeral: a miraculous pairing of words and music

The nation discovered its own feelings through the beautifully judged ceremonial of Lady Thatcher’s funeral.

For the guests at St Paul’s there were lines from Eliot’s “Little Gidding” to contemplate while they waited. “A people without history is not redeemed from time,” they read. “In a secluded chapel, / History is now and England.”  If not in a secluded chapel, but in a cathedral so airy that a crowd of 2,000 merely carpeted its pavement, history was present, under every sight and sound.

This funeral was not a celebration of life, not even a memorial. The service chosen by Lady Thatcher did not feature quirky personal favorites. Many people think they are being original by choosing Stairway to Heaven or Bat Out of Hell for their own funerals. It was unoriginal, and in that lay its power. It was not personalized, but leant on the Book of Common Prayer and well-thumbed hymn books.

For that very reason it was relevant to all  those in St Paul’s and all who found time to watch on television. From the moment her coffin was met at St Clement Danes with the words, “We who are baptised in the death of Christ,” the topic was something universal: death. This was not divisive but, in the words of the Bishop of London, “the common destiny of all human beings”. It was, yesterday, as if the millions watching were following a stage tragedy. The difference was that this was a true story, and the tragic flaw of the heroine was not a moral failing but mortality itself.

The Church of England service emphasized two things: the reality of death, with no demurring, and the hope of resurrection. “The days of man are but grass,” read Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin. “For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.” Left at that, it would be no more than Hadrian’s sad farewell to the soul: “Animula, vagula, blandula.” But it was not left at that. From deep, dim waters it strove upwards towards the light.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” the Prime Minister read from the Gospel of St John. “I go to prepare a place for you.” Those were words of Jesus, and, in the passage read, Thomas usefully responded, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest.” Nothing could rub in more sorely that we cannot see beyond the dark and narrow gates of death.

Even so, the words read out may have made an uncertain impression. We are not used to listening. A sermon is a thing to be shunned, though the Bishop of London summed up proceedings as well as could be done in one sentence: “The natural cycle leads inevitably to decay, but the dominant note of a Christian funeral service, after the sorrow and the memories, is hope.”

For all the feebleness of fleeting words to capture the attention, something else penetrates the leathery coating of the unexercized heart – music. That was surely what brought a tear to the eye of anyone capable of weeping. It takes different people in different ways. Vaughan Williams’s setting for Bunyan’s To Be a Pilgrim brought out its defiance: “Though he with giants fight: / He will make good his right / To be a pilgrim.” Like “Invictus” (“I am the master of my fate”), its defiance is clear, but can it be true? If we fight a giant, won’t the giant win?

So for me, the dart that pierced the carapace was Fauré’s setting of In Paradisum. This Latin antiphon is associated with the carrying of the corpse to the grave. Fauré’s gentle music let the words speak: “Et cum Lazaro quondam paupere / aeternam habeas requiem.” With Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest. The Lazarus in question is the man in the parable who lay, full of sores, at the rich man’s gate.

The point is not political, but rather that, if we are lucky, we will fare as well as a loathsome beggar, who was carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham. If all careers end in failure, all lives end in absolute poverty. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither,” said Job. The point is obvious, which is why it needed to be said at a funeral, where things are spoken that are impossible to say informally between mourning members of a family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2013

What is a funeral for? What is a funeral for?

A funeral should not resemble an episode of This is Your Life

The usual answer given is that a funeral is a ceremony (and this can cover non-religious funerals too) for the dignified disposal of the body of the deceased. It goes further: a funeral is an occasion to mark the end of a life, allowing for reflection and thought. After all, death is a major event in all our lives, or ought to be. For a Christian, a funeral would be a moment for prayer, and for a Catholic, a moment of prayer for the repose of the deceased’s soul.

What bewilders me about modern funerals is the concept of “paying one’s respects”. I know what this means, but I simply do not understand it. Allied to this is the idea of making a funeral into “the celebration of the life of X”. Again, I am at a loss to understand this. When I die, as die I must, I do not want my life celebrated, and I want no eulogies; I just want prayer, and more prayer. Neither do I want people to pay their respects – at least not to me; I would like them to show respect for God, however, by behaving properly in church.

In fact a funeral should be, horrid phrase, God-centred, just like any other act of worship. A non-religious funeral can hardly be that, but if it is to be existentially meaningful it should, to my mind, involve a deep long look into the abyss of nothingness that is death: it should honestly face up to the reality of personal extinction, if that is what the non-religious believe. It should not resemble an episode of ‘This is Your Life”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

"Cemetery designer" offers fake funerals

Chinese undertaker offering fake funerals for the living

Last month, 24 pretend funerals were held at the Shimenfeng Celebrity Culture Park cemetery in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

"It was the first time we ever offered this kind of service," said Zhang Bei, the mortuary's 30-year-old "cemetery designer", who argued the experience could help people better appreciate their lives.

The fake funerals were the brainchild of Zeng Jia, a 20-year-old student, who became the first to lie down in a coffin during her fake wake at the end of March.
Ms Zeng, who is studying to be an undertaker, said she had come up with the idea after a relative suffered a brain haemorrhage and died in 2011. "I was so touched by this incident," she said.
Despite the absence of genuine cadavers, Ms Zhang said the funeral services were realistic, involving coffins, floral bouquets, mourners, photographers and even emotion-packed speeches from friends of the 'deceased'.

"The service has two parts - a 20-minute memorial service and a 15-20 minute 'life-death experience'," she said.
A rendition of a Chinese pop song called "Angel" is also included in the package.
Of her "funeral", Ms Zeng said: "Twenty of my classmates attended the service. They told me what they really thought of me, giving me a better understanding of myself and how I am seen by others."

"After the service, I felt I could do better and treasure life more," she added.
Ms Zhang, the cemetery employee, said the unusual experience had been praised by participants, among them an elderly couple.

"We asked why they took part in the service [and] the grandfather, who was very open minded, said they cared less about death at their age, that it was just a matter of time. It was not a taboo for them – they just wanted to try new things, meaningful things, in their remaining days."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 AM | Permalink

March 27, 2013

Rent a Mourner

 Prof Lady Mourners

image from Connectingdirectors.com

Mourners-for-rent hired to blub at funerals

British mourners are renting "professional sobbers" to blub at funerals to make people believe the deceased was really popular.

For £45 an hour, the fake mourners can be rented to cry for the duration of a funeral service in order to swell the numbers at funerals.  Ian Robertson, the founder of Rent-a-Mourner, in Braintree, Essex, admits the idea may be unfamiliar to the British, although the phenomenon is popular in places such as Asia.

The mourners-for-hire are briefed on the life of the deceased and would be able to talk to friends and relatives as if they really had known their loved one.
Rent-a-Mourner has 20 staff on its books to hire out for funerals, which Mr Robertson said were friends of his rather than professional actors.  He added that they are not required to well up, but are mainly there just to make up the numbers.

"We were actually inspired by the market growth in China," said Mr Robertson.
"The Middle Eastern way is to provide wailers - crying women - as opposed to the quiet, dignified methods we use.

"Our staff will meet with the client beforehand and agree 'the story', so our staff will either have known the deceased professionally or socially. They will be informed of the deceased's background, achievements, failures etc. so they can converse with other mourners with confidence."

Mr Robertson set up Rent-a-Mourner in January last year, and said he has had 52 bookings since the company began, with 15 in the first six months.
"It is growing in the UK - our bookings are up 50 per cent year on year," he said.
Birtles, the founder of personal finance site MoneyMagpie.com, said: "Hiring a stranger to weep at a funeral may seem strange, but it's a deep-seated tradition in the East.
"It's still a niche market at the moment but demand for professional mourners is increasing year on year as more people from East Asian and Middle Eastern countries move to the UK, bringing their customs with them.

"The rise in popularity shows a cultural shift taking place in how we choose to pay our last respects and like with many other cultural imports, it's only a matter of time before it crosses over into mainstream culture."

"At the moment it's not the sort of thing most people can treat as a career, but if it continues to increase in popularity then crying on demand could soon become a highly-prized skill."

This is not a joke, but a real firm with a real website. 

                         Rent A Mourner

Graeme Archer comments on the sad truth that too many people die alone, that is, not at the instant of death; but alone for the years which precede it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink

March 24, 2013

Invite to cremated remains

Truman Capote's cremated remains invited to attend 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' Broadway premier

Broadway producers who want big stars at their premier usually want ones with a pulse.
But the folks who put Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Broadway wanted the late author cremated remains at the play premier’s after party, since Capote himself couldn't make it.  They even went so far as to offer the ashes—and their owner—a flight from Los Angeles to New York for the show.

A source of the New York Post confirmed the bizarre offer.  ‘We did try to get him here,’ the source said. ‘We thought it would have been poignant for the entire company.’
Former wife of Johnny Carson, Joanne Carson, keeps the In Cold Blood author’s remains in the Bel Air bedroom where he died in 1984. The two were close friends up until his death and Carson has seen the ashes argued over, stolen, returned, and nearly stolen again over the years.

The ashes were famously boosted during Carson’s 1988 Halloween party, along with $200,000 worth of jewelry.  However, they were mysteriously returned shortly thereafter.

The ghoulish invite was declined.  When I was checking the spelling of 'ghoulish', I found that the term 'ghoul' comes from the Arabic, gul, a desert demon believed to rob graves and devour corpses.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2013

The Death of Hugo Chavez - UPDATED

'I don't want to die, please don't let me die': Last words of Hugo Chavez revealed as medics admit president died of heart attack

President Hugo Chavez mouthed 'I don't want to die… please don't let me die' just before he suffered a heart attack and died, it was revealed today.
The head of Venezuela's presidential guard said the 58-year-old leader, who was battling cancer, died after 'great suffering'.

It came as Russia's communist leader called for an investigation into claims the U.S.had 'infected its enemies in Latin America with the disease'.
Gennady Zyuganov said: 'This was far from a coincidence. How did it happen that six leaders of Latin American countries which had criticised US policies and tried to create an influential alliance in order to be independent and sovereign states, fell ill simultaneously with the same disease?'
Venezuelan authorities have not said what kind of cancer Mr Chavez had or specified exactly where tumors were removed.Tens of thousands of ‘Chavistas’ dressed in revolutionary red lined the streets of Venezuela yesterday to witness President Hugo Chavez’s coffin being driven through the city centre.

-Hugo Chavez Coffin Caudillos

His coffin, adorned with his country's flag, was placed on the top of a car and driven slowly to the military academy where his body will lie in state for three days before a massive state funeral on Friday.

Chavez, who was 58, died after a two-year cancer battle that has been shrouded in secrecy. And it appears his death is to take on the same level of mystery as claims emerged yesterday that he died in a Cuban hospital instead of a military hospital in Venezuela's capital, Caracas.  Spanish newspaper ABC claimed that after Chavez's health deteriorated after he returned to Cuba on Friday for emergency treatment.  Unnamed sources told the paper Chavez was secretly moved back to Cuba and died there yesterday morning. ABC claims that Chavez died at 7am Cuban time when his family made the decision to withdraw care. To back up the claims it was noted that government ministers were not seen attending his bedside.

Yesterday there was a heavy military presence amid fears of unrest with soldiers deployed after Venezuelan officials called for peace and unity stating in television broadcasts that the government and the military were standing together.  The outspoken left-winger, was staunchly anti-American and enjoyed close ties to states such as Russia and Iran.

Church vs. Chavez Highlighted Power of a Faithful Fight Against Tyrants  Venezuela's clerics didn't fear tangling with the ruler when moral principles and human rights were on the line.

When Hugo Chavez opponent Cardinal Ignacio Velasco died in 2003, the Venezuelan strongman declared the pro-democracy cleric was “in hell.”  At Velasco’s wake, Chavez’s flock brandished pictures of the cardinal with devil horns and hurled stones while chanting Chavista slogans.  After all, Velasco had committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of the autocrat: questioned Chavez’s self appointment as supreme being and urged the people to embrace democracy and human rights instead of the Simon Bolivar fanboy.  “Every day we turn another cheek. I have no cheeks left because every day there is a new insult,” Velasco said of his nemesis the year before he died.

The cardinal was succeeded in Caracas by Rosalio Castillo Lara, who was equally vilified by Chavez for using his influential post — governed by the Vatican, not by the Bolivarian thought factory — to note “the only solution is democratic, which must involve the resistance of all the people.”  “If the Venezuelan people fail to grasp the seriousness of the situation and fail to categorically speak out in favor of democracy and freedom, we will find ourselves subjected to a Marxist-style dictatorship,” the cardinal said shortly before his death in 2007.

Castillo Lara was once asked if he’d like to give Chavez a blessing. “More than a blessing,” the cardinal responded. “I’d give him an exorcism.”

Hugo Chavez died 'in the bosom of the Church'

In announcing Chavez’s death to the nation on March 5, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said the Venezuelan leader died “clinging to Christ.” The source in Venezuela told CNA that during the last weeks of his life, Chavez requested spiritual direction and asked to receive the sacraments.

Death of a Caudillo

Hugo Chávez, the late president of Venezuela, liked to present himself as a revolutionary, a socialist for the 21st century. Many members of the American Left presented him this way too. In reality he was the latest in the long line of caudillos, the strongmen who have been the scourge of Spanish America; “throwback” and “reactionary” are therefore more fitting ways to describe him.

Violence was his medium. A junior army officer, he did not hesitate to mount a coup, and once in power to devise a constitution that made him leader for life. He drove thousands into exile, expropriating their land and property. Venezuela depends on its oil, and nationalization of the oil companies gave him funds with which to buy popularity. Nobody knows the scale of the ensuing corruption, but rumor has it that Chávez and his family have amassed a fortune of $2 billion.

Hugo Chavez dies: socialists might see him as a saint but this charismatic conman was no angel

First, the good stuff. Chavez spent Venezuela’s oil money on reducing destitution and expanding access to healthcare and education. As a result, poverty was cut in half, child mortality fell by a third and death from malnutrition fell by 50 per cent. Homelessness was reduced and almost everyone gained access to clean drinking water. To his fans, this was all part of new model of development that was socialist without rejecting some element of free enterprise and activist without sacrificing democratic checks and balances. Between communism and capitalism, Chavez’s revolution held out the hope for a future without the exploitation that invariably accompanies both.
Chavez himself entered politics by way of a coup attempt in 1992 (the government he tried to overthrow was incompetent and corrupt but technically legitimate). He was a late convert to the ballot box and when he did finally form a government he wrote his own constitution and, even then, regularly broke its spirit. He persuaded a loyal legislature to grant him the right to rule by decree and he used it to pursue a revolution based on exploiting high oil prices to build a powerbase among the poor. His critics were basically anyone with an interest that conflicted with his – the Catholic Church, trades unions, private business, liberal parties. There is a global Left-wing myth that Chavez survived so long in power because his only opponent was the USA. In fact his domestic critics were plentiful, but they were either too divided to exploit their numbers or else were overpowered by Chavez loyalists in the military or the slums. It also helped that the great leader shut down over 30 radio stations and many newspapers and TV stations.
As Brendan O’Neill notes, this was not democratic socialism on the liberal European model but rather authoritarianism on the Peronist model.
Chavez should have spent the oil money on building a capitalist economy and a stronger civil society. Instead his administration was notorious for corruption and waste. During his time in office there were 120,000 murders, a rate four times that of post-war Iraq. The causes were inflation running at highs of 30 per cent, stubborn unemployment and poorly paid police.

Chavez joins Lenin and Ho Chi Minh as President's body is to be preserved forever and displayed inside glass tomb at museum

'We have decided to prepare the body of our `Comandante President,' to embalm it so that it remains open for all time for the people. Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong,' Maduro said…. the body would be held in a 'crystal urn' at the Museum of the Revolution, a mile from Miraflores presidential palace.

The announcement followed two emotional days in which Chavez's supporters compared him to Jesus Christ, and accused his national and international critics of seeking to undermine his 'revolution.'A sea of sobbing, heartbroken humanity jammed Venezuela's main military academy Thursday to see Chavez's body, some waiting 10 hours under the twinkling stars and the searing Caribbean sun to file past his coffin.

UPDATE: 'Too late' to embalm body of Hugo Chavez

The body of Hugo Chavez will no longer be embalmed and placed on permanent display, after Venezuelan's acting president said it had not been properly prepared in time.

The rumors that he died in Cuba seem more likely now.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 AM | Permalink

March 1, 2013

A Final Salute from 300 Strangers

A final salute from 300 strangers: Royal Marine, 70, with no family gets a grand send-off after vicar rallies mourners on Facebook

They’d never met him and they knew precious little about him. But hundreds turned out yesterday to mark the passing of a former Royal Marine who died with no known family . . . or friends.  Some travelled hundreds of miles to the funeral of James McConnell in Portsmouth after a local vicar used Facebook to appeal for mourners.

 Royal Marine James Mcconnell
Yesterday, in the biting cold, a procession through the cemetery was led by Royal British Legion standard bearers  followed by a group of flag-bearing motorcycles from the legion’s riders’ branch.

 Crowd For Royal Marine

Two buglers from the Royal Marines band played the Last Post as Mr McConnell’s coffin was lowered into the ground.And mourners surrounded the grave with poppy wreaths – one with the poignant, handwritten message: ‘Stand at ease, your work is done.’

Mr Mason, who conducted the service at Milton Cemetery, told the estimated 300 who attended: ‘The great majority of you who have come here today did not know James McConnell but wanted him to have a dignified farewell.

‘I thank you for that kindness and generosity of spirit.’ After the ceremony he said: ‘It was a very cold morning, and people were shivering, but it is testament to the sacrifice people were prepared to make in order to attend.’

Well done

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 AM | Permalink

February 22, 2013

'Surprise - It's a double header'

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

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

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

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

 Norman&Gwendoline Hendrickson

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

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

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

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

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

February 19, 2013

On the way home from his friend's funeral

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

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

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

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

February 18, 2013

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

The Man Who Rehearsed His Own Funeral

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

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

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

 Live Jim Gernhart In Casket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 14, 2013

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

 Julia Pastrana Burial

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Artist Finds a Dignified Ending for an Ugly Story

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

 Julia Pastrana Bear Woman Apewaman Small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 4, 2013

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

'Dead' woman, 101, wakes up in coffin

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

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

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

February 1, 2013

Do-it-yourself home funerals

Growing trend towards home funerals

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Victorian lady undertaker

Lady of Ashes

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

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

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

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

Daughter buries father with one last Whopper

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

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


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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink

January 15, 2013

On De-commercializing Death

The Thinking Housewife On De-commercializing Death

Some years ago, I read several books on death, dying, and funerals, including Lisa Carlson’s excellent “Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love.” I used this book as a jumping-off point for a Sunday School class on “A Christian View of Death, Dying, and Funeral Preparation.”

After covering the history of funeral practices in America (including many of the interesting ones familiar to those from the Appalachian South), I drew attention to the moneymaking nature of modern embalming & preparation practices. I also spent one entire class session in describing and showing in gruesome detail just exactly what goes on in a typical embalming & preparation. We discussed federal, state, and local laws governing funeral issues, and I (hopefully) demonstrated that the family has much more authority and latitude in these decisions than most people think. Most of the class members were surprised to learn that many states (including my own) allow for burial on one’s own property as long as the burial meets certain reasonable requirements. We discussed coffin construction, body preparation, washing, and dressing, and family traditions in funeral rites. Most of the class members found the subject matter interesting and encouraging.

What I found interesting as a teacher was the number of folks who, at the end of the semester, told me that the class hadn’t changed their intentions to allow the funeral industry to take charge of their family funeral arrangements. It reminded me of how Americans can read extensively and talk with enthusiasm about healthy food, the Christian agrarian model, and the evils of industrialization … and yet remain enslaved to pizza and microwaves and Jenny Craig. It’s just easier to let Big Brother take care of the tedious details.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:29 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2012

"Just because you are dead, you should not be ­deprived of the life-enhancing power of music."

New coffin features in-built sound system

A Swedish inventor has created a musical coffin - with an in-built stereo sound ­system.

Fredrik Hjelmquist says his CataCombo Sound System is the ideal gift for music lovers who do not want to rest in peace.

It allows people to compile their own personal playlist before they die so their ­favorite music can be streamed into their grave.

The £18,500 system even allows relatives to update the songs for their dearly departed via Spotify and a Catatomb app, using a touchscreen built into the headstone.

The music is piped into the coffin via two-way front speakers, four-inch mid bass drivers, "divine" tweeters and "a hell-of-an-eight-inch subwoofer", its maker says.

They are all powered by a 2.1 amp and fine-tuned to the coffin's unique interior acoustic space, which is fitted with an external cooling system so they do not overheat.

The system is also completely soundproofed so it does not wake anyone in the neighborhood.

Mr Hjelmquist, 48, said: "This is genuine - I've already got my own ready, although I'm hoping I don't have to use it for a few years yet.

"Just because you are dead, you should not be ­deprived of the life-enhancing power of music.

"This is designed to allow customers to embrace their passion for music, in this life and the next. Hi-fi is my biggest passion in life, and I will take it to the grave."

Delusional, but I bet there will be a few who buy it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 PM | Permalink

December 7, 2012

No fuss funeral with pizza and football game

Funeral mixed with football game viewing

A Minnesota woman said the funeral for her late boyfriend will involve pizza and watching the Minnesota Vikings take on the Green Bay Packers.

Terri Moffitt of Hugo said Don Brommerich, who died of brain cancer Nov. 11 at the age of 53, was "a no-fuss kind of guy" as well as a diehard Vikings fan, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Thursday.

"I didn't want a priest or minister that Don didn't know up there blabbing for an hour about a guy he never knew," Moffitt said. "We were looking at the football stuff and I said, 'Oh, there's a Packer-Viking game on Sunday. That's it.'"

Tim Tarmann of Roberts Family Funeral Home in Forest Lake helped Moffitt plan the celebration of Brommerich's life.

"We are seeing a shift in funeral services where more and more families are wanting a unique celebration to honor their loved ones," Tarmann said. "The Viking-Packer rivalry was significant to Don, so what a perfect way for family and friends to honor his life. Just the way Don would have wanted it."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink

December 6, 2012

How boomers will change end-of-life care

How baby boomers will change end of life care by Monica Williams-Murphy, MD

The baby boomers, the largest generation in American history, are now almost all in the last third of their lives (if average life expectancy is 78). They have spent the previous, early and middle thirds of their lives transforming cultural ideas, expectations and practices (e.g with the civil rights movement, environmental movement and women’s movement, etc).

The question now is, “Will the baby boomers also transform our cultural ideas, expectations, and practices regarding the end-of-life?”

I say yes! Here are my predictions and recommendations for this generation of “revolutionaries”:

1. Baby boomers expect to live longer and will seek out technologies to do so. We continue to see life expectancies extended (although the obesity problem may soon change that) and the boomers will focus on ways to further extend their years on the planet. I strongly recommend however that they seek technologies that will extend quality life rather than quantity alone. For example, but do not choose medical interventions that will prolong your days if those days are going to consist of lying in a bed, unable to poop or pee without assistance. Choose technology that creates quality alone, quality plus quantity, but never quantity only, at the expense of suffering.

2. Baby boomers will author and create the “natural death” movement. The natural birth movement was predominately a product of the baby boomer consciousness. Taking root in the 1960s, a movement occurred to “de-medicalize childbirth” with varying degrees of penetration into general culture.

Death will become “de-medicalized” and will again be viewed as a natural event that can be managed in natural settings such as the home. The hospice industry will see phenomenal growth to accommodate this shift in desiring to manage dying at home. (90 percent of Americans already say they want to die at home but nearly 80 percent of us presently die in medical institutions.)

3. Boomers like to be in charge and will seek more control over the dying process. One present expression of this is the right to die movement. While I am opposed to physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, I understand and support the impulse to gain control over the dying process and to minimize suffering. I personally feel that this can be accomplished without choosing to ingest a life-ending substance, however. At the right time (for you), choosing comfort-focused medicine over cure-focused medicine will allow you to gain control over the dying process: physical suffering can be controlled with appropriate medications, allowing time for quality emotional, social and spiritual closure and reconciliation to be obtained between you and others. Additionally, choosing comfort-focused care more often enables you to die, expectantly, where you desire to be the most (usually at home).

4. Expect more non-traditional, cost-conscious funeral preparations. A great example of this is my husband, Kris, who is one of the trailing baby boomers, born in ’61. He wrote a great treatise on this topic entitled, “Final Resting Places and Dealing With the Funeral Industry Monopoly” (Chapter 22 of It’s OK to Die). In this chapter he argues compellingly that the funeral industry hangs us out to dry if we haven’t made plans in advance. We don’t “shop around” in the midst of our grief and just pay for whatever is easiest (but not most economical), while wiping our tears.

Kris gives unusual tips for saving thousands of dollars on funeral costs and tells a story about how we drove his deceased father, in a full–sized casket, across multiple states in an SUV to save on flight costs for the casket and the whole family. It was a very “thinking out of the box” experience (slight pun intended), which turned into a trip that gave final closure to the whole family, saved thousands of dollars, and felt like an adventure. Sounds like something every baby boomer should look into.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

In Chicago, some funerals will be treated as "gang events"

‘A Different Attitude:’ Gang Funerals Will Include Searches, Tight Security

Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Chicago police are making strong moves to confront continuing city violence—which has included violent attacks at funerals.

The mayor expressed anger that people have been shooting and carrying guns at gang-member funerals.

“The police department is going to change the way they deal with gang funerals,” he said. “If you cannot respect a place of worship, at a time of a funeral, we are going to show a different type of attitude.”

The funerals will be treated as “gang events,” with mourners being searched and patted down, among other security measures.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

December 1, 2012

Bringing Vultures Back

Giving New Life to Vultures to Restore a Human Ritual of Death

MUMBAI, India — Fifteen years after vultures disappeared from Mumbai’s skies, the Parsi community here intends to build two aviaries at one of its most sacred sites so that the giant scavengers can once again devour human corpses.
“Without the vultures, more and more Parsis are choosing to be cremated,” Mr. Mehta said. “I have to bring back the vultures so the system is working again, especially during the monsoon.”

The plan is the result of six years of negotiations between Parsi leaders and the Indian government to revive a centuries-old practice that seeks to protect the ancient elements — air, earth, fire and water — from being polluted by either burial or cremation. And along the way, both sides hope the effort will contribute to the revival of two species of vulture that are nearing extinction. The government would provide the initial population of birds.

The cost of building the aviaries and maintaining the vultures is estimated at $5 million spread over 15 years, much less expensive than it would have been without the ready supply of food.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

November 26, 2012

Funeral Home Fragrance

The distinctive smell of funeral homes captured in a bottle.

 Funeral Home Fragrance

Via Book of Joe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:41 PM | Permalink

November 15, 2012

Manly funerals

The 10 Manliest Funerals of All Time

Jack Woodward tended bar at England's Boat Inn from age 14 to his death at 83. And now he's interred there. For this guy, it's happy hour forever.

-Have A Drink On Me
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink

November 12, 2012

"Ancient and hallowed ritual"

Death is hard, but the ancient, hallowed ritual of the Catholic Church can provide lasting consolation

Death is hard enough as it is; but humans require more than secular rites of “closure” – and only an ancient, hallowed ritual can provide lasting consolation.

Father Dwight Longnecker on the solemnity of funerals

A funeral is not a ‘celebration of Stanley’s life’. A funeral is not ‘a time of joy because Mildred is in heaven now.’ How tacky and trite is that? No. A funeral should be sad. Someone had died for goodness sake. Furthermore, people need to grieve. They need to work through the terror of death. They need to face reality. A solemn, sad, sober and serious funeral helps them to do that. A silly, shallow, superficial and stupid memorial service or ‘celebration of Pat’s life’ only encourages them to look the other way and take a feel good cop out from reality.

No. Give me the funeral march. Give me solemn young men in black with serious faces to mourn my passing. Give me widows and women in black veils and gloves wiping away tears. Give me the smoke of incense to purify my bones. Give me the water of life to remind me of my baptism. Give me a requiem Mass and may all who are there–whether a multitude or the faithful few–grieve me with the dignity in death that I once hoped for in life.

The purpose of a Catholic funeral

"Catholic Funerals are not about the person’s past achievements. Since Holy Mass is part of it, first of all, the Funeral is about worship of God.

Secondly, it is a profession of our Catholic Faith…

Thirdly, Holy Mass is offered for the repose of the deceased immortal soul and asking God’s mercy on him.

Fourthly, we pray for the consolation of those who mourn…. "
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2012

Saddest picture of the week

 Pink Shrouds

Buried in white shrouds tied up with pink bows: The little girls slaughtered by Assad's thugs after massacre in Damascus

It is perhaps one of the most poignant and heart-wrenching images to come out of Syria after 19 long months of bloody civil war.

The bodies of four innocent young girls, possibly sisters, are wrapped in linen tied with pink bows as they lie among dozens of dead women and children, the latest victims of Bashar Assad's brutal regime.

The girls are believed to be among some 22 civilians slaughtered by the state-sponsored militia known as the Shabiha in the town of Douma near Damascus yesterday.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

October 19, 2012

Fiddlers Farewell at Funeral of Larry Reynolds, Chieftain of Traditional Irish Music

Who thinks to bring a fiddle to a funeral?  Only those whose love of Irish music was inspired by this much-loved man.  What else could they do to pay tribute at his final sendoff?

 Fiddlers Farewell

Larry Reynolds, fiddler of local renown, is mourned

Frank Joyce had to keep his funeral home in Waltham open a lot later than planned Wednesday night. Larry Reynolds’s wake was supposed to last for six hours. But it took more than nine hours to get everybody through the line.

“At least a couple of thousand people,” Joyce said. “They just kept coming.”

It seemed like half of them returned to Waltham on Thursday morning, to St. Jude Church, where Larry Reynolds was dispatched from this world with the two things that embodied him: kind words and beautiful music.

A Waltham cop, perplexed by the size of the crowd that spilled out of the church onto Main Street, tugged at a photographer and asked, “Who was this guy?”
If the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem led the renaissance of traditional Irish music worldwide, Larry Reynolds led it here in and around Boston. When he first got here, he played at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square in Roxbury. He took the music to the suburbs, playing at the Village Coach House in Brookline, the Skellig in Waltham.

His hands were a contradiction. The skin that covered them was coarse, the skin of a working man who swung a hammer. But his fingers were the digits of an artist, as dexterous as a surgeon’s. For all his talent, he was a humble man. He blushed at praise. He carried his union card, Carpenters Local 67, and his fiddle case wherever he went.

He was an easy man to find on Monday nights. For a quarter century, you could find him every Monday, sitting in the Green Briar, a pub in Brighton. He didn’t go there to drink. He went there to play music, to teach music, to evangelize, really. He was a missionary, spreading the good news. Traditional music was a restorative force to Reynolds, a relaxing, mystic tonic for increasingly frenetic times.

His wife, Phyllis, is an accomplished pianist, and she threw open their Waltham home to a never-ending stream of musicians and dancers and singers. Larry and Phyllis Reynolds were married for 58 years, had seven kids, and gave birth to countless musicians.

It is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of people, many of them without anything remotely Irish about them, became purveyors or lovers of traditional music because of Larry Reynolds.

And that is why, in this day and age of celebrity, thousands of people came to Waltham to say goodbye to someone who was neither rich nor famous.

Even at 80, Reynolds was in no rush to leave this world. But he would have enjoyed his funeral. He always found the liturgy of the Mass comforting. And there were even more musicians than priests in the church, and they sent him off with a slow air, “For Ireland I’d Not Tell Her Name,” which he loved.

You can hear the fiddlers farewell at the end of a rather shaky Youtube video here
Irish Central Obituary

To be in Reynolds’s presence was to feel the full experience of the Irish in America who were proud to love two countries at the same time, and he embodied the best attributes of America and Ireland.

Reynolds’ name would not be known in many households of Irish America or as famous as one of Paddy Moloney’s Chieftains bandmates.  But Larry was a chieftain of traditional Irish music in the greater Boston area who touched all the local musicians and visiting musicians on tour with his sincerity, generosity and encouragement and his indefatigable love of sharing tunes and stories.

 Larry Reynolds File Photo 3-10-11

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2012

Converting a camper van into hearse, Mick said "it would be the death of me" and it was

It's what he would have wanted: Mechanic who joked that converting camper van into a hearse 'would be the death of me' - is its first customer after suffering heart attack

A mechanic appears to have predicted the circumstances surrounding his own death when he died from a heart attack after completing work on converting a VW camper van into a hearse.    Mick McDonald, 50, had joked that the job would 'be the death of him' but then he became the first person to use it.

Mr McDonald had carried out the work for his friend Carl Bell's business, Retro Farewell.  After the fatal cardiac arrest he was driven for his own funeral from John Meynell parlor in Darlington to Acklam crematorium in Middlesbrough.

 Rip Mick
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:17 AM | Permalink

October 9, 2012

What if a body doesn't fit into the crematorium?

Funeral director suspended for dismembering 800lb body that wouldn’t fit in crematory

A funeral director may lose his licence after chopping up an obese body to make it fit inside his crematory oven.

William Ellenberg is accused of dismembering the body of an 800lb woman because he couldn't get it to enter through the metal opening to the cremation chamber.  He admits hacking 'fatty tissue off the side of the legs so it would fit inside that crematory', but denies any wrong doing.
'It is actually not an uncommon practice that the body is sometimes too large to fit into the furnace,' said Conyers Police Lt. Jack Dunn, who carried out the investigation.  Nonetheless, he failed to follow the regulations that require the funeral director get consent from the family before the body is dismembered.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

September 27, 2012

Hiding in a coffin

Burglar tried to hide in COFFIN next to a dead body when undertaker walked in as he raided a chapel

A teenage burglar attempted to hide next to a dead body in a coffin when he was interrupted during a raid on a chapel.

Thief Kyle Kennelly, 18, ransacked the 150-year-old chapel in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, where the deceased was laying in rest the night before the funeral.  But the burglar was caught in the act when the undertaker Robert Protheroe arrived to begin his preparations for the service.
The court heard the thief heard Mr Protheroe enter and tried to hide in the coffin - but he was unable to get it open.
The undertaker rushed into the room where the body was being kept and saw Kennelly's hand on the smashed door.
Kennelly, who lived just 200 yards from the chapel, in Garth Newydd Court, Merthyr Tydfil  was traced by his DNA after police found a cigarette under the casket.  The court heard how Kennelly caused thousands of pounds of damage to the 150-year-old Tabernacle Chapel.  He kicked in a set of oak doors, ripped out copper piping and smashed up an antique organ.
He admitted burglary and theft and was sent to a young offenders' institution for 28 months at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court.
Judge Richard Twomlow told him: 'The damage to the occupied coffin showed a complete lack of respect in every way.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 PM | Permalink

September 26, 2012

Funeral Haka by NZ soldiers for their fallen brothers

Funeral customs around the world never cease to amaze. 

New Zealand soldiers send off their fallen brothers with a giant Haka  via Ace's Laura

MORE than 200 soldiers from New Zealand paid their respects to their fallen comrades by performing a mass Maori haka at a repatriation.
The emotional video, which has gone viral, shows the men from 2nd and 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment performing the ancestral war cry for Corporal Luke Tamata, 31, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Harris, 21.

The dead comrades were killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan.

The ceremony at Burnham Military Camp two weeks ago showed the coffins arriving by car to be greeted by the mass of soldiers.  The group then break into a huge emotionally-charged haka war dance, similar to ones displayed by the All Blacks rugby team.

Major John Gordon, a spokesman for the NZ army, said: “Many soldiers don’t tend to show their emotions but today you saw their collective grief.”

The amazing video:

This is what NZDefenceForce said on YouTube:

Haka is used throughout New Zealand by many, not only Māori, to demonstrate their collective thoughts. There is a haka for each of the Services, as well as the Defence Force. Units with the NZ Army have their own haka. This video shows the soldiers of 2/1 RNZIR Battalion performing their Unit haka, powerfully acknowledging the lives and feats of their fallen comrades as they come onto the Unit's parade ground. It is also an emotive farewell for they will leave via the waharoa (the carved entrance way) for the very last time.

Haka --sometimes termed a posture dance could also be described as a chant with actions. There are various forms of haka; some with weapons some without, some have set actions others may be 'free style.' Haka is used by Māori (indigenous people of New Zealand) for a myriad of reasons; to challenge or express defiance or contempt, to demonstrate approval or appreciation, to encourage or to discourage, to acknowledge feats and achievements, to welcome, to farewell, as an expression of pride, happiness or sorrow. There is almost no inappropriate occasion for haka; it is an outward display of inner thoughts and emotions. Within the context of an occasion it is abundantly clear which emotion is being expressed.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:13 AM | Permalink

September 25, 2012

"You guys better get back over here! He's either going or coming."

From Letters of Note,  Ken Kesey writes to 5 of his closest friends about the funeral  of his son Jed, a wrestler at the University of Oregon when the driver of the team bus lost control.  Jed was left brain dead and passed away within days.  What a world. 

Partners, it's been a bitch.

I've got to write and tell somebody about some stuff and, like I long ago told Larry, you're the best backboard I know. So indulge me a little; I am but hurt.

We built the box ourselves (George Walker, mainly) and Zane and Jed's friends and frat brothers dug the hole in a nice spot between the chicken house and the pond. Page found the stone and designed the etching. You would have been proud, Wendell, especially of the box — clear pine pegged together and trimmed with redwood. The handles of thick hemp rope. And you, Ed, would have appreciated the lining. It was a piece of Tibetan brocade given Mountain Girl by Owsley 15 years ago, gilt and silver and russet phoenix bird patterns, unfurling in flames. And last month, Bob, Zane was goose hunting in the field across the road and killed a snow goose. I told him be sure to save the down. Susan Butkovitch covered this in white silk for the pillow while Faye and MG and Gretch and Candace stitched and stapled the brocade into the box.

It was a double-pretty day, like winter holding its breath, giving us a break. About 300 people stood around and sung from the little hymnbooks that Diane Kesey had Xeroxed — "Everlasting Arms," "Sweet Hour of Prayer," "In the Garden" and so forth. With all my cousins leading the singing and Dale on his fiddle. While we were singing "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," Zane and Kit and the neighbor boys that have grown up with all of us carried the box to the hole. The preacher is also the Pleasant Hill School superintendent and has known our kids since kindergarten. I learned a lot about Jed that I'd either forgotten or never known — like his being a member of the National Honor Society and finishing sixth in a class of more than a hundred.

We sung some more. People filed by and dropped stuff in on Jed. I put in that silver whistle I used to wear with the Hopi cross soldered on it. One of our frat brothers put in a quartz watch guaranteed to keep beeping every 15 minutes for five years. Faye put in a snapshot of her and I standing with a pitchfork all Grantwoodesque in front of the old bus. Paul Foster put in the little leather-bound New Testament given him by his father who had carried it during his 65 years as a minister. Paul Sawyer read from Leaves of Grass while the boys each hammered in the one nail they had remembered to put in their pockets. The Betas formed a circle and passed the loving cup around (a ritual our fraternity generally uses when a member is leaving the circle to become engaged) (Jed and Zane and I are all members, y'unnerstand, not to mention Hagen) and the boys lowered the box with these ropes George had cut and braided. Zane and I tossed in the first shovelfuls. It sounded like the first thunderclaps of Revelation

But it's an earlier scene I want to describe for you all, as writers and friends and fathers…up at the hospital, in cold grey Spokane:

He'd finally started moving a little. Zane and I had been carrying plastic bags of snow to pack his head in trying to stop the swelling that all the doctors told us would follow as blood poured to the bruised brain. And we noticed some reaction to the cold. And the snow I brushed across his lips to ease the bloody parch where all the tubes ran in caused him to roll his arms a little. Then more. Then too much, with the little monitor lights bleeping faster and faster, and I ran to the phone to call the motel where I had just sent most of the family for some rest.

"You guys better get back over here! He's either going or coming."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2012

Interactive gravestones. "We've all got a story to tell."

Interactive gravestones link to online tales of life

Summing up the life of a dearly departed relative with just a terse description etched in stone may become a thing of the past with the introduction of interactive codes on gravestones.

One funeral company in the southern English town of Poole is offering to add quick response (QR) codes to headstones which will link smartphones to online memorials illustrated with pictures, videos and contributions from family and friends.  Chester Pearce funeral directors said QR barcodes enable visitors to learn a lot more about the person buried beneath gravestones than the age, dates of birth and death and the odd biblical passage or literary quote usually written on them.
"It's about keeping people's memories alive in different ways," managing director Stephen Nimmo told Reuters.  "When you lose somebody, whether it be suddenly or ongoing, you can really struggle with things. Talking about them is very important, keeping their memory going is very important and this is just an add-on to that."…."We've all got a story to tell,"

QR codes, a barcode that can be scanned with smartphones or QR scanners, allow users to pull up information on the internet and are frequently used in advertising and marketing campaigns.    "It's a new technology, it's something that there will be people who like it, there will be people who don't and that's the same in everything that we do," Nimmo said.

He said he has seen demand growing for QR codes as they catch the imagination of the public.  Chester Pearce charge about 300 pounds to create a code that can also be placed on gravestones, benches, trees or plaques and is linked to a page on their QR Memories website.

Gill Tuttiet, 53, was one of the first customers in Poole to use the technology for her late husband Timothy.  "Tim was quite outward-going and game for anything. I think this is the way forward and Tim would have wanted that, and it's making a process that's hard possibly easier," Tuttiet said.

The website linked to the code shows a profile of the departed, pictures, videos and tributes from family and friends.  Close friends and family given a password are also able to add personal messages of their own.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink

September 11, 2012

Last Call

 Budweiser Casket

Man gets final request to be buried in Budweiser CASKET

Leon Wesley had been known by all around Maringouin, Louisiana, as a major enthusiast of Budweiser, rarely seen without a red plastic cup filled with his beer of choice.  That is why when he passed away this past weekend at age 71, few people were surprised by his final wish: to be laid to rest in a casket honoring his favorite brew. A clerk at the local Junior Mart said the store was a daily stop for Wesley, who would come in like clockwork to purchase a bottle of beer and cigarettes.
Leon Wesley died on Sunday after losing a battle with prostate cancer. His sister, who runs a funeral home in Maringouin, promised to honor his dying wish.  ‘When they hear about the casket, they going to be curious to come see about that,’ she said.  Wesley's coffin was specially ordered to fit his six-foot-seven frame and emblazoned with the logo of his beloved beverage maker. Jackie said her brother’s request did not strike her as odd in the least because she has had experience with eccentric final wishes from grieving families in the past.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2012

People who faked their own deaths

10 Insane Stories of People Who Faked Their Own Deaths via Neatorama

Here they are, but you have to go to the link to read the stories

Connie Franklin: Called As Witness in Own Murder Trial

Lord Timothy Dexter: 3000 People Came To His Phony Funeral

Ken Kesey: Faked Suicide, “Flew” Over The Border To Escape Pot Bust

Corey Taylor: Pretended To Be Dead To Get Out Of Cell Phone Contract

Allison Matera: Faked Death But Attended Funeral

William Grothe: Posed as His Own Murderer

Aimee Semple McPherson: Pretended To Die and Went To…?

Gandaruban Subramaniam: Faked Death for 20 Years, Remarried Wife, and Had Another Child

Hugo Jose Sanchez: Faked Death, Caught Because of Elvis CD Purchase

Bennie Wint: Faked Death For 20 Years For No Reason

Though my favorite is Francis "Turk" Moriarty,  a bank robber who did hard time before he got a job at the Boston Housing Authority, drinker and poet who Threw Himself a Funeral Every Year.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

Funeral of the Blue Jays

Western Blue Jays Hold a Funeral for Dead Bird

Humans are not the only animal that mourn their dead, but this is quite surprising: when a Western Scrub Jay bird encounters a dead bird, it will call out to others to stop foraging and, well, for lack of better words, attend a bird funeral.

The revelation comes from a study by Teresa Iglesias and colleagues at the University of California, Davis, US. They conducted experiments, placing a series of objects into residential back yards and observing how western scrub jays in the area reacted.

The objects included different colored pieces of wood, dead jays, as well as mounted, stuffed jays and great horned owls, simulating the presence of live jays and predators. […] The jays reacted indifferently to the wooden objects.

But when they spied a dead bird, they started making alarm calls, warning others long distances away.

The jays then gathered around the dead body, forming large cacophonous aggregations. The calls they made, known as "zeeps", "scolds" and "zeep-scolds", encouraged new jays to attend to the dead.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

August 21, 2012

Can you bury your dead wife in the front yard?

Man, 73, fights to keep wife buried in their front yard after city orders him to dig her up

A 73-year-old man is fighting to keep his late wife in a grave yards from his front porch after city officials ordered him to dig up her remains.

 Man Buries Wife Frontyard

On her wishes in 2009, James Davis buried his wife, Patsy Ruth, outside the log home he built in downtown Stevenson, Alabama - even though the city rejected his request for a cemetery permit.

Officials are now trying to have her remains moved as they fear allowing a grave on a residential lot on a city's main street would set a bad precedent.  They say state law gives the city some control over where people bury their loved ones and have cited concerns about long-term care, appearance, property values and neighbors' complaints.

A county judge ordered Davis to dig up the remains of his wife and move them, but the ruling is on hold as the Alabama Civil Court of Appeals considers his challenge.  The decision - and fears of it setting a bad precedent - come even though downtown Stevenson is far from the bustling railroad stop it once was; it is so quiet people don't bother locking their doors.

Davis, who was married to Patsy for 48 years, said she spent most of her her final days bedridden with crippling arthritis.
Davis visits his wife's grave each time he walks out the house. He puts fresh artificial flowers on it regularly, and at Christmas he and other relatives hold a little prayer vigil around the grave.  He said his five children will bury him in the yard beside Patsy after he dies, and they and his 15 grandchildren will care for the property from then on.

'That's my perpetual care,' said Davis, referring to the city's worry about what the grave will look like after he dies.  Davis is adamant that he won't move the body, regardless of what any court says.

'If they get it done it'll be after I'm gone,' said Davis. 'So if they order her to be moved, it's a death sentence to me. I'll meet Mama sooner than I planned on it.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

August 17, 2012

Way too many funerals

This Is What 11 Years Of Funerals Does To Servicemembers

When I was a young officer, wearing my dress uniform, attending ceremonies was fun because it always seemed to be about celebration. For the past 11 years it has symbolized death and tragedy. Over the past 11 years I’ve been to way too many memorial services for my fallen brothers.

Last Friday I buried my 40-year-old brother in my hometown of Whitman, Massachusetts. My brother Brendan left behind a wife and three small children. In February of 2011 he was diagnosed with lung cancer that spread to his lymph nodes and brain.

After I stoically delivered my eulogy, someone asked me if I had ice going through my veins. I had some choice words to say but opted for a simple statement: “No, I’ve just seen a lot of death in my life.”

This was my fourth eulogy. One for my father, one for my blood brother, and two for soldier brothers.

People that have never been to war just don’t understand the death and destruction war causes. They don’t understand what these experiences do to us service members. But the war is only part of the challenge we face as service members. I was in Afghanistan at the time Brendan was diagnosed and was unable to be there for him. Fortunately our family, his friends, and nearly the entire 13,000 residents of Whitman rallied around Brendan and his family.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink

August 9, 2012

Marine skydive scattering

 Marines Skydive Scattering

A fitting farewell: Marines honor fallen hero by scattering his ashes thousands of feet above Arizona during skydive

Thousands of feet up above the dry Arizona desert, a group of Marines pay tribute to one of their daredevil colleagues in the most spectacular of ways.

The six Marine Corps free fall instructors honored Sergeant Brett Jaffe by releasing his ashes mid air during a sky-dive.

It took place above the Phillips Drop Zone on the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona.

Speaking to Home Post, The Military Life, Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Marty Rhett said: 'It was an honor and privilege to take this Marine on his last jump and give him a proper hail and farewell.'

Sgt Jaffe, 41, was killed in a Jet Ski accident on July 15 at the Boca Reservoir in Northern California.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

August 3, 2012

Theme music for funeral homes

Songs in the Key of Death by Nicole Pasulka

America’s funeral parlors rely on one man to provide the theme music for your grandmother’s memorial service, the pop radio for your cousin’s wake. Welcome to “semi-spiritual” ambient music and the stuff of contemporary mourning.
Grief, for all cultures and within every tradition, has a space. Jews sit shiva and create a literal space—covered mirrors and all—for their lament, Catholics stay up for a week with the loved one’s body, and a number of cultures follow a body or coffin to its final destination. The organized and official “goodbye” is almost as universal as death itself. According to Dr. Jan Holton, an assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling at Yale Divinity School, “Church services and ritual create this transitional space that allows for the expression of grief. In a funeral, there is structure. You come through the suddenness or the long process of the actual dying, and on the other side is learning to live life without that person.” The funeral parlor can help with this in its own way. It is not home, but it’s homey. And here, like in church, music facilitates a momentary familiarity. It helps, in the words of Young’s Dodge Magazine ad, to “set the right tone.”
This is music for funerals. Just as Brian Eno actualized the idea of music “for airports,” David Young’s work makes sense once installed. Both acknowledge the power their music has in the background. Young doesn’t reimagine the funeral home the way Music for Airports manages to make the airport seem like a quiet, beautiful film. But simply, often through nothing more than song choice, key, or tempo, Young incorporates and distills the themes of the modern funeral. Eno himself wrote that his music “must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” The intense, focused listening practice is only one way to experience sound. As the rhetoric in Muzak and easy-listening promotional materials asserts, this air freshener of sound livens up the room and in doing so, makes us feel better about our cold, lonely, quiet world.
We are more sensitive and more numbed in these moments. A natural disaster or presidential election may go completely unnoticed when mourning a loved one, while the slightest gesture—a smile from a familiar-looking face in a crowd—can bring paroxysms of grief. Cutting back on stimulation, retreating away from anything that swells, or pains, or carries contradiction can be an act of self-protection or therapy. To play Young’s music at a funeral, because of its ability to either enable an exaggerated emotional response or be ignored entirely, is to choose not to choose. The best bet, as funeral directors seem to realize, is to opt for the “non-thing,” the music that melts into the scenery, so as to avoid the nothing—the silence that by our 21st century has come to signify death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

July 25, 2012

Personalized Head Urns

Personalized Heads as Urns

Cremation Solutions, a Vermont-based memorial products service, is taking the idea of a traditional urn and turning it on its head, using state-of-the-art facial recognition software and 3D printers to produce human faces as realistic monuments.

The company says it can design the urn to look like anyone - all it needs are photos that show the front and side of the face the customer wishes to use.
The heads stand on a marble plaque and come complete with a nameplate.  Each urn is built to order, and customers have the chance to approve the design before each one is sent out.

 Head Urn

There's only one word for it.  CREEPY.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2012

Nora Ephron's Funeral and Her Recipe for Coconut Macaroons

When you plan your own funeral in an Exit folder like Nora Ephron did, you can have the program include your favorite recipes.

Remembering Nora Ephron, Just as She Planned.

Of course there were recipes — different recipes in the programs the ushers handed out. One was for coconut macaroons. “Makes about 22,” it said.

Ms. Ephron had planned the memorial herself, filing the plans in a folder marked “exit.” The program turned out to be poignant at times and uproarious at times, and there were frequent food references — to her roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, for example, and to the collection of at least 10 kinds of jam that she kept in the refrigerator. And, according to her son Max, her resistance to having Thanksgiving dinner early in the day. “We always had it at 7, like civilized people,” he said.
The actor Martin Short called Nora Ephron “sudden, original and hilarious.”  And, he said, she was charmingly, disarmingly direct. He recalled her response when asked to do something she did not want to do — in this case, read a letter last year from the mayor at a Roundabout Theater Company tribute. “How could I ever say no to you,” Ms. Ephron told the person who had asked her to go onstage and read the letter, “and yet I am.”

Mr. Short also mentioned funny lines that Ms. Ephron dropped into conversation, like, “Hazelnuts are what’s wrong with Europe.”
A few minutes later, Delia Ephron said that line had originated with her.

She also said Nora Ephron had opinions. “Was there anyone in the world with more opinions?” Delia Ephron said. “The planet is practically opinion less now.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

July 4, 2012

Momento mori Capuchin

From the London Telegraph's feature on The World's Most Fascinating Corpses

 Capuchin-Monastery Skulls

Capuchin Monastery - Brno, Czech Republic

Before the 18th century, these frugal souls (most of whom are monks) reused the same coffin when a brother died; after the funerary rites were over, each dearly departed was removed from the recyclable casket and laid on the floor.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 AM | Permalink

June 14, 2012

"Simple and cheap"

That's what Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wanted for his burial.  His daughter explains what happened in the funeral home.

With my father's directives firmly in mind, we planned our trip to the funeral parlor to pick out a coffin. We had chosen Gawler's Funeral Home in Washington, D.C., recommended as a place used by many government officials [now owned by SCI]. Our group included three family members—my brother, my step-brother, and myself—and two Supreme Court Justices—Byron White and William Brennan.
The casket room was elegantly appointed. The carpeting, wall paneling and piped in music set a tone for coffin shopping in undisputed good taste. On entering, one's eye was immediately drawn to the extreme left wall where a superbly crafted dark wood coffin, softly spot-lighted to show the fine wood grain, was perched high on a velvet-draped dais. It looked like a throne coffin. However, we were steered counter clockwise, starting our search at the right. The caskets were arranged head to toe in a semi-circle leading up to the throne coffin, and it was obvious that we were going from least to most expensive.

The first coffin we came to—the cheap-est—was covered with pink organza, pink satin bows, with a pink ruffled skirt around the bottom. Tasteless and frilly, it seemed totally out of place.
We moved to another emotional dimension—common at wakes—going from a deep grieving sadness to an almost playful mood. Right there, in that elegant room, we knew that together we could do one last thing for my father. No one was going to talk us out of cheap! When pressed, the coffin salesman allowed that the throne coffin cost thousands of dollars. That settled that.
To the salesman's horror, Justice White began to scrutinize the first pink organza coffin and then asked what was under the frills. The salesman said it was just a plain, unfinished pine box. Then someone asked about the most expensive cloth-covered casket. That, too, was a plain pine box. When asked the difference between the boxes, the salesman—now completely befuddled—whispered that the more expensive had a "better shape." We looked and thought the shapes were identical.

Huddling for a final conference, some-one asked, "Shall we get the pink, the cheapest?" and we all gave a resounding "YES." We said we would buy the pink for $165 with the cloth stripped off. The salesman said that was impossible, it would look terrible. We, however, wanted to see for ourselves since this was our coffin of choice. First one of us pulled away a little cloth to take a peek, then another ripped more forcefully, and finally we all started ripping off the fabric with careless abandon. Off came the bows, the coffin skirt, and all but a few patches of stubbornly glued pink organza. There stood a perfectly fine plain pine box. The debris littered the elegant carpet, but we were practically euphoric. We had followed my father's directive almost to a tee, with added bonus of deflating pretensions in this very pretentious room.
Dean Sayre of the National Cathedral made a final request in the spirit of my father's wishes. He asked that at the funeral we have the casket displayed without the American flag or flowers on top of it. He, as my father, had long been concerned about the excessive cost of burying the dead and the financial burden this put on living loved ones. He wanted people to see that the cost of a coffin did not symbolize the abiding love of the living for the dead, nor did it reflect the stature of a man.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

June 8, 2012

Dead woman sets crematorium ablaze

Dead obese woman had so much body fat she set the building on fire during her cremation

Austrian crematorium officials have blamed a deceased woman's obesity for causing a blaze which had to be tackled by firefighters.  Firemen in the southern city of Graz were covered in thick sticky soot as they tried to prevent the blaze from taking hold of the building.

The case has been widely reported in Austrian media, including in the ORF - the country's equivalent of our BBC - and has ignited calls for a weight limit on bodies to protect against future fires.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

May 31, 2012

Body jars reveal a previously unknown ancient people

A previously unknown ancient people in Cambodia have been discovered by their funeral practices.

The lost tribe of Cambodia: Mysterious 'body jars' buried on cliffs in death rituals by 'previously unknown ancient people'

Perched on cliff edges, jars and wooden coffins containing human remains offer tantalizing evidence of a completely unknown ancient people in Cambodia. Ten burial spots have been found by archaeologists in the past nine years, one 160ft above the ground.

'The idea,' says researcher Nancy Beavan in an interview with National Geographic, 'was that anyone trying to disturb the burials would break their neck.'


Beavan's team from New Zealand's University of Otago have radiocarbon dated the remains to between A.D. 1395 and 1650. Dr Beavan, who is currently in Cambodia, says that this period coincides with the decline and fall of the powerful Kingdom of Angkor - builders of the famous Angkor Wat temples - which was seated in the lowlands.

‘Funeral practices in the Angkor Kingdom and its successors involved cremation rather than anything remotely like those found at sites we are studying.

This stark difference suggests that, in cultural terms, these unidentified mountain dwellers were a 'world apart' from their lowland contemporaries.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:33 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2012

First the Funeral, then the Wedding

Woman who 'came back from the dead' in car crash mistaken identity case weds in the church where her funeral was held

A young woman whose family mistakenly believed she had died in a car crash married in the same church where hundreds once mourned at her funeral.  The family of Whitney Cerak, 25, initially believed she had been one of five victims killed when their mini-van was struck by a tractor in 2006.

Another family kept a 24-hour vigil around Miss Cerak, believing it was their daughter Laura VanRyn due to the extent of the young woman's injuries following the collision in Indiana.  The two teenagers both had blonde hair and were around the same height. The young woman who survived suffered facial swelling, broken bones and cuts and bruises, and was in a neck brace.

Several weeks after the crash, Miss Cerak's family held a funeral for her which was attended by hundreds of friends and family.Then, five weeks after the crash, the sister of 22-year-old Laura VanRyn noticed that her sibling's teeth looked different  - and the horrifying mistake was discovered.

 Funeral First Then Wedding

Whitney, now 25, went on to marry her boyfriend Matt Wheeler, who had helped her recover from the accident. The couple wed in the same church in Gaylord, Indiana where the Cerak family once held her funeral.

Four weeks ago, Mrs Wheeler gave birth to the couple's first son Zachary Thomas. There is yet another challenge for the family to face - Mr Wheeler serves in the U.S. army and is due to deploy to Afghanistan in two weeks. Whitney said: 'This will be a whole different level of hard.'

What an amazing second chance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2012

At the bigamist's funeral where two wives meet for the first time

'I should get the flag not her': Battle between two wives of bigamist soldier as they meet for the first time at his funeral.

The two wives of a fallen soldier sat in the front row at his today funeral after it came to light following his death that he was married to both of them at the same time.

But the relationship between the two women has turned ugly after the soldier's first wife received the folded flag for Army Specialist Moises J Gonzalez - and the second accused her of coming forward just 'for the benefits'.

The 29-year-old soldier was killed in a road accident in Afghanistan on April 25. He leaves three sons - one by each of his wives and a third by another woman.


The wives sat together in the front pew at Saint Matthias Catholic Church in Huntington Park yesterday.

They exchanged no more than a glance and did not try to comfort each other but sat at opposite ends of the row, tending to their sons.
The soldier's folded flag was presented to his first wife, who will also receive his Army benefits.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2012

Last Civil War veteran buried

Civil War vet to be laid to rest -- 88 years after death

He was the youngest of 13 children, and the last one to die. And so, after he passed away, his remains laid unclaimed for 88 years. 

Alice Knapp's curiosity about her own family tree led her to Peter Knapp's remains. She still remembers taking possession of the box Peter's remains are in.

"It was a gold box -- both he and his wife were placed in this gold box," Alice Knapp said. "It had a ribbon around it and it had a seal on it."

Peter volunteered for the Union Army in 1861 as part of the 5th Iowa Infantry. Captured by confederates at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, he survived the notorious Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp.

After the war he moved to the Longview-Kelso area. His obituary says he died there, in the arms of his wife, April 13, 1924. 

His remains were sent to the Old Portland Crematorium, which is now Wilhelm's Funeral Home at Southeast 14th Avenue. When Knapp’s wife Georgianna died in 1930, her remains also were cremated in Portland and placed next to those of her husband.

For all these years their boxed-up remains have sat on a shelf, unclaimed until now.

On Friday Peter and his wife will finally be buried. They will be laid to rest at Willamette National Cemetery, the military burial ground on Portland's Mount Scott. Peter will be the only Civil War veteran laid to rest here. 

Alice says the burial service will help bring her family closer, and link them a little more to their past. And Alice hopes, in some unknown way, it also will bring some satisfaction to Peter -- 88 years to the day after he died.

"This is really just overwhelming -- really," Knapp told KOIN. "I think he and his wife would have some kind of satisfaction in being laid next to each other."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:02 PM | Permalink

April 2, 2012

"To acknowledge the dignity of every human life"

Deacon Greg points to this extraordinary undertaking

For the last two years, Lafayette Catholic Service Centers have been working towards burying the unclaimed at the Lafayette Parish Coroner’s office. 

This unexpected journey began when Kimberly Boudreaux, Executive Director at Lafayette Catholic Service Centers, contacted the coroner’s office to claim a formerly homeless man, whom I had befriended at St. Joseph Shelter. Within that phone call she learned that Brian was one of many who had been left at the coroner’s office for an extended period of time unclaimed, unidentified or simply unwanted. She was told that some of the 70+ remains had been unclaimed and stored for longer than ten years.  Through a partnership with Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Lafayette Catholic Service Centers were able to claim these individuals and plan a proper burial. 

The funeral and burial for 87 people has been scheduled for April 28th at 10:00am at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.  Bishop Michael Jarrell will conduct the service and residents of St. Joseph Shelter for Men will serve as pallbearers. There will be a wake from 9:00am – 10:00am with a rosary lead by the Missionaries of Charity. Internment will follow at the Cathedral Cemetery, where will honor those who were veterans with a graveside military service. In an attempt to create an ecumenical service, we are inviting ministers of other faiths to participate in the service. The service will be open to the public to attend.

The intent of this project is to acknowledge the value and dignity of every human life. To show the homeless, and those who feel forgotten among us today that we are community that cares for its neighbors. No one will go unclaimed in Lafayette.

This is a wonderful work of mercy and an example that could be followed across the country.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2012

Oh God!,’’ they chanted in unison

Rest in peace: Worshippers pay tribute to DEAD Coptic Pope sitting on his throne for one last time

 Body Pope Shenouda Coptice

Christians have gathered to pay their final respects to Pope Shenouda III as he sat on his throne for the last time.  The church leader spent four decades in Egypt's Orthodox Church trying to soothe sectarian tensions between Christians and the majority Muslim nation.

Thousands of Christians queued in Cairo's Abbasiya district overnight and on Sunday morning at the cathedral where Shenouda's body was initially laid in a coffin.

The body was later seated on a ceremonial throne wearing gold and red embroidered religious vestments, a golden mitre on his head and holding a gold-topped staff.           

So great was the crush of mourners, that three were suffocated in the crowd.

Tens of thousands of Coptic Christians lined up outside the cathedral Sunday to pay their final respects to the spiritual leader of their ancient church, whose embalmed body was seated inside on an ornate throne.

The grief of the faithful filing past Pope Shenouda, who died Saturday at 88, may also reflect the uncertainty felt by the country’s Christian minority after the recent rise of Islamists to power.

In his death, Egypt’s 10 million Christians have lost a seasoned protector at a bad time.

“He has been our protector since the day I was born,’’ said a tearful Antonios Lateef as he waited in line to take one last look at the pope, who spent 40 years at the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The crowds outside the cathedral in central Cairo carried crosses and portraits of Shenouda. “Ya Allah!’’ or “Oh God!,’’ they chanted in unison.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:51 PM | Permalink

March 11, 2012

One year after the earthquake, a Japanese undertaker

Japan Finds Story of Hope in Undertaker Who Offered Calm Amid the Disaster

The undertaker, Atsushi Chiba, a father of five who cared for almost 1,000 bodies in Kamaishi, has now become an unlikely hero in a community trying to heal its wounds a year after the massive earthquake and tsunami that ravaged much of Japan’s northeastern coast a year ago Sunday.

“I dreaded finding my mother’s body, lying alone on the cold ground among strangers,” Mrs. Arai, 36, said. “When I saw her peaceful, clean face, I knew someone had taken care of her until I arrived. That saved me.”

Mr. Chiba, in his early 70s, whose home was also spared, raced to the gym on the day after the tsunami to look for friends and family, but was struck by the state of the mounting number of bodies there. Most were still clad in muddy clothes and wrapped in plastic, their rigid limbs jutting out and faces bruised by debris and contorted in agony.

“I thought that if the bodies were left this way, the families who came to claim them wouldn’t be able to bear it,” Mr. Chiba said Thursday in an interview. “Yes, they are dead. But in Japan, we treat the dead with respect, as if they are still alive. It’s a way to comfort the living.”
Mr. Chiba set to work. He became a fixture at the morgue, speaking to the bodies as he prepared them for viewing and then cremation. “You must be so cold and lonely, but your family is going to come for you soon so you’d better think of what you’re going to say to them when they arrive,” he recalled saying.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:51 AM | Permalink

February 20, 2012

Whitney Houston Funeral

Drudge headline, Nation Goes to Church,  And so they did and so did I.  Because I sing in a gospel choir in the winter, a friend called to tell me that  her funeral was being streamed live on CNN.  And it was  a  A Spectacular, Spiritual Going Home Ceremony

More stars were gathered in a church yesterday than attended last weekend’s Grammy Awards ceremony. It was a setting where star entertainers exhibited total respectful dignity … an Oscar winner riveted the audience with a moving tribute … a casket emitted a mysterious glow … and a global audience were glued to their TV sets. It was almost surreal.
What’s more, these stars were gathered in this church to participate in a service that fully acknowledged and glorified God.

Her mother Cissy Houston decided to hold the service in New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, the family’s home Church, rather than a large arena where thousands would come. That decision could not have been better. The family and very close friends could have a private service while the world was able to watch. The church setting also greatly affected the overall decorum.

The best use of media ever observed was demonstrated as a CNN camera was allowed inside to televise the service live so that all of her fans could take part while her family and close friends were able to have a sense of intimacy and privacy. And in this setting, the entertainment world was at its absolute best with everyone focused only on God and Houston.

The camera in the balcony was not obvious as it zoomed in and out discreetly. There was no impression of a media event. It was very subtle.

The almost four-hour service, which began at noon EST, captivated the audience both in the church and around the world. Time was not even a consideration.

Speaker after speaker — all high-powered people — mesmerized the crowd with humorous stories, touching tales and personal insights that were fascinating and informative.
Kevin Costner told how he, too, had grown up in the Baptist Church and how he wanted Houston to star in his film “The Bodyguard.” She was afraid to try it, not knowing if she would be good on film. Besides, she had to go on tour for a year. Costner put off the shoot until her tour was over. He was that sure that she was the only one who could play the role effectively.

And the theme song, “I’ll Always Love You,” originally recorded by Dolly Parton, almost didn’t make it into the film. Costner persisted and that song became an all-time hit and identifying song for the movie.

Singer Dionne Warwick talked about when Houston sang The National Anthem at the Super Bowl the CD version sold more than a million copies. Warwick then said she was waiting to see Houston sing the phone book.

Rev. Marvin Winans, who closed the service with the rousing song, “Let The Church Say Amen,” made this comment: “By having the service here, Cissy brought the whole world to church today.” A big amen to that.

As they started the very formal moving of the casket down the aisle to the hearse outside, a recording of Houston’s hit song, “I”ll Always Love You,” began to play. That’s when everybody lost it. Especially when seeing Costner slowly walking down the aisle behind the casket. Wow!


Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

February 11, 2012

Drive thru funeral home

 Drivethru Funeralhome

LA's f\drive-thru and bulletproof funeral home

"The mortuary, located in Compton, claims to offer an efficient way for prominent members of the community to be viewed en masse. Elderly who have a hard time walking don't have to leave their cars. One possible reason for the drive-thru's success could stem back to the 1980s, when Compton was a hotbed for gang violence. The LA Times reported that cemetery shootouts made gang members reluctant to gather for graveside services. And since the glass partition of the Robert L. Adam's funeral parlor is bulletproof, it became a popular location for gang funerals."
"You can come by after work, you don't need to deal with parking, you can sign the book outside and the family knows that you paid your respects," Scott Adams told the Times. "It's a convenience thing."

via American Digest

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 AM | Permalink

January 19, 2012

Funeral Industry in Transition

What Remains: Conversations With America's Funeral Directors

The funeral industry is in the midst of a transition of titanic proportions. America is secularizing at a rapid pace, with almost 25% of the country describing itself as un-church. Americans, embracing a less religious view of the afterlife, are now asking for a "spiritual" funeral instead of a religious one.
And so in the past twenty years, funeral directors have had to transform from presenters of a failed organism, where the sensation of closure is manifest in the presence of the deceased body, to the arbitrators of the meaning of a secular life that has just been reduced to ash.
The industry is scrambling to find a way to add value-added cremation services to remain solvent.
Cremation has been touted as the “green” way to depart this coil, and several biodegradable urn choices have become available, their sides ornamented with images of fire, water and earth. To compensate for the relative cheapness of cremation, funeral directors have begun adding a series of value-added services, from a string orchestra, to webcasting for distant family and friends, to a remembrance “rose-petal” ceremony for young attendees.
The message attached to all these services seems to be: cremation is green, and if you choose something else, you're a polluter, even in death.
There are also options for our furry loved ones. As it happened, just as I approached the pet-urn section, my sister texted me to let me know her boyfriend’s cat had just died. I resisted asking what her plans for the ashes were, but was just then passing the eco-friendly cat urns, made to look like a ball of yarn. There were dog-bone urns, too. The young couple that was selling the pet-urns looked like they might have just as easily been peddling artisanal cupcakes. They told me they were sorry about the cat.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:02 PM | Permalink

Marrying a dead bride

This is the most bizarre, macabre wedding I've ever seen

Died and groom: Grief-stricken bridegroom marries DEAD girlfriend in grim Thai ceremony

Clad in what can only be described as a 'mourning' suit, a grief-stricken boyfriend married his dead girlfriend at her funeral and then posted their wedding snaps on his Facebook page.

TV producer Chadil Deffy (also known as Deff Yingyuen) wore a top hat and tuxedo as he slid the wedding ring onto 'bride' Ann Kamsuk's finger at the grim ceremony in Surin, Thailand.

 Macabre Wedding

The couple, who met as students at Eastern Asia university, had been together for ten years and had talked of marriage, according to Pattaya Daily News.  Tragically, Ann, 29, was killed in a car accident on January 3.

Chadil said they had postponed their wedding due to his studies and their busy schedules.

At the funeral-cum-wedding ceremony, wreaths were laid by friends and relatives, as well as by actors and singers.

The TV producer later told well-wishers on his Facebook account: 'In your eyes, our action might seem as a great love.
'But for us, it is the mistake which we could not go back in time to correct. Remember, life is short.

'Do what you desire, and take good care of the people you love, be they your parents, your siblings. You might never get that chance again.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:01 PM | Permalink

Kodak moments

Yesterday, a sad day because Kodak declared bankruptcy.  Gus Lubin at Business Insider explains how Kodak made photography popular.

Eastman Kodak sold more than a product. It sold a way of life.

Life was a series of Kodak Moments. According to one turn of the century ad: "Pictures are everywhere. Anybody can make them and everybody enjoys them. And the travel pictures are by no means the only ones that are worth while. There is a wealth of photographic subjects in and about every home."

He's posted some gorgeous vintage Kodak ads you've never seen before.

 Kodak Vintagead

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

Mass burial of paupers in Chicago

 Massburial Paupers

Third world America: Workers stack caskets in pauper's grave outside of Chicago as tough economic times lead to more mass burial sites

It's a practice more closely associated with third world countries, but in bleak times in a Chicago-area suburb, 30 people were buried in a mass grave on Wednesday.

The pauper's burial section at Homewood Memorial Gardens was established for those who could not afford to pay for a burial plot.

And it is a problem that's sweeping America as tough economic times have led to an increase in the number of indigent burials the morgue must perform.
Tony Cox, the legislative chairman and former president of the Illinois Coroners and Medical Examiners Association, earlier told the Chicago Sun Times other cities, including New York, follow similar mass burial procedures for those with limited options.

New York City Department of Corrections spokesman Stephen Morello referred to a burial site in Hart Island, New York, where 800,000 bodies lie.

Officials there, he said, follow the same procedure - stacking coffins with inmates' remains three deep.
Mr Morello said stillborn babies and children are always buried in individual caskets. Those, too, are stacked on top of one another.

Frankly, I don't what else they can do.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink

January 17, 2012

Dead cert

That's what you call a dead cert! Gambler's family place tribute bets on day of his funeral... and they all win

The family of a prolific gambler who loved a flutter on the horses paid tribute to him by placing bets on the day of his funeral - and they ALL won.

Leonard Collacott, 83, made daily trips to his local bookies on his mobility scooter until his death last month.

So five of his closest family members bet on horses on the day of his funeral - and they all came in, including a 25-1 outsider called Divine Rule.

They netted £400 - which they spent on Champagne to toast Leonard’s life with his widow Dorothy, 82.

His funeral cortege was even directed past the bookies where he had spent so much of his time and money as a mark of respect.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2012

“She put herself between the evil coming up the mountain”

A Murder at Paradise

The next time somebody mindlessly bashes a “federal bureaucrat,” as if the term itself were a parasitic disease, remember the bright young woman we said goodbye to here a few days ago: Margaret Anderson, a park ranger in a flag-draped casket.

 Npranger Margaret Anderson

On that first day of this year, an Iraq war veteran named Benjamin C. Barnes was steaming toward Paradise after a night of gunfire and partying. He blew past an initial stop where drivers were told to put chains on their tires. No one knows for sure what his intentions were, but it’s not unreasonable to speculate, as many in law enforcement have, that he might have fired on people enjoying the snow at Paradise.

Anderson was the daughter of a Lutheran minister, 34 years old, a mother of two little girls. She was the kind of park ranger familiar, by necessity, with flora, fauna and firearms. Just below Paradise, Anderson set up a road block.

“She put herself between the evil coming up the mountain,” said her father, the Rev. Paul Kritsch, “and the people at the other end.” The gunman opened fire on the ranger. At least two shots, one to Anderson’s head, the other to her torso, were enough to kill her. Barnes plunged into waist-deep snow. The next day he was found, dead of exposure and drowning, in the icy creek that drops quickly into a waterfall, the subject of countless pictures.
“Margaret Anderson is a hero not because she died,” said Jon Jarvis, director of the Park Service, “but because of why she died.”

You could not help asking that question — the why — as the horse at the center of the funeral procession passed by on a winter day, boots reversed in the stirrups of an empty saddle, in the military tradition. On both sides of the street were cops and park rangers, hundreds of them from all over the West and Canada, uniforms crisp, faces downcast.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

January 10, 2012

Main Street was the place to be

Respect for a fallen soldier

Army Private First Class Justin Whitmire, age 20, was laid to rest today. He was killed after only 11 days in Afghanistan, just 2 days after Christmas, as he and other medics were heading out on a volunteer mission. Their jeep ran over an IED. Before he deployed, he told his youth pastor that he wanted to be a soldier because soldiers help and serve.

The Westboro folks promised to come and disrupt the funeral. Within minutes, news sites and Facebook spread the dreaded news. I should thank them. Not for their hate but for the mobilization they caused.

Hundreds of the Patriot Guard rode shotgun. In addition,  the folks in the Upstate of South Carolina volunteered to line the way to the cemetery. This was not a counter protest. It was an honor guard. The crowd was amazing — and American. Dads with sons, senior citizens, families, single adults, moms with babies in strollers, Scout troops, young couples, and veterans.  The wardrobe was either red, white, and blue or black. Flags flew everywhere. Signs thanking Pfc Whitmire for his service and ultimate sacrifice were frequent.

The cars in the procession all had people wiping their eyes. The soldiers looked stunned. As the cars went by, I wondered if they knew we were there — well, until I saw the first 25 phones filming the crowds. We nodded our support to them. They smiled their appreciation to us. Did the soldiers who were driving in the procession know we were standing there for them too?

The nation lost one of its finest. I weep for his parents. I am humbled by the response complete strangers showed to his passing. Today Main Street was the place to be.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 AM | Permalink

January 7, 2012

Rick Santorum's baby

For some people, politics trumps all, even something as private as a family grieving the death of a two-hour baby before burying him.  What shriveled hardened hearts. 

Charles Lane on Rick Santorum’s baby--and mine.

The latest intra-pundit flap of Campaign 2012: a couple of my liberal colleagues have called Rick and Karen Santorum “crazy,” or “very weird” for wrapping and caressing the body of their baby, who died only two hours after emerging from 20 weeks in utero -- and taking it home for their children to see. These opinions provoked a conservative backlash.

Maybe it’s not too late for a teachable moment about neonatal death and stillbirth — and the special grief that these not-uncommon, but obviously insufficiently understood, tragedies inflict upon parents.

Nine years ago, my son Jonathan’s heart mysteriously stopped in utero — two hours prior to a scheduled c-section that would have brought him out after 33 weeks. Next came hours of induced labor so that my wife could produce a lifeless child. I cannot describe the anxiety, emotional pain, and physical horror.
I regret that, unlike the Santorums, who presented the body of their child to their children, we did not show Jonathan’s body to our other son, who was six years old at the time. When I told him what had happened, his first question was, “Well, where is the baby?” I tried to explain what a morgue is, and why the baby went there. It was awkward and unsatisfactory -- too abstract. In hindsight, I was not protecting my son from a difficult conversation, I was protecting myself.
Jonathan’s death was probably the hardest moment of my life. But actually touching his body was a source of comfort and the first step in going on with life. Not weird.

Jessica Heslam Our Bereavement is our own

A little while later, a nurse took her away and we never saw her again.

Those precious moments with my daughter — the only time I ever got to see and hold her — are cherished ones. That single memory of holding Grace brings me much peace.

Santorum lost a baby, too. His wife, Karen, went into premature labor when she was 20 weeks pregnant with their son and fourth child, Gabriel, in 1996. He had a fatal birth defect and died two hours after he was born.

The heartbroken couple brought their baby home. According to The Washington Post, the couple and their other children cuddled Gabriel, took pictures and sang him lullabies.

Santorum told CNN’s Piers Morgan in August that his wife, a neonatal intensive care nurse in Pittsburgh, had learned how important it was for siblings to see their lost brother or sister and include them in the family.

The Santorums’ actions are in line with American Pregnancy Association guidelines, which urge grieving parents to talk to and touch their stillborn babies — and for family members to spend time with them as well.

“It was a beautiful thing,” Santorum recalled. “It’s something that the older children do remember, and it did bring closure to them. Gabriel, even to this day, is still very much a part of our family.”

I was sickened this week when liberal pundits mocked Santorum as “weird” and “crazy,” and tried to use the tragedy to highlight his extreme right-wing views.

Some may not agree with Santorum’s ideology, but to ridicule a grief-stricken father for grappling with one of life’s most agonizing tragedies is the dirtiest of politics.

Mark Steyn  Politics trumps Left's empathy

Lest you doubt that we're headed for the most vicious election year in memory, consider the determined effort, within 10 minutes of his triumph in Iowa, to weirdify Rick Santorum. Discussing the surging senator on Fox News, Alan Colmes mused on some of the "crazy things" he's said and done.

Santorum has certainly said and done many crazy things, as have most members of America's political class, but the "crazy thing" Colmes chose to focus on was Santorum's "taking his two-hour-old baby when it died right after childbirth home," whereupon he "played with it." My National Review colleague Rich Lowry rightly slapped down Alan on air, and Colmes subsequently apologized, though not before Mrs. Santorum had been reduced to tears by his remarks. Undeterred, Eugene Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist, doubled down on stupid and insisted that Deadbabygate demonstrated how Santorum is "not a little weird, he's really weird."
Not many of us will ever know what it's like to have a child who lives only a few hours. That alone should occasion a certain modesty about presuming to know what are "weird" and unweird reactions to such an event.
Santorum's respect for all life, including even the smallest bleakest meanest two-hour life, speaks well for him, especially in comparison with his fellow Pennsylvanian, the accused mass murderer Kermit Gosnell, an industrial-scale abortionist at a Philadelphia charnel house who plunged scissors into the spinal cords of healthy delivered babies. Few of Gosnell's employees seemed to find anything "weird" about that: Indeed, they helped him out by tossing their remains in jars and bags piled up in freezers and cupboards. Much less crazy than taking 'em home and holding a funeral, right?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 PM | Permalink

December 30, 2011

Synchronized sorrow UPDATED

'The people are crying tears of blood': Millions of wailing North Koreans line snow bound streets in display of state-controlled grief for Kim Jong Il's funeral

They wept, they wailed, they doubled over in apparent pain.  Not a bad show of mourning for a tyrant who subjected his country to 17 years of torture, repression and mass murder.

As the two-day funeral ceremony for ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong Il began yesterday, it was the signal for an all-ages orgy of synchronised sorrow meant to show how bereft the North Korean nation is without him.

 Grieving North Koreans

The photographs of the funeral are amazing, worthy of an old-fashioned totalitarian state.

Here's the late Christopher Hitchens on North Korea, Worse Than 1984

In North Korea, every person is property and is owned by a small and mad family with hereditary power. Every minute of every day, as far as regimentation can assure the fact, is spent in absolute subjection and serfdom. The private life has been entirely abolished…. Everybody in the city has to be at home and in bed by curfew time, when all the lights go off (if they haven’t already failed). A recent nighttime photograph of the Korean peninsula from outer space shows something that no “free-world” propaganda could invent: a blaze of electric light all over the southern half, stopping exactly at the demilitarized zone and becoming an area of darkness in the north.

Concealed in that pitch-black night is an imploding state where the only things that work are the police and the armed forces. The situation is actually slightly worse than indentured servitude. The slave owner historically promises, in effect, at least to keep his slaves fed. In North Korea, this compact has been broken. It is a famine state as well as a slave state.

UPDATE:  North Korea Is Sending Anyone Who Didn't Mourn For Kim Jong-II To A Labor-Training Camp 

North Korea is punishing citizens who didn't participate in the organized mourning period following Kim Jong-Il's death by sentencing them to six months in a labor-training camp, according to The Daily NK (via Msnbc.com).

The decision to ship North Koreans off to re-education camps follows a series of "criticism sessions" that began on Dec. 29.  A source from North Hamkyung Province told The Daily NK that officials are also punishing those "who did participate but didn’t cry and didn't seem genuine.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:38 PM | Permalink

December 21, 2011

Extraordinary show of solidarity

New York City police officer Peter Figoski responded to a robbery in Brooklyn and was shot in the face.  He died in the hospital hours later.

At  his funeral, 10,000 police officers from around the country gathered to pay their respects.

 Fogoski Funeral 10,000 Cops

'Rest in peace Daddy': Daughters of fallen NYPD hero cop joined by 10,000 police officers at father's funeral

His four daughters, Christine, 20, Caitlyn, 18, Caroline, 16, and Corrine, 14, sat in the front row as they listened to friends, colleagues and city officials who recounted his bravery. They had lived with him since his divorce earlier this year.

A dedication by the four girls was read by family friend Juan Mendez.

‘We now feel connected to a side of our dad we rarely saw at home,’ it said. ‘He always put us first.

‘We will forever remember the memories with our dad and our loving family. Our father would be so honored and so proud by all of this, and is forever in our hearts. It is said when a hero falls an angel rises. Rest in peace Daddy.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 PM | Permalink

December 8, 2011

Mass Burial in L.A.

There were 1639 people in LA without families to grieve for them or bury them and so they were interned in a mass burial in Los Angeles yesterday.

Supervisor Don Knabe said Tuesday, when he and his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors observed a moment of silence for the people being buried. “Sadly, not everyone shares this blessing.”

He said the 1,639 people designated for the mass interment at the Los Angeles County Crematory and Cemetery “are individuals that, for one reason or another, have no one but the county to provide them with a respectful and dignified burial.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

December 3, 2011

A Kentucky Funeral

A Kentucky Funeral

I sat across the table from the Amish neighbors and thanked them for helping, adding that I thought the burial was the simplest, most beautiful, and most deeply profound I'd ever seen.  "That's all right," they said.  "We wanted to help."  They seemed a little embarrassed to be thanked with such flowery language.  "Well," I said, trying to match their simple kindness with equally simple words, "Thank you."

"You are welcome," they said.
I reflected on how miraculous this gathering was.  Here was community -- family, neighbors, and church folk all bonded by love and Christian faith.

Here, gathered at my brother's funeral, was an America fast vanishing, often overlooked and sometimes openly despised.  Here were works of the hands, works of the plow, and works of faith. Simple things.  Profound things.  Things of the heart.  Things my brother loved.

Here, too, I thought, was the heart of our country.  If it were to stop beating forever, the land would perish.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

How crematoriums are cutting down on emissions

Crematorium to use burning corpses to create energy

Many industries are seeking out alternative energies to help cut costs and emissions, and crematoriums are no different. According to The Telegraph, crematoriums are required by U.K. regulatory agencies to cut emissions in half by next year, nixing them all together by 2020.

One crematorium is dead set on making the most of the resources available to it to achieve these emission-cutting requirements — literally. The Durham Crematorium wants use the heat generated by burning corpses to spin turbines and create enough electricity to power 1,500 televisions per cremation process, according to the Telegraph. And it isn’t the first crematorium to take on this efficiency endeavor. The Telegraph reports that other crematoria already have systems in place to generate energy for heating the building, offices and, it states in one case, a swimming pool at a sports center.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

November 7, 2011

Final Embrace

 Skeltons Holding Hands

Together forever...lovers holding hands for 1500 years discovered in Rome grave

Laid out side by side and holding hands, these 1,500-year-old male and female skeletons are surely a sign of eternal love if ever there was one.

The lovers were probably even ‘looking into each other’s eyes’ when they were buried in the 5th century, during the final days of the Roman Empire.

The extraordinary discovery was made by archaeologists excavating an Ancient Roman palace in the Italian town of Mutina, known today as Modena.

Anthropologist Vania Milani said:  ‘It was a very touching and beautiful sight to see. The woman’s head is turned towards the man and they were holding each other’s hands.  I suspect the head of the man was also turned towards the woman at the time of burial and that it was probably resting on a cushion which then decomposed over time and caused it to roll away.  They would have been looking into each other’s eyes at the time of burial in a sign of eternal love.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 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

Muslims Pelt Coptic Christian Funeral Procession with Stones

It is terrible what is happening to Christian in the Mideast.

In Egypt, the birthplace of the 'Arab Spring"  Muslims Pelt Coptic Christian Funeral Procession with Stones

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt issued a statement on October 10, expressing horror at the events of yesterday in Maspero, where 24 Copts were killed and over 200 and wounded. The church stressed that the Christian faith rejects violence. The church blasted the government for failing to find solutions to "problems that occur repeatedly and go unpunished." The Church asked all Copts to fast continuously for three days starting tomorrow "in order to have peace in Egypt."

Some interpreted this demand, which the church has made only three times in its long history, as a way to implore "God's help for the Copts," commented Coptic activist and writer Nader Shoukry.

In Cairo, thousands of Copts marched to attend the funeral of the victims of what they termed the "October 9 Military Massacre." They congregated in front of the Coptic hospital where most of the dead and injured were transported, and which was attacked the night before by Muslims, who hurled bricks and Molotov Cocktails at the victims' families.

 Stmarkfunerals Coptic Victims

A funeral service presided by Pope Shenouda III was held for the Copts killed in Maspero, at 11 AM at St. Mark's Cathedral in Abbasiya, Cairo, and was attended by over 10,000 Copts. The funeral was for five Copts only, as the rest of the victims are awaiting for autopsies, on the advice of Coptic lawyers. "This is to safeguard the rights of the dead," said attorney Dr. Ehab Ramzy, "otherwise the families could lose their case. We need proof."

After the funeral, while still inside the Cathedral, the enraged Copts chanted "down with the junta rule and down with Tantawi."

According to priests and Coptic lawyers who were present at the Coptic Hospital, where the victims were brought, the death certificates issued by the authorities were misleading and did not reflect the true cause of death, which might let the assailants get away with the crime. Certificates showed the cause of death as being "stab wounds" and "cardiac arrest caused by fear."

The families insisted on having the autopsies done, which were carried out on 17 bodies lying in the Coptic hospital. Independent doctors observed those who came from the Public Morgue to carry out the autopsies.

Dr. Maged Lewis, a director at the Forensic Medicine Institute, commented that he had never seen corpses in this deplorable state before. "Bodies were mashed and bones were crushed; many had fractures and laceration of the intestines; while in others, death was caused by gun shots."

Eyewitnesses reported the army disposed of nine bodies by throwing them in the Nile. Two bodies remain unidentified, making the number of killed uncertain.

 Funeral Coptic Victims Egypt

After midnight today, friends and relatives of the dead carried the 17 caskets from the Coptic hospital to St. Mark's Cathedral for the second funeral service. Near Ghamra bridge, bricks were hurled at the cortege, but the procession carried on to the Cathedral.

The caskets were taken to St. Mary's Church in "October 6" district, where they laid beside the 12 Copts who died in Embaba, defending their Church against Salafist attacks on May 7, 2011 (AINA 5-8-2011).

On their way back after the burial the mourners were attacked by armed thugs who blocked the way and hurled Molotov cocktails at them; gun shots were heard. They sought shelter and called the army emergency phone line for help, they waited until the morning but no one came.

The Coptic Church considers people who lost their lives on account of being Christian as "martyrs" and they will be buried together in a collective grave.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 PM | Permalink

October 14, 2011

Weird things to do with your ashes

From Neatorama, the 10 Weirdest Things You Can Do with Your Ashes.

1. Incorporate them into bullets
2. Press them into your favorite record.
3. Tattoo them into someone's skin
4. Melt them into a diamond
5. Create art with them
6. Melt and cut them into stained glass designs
7. Shoot them into space
8. Bury them in a Pringles can
9. Incorporate them into a Frisbee
10. Use them in comic book ink

Go to the link for all the fascinating and gory details.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 AM | Permalink

September 26, 2011

Goodbye Mr Chips

Doritos creator dies at 97... and his family wants to sprinkle them over his body before he is buried

The family of the man who created Doritos are to bury dozens of the chips next to his ashes, they have revealed.

Relatives of Arch West said that they would scatter Doritos in the grave before placing the urn containing his remains inside and covering it over with dirt.

It is not clear if the family are following Mr West’s last requests or if they took it upon themselves to make the 'tribute'.

But the intent appears to be to honour the man who created what became almost overnight one of the most popular snacks in the U.S.

It was back in 1961 that Mr West, who has died of natural causes at the age of 97, was on a family holiday in San Diego when he was struck by the tasty fried tortilla chips he tried at a food truck.

He came up with the idea for a new snack which he called 'Dorito' as it sounded like 'doradito', or 'little golden' in Spanish.

The marketing executive at Frito-Lay, the U.S. snack food giant where he worked, were initially unsure but the product was an immediate success following its launch in 1964.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:52 PM | Permalink

September 3, 2011


A new way of disposing of dead bodies and bringing new meaning to the phrase, "circling the drain"

Sounds creepy to me since the wastewater goes down the drain and then is "reclaimed" to water lawns and golf courses.

Funeral of the future: 'Liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida that dissolves dead bodies

A Florida funeral home is the first in the world to have a commercial 'liquefaction' unit that dissolves dead bodies.

The cremation alternative uses a process called resomation, which uses water and alkali rather than high heat to quickly decompose a body.

The dead body, enclosed in a silk or woollen coffin is placed in the steel chamber with potassium hydroxide and water.

The temperature is set to 180C and the pressure is raised, dissolving the body in two to three hours.  The process is claimed to use only a seventh of the energy of a traditional cremation.

Sandy Sullivan, who makes the liquefaction units, said: 'Unlike flame cremation, it's not using combustion, it uses a water and alkali process, and that process will chemically reduce the body to ash.'

The first liquefaction chamber has been installed at the Anderson-McQueen funeral home in St Petersburg.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:17 PM | Permalink

August 24, 2011

Funeral home loses body at graveside service

Daughters sue funeral home after it LOST their mother's body

The daughters of an Alabama woman who died in 2010 sued the funeral home on Tuesday that handled her burial, saying it lost the body and couldn't find it even after digging up several graves.

The three daughters of Jimmie Lee Scott said in their lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County that after their mother died, her body was handed over to Ross-Clayton Funeral Home Inc.

The daughters and others in attendance left after a graveside service, where the casket was positioned over the plot where Scott was to be interred, court papers indicate.

Later, daughter Dakota Scott went to take flowers to her mother's grave, but found the tombstone was far away from where she remembered the service being held, the lawsuit said. Nevertheless, the funeral home is said to have assured her the site was correct.

A representative of the funeral home later contacted Scott and told her the funeral home would have to move her mother's casket and body, because another family owned the plot, the lawsuit states.

But when workers dug up the grave, no casket or body was found in the plot where Jimmie Lee Scott's headstone had been placed, the court papers said.

The same day, other graves were dug up in a vain search for Jimmie Lee Scott's body, which has still not been found, the lawsuit said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:42 PM | Permalink

Heart-wrenching photo reminds us what we lost when the 22 Navy Seals were killed

On August 6 in Afghanisatan,  a rocket -propelled grenade shot down a Chinook helicopter carrying 30 American service  members, including 22 Navy Seals, "the best of the best".    All were killed.  Petty Office John Tomilson of Rockford Iowa was one of them.

 Jon Tumilson

Last Friday the remains of Jon Tomilson were flown to the Mason City airport in Iowa and from there taken to his funeral in Rockford.

The white hearse carrying the Navy SEAL's remains was escorted by many law enforcement and fire department vehicles, as well as more than 500 motorcycle riders.
Putnam was one of more than 50 people gathered alongside Iowa 122 near the Interstate 35 overpass to pay their respects to Tumilson.

Putnam's son Justin Schriever rode in the motorcycle convoy.

"Words don't describe it," Putnam said. "Jon was Jon. He was outstanding. Whatever he did was always to the best.

"My son and him had the best of times. He was just a great kid."

At the funeral, Jon's cousin, Lisa Pembleton, captured this photo showing Jon's Labrador retriever Hawkeye

‘I felt compelled to take one photo to share with family members that couldn't make it or couldn't see what I could from the aisle'

 Hakeye Funeral Dog
During the service, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Robert Bradshaw told Mr Tumilson's parents that they helped raise an ‘outstanding man - a hero’.

Family, friends and servicemen, along with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, packed the school's gymnasium.

Mr Tumilson, who joined the Navy in 1995, was known to friends as J.T.

‘J.T. was going to be a Navy SEAL come hell or high water,’ friend Scott Nichols said. ‘He wasn't afraid of dying.’

 Jon And Hawkeye

I feel such sadness over the loss of the 22 Navy Seals, a tragedy that should not have happened but did.  Their families, friends and the entire nation grieves over their loss.  The photo of Hawkeye, lying by his master's coffin touches our hearts and reminds us of all that we have lost. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:38 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 12, 2011

Too broke to bury the poor dead

Illinois is so broke, it can't afford to bury its poor dead.

Illinois officials sent a letter to more than 600 funeral directors around the state to let them know there's no money for funerals for individuals on public assistance.

In the past, the state has reserved about $13 million to help pay for an estimated 12,000 funerals for individuals who relied on public aid. Participating funeral homes were alloted $1,100 for funerals and $552 for the burial.

The Illinois Department of Human Services letter said it can only guarantee payments for pauper funerals through August 15.

Funeral directors have been advised to look for money from city or county governments, and to advise families in morgues until funding can be secured.

"Now the only viable option --- I don't mean to make light of it -- is to leave the body at the medical examiner office,"  Szykowny said. "After 60 to 90 days they'll take the body to what's called a potter's field and bury it in a numbered grave.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

August 4, 2011

Holy Smoke

Going out with a bang: The service that will turn your loved one into live ammunition

A bizarre new service that allows you to lock and load your loved one’s ashes is blowing up on the internet.

Holy Smoke, based in Stockton, Alabama, boasts a 'tribute to your outdoorsman or woman like no other,' according to their website.

The company offers a means to 'continue to protect your home and family even after you are gone,' by turning ashes into fully-functioning bullets.

So how does it work?

Once the deceased’s family decides the calibre and gauge of the ammunition, they send one pound of their dead relative's ashes.

From there, the staff place a portion of the cremated remains into each shotshell or cartridge, depending on the ammo selected.

In return, Holy Smoke sends the family a case of up to 250 bullets for display in the home or to take on a hunting trip.

The company claims its methods add up to a fraction of the cost of most burial services cost.

Prices begin at $1,250 for the 250 rounds for shot guns and pistols, and 100 rounds for rifles.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 AM | Permalink

July 28, 2011

Gravestone technology

Alexis Madrigal visits the graveyard where his grandmother is buried and discovers "lasers had arrived in the death industry,"

As we circumnavigated the plots, we began to see a pattern. Shiny, black headstones lined vast tracts of lighter gray headstones "almost like stitching," Sarah observed. These headstones were different from the ones that had come before them. Not only were they a different color and texture, they also featured photorealistic portraits of the people buried underneath them. They were a new breed of monument. One look at them could have told you that no human hand had chiseled those drawings in the stone.

... a small Fitchburg, Massachusetts company, Vytek, a subsidiary of Vinyl Technologies, decided that lasers could be used to make a better gravestone.

In 1989, Vytek began to sell laser systems specifically to the monument industry that could take a photograph or drawing and reproduce it on granite. The laser works almost like a printer, but instead of putting dark ink on white paper, the laser blasts away the polished surface of the granite to reveal the lighter rock underneath. Then, a worker goes over the lasered parts with a razor blade, scraping very lightly to remove any debris. The process produces a high-resolution grayscale image on the stone, a far cry from the thick line drawings that chiseling and sandblasting had allowed before. A name could have a face.
Our death stones are shiny and global and technologized to display high-resolution portraits of our loved ones.

In the Atlantic, Lasers for the Dead: A Story About Gravestone technology

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:56 PM | Permalink

Awaiting scientific resurrection

Fighting death, he founded the cryonics movement, but death claimed Robert Ettinger at 92.

The Washington Post  obituary

He was 92 and had suffered declining health in recent weeks, said his son David, who could not specify a cause. “We’re obviously sad,” said the younger Ettinger. But “we were able to freeze him under optimum conditions, so he’s got another chance.”

Mr. Ettinger is widely considered the father of the cryonics movement, whose adherents believe they can achieve immortality through quick-freezing their bodies at death in anticipation of future resurrection.

Mr. Ettinger’s frozen body is being stored in a vat of liquid nitrogen at a nondescript building outside Detroit, home to more than 100 fellow immortalists — including his mother and two wives — who are awaiting revival.

If all goes as Mr. Ettinger envisioned, he will remain in a period of icy stasis for decades — or perhaps centuries — however long it takes for doctors, armed with technology of the future, to defrost him and restore him to good health.

“Our patients are not truly dead in any fundamental sense,”
he told a New Yorker reporter in 2010.

The London Telegraph, obituary

Robert Ettinger, who died on July 23 aged 92, was the intellectual father of the cryonics movement, whose members have themselves frozen at death pending scientific resurrection.

Ettinger preferred to style himself an "immortalist", since he argued that whole body or head-only freezing ("neurological suspension") was only one means of achieving indefinite life. His rationale for pursuing this goal was contained in his book The Prospect Of Immortality (1964), which revealed him as an unquenchable optimist about mankind's technological future.

Rand Simberg describes how Bob Ettinger would be 'deanimated.'

His body won’t be buried or burned, as most people in his non-metabolizing state are, because those methods of interment would result in a state that even he and they would have recognized as death. Instead, as his bodily functions progressively failed, with a tub of chilled water at bedside, he was declared legally dead so that he could have himself chilled down, his fluids replaced with an anti-freeze solution, ultimately to liquid nitrogen temperatures, to continue a quest on which he had spent most of his life to date: to live indefinitely long.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 PM | Permalink

July 26, 2011

Rudolf Hess's remains exhumed, cremated and scattered

After committing suicide in 1987 while serving a life sentence in Berlin for crimes against peace, Rudolf Hess, once deputy Nazi party leader and confidant of Adolf Hitler,  was buried in his family plot.

But in recent years he has come to be seen as a martyr by the far-Right and thousands of neo-Nazis have used the anniversary of his death on August 17 as an occasion to hold rallies in the town.

Rudolf Hess's remains taken from grave in dead of night, cremated and scattered after it became neo-Nazi pilgrimage site

The grave of Adolf Hitler’s deputy has been dismantled to stop  neo-Nazis using it as a pilgrimage point.
Rudolf Hess’s remains were exhumed from the burial plot in a cemetery in the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel. They will be cremated and scattered at sea in a secret operation.

German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung said the descendants of Hess were initially against the idea of exhuming his body.  A granddaughter of Hess even filed a law suit to prevent it.  But the family eventually caved in to pressure from the local authorities and agreed to have his remains taken away.

Especially after Norway, we do not need Nazi graves as pilgrimage sites.  Municipal authorities acted wisely and so  did the family in acquiescing to the removal.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2011

Cemetery visitor for hire

A new niche.

For Hire: A Visitor to the Grave of Your Dearly Departed

A paralegal and married mother of three trying to earn extra money in a tough economy, Mrs. Marotta-Lopriore, 57, embarked last month on a new career: cemetery visitor for hire.

Advertising in a local newspaper and in fliers she distributed in surrounding towns, she offered her services: “Continue your signs of love and respect for your loved ones who have passed. If you are unable to visit your loved ones for whatever reason, I can help. Whether you need flowers delivered, prayers said or just a status on the condition of the site, I will visit any Westchester or Putnam County cemetery on your behalf. Proof of my visit will be either e-mailed or sent to you through the mail.”
“I had never heard of anyone doing anything like this, and I just thought it was a great idea,” said Ms. Akyildiz, who was five months pregnant when Cristy was stillborn. “Though I do go to the cemetery to see my daughter, I’m often busy with work and my two other children and I can’t always get there.”

Mrs. Marotta-Lopriore, who lives in Hastings-on-Hudson and charges $25 to visit a Westchester cemetery and $35 for the longer trips to Putnam County, said, “Some people might look at visiting cemeteries as creepy or morbid, but those are people who are capable of visiting their loved ones.”

“But what about the people who are too old or too busy to go and pay their respects?” she asked. “What about the people who have moved out of state?”

Some religious-based services for the dead do exist. A small percentage of observant Jews in the United States partake in pre-burial rituals that include washing and clothing the bodies, and some Jewish volunteer groups keep constant vigil beside the deceased until burial. Also, Catholic priests say Mass for the dead. But Mrs. Marotta-Lopriore may be the first to have tapped into this particular niche market.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:04 AM | Permalink

July 6, 2011

Federal official bans "God" from veterans' funerals.

The director of the Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, has taken upon herself to ban the words "God" and "Jesus Christ" from the burial ceremonies of deceased veterans. 

This federal bureaucrat - unelected of course - wants to personally approve each prayer in advance of a burial service just to make sure that those awful words don't sneak in.

I was gobsmacked when I first read about this.  A federal official censoring prayers, forbidding the mention of God at funerals for deceased veterans, sounds like a sick joke but it's not.  Where do they find these officious, meddling, preening, intolerant officials?

National Cemetery's Anti-Religious Policy Is an Injustice That Must Be Corrected

The thought that someone would have the audacity to censor religion and speech anywhere in this country is despicable. Censoring the funeral services of the veterans who spent their lives protecting the First Amendment is particularly malicious and simply unforgiveable. Director Ocasio is an unelected bureaucrat, non-veteran who is clearly out of touch with our veterans and the constitution.

She has apparently removed the Bible and the cross from the chapel. Shortly after she arrived at the cemetery, she shut down the chapel and turned it into a “meeting facility.” It is not the business of the federal government to be engaged in anti-religious activity, especially at what is considered by many to be a religious ceremony—the burial of one of our veterans. The philosophy behind such policies is anti-Christian, anti-religion and anti-American. According to the Constitution, it is the job of the federal government to protect speech and religion, not assail it.

The First Amendment is sacred; funerals are sacred, and when our veterans are buried, that soil becomes sacred. If these allegations are true, the director of the Houston National Cemetery should be terminated. The Houston National Cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of veterans who fought in places all over the world. The government’s attack on the very freedoms that they lived and died for is a blatant violation of the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion promised to all Americans in the Constitution.

UPDATED.  Michael Angley discusses the antecedents

In the case of the Houston cemetery’s bad attitude about faith, there are antecedents in both the civilian community and in the military. For decades, a vocal minority of anti-religious fanatics has taken the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and wrapped it around a lead pipe to beat people of faith into silence and to deny them their free exercise rights. We’re all familiar with the endless efforts by the ACLU to banish any form of religious expression in public schools and in the halls of government. Unfortunately, the military has not been immune from this kind of dysfunctional liberal overreach.

In 2005, the USAF issued “Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force.” These rules essentially prohibited military chaplains from performing anything but non-denominational prayers outside of a formal chapel service or mass. The problem for Christian chaplains, however, was that their faith required them to pray in the name of Jesus. Soon after, the other services began ramping up their anti-faith policies, and Navy chaplain LT Gordon Klingenschmitt found himself under fire for daring to disobey the ban. His insistence on praying in Jesus’s name resulted in his court-martial and dismissal from the service. Dissuading a Christian chaplain from praying in the name of Jesus is like telling a pilot that he cannot climb into the cockpit and fly the plane
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 AM | Permalink

July 3, 2011

"One less dog"

Muslim gangs disrupt Christian funerals in Holland

From a news broadcast by the Dutch network Uitgesproken, a report on Muslim thugs who purposefully interrupt, usually violently, Christian funeral processions

Members of the "Religion of Peace" taunt the grieving family and friends with shouts of "one less dog!" in reference to the dearly departed.

Video at the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:35 PM | Permalink

July 2, 2011

Federal official bans "God" from veterans' funerals.

The director of the Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, has taken upon herself to ban the words "God" and "Jesus Christ" from the burial ceremonies of deceased veterans. 

This federal bureaucrat - unelected of course - wants to personally approve each prayer in advance of a burial service just to make sure that those awful words don't sneak in.

I was gobsmacked when I first read about this.  A federal official censoring prayers, forbidding the mention of God at funerals for deceased veterans, sounds like a sick joke but it's not.  Where do they find these officious, meddling, preening, intolerant officials?

National Cemetery's Anti-Religious Policy Is an Injustice That Must Be Corrected

The thought that someone would have the audacity to censor religion and speech anywhere in this country is despicable. Censoring the funeral services of the veterans who spent their lives protecting the First Amendment is particularly malicious and simply unforgiveable. Director Ocasio is an unelected bureaucrat, non-veteran who is clearly out of touch with our veterans and the constitution.

She has apparently removed the Bible and the cross from the chapel. Shortly after she arrived at the cemetery, she shut down the chapel and turned it into a “meeting facility.” It is not the business of the federal government to be engaged in anti-religious activity, especially at what is considered by many to be a religious ceremony—the burial of one of our veterans. The philosophy behind such policies is anti-Christian, anti-religion and anti-American. According to the Constitution, it is the job of the federal government to protect speech and religion, not assail it.

The First Amendment is sacred; funerals are sacred, and when our veterans are buried, that soil becomes sacred. If these allegations are true, the director of the Houston National Cemetery should be terminated. The Houston National Cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of veterans who fought in places all over the world. The government’s attack on the very freedoms that they lived and died for is a blatant violation of the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion promised to all Americans in the Constitution.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

June 24, 2011

Woman dies of heart caused by shock of waking up at her OWN funeral

What a headline. 

Woman dies of heart caused by shock of waking up at her OWN funeral

Started screaming as mourners gathered around coffin saying prayers for her soul

'Her eyes fluttered but she only lived for another 12 minutes before she died again, this time for good'

A woman died from a heart attack caused by shock after waking up to discover she had been declared dead - and was being prepared for burial.

As mourning relatives filed past her open coffin the supposedly dead woman suddenly woke up and started screaming as she realised where she was.

Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov, 49, had been wrongly declared deceased by doctors but died for real after hearing mourners saying prayers for her soul to be taken up to heaven in Kazan, Russia

Her husband is furious

'I am very angry and want answers. She wasn’t dead when they said she was and they could have saved her.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink

June 6, 2011

Funerals in Joplin

Joplin's heroes remembered: A city mourns those who lost their lives helping others in America's deadliest tornado for six decades

They were regular churchgoers, devoted parents, seniors in their retirement years and children with untold promise.

Some gave their lives to save strangers, thrust by circumstance and human instinct into the role of hero.

Others faced a parent's worst fear, losing their lives while also failing to protect their children from death.

Few outside the town of about 50,000 will recognise the names of the dead. But, as three more deaths brought the toll to 141 today, Joplin's close-knit community remembers how it lost a staggering array of human capital in the May 22 tornado, including seniors who were the town's history and young people who were its future.

Some lived their lives ordinarily, only to be defined in their final moments by breathtaking courage.

May the dead rest in peace and the living find comfort and the courage to go on.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:39 PM | Permalink

April 18, 2011

What do you do when a funeral procession passes by?

What do you do when a funeral procession passes by?

a. Stand to attention, remove any headgear if you are a man, and wait for the coffin to pass; as it does so, you make a bow with the head. If you are a Catholic, you make the sign of the Cross. When the coffin has passed, you carry on as normal.

b.Ignore it, pretend it is not happening, and carry on as normal.

Once upon a time, everyone opted for “a”. Nowadays, everyone opts for “b”. I know that of which I speak, because only yesterday I did “a” as a coffin passed, but noticed no one else doing the same, and I often sit in hearses myself and see the way pedestrians behave. I have never seen anyone doing “a”.

The way we treat the living in Britain is pretty appalling, but the way we treat the dead is abominable, and even more inexcusable, as it would not cost us much to show a little respect to those on their last journey, or to teach our children to do the same.

Furthermore, undertakers often tell me that they have to deal with rude drivers on the way to the cemetery or crematorium; I too have witnessed the hooting of horns, and the “cutting in” at roundabouts. Funeral processions are supposed to go at a funereal pace, and people should give way to them – but this is all too rare.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 AM | Permalink

Drive-by mortuary

 Drive-By Mortuary

Dead good idea? Drive-thru mortuary lets grievers see body in open casket behind glass

In Compton, California

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink

April 13, 2011

At last a funeral for convicted murderer after 190 years

An amazing story

 Descendants Mr.Horwood

Funeral for murderer hanged in 1821 after his skeleton is found in Bristol University cupboard

A murderer whose skeleton was found hanging in a university laboratory was laid to rest today - exactly 190 years after he was executed.

John Horwood was just 18 when he became the first person to be executed at the New Bristol Gaol in 1821.
The teenager was convicted of killing his former girlfriend Eliza Balsum after a pebble he threw at her struck her on the head.

Tragically Eliza, 20, died a fortnight later after she suffered complications during a bungled operation.

Horwood was hanged for murder and his body controversially handed over to the surgeon who carried out Eliza's operation for medical research.

Last year a distant relative set about tracking down his remains after finding letters from Horwood's bereaved parents pleading for a funeral.

Mary Halliwell, 67, eventually tracked his remains to the University of Bristol where John's skeleton was displayed with the noose still around its neck.

Back in 1821, relatives of the 18-year-old boy wanted to give him a dignified funeral, but the man really responsible for the death, the bungling doctor stole the body and publicly dissected it.

Members of Horwood's family waited around in the hope they could ambush his cart and give him a private burial - preventing a public dissection.

However, the plan was thwarted and Dr Smith, who formed part of the prosecution at the trial, whisked the body away at night.

He then publicly dissected the body at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in front of 80 people.

Dr Smith removed the skin, had it tanned and used it to bind a book about the incident.
The 'Book of Skin' is currently kept at the Bristol Records Office and contains letters from his parents asking for his body.

Horwood's skeleton was kept in a wooden cabinet at Dr Smith's home and it was later passed to the Bristol Royal Infirmary after his death before being given to Bristol University - where it was kept in a laboratory.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 PM | Permalink

March 25, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor late for her own funeral

And that's just how she wanted it.

One of her last wishes was that her coffin arrive 15 minutes late

The service began 15 minutes after its announced start time in observance of Taylor's parting wish that her funeral start late, her publicist Sally Morrison said.

Taylor had left instructions asking for the tardy start and had requested that someone announce, "She even wanted to be late for her own funeral," Morrison said.

The one-hour service began with poetry readings by actor Colin Farrell and Taylor's family members and included a trumpet performance of Amazing Grace by her grandson, Morrison said.

The casket was draped in gardenias, violets, and lilies of the valley before its interment in the cemetery's Great Mausoleum beneath a marble sculpture of an angel inspired by the work of Italian artist Michelangelo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:50 AM | Permalink

March 19, 2011

Mourning continues

 Japanese Coffins

We will rebuild from scratch': As Japan struggles to get back on its feet, the bodies gather in massive makeshift morgues

The coffins lie in their dozens, each draped with a blanket and a box of personal possessions - but only a few masked officials to look after them.

And as Japan marked exactly one week since its north east coast was hit by a devastating tsunami, the bodies were still coming in.

A town hall converted into a morgue in Rifu was just one of scores of similar facilities across the country to cope with the mounting death toll.

The official body count now stands at 6,900 dead and 10,700 missing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

March 15, 2011

A Tide of Bodies

Tide of bodies overwhelms quake-hit Japan

A tide of bodies washed up along Japan's coastline Monday, overwhelming crematoriums, exhausting supplies of body bags and adding to the spiraling humanitarian, economic and nuclear crisis after the massive earthquake and tsunami.

On the coastline of Miyagi prefecture, which took the full force of the tsunami, a Japanese police official said 1,000 bodies were found scattered across the coastline. Kyodo, the Japanese news agency, reported that 2,000 bodies washed up on two shorelines in Miyagi.

In one town in a neighboring prefecture, the crematorium was unable to handle the large number of bodies being brought in for funerals.

"We have already begun cremations, but we can only handle 18 bodies a day. We are overwhelmed and are asking other cites to help us deal with bodies. We only have one crematorium in town," Katsuhiko Abe, an official in Soma, told The Associated Press.

"We have requested funeral homes across the nation to send us many body bags and coffins. But we simply don't have enough," he said. "We just did not expect such a thing to happen. It's just overwhelming."

How Japan's religions confront tragedy

"The average Japanese person doesn’t consciously turn to Buddhism until there’s a funeral,” says Brian Bocking, an expert in Japanese religions at Ireland’s University College Cork.

When there is a funeral, though, Japanese religious engagement tends to be pretty intense.

“A very large number of Japanese people believe that what they do for their ancestors after death matters, which might not be what we expect from a secular society,” says Bocking. “There’s widespread belief in the presence of ancestors’ spirits.”

In the days and weeks ahead, huge numbers of Japanese will be turning to their country’s religious traditions as they mourn the thousands of dead and try to muster the strength and resources to rebuild amid the massive destruction wrought by last Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.
“It’s very important in Japanese life to react in a positive way, to be persistent and to clean up in the face of adversity, and their religions would emphasize that,” says University College Cork’s Bocking. “They’ll say we have to develop a powerful, even joyful attitude in the face of adversity.”

Japan’s major religious groups are still developing responses to the disaster, but experts say the impulse toward maintaining a positive outlook will likely translate into calls for Japanese to help friends and neighbors clean up and rebuild.

At the same time, Japan’s Buddhist priests will be preoccupied with rituals surrounding death and burial. Japanese Buddhism is often called funeral Buddhism because of its concern with such rituals.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 PM | Permalink

March 8, 2011

Rose petals at a martyr's funeral

 Shahbaz Bhatti Funeral

The funeral for Shahbaz Bhatti was held in a remote village; still, 20,000 Christians came and showered rose petals on his coffin.

Thousands of Christians, religious leaders, foreign diplomats and government officials led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani attended the Islamabad service, which included a state salute.

“Today is a very sad day,” said Mr Gilani, describing Bhatti as a “very rare leader”.

“All the minorities [in Pakistan] have lost a great leader,” he added.
Bhatti, 42, a Catholic, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen who pumped bullets into his car from automatic weapons as he was being driven to his office in Islamabad last week.
Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops’ justice and peace commission, told the Catholic News Service by phone from Kushpur: “It was a very emotional funeral, with the people wailing and weeping all through.”

Already, the Catholic bishops of Pakistan are considering a proposal to ask the Vatican to declare the assassinated Pakistani minister a martyr.

A “martyr,” from the Greek word meaning “witness,” is someone who dies for the faith. A declaration of martyrdom would mean a miracle would not be required for Bhatti’s possible beatification.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 AM | Permalink

February 8, 2011

The modern English graveyard

The solemn quiet English graveyard may be no more.

Solent News & Photo Agency

Modern face of mourning: The colourful 'poundland' shrines across Britain that councils are trying to wipe out

I believe it useful to meditate on the quiet dignity of the inscriptions - the love expressed in a simple, well-tended grave is a fitting memorial to life and loss. What a contrast to look at a new face of grief in modern Britain. As these pictures show, there is a growing trend for graves to be festooned with toys, plastic ornaments and trinkets, balloons, wind-chimes and hanging objects.

The sight and sound of these exhibitions grows ever more exuberant - so much so that an Essex council is introducing a one-month limit on what can be put on a grave. Other councils are surely likely to follow.

Traditionalists argue that graveyards are places of peace and contemplation and those who visit to lay flowers on Mum’s grave shouldn’t have to negotiate their way past piles of soft toys or be disturbed by the cacophony of competing wind-chimes.

But for their part, those who want to heap graves with cuddly toys protest their right to remember their dead in whatever way they choose. Which means that anything goes, from a gravestone in the shape of a Newcastle United shirt, to life-sized effigies of the deceased, to resin pigs and dogs, plastic dolphins and even meerkats.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:23 AM | Permalink

February 7, 2011

Funeral Pyres in Colorado

Mountain Funeral Pyre

Colorado is the only state that allows open air funeral pyres

Belinda Ellis' farewell went as she wanted. One by one, her family placed juniper boughs and logs about her body, covered in red cloth atop a rectangular steel grate inside a brick-lined hearth. With a torch, her husband lit the fire that consumed her, sending billows of smoke into the blue-gray sky of dawn.

When the smoke subsided, a triangle-shaped flame flickered inside the circle of mourners, heavily-dressed and huddling against zero-degree weather.

"Mommy, you mean the world to me and it's hard to live without you," called out Ellis' weeping daughter, Brandi, 18. "It's hard to breathe, it's hard to see and it's hard to think about anything but you."

-- The Crestone End of Life Project conducted its first open-air cremation in January 2008 and has performed 18 since. Each pending cremation sets in motion phone calls to the Saguache County Sheriff's Office, the fire department and the coroner. State and local agencies have given permits to the group to conduct the cremations.

Some residents initially opposed the idea, worried about pollution, smells and heavy traffic. The group addressed every worry, said project director Gaines.

-- It takes up to four and a half hours for a body to burn completely. Since there's no way of separating human ashes from those of the wood the family receives about five gallons of ashes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink

February 1, 2011

Buried under snow

Body of man who shot himself in car was buried under snow for a WEEK

A man found dead in a car buried beneath several feet of snow shot himself a week earlier, police revealed today.

The corpse of the man, who apparently shot himself last week, was discovered early today in Queens, New York.

Police believe he killed himself in the car with a shotgun which was found at the scene. He could have been dead for as long as a week.

One resident who lives across the street said he didn't recall hearing a shot fired.

'I never thought anything of the car being there for a few days,' he said.

'The car behind it has been buried under snow for three weeks now. People leave their cars buried around here. It didn't make me look twice.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 PM | Permalink

'Room of Forgotten Souls'

Cuckoo's Nest hospital discovers 3500 cremated remains in 'room of forgotten souls'.

The mental hospital which was used in the 1975 cult film that helped launch Jack Nicholson's career, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, has unearthed the remains of 3,500 people.

Politicians visiting in the dilapidating, 128-year-old hospital discovered the cremated ashes in 2004 in a number of corroding copper cannisters in the storage area they dubbed 'the room of forgotten souls'.

Now, in an attempt to find out who the thousands of ashes belong to, Oregon State Hospital has published online the names, birthdays and dates of death of patients who passed away between 1914 and the 1970s.


Officials were able to identify all but four canisters of remains.

Relatives have claimed those belonging to 120 people since Mr Courtney first drew attention to the cans seven years ago.

Politicians made it possible to publish the names with a new state law exempting the listing from medical privacy laws. Family members can take custody of the remains if they prove they're related by blood or adoption.

Oregon State Senate President Peter Courtney was the hero here

It's a never ending story,' Mr Courtney said, 'something that I could never really stop thinking about or working on.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 PM | Permalink

Excess heat

If you knew that your town was considering heating the community swimming pool you so enjoy with excess heat from the crematorium next door to save money, would you still swim there?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2011

Streaming funerals

Funeral homes have been slow to adopt the streaming technology, "they do not want to replace a communal human experience with a solitary digital one." Yet, in many circumstances, streaming may be the only way to be present at a funeral you otherwise couldn't attend. Or to watch it again.

Private Funerals Now Streamed Online

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:20 AM | Permalink

January 25, 2011

"In the hands of a righteous judge"

Shunned as a killer, his funeral brought people together

Killer's Amish burial gives closure

There is fresh grave in the Amish cemetery, next to the one where Katie Gingerich has lain since her murder in 1993. It belongs to her killer and husband, Edward Gingerich, who was 44 when he hanged himself Jan. 14.
His burial within the community that had shunned him after the killing is a gesture of conciliation that remains as bitterly disputed as his life had been. Amish were pitted against Amish over how to respond to a murderer who everyone agreed was psychotic when he killed his wife. It was the only known case of a homicide committed by an Amishman.
The funeral was last Sunday in Atlee's home. The bishop preached, Mr. Miller said. A non-Amish neighbor was astounded at the crowd.

"There were Amish folks who came from far and wide on short notice. They came from other states," said former Allegheny County commissioner Bob Cranmer.

He asked an Amish friend why the community claimed Ed Gingerich in death when it had shunned him in life.

"He told me it was more for the family than it was for him," Mr. Cranmer said.

Mr. Miller agreed, saying he thought it was a gesture of reconciliation toward his brothers and sons. "They buried him right next to Katie," he said.

Mr. Schroeck believes the way Ed Gingerich died only added to his family's anguish.

"His brothers are worried about his immortal soul going to hell because he violated the command 'Thou shalt not kill' by committing suicide," he said.

Mr. Miller isn't trying to sort that out. "He is in the hands of a righteous judge," he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 AM | Permalink

January 22, 2011

Car-shaped coffins


Via Neatorama comes the news of Crusin' Caskets, a California company that makes caskets in any make or model of car so you can go out in style.

Buy it now and get a replaceable liner so you can use it as an ice cooler until it's really needed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:59 PM | Permalink

January 20, 2011

Burials at sea

As cremations rise, ocean burials also gain.

The Mastrangelos are among a growing number of people choosing to have their cremated remains, or even their bodies, released into the sea — rather than having them buried in a cemetery or spending eternity in an urn.


For families that have lost loved ones, scattering cremated remains at sea can be an affordable way to go, ranging from a few hundred dollars for an unattended service to several thousand for a more elaborate service with flowers, a DJ, and other extras. A cemetery burial, on the other hand, costs about $7,000.

You can also arrange for a real burial at sea

Funeral directors accompany services for full bodies, which are weighted down to keep them on the ocean floor until they decompose. This prevents incidents like the time a body that was buried at sea got caught in a fishing net off the coast of Chatham several years ago.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 PM | Permalink

January 18, 2011

The love of a faithful dog


Leao, the dog belonging to Christina Maria Cesario Santana, stays by her grave for the second day. She died in one of the catastrophic landslidesthat claimed 550 people in Brazil last week, its worse flood disaster on record.   

I was reminded of Greyfriars Bobby who spent 14 years guarding the grave of its owner.

HT Deacon's Bench.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:49 AM | Permalink

December 30, 2010

Stealing from a casket

He was only 17 when the SUV he was driving skidded on a snowy road on Christmas Day. Bradley McCombs was killed when he slammed into a utility pole.

In a misbegotten gesture of love, a Nintendo Game Boy and three games were put into his casket before the pubic visitation at the funeral home. Maybe they were his Christmas gifts.

A 37-year-old man, in front of the family, stole them all from the casket.

Who would stoop so low?   

A drug addict named Jody Lynn Bennett says his mother .

Police: Pa. man stole video game from boy's casket

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2010

Their names were Andrew and Nicholas UPDATED

Two babies, both stillborn and abandoned in hospital, are given dignified burials

To children abandoned, lives unlived, a farewell tribute with dignity

And at the center sat two tiny caskets covered with one white cloth, each topped with a spray of fresh flowers and a small stuffed bear that had never been touched by a child’s hand.

Their names were Andrew and Nicholas. There were no headlines when they died, no press releases, no investigations — really no public awareness at all. They were each stillborn in Boston hospitals, one in October, the other in November, then abandoned by families who either wouldn’t or couldn’t send them from this world in a dignified way.


Which is why they were here, because the Franciscan friars of St. Anthony Shrine see it as a key part of their mission to provide dignity in death — dignity to abandoned infants, dignity to loners whose bodies go unclaimed, dignity to homeless people with no one to celebrate their lives and see them to their graves.   

-----As they talked, though, a striking humanity began to emerge, by no means an explanation for these deaths, but an indication of the goodness that followed them. The friars bury, by their account, about six abandoned infants a year, and another dozen or more homeless men and women, part of a mission they may have to pare back unless their Franciscan Campaign picks up in the last couple of weeks of 2010.


As part of the mission, volunteers sew tiny white burial garments. Others donate the simple flowers for each service, and the graves. An extraordinary young funeral director, Jed Dolan, provides services from his two family funeral homes in Dorchester and Milton, collecting just a small stipend from the state. He personally attends every service and stands by each grave.

“It brings everything home,’’ he said.

It also brings back Convertino’s overriding point. There may not be answers, but there is a response. “There is no reason not to be buried with all the dignity a community can give them,’’ he said.


In the face of anguish, there is goodness, a reason for the friars and so many others to hold tight to their faith.

UPDATE: Apparently, the babies didn't even have names until given ones by the Franciscans. The Boston Herald has more on these poor babes, part of the "unwanted dead" along with a heartbreaking slideshow.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

December 14, 2010

Have a rest on the Bests


Tom McMahon came across this marvellously useful tombstone bench.

You can tell from the photo that Carol died this past summer while Ralph is still alive.

Hats off Ralph Best for the best and funniest tribute I've seen in a while.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:22 PM | Permalink

December 13, 2010

"The feelings of the dead"

A new generation of Jewish volunteers is learning how to prepare a body for burial using techniques that attend to “the feelings of the dead.”

Reviving a Ritual of Tending to the Dead.

The volunteers are taught to begin at the head, washing the face before proceeding to the neck and right shoulder. The right side is to be washed before the left side, the front before the back. There are prayers to say. Small talk is forbidden.


Now, a movement to restore lost tradition has motivated a new generation of Jewish volunteers to learn a set of skills that was common knowledge for many of their great-grandparents: the rituals of bathing, dressing and watching over the bodies of neighbors and friends who have died.

It is a nationwide revival propelled in almost equal parts, experts say, by an emerging sense of mortality among baby boomers, a reaction against the corporate character of the funeral home industry and a growing cultural receptivity to past spiritual practices, even some that make many people squeamish.


Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, the founder and director of Vaad Harabonim of Queens, a national association of rabbis who promote traditional burial, has crisscrossed the country in recent years teaching the philosophy and technique. He described the approach as attending not just to the bodies, but also to “the feelings of the dead.”

“We don’t think of this being we are preparing for burial as a ‘body,’ ” said Rabbi Zohn, an Orthodox Jew whose knowledge of burial tradition is mainly sought after by the non-Orthodox. “It’s a person; and that person in our view is still alive in a parallel world, very much aware of what’s happening.”

People who can approach a deceased person in that spirit, he said, are potential members of a “chevra kadisha,” translated variously as a burial or sacred society.

In the New York region and on Long Island, where he has concentrated his efforts, Rabbi Zohn estimates that 25 percent of Jewish burials today incorporate the burial rituals, compared with about 2 or 3 percent 15 years ago.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 AM | Permalink

November 11, 2010

"We will be their family"

Dignified Hampton Roads Burial for Abandoned Vets

It started a few months ago with a phone call to Sturtevant Funeral Home in Portsmouth.

A group called the Missing in America Project wanted to know about the funeral home's unclaimed cremated remains. It wanted a list of names - Social Security numbers if possible - so it could determine whether any of them ever served in the military.

So the funeral home did some research, then turned over its findings to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The word came back: Among the unclaimed cremated remains were 10 veterans, all of whom had been honorably discharged. That was all Missing in America needed to know.

"They shouldn't be sitting there unclaimed," said Charlie Warthling, a local volunteer with the group. "This is the right thing to do."

On Thursday, the 10 will be buried with military honors at Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. Five of them served in the Army, two each in the Navy and Marine Corps, and one in the Air Force.

"For whatever reason, their families were never able to do this for them," Warthling said. "So we'll be their family."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 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

October 7, 2010

Fighting Words

Jonah Goldberg on The Hidden Law, Fighting Words & Phelps

If this country worked more properly, if you saw  whole bunch of battered, bruised and bloodied people in an emergency room, you might ask “What happened to them?”

Then someone would say, “Oh they went to a Marine’s funeral and shouted something about ‘fags’ and  ‘thank God for dead soldiers.’ Then they wouldn’t leave when asked. So they got their asses beat.”

And you’d respond, “Ah. Sounds about right.”

And then you’d go about your day.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 AM | Permalink

September 27, 2010

After 66 years, soldier finally laid to rest

WWII soldier laid to rest 66 years later

An emotional homecoming for a fallen soldier from Vermont. He was killed in combat nearly six decades ago, but his body was not identified until earlier this year.

66-years after his death, Army Sgt. Edward Jones was laid to rest with full military honors Saturday, alongside a family plot at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Middle Granville, New York. He finally returned home from World War II.

"Today my uncle is home, that means a lot," said his nephew Charles Pecue.

Back on November 6, 1944, the West Pawlet native and five other soldiers were attempting to capture two German communities when a German tank fired at them point-blank. After the attack, Jones' remains were not located so the 27-year-old was officially listed as missing in action.

For years, family and friends held out hope the Army Sgt. would return home alive.

"Just wondered if he was alive, or had just met somebody, got married and decided to stay overseas, always hoped he would come home. And today he did," said Pecue.

Two years ago, an excavation team working in Germany found fragments of a boot in a bomb crater. Members of the German War Graves Commission unearthed more items.

"Kind of in awe that they did find the remains, full, full remains of my uncle. Everything was there. His dog tag, his ID cards, his social security cards, all his remains were there, wallet, everything. He was easy to identify," said Pecue.

Closure for a family, knowing that Sgt. Edward Jones now rests in peace side-by-side with many of his family members he was separated from six decades ago.

"I feel good, my uncle is home, and a soldier has returned," said Pecue.

The remains of a soldier from Ohio were found alongside Jones. That soldier was buried today as well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:55 PM | Permalink

September 21, 2010

The Mess at Arlington Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery is more than a mess because of the ineptitude of some bureaucrats who will never be held accountable.  Ineptitude, lack of even basic oversight over outsourced contractors  and bureaucratic shrugs  beat out the respect and horror due to bodies of fallen warriors and their grieving families.

There may be as many as 6600 graves at Arlington National Cemetery that could be mislabeled because proper records weren't kept of where the bodies were buried.


The author of the linked piece is Mike Warner, uncle to a fallen Marine whose body was disinterred to verify that it was buried in the right place.

Unimagineable Horror for Father of Fallen Marine

On September 15, 2010 at around 0800 in the morning, a family makes their way into Arlington National Cemetery for the Disinterment of a Marine Private killed by an IED in Al Anbar Province Iraq on 22 November 2006 killing him and two others.

As they stood at the grave site, a forklift arrives to raise a coffin from the vault that had interred it for nearly four years. Arlington knew at this point that the vault and coffin had been opened. When the family became aware of this action, an unsettling air of distrust settled upon the gathering. The father yells “you lied” as family members hold and calm him. The father already marred and angry by the uncooperative atmosphere and insensitivity of Arlington’s leadership; his grief now changes to anger. Another promise broken! Arlington, to seemingly cover their asses had breached the coffin the night before to ensure the Marine Private and the dog tags were in the assigned plot.

With a rotting corpse and the putrid stench of death permeating the air, a worker removes a dog tag from the coffin lid, wipes off the dirt, and hands it to the father. The forklift begins to raise the coffin; putrid water begins streaming out and those in attendance gasp as the fear of body parts falling from the unstable casket grips them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 PM | Permalink

September 10, 2010

Prince Charles endorses woolen coffins

Woollen coffins get royal backing

A UK company is producing environmentally friendly woollen coffins, which have received the backing of Prince Charles, The Daily Mail reports.

Each coffin is made of thick felt from British fleeces spread over a recycled cardboard frame, with cotton and polythene liners and jute edging and handles.
Hainsworth, a 225-year-old family-run textile mill in Leeds, has sold about 500 of the low-carbon-footprint coffins in dark brown and natural white since last June.

Prince Charles visited the farm last year and was impressed by the coffins.

"These are the first woollen coffins in the world," company spokeswoman Victoria Mellor said.

"British wool often goes into making carpets, but due to the problems in the housing market there has been less demand and farmers have suffered.

"Prince Charles is eager to do anything to help them."

And so he did.  The Prince of Wales asked for it to be put on display at his Claridge House home in London

Prince Charles even suggested that small versions of the woollen coffins created for pets could be used to bury the Queen's corgis when they die.

 Woolen Coffins Prince Charles

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 AM | Permalink

August 31, 2010

The Incorruptibles

I've always been mystified by the Incorruptibles and I am not alone as scientists are baffled and cannot explain the phenomenon of certain dead bodies that do not decompose.


Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes who died in 1879
Incorruptibles are typically found lifelike, moist, flexible, and contain a sweet scent that many say smells like roses or other flowers, for years after death.

Incorruptibles are almost never embalmed or treated in any way due to the religious order's beliefs that the person came from.

Incorruptibles remain free of decay, some for centuries, despite circumstances which normally cause decay such as being exposed to air, moisture, other decaying bodies, or other variables such as quicklime, which is typically applied to a corpse to accelerate decomposition.

Incorruptibles many times contain clear, flowing oils, perspiration, and flowing blood for years after death, where accidental or deliberately preserved bodies have never been recorded to have such characteristics.

Other partial incorruptibles have been found throughout the centuries where certain parts of the body decay normally, while other parts such as the heart or tongue remain perfectly free of decomposition.

Read the whole article to see what else they have in common.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

August 24, 2010

The liquid alternative to cremation

I didn't even know about water cremation, yet, it's already been approved by the Catholic Church.

Cremation by water approved by Church

The world's first water cremation centre on the Gold Coast is offering a liquid alternative to cremation and burial, using a process it hopes will revolutionise the funeral industry - and the process has been approved by the Catholic Church.

Aquamation Industries' John Humphries says the service, at the Eco Memorial Park at Stapylton near Dreamworld, is currently the first of its kind, but he expects around 30 centres around Australia will offer the option within 12 months, reports AAP in theSydney Morning Herald.

"Aquamation is a more natural, ethical and environmentally friendly alternative to cremations and uses water instead of fire to return a body to nature, Mr Humphries said.

-----------The process, called alkaline hydrolysis, relies on the same natural forces by which which a dead animal is returned to nature in the bush, he said.

"So we've put this totally natural process into a stainless steel tube where the body is washed for about four hours; it's the same natural breakdown of tissue, just at a faster rate, and even the Catholic church has now approved it," he said.
------------He said nature invented the process, and his company has "simply re-designed the equipment so the water breaks down the cells and brings the body back to the chemical component it's made up of, leaving only white chalky bones which are returned to the family in an urn, like ashes."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 PM | Permalink

August 12, 2010

Must monks install embalming equipment and become funeral directors so they can sell wooden caskets?

Can the government restrict the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Saint Benedict, La., from building boxes?

Yes, says the state, if those boxes are for the deceased.

State Goes After Monks for the "Sin" of Selling Caskets

In 2007, the monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey started St. Joseph Woodworks for the purpose of building simple wooden caskets as a means of supporting themselves. Monks in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota have been in the casket-making business for years.

Before they were able to sell even a single casket, the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors told them that their sale of caskets violated state law, which says that you cannot sell “funeral merchandise” unless you’re a licensed funeral director. Were the monks to sell their caskets, they would risk both fines and imprisonment.

In order to sell caskets legally, the monks would have to apprentice at a licensed funeral home for a year, take a funeral industry test, and convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment,” installing equipment for embalming.
This morning, the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice is holding a press conference on the front steps of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on behalf of the monks. They are announcing a federal lawsuit to fight against the state funeral board’s attempt to shut down their casket-making business.

“A casket is just a box and you do not even need one for burial,” said Institute for Justice senior attorney Scott Bullock. “There is no legitimate health or safety reason to license casket sellers.”
The Institute for Justice says that the only reason the state of Louisiana is preventing the Abbey from selling its caskets is to protect the profits of the state’s funeral directors.

“Economic liberty is a constitutional right that matters to everyone, even monks,” said Jeff Rowes, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 PM | Permalink

July 29, 2010

Crowded Morgues in Arizona

They say illegal immigration is lessening but  An Arizona Morgue Grows Crowded.

 Crowded Morgue

Since the first of the year, more than 150 people suspected of being illegal immigrants have been found dead, well above the 107 discovered during the same period in each of the last two years. The sudden spike in deaths has overwhelmed investigators and pathologists at the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office. Two weeks ago, Dr. Parks was forced to bring in a refrigerated truck to store the remains of two dozen people because the building’s two units were full.

“We can store about 200 full-sized individuals, but we have over 300 people here now, and most of those are border crossers,” Dr. Parks said. “We keep hoping we have seen the worst of this, of these migration deaths. Yet we still see a lot of remains.”

Since 2000, Dr. Park’s office has handled more than 1,700 border-crossing cases, and officials here have managed to confirm the identities of about 1,050 of the remains.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2010

Drive-thru Funeral Home


From Ten unusual drive-thru services

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2010

Great recession leaves more unable to afford funerals

A sad sign of the times in this story from Cleveland:  More families can't afford funerals or burials.

With the cost of a funeral and burial upwards of $5,000, it is not surprising that more and more local families find themselves hard-pressed to provide what their deceased loved one wanted or requested.

"We were lost, and I didn't know what to do," said Krys Williams, whose son David was shot and killed in April in a downtown Cleveland parking lot.

"It was a horrible situation," says her husband Dan Rinaldi. They could not afford a suitable Christian funeral and burial, but were rescued by a little known Catholic organization called the Callistian Guild.
Local funeral directors and cemeteries say they can't remember a time when so many people were unable to pay for a funeral and burial.
"That's the reason for the Callistian Guild, to help those who may qualify for this service," says Lah. "You have to be Catholic, you truly have to be unable to provide burial for your loved ones, or if someone is truly alone and there is no one left to provide that service."

I had never heard of the Callistan Guild, founded in 1975, that now includes dozens of funeral homes and services but I  am grateful and appreciative that they exist to provide a "final remembrance that is meaningful and dignified."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2010

Undisturbed Grave


Periander ordered two young men to go out by night along a certain road, to kill the first man they met there, and to bury him.

Then he ordered four more men to find those two and kill them.

And he sent an even greater number to murder those four.

Periander then set off down the road himself to wait for them.

In this way he ensured that the location of his grave would never be known

Undisturbed in the Futility Closet via Ka-Ching

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:51 PM | Permalink

July 7, 2010

'Frankenstein callousness'

The latest "environmental" idea from Belgium which if the EU allows could spread across the continent

Belgium plans to dissolve bodies in caustic solutions... and flush them into sewage systems

The EU is considering proposals from Belgian undertakers to be allowed to dissolve dead bodies in caustic solutions to help save the environment.

The remains could then be flushed into the sewage systems of towns and cities to be recycled at water processing plants.

If approved in Belgium, EU law would allow for the procedure to be used in the UK.

Those behind the controversial new method say it is less expensive and more environmentally-friendly than running highly-polluting crematoria or using up valuable land for graves.

But critics say it smacks of 'Frankenstein callousness' towards the dead and that people will find the idea disturbing.
The process of reducing a body to ash is called chemical hydrolysis and has been used on a large scale in recent years in the destruction of cattle found to have BSE.

Known as 'resomation', the process significantly reduces the 573lb of carbon dioxide that the burning of a single body puts into the atmosphere.

The body is placed in a steel chamber along with potassium hydroxide at high pressure and a temperature of 180C - 80 per cent cooler than a standard crematorium.

The increased pressure and temperature means the body reaches a similar end point to standard cremation in two or three hours.

Six states in the U.S. - Maine, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon and Maryland - recently passed legislation which allowed for resomation.

Although experts insist that the ashes can be recycled in waste systems, the residue from the process can also be put into urns and given to the relatives of the dead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:44 PM | Permalink

June 25, 2010

Wooden crosses too dangerous

 Woodencross Cemetery
Photo of a wooden cross in Holywell cemetery in the heart of Oxford, U.K.

Grieving families left distraught after council rules that wooden crosses are 'too dangerous' for cemeteries

A council is under fire for banning crosses from one of its cemeteries - over health and safety fears.

Families have been left distraught after North Somerset Council started to remove wooden crosses from its graveyards.

One woman has told how her mother-in-law's grave was targeted after she died of cancer in May.

Liz Maggs placed a 26-inch high wooden cross bearing a personal inscription on Rosemary Maggs' burial plot at the Ebdon Road cemetery in Weston-super-Mare, while the family waited for a headstone to be made.

But when Mrs Maggs, 43, returned to visit the grave with her husband Charles and daughters Zoe, 16, and Danielle, 14, just a few days later she found the cross had disappeared.

She reported it stolen to cemetery staff but they told her it had been removed because it did not meet council regulations.

Mrs Maggs, a carer, was told if she wanted the cross back she had to go and look in an alleyway at the back of the cemetery where items which had been removed from graves were stored.

The fact that the cross had been removed upset Danielle so much that she collapsed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 PM | Permalink

June 23, 2010

More remains found at Ground Zero

Remains of 72 people found this year at World Trade Center site

New York City officials say a renewed search this year of debris in and around the World Trade Center site has recovered 72 human remains.

The sifting of more than 800 cubic yards (612 cubic meters) of debris recovered from ground zero and underneath roads around the lower Manhattan site began in April and ended Friday.

The greatest number of remains – 37 – were found from material underneath West Street, a highway on the west side of ground zero. The new debris was uncovered as construction work made new parts of the site accessible.

The city began a renewed search for human remains in 2006. More than 1,800 remains have been found.

Some have been matched to previously unidentified 9/11 victims.

Imagine dealing with a funeral or memorial service almost 10 years after the attack on the WTC.  I wonder how those families feel about the mosque proposed just feet away from where their loved ones met their deaths.

Here's what Mark Steyn has to say
A mosque at Ground Zero. We think it symbolizes our "tolerance". They think it symbolizes our submission. Either way, the two most important sites of 9/11 - the scene of the greatest atrocity and the scene of the only good news of the day - will honor neither the victims nor American heroism. Lower Manhattan nine years on is, in its own way, a very telling memorial.

Here's what he had to say about the memorial planned for the site of the downed Flight 93

The memorial is called “The Crescent of Embrace”.

That sounds like a fabulous winning entry - in a competition to create a note-perfect parody of effete multicultural responses to terrorism. Indeed, if anything, it’s too perfect a parody: the “embrace” is just the usual huggy-weepy reconciliatory boilerplate, but the “crescent” transforms its generic cultural abasement into something truly spectacular. In the design plans, “The Crescent of Embrace” looks more like the embrace of the Crescent – ie, Islam. After all, what better way to demonstrate your willingness to “embrace” your enemies than by erecting a giant Islamic crescent at the site of the day’s most unambiguous episode of American heroism?

Okay, let’s get all the “of courses” out of the way – of course, the overwhelmingly majority of Muslims aren’t terrorists; of course, we all know “Islam” means “peace” and “jihad” means “healthy-lifestyle lo-carb granola bar”; etc, etc. Nevertheless, the men who hijacked Flight 93 did it in the name of Islam and their last words as they hit the Pennsylvania sod were no doubt “Allahu Akhbar”. One would like to think that even today one would be unlikely to come across an Allied D-Day memorial called the Swastika of Embrace. Yet Paul Murdoch, the architect, has somehow managed to conceive a design that makes a splendid memorial to the hijackers rather than their victims.
Four years ago, Todd Beamer’s rallying cry was quoted by Presidents and rock stars alike. That’s all that’s needed in Pennsylvania: the kind of simple dignified memorial you see on small-town commons honouring Civil war veterans, a granite block with the names of the passengers and the words “LET’S ROLL.” The “crescent of embrace”, in its desperation to see no enemies and stand for nothing, represents a shameful modification: Are you ready, guys? Let’s roll over.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink

Their name is mud

Sometimes the idiocy of public officials is breathtaking.

Arlington Cemetery officials knew about discarded tombstones found in stream

Officials at Arlington National Cemetery were aware that discarded tombstones were lining the banks of a small stream on the grounds for more than a decade but left them in the mud, officials said Tuesday.

The headstones were put in place to support the bank, and officials apparently did not want to remove them for fear of damaging the stream, said Dave Foster, an Army spokesman.

An Army investigation released this month found a "dysfunctional" and chaotic management system that led to the mislabeling of more than 200 graves and the dumping of at least four urns in a dirt pile. The cemetery's top two leaders -- Superintendent John C. Metzler Jr. and his deputy, Thurman Higginbotham -- were reprimanded and replaced.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

June 21, 2010

Exhumation of Bobby Fischer

When the reclusive chess champion Bobby Fischer died in 2008, he left no will for his estate worth nearly $2 million.

But did he leave an unacknowledged child?  Does the child have superior claims to his former wife, the IRS, and other relatives who are now pressing claims?

The remains of chess champion Bobby Fischer are to be exhumed in order to settle a paternity claim, an Icelandic court has ruled.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2010

German mummies


Wilfried Rosendahl / Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen Mannheim

Before cryogenics or deep-freezing bodies was invented, the Germans went Egyptian.

The Mystery of Germany's Aristocratic Mummies

When they died, Germany noble families of the 18th century did what the Egyptians had done before them: They had themselves mummified. As an increasing number of such well-preserved corpses are found, scientists are trying to find out why.

Baron von Holz had a difficult lot. During the Thirty Years' War, von Holz fought in the Swedish army as a mercenary, but he was not granted a hero's death on the battlefield. He was cut down, rather less heroically, at the age of 35 by either the flu or blood poisoning. And it was only in death, that his situation really improved.

His family dressed his mortal remains in precious calf-leather boots with nailed soles. The warrior was then laid out in a kind of luxury crypt under the castle of Sommersdorf near Ansbach, in modern-day Bavaria. In those vaults von Holz's corpse was privileged with an honor previously reserved primarily for Egyptian pharaohs: His body did not decompose.
About 1,000 mummified bodies in German noblemen's graves have been discovered and cataloged so far. The vaults contain children as well as adults, their clothes are sometimes still in remarkably good condition. Often the tombs also contain burial objects: Combs, spices, coins, and in one case, a shaving brush.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:14 PM | Permalink

June 4, 2010

Grave Matters

So what's it like as an undertaker?

Life and Death as a Mortician

"Sometimes I feel like the Grim Reaper," Steve sighs back out in the hallway. "It's giving me a complex."

While he's hardly death incarnate, he may be the closest living thing to it. If he's temporarily visiting a church, a parishioner is permanently leaving it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

May 23, 2010

Marines in Dress Blues Stood Watch As He Lay Dying

"He buried them on Iwo, they buried him yesterday in Massachusetts."

A Favor Returned by  Jules Crittenden and the Boston Herald

In the bloodiest days of Iwo Jima, he spoke the last words over fallen Marines and Navy corpsmen as they were buried in the island’s black sand.

Yesterday, Marines, sailors and soldiers returned the favor to the late Rev. E. Gage Hotaling of Agawam, sending the old Navy chaplain on to join his comrades with military honors.

Hotaling, 94, died Sunday in a Springfield hospital, 65 years after the iconic battle for the Pacific island. In a 2007 documentary, he talked about the grim task he faced as Marines fell in bitter combat against the dug-in Japanese enemy. Of the 6,821 Americans killed, Hotaling believed he buried about 1,800.

“We would have four Marines with a flag over each grave. And while they were kneeling with the flag, I would stand up and I would give the committal words for each one,” he told the filmmakers.

He said he took up smoking to overcome the stench of decay.

“I did it not as a Protestant, Catholic or a Jew, but as a Marine,” the Baptist minister said. “Every man was buried as a Marine. And so I gave the same committal to each one.”
Thanks to Joe Galloway and Massachusetts State Trooper Mike Cutone on the headsup. Cutone, an Army Special Forces veteran of Iraq, was on a prisoner watch at Mercy Hospital when he learned from an old Marine that Hotaling was dying down the hall, made some calls and
saw to it he was attended at his bedside by Marines in dress blues in his last days as he had tended to them in theirs in dirty, bloodstained dungarees.

The Boston Herald has a fine video that brought tears to my eyes.

What men they were!  The last are dying now.    That  war is a terrible thing is much on my mind these days having watched the HBO series, The Pacific and earlier this year for the first time the earlier HBO series Band of Brothers
But what examples of manliness - courage, endurance, loyalty, resiliency and sacrifice.  How alive they were!  One reason why the bonds made between men at war have proved so enduring.

With Memorial Day weekend soon upon us, the quote that comes to mind is

Only 2 defining forces have ever offered to die for you.....Jesus Christ, and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 AM | Permalink

Marines in Dress Blues Stood Watch As He Lay Dying

"He buried them on Iwo, they buried him yesterday in Massachusetts."

A Favor Returned by  Jules Crittenden and the Boston Herald

In the bloodiest days of Iwo Jima, he spoke the last words over fallen Marines and Navy corpsmen as they were buried in the island’s black sand.

Yesterday, Marines, sailors and soldiers returned the favor to the late Rev. E. Gage Hotaling of Agawam, sending the old Navy chaplain on to join his comrades with military honors.

Hotaling, 94, died Sunday in a Springfield hospital, 65 years after the iconic battle for the Pacific island. In a 2007 documentary, he talked about the grim task he faced as Marines fell in bitter combat against the dug-in Japanese enemy. Of the 6,821 Americans killed, Hotaling believed he buried about 1,800.

“We would have four Marines with a flag over each grave. And while they were kneeling with the flag, I would stand up and I would give the committal words for each one,” he told the filmmakers.

He said he took up smoking to overcome the stench of decay.

“I did it not as a Protestant, Catholic or a Jew, but as a Marine,” the Baptist minister said. “Every man was buried as a Marine. And so I gave the same committal to each one.”
Thanks to Joe Galloway and Massachusetts State Trooper Mike Cutone on the headsup. Cutone, an Army Special Forces veteran of Iraq, was on a prisoner watch at Mercy Hospital when he learned from an old Marine that Hotaling was dying down the hall, made some calls and
saw to it he was attended at his bedside by Marines in dress blues in his last days as he had tended to them in theirs in dirty, bloodstained dungarees.

The Boston Herald has a fine video that brought tears to my eyes.

What men they were!  The last are dying now.    That  war is a terrible thing is much on my mind these days having watched the HBO series, The Pacific and earlier this year for the first time the earlier HBO series Band of Brothers
But what examples of manliness - courage, endurance, loyalty, resiliency and sacrifice.  How alive they were!  One reason why the bonds made between men at war have proved so enduring.

With Memorial Day weekend soon upon us, the quote that comes to mind is

Only 2 defining forces have ever offered to die for you.....Jesus Christ, and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 AM | Permalink

Laid to Rest After 500 Years

Priests Lay Copernicus To Rest 500 Years On

NICOLAUS Copernicus – the 16th-century astronomer whose work was condemned by the Catholic Church as heretical – was reburied by Polish priests as a hero yesterday, nearly 500 years after he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave.

His burial in a tomb in the cathedral where he once served as a church canon and doctor indicates how far the church has come in making peace with the scientist whose revolutionary theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun helped usher in the modern scientific age.

Copernicus, who lived from 1473 to 1543, died as a little-known astronomer working in what is now Poland. He had spent years developing his theory, which was later condemned as heretical by the church because it removed Earth and humanity from the centre of the universe. After his death, his remains rested in an unmarked grave beneath the floor of the cathedral in Frombork, northern Poland.

In 2004 scientists began searching for the astronomer's remains and eventually found a skull and bones of a 70-year-old man.

opernicus, who lived from 1473 to 1543, died as a little-known astronomer working in what is now Poland. He had spent years developing his theory, which was later condemned as heretical by the church because it removed Earth and humanity from the centre of the universe. After his death, his remains rested in an unmarked grave beneath the floor of the cathedral in Frombork, northern Poland.

In 2004 scientists began searching for the astronomer's remains and eventually found a skull and bones of a 70-year-old man.

DNA from teeth and bones matched that of hairs found in one of his books, leading the scientists to conclude that they had found Copernicus.

Here's the image of the reconstructed face from the skull that I found when I first posted about the identification of the body in 2005.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 AM | Permalink

April 22, 2010

"Too fast to live, too young to die"

"Too fast to live, too young to die" was the slogan on Malcolm McLaren's coffin as he was laid to rest to the strains of Sid Vicious singing My Way.

Malcolm McLaren's Funeral

The Sex Pistols manager hailed as the "godfather of punk" had a typically flamboyant send-off at a funeral attended by Dame Vivienne Westwood, Adam Ant, Tracey Emin and Sir Bob Geldof.

His coffin arrived at the deconsecrated One Marylebone Church, central London in a horse-drawn carriage. The mourners were transported in a green double decker bus emblazoned with the words: "Malcolm was here".

Inside the church, a blue and white floral tribute spelled out "cash from chaos", one of McLaren's slogans.
Dame Vivienne, McLaren's former partner and the mother of his son, Joe Corre, wore a headband that said "Chaos".

Adam Ant reminded onlookers of his 1980s heyday by tucking old photographs of himself into his hat. Other guests in cluded designer Pam Hogg, artist Dinos Chapman and Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie.

There was dancing in the aisles as McLaren's version of the Max Bygraves hit You Need Hands was played in the church.

McLaren died of cancer earlier this month, aged 64.
His family had called on fans to stage a "minute of mayhem" rather than the traditional minute's silence, and a handful of punks were among the crowds lining the route as the funeral cortege made its way through the streets of Camden.

At least the church was deconsecrated.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2010

Standing ovation at funeral service

Bravo! From the Redgrave dynasty, a rousing last ovation for Corin

 Vanessa-Redgrave Clapping

It was the day a theatre dynasty gathered to say farewell to one of their own.

And as Corin Redgrave's wicker coffin was driven away yesterday, they brought the curtain down on his life in fitting style.

Cries of 'bravo' rang out as the mourners, including his sisters Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, gave the actor and political activist a final standing ovation at his funeral service.
Redgrave, who died last week aged 70, was the son of matinee idol Sir Michael Redgrave and his actress wife Rachel Kempson.

He became a fine character actor on stage and in films from A Man for All Seasons to Four Weddings and a Funeral, but was also known for his political activism and Marxist views.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 PM | Permalink

March 29, 2010

Do you want to be buried with your cellphone or TV remote?

From Obit, the new site and magazine all about obituaries, comes The Crowded Casket,

Since the beginning of burials, man has often gone to the grave with company. These days, funeral directors grant most requests: a shotgun … a case of beer … a bottle of Jack Daniels … some favorite cigars … golf clubs, usually putters … a clarinet … a tool belt … homemade wine … Oreo cookies … hot peppers.
“Out here, everyone gets buried with their cell phone,’’ said Noelle Berman, a family counselor at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. “Cell phones. Blackberrys. Wii Consoles.’’
“Nowadays, you have the TV remote,’’ said Bill O’Leary, a Philadelphia funeral director. “That’s like the hottest thing.’’

Imagine that, the ridiculousness of being buried with your TV remote.

Still and all, I had a chuckle at the 97-year-old grandmother who loved to pop bubble wrap and her grandchildren who put a sheet of bubblewrap in the casket

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink

March 17, 2010

The Beauty of an Irish lament

From The Daily Undertaker

Funerals are the means through which we travel from death, back into life. They are important and meaningful to us as individuals and as a culture. In contrast to the United States, where funerals and other memorial rituals seem to be on the wane, the people of Ireland hold fast to their funeral traditions.

The following article by Marie Murray, ...conveys the importance and meaning of funerals better than any I've read in a long time.

Funerals form an integral part of Irish life, Recognising the beauty of an Irish lament

WHATEVER HAS been lost in Irish culture, the tradition of funeral going has not died. Attending funerals remains an integral part of cultural life.

Funeral going is psychologically complex. It is comforting to those who mourn; recognition of the life of those who have died; and a celebration of their existence. It allows lament for their departure and acknowledgment of the loss for those who loved them.

Funeral attendance is a statement of connection, care, compassion and support. It encircles those who grieve and enriches those who attend because it connects each person there to the profundity of living and the inevitability of death. Funeral attendees witness the raw emotions of grief and the extraordinary capacity of the human spirit to love.
But there is psychological reason, social solidarity and cultural cohesion in funeral attendance, and even as the ceremonies, the belief systems they operate from or the expression of grief may change, the meaning of marking death remains, and long may we travel highway and byway to do so.

For St Patrick's Day, here is an Irish lament.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

March 3, 2010

Message from smoker on his funeral hearse


Dick Whittamore's last wish granted when his hearse bore the message Smoking Killed Me

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 AM | Permalink

February 24, 2010

The Fields of Less Than Nothing

Just an amazing, horrific, inspiring story by Matt Labash called Love Among the Ruins about the amazing Father Rick Frechette in Haiti.

Every Thursday—since long before the earthquake—Frechette and a band of Haitian volunteers trek to the city morgue and claim the nameless dead, who lie naked in bloated heaps on a blood-streaked concrete floor. “You’ve heard of Tuesdays with Morrie,” Frechette smiles, “this is Thursdays with the Krokmo” (a Creole pejorative term for undertaker. It translates as the “death hook,” meaning the show is over). The place is jammed and the dead often piled seven or eight high. The workers there are so inured to the stench and spectacle, that Frechette has seen a morgue attendant slaloming on roller blades around the bodies and workers eating their lunch while sitting on stacks of cadavers as though on breaktime in the office kitchenette.

 Father Rick Labash.Haiti

In Haiti, even before the quake, dead bodies were nothing more than background music—as commonplace as they are unnoticed. If they didn’t end up in the stark death-cave that is the general hospital morgue, they were burned in the streets on the spot where they died (a pragmatic hygiene concern). The decency and sentimentality that a better-developed society affords are luxuries here. Father Rick and his men gather the bodies themselves, packing them into makeshift coffins fashioned from supermarket cardboard boxes. They then truck them outside the city, up a sun-bleached highway that runs alongside the Caribbean Sea, to the rolling wastelands of Titanyen, which translates from Creole as the “fields of less than nothing.” A New Orleans-style Haitian jazz-funeral band—all horns and drums—plays graveside. Father Rick, an irreverent sort, calls them “The Grateful Dead.” Then he and his men plant the cardboard coffins in large holes dug by their own gravediggers, endowing their cargo in death with a tiny modicum of the dignity that eluded them in life.
He’s been doing the morgue runs for 15 years, but has never gotten used to the smell. It makes him so sick, he brings along rum and cigarettes. “People ask me if I smoke,” he says. “Only on Thursdays.” The Haitians avail themselves of the goods, but for Frechette, they’re not optional. Without the spirit’s fumes and cigarette smoke chasing the smell of the dead out of his nostrils, he vomits, which his Haitian colleagues find amusing.

When he returned to Haiti right after the earthquake, there was an overflow crowd at the morgue, literally thousands of dead laid out in the street in front of it. “They were picking them up with backhoes and bucket-loaders, dumping them into trucks,” says Frechette, adding that the machines crunched the bodies against the walls in order to be able to scoop them. “They were hanging out the sides like crabs in a bucket. Really, really terrible. It was so shocking, so disgusting, I yelled, ‘Give me a cigarette!’

When I ask him how he could head back into the jaws of Haiti just a day after burying his mom, he tells me of her death. She knew it was happening, and she had time to prepare, had the best care, had lived a full life, and died with her family surrounding her. When he asked his mother why she wasn’t afraid, knowing she’d die, she told him that she “believes in God, and if she looks at the whole trajectory of her life, life has been very good, why start mistrusting it?” “I think the fuller your life is, the less death is a threat to you,” says Father Rick. “Empty people are scared to death to die.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 16, 2010

A Man's Primer on Funeral Etiquette

From the Art of Manliness, A Man's Primer on Funeral Etiquette

“How we treat the dead says an awful lot about how we live. For the strong and able to serve the helpless dead, to honor frail remains, reaches deep inside us to something basic to humanity.” -Paul Gregory Alms

 Funeral Walk

But being a gentleman of tact, respect, and sensitivity is never more important than at the occasion of someone’s death. Instead of adding distractions and stress to the already grievously burdened, be a source of great comfort. People are at their most fragile, and your job as a man of honor is to be supportive and dignified.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

February 9, 2010

Wildcat scattering

More on the delicate matter of sprinkling cremated ashes in the Wall St. Journal.

Love, Honor, Cherish and Scatter

More Americans these days are scattering loved ones' ashes widely, with great purpose and often without permission—an act known in the funeral industry as a "wildcat scattering." It's a reflection of both the marked rise in cremation and the growing desire by people to find their own ways to ritualize grief.

Before about 1980, just 4% of families were choosing cremation over burial. Now, 39% select cremation, and in the next 15 years, the percentage is expected to approach 60%, according to the Cremation Association of North America. The increase is being driven in part by cremation's cheaper cost, and in part by the fact that fewer extended families are rooted in one specific place anymore—which means they don't live close enough to visit a loved one's gravesite.
The Cremation Association's surveys indicate that about 135,000 families are now choosing to scatter ashes each year. Since the average body yields five pounds in cremated remains, that means some 338 tons of human ashes are spread around annually.
Scientists agree that there is no health or environmental hazard from the spread of human ashes. "It's mineral-based and typically, with wind and rain, will melt into the soil within days," says John Ross, executive director of the Cremation Association.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

January 24, 2010

Homeless veteran saved 5 in fire

A former Marine, he struggled with the drink and lived homeless for years under a Cleveland bridge, a father of five children.

Ray Vivier began to put his life back on track with a job as a welder and a room at a boarding house. When an arsonist set the boarding house ablaze, it was Ray who saved five people from that house and lost his life in so doing.  His body lay unclaimed

Thanks to a soup kitchen volunteer, he was given a proper burial and 15 years later, his ashes were inurned at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors.

Homeless veteran who saved 5 in fire laid to rest.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 AM | Permalink

January 15, 2010

"The dead are everywhere"

The suffering in Haiti continues unabated as Haitian families struggle to find, bury their dead

Some of the dead in this shattered city line the roads, carefully placed garments shrouding their faces. Others are carried into the hills for quick burials. Hundreds are arrayed in a macabre tangle of limbs outside a morgue, just feet from the grievously wounded.

The living and the dead here share the same space — the sidewalks, the public plazas, the hospitals. The living are frightened of being inside in case another earthquake hits; the dead are everywhere.

On the doorstep of a pharmacy, six bodies were lined up shoulder to shoulder. On the body of one woman, covered in a sheet, rested a small bundle, the tiny leg of an infant sticking out of the wrap.

“It’s beyond description. The disaster, the damage, is just so overwhelming,” said Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in Haiti. “Everyone has a scarf or something, because the smell is unbearable. … You literally have bodies all over the place.”

The international Red Cross estimates up to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday’s earthquake. For now, few know what to do with the bodies. People say they’re being left on roadsides and doorsteps so relatives who may have survived can find them, or for families to find transportation for burials.

Some families wouldn’t wait. Relatives of one woman who was killed in the earthquake dug her grave about 20 feet (6 meters) from the road, her body wrapped in a sheet and strapped to a door. Across the street, others dug graves and built a bonfire to keep away flies and ward off the stench.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

January 5, 2010

Golden mafia coffin

 Golden Mafia Coffin
Pallbearers carry the golden casket containing the body of gunned down Nick Rizzuto

Son of Canada's supreme Mafia boss carried to funeral in golden coffin

The son of Canada's most powerful Mafia boss has been laid to rest in a golden coffin.

With a heavy police presence the body of Nick Rizzuto, son of Montreal Mafia head Vito Rizzuto, was carried through the streets of the city's Little Italy neighbourhood yesterday.

Nick, was standing next to a black Mercedes last Monday when a gunman approached him and fire several shots into him. He died at the scene and the killer has still not been caught.
This turnout shows respect,' Padulo said. 'In the eye of God he's a great person. It was a beautiful service.'

His father Vito is currently serving a sentence in Colorado for racketeering related three Mafia murders in 1981 and was not seen at the funeral.

This doesn't seem to be a very good idea to me.  How long before some wayward youths brimming with testosterone decide this is one grave worth robbing?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

November 30, 2009

The Death and Funeral of an Oklahoma monk from France

Francois de Feydau was born in Tunisia where his father worked as an engineer.  Soon his family returned to their native France where Francois grew up near Versailles.    He died a monk in Oklahoma.

From his obituary in the Tahlequah Daily Press

Shortly after being commissioned an officer and sailing around the world in the Naval Academy ship the "Jeanne d'Arc," he found himself free to pursue the vocation he had felt from a very early age and entered the novitiate of the Benedictine Abbey of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault. He made his solemn vows as a monk in 1980 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1983. After having several important jobs at Fontgombault, including that of assistant novice-master, he was chosen to be among the 13 founders of Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery, arriving in Oklahoma in August 1999. At Clear Creek Father de Feydeau was named sub-prior, cellarer - in charge of the daily work of the monks and all business matters - and master of ceremonies.

His funeral from Death comes for an Oklahoma monk.

"The funeral was so beautiful and simple. ...The monks built him a simple box out of beautiful cedar found on their property. His open casket was set on the floor of the sanctuary, between the choir stalls of the monks, surrounded by six candles. At the end of the mass, with the monks chanting the 'In paradisum,' they slowly picked up the open casket, placing it on the shoulders of six monks and we all walked out to the grave. It was so beautiful watching this family carry their French brother. They set him on the ground, and after more incense, holy water and prayers, placed the wooden lid on top of the coffin. They lowered his body in the ground with ropes, and every member of the monastery and the lay community looked into the ground and blessed his casket with holy water. Some monks were crying. It was cloudy, and damp, and bitterly cold. Somehow it seemed fitting."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | 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

Wild West send-off

The Wild West send-off for husband and wife killed in historic American outlaw town

 Wildwest Sendoff

For a Wild West-loving couple who died near the setting of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, it was a fitting tribute.

Scores of mourners attending the funeral of Country and Western fans Arthur Wilkinson, 81, and his wife Winifred, 75, dressed as Indians and 19th century American soldiers.

The pair were killed during an annual pilgrimage to Tombstone, Arizona, where they were hit by a pick-up truck as they tried to cross a road.
Speaking after the funeral, the Rev Michael Dolan, said: 'I have done hundreds of funerals but have never seen anything to match this. 

'Although the circumstances were quite tragic it really was a celebration of a good life well lived.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

November 11, 2009

Memorial service for Ft Hood soldiers gunned down by traitor

President at Ft Hood Memorial Service Hails the Fallen

 Obama Fthood

Standing in front of 13 sets of boots, rifles, helmets and photographs, Mr. Obama vowed that the memory of those slain in a rampage here last week would “endure through the life of our nation.” One by one, he listed the names of those killed and described their hopes and dreams and the families they left behind.

“It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy,” the president told thousands of soldiers and relatives gathered here at the nation’s largest Army post. “But this much we do know: No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving God looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice, in this world and the next.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2009

Better late than never

Bricklayer 'killed' in car crash stuns grieving family... by turning up at his own funeral

Relatives of Ademir Jorge Goncalves, 59, had identified him as the victim of a Sunday night car crash in Parana state in southern Brazil.

As is customary in Brazil, the funeral was held the following day, which happened to be the holiday of Finados, when Brazilians visit cemeteries to honour the dead.

What family members didn't know was that Goncalves had spent the night at a truck stop talking with friends over drinks of a sugarcane liquor known as cachaca, his niece Rosa Sampaio told the O Globo newspaper.

He did not get word about his own funeral until it was already happening on Monday morning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

October 27, 2009

“When funerals and death are not fun anymore, I’ll get out of the business,’’

The funeral director who met his wife at a funeral and other stories as the funeral directors convene in Boston.

They came to the Boston Convention and Exposition Center to talk shop, trade ideas, and marvel at how one of the world’s most somber professions has been changed by technology and the growing demand for funerals that go beyond hearse-and-casket basics.

Designer caskets, green burials, and funeral webcasts for family members who cannot make it are just some of the innovative solutions to the world’s oldest problem: what kind of send-off to give the departed.

Kurt L. Soffe, denizen of a 95-year-old funeral home in Utah, recalled what he dubbed “the Harley funeral.’’ A pack of bikers wanted to bury their Harley-Davidson-loving loved one in a way he would have appreciated: with a procession of Hogs instead of black limos, led by a Corvette instead of a hearse. Oh, and could the funeral staff wear casual clothes instead of suits?

“We do not say no,’’ Soffe said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

October 19, 2009

I wouldn't be caught dead in this

 Hearse Woodstock

Psychedelic hearse for the Woodstock generation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:11 AM | Permalink

September 24, 2009

Grave Decisions

The financial downturn has any number of people, pressed to pay bulls, selling their burial plots.

Where Real Estate Is Still Hot

Cemeteries and funeral-property Web sites report a burgeoning marketplace for the sale of burial plots by individuals, many of which have been in families for years. As times get tough, they are now being liquidated to make ends meet.
Web sites such as Grave Solutions and Plot Brokers, which advertise spaces and broker sales of cemetery properties, have also seen an uptick in postings. Caskets-N-More, a Glendora, Calif.-based business that sells funeral products and brokers sales of cemetery properties, reports a doubling of people wanting to sell their plots, to about 20 new postings a month from 10 a year ago.
The apparent increase in sellers of cemetery plots has to do with more than just economic necessity. Changes in how people live and wish to be buried also play a role. Increased mobility means individuals may no longer live near a family plot and would rather sell off unused spaces. And growing acceptance of cremation as an alternative to burial means people realize they may have no need for previously purchased in-ground plots.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

September 8, 2009

When even the ashes can't be found

When I turned 50 and my mother 80, I decided it was time to fetch Grandma Leah’s ashes from the garage. She had been stored in a rusted Maxwell House can for 37 years, an unworthy purgatory that I felt called for resolution. My mother was perfectly happy to let Grandma’s remains stay there, but hitting the half-century mark made me think about my roots and my own mortality. I knew that I wouldn’t want to end up in the garage, and so I resolved to return my grandmother to her native Ukraine.

Stirring Up the Past

The woman suggested that I visit one last place for a trace of my putative past — the old Jewish burial ground. When she explained to the driver how to get there, he glanced nervously in my direction. We drove up to a housing project with a dirty courtyard that seemed to be a favored spot to walk dogs and drink alcohol.

“Ask someone for directions,” I suggested, thinking we were lost. “It’s here,” he said, avoiding my eyes. “The Soviets built apartments on top of the Jews.”

Right then a babushka approached and pointed to the ground. “The dead are coming up,” she said. “I was walking here a few months ago when it rained, and my foot got stuck. The police came and dug up the bones.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 AM | 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

At Cahokia, Sacrificial Virgins

In the southern part of Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri, lies  2200 acres with 120 earthen  mounds that's been designated a National Historic Site and a World Heritage Site.  Cahokia Mounds is the largest prehistoric earthen construction in the Americas, the last remnants of an American Indian people called the Mississippians.

The focus of ongoing archaeological study, Cahokia was once the largest city in America with about 20-40,000 people at its peak.  Nobody knows what the original name of the ancient great city on the MIssissippi because the people left no written records.

 Cahokia Monks Mound

Andrew O'Hehir brings us up to date with what's been learned from the archaeological studies including the evidence of human sacrifice on a large scale. Sacrificial virgins of the MIssissippi.

At its peak in the 12th century, this settlement along the Mississippi River bottomland of western Illinois, a few miles east of modern-day St. Louis, was probably larger than London, and held economic, cultural and religious sway over a vast swath of the American heartland. Featuring a man-made central plaza covering 50 acres and the third-largest pyramid in the New World (the 100-foot-tall "Monks Mound"), Cahokia was home to at least 20,000 people. If that doesn't sound impressive from a 21st-century perspective, consider that the next city on United States territory to attain that size would be Philadelphia, some 600 years later.
Cahokians performed human sacrifice, as part of some kind of theatrical, community-wide ceremony, on a startlingly large scale unknown in North America above the valley of Mexico. Simultaneous burials of as many as 53 young women (quite possibly selected for their beauty) have been uncovered beneath Cahokia's mounds, and in some cases victims were evidently clubbed to death on the edge of a burial pit, and then fell into it. A few of them weren't dead yet when they went into the pit -- skeletons have been found with their phalanges, or finger bones, digging into the layer of sand beneath them.

What they found at Mound 72.

This mound contained a high-status burial of two nearly identical male bodies, one of them wrapped in a beaded cape or cloak in the shape of a thunderbird, an ancient and mystical Native American symbol. Surrounding this "beaded burial" the diggers gradually uncovered more and more accompanying corpses, an apparent mixture of honorific burials and human sacrifices evidently related to the two important men. It appeared that 53 lower-status women were sacrificed specifically to be buried with the men -- perhaps a harem or a group of slaves from a nearby subject village, Pauketat thinks -- and that a group of 39 men and women had been executed on the spot, possibly a few years later. In all, more than 250 people were interred in and around Mound 72.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 AM | Permalink

August 5, 2009

The Funeral of Cory Aquino

From Richard Fernandez

The city ground to a halt. Ships sounded their mournful horns at harbor. Bells rang and millions stood in the rain along the 14 mile route to the cemetery.  Former Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican Howard Dee said:

“I was in Magsaysay’s and Ninoy’s funeral. This is the greatest outpouring of love the nation has ever witnessed.” Dee, … was referring to the funerals of President Ramon Magsaysay in 1957 and of Aquino’s murdered husband, opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr., in 1983.

Like those events, this funeral was also political. The Aquino family had pointedly refused a state funeral and mourned her instead as an honored daughter of the Church, laying her in the coffin with a rosary in her hand. It was a pointed slap at the current President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who had been accused of trying to extend her term of office past its constitutional limit, a la the Honduran Zelaya. Her carefully staged trip to Washington had been wholly eclipsed by Aquino’s death, from which she returned in haste. She was clearly unwelcome and made a brief, almost furtive appearance at the wake. Her reception was correct. No one would have called it warm.  Even in death Cory would bar authoritarianism.

That procession in the rain was Cory’s last duty of state; the final act in the public drama. It was also, to those who understood it, the concluding chapter in a love story. At the end of the cortege was a relatively modest grave, no grander than that which a successful small businessman might have, dug beside the spot where Ninoy lay. It was where she wanted to go. When she first learned she had colon cancer more than a year ago, Aquino told her family she would refuse aggressive treatment. Her time, she said, had come. Her daughter Kris related how, when end was near, she was called back into the room by a nurse from the corridor, where she had stepped out to drink some coffee. Cory bade her daughter bend and said, “I can see him now. Your father is holding out his hand to me.” Dylan Thomas wrote of grave men “near death, who see with blinding sight”; of those on their deathbeds who, perhaps from the effects medication, their last delirium or that blinding sight see before them those to whom they would come. Underneath the story of the People Power revolution was also a story of a woman who avenged her husband and reached out to him at the last across the gulf of death with the frail hand of love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2009

"The crippling recession is even haunting the dead across the United States."

Bodies stack up as California counts cost of funerals

Bodies left unclaimed, cadavers stacked high in morgues and burial rates tumbling as loved ones cut funeral costs: the crippling recession is even haunting the dead across the United States.
In Los Angeles, the local coroner's office has witnessed an unprecedented spike in the number of corpses unclaimed by families who cannot afford the costs of a burial or cremation.

"The reason we are hearing from the families is the economic downturn," Los Angeles County Coroner's chief investigator Craig Harvey told AFP. "They tell us they don't have the means to afford funerals."

In the past 12 months, the coroner's office, which is responsible for handling bodies from homicides and suspicious deaths, carried out 36 percent more cremations than the previous year, jumping to 712 from 525. At the Los Angeles County morgue meanwhile, the cremation figure rose by 25 percent.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2009

Home Burials

Advocates say the number of home funerals, where everything from caring for the dead to the visiting hours to the building of the coffin is done at home, has soared in the last five years, putting the funerals “where home births were 30 years ago,” according to Chuck Lakin, a home funeral proponent and coffin builder in Waterville, Me.

Home Burials Offer an Intimate Alternative

When Nathaniel Roe, 92, died at his 18th-century farmhouse here the morning of June 6, his family did not call a funeral home to handle the arrangements.

Instead, Mr. Roe’s children, like a growing number of people nationwide, decided to care for their father in death as they had in the last months of his life. They washed Mr. Roe’s body, dressed him in his favorite Harrods tweed jacket and red Brooks Brothers tie and laid him on a bed so family members could privately say their last goodbyes.

The next day, Mr. Roe was placed in a pine coffin made by his son, along with a tuft of wool from the sheep he once kept. He was buried on his farm in a grove off a walking path he traversed each day.

 Home Burial
Photo by Sebastian Hinds in the New York Times

“It just seemed like the natural, loving way to do things,” said Jennifer Roe-Ward, Mr. Roe’s granddaughter. “It let him have his dignity.”

Said another woman whose experience with providing a home burial for her mother surprised her.

“There’s something about touching, watching, sitting with a body that lets you know the person is no longer there,” Nancy Manahan said. “We didn’t even realize how emotionally meaningful those rituals are, doing it ourselves, until we did it.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 AM | Permalink

July 3, 2009

Other oddities you may have missed in the Jackson news tsunami

Continuing on my Michael Jackson-free theme, here's some oddities you may have missed.

Two Mexican Midget Wrestlers Killed by Fake Prostitutes

Mexican authorities say two professional wrestlers found dead in a low-rent hotel in the capital may have been drugged to death by female robbers.

Autopsies are being performed on the two midget wrestlers, one of whom went by the name "La Parkita" — or "Little Death" — and wore a skeleton costume in the ring. The other was known as "Espectrito Jr."

Authorities say two women were seen leaving the men's hotel room before the bodies were discovered.

Prosecutor Miguel Angel Mancera said Wednesday that gangs of female robbers are experienced at using drugs to knock men out and rob them, but they may have used too strong a dose.

That may have been because of the wrestlers' small stature, although larger men have also died in similar crimes.

via Gateway Pundit

Woman lay dead in her flat for 5 years before anyone noticed.

It is thought nobody noticed Miss Purves was missing as her pension was paid directly into a bank account and bills were paid by direct debit.

Funeral descends into violence as family members brawl with snooker cues in row over dead man's property

Only hours earlier they had stood alongside one other at the local church to pay their respects.

But no sooner had Harry Gaughan, 69, been cremated than his relatives began fighting over who owned what.

It ended in a brawl involving a snooker cue as one family member attempted to measure the size of the back garde

German cemetery nixes sexualized tombstone for sex worker/advocate's grave.

The 77-year-old artist Tomi Ungerer's parting gift to his friend Domenica Niehoff was to be a gravestone featuring two ample pink marble boulders in homage to her famously top-heavy figure. But those responsible for the Garden of Women cemetery, resting place of Hamburg's most famous women, turned his design down, the paper reported...

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

June 25, 2009

Colorful tombstones

Colorful Tombstones in Chichicastenango, Guatemala

 Colorful Tombstones
photo by Susan Hardman

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 AM | Permalink

June 23, 2009

Charged for the bullets it took to kill their son

What chutzpah

Iran charges slain man's family $3,000 for bullets that killed him

The family of an Iranian man killed in a demonstration against the country's contested presidential election has been ordered to pay the equivalent of $3,000 for the bullets that took his life, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Kaveh Alipour, 19, was shot in the head in downtown Tehran on Saturday during one of the most violent clashes between protesters and security forces since the riots began last week.

Iranian authorities later told the family they would not turn over the slain man's body for burial until they received compensation for the bullets security forces used to shoot him.

All mosques in Tehran have been prohibited from holding memorials or publicly mourning the deaths of the riot victims, it emerged on Monday. According to official count in Tehran, 17 people have been killed in more than a week of demonstrations.

Nevertheless, Iran's defeated moderate candidate Mehdi Karoubi has called on Iranians to hold mourning ceremonies on Thursday for killed protesters, an aide told Reuters on Tuesday.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 AM | Permalink

June 22, 2009


Neda Agha Soltan, a 27-year-old student of philosophy, became known around the world in a matter of hours through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube because a video captured her death on a street in Tehran

 Nadia Falls

Neda falls in the street, shot in the heart by a Basiji sniper.  She is laid down by her companions when blood begins pouring from her mouth then across her face and it becomes clear that, in a matter of moments, she is dead  The very graphic YouTube video is here.

Some 19 people were killed on June 20, but Neda is the one who has come to symbolize the crisis in Iran. One university student describes the difference between the generations, How Neda Divided My Family.

Neda’s name means “voice” in Farsi. Even though she has been silenced by a Basiji bullet, her death has given new voice to our generation’s demand for reform. Our parents may not understand it yet, but soon they will have to come to terms with the fact that our voices are the future. They can no longer make decisions for their children—or for the Iranian nation yet to come.

 Neda-Agha-Soltan Dying

photos from LA Times

In an interview with the BBC, her fiancee said (scroll down to 1:03 pm)
Neda was not a firm backer of either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad -- she simply "wanted freedom and freedom for all."

From the LA Times, an a obituary for the young woman as Family, friends mourn Iranian woman whose death was caught on video

Her friends say Panahi, Neda and two others were stuck in traffic on Karegar Street, east of Tehran's Azadi Square, on their way to the demonstration sometime after 6:30 p.m. After stepping out of the car to get some fresh air and crane their necks over the jumble of cars, Panahi heard a crack from the distance. Within a blink of the eye, he realized Neda had collapsed to the ground.

"We were stuck in traffic and we got out and stood to watch, and without her throwing a rock or anything they shot her," he said. "It was just one bullet."

Blood poured out of the right side of her chest and began bubbling out of her mouth and nose as her lungs filled up.

"I'm burning, I'm burning!" he recalled her saying, her final words.

Neda in an undated photo

"She was a person full of joy," said her music teacher and close friend Hamid Panahi, who was among the mourners at her family home on Sunday, awaiting word of her burial. "She was a beam of light. I'm so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman."

Security forces urged Neda's friends and family not to hold memorial services for her at a mosque and asked them not to speak publicly about her, associates of the family said. Authorities even asked the family to take down the black mourning banners in front of their house, aware of the potent symbol she has become.

But some insisted on speaking out anyway, hoping to make sure the world would not forget her.Neda Agha-Soltan was born in Tehran, they said, to a father who worked for the government and a mother who was a housewife. They were a family of modest means, part of the country's emerging middle class who built their lives in rapidly developing neighborhoods on the eastern and western outskirts of the city.

Like many in her neighborhood, Neda was loyal to the country's Islamic roots and traditional values, friends say, but also curious about the outside world, which is easily accessed through satellite television, the Internet and occasional trips abroad.

"All she wanted was the proper vote of the people to be counted."

 Neda's Photo Dying Poster

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:38 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2009

Domestic jihadist murders U.S. soldier in Little Rock, Arkansas

Private William Long, newly out of basic training was on a short-term assignment as a military recruiter,  was shot three times and killed outside the Army-Navy Career Center in Little Rock Arkansas by a domestic jihadist who also wounded another soldier.

The alleged killer Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23,  was born in Tennessee as Carlos Leon Bledsoe and converted to Islam as a teen-ager.  He just opened fire on the soldiers with an SKS assault rifle and he said he fully intended to kill them, in fact, he would have killed more if he could, he told police.

From Maggie's Notebook
He had been under FBI investigation - - the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force - since he returned from a trip to Yemen.
He was carrying a false Somali passport and was arrested at that time. The same report says Muhammad had "ties to a number of global locations linked to extremists, including Yemen, Somalia and Columbus, OH..

Atlas Shrugs reports that he was arrested for serious weapons possession and gun running, but prosecutors filed only a single charge that was dismissed four months later.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the suspect said he didn't think the shooting was murder because U.S. military action in the MIddle East made the killing justified- "Islamic justified".

"I do feel I'm not guilty," Abdulhakim Muhammad told The Associated Press in a collect call from the Pulaski County jail. "I don't think it was murder, because murder is when a person kills another person without justified reason...what I did is Islamic justified"

"Yes, I did tell the police upon my arrest that this was an act of retaliation, and not a reaction on the soldiers personally," Muhammad said. He called it "a act, for the sake of God, for the sake of Allah, the Lord of all the world, and also a retaliation on U.S. military."

Private Long was laid to rest as a Soldier, Hero


The day before he died, U.S. Army Pvt. William Andrew "Andy" Long floated the Buffalo River with his sister, Vanessa Rice. If he had his way, she said, the pair would have gone skydiving.

"I'm so blessed to have had that day with Andy," Rice tearfully told guests at her brother's funeral Monday at Harlan Park Baptist Church in Conway. "My brother meant the world to me. Andy loved to be outdoors, to travel, and he couldn't wait to get to Korea to serve his country."

The service was followed by a burial with full military honors Monday at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.


Pastor Johnny Harrington of Long's church, Sunny Gap Baptist Church in Conway, praised Long's commitment to the Army and recent appointment to the Army's Hometown Recruiter Assistance Program in Little Rock. He said Long is a fourth-generation armed services member. Long's father, Daris Long, is retired from the U.S. Marine Corps.

"No one is more military, no one is more patriotic than this family right here," Harrington said. "Military runs through their hearts and their blood. No one is more dedicated to it than they, and I know that they couldn't be prouder of Andy and his desire to serve his country.

"I asked Daris what's the one word he'd use to describe Andy, and he said two: soldier and hero."

Private Long's father was at work when he got the call; his mother was in the center's parking lot waiting to give their son a ride home.  She heard the shots.

Most moving of all is the interview of Darius Long, father of the slain soldier, gracious and grateful in his grief.  (HT Ace).    My condolences to all his family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

May 12, 2009

Funeral turns to farce

It was one of her dying wishes - to be taken to her final resting place in a classic Rolls Royce.

But, as the Phantom VI sat in solemn silence to carry Patricia Thorburn's coffin to the cemetery, it became clear someone had sabotaged her send-off in the most callous way

Funeral turns to farce as rival undertaker snatches hearse keys on way to burial

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 PM | Permalink

He buried himself

The University of Georgia marketing professor who was accused of fatally shooting his wife and two other people outside a community theater in Georgia was found dead by cadaver dogs. 

He was found deep in the woods, beneath the earth, naked except for two guns.

The only good part to the bizarre story is that he left his two children, 8 and 10, with a neighbor.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2009

"Funerals are meant to be sad."

Father Longenecker reminds us what funerals are all about in Eulogies at Funerals

A funeral Mass is not primarily a memorial service. A funeral Mass is not first and foremost an opportunity to comfort the bereaved. A funeral Mass does something. In it the Church offers the sacrifice of Calvary for the repose of the soul of one of her departed sons or daughters. The funeral Mass is an action of the church which applies the benefits of Christ's atoning death to the soul of the deceased. The funeral Mass is a solemn rite of passage in which the Holy Church hands on to God the soul of the departed and commends his body to the ground or to the flames.

This is what a priest should be doing at the Mass. At the wake, by all means, get Uncle Harry to tell a few ripe stories about the old rogue. At the reception have a few drinks and get everyone to reminisce about the good times and the bad times, but not at the funeral


And another thing: funerals are meant to be sad. Black should be worn. Dignified grief should be encouraged. A funeral is not a 'celebration of Stanley's life'. A funeral is not 'a time of joy because Mildred is in heaven now.' How tacky and trite is that? No. A funeral should be sad. Someone had died for goodness sake. Furthermore, people need to grieve. They need to work through the terror of death. They need to face reality. A solemn, sad, sober and serious funeral helps them to do that. A silly, shallow, superficial and stupid memorial service or 'celebration of Pat's life' only encourages them to look the other way and take a feel good cop out from reality.

No. Give me the funeral march. Give me solemn young men in black with serious faces to mourn my passing. Give me widows and women in black veils and gloves wiping away tears. Give me the smoke of incense to purify my bones. Give me the water of life to remind me of my baptism. Give me a requiem Mass and may all who are there--whether a multitude or the faithful few--grieve me with the dignity in death that I once hoped for in life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2009

A Partisan Tombstone

Nathaniel Grimsby, born in 1811 in Kansas, though old when it broke out, fought in the Civil War becoming a second lieutenant and a "picturesque figure".

From When Kansas Was Young by Thomas Allen McNeal

He was a Republican without variableness or shadow of turning.  To his mind, politically speaking, the Republican party was summum bonum, while the Democratic party was malum in se.  Whatever there was of good in the political acts of the past third of a century, he attributed to the Republican party, and whatever there was of evil to the malign influence of the Democratic organization.  With most men political activity stops with the grave, but old Nathaniel Grigsby, as the weight of years bowed his back and the frosts of time, silvered his hair, knowing that his years were nearly numbered, devised a plan by which his political opinions might be transmitted to coming generations, carved in imperishable granite, to be read long after his mortal body had returned to the earth from which it came and his spirit had joined the immortals.  He carefully prepared the inscription for his tombstone and exacted the promise it should be graven on the shaft which marked his grave

Grimbsy Tombstone 1

 Grimsby Tombstone 2

Hat tip to Paul, Thoughts of a Regular Guy

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

April 20, 2009

"Please don't bury me to My Way"

'The appeal of My Way lies in the way it offers not just absolution but glorification to the perpetrator of all the most dastardly deeds, reassuring the selfish that they are courageous and the thuggish that they are noble.'

What could be less fitting for a funeral? How can so many of us wish to be despatched to our Maker with this hymn to our bloody-minded selfishness echoing around our coffins?

Tom Utley on why hymns are better than pop songs at funerals

According to this week's survey by Co-Operative Funeralcare, the number of send-offs accompanied by pop music has increased from 55 per cent to 58 per cent over the past four years, while hymns are sung at only 35 per cent of funerals, down from 41 per cent in 1995.

But in my old-fashioned way, I can't help feeling it cheapens the value of a human life to mark its end with music chosen exclusively from the popular culture of the moment, here today and gone tomorrow, without giving eternity a look-in.

Another advantage of the sacred over the secular is that we can all sing along to a well-known hymn without embarrassment.

But when a pop-song is played in a church or a crematorium chapel, nobody joins in.

That's because it's impossible for a congregation to sing along with My Way without sounding like one of Craig's nightmare karaoke evenings, just as mourners can't join in with You'll Never Walk Alone (number nine in the Co-Operative's top ten) without sounding like a crowd of Liverpool football fans. So everyone just has to listen in gloomy silence.

It may sound an odd thing to say, but a good funeral should be a joyful occasion, as well as a sad one  -  and nothing lifts the heart higher than to hear a entire congregation belting out with one voice a rousing favourite from Hymns Ancient and Modern: Rock Of Ages, Fight The Good Fight, Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind. . .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2009

Fake Funerals

One way to defraud insurance companies is to hold Phony Funerals for Fake People

Two women, 60 and 67, who purchased life insurance for non-existent people and then staged their funerals are now charged with five counts of mail and wire fraud.

Shilling, a phlebotomist, and Crump, an employee at a now-defunct Long Beach mortuary, allegedly filled caskets with various materials to make it appear they contained actual corpses, documents show.
After the funerals, the women and their associates filed bogus documents with the county saying the remains had been cremated and scattered at sea, prosecutors said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2009

"Only solidarity will allow us to overcome this painful trial"

 Dome L'acquila Cathedral
The dome of the cathedral at L'Aquila after the earthquake

Italy Mourns Earthquake Victims

The funeral for about 200 the earthquake victims in L'Aquila took place outside because none of the region's churches were stable enough for the ceremony.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other key government officials were among the 10,000 people attending the outdoor ceremony beneath Abruzzo's snowcapped mountains.

 More-Earthquake Funeral

Mr. Berlusconi comforted mourners, shaking hands and giving hugs before the ceremony began. "Today will be a moment of great emotion. How can one not be moved by so much pain?" Mr. Berlusconi said, shortly before departing for L'Aquila for the funeral. "These are our dead today, they are the dead of the whole nation," said the prime minister.
The Vatican granted a special dispensation for the Mass. Good Friday, which marks Jesus' death by crucifixion, is the only day in the year on which Mass in not normally celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church.


The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, presided over the Good Friday funeral Mass for about 200 of the dead.
Sobbing mourners gazed on coffins adorned with mementos of the dead -- a boy's toy motorcycle, a baby's blue T-shirt -- comforting each other as they said farewell at a funeral mass for Italy's quake victims.
"This is the time to work together," the pope said in a message read by his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein. "Only solidarity will allow us to overcome this painful trial."

 Woman Coffins Earthquake

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 PM | Permalink

March 29, 2009

Hindus in Britain want permission for open fire pyres

Hindu elder in legal bid so he can be cremated on open-fire pyre

 Open Fire Pyre

A devout Hindu grandfather made a heartfelt plea yesterday to be allowed to be cremated 'with dignity' on an open-air funeral pyre when he dies.

Davender Ghai, 70, believes that the ancient Hindu tradition of open-air cremation is essential to the liberation of his soul after death.

The Newcastle City Council says no, it contravenes the 1902 Cremation Act.

Standarized cremation says Ghai is a 'mechanized humiliation of dignity'" and the council's cremation facilities were a "waste disposal process devoid of spiritual significance."

By contrast, he compared the liberation of the soul in consecrated fire to a sacramental rebirth, 'like the mythical phoenix arising from the flames anew'.

He added: 'Being bundled into a box and incinerated in a furnace is not my idea of dignity, much less performance of an ancient sacrament.

Ghai is appealing for judicial review with the support of a number of Hindu organizations.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink

March 27, 2009

Lessons from Oakland

Thousands attend funeral of the 4 Oakland police officers slain last week

...some 19,000 law-enforcement officers from coast to coast gathered along with grateful community members at the Oracle Arena in Oakland for a final send-off for their brothers in blue.

All four veteran officers died Saturday when a wanted parolee, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon, opened fire in separate incidents just hours apart in East Oakland.

Police Shot Funeral Oakland.Lrg

A rumbling cortege of motorcycle officers escorted each hearse to the arena, keeping a tight and sharp formation just as Dunakin would have liked it, his colleagues said. They passed underneath a giant American flag hanging between the extended ladders of two Oakland fire trucks. Hundreds of police vehicles, from bomb-squad trucks, motorcycles, Ford Crown Victoria and Dodge Charger cruisers, filled the parking lot.

There were police cars from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and New York and a rainbow of uniforms that filled the arena and the adjacent Oakland Coliseum, where an overflow crowd watched the service on two big screens.

Their badges wrapped with black bands of mourning, hundreds of officers in dress uniforms lined the steps outside the arena and saluted as one by one, honor guards escorted four flag-draped caskets inside, followed by the officers' families. A sign at the complex read, "Forever Heroes."

Many officers dabbed at their eyes with white gloves as the caskets were placed in front of a flower-adorned stage beside their pictures. The police motorcycles of Dunakin and Hege and two pairs of empty boots sat nearby.

After the funeral, the officers were to be honored with a 21-gun salute from a military cannon, and 20 helicopters from across the nation were to fly in a "missing man" formation. Miles-long formations of police cars, their emergency lights whirling,

The four slain

Oakland police Sgt. Mark Dunakin, or "Dunny," as everybody called him, was a big teddy bear and die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes and Pittsburgh Steelers fan who proudly patrolled the streets on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Traffic Officer John Hege was a "beer and brownie man" who combined his love for the department and the Oakland Raiders by working overtime at the Coliseum during home games.

SWAT Sgt. Ervin Romans was a former Marine Corps drill sergeant, a "tactical guru" and expert marksman who instilled the importance of safety on the hundreds of officers he trained.

Sgt. Daniel Sakai juggled the duties of being a patrol sergeant and a SWAT entry team leader, yet still insisted on working out and running with officers preparing to take a grueling physical test.

Police Shot Calif Motorcycles

8 hour caravan from Orange County.

Last Saturday, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon shot and killed officers Erv Romans, 43, Mark Dunakin, 40, and Dan Sakai, 35. A fourth officer, John Hege, 41, was taken off live support after being declared brain dead.

Mixon was wanted for a parole violation, and opened fire during a traffic stop before heading home and opening fire on SWAT officers who were pursuing him with an AK-47, officials said.


When the caravan arrived, the cars and motorcycles drove past Oracle Arena in a singe-file line and shone their lights in a display of respect.

The Bookworm said some 80 police officers from Boston and even representatives from Scotland Yard were expected.  The Bookworm is a new blog for me that I discovered via links from the Anchoress and American Digest .  She said something at the end of her post that warmed my heart.

I always view tragedies like this as reminders — reminders not to wait until it’s too late to say how you value someone.  No matter the heart-felt outpouring at today’s memorial service, friends, family, colleagues and politicos will be saying things that Sgts. Mark Dunakin, 40, Erv Romans, 43, Daniel Sakai, 35, and Officer John Hege, 41, won’t be around to hear.

When my Mom turned 80, I temporarily stole her address book and wrote to every living person in it asking them to send a letter with a personal message and a remembrance about her.  Photos would be welcome too.  My sister, who is artistic, then assembled the dozens of responses in a beautiful album.  My mother almost cried when she got the album and (this is true) carried it with her everywhere she went for almost a year.  To know, not only that her friends loved and valued her, but why they did so, meant everything to her.

Don’t wait until those near you die before you open your mouth and say the things you should have said before.  Tell your family members you love them — and tell them why.  Give your friend a true compliment — a deep one, about his or her personality, not just the usual “great shirt,” or “nice hair” kind of thing.  Praise a colleague’s work.  These things matter, and one of the greatest regrets we always have when people die is all the things we should have said before.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2009

China's Last Eunuch

Burial in parts

BEIJING (Reuters) - Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting's eyes in old age -- the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

China's last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the "Emperor's slave" but finally feted and valued, largely for outlasting his peers to become a unique relic, a piece of "living history."

For centuries in China, the only men from outside the imperial family who were allowed into the Forbidden City's private quarters were castrated ones. They effectively swapped their reproductive organs for a hope of exclusive access to the emperor that made some into rich and influential politicians.

Sun's impoverished family set him on this painful, risky path in hopes that he might one day be able to crush a bullying village landlord who stole their fields and burned their house.

His desperate father performed the castration on the bed of their mud-walled home, with no anesthetic and only oil-soaked paper as a bandage. A goose quill was inserted in Sun's urethra to prevent it getting blocked as the wound healed.

He was unconscious for three days and could barely move for two months. When he finally rose from his bed, history played the first of a series of cruel tricks on him -- he discovered the emperor he hoped to serve had abdicated several weeks earlier.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 PM | Permalink

March 14, 2009

Taking Chance

I wrote about Taking Chance Home back in 2004.    I was immensely moved then and again when I watched Taking Chance last month on HBO.  I meant to write about it, but I got distracted and didn't.    What is most impressive is the respect, even reverence, the Army takes every step of the way and the manner in which Americans meet that respect with their own.

But I must say I was surprised at the size of the audience.  Today in the Wall St Journal on 'Taking Chance'.

It's been widely observed that movies about the Iraq war have tended to bomb at the box office. One newspaper report speculated that films like "Home of the Brave" and "Stop-Loss" failed because "the audience might prefer a longer interval before viewing events as troubling as war."

"Taking Chance" refutes this notion. When it debuted February 21 on HBO, it became the network's most-watched original movie in five years, drawing two million viewers -- especially impressive given that it aired on Saturday, traditionally not a big TV-watching night. An HBO spokesman estimates that another 5.5 million have watched subsequent airings of the film, and that doesn't count DVR viewers.

What makes "Taking Chance" different from the other Iraq movies is that it is all realism and no cynicism. It dramatizes the 2004 journey of Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, played by Kevin Bacon, as he escorts the remains of a 19-year-old Marine private, Chance Phelps, from Dover Air Force Base to Phelps's Wyoming hometown, where Strobl meets the family and attends the funeral.

"Taking Chance" does not glorify the war. It takes no discernable position on whether America should be in Iraq, although a few people Colonel Strobl meets along the way express their view, pro and con. But almost without exception, the Americans he encounters are respectful, patriotic, grateful for his service and for Private Phelps's. If Hollywood wants to make war movies that appeal to a broad audience, it could do worse than to take in "Taking Chance." The Americans who show Colonel Strobl such reverence as he makes his way west are the very audience Hollywood wishes it could reach.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:49 PM | Permalink

Practice makes perfect

Man stages own funeral

A Romanian man staged his own funeral while he was still alive to make sure everything went to plan.

Marin Voinicu, 73, from Vadastra in Olt county, invited fellow villagers, relatives and friends to his home to mark his "future passing".

The village priest even accepted an invitation to officiate a funeral sermon at the man's home.

Mr Voinicu said: "I did everything by the book. I even dug my own grave in the cemetery and laid down in it to see how it feels.

"I asked my relatives to wail at my headstone for a test run. I was fully satisfied with my funeral."

He explained he decided to organise his own funeral because he didn't want to leave the task on his family's shoulders.

And his family agreed to go along with it because they felt it would be easier to organise the event when they were not distracted by grieving.

Mr Voinicu's daughter-in-law Oncica said: "If we had done this after his death it would have been harder.

"Everybody would have cried a lot but this way nobody shed a tear. We had such a good time one could have said it was more like a wedding than a funeral."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:59 PM | Permalink

March 12, 2009

Lifelong friends in one last dive

From the Daily Undertaker comes a story of Parachutes and Lawn Chairs

The ashes of two unlikely friends dropped from the sky Saturday to be buried at the Center of the World.  One man belonged to the Hitler Youth as a child. The other survived a concentration camp.  However unlikely, Wolfgang Lieschke and Herbert Loebel did become friends as adults living in America. In accordance with their families' wishes, the West Point Parachute Team delivered the men's ashes to their novel and final resting place Saturday.

The ashes were dropped by parachute and buried at the Center of the World. The popular tourist attraction is located west of Yuma, along Interstate 8, in Felicity, Calif.

"Both were eminent men in their era who became close friends and who will rest together in consecrated ground," said Jacques-Andre Istel, the mayor of Felicity and friend of both men. "Both had close links to parachuting and both served humanity."

Often called "the father of American skydiving," Istel trained the Army's first free-fall parachute team, which led to the creation of the Golden Knights.
Istel organized a sizable celebration Saturday, full of ceremony and military pageantry. The U.S. Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps played taps, and the Golden Knights Army Parachute Team performed an air-to-ground salute. The U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard also made an appearance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2009

"Vampire" Skeleton

While excavating mass graves of plague victims from the Middle Ages, an archeologist found the skeleton of a woman with a brick in her  mouth.

"Vampire' skeleton unearthed in Venice.


At the time the woman died, many people believed that the plague was spread by "vampires" which, rather than drinking people's blood, spread disease by chewing on their shrouds after dying. Grave-diggers put bricks in the mouths of suspected vampires to stop them doing this, Borrini says.

The belief in vampires probably arose because blood is sometimes expelled from the mouths of the dead, causing the shroud to sink inwards and tear. Borrini, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Denver, Colorado, last week, claims this might be the first such vampire to have been forensically examined. The skeleton was removed from a mass grave of victims of the Venetian plague of 1576.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 PM | Permalink

March 2, 2009

Your final carbon footprint

Two women from my home town of Arlington preach environmentalism after death.

Ruth Faas and Sue Cross, co-founders of Mourning Dove Studio where they sell ecopods and other biodegradable caskets, are "local groundbreakers in the natural burial movement."

Faas, 48, an occupational therapist, who opened Mourning Dove Studio in December, wants it to be "a resource space for people thinking about death and dying.

"I feel like we've been indoctrinated to do death care in a certain way in this country, and I'd like people to consider the environmental impact of their choices and whether or not these rituals hold meaning for us," she said.

The studio includes a casket display - with options that range from an $80 cardboard box to a $3,500 wicker coffin - and a spacious area for bereavement groups, workshops, art-making and coffin decorating. (For $15 per hour, customers can decorate a cardboard or pine box that they buy.) In Mourning Dove's reading room, people can browse through books about alternative death-care practices.

Faas and Cross are betting that a generation of aging baby boomers will start requesting green burials as awareness slowly dawns.

"We've been afraid to look at death, plan for it, and talk about it," said Cross, who came to this work by studying death rituals of her own Hungarian heritage. "We also end up spending a lot of money on things like concrete vaults and metal caskets that keep us from returning to the cycle of life."

While running a booth last May at the Down to Earth Expo, which drew 8,000 visitors to the Hynes Veterans Convention Center in Boston, Faas was not surprised by the number of environmentalists who, like herself a few years earlier, had never considered the impact of their final carbon footprint.

Still, Harris thinks green funerals will start moving into the mainstream in leaps and bounds. "There is something appealing about returning to the earth as your final act on earth, and using your remains to push up a tree."

I think I'm going to call on them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:14 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2009

"Have We Mourned Like This Before?"

Rocco Palmo over at Whispers in the Loggia has the story of the funeral of Seoul's Cardinal Stephen Kim.

The first Korean cardinal, Kim -- who led the Seoul church for three decades, watching it grow sixfold in the process -- died Monday at 86. Including the country's current and former presidents, some 400,000 mourners of all faiths were said to have filed past his coffin over its four-day lying in state in the city's Myeongdong Cathedral.

Hailed as a "true guiding light" and the last "reliable leader in Korean society" despite the church's minority status -- around 15% of South Korea's 38 million citizens are Catholic -- the outpouring of reaction at the cardinal's death moved one newspaper to lead its coverage with a headline asking "Have We Mourned Like This Before?"

Religious leaders from Protestantism, Buddhism, Won-Buddhism and Cheondoism took up the first-row at the funeral Mass.

As one editorial said
The mourning transcended age, social status and political ideology.

People gathered at the cathedral from 2 to 3 a.m., and by 6 a.m., when people were allowed in to pay their condolences, a line stretching for 3 km had already formed, while people continued to pour in until midnight when the cathedral closed its doors. Mourners had to wait three to four hours in the freezing cold, but there was no jostling, shouting or cutting in line. Rather, people yielded their spots to let the elderly go first.

A wise society uses the deaths of great people to mark the era that preceded that event and to prepare for the next one. The 58 years that transpired from 1951, when Cardinal Kim was ordained as a priest, until his death in 2009, were a microcosm of Korea’s history of trials and accomplishments, ranging from war and devastation, the division of a nation, dictatorship, industrialization and democratization to social polarization. Cardinal Kim embraced all Koreans living in such difficult times, consistently urging us to be patient. He told us that there is an end to pain. And in doing so, he gave us both courage and hope.

 Cardinal Kim Korea

To understand his Great Legacy, read Called Home from Korea

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | 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

Going to the dogs

From the Boston Herald comes news that  Funerals going to the dogs

A funeral home has run an obituary for a dearly departed dog and is holding a wake next week for the 9-year-old German shepherd in what appears to be a Massachusetts first.

“He had a lot of friends,” said Kris Giles through sobs as she talked about the loss of her family pet, Kross Monsta Giles, who died of cancer Feb. 3.

For Giles, a pet memorial in the newspaper and somber ceremony in the backyard was not enough to celebrate Kross’ life.

An obituary and photo, where Kross is featured next to a tennis ball, is on the Gately Funeral Home Web site alongside remembrances and photos of humans.

Although an apparent first for Massachusetts, funeral homes across the country are increasingly servicing grieving “pet families” and holding funerals and wakes for animals.
Dogs, however, are not allowed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

February 12, 2009

The Unknown Crypt in the Granary Burying Ground

Millions of tourists have walked through the tombstones of the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston where lie the remains of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Crispus Attucks and Mother Goose.

 Old Granary Burying Ground

Only one, fell through the ground.

a woman on a self-guided tour of the hallowed cemetery in downtown Boston took a fateful step. The ground gave way, and the woman fell hip-deep into a hidden granite stairwell leading down into an unmarked brick crypt.

The woman, who was not injured, accidentally discovered a long-forgotten entrance to a tomb in the city's most famous graveyard, less than 10 yards from the stone marking the resting place of Paul Revere. It served as a reminder that in Boston, the nation's revolutionary roots are literally underfoot.

The techniques used to fix the problems can be as old as the cemeteries. Heavy machinery cannot be lugged onto the fragile earth, so excavating must be done with shovels. That means frozen ground can delay repairs. Contractors who specialize in historic masonry do their best to shore up the structures from the outside so they do not disturb the graves.

"You end up really caring for the people," Thomas said. "It's really strange. You don't know them, they've been dead for hundreds of years, but still."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:49 AM | Permalink

February 3, 2009

Cemeteries surrounded by parking lots

 Cemeteries Parkinglots

Would you believe a whole gallery of cemeteries in parking lots?

Via Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

February 2, 2009

Opening a Secret Grave under a Martyr's Flag

KHOJA GHAR, Afghanistan — Ordered to bury 16 bodies in the dead of night in 1978, a wary young army officer did his best to remember the location, quietly counting the paces from the unmarked mass grave to the roadside.

He gathered from his fellow soldiers that they had just buried Afghanistan’s first president, Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan, and his family. His assassination, during a Communist coup in those tumultuous days, precipitated three decades of war in Afghanistan, a succession of conflicts that are still not spent and that have since touched every Afghan family.
It took 30 years and the relative stability and freedom under President Hamid Karzai for the former officer, Pacha Mir, to reveal his secret. With his help and that of another witness, the government has at long last identified the remains of the former president and his family and announced preparations to reinter the bodies with a state funeral in coming weeks.
“If you ask any Afghan when did it all start, they will say it is because of that, the assassination of Mr. Daoud, this was the turning point,” said Nadir Naeem, 43, a member of Afghanistan’s royal family and a grandson of Mr. Daoud. “The last day that Afghanistan was independent was 27th April, 1978.”

Opening a Secret Grave Lets Afghans Close a Chapter of a Brutal Era

Secret Grave Afghan President

“We have not come back for revenge,” said Mr. Ghazi, whose father, Mohammed Nizam, a son-in-law of the president and a Foreign Ministry official, was killed along with his grandfather. “The truth has to be discovered and put at the disposal of the Afghan people.”

For the family, the discovery has come as a relief.

“As Muslims,” Mr. Ghazi said, “we have to have a grave and somewhere to pray. If we can have that then we can rest.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:52 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2009

The Little Girl in the Catacombs

National Geographic travels to Sicily Where the Dead Don't Sleep in the catacombs  beneath the Capuchin monastery in Palermo.

 Sicilian Mummies

In Europe the desiccation and preservation of corpses is a particularly Sicilian affair. There are other examples in Italy, but the great majority are in Sicily, where the relationship between the living and the dead is especially strong. Nobody knows how many there really are, or how many have since been removed from catacombs and buried in cemeteries by priests uneasy with the theology of keeping votive corpses. The phenomenon provokes an instant question: Why would anyone do this? Why would you exhibit decaying bodies?

 Sicialian Rosalina

In later years some of the bodies were more elaborately preserved by means of chemical injections, taking the responsibility out of the hands of God and leaving it to undertakers and science. In one of the chapels a little girl, Rosalia Lombardo, lies in her coffin. She appears to be sleeping under a filthy brown sheet. Unlike many of the other strained and dried mummies, she has her own hair, which hangs in doll-like curls over her yellow forehead, tied up with a big yellow silk bow. Her eyes are closed, the eyelashes perfectly preserved. If she weren't surrounded by the grinning skulls and rot of this place, she could be just a child dozing on the way home from a party. The naturalism and the beauty are arresting; the implication that life is a mere breath away, disturbing and spooky. Rosalia was two when she got pneumonia and died. Crazy with grief, her father asked Alfredo Salafia, a noted embalmer, to preserve her. The effect is dreadfully, tragically vital, and the grief still seems to hang over this little blond head.

An enormous amount can be gleaned from dead bodies about the day-to-day lives of the past—diet, illnesses, and life expectancy. Knowing more about diseases like syphilis, malaria, cholera, and tuberculosis centuries ago can help us get the better of them today. The scientists move methodically, checking the corpses' heights and ages, examining skulls and teeth, looking for the ridges interrupting enamel that signify years of malnutrition. Two mummies are gouty. Five show signs of degenerative arthritis. Almost all these people suffered horribly from dental conditions—tartar buildup, receding gums, caries, and abscesses.
The scientists are respectful of the bodies, never losing touch with the fact that they were human—they were like us—but still they refer to each one as "it," to keep a distance, a dispassion, when they're pulling a molar out.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

January 28, 2009

First couple in space for an eternity

That would be Majel Roddenberry, widow of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Treck,  who saved some of her husband's ashes so that she could join him on a 'memorial spaceflight' after her death, a specialty of the company  Celestis

Their tagline, A Step into the Universe, doesn't make much sense if you ask  where are we now?

Gene Roddenberry wife to spend eternity in space.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 AM | Permalink

January 11, 2009

Fishermen funeral

 Gloucester Fishermen Funeral

A Boston Globe photo of the week shows two funeral directors throwing wreaths into the sea at the Gloucester waterfront as part of the funeral procession of two fishermen lost at sea, Matteo Russo and Giovanni Orlando.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 AM | Permalink

January 8, 2009

The Wrong Coffin at Church

What do you do when the funeral director brings the wrong coffin to the church?

'I noticed it was a Catholic-style coffin, and my eyes dropped to the nameplate, and I thought: "Oh my goodness!"' he said.

'I went straight to the sexton and said: "There's been a terrible mistake". But I was told that Mr Kilkelly was known by the other name as well.'

Rev Mannings said he felt he had no choice but to assume the professionals knew what they were doing. 'One has to trust that the funeral director has brought the right coffin,' he added.

He went ahead with the service, on December 12, but a few days later he was horrified to be informed by the undertakers, Co-operative Funeralcare, that they had buried the wrong man after all.

Blundering funeral firm buries wrong man despite vicar's protests ...then secretly digs up and replaces coffin

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2008

Muslem Clerics Refuse to Bury Mumbai Terrorists

The refusal by Muslim clerics to bury the Mumbai terrorists is an "original and bold protest against Islamist violence by religious authorities who would normally make sure any Muslim got a proper burial" writes Tom Heneghan of Faithworld, a Reuters blog.

This is symbolically very important,” Mustafa Akyol, a columnist for the Hürriyet Daily News in Istanbul and an active Muslim blogger. “I’ve heard of imams declining to lead a prayer for the deceased because he was an outright atheist, but never of people being denied burial.”
Given the way Muslim protests against Islamist violence do not seem to attract much attention, is this a proper way for the religious authorities to dramatise their stand? And, as asked above, did you see this in your local newspaper? If not, do you think it should have been there?

By the way, this decision did not come out of the blue. Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, one of India’s leading Islamic groups, endorsed a fatwa against terrorism in early November. More than 6,000 clerics signed the edict, which follows a similar one issued in February by India’s top Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband.

via Mindful Hack

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:16 PM | Permalink

December 3, 2008

The Child of all Israel

 Moshe Holtzberg

Little Moshe Holtzberg cries for his mother during a memorial service in Mumbai for his parents, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who were taken hostage, tortured and killed by the terrorists during the Mumbai terror attack.

Even the little two-year-old did not avoid a beating as bruises were found on his back.  He was rescued by his Indian nanny Sandra Samuel who, when the terrorist attack began, locked herself in a room with another staff member.  The following morning, she heard little Moshe crying for her and went to look for him.  She found him, his pants covered in blood, crying beside the motionless bodies of his parents.  She grabbed the baby and ran outside even as the terror attacks on Nairman house continued.

 Indian Nanny Holtzberg

The state of Israel sent a plan to Mumbai to carry back the bodies of the Jewish victims along with little Moshe and his nanny who was the only person the traumatized toddler responded to.

 Funeral Israel Holtzbergs

At the funeral in Israel, Rivka's father revealed was six months pregnant. 

The rabbi who delivered the eulogy said,

'You don't have a mother who will hug you and kiss you,' Rabbi Kotlarsky cried out during a eulogy that switched back and forth between Hebrew and English. But the community will take care of the boy, he vowed: 'You are the child of all of Israel.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

December 1, 2008

No more human ashes in Jane Austen's garden

 Jane Austin's Garden

"If it enriched the soil we wouldn't mind so much but the ashes have no nutrients at all,"

said Mrs West , collections manager of the Jane Austen museum, in an open letter to the Jane Austen society.

'While we understand many admirers of Jane Austen would love to have ashes laid here, it is something we do not allow.

'It is distressing for visitors to see mounds of human ash, particularly so for our gardener. Also, it is of no benefit to the garden!'

While Jane Austen expert, Professor Kathryn Sutherland, of Oxford University, thought

'I think she would think it's hilarious and be thrilled she inspired such devotion'.

Jane Austen museum forced to ban fans from scattering human ashes in her garden.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

Red Sox caskets

When the Red Sox finally won the world series, there were stories of people who laminated the front page of the Boston Globe and brought to the graves of their parents to plant instead of flowers.

Now, you can be buried in a Red Sox casket and prove your undying eternal loyalty.

 Red-Sox Casket

Yes, the officially licensed Red Sox casket has arrived. The team logo is embroidered on the soft velvet of the lining and pillow, each of which is as white as a home uniform on Opening Day. The logo also appears on the exterior of the casket, which is made of high-gloss 18-gauge steel accented with baseball bat-style wood, tassels, and polished chrome - more Cadillac than bullpen car, headed for the hereafter.

"It's really a beautiful thing," said Dan Biggins, 28, co-director of Magoun-Biggins Funeral Home in Rockland, which recently took delivery of the first Sox casket, serial number 0001. "It's really neat."

The casket is manufactured by Eternal Image, a Michigan company started about five years ago on the notion that branded funeral products could make money and fill an overlooked need. The founder, who hatched the idea after looking unsuccessfully on the Internet for a 1967 Ford Mustang casket for himself, spent the next few years persuading well-known brands - including the Vatican Library, the American Kennel Club, and Star Trek - to enter licensing agreements.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:25 AM | Permalink

November 29, 2008

Harley Davidson Drawn Hearse

From coast to coast, San Diego to Long Island, there's a new twist to hearses.

Harley Davidson Drawn Hearse, Anyone?

Harley-Davidson enthusiasts who take the motto "Live to Ride, Ride to Live" to heart now have a proper conveyance to hog heaven.

A Long Island funeral home chain invested $100,000 in a three-wheeled Harley and carriage-style hearse for bikers who want to go out in style.

For $795, a driver will take the dearly departed from the funeral home to the house of worship, then on to the cemetery _ compared to $475 to $575 for a lift in a traditional hearse, they said.

Moloney said his family hoped to capitalize on a high concentration of military veterans and bike fanatics on Long Island.

"It's not morbid, it's cool," he said. "It's a way for people to always remember your funeral."

 Harley Davidson Hearse

It's Never to Late to Go out in Style

Jose Santana hadn't ridden a motorcycle in years, but when the 67-year-old Jamul man died of a stroke last week, his four children wanted his funeral to reflect his free-wheeling side.

They agreed their father's idea of heaven would be a final ride in a Harley-Davidson hearse.

“They said it was a Harley, and I said, 'Yeah, he'd like that,' ” son Jorge Santana said. “My dad liked his freedom.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 AM | Permalink

November 28, 2008

"Awesome, Dude!"

How not to conduct a funeral mass for a priest.

Father Harry Meyer tried to imagine God’s reaction when St. Susanna pastor Dan Schuh appeared in heaven.

Probably, he said, it was the same as the teenaged skier who witnessed the 50-something priest tumble head over skis down the slopes one winter night at Perfect North Slopes.

"Awesome, dude!" Meyer told the 1,500-plus parishioners and priests who gathered for Schuh’s funeral Mass Wednesday morning.

Father Z comments sadly:

We can’t avoid death.  We cannot control death.  We don’t understand death and we fear what we don’t understand.  Fear, at its root, is a result of the Fall.  Death and fear are inseparable, as cause to its effect.

This is why, I think, so many funerals today are as described above.

Death’s mystery is supremely confronted in Holy Mass, and in its deepest way during the Requiem.    Perhaps this is why funerals tend to reveal the worst of our tendencies toward illicit liturgical creativity and bad taste.  Corruptio optimi pessima.

Holy Mass must be celebrated in such a way that it leads us into the mystery of Christ’s death, and our death.  Mass is therefore like the Cross.  It is a mystery.  It thus will allure and repel, reveal that things are hidden and demand faith in what is unseen, or rather seen only darkly as if through a glass.

We mustn’t dodge the reality of death.  We shove death aside, or paint it over with bright colors and candy music, at our peril.  So many funerals are arrange so that people can get through another hour or so without having confronted anything either frightening or meaningful.  We avert our gaze from what Christ did for us and from what we must yet experience. 

If Holy Mass is reduced to the banal it becomes merely another worldly distraction.  It becomes a show.

But Mass is a sacrament, in the sense of its being a mystery.  It prepares us for death, Christ’s and our own.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:22 AM | Permalink

November 19, 2008

First known nuclear family

  4600 Burial Family

Discovered in a tender embrace, the first known nuclear family

A Stone Age burial ground, where the bodies of adults and children lay together for thousands of years entwined in tender embraces, has provided the earliest evidence for the existence of the nuclear family.

DNA tests on four skeletons from one of the graves have shown that the family unit of mother, father and their biological children goes back at least 4,600 years, when these bodies were carefully interred after a violent death.

The Stone Age site near Eulau in Germany contains the skeletons of several groups of adults and children buried facing one another in an arrangement that may mirror their relationships in life, scientists said yesterday.

In one grave, a mother is embracing her son, while crouching next to her in the same grave is the father with his arms around their elder son. "A direct child-parent relationship was detected in one burial, providing the oldest molecular genetic evidence of a nuclear family," the scientists said in the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:51 PM | Permalink

November 16, 2008

172 Grandchildren at Grandmother's Funeral

Grandmother's funeral brings her 172 grandchildren together for the first time ever.

As a grandmother of 172, Maggie Ward had plenty of family to dote on. And when it came to her funeral, they were determined to repay the favour.

Although they have never all been together in one place before, every single one made sure they were at the ceremony to give the 87-year-old a good send-off.

More amazingly:

Daughter Anne Hudson paid tribute to her mother and told how she never forgot a birthday and every member of her family got a gift at Christmas.
'She would never forget a birthday and got everyone a present at Christmas. She bought presents all year round - she would go to markets to get gifts so she could afford something for everyone.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 14, 2008

Doubledecker graves in England

 Double-Decker Grave

More room on top - lack of space brings in doubledecker grave.

The disturbance of human remains in burial grounds is to be allowed for the first time since the early Victorian era to deal with a shortage of graves, The Times has learnt.

Under a test scheme to begin in the new year, local authorities across the country will be allowed to exhume remains and rebury them deeper to create space for further burials on top.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

The Sacrifice of One American Family

 Muslim Funeral Afghanistan

A Muslim Imam leads mourners in prayer during a service for Mohsin Naqvi, a Muslim and native of Pakistan, who emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 8 years old and became a citizen at 16 and later an officer in the U.S. Army.  He was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol last week in Afghanistan.

This and other striking photographs from Afghanistan at The Big Picture 

Mohsin Naqvi, R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

November 11, 2008

Going out in style

 Ice-Cream Man's Coffin

If traditional coffins are too boring for you, consider The coffins that carry you off in a riot of color

They are the perfect final tribute for anyone who wouldn’t be seen dead in a traditional coffin.

Increasing numbers of families are choosing colourful ‘designer’ caskets for their loved ones, injecting a bold personal touch to funeral services.

Mary Tomes, 63, set up the company in Oxford after she retired from the printing industry. ‘I think our coffins can make people smile and lift the occasion,’ she said. ‘It makes it easier for people to deal with because it becomes a talking point.’

She added: ‘The clergy have been absolutely wonderful with this. Sometimes when you lose somebody it can be so hard to look at coffins. People who have been to a funeral and seen one of ours can smile and say, “Oh yes, he really loved golf.”

This is too much -  a coffin as a talking point at a funeral?  Give me grief and lamentations, I don't need no talking points.

 Colorful Coffins

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:32 PM | Permalink

November 3, 2008

Ancient curse linked to man's death in custody

In 1239, Gilbert de Moravia, Bishop of Caithness, invoked a solemn curse “upon those who destroy and injure" the fabric of Dornoch Cathedral in Scotland.  When he died he was interred beneath the floor of the Cathedral.

 Dornoch Cathedral

In 1570, the Cathedral was burnt down during local feuding.

St Gilbert’s curse was said to have struck down landowner William Sutherland, of Evelix, near Dornoch. During the sacking of the cathedral by the Mackays of Strathnaver and retainers of the Earl of Caithness, Sutherland had joined in and kicked over St Gilbert's bones. According to local tradition, the very foot that perpetrated the deed rotted away, creating such a stench that no one would go near Sutherland as he died a slow, agonising death

 Dornoch Cathedral Floodlit

In October, 2008, a 19-year-old was arrested for vandalizing and stealing money from the ancient building.  Put in a jail cell over the weekend before he appeared in court, young Daryl Shearer died mysteriously.  A post-mortem investigation is underway.

Bishop's Hex to Anyone Who Damaged Cathedral.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

November 2, 2008

Flowers for the Dead

 Chrysanthemum All Souls

Painting by Emile Friant, La Toussaint.

Via Tea at Trianon comes Chrysanthemums and All Souls' Day

Halloween is barely noticeable in France. The same cannot be said of All Saints' Day, La Toussaint (November 1st) and All Souls' Day, the Day of the Dead, the Jour des Morts (November 2.) La Toussaint is a national holiday.

This is a time for families to bring fresh flowers, mostly chrysanthemums, to the tombs of their departed loved ones, much as in the 19th century painting below. Cheerful mum blossoms are everywhere in Paris now.

I remember how surprised I was when I moved to California to note that these flowers have no funeral connotation in the United States. They grew to amazing masses of pink, red and gold in my Los Angeles garden (indeed chrysanthemum means "gold blossom" in Greek). But in France they are the flowers of the dead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:02 AM | 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 31, 2008

Undertaker's blog

I've just subscribed to a fine blog by the Daily Undertaker which is well worthy of your perusal for the insights of a funeral director and some fine photographs.

I quite liked "I wish I'd spoken at my father's funeral",  the undertaker who tries to save a young man from a life of violenceIrish wakes online, and Behind the Collar, Funerals from the Vicar's perspective

Take some time and look around.  You'll be glad you did.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:37 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 29, 2008

Death care consultant

Kelly Gillespie is the undertaker and licensed funeral director at Need Ideas for a Funeral and boy does she have a lot.

If you're curious about alternative funeral or burial arrangements, you may want to check out what she has to say about  a traditional service done your way pagan rites, a Buddhist ceremony or a Japanese Odon Festival

If you want a savvy death care consultant to help you plan a memorable funeral, call Kelly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:36 PM | 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

October 18, 2008

City of Dead

Rome workers uncover city of dead.

Workers renovating a rugby stadium have uncovered a vast complex of tombs beneath Rome that mimic the houses, blocks and streets of a real city, according to officials, who have unveiled a series of new finds.

Culture Ministry officials said Thursday that medieval pottery shards in the city of the dead, or necropolis, show the area may have been inhabited by the living during the Dark Ages after being used for centuries for burials during the Roman period.

It is not yet clear who was buried in the ancient cemetery, but archaeologists at the still partially excavated site believe at least some of the dead were freed slaves of Greek origin.

It's a matter of a few weeks to discover what is down there," said archaeologist Marina Piranomonte. "But it's something big; it looks like a neighborhood."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2008

Red tassels are the only remains of Cardinal Newman

Red tassels are the only remains of saintly cardinal

The bones of the Victorian cardinal who is in line to become Britain’s first saint for almost 40 years have disintegrated, hampering plans to turn his final resting place into a centre of Christian pilgrimage.

Church officials exhuming the body of Cardinal John Henry Newman were surprised to discover that his grave was almost empty when it was opened on Thursday. All that remained were a brass plate and handles from Newman’s coffin, along with a few red tassels from his cardinal’s hat.

The discovery will not affect Newman’s case for sainthood. But officials have had to abandon plans to transfer his bones from a rural cemetery in Rednal, Worcestershire, to a marble sarcophagus at Birmingham Oratory, which Newman founded after converting to Catholicism from the Church of England.

“I have been visiting that grave since I was a very young boy,” said Peter Jennings, a spokesman for the Oratory. “I will never forget how I felt, standing there last Thursday, looking at this deep hole which had been dug out. This was the greatest churchman of the 19th century and there was nothing there, only dust.”

There is no conspiracy theory over what has become of Newman’s remains: experts believe that damp conditions led to their complete decomposition.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:14 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2008

Not on a Saturday

Family barred from burying their dead stepfather on a Saturday...because he isn't a Muslim

Harold 'Charlie' Lemaire died last week from pneumonia and his family wanted the burial service to be held on Saturday to make it easier for relatives living across the country to attend.

But plans for a memorial service followed by a burial in the City Road cemetery in Sheffield had to be changed because the local authority has a policy only to allow Muslim and Jewish funerals at weekends and bank holidays.
the 'two-tier' system has been slammed as discriminatory and Islamic groups have also backed calls for all faiths to be treated in the same way.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:58 PM | Permalink

September 16, 2008

Funeral for a Saintly Man

2000 people packed the pews for the funeral of Thomas S. Vander Woude, the Father who died saving his son  

Among the attendees were his wife of 43 years, Mary Ellen, more than 70 priests, including the bishop of Arlington, and the friends accrued over decades who came to pay respects to a man who inspired them, right up until his final breath.

If Vander Woude saw the throng, he'd say, "Are you kidding me? . . . Don't waste your gas," said one of his sons, Steve Vander Woude of Nokesville, after the service. But "this guy did something saintly, and they wanted to come be a part of it."

Another of Thomas S. Vander Woude's sons, Tom Vander Woude, pastor at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Alexandria, gave the homily. In it, he likened his father to Saint Joseph, a man who patiently and quietly supported his family, did odd jobs for those in need and was content to worship God and not seek the limelight, Tom Vander Woude said.

At a reception at Seton School in Manassas, where six of Thomas S. Vander Woude's sons went to school, friends and neighbors traded stories about how Vander Woude had gone out of his way to help them. Fittingly, Tom Vander Woude observed, they were standing on the gym floor that his father had installed.

His dying act was, "truly saintly" and "the crown of a whole life of self-giving," Bishop Paul S. Loverde said at the Mass. "May we find in his life inspiration and strength."

He was one of the unknown saints among us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 PM | Permalink

September 10, 2008

Missing Corpse on American Airlines

HORROR: American Airlines Sued Over Missing Body

It was Miguel Olaya's worst nightmare.

Not only had his wife of 26 years died of cancer, but he says American Airlines lost her body when it was time to bury her in their native Ecuador.

Olaya is a proud man. But when we was asked what he told his 16-year-old daughter, Laura, about how for several days American Airlines apparently could not tell them what happened to his wife Teresa's body while they waited to bury her in Ecuador, after flying in from New York, well, he struggled to maintain his composure. He didn't want to break down in front of a camera, but clearly he was torn up inside.

He managed to get out "Que estamos sufriendo. Translation: "We are suffering."
His wife of 26 years died of cancer, and after a viewing at De Riso funeral home in Brooklyn, the funeral home arranged with American Airlines to fly the body to Ecuador.
Attorney Christopher Robles: "It appears from what we know about the state of the body when it arrives in Ecuador, that the body was not refrigerated. It was not kept the way a body would need to be kept."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

September 2, 2008

Search for Lost Coffins

In Louisiana, Search Goes On for Lost Coffins.

Displacements of more than 1,500 bodies occurred in Louisiana from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Some were also displaced in Texas and Mississippi. Hundreds remain unidentified, officials say. Louisiana estimates the cost of retrieving lost coffins will be about $4 million.

Mr. Mudge, a retired councilman and former deputy, inherited recovery duty in his parish three days after Katrina. He was traveling through flood waters by airboat when he noticed coffins floating in the streets. "The storm broke apart everything," Mr. Mudge says. "Everything came out."

Over the last three years, his wife, Barbara, a 62-year-old parish government secretary, has compiled meticulous notes of the clues in each find. They quickly discovered many people are buried without any notation in the coffins of who they were.

Some coffins were sent to a temporary morgue an hour away, where experts looked for medical identification bracelets, name tags, dental records and performed X-rays. They kept records of mementos placed with the bodies, such as Budweiser and banana-liquor bottles, fishing poles, letters, baseball caps, jewelry and in one case an Aretha Franklin cassette tape.

In February 2006, all the bodies were sent back to Plaquemines Parish with reports of the findings in each coffin. Mrs. Mudge went to work. She conducted dozens of interviews with people who had lost relatives, as well as funeral-home directors and grave diggers -- compiling descriptions and combing through reports for clues.

Mr. Mudge retrieved two identical coffins adorned with a pink rose design, one on top of a levee and another in the woods. The local mortician opened the first coffin, and spotted a hot pink bingo marker in the exact spot described by Ms. St. Ann. "They asked me if I wanted to keep it," Ms. St. Ann says. "I told them to leave that marker with her just in case something like this happens again." Her brother's body hasn't been found.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink

Meals Served to a Dead King

Via Tea at Trianon comes the Strange Custom of Dining with the Dead

François I died of illness on March 31, 1547, but that didn't prevent his courtiers from dining with him ever again. His meals were served to his effigy, as if he were still alive, for eleven days as part of an elaborate funeral ceremony rife with symbolic meaning.

François was not buried until May 22, as his successor, Henri II, wanted to combine his father's funeral with those of the king's two sons who had predeceased him and whose bodies had to be transported to Paris. This gap allowed for an elaborate ceremony to unfold.
Along the walls were benches for nobles and clerics, who attended the religious services and meals served to the effigy. These were the strangest parts of the ceremonial. For eleven days the king's meals were served as if he were still alive. His table was laid and the courses brought in and tasted. The napkin, used to wipe his hands, was presented by the steward to the most eminent person in attendance, and wine was served twice during each meal. At the end, grace was said by a cardinal.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

August 21, 2008

The Business of Death

Who gets final say over a funeral - the funeral director or a parish priest?

The blog getreligion reports in The Business of Death on a story in the Louisville Courier-Journal

A Nelson County funeral home director is suing the Archdiocese of Louisville and a Roman Catholic priest, whom he accuses of undercutting his business by implementing new rules on conducting funerals at his parish.

The Rev. Jeffrey Leger, pastor of St. Catherine Church in New Haven, put a new policy into effect last month, stipulating that funeral directors can no longer solely plan funerals. Instead, they must now plan them with Leger, who has final say.

Says Mollie, author of the blog post

It’s the dirty little secret of church life that some funeral directors are responsible for exerting a great deal of power over funeral services. Sometimes that’s a net blessing for the parties involved. Grieving family members don’t always make the best decisions about funerals. But for churches, such as mine, that approach funerals as worship services in which the Word of God is proclaimed in order to comfort those who grieve with hope in the resurrected Christ — meddling from non-members can wreak havoc. I say all this as a descendant of successful funeral home directors on one side of the family and the daughter of a pastor on the other side of the family. I really like the way Smith just laid the facts out in order to quickly get into the meat of the story:

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:49 PM | Permalink

August 15, 2008

Thieves in cemeteries

Sculptures stolen from cemeteries

Thieves have looted several sculptures, including the work of a famed South End artist, from the Forest Hills Cemetery, possibly to sell as scrap metal, in a sign that the theft of bronze and copper has spread to the serenity of cemeteries.

The work of Kahlil Gibran, "Seated Ceres," and two sculptures by other artists were taken over the past week from the Contemporary Sculpture Path, a nationally renowned walking trail of more than 30 works, cemetery officials said.
Milley, who is also president of the Massachusetts Cemetery Association, said cemeteries throughout the state have reported thefts of copper or bronze materials, but he has never heard of renowned artwork being taken.

Miller said that the Forest Hills Cemetery was unique in that it risked displaying artwork that was fitting for a museum. She said the cemetery will have to decide whether to keep bronze as part of the display.

"One of the wonderful things about this environment was that people normally treated it with respect because it is a cemetery," she said. "It just seems particularly terrible that thieves would violate that space and destroy something that has much larger value."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

August 14, 2008

Desert Burial in Green Sahara

 Desert Burial

The National Geographic announced the discovery of an ancient cemetery in the once-green Sahara

A tiny woman and two children were laid to rest on a bed of flowers 5,000 years ago in what is now the barren Sahara Desert.

The slender arms of the youngsters were still extended to the woman in perpetual embrace when researchers discovered their skeletons in a remarkable cemetery that is providing clues to two civilizations who lived there, a thousand years apart, when the region was moist and green.

Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago and colleagues were searching for the remains of dinosaurs in the African country of Niger when they came across the startling find, detailed at a news conference Thursday at the National Geographic Society.

"Part of discovery is finding things that you least expect," he said. "When you come across something like that in the middle of the desert it sends a tingle down your spine."

Some 200 graves of humans were found during fieldwork at the site in 2005 and 2006, as well as remains of animals, large fish and crocodiles.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:47 PM | Permalink

Plastic Flowers Too Dangerous

Even though my personal preference is for real flowers and long-living plants, this is ridiculous.

Plastic flowers banned from cemetery for posing a 'health and safety risk'

'We also have heath-and-safety reasons to consider: if the flowers get caught up in the lawnmower the bits of plastic flying around could be very dangerous.'

In June Croydon Council banned plastic flowers from an elderly accommodation block because they were also deemed to be a health-and-safety risk.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

August 13, 2008

Meanwhile in Macedonia

Michael Totten visits Macedonia and is shocked to see
A huge number of people in Tetovo, though, looked like they had been airlifted in from the Middle East,
It seems the Wahhabis have successfully transformed this portion of Macedonia into what former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky calls a fear society.
“How long have you had problems with the Wahhabis here?” I said.

“Serious trouble started three years ago when they broke gravestones,” he said. “They didn’t respect our saints. They also broke pictures of Imam Ali on the walls, and of the world head of the Bektashis. They cut the pictures with knives. They think we are too close to Christianity, in part because of the pictures and candles.” The Wahhabis hate candles. “Then the Sunnis came in and occupied the tekke. They said This is Muslim territory.”

  Michael Totten Sufi Graves

All Bektashis believe in the same graves. We keep them and pray to them. We believe that if we damage a grave God will punish us, so we are very afraid to do this, we would never do this. We keep the saint graves. The Muslims know this, they are trying to provoke us and claim that we have done it to ourselves. But no, really they did it. Plus, I see these Wahhabis around. Usually at night the Wahhabis are coming, sometimes in trousers, sometimes in their clothes, sometimes with the things on their heads and with beards.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:24 PM | Permalink

August 1, 2008

Wedding-funeral for female suicide bomber ends in brawl

The "wedding-funeral" of the first-ever female suicide bomber turns into sectarian brawl.

Excerpts from a report on a Lebanese celebration of the "wedding-funeral" of the first ever female suicide bomber, Sana Mehaidli, known as "The Bride of the South," who detonated a car bomb near an Israeli military convoy in southern Lebanon in 1985. The report aired on Al-Jadid/New TV on July 26, 2008.
In Maghdouche, the town of the martyr Milad Saliba, Sana was wedded in a great ceremony. The band was playing in her honor, and the crowd was dancing. A bride, in her wedding dress, raised her gun above her head. The procession was showered with rice and roses, and sprayed with rose water. The church bells chimed in her honor.

In 'Anqoun, there was a crowded reception from balconies, from the rooftops, in the streets, and in cars. The Shiite seminary was packed when Sana arrived. The party chairman could not complete his address, because somebody decided to raise a flag of the Amal party from the podium, and a group of vandals began to destroy the place, leading some fo the participants to leave the premises. SSNP members protected Sana's coffin and the guests, whlie gunfire could be heard outside the seminary. After things calmed down, the SSNP members accompanied their heroic martyr to the village cemetery, where she was buried, amid continuous disturbances by the village youth, who were the only ones who did not appreciate the honor that Sana bestowed upon the village from which she came.

via Solomonia

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink

July 29, 2008

Tombstone for a Horse

 Tombstone Horse

via Brits at Their Animal-Loving Best.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:14 PM | Permalink

Grave Secrets

In London, a new exhibition reveals the hidden secrets of 26 disinterred skeletons.

A new exhibition, Skeletons: London's Buried Bones, looks at the secrets etched into 26 disinterred skeletons, from that of a gout-ridden man who clearly loved his pipe, to a bon viveur who died at the ripe old age of 84, to a pregnant young woman.

Here, we tell their extraordinary, and often disturbing, stories.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

July 28, 2008

UPS driver gets special funeral

UPS driver gets special funeral delivery

A United Parcel Service  driver in Crystal Lake, Ill., was delivered to his grave following his death by one of the company's vehicles, his wife says.

Judy Hornagold said the fact her husband Jeff's body was taken to the cemetery Saturday in his friend's UPS truck was a great tribute for a man who worked for the shipping company for 20 years, the Crystal Lake (Ill.) Northwest Herald reported.

UPS driver Michael McGowan was in charge of the very special delivery, which included moving his former co-worker's casket from a funeral home to St. Thomas the Apostle Church.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 18, 2008

Funeral Mass for Tony Snow

"And What a Life He Lived!"

The homily of Fr. David O'Connell, president of Catholic University.

What is the measure of a man? This question has been asked over and again from the beginning of time, throughout history, by all of those who share our human mortality. What is the measure of a man? It is a good question; it is an important question; it is an enduring question; it is an ultimate question when we face the death of someone we know and love. Someone like Tony Snow.

No one of us among his family or friends believes that Tony’s life was long enough. And, yet — in the face of its brevity — we respond in faith, we who are believers, that the measure of a man is not found, as the Book of Wisdom comforts us today, “in terms of years (Wisdom 4:8).” It is, indeed, our faith that reminds us: “the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time. He who pleased God, Wisdom writes, was loved (and) … having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord (Wisdom 4: 7-14).” For the believer, for people of faith, the true measure of a man lies in his efforts to please God.
The passing of anyone we love moves us to question: what is the measure of a man? And whatever your answer may be, whatever our answer may be, we can be sure that the measure of a man is not found in words or titles or length of days but, rather, in deeds done, in a life lived, in a love shared and in the beliefs that made it so. The Gospel of St. Matthew tells us today: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, clean of heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, the just" (Matthew 5: 1-12) … these are the measure of a Christian man. For Tony Snow, these were the ways he embraced his own advice to “live boldly” and to “live a whole life.”

When he spoke to our graduates last spring, Tony shared an especially poignant moment and profound thought about his latest battle with cancer. He reflected that “while God doesn’t promise tomorrow, he does promise eternity.”

For Tony Snow, that promise has been fulfilled.

Remarks of President Bush with special attention to his children.

For Robbie, Kendall, and Kristi, you are in our thoughts and prayers, as well. We thank you for sharing your dad with us. He talked about you all the time. He wanted nothing more than your happiness and success. You know, I used to call Tony on the weekends to get his advice. And invariably, I found him with you on the soccer field, or at a swim meet, or helping with your homework. He loved you a lot. Today I hope you know that we loved him a lot, too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 AM | Permalink

Relocating Graves for Personal Gain in Vermont

When a former Wall Street analyst from Greenwich, Conn., set his sights on a lush parcel of 150 acres here, he knew he wanted to live atop its highest peak, surrounded by panoramic views and rippling meadows studded with red clover, Vermont's state flower.

There was only this hitch: A short distance from the site where J. Michel Guite envisioned building a house was a white picket-fenced burial ground with the graves of a War of 1812 veteran, Noah Aldrich, his two granddaughters, and several stones presumed to be grave markers of other family members. Guite was concerned that the cemetery would trouble his children when they played in the tall-grass fields.

The cemetery, he decided, had to go. He gave notice that he intended to move three of the marked grave sites.

The move has inflamed this rural town, prompting a lawsuit, criticism in a local paper, a resolution at Town Meeting denouncing Guite's plans, and a protest banner in the July Fourth parade that said, "Let Noah Aldrich continue to lie in peace." In many ways, the bitterness and anger vented on Guite are about more than one man and reflects a mounting wave of resentment against outsiders seen as snapping up valuable Vermont land with little respect for its heritage.

'Let Noah Aldrich...lie in peace'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:56 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2008

Chuckles the Clown

A classic from Mary Tyler Moore

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

June 25, 2008

Son Turns Dead Dad into Teapot

"Those cups of tea with dad were special and when he died I really missed them."

John Lowndes has no problem stirring up happy memories of his dad after putting his ashes in an
urn with a difference.

He found that when Ian died 10 years ago aged 75, one of the things he missed most was their tradition of putting the world to rights over a nice cuppa.

 Son Teacup Dad

So he brewed up the idea of giving him leaf eternal by having his ashes mixed with clay to make a teapot.

He approached local potter Neil Richardson who made two teapots - in case one breaks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:42 AM | Permalink

June 20, 2008

Russert Funeral, Memorial Service and Rainbow

From Newsweek, The Russert Miracles

The first "Russert miracle," as attendees called it, happened at the private funeral service held at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown; the family of the late Meet the Press host Tim Russert had requested that Senators Obama and McCain to sit together, and the two presidential combatants obliged. CNN Washington Bureau chief David Bohrman, a former NBC producer, describes the scene to NEWSWEEK: "They sat side-by-side and spoke for twenty minutes. The body language was total friendship. They were warm and friendly and truly engaged in a conversation.... I kept thinking here we are at the funeral at the son of a sanitation worker and the presidential candidates are having their first one on one conversation here."

After the memorial service, the crowd moved to the rooftop where they saw the sky open up to a rainbow.

"After the magical experience of this service, to come out and see the rainbow and Luke at the bottom of it made the last dry eye weep," said NBC News executive Phil Griffin. The last song in the memorial service was, fittingly, "Somewhere over the Rainbow."

When asked his reaction to explain the sudden appearance of the rainbow at the exact moment, Luke Russert, his sparkly smile so reminiscent of his father's, said: "Is anyone still an atheist now?"

Howard Kurtz reports on the memorial service for Tim Russert,

From the three network anchors to a former governor to the Buffalo nun who taught him in seventh grade, Tim Russert's extended family bid farewell yesterday to "an unmade bed of a man, with an armful of newspapers and a cellphone to his ear," as Tom Brokaw described his colleague

But it was Peggy Noonan who grasped the essential point in A Life's Lesson.

When somebody dies, we tell his story and try to define and isolate what was special about it—what it was he brought to the party, how he enhanced life by showing up. In this way we educate ourselves about what really matters. Or, often, re-educate ourselves, for "man needs more to be reminded than instructed."
The beautiful thing about the coverage was that it offered extremely important information to those age 15 or 25 or 30 who may not have been told how to operate in the world beyond "Go succeed." I'm not sure we tell the young as much as we ought, as clearly as we ought, what it is the world admires, and what it is they want to emulate.

In a way, the world is a great liar. It shows you it worships and admires money, but at the end of the day it doesn't. It says it adores fame and celebrity, but it doesn't, not really.
The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, make it better. That's what it really admires. That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, "The thing about Joe was he was rich." We say, if we can, "The thing about Joe was he took care of people."

After Tim's death, the entire television media for four days told you the keys to a life well lived, the things you actually need to live life well, and without which it won't be good. Among them: taking care of those you love and letting them know they're loved, which involves self-sacrifice; holding firm to God, to your religious faith, no matter how high you rise or low you fall. This involves guts, and self-discipline, and active attention to developing and refining a conscience to whose promptings you can respond. Honoring your calling or profession by trying to do within it honorable work, which takes hard effort, and a willingness to master the ethics of your field. And enjoying life. This can be hard in America, where sometimes people are rather grim in their determination to get and to have. "Enjoy life, it's ungrateful not to," said Ronald Reagan.

Tim had these virtues. They were great to see. By defining them and celebrating them the past few days, the media encouraged them. This was a public service, and also what you might call Tim's parting gift.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

June 10, 2008

Hi-tech tombstones in Japan

Hi-tech tombstones in Japan let mourners link to videos of the deceased.

mobile phone QR codes on tombstones that link to photographs and video clips of the deceased.
In addition to images of the deceased, people can view a greeting from the chief mourner at the funeral and browse through the guest book. They can also make entries using their cell phones.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink

June 8, 2008

Bo Diddley's Funeral Rocked

Bo Diddley's funeral rocked and rolled Saturday with as much energy as his music.

For four hours, friends and relatives sang, danced and celebrated the life of the man who helped give birth to rock and roll with a signature beat that influenced Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and many others.

As family members passed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's casket, a gospel band played his namesake song. Within moments, the crowd of several hundred began clapping in time and shouting, "Hey, Bo Diddley!"

A Rocking Sendoff for Bo Diddley

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

June 6, 2008

Designer Funeral

 Designer Funeral 1

The funeral of Yves Saint Laurent at the Saint-Roch church in Paris

If anyone was going to have a designer funeral, it was Yves Saint Laurent.

Scores of the world's most beautiful women gathered yesterday in Paris to pay tribute to one of the most iconic couturiers of the last 50 years.
Miss Bruni noted how Saint Laurent had put women into masculine tailoring.
And her husband, President Nicolas Sarkozy, said: 'One of the greatest names of fashion has disappeared, the first to elevate haute couture to the rank of art. He was convinced that beauty was a luxury that every man and woman needed.'

Tributes to the 71-year-old 'fashion prince', who died on Sunday from a brain tumour, highlighted how he modernised female fashion in the Sixties and had empowered women by putting them in leather biker jackets and army uniforms.
He was cremated and his ashes flown to a botanical garden in Marrakech, Morocco, where he spent much of his life.

 Designer Funeral 2

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2008

Buried in a Pringles can

The inventor of Pringles, Fredic Baur who died this month in Cincinnati at 89, was cremated with his ashes buried in a Pringles can.

Via Kottke who remarked he was a clever marketer to the very end.


Cincinnati Enquirer story on Baur's career as an organic chemist and food storage technician at Procter & Gamble.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:13 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2008

Webcasting funerals

An alert reader in the U.K. pointed me to this article to show how webcasting a funeral service has made ceremonies more accessible.

You may wonder how a crematorium in Essex can help bereaved people abroad, including soldiers in Iraq. But we can, thanks to new webcasting equipment.

The system was installed in March last year and is simple and discreet. In the chapel is a fixed camera and two microphones. The webcast is available online live and for a week afterwards. It is password protected, so the family has control of who watches it. The camera also takes a recording, which is sent overnight to Wesley Music, the company that provides the service. They tidy up the sound before offering it as a DVD to mourners.

The benefits of webcasting were clear when we started arranging a funeral last August for a serviceman who died in Iraq. The family and the Ministry of Defence were grateful for the opportunity to broadcast the event to his colleagues in Basra. Wesley Music also worked with the family to make a DVD that included footage of the full military band and ceremonials outside the chapel.
As well as taking the pressure off mourners, it frees up funeral directors to focus on the family’s needs, which is our first priority. For such a small outlay, we feel the system will be of lasting benefit for us as we evolve our services and for mourners in the grieving process

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

May 29, 2008

Stonehenge was burial site for centuries

Mysterious, enigmatic Stonehenge was a burial ground for centuries new research suggests.

"Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C. The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge's sarsen stones phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument's use and demonstrates that it was still very much a domain of the dead," Parker Pearson said in a statement,


Nearby homes were excavated at Durlington Walls

"It's a quite extraordinary settlement, we've never seen anything like it before," Parker Pearson said. The village appeared to be a land of the living and Stonehenge a land of the ancestors, he said.

There were at least 300 and perhaps as many as 1,000 homes in the village, he said. The small homes were occupied in midwinter and midsummer.

The village also included a circle of wooden pillars, which they have named the Southern Circle. It is oriented toward the midwinter sunrise, the opposite of Stonehenge, which is oriented to the midsummer sunrise.

National Geographic will feature the new study this coming Sunday.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:53 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2008

"Never forget the little faraway village from which you came"

The highest ranking African prelate Cardinal Bernardin Gantin died last week in Paris at 86.  His body was taken back to his native Benin where he was given A Hero's Sendoff.  Rocco Palmo tells the story.

 Cardinal Bernardin Gantin

Earlier, a Memorial Mass was held at St. Peter's where Pope Benedict gave the homily.

A railway worker's son, Benedict said that "his personality, human and priestly, made for a magnificent synthesis of the qualities of the African soul with those of the Christian spirit, of the culture and identity of Africa and the values of the Gospel." Despite being, at age 38, the first native-born African archbishop and the continent's first son to assume a top role in the Roman Curia, the Pope said that Gantin never let the accolades get to his head, adding that the "secret" to his humility likely lay in "the wise words that his mother repeated when he became a cardinal... 'Never forget the little faraway village from which you came.'"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

May 24, 2008

Naked Mummies Before and After

Fury as museum bosses cover up  naked Egyptian mummies to protect 'sensitivities' of visitors

The last time they had the chance to offend anyone was 2,700 years ago when they were wandering around ancient Egypt.

Since then the mummies have led a blameless existence, spending the last 120 years in a museum where countless thousands of visitors have managed to see them without anyone becoming in the least bit upset.

So museum officials in Manchester covered them with shrouds to protect their modesty and, following government policy, began a process of public consultation.

Josh Lennon, a museum visitor, said: "This is preposterous. Surely people realise that if they go to see Egyptian remains some of them may not be dressed in their best bib and tucker.

"The museum response to complaints is pure Monty Python  -  they have now covered them from head to foot rendering the exhibition a non-exhibition. It is hilarious."

  Naked Mummies Before After

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 AM | Permalink

April 28, 2008


 Padre Pio
The body of Padre Pio who died forty years ago and was declared a saint in 2002 is now on display in San Giovanni Rotondo.  While not totally incorrupt, his body was still remarkably well-preserved.  No sign of his famous stigmata was present.

There are more than 250 incorrupt bodies of Catholic saints whose bodies did not decompose in the normal way.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2008

Bringing Mourners Online

Would you pay $150 for a user name and password to people who live far away or are housebound so that they can watch the funeral service online?

One crematorium in England is betting that offering a better service to people who are bereaved will be profitable.

Pay-Per-View Funerals bring Mourners Online.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 AM | Permalink

April 9, 2008

Gay graveyeard

If you are gay and live in Copenhagen, you now can choose to be buried in a gay graveyard.

"We have our own places where we can meet and have fun, gay bars and such. That is why we wanted our own graveyard," Larsen, a priest, told public broadcaster DR.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

April 8, 2008

"I'd rather have my son than my money."

After they buried their 30-year-old son, they stopped at a store for soda and the father bought $10 worth of lottery tickets.

Grieving father wins $9-million lottery

"I know you're supposed to be happy when you win it, but I'll tell you it's not no big thing," he said.

"I'd rather have my son than my money."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 PM | Permalink

April 5, 2008

"As splendid a service as it could possibly have been"

Terry Teachout on the William F Buckley memorial service held yesterday at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Home from the Sea

All I can tell you was that today’s service seemed as splendid as it could possibly have been. The cathedral was full of mourners, the choir loft full of singers, and the music was mostly appropriate to the occasion. Bill was a serious amateur musician who loved Bach above all things–he actually performed the F Minor Harpsichord Concerto in public on more than one occasion–so the organist played “Sheep May Safely Graze” and the slow movement of the Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C Major. No less suitable were the sung portions of the Mass, drawn from Victoria’s sweetly austere Missa “O magnum mysterium,” and the closing hymn, the noble tune from Gustav Holst’s The Planets to which the following words were later set: I vow to thee, my country–all earthly things above–/Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love.
Bill was the least weltschmerzy person imaginable. Henry Kissinger, who eulogized him this morning, alluded to that side of Bill’s personality when he remarked that Bill “was vouchsafed a little miracle: to enjoy so much what was compelled by inner necessity.” I couldn’t have put it better.
Christopher Buckley, Bill’s son, followed Henry Kissinger, and gave just the sort of eulogy I’d expected from him, funny and light-fingered, putting much-needed smiles on our faces. Only at the end did he sound a darker note, quoting the lines from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Requiem” that he chose as the epitaph for a man who loved sailing as much as he loved Bach: Here he lies where he long’d to be;/Home is the sailor, home from the sea,/And the hunter home from the hill.
Somehow you never imagine outliving the people who show you through the doors that lead to the rest of your life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

A memorial service like no other

In Colorado a man crashed a memorial service, groping the deceased woman's sister and showing her mother pornographic pictures.

A physical confrontation ensued, police were called and the man arrested.

via Ace

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

March 31, 2008

Be sure to tell your siblings if you bury your father

Benjamin LaFlamme didn't.  He just buried his father alongside his  mother in Bennington, Vermont.
Now two of his siblings are petitioning the court to exhume their father because they weren't given the chance to offer their last respects.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:42 AM | Permalink

March 28, 2008

The Moon and the Stars

I suppose it was only a matter of time.  Company offers moon as final resting place.

Personally, I prefer the stars.

"Shoot for the moon and if you miss it you will still be among the stars"  wrote Les Brown.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

March 25, 2008

Deadly Business

The three directors of black funeral parlors here have been assaulted at services and each has had gunshots fired during burials. Concealed-weapons, pre-funeral intelligence briefings, cameras, panic buttons and armed security guards are becoming as much a part of services as the eulogy.

"I've been in this business 42 years and I'm jittery now," Mr. Glover says.

Across the country, black morticians are changing the way they operate. The reason: a spike in African-American murders -- and the violence that sometimes follows victims to the grave

Violence Roils Black Funeral Parlors

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:33 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2008

Ex-doctor confesses to plundering corpses

The mastermind of the odious scheme to plunder corpses from funeral homes in the Northeast and sell them for millions of dollars has pleaded guilty in a deal that will put him away in prison for decades.

Ex-doctor confesses to stealing body parts.

Michael Mastromarino, a 44-year-old former oral surgeon, confessed to the judge that he carried out the scheme from 2001 to 2005. He will face 18 to 54 years and will have to forfeit $4.68 million. He pleaded guilty to 14 counts that include enterprise corruption, body stealing, and reckless endangerment.

The plea was made more than two years after the gruesome scandal broke, with evidence that corpses were being hacked up without permission or proper screening for diseases and sold for dental implants, knee and hip replacements, and other procedures around the country.

The looted bodies included that of "Masterpiece Theatre" host Alistair Cooke.

Authorities released photos of exhumed corpses that were boned below the waist. Prosecutors said the defendants had made a crude attempt to cover their tracks by sewing PVC pipe into the bodies in time for open-casket wakes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 AM | Permalink

March 15, 2008

Kidnapped Archbishop found dead and buried a second time

The New York Times reports that the archbishop, just after he was kidnapped and while in the trunk of his own car

In the darkness, he managed to pull out his cellphone and call the church, telling officials not to pay a ransom for his release, they said.

“He believed that this money would not be paid for good works and would be used for killing and more evil actions,” the officials said.

The Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was buried Friday, two weeks after he was kidnapped in the troubled northern city of Mosul, two days after he was found dead.

The body was found buried in the ground in Al Intessar, a residential area near the city known as a haven for gangs and criminal activity. Iraqi officials in Mosul said that the church had received a phone call telling them where to find the body, and church officials dug up the body with the help of the local police.

It was not immediately clear how the archbishop died. However, Shlemon Warduni, the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, ..said  that the body showed no sign of gunshot wounds or other violence. He said the archbishop was in precarious health and his kidnapping could have aggravated his condition. He said the kidnappers had called on Wednesday to say that the archbishop was ill and later that he had died.

A morgue official in Mosul also said the body showed no signs of violence and that the archbishop had apparently died from natural causes. The archbishop had suffered from high blood pressure and had a heart condition.

Hundreds of Iraqi Christians mourn archbishop throwing flowers on his wooden coffin while women wailed.

Rahho's body was found a day earlier in Mosul, where his religious community has faced attacks from Sunni Arab extremists and criminal gangs.

Gunmen grabbed Rahho Feb. 29 outside his church after he had finished celebrating a prayer service. His driver and two guards were shot dead in the abduction.

According to police and church officials, the archbishop, who suffered from heart disease and diabetes, died because his captors failed to provide him his regular medications. Initially, Nineveh province police chief Gen. Wathiq Hamdani said he believed Rahho had been shot when kidnapped and died of his injuries.

Another martyr for the faith and one who will be deeply missed,

Christians remembered Rahho, who was in his 60s, for having continued to give hope to their dwindling numbers. In June, the archbishop's confidant, Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, was shot dead along with three deacons outside the Church of the Holy Spirit, where Rahho was kidnapped last month. On one occasion, Rahho was accosted by gunmen, but he walked on, daring them to shoot him, said Nabil Kashat, an advisor to the Chaldean Charity Assn.
He was encouraging Christians to stay in Mosul. He was pushing for tolerance among all factions. His loss is a big loss for all the Christians and Muslims of Mosul. It is a real shock for everyone. The Christians of Mosul will not be in a good position to believe that the city is safe for them," Kashat said.

A woman from Mosul, who identified herself as Rayat, said by phone that Rahho's death was the last straw for her. "After our holy man was killed, I don't want to stay in Mosul. Our good men are gone. When there are holy days, where will we go now?" she said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink

March 11, 2008

Family steals body from hearse

In a dispute over how to bury the body, in a Maori rite as her some of her family wanted or as she expressed in her will "with some sort of Anglican involvement, the Family steals dead woman's body from hearse and fled in a four-wheel drive.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 AM | Permalink

March 1, 2008

The Environmental Cost of Cremation

If you are an environmentalist and are thinking about cremation consider this.

Cremation ignites global-warming, atmospheric conflagration

Since it takes two to four hours at temperatures ranging from 1,400 and 2,100 F, or 760 and 1,150 C, the estimated energy required to cremate one body is roughly equal to the amount of fuel required to drive 4,800 miles, or 7,725 kilometers.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide are spewed in large volume, along with carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, particulate matter, heavy metals, dioxins and furans.

There is also release of cadmium and lead from pacemakers and mercury from dental amalgams. Total mercury emissions from cremation in Canada for 2004 were between 240 and 907 pounds, or 109 and 411.6 kilograms.

via small dead animals

Read the comments to her post for hilariously gross solutions to this burning environmental problem.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:59 PM | Permalink

February 26, 2008

Russian Mafia Grave Tombs

  Russian Mafia Grave Tombs

They cost thousands of dollars but what's money when it comes to immortalizing the thugs who were part of the Russian mafia.  They were ruthless and you just know they thought they were cool.

The photo above is from a cemetery in the city of Yekaterinburg, the city where the Tsar and his family were executed in 1918, known in the 90s as the crime capital of Russia, otherwise the main industrial and cultural center in the eastern Urals section of Russia.

Two thousand miles away lies Dnipropetrovsk, third largest city in the Ukraine, but the sensibility of mob culture are very much the same.    Everyone wanted what the others had.

  Russian Mobster Graves

Photos from English Russia with a hat tip to Scribal Terror.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 PM | Permalink

Your Final Farewell Party

In the Washington Post, Dan Zak reminds us that you don't have to be at death's door to do a little planning for your final farewell.

Hey, It's Your Funeral

But what about a handbook on this side of the mortality line? What about a guide for the not-yet-deceased-but-could-go-at-any-minute-without-warning? And we can go any minute. Choking on our roast beef, driving to or from work or simply dropping dead. Unlike the Baldwin and Davis characters, we can't haunt or communicate with our friends and families. So they are left to deal with a mess of personal effects and life's half-completed projects, e-mail and bank accounts with unknown passwords, and doubts about what to do with our bodies and legacies. In the wake of our deaths, we leave an incomplete puzzle whose pieces may be forever missing.

If you find that scenario less than appealing, there are simple things you can do to get things in order just in case. But many people don't know where to start -- or don't even want to start.

The Post then asked readers to send in their plans for a final farewell party.  Here's a selection of their responses.

Feeding the Flowers
Nice as it might be, I don't believe in life hereafter. When I die, I will be cremated. My ashes will be mixed with wildflower seeds and packaged in little envelopes. This way, each person can sprinkle them wherever they want. It's a comfort to imagine myself of some usefulness after my death.

One Last Laugh
I have given strict instructions: a wry smile on my face if the embalmers can manage it and a prominent card on my chest to be viewed as any mourners gaze down upon my remains, reading "Smile . . . I'm dead and you're not."

Nothing but Blue Skies
My choice is to have a pilot friend scatter my leftovers over an unpopulated area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. No fuss, no crowds, no weeping/wailing. Just a final flight for this old aviator.

One Final Party
My plans are outlined in my documents folder under "Open Casket, Open Bar." The instructions include "take my remains to Demaine's" (a nearby funeral home). One week after my graduation into the Lord's presence, schedule a one-day viewing with open casket and open bar (wine, champagne, beer -- no mixed drinks) and '60s music: Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Three Dog Night, the Who, the Doors, etc., as background.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 AM | Permalink

February 13, 2008

Body-snatching in Malaysia

An ethnic Chinese battling Malaysian authorities who snatched the body of his father after saying he had embraced Islam before he died, said on Wednesday that non-Muslims were getting a raw deal in the country.
In the latest case, the elder Gan had been buried as Muslim after an Islamic sharia court in Negeri Sembilan ruled that the man converted to Islam last year. But his family insisted otherwise, arguing that Gan could not have converted because he was senile and paralyzed after suffering two strokes.

They said Gan was also unable to speak after a stroke in 2006, challenging a claim that Gan made an oral declaration in Arabic to accept Islam. His conversion papers were also flawed because they were not signed, they said.His family suffered a legal setback on Tuesday when a civil court rejected their bid to declare Gan a Buddhist, saying it had no jurisdiction over Islamic cases, a lawyer said.

"We are not Muslims, why should we go to sharia court?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 PM | Permalink

February 11, 2008

Memorial for Heath Ledger

Seventeen days after Ledger was found dead, a memorial service was held in Perth,  Australia for 750 friends and family. 

After such an extended period of intense shock and grief following his death, I was not all surprised that the day ended with many rollicking in the warm waters of Perth, fully clothed in an exuberant expression of joy in being alive.

Heath's family and fiancee mourn him in bizarre beach party.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 AM | Permalink

Funeral horses stampede

Funeral horses stampede, overturn hearse

A hearse overturned when the horses pulling it to a south London cemetery stampeded, dragging the carriage and coffin past appalled relatives and sending floral tributes flying.

"It was dreadful," a mourner told the South London Press. "The horses dragged the carriage to the cemetery on its side, tossing the coffin all over the place and destroying all the flowers inside.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

January 31, 2008

The Fields of Athenry

A moving tribute to an ordinary man who was much loved and who will be missed.

  Eddie Treacy

A toast to an Irishman

Eddie Treacy lived in the shadows and died in his bed, the covers pulled up, his lungs full of fluid. 

He was 33 years old, and there is no other way to say this: He died too young.

He came to Dorchester eight years ago from Athenry, in County Galway, part of what could be the last great wave of the young Irish to come here.

After Mass, about 200 people posed on the front steps of the church for a photo to send back to Eddie's mother, Ann, so she would know that Eddie mattered here. Many of the young men standing there had given up a day's wages to pay their respects.

Once, he told Muldoon he would be happy if he died in his own bed and they played "The Fields of Athenry" at his funeral.

He did and they did.

R.I.P. Eddie Treacy and condolences to his family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 AM | Permalink

Painted Death

In a small town in Hungary, a Dominican church was being restored when workers came upon a secret crypt that been bricked up for over 200 years.

Inside the crypt were 265 hand painted coffins, the corpses perfectly mummified.

     Painted Death

Painted Death from Curious Expeditions. 

Everything from the rosaries to the handmade stockings on their feet were equally intact, offering a gold mine for ethnographers on the funerary customs and everyday life of 18th century Hungarian villages. There was something there for doctors as well; traces of ancient tuberculosis. An Australian surgeon, Dr. Mark Spigelman, has devoted the past 6 years to studying the bacteria found in one mummy in particular, and the information gleaned from this ancient DNA could provide information that will help fight tuberculosis.

Each coffin had been lovingly hand-painted with crucifixes, flowers, quotations, bible verses, angles, skull and crossbones, hourglasses, and Memento Mori inscriptions. No coffin is a repeat of another; the variety of color, decoration, motif and even language (some in German, some Hungarian, some Latin) is simply incredible. These coffins seem to be painted with an almost joyous hand, as a celebration of the life, not a mourning of the death. One coffin, belonging to a miner, is painted with bones, skulls and a miner’s pick and shovel. Each coffin had been personalized with great thought and care.

Many thanks to Miss Kelly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

January 24, 2008

'The great wave of the past'

From First Things On Being a Pallbearer by Paul Gregory Alms

The tradition carries codes and ways of acting. You step into a role and do what has been outlined for you. You realize that countless other Christians before you have carried the same burden, walked the same aisle. The task itself and many of its components are archaic, fast losing significance for those who witness them. The pall itself, for many a puzzling custom with little if any meaning, proclaims a tie to centuries long silent. That a simple white garment decorated only with a cross could be a final statement seems remarkable these days. A pall is wildly out of touch with the individualism and ostentation so in vogue. However, that is what pall bearers do; they bear the pall. They carry the dead, covered only with a baptismal emblem. That is what has been done for centuries.

To be part of it, to march in two tidy rows down the long aisle of a church with casket and family and clergy is to find oneself in a line, not just the line walking in and out of the church, but a procession of the living and the dead. From time immemorial mankind has gathered to mark death. All have had to deal with the fact of a corpse. In such times there is something sacred about we do. How we treat the dead says an awful lot about how we live. For the strong and able to serve the helpless dead, to honor frail remains, reaches deep inside us to something basic to humanity. To carry a heavy box filled with a father or mother or brother connects us to countless ancestors who have carried the mute dead. We are unlike them in so many ways, yet the experience of death unites us, the desire to honor the dead ties us together.
A custom such as pallbearing is like a great tidal wave that rolls through the centuries.

Pallbearing involves all of this. It is an ancient custom no longer necessary but one that remembers the dead and the dead before them. I walked in the same way, carrying my grandfather as he had walked, carrying his brothers as those before him had done. To do this same thing, to walk the same path as they, meant I was more than a solitary individual grieving alone. I was a part of a human community stretching back centuries, all of us facing death together.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:01 PM | Permalink

December 26, 2007

The Final Count

I never knew that Dapper O'Neil was a hall of fame member of the Ring Four Veteran Boxers' Association.  At his funeral he got his final count.

Literally. A bell clanged 10 times as a veteran boxer stood in front of the casket and counted aloud.

"That's it," said Mickey Finn, president of the Ring Four Veteran Boxers' Association. "The fight is over."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2007

When Death is a Part of Lunch

The bustling New Lucky Restaurant is famous for its buttery rolls and the graves between the tables.

Graveyard Seating at Restaurant in India

Krishan Kutti Nair has helped run the restaurant built over a centuries-old Muslim cemetery for close to four decades, but he doesn't know who is buried in the cafe floor. Customers seem to like the graves, which resemble small cement coffins, and that's enough for him.

"The graveyard is good luck," Nair said one recent afternoon after the lunch rush. "Our business is better because of the graveyard."

Most customers said they don't mind sitting next to graves.

"We spend all day here," Mohammed Tafir said between cups of tea. "The graves are holy, they're good luck. They bring us good luck too."

Some, though, say the restaurant is disrespectful.

"They should maintain the decorum of the graveyard," said a history professor who asked that his name be withheld. When asked why he didn't want to be identified, he smiled and said, "Because I have tea there."

via Book of Joe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

November 29, 2007

The Bone Factory

Xeni Jarden at Boing-Boing reports on India's human skeleton black market and the work of investigative journalist Scott Carney who writes at Wired magazine.

There are grave robbers in Calcutta who steal skeletons and sell them to medical supply companies in the U.S. and Europe.

Scott tells more of the story on his blog, India's Underground Trade in Human Remains.

It is pitch black and raining when I first meet Manoj Pal: a man who makes his living defleshing rotting cadavers. I am a hundred kilometers outside of Calcutta in a small village called Purbasthali where police confiscated more than 100 bright white human skeletons. The bones they found were on their way along a two hundred year old pipeline for human remains that begins on the banks of Indian rivers and ends in the sacred halls of medicine in Westerncountries. The skeletons Pal prepared could have fetch as much as $70,000 on the black market.

Manoj Pal is the grunt labor for the industry. Part of the dom, or grave tending, caste his job is the most grim. When bodies are brought to him or recovered from a nearby cremation ghat he binds them in mosquito netting and lets them soak in the river for a week. When the bodies were waterlogged and mostly consumed by fish and stray dogs he scrubs off the remaining flesh, dumps the bodies in a boiling solution of caustic chemicals and lets them dry in the sun.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

November 20, 2007

Cleaning up the ashes at Walt Disney world

So many people wanted their ashes scattered at Disney World and Disneyland, that it's become a real problem as workers have to close down attractions to clean up cremated remains.

Cleaning up the ashes at Walt Disney world

If you have been charged to scatter a loved one ashes on Space Mountain, just scatter a tiny bit, saving the rest to scatter in the ocean or lake or woods.

Otherwise, your loved one will end up in a vacuum cleaner and then the trash.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

November 17, 2007

Body stolen from morgue

When a drug dealer was killed in a helicopter crash in Mexico and his body sent to a morgue some 65 miles south of the US border, twenty heavily armed gunmen killed two policemen as they snatched the body from the morgue.

Drug hitmen snatch buddy's body from morgue.
The dead man was thought by police to be a member of the Arellano Felix drug cartel. His fellow traffickers were believed to have wanted his body to take it away for burial without having to identify themselves when claiming the corpse.

He died earlier this week in a helicopter crash along with another suspected trafficker, but the gunmen failed to get the second man's body from the morgue.

His fiery death as the helicopter hit electricity lines while watching a car  race through the desert had already been shown on television.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:38 PM | Permalink

November 16, 2007

First Disinterment from National Cemetery

A Less Than Honorable Discharge From the Wrong Plot
The story of how Mr. Hayes, who died with no money or family in a Bronx nursing home, wound up in an unfinished basement after resting in peace for four years in the dignified setting of Calverton National Cemetery involves a case of mistaken identity. Federal officials say it seems to be the first time in the history of the national cemetery system, which was created during the Civil War, that a veteran buried in the wrong grave has been disinterred. That’s 3.3 million burials in 125 cemeteries.

Was it a case of Identity theft or just a case of mistaken identity?

Koreen Hayes, a niece of the Harlem Willie Hayes, said she suspected that her uncle had been the victim of identity theft.

Some of his military benefits had stopped coming several years back, she said, but he did not make a big fuss because “he thought maybe they just ran out.” She said he finally contacted Social Security officials, “and they told him he had to prove he was still alive, because they had death records that said he had been dead for years.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

November 9, 2007

Nun becomes funeral director

The nun who felt a call to be a funeral director

From the Deacon, She sees dead people.

"I was reading St. Mark's account of the resurrection and the words seemed to jump off the page: 'When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.' It hit me that those three women were the first ones to witness the resurrection because they were going to minister to Jesus in death as they did in life. Now it's called embalming. I just couldn't get it out of my head.

She closed her eyes for a moment before continuing. "Consoling the sorrowing and burying the dead are directions in the Rule of St. Benedict, the way of life we as Benedictines follow," Sister Chris said. "And, I knew that the best gift I had been given in my lifetime was the gift of compassion, along with the ability to listen. I realized I should use that gift; I didn't have the right to ignore it. So I went to Sister Mary Agnes Patterson, who was the prioress at the time. She looked at me and asked, 'Where would you go to study?' There was a program offered at Kansas City Kansas Community College, so I wouldn't have to travel very far. With my community's blessing I took the first steps toward this ministry."


"Funerals are for the living, not the dead. A funeral is a time for family and friends to express their love and gratitude for what that person has done for them."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:46 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2007

King Tut Unveiled.

In Egypt, King Tut's face is unveiled for the first time in 3000 years where he is now on display in a glass box for tourists who visit his tomb in Luxor.

  King Tut Unveiled

Fragile Mummy
The mystery surrounding King Tutankhamen -- who ruled during the 18th dynasty and ascended to the throne at age 8 -- and his glittering gold tomb has entranced fans of ancient Egypt since Carter's discovery, which revealed a trove of fabulous gold and precious stone treasures and propelled the once-forgotten pharaoh to global stardom.

Tut wasn't Egypt's most powerful or important king, but his staggering treasures, rumors of a mysterious curse that plagued Carter and his team -- debunked by experts long ago -- and several books and TV documentaries dedicated to him have added to his mystique.

 King Tut Reconstructed

Above is a "reconstruction" of his face, built after 1700 CT scans by a team of forensic artists and scientists.  He doesn't look at all like Steve Martin.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

October 31, 2007

S11 million for causing additional emotional distress at soldiers' funerals

I am very happy with the results of this law suit and pleased that the jury found an invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Jury Awards Father Nearly $11 Million in Funeral Protestors Case

The father of a fallen Marine was awarded nearly $11 million Wednesday in damages by a jury that found leaders of a fundamentalist church had invaded the family's privacy and inflicted emotional distress when they picketed the Marine's funeral.

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned later in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress to the Marine's father, Albert Snyder of York, Pa.

The defendants are the hateful people from  the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas who go around the country protesting at soldiers' funerals with signs saying "Thank Go for dead soldiers" and "Thank God for IEDs because they think the US war dead are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

I wrote about this suit last year Funeral Protesters Sued
We think it's a case we can win because anyone's funeral is private," Snyder lawyer Sean Summers said. "You don't have a right to interrupt someone's private funeral."

In A Soldier They Called "Pipes, I wrote about the dozens of uniformed and plain clothes cops who stood baring the sight of the protesters from the family and gathered throng of several thousand including the Governor in an outpouring of sympathy and patriotism in Marblehead, MA.

For the Patriot Guard Riders, every funeral of an American soldier  became a mission to show respect and to shield the mourning family from the protesters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:19 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2007

Stuck on Stupid

Glitch Hits Burial of Man with Mobile Phone

A man whose dying wish was to be buried along with his mobile phone has to be dug up again after his family discovered they had forgotten to insert his SIM card.
... after his funeral, his family discovered that his grandson, who was playing with the device, had taken out the SIM card.

"We put the phone in the coffin as he wanted, but my 10-year-old son had been playing with it and had taken the card out without my knowledge," Brano said. "So now we have got to dig him up again to put it in the phone."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:35 PM | Permalink

October 24, 2007

Marine's grave desecrated in Texas

More than 1000 people turned out in Liberty for the funeral of Jeremy Burris, a 22-year-old Marine lance corporal who, after rescuing two of his wounded buddies, was killed by an explosive device in Iraq.

He was buried in the Cooke Memorial Cemetery and within hours the grave was desecrated.

About 30 sprays of flowers were ripped apart, petals strewn over the loose earth. Flags decorating the gravesite were also torn down and sentimental notes and posters shredded.

"It looked like a big debris field about 40 feet square," said Liberty Police Chief Mike Cummings. "This wasn't done by the wind or animals. It was obviously intentional. We don't know if someone did this for a stupid prank or they were anti-war or what."

Liberty outraged over grave desecration

Let's hope the police quickly find the perpetrators.  Freedom of speech and opinion does not include the desecration of graves.

UPDATE: Arrest made of Wallace DeBlanc, 41, who ripped the 25 floral arrangements apart so he could get to the wire stands, pewter cross and other decorations that could be resold to floral shops.
He was a thief.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 19, 2007

Trivializing Death

 Bird In Hand Victor Schrager

Writing in Encounter magazine in 1955, the British anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer argued that death had become the great unmentionable. The Victorians were prudish about sex and candid about death, he said, whereas Westerners of the mid-20th century were garrulous about sex and, well, stiff about stiffs. Death be not loud.

The New Death by Stephen Bates in the Wall St Journal.

But we shouldn't be too hasty in congratulating ourselves and deriding earlier generations as uptight and self-deluded. We can chatter and chortle about death without honestly confronting it. In fundamental ways, our culture is reinventing death rites and, in the process, growing further apart from death itself.
What's wrong with all this? At the individual level, funerary frivolity trivializes both the death and the life that preceded it. At the social level, tradition and ritual, passed from generation to generation, create a common framework for discussing life's ultimate questions. When we choose customized, individualized, let-it-be-me funerals, we start slipping from lingua franca to tabula rasa. Soon, we're talking only to ourselves.

Next week, October 30 at 9 pm,  Frontline will present a documentary featuring the poet and undertaker Thomas Lynch about whom I've written a number of posts.
The Calling of a Funeral Director
Going the Distance
Death Lite

The Gorer quote brings to mind a favorite quote,  Money has replaced sex as a driving force, death has replaced sex as a taboo, and sex has replaced bridge as a social event for mixed foursomes, Reginald Perrin.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

"Aggravated Stupid"

A woman who was not invited to her boyfriend's funeral, snuck into the cemetery, dug up his grave and stole an urn containing his ashes.

Woman Accused of Stealing Ex-Boyfriend's Ashes.

Athens County Prosecutor David Warren said it is the first case of body snatching he has had to investigate,...

"I have crimes that I like to refer to as aggravated stupid," Warren said. "I have been doing this for almost 30 years now and I have never had anyone steal someone's ashes."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2007

Japanese funeral

For a look at funeral customs in Japan, sushiwalker, a 25-year-old Japanese man who lives in America most of the time happened to be in Japan when his grandfather died.  He describes the death, the wake and  funeral and the cremation in  Chronicles of a Japanese Funeral.

(the type is very small, I had to bump it up twice for ease in reading.)  via BoingBoing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:19 PM | Permalink

October 12, 2007

Lost in WWII, his body returned to be buried at last

After 53 years, a family can bury US Army Air Force Technical Sergeant Hyman Stiglitz, who was lost in a mission to bomb a German aircraft factory

...last month, the military told Stiglitz's nephews that it had positively identified his remains and those of his eight crewmates.

"It's just incredible that [military officials] have the respect for doing this."
The recovery and identification of the remains of the airmen was part of an effort by the Defense Department to locate 78,000 American troops still missing after World War II,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:16 AM | Permalink

October 11, 2007

Digging up graves in London

Tower Hamlets Cemetery, an historic graveyard that now serves as a nature preserve, is the focus of a big controversy in London.

Anger over plan to dig up 350,000 bodies in historic London cemetery for Muslim burial site

The local newspaper has been bombarded with letters from historians and nature lovers declaring: "There is no way we'll allow them to dig up our ancestors."

But the Labour-controlled council's environment spokesman Abdal Ullah appeared to be in no doubt about the feasibility of the plan when he said: "To preserve the respect and dignity for everyone, I think most of the graves would have to be cleared out and we'd start afresh."

He said a corner of the cemetery would be reserved for Muslims who are buried in shrouds at a depth of 6ft and on their side facing Mecca.

By law, any graves more than 75 years old can be removed.

At the cemetery yesterday, liaison officer Ken Greenway - the only paid member of staff tending the 33-acre site - said he was astonished that anyone would even contemplate such a move.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:13 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2007

The Calling of a Funeral Director

Whenever I see a piece by Thomas Lynch, I know it's going to be great and I know I will to do a post about it.

I already have in Going the Distance and Death Lite.  A funeral director for 40 years, Lynch is also a poet, a writer whose work appears frequently in various publications.  He is the author of The Undertaking, a slim, wonderfully written  book about the 'dismal trade' that I heartedly recommend.

"The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade" (Thomas Lynch)

Now, in a piece about the calling of funeral directors, Lynch talks about his own, Faith 'profession' - Catholic funeral directors see role as bringing God to the grieving, honoring deceased.

..his calling was not to the priesthood, but to follow his father into funeral service. That calling came for his father when he was 12 and saw “two men in shirtsleeves” lift the body of an uncle – a young priest – from a table and place him into a casket  The symbolism of his father’s calling stayed with Lynch.  “You have to understand, that for most Catholics, the elevation of the dead body is the central metaphor of our liturgy,” he said.
he is outspoken about the need for the bereaved to experience grief. The generation today bringing loved ones to funeral homes is the first generation, he said, that tries to get past grieving by not having a body at a funeral. He believes this carries the risk of spiritual and emotional peril.

Hat tip to The Deacon, a new blog I quite enjoy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

September 21, 2007

Last Laugh

Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more
than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."
George Bernard Shaw

Rawlins Gilliland writes in Dying Laughing about the time his next door
neighbor Chuck died.

At the funeral home, his widow was hurt to see so few flowers in his viewing room. So, spotting a sea of unattended flora next door, I decided to briefly borrow a triumphant standing easel spray and placed it next to Chuck. Unfortunately, the family of the intended recipient began arriving. There was no discreet way to return their show-stopper from Chuck's room since the entire family was admiring his splashy arrangement, although confounded; who were "Denise and Tony", the names on the card? Feeling guilty, I impulsively entered a third room and purloined a carnation showpiece and delivered IT to the original man's congregation. However, when someone read this card aloud, inscribed, "We'll make love in heaven. Love, Marla", the dead man's significant someone became bellicose, bellowing, "Who the hell is Marla?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink

September 14, 2007

The Emperor's Search for Eternal Life

China's First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi searched obsessively for eternal life writes John Wilson in the New Statesman, Mortal Combat.

He prepared to rule  in a parallel universe underground with 7000 soldiers and press-ganged some 750,000 workers to build his  his burial chambers.

 Terracotta Chinese Soldiers

Somewhere deep beneath my feet, in a vast subterranean palace, lies the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. According to legend, he is interred in a gold casket sitting in a lake of liquid mercury. Snaking out across the 80-metre-long floor are streams of mercury that map the routes of those great waterways, the Yangtze and the Yellow River. The 15-metre-high ceiling is encrusted with pearls depicting the starry constellations. Antechambers reportedly contain the bodies of wives, concubines and advisers (not that their deaths coincided naturally; when it was Qin Shi Huangdi's time to go, friends and family were forced to follow him into the earth).

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, who is here in the name of cultural diplomacy. His mission is to secure the biggest ever loan of treasures from the tomb of the First Emperor, including members of the fabled, 7,000-strong Terracotta Army, guardians of the imperial afterlife.

"The First Emperor was able to dream on a scale that no one else has ever dreamt," he says with a boyish breathlessness. "No one else in history has tried to create a life-sized parallel universe in which he will rule for ever. So much of what modern China is can be seen as a direct consequence of what that man did. There are very few historical figures who changed the world in such a way that we are still living with the consequences."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink

September 13, 2007

"She built men, not boys"

  Jane Wyman

New York Times obituary by Richard Severo
Jane Wyman, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a victimized deaf woman in the 1948 movie “Johnny Belinda,” played a fierce matriarch in the 1980s television series “Falcon Crest” and was the first wife of President Ronald Reagan, died Monday at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 90.

Their daughter, Maureen, was born in 1941. She died of cancer in 2001. They adopted Michael in 1945. Another daughter, Christine, died the day after she was born premature, in 1947. The marriage ended in divorce in 1949, and afterward neither Mr. Reagan nor Ms. Wyman spoke publicly at any length about their years together.

But she broke her silence about him after he died in 2004, saying “America has lost a great president and a great, kind and gentle man.”

A son's farewell to 'a great heart'.  Michael Reagan's eulogy for his mother Jane Wyman who died Monday at age 90.

"A lot of people talk about my father," the syndicated radio talk show host said of the late President Ronald Reagan, "but I am who I am today because of my mother. She told me at the age of 10, she built men, not boys."

A Resurrection Mass was held for the devout convert to Catholicism who was interred in a modest wooden casket in a Third Order Dominican habit.

Wyman won an Oscar and Golden Globes and was nominated for two Emmys, but her friend Mary Farrell said her proudest achievement was being named to the Dominican Third Order, a Catholic fellowship of preachers and nuns said to "live in, but are not of the world."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:29 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2007

Keeping Mom on Ice

Every week, two sisters visit their mother to sit with her and make sure she's looking her best even though she's dead and been in cold storage for ten years.

For £20 a week, G. Saville and Sons of Wembley, have kept the sisters’ mother refrigerated. Phillip Saville, a funeral director, told The Sun: “We are simply acting on the family’s wishes and keeping Annie ‘alive’ in this way, for visiting seems to be what they want to do.

“No health and safety violations have been breached and the corpse does not smell. There are no laws saying people can’t keep a corpse for years after registering the death, though it is normal to bury the body after just two weeks.”

When contacted by The Times last night, a spokesman for the funeral parlour refused to comment. In addition to the cost of storing their mother’s body, the sisters are said to have spent £2,000 on five wooden coffins, four of which have rotted while they and their contents were awaiting burial.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink

September 4, 2007

Stolen Hearse

South African men steal hearse for a pub crawl

Worse still.  When they ran out of gas, they asked three women they had met while at a bar to get out and help push the hearse

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 AM | Permalink

August 21, 2007

Grave Injury

She took a few too many before she left for the cemetery to pay respects to a dead relative.  When she got to the cemetery, she veered off the road, careened into one tombstone after another and eventually got stuck in a grave until the police pulled her out.

Grave Injury for Drunk Driver

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 PM | Permalink

August 12, 2007

Kaddish read at Jewish Cardinal's Funeral in Paris

Before the doors of Notre Dame in Paris, the funeral for the man who described himself as a Jew, a Cardinal and the son of immigrants was begun with the reading of the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead said in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Jewish World reports

Another family relation, Jonas Moses-Lustiger, read Psalm 113 in Hebrew and French, a psalm of special significance to both Jews and Catholics. 

For the full flavor of the funeral, read Rocco Palma at Whispers in the Loggia who posts You Were a Manner of Miracle

Recalling the Jewish origins of Jean-Marie Lustiger, convert to Catholicism, Maurice Druon addressed himself to his fellow "immortal": "you were, Jean-Marie, for a quarter century, a manner of miracle: incredible to behold, the inconceivable expressed, the impossible existent; you were the Jewish cardinal". "In a world in crisis, you took up, renewed and reconciled in yourself the bases of our civilization and helped it to withstand the blows not of modernism but of religion", insisted Maurice Druon at the solemn funeral.

Lustiqer was buried in the crypt of Notre Dame Cathedral.  A commerorative plaque will be installed, a message from Lustiger

I was born Jewish.
I received  the name
Of my paternal grandfather, Aaron

Having become Christian
By faith and by Baptism,
I have remained Jewish
As did the Apostles.

I have as my patron saints
Aaron the High Priest,
Saint John the Apostle,
Holy Mary full of grace.

Named 139th archbishop of Paris
by His Holiness Pope John-Paul II,
I was enthroned in this Cathedral
on 27 February 1981,
And here I exercised my entire ministry.

Passers by, pray for me.
† Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Archevêque de Paris

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 7, 2007

Watch out at yard sales

The downside of too cute urns.

Woman sells ceramic turtle with ashes of husband's previous wife at yard sale

She didn't mean too.  Now she's desperately searching for the woman who said she planned to use the urn as a cookie jar.

Her husband's previous wife collected turtles.

UPDATE:  The new wife found the ceramic turtle at a nearby Salvation Army Thrift Shop.  Her husband only told her about the ashes after she sold the container.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:10 AM | Permalink

August 6, 2007

No Foul Play

In New York, a 2000-year-old Egyptian mummy was scanned by a "64 slice" CT scanner while curators, conservators and medical specialists looked on, "riveted by the macabre spectacle."

 2000 Mummy Scan     

Mummy's Log: Visited Scan God in Land of the Dead

Demetrios died in his 50s, a quiet, natural death it seems.  There was no indication of foul play though  his heart was missing and a scarab was found in its place.

From the shape his bones were in,  Demetrios enjoyed a high-status life in ancient Egypt.
“Either he had an easy life or was carried around a lot,” Dr. Boxt said. “He certainly didn’t do much heavy lifting during his lifetime.”

Now his portrait will join his mummy, along with 122 other objects for a traveling exhibition by the Brooklyn Museum to tell the story of Egyptian funerary practices. 


Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

August 3, 2007

No Room for the Dead in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, one of the most crowded cities on the planet, is running out of space for the dead and causing all sorts of problems for those who want to follow the Chinese tradition of visiting ancestors' graves.

The Dead, Too, Find Hong Kong Really Overcrowded

 Chinese Double Burial

Even the Southern Chinese custom of a double burial in which the remains are dug up after 7 to 10 years, then cleaned of all hair and skin, reassembled in an urn and buried in a horseshoe-shaped grave, takes up too much room.

A permanent  burial can cost as much as $36,000, so more and more, the dead are cremated and the ashes tucked into a niche in multi-story columbaria, where incense can be burned in a trough at the base of the wall.

  Columbaria Hong Kong

But the columbaria are running out of room as well.  Some families must wait 2 years for a niche.  People object to building new columbaria because they don't want the ghosts of the dead near their neighborhoods.

By 2012 half of the people who die each year may not get a final resting place.    So now, the government is subsidizing scatterings at sea for about  $40.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2007

Human Ashes Cause Airport Bomb Scare

Unless you want to start a bomb scare, when you use air transport  for the ashes of a loved one, don't put other items like a watch in the package.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

July 10, 2007

Cemeteries Banned in San Francisco

I never knew that cemeteries in San Francisco have been banned since 1900 and already existing cemeteries were declared in 1914 a "public nuisance and a menace and detriment to the health and the welfare of city dwellers" and had to remove all burial sites.

Joseph Bottum on Death & Politics at First Things, a fascinating  but quite long article that will make several posts, argues that it's the dead, not the living, who give us communities, who tie us to a particular place.

Still, even the most ardent modernist might feel some misgivings about a rejection of the dead as complete as San Francisco’s. And such misgivings reflect, however dimly, a deep political insight—for a city without cemeteries has failed at one of the first reasons for having cities at all. Somewhere in those banished graveyards was a metaphysical ground for politics, and buried in them was a truth that too much of modern political theory seems to have forgotten: The living give us crowds. The dead give us communities.

He quotes Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr who once said, "Society rests on the death of men."

Think of this, too, in terms of the family. In all Western cultures, a person was once “gathered to his fathers.” But constant relocation and the urban distaste for cemeteries have made care of graves difficult. Why shouldn’t we expect family tradition to weaken at the same time as family graves begin to disappear?

Indeed, the logic loops back on itself to spiral downward: The failure to maintain the family graves increasingly leaves the family name without meaning, and the emptiness of the family name increasingly becomes a reason not to have family graves. 

The modern failure of funerals serves as both a cause and a symptom of the shattering of culture, first into the nuclear family, then into atomized individuals, and at last into nothingness—with, for instance, the increasing use of “anonymous death,” a European innovation now beginning to appear in America, where the dead are abandoned without ceremony in deliberately unmarked graves, or their corpses are cremated with the ashes spread across large and indifferent spaces.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:29 PM | Permalink

July 5, 2007

Newly discovered Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan

Weeks after those implicated in atrocities  during the Communist regime were granted amnesty by the Afghan government,  there are discoveries of  underground prisons with hundreds of bodies, still gagged and blindfolded having been buried alive by the Soviets.

Hundreds of blindfolded bodies found in underground prison.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:41 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2007

"Everybody deserves a headstone"

Nearly 70 years after his death in 1938, Frank L. White, the smiling chef on Cream of White boxes, finally got his headstone engraved with his name and an etching taken from the cereal box.

 Cream Of Wheat Man

Hats off to Jesse Lasorda, a family researcher who started the campaign saying, "Everybody deserves a headstone."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

June 11, 2007

So Much Weeping Stops Funeral

Father Ganni, a Catholic priest and three subdeacons were driving away from their church after celebrating Mass when a group of armed militants blocked the car and shot and killed all four men. 

Iraqi Bishop pauses due to weeping at funeral of priest, subdeacons

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

May 20, 2007

Four Minutes at the Edge of Space

Many people want to have their ashes shot into space after their deaths.  James Doohan, better know as Scotty on Star Trek did.

In Aye, Aye Sir, I posted how he wanted to be beamed up to the final frontier.  And so he was.

But only for four minutes at the edge of space when the rocket which propelled his ashes and those of 200 others fell back to earth in New Mexico.

Wende Doohan, James Doohan's widow, told the Associated Press news agency her late husband "probably wished he could have stayed".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:26 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 17, 2007

Mass Graves

There's a new day of remembrance set by the Iraqi government.  May 16 has been declared Mass Graves Day .

 Mass Graves

The International Herald Tribune
Traffic stopped in Baghdad's main streets and squares Wednesday as Iraqis observed a moment of silence to mark a new national day of remembrance for the victim's of Saddam Hussein's regime who were buried in mass graves.

The Iraqi government declared May 16 as Mass Grave Day to commemorate the day when the first such grave was uncovered near the Shiite town of Mahaweel, about 56 kilometers (35 miles) south of Baghdad.

Gateway Pundit
has many more details.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink

May 10, 2007

The Plot to Steal Lincoln's Body

I never knew there was a plot to steal Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom back in 1876.

Stealing Lincoln's Body is a new book by Thomas Craughwell published by the Harvard University Press

On the night of the presidential election in 1876, a gang of counterfeiters out of Chicago attempted to steal the entombed embalmed body of Abraham Lincoln and hold it for ransom. The custodian of the tomb was so shaken by the incident that he willingly dedicated the rest of his life to protecting the president's corpse.

This rousing story of hapless con men, intrepid federal agents, and ordinary Springfield citizens who honored their native son by keeping a valuable, burdensome secret for decades offers a riveting glimpse into late-nineteenth-century America, and underscores that truth really is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 4, 2007

Gladiators' Graveyard

Gladiators' graveyard discovered in Ephesus in Turkey.

Two pathologists at the Medical University of Vienna - Professor Karl Grossschmidt and Professor Fabian Kanz - have spent much of the past five years painstakingly cataloguing and forensically analysing every single bone for age, injury and cause of death.
And the lack of multiple wounds found on the bones, according to the pathologists, suggests that they had not been involved in chaotic mass brawls. Instead, it points to organised duels under strict rules of combat, probably with referees monitoring the bouts.

But there was also evidence of mortal wounds. Written records tell us that if the defeated gladiator had not shown enough skill or even cowardice, the cry of "iugula" (lance him through) would be heard throughout the arena, demanding he be killed.

"But this (new find) is extremely significant; there's nothing been found in the world at all like it. They've really dispelled quite a lot of myths about gladiators and how they fought."

  Gladiator Crowe

Gladiators were prisoners of war, slaves or condemned offenders.

If a gladiator survived three years of fighting in the arena, he would win his freedom. Those who did often became teachers in the gladiator school; and one of the skeletons found at Ephesus appears to be that of a retired fighter.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 3, 2007

The Funeral of a Martyr

Three weeks ago in Turkey, five young Muslims burst into a Christian publishing office, bound three Christians hands and feet to chairs, stabbed them repeatedly, then slit their throats.

"There were so many stab wounds that we couldn't count them," Hurriyet quoted Dr. Murat Ugras as saying. "It was clearly torture."

"We did this for our country," an identical note in the pockets of all five young men read, Channel D television station reported. "They are attacking our religion."

According to the newspaper Hurriyet, one of the suspects declared during police questioning, "We didn't do this for ourselves. We did it for our religion. May this be a lesson to the enemies of religion."

The deaths mark the first known martyrdom of Turkish converts since the founding of the republic.

Two of the victims were Turkish converts from Islam; the third was a German citizen.  Christians make up less than 1% of the Turkey's 71 million people.

Ben Witherington posts
a report by Dr. Mark Wilson of the funeral of one of the martyrs.

Recently Dindy [Mark's wife] and I attended a funeral here in Izmir. I have attended many funerals, but this was my first in Turkey. And it was also the first time I attended the funeral of a martyr. I have been teaching and writing about martyrs and martyrdom for many years. ... But such martyrdoms are personally and historically distant.
On Saturday, April 21, Necati's funeral took place on the grounds of an historic Protestant church in Buca, a suburb of Izmir. Necati had lived and fellowshipped in this city for many years, and was well known and loved. (He had portrayed Jesus in a Passion play in the past.) The sanctuary was too small to contain the crowd of around 500 persons who came from throughout the country to attend. So the service was held outdoors on a balmy spring afternoon.

As we entered the church grounds, people were given a picture of Necati to pin on their clothing. Therefore throughout the crowd Necat'is smiling face radiated forth.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 24, 2007

Casual Memorials

Theodore Dalrymple on The Eternal Present

What was most striking about the tombstones of the last 15 years, however, was the complete absence of any religious sentiment or reference in their inscriptions, apart from an occasional “God bless,” the kind of thing some people say on a casual parting, as they hurry on to their next destination. Religion, it seems, is dead, even on consecrated ground.

Such information about the dear departed as appeared on the tombstones was wholly secular, a projection of the daily preoccupations of the living, as if no other life concerned or could concern them.
What kind of people are they whose friends or relatives deem their “support” for a football team so important that it is the only aspect of their life worthy of memorial after death? In what kind of culture does this reduced and childish notion of a human life not produce a sense of embarrassment or shame? That culture is certainly not the product of poverty, at least in the economic sense: the parish is exceptionally rich, .... Economic poverty and poverty of spirit are not the same thing. Meaning and transcendence now seem as thoroughly interred in the cemetery as the people who died.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 20, 2007

"I walked through the streets today with my head held high because I have such a father"

Professor Liviu Librescu was buried today, A Hero Laid to Rest.

Alison Kaplan Sommer was there
It was also the first time anyone buried in my local cemetery had been praised two days earlier by the president of the United States. In a Holocaust Memorial ceremony Wednesday, President Bush praised Librescu’s heroism in the shooting that took place on the day set aside to remember Hitler’s victims, “On the Day of Remembrance, this Holocaust survivor gave his own life so that others may live. And this morning we honor his memory and we take strength from his example.”

Said his elder son Joe
I walked through the streets today with my head held high because I have such a father.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:33 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 19, 2007

"Why waste all that carbon dioxide on your death?"

Scientist says cremation should meet a timely death

An Australian scientist called Wednesday for an end to the age-old tradition of cremation, saying the practice contributed to global warming.

Professor Roger Short said people could instead choose to help the environment after death by being buried in a cardboard box under a tree.

The decomposing bodies would provide the tree with nutrients, and the tree would convert carbon dioxide into life-giving oxygen for decades, he said.

"The important thing is, what a shame to be cremated when you go up in a big bubble of carbon dioxide," Short told AFP.

"Why waste all that carbon dioxide on your death?"

I laughed when I first read this, but then again, I prefer burial to cremation for the same reasons.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 AM | Permalink

April 18, 2007

Bigger Furnaces for Crematoriums

Why Bigger Furnaces for Crematoriums are necessary.

The spread of obesity is causing a problem for funeral directors and crematorium managers, it has been disclosed. Their clients are now often so large that their coffins will not fit into the furnaces, town hall chiefs said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 4, 2007

Buried with Car

He loved his Morris Minor car so much, that when he died he was buried in it after a huge grave was dug with an excavator

Man buried with beloved car.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

April 3, 2007


Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones acknowledged 'I Snorted My Father.'

The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father,
He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared," he said. "... It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."

His father died in 2002 at 84.

UPDATE:  His manager said in an email to MTV that the comments were "said in jest."  "Can't believe anyone took it seriously."  Sounds like serious damage control considering how many people and news outlets could believe that Richards would do such a thing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:00 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 30, 2007

No to Three Ladies in White

If you want to scatter the ashes of a loved one in a national forest, do it on your own.  The Forest Service has its own version of  a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to individuals.

However, they have a firm policy against commercial ventures doing the same, even "three ladies in white."

the Forest Service has long had a firm policy against commercial scattering, said Gordon Schofield, the group leader for land use here in Region I. If ashes are scattered “the land takes on a sacredness, and people want to put up a marker or a plaque,” Mr. Schofield said, then they oppose activities they do not see as compatible with the site as a resting place.

Good policy.

Roadblock for Spreading of Human Ashes in Wilderness

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 27, 2007

Cathy Seipp's Funeral Bootlegged

In this new media world of ours, we have to deal with cyber-squatters and bootleg videos of funerals and those without any moral compass who have no respect for the dead. 

Cathy Seipp's friend Sandra Tsing Toh writes about it in
It's a blogged world, we just live in it

On the one hand, it would be hard to confuse cathyseipp.com with her actual site. On the other hand, when the cyber-squatter last week reverted to his earlier ways, posting a "last blog entry" signed "Cathy Seipp" in which Cathy supposedly begged final forgiveness for her politics, her friends and her parenting … this seemed to cross a new line.

By week's end, Cathy's family and friends were debating whether to take legal action. Everyone was offended, exhausted and still staggered with grief. The public expression of which — Cathy's funeral — was, of course, recorded without our knowledge and posted by another blogger. Yep, it's all out there on the Web, just start Googling — you'll see snot pouring out of my nose as I wail helplessly through my eulogy, which, along with everything else involving the ceremony, has all already been critiqued online.

"It's like Cathy was the only thing that kept these people civilized!" was the horrified comment of friend Andrew Breitbart who, one should note, edits the Drudge Report. Even he!

Elliott Stein, a journalist advisor, was upset about the way Maia, Cathy's daughter, complained to her school about something the Elliott said or did.  What he did was buy the domain name cathyseipp.com and write disparaging things about Cathy, her daughter and her friends up to the day of her funeral.

The unfortunate lesson, learned or not, as her friend Luke Ford,  a strange and bizarre character himself, writes

If you are old enough to blog, then you are old enough to learn that whenever you blog something negative about somebody, that person may devote the rest of his life trying to make you miserable. Even when you are right in hurting someone (exposing their bad behavior to protect the innocent) through your speech, you are usually going to be hurt in return.

She did get a New York Times obit with this delicious quote
In Medialand,...people often look at you uncomprehendingly if you explain that not everyone in America agrees with the received media wisdom.  She added, “People with different ideas are not necessarily evil bigots, even if some of them do go to church.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 26, 2007

When the Game is Over

Available only at funeral homes, beginning on opening day, for only $699, official major league baseball funerary urns.

Each urn sits upon a home plate-shaped base and comes with a baseball which can be replaced by a special ball from your own collection.

  Baseball Urn

Caskets coming soon.

The firm designing brand name funerary products: Eternal Image

The full story at Book of Joe.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

Angry with Funeral No-shows

A Bosnian man has written to all his friends to complain after only his elderly mum turned up for his funeral.

Amir Vehabovic, 45, faked his own death just to see how many people would attend.

He then watched from the bushes as only his elderly mum turned up for the burial in the north Bosnian town of Gradiska.

In the letter to the 45 people he invited to the burial he said: "I paid a lot of money to get a fake death certificate and bribe undertakers to deliver an empty coffin.

"I really thought a lot more of you, my so-called friends, would turn up to pay their last respects. It just goes to show who you can really count on."

I don't think his letter will have the effect he wants unless they turn out, like the mourners at Harry Cohn's funeral did to make sure that the SOB was really dead and as Red Skelton quipped, "It proves what they always say: give the public what they want and they'll come out for it.".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:15 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 16, 2007

Funerals Online

For the shut-ins and those far away, online streaming of funeral services are a welcome use of new technology.

For everyone else, Always Go the the Funeral.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:01 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 14, 2007

"Howdy!" to Death

Rites come and go, but they cannot be manufactured; you cannot make up a rite. At least, this is what I always thought. But human remains are nowadays subjected to a number of outlandish procedures which the performers most certainly do experience as ritual. A little while ago I attended a funeral where the relatives had decided on homemade gestures for their final goodbye. I was standing with the other mourners near the entrance of the cemetery, and we commiserated in mute despair about the suicide of the young colleague we were going to bury that day: he was forty-two, the father of a boy of three and a girl of six. As I was waiting for the sound of the black hearse rolling slowly past us with its characteristic sound of crunching pebbles under the tires, my eye was caught by a woman riding a bicycle, to which had been attached a two-wheeled cart carrying a brightly colored coffin. I was taken aback at first, not realizing what I was looking at, and then when it slowly got to me, I was in for a further shock: on top of the coffin, the dead man's little boy sat playing at "driving a car."

The whole scene struck me as a desperate attempt at saying "Howdy!" to Death, whom I happen to know as a gentleman of the Old School, who likes to keep his distance. I'm afraid this type of familiarity can breed contempt, this time the other way round, and Fate might even be tempted to exact a measure of vengeance as a compensation for such gross behavior. We're merely humans, after all, and should know our place.

..... People act in the most bizarre ways when faced with an embarrassing situation, and is there anything more embarrassing than a corpse?

Rites of Departure by Bert Keizer in The Threepenny Review

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

Woman Marries Corpse

An Indian woman, despairing over her lover's accidental death when he fell down a well soon after their engagement, insisted on ceremonially marrying his corpse just minutes before the cremation.

Woman Marries Corpse

This must have been a case of true love, because her parents opposed the marriage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 9, 2007

"I am alive. How can you cremate me?"

When funerals occur on the same day as a person dies, mix-ups can happen.

An Indian man's family almost cremated a dead body that resembled Deepak Bhattacharya, until he happened to call home.

Dead man phones home

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 6, 2007

Doing the Little Things Right

He wrote his family that he had the best job in the world - transporting wounded marines and that's what  25-year-old Jared Landaker  was doing when his CH-46 was hit by a surface to air missile in Iraq.

Blackfive tells the story of The Last Flight of Lieutenant Landaker

Chief Warrant Officer Frank Kovacs writes about one of the most emotional moments of his life.

On board, 0600:  "Good morning folks this is the Captain.  ...This morning it is my sad pleasure to announce that 1st LT Jared Landaker USMC will be flying with us to his Big Bear home in Southern California .  Jared lost his life over the sky's of Iraq earlier this month and today we have the honor of returning him home along with his Mother, Father, Brother and uncles.

On roll out, I notice red lights, emergency vehicles everywhere.  We are being escorted directly to our gate, no waiting anywhere, not even a pause.  Out the left window, a dozen Marines in full dress blues.  Highway Patrol, Police, Fire crews all in full dress with lights on.  A true class act by everyone, down to a person from coast to coast.  Way to go United Airlines for doing the little things RIGHT, because they are the big things; Air Traffic Control for getting the message, to all law enforcement for your display of brotherhood.
I have finally seen the silent majority.  It is deep within us all. Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red, Purple, we are all children, parents, brothers, sisters, etc. We are an American family.

R.I. P. with our grateful thanks to Lt. Landaker.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 AM | Permalink

March 3, 2007

Cemeteries that Glow

How do you feel about cemeteries that glow in the dark?

In Indiana, solar-powered electric crosses and angels cause the nighttime glow at Fairview Cemetery in Linton.

I found the source for all your solar memorial needs: Solarlightcross

   Solar Cross

You can't beat their tag line - "Powered by God's light."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 2, 2007

The Tomb of Jesus

What to make of the claim by moviemaker James Cameron that he found the lost tomb of Jesus and his provocative claims that Jesus married  Mary Magdalene and together they had a child named Judah - DNA testing proves it.


Who would publish such claims?  No scholarly peer-reviewed journal for Cameron, he choose the Discovery channel for his 'documentary".

John Miller says it falls into the genre of conspiratorial advocacy.

The Anchoress says We must be getting close to Easter, same time last year we were treated to the Gospel of Judas and the opening of the DaVinci Code.

Ben Witherington in Tomb of the Still Unknown Ancients writes
Many people, though, are simply beguiled by the "obsolescence factor" in our technologically driven society--the "newer" must be "truer" and "better." This outlook, when applied to a subject like the historical Jesus, attracts all sorts of unbridled speculation, and worse.

He scoffs at Cameron's claim that we now have proof that Jesus existed.
Actually, no serious historian of biblical antiquity has ever doubted that there was a historical Jesus. Yet it tells us a lot about the state of our culture that Mr. Cameron's remark, backed by pseudo-science, could be seriously made on national television ...We are a Jesus-haunted culture that is so historically illiterate that anything can now pass for knowledge of Jesus.
Any good scientific theory must account for all the evidence--in this case, all the names we find in the Talpiot tomb and not just the ones that match the holy-family theory.
We actually know that James was buried within sight of the Temple Mount, and Talpiot is miles from there. Eusebius, the fourth-century church historian, saw the tomb and the standing inscribed slab in front of it.

You also have to ask yourself: Why would most of the holy family from Galilee be buried in a middle-class tomb several miles outside of Jerusalem in some sheep pasture? They were, in fact, poor and could not afford an ornamental tomb like this one. This family was from Nazareth, too, with connections in Bethlehem. Why wouldn't its members be buried in one of those places?

We also know that crucifixion was considered the most shameful and hideous way to die, a blow from which one's family honor did not soon recover, if ever. So shamefully did Jesus die that his first followers and even most of his family abandoned him: He was not buried by family members or by the Galilean disciples. He was put in a tomb near the old city that did not belong to any of them.

The central claim of Christianity is the Jesus was the Son of God, the Incarnation and after his crucifixion rose from the dead.  Without the Resurrection, there would be no Christianity and certainly no Church that has lasted 2000 years,   

Why didn't the Romans who were afraid of the cult surrounding the followers of Jesus come forward with any evidence?  The Captain thinks along the same lines in Jesus Buried in Plain Sight.

The archeologists who worked on the dig and discovered the tomb  of 10 ancient ossuaries- small caskets used to store bones in 1980 called Cameron's claims "dishonest", "bunk" and "nonsense" but admit it's a great story for TV.

The DNA proof?  It doesn't identify Jesus or Mary Magdalene but only that one male and one female in the tomb were unrelated and probably married.

The cross next to the name?  Use of the cross during the first two centuries was rare.  Christians used the fish symbol to covertly identify each other says Texas Rainmaker in Tales from the Crypt.

Mark Shea has gathered together under the title Shocking Revelation that Shakes Christianity to its Very Foundations. Again.links to other shocking revelations.  The ones I never heard include Jesus was a woman, a Mormon, a magician, a space alien buried in Japan, never existed, was never executed, survived his execution and is buried in Kashmir.

I like the take these high school researchers who claim that James Cameron is Actually Un-Dead and Buried in Biloxi.  Tombstone rubbings by the class at a local cemetery revealed that James Cameron lived from 1830-1907.  Said the coroner of the find,
I mean, the guy's got the same name and the bones have human DNA.  What more do you need?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 1, 2007

Ancient cemetery, headless skeletons

I don't know what to make of the ancient cemetery, three thousand years old, found in Vanuatu, a Melanesian  nation of 83 islands in the South Pacific.

Ancient remains unearthed in Vanuatu.

In this earliest cemetery ever found in the Pacific Islands,  the skeletons are all headless.   

Professor Matthew Spriggs of the Australian National University led the dig.  He speculated that the Lapita people followed the common practice, common that it is until about 100 years ago, of letting the flesh rot away from the head of a dead person and then placing the skull in a shrine or a house. He said

The head was seen as the seat of the soul, so it's the most important part.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

Last Wish Can't Be Granted

"When you die and you don't have any relatives, they just kick you to the side," Fouty said. "And now she's frozen. That just makes me cringe. That's not what she wanted at all. I'm just scared to death they're going to cremate her and stick her in a cemetery where she doesn't know anyone."

Deceased woman's last wish can't be granted.

Williams-Martin did not have the proper paperwork or the relatives to claim her, so her body could not be donated to science. Now, Fouty hopes her ashes can be placed on her father's grave, but first a relative must come forward.

People living alone need wills too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:51 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 24, 2007

Dr Pepper apologizes for placing coin near crypt

On Tremont St in Boston is the Granary Burying Ground,  the final resting place of many Revolutionary War patriots and signers of the Declaration of Independence like Sam Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock.  Also buried there are victims of the Boston Massacre killed by British troops, including Crispus Attucks, an African-American sailor.

On this hallowed ground, part of The Freedom Trail, Dr. Pepper hid a coin, as part of a nation-wide treasure hunt, which would have been redeemable for up to $1 million in a promotion for the soft drink.

Fortunately, the Parks Department closed the burial ground due to icy paths last week when it learned of the ill-considered promotion.  Fearing damage from scores of treasure hunters, the burying ground remained closed.

Dr Pepper apologized, "The coin should never have been place in such a hallowed site."

Guerilla marketing is not going well in Boston. Last month, bomb scares closed down much of the city when another ill-conceived promotion by the Cartoon network placed devices containing magnetic lights and dangling wires under bridges to advertise a cartoon show.
That cost Turner Broadcasting $2 million and the resignation of the head of the Cartoon network.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 22, 2007

Trump wedding chapel to mausoleum

Donald Trump is eyeing N.J golf course for his grave site.

First though, he has to get approval to build a wedding chapel on the golf course he built on the  former estate of the late automaker John DeLorean.

Then, he plans to convert it to a mausoleum for himself and his family.

I guess he plans to see his children married and hear wedding bells first.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:10 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 15, 2007

Coffins vs Caskets

What's the difference you ask?

Coffins are wide to accommodate the shoulders, while small at the foot end.  Modern day caskets aren't anywhere near the shape of a coffin.

Thanks to the law professor who first thought caskets were fancy and coffins were plain until he heard from a funeral home.

This is a coffin.

   Coffin To Use

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 14, 2007

A Recreational Cemetery

In Indonesia comes plans for an upscale cemetery with a country club attached and they've already sold 1000 plots.

Death Takes a Holiday (WSJ, subscription only)
"We wanted to create something pleasant," says Viven Sitiabudi, president director of P.T. Lippo Karawaci, the Lippo Group unit developing the project. "Families should look at visiting their loved ones as a happy occasion rather than with dread."

The Lippo Group, run by 77-year-old banking tycoon Mochtar Riady, saw Indonesia's middle class balking at putting loved ones to rest in overcrowded government-managed cemeteries, and sensed a business opportunity.

San Diego Hills, which is promising never to disturb a body once buried, is already attracting interest. "It's beautiful," says Elsye Phaais, who works for the Tabita Foundation, a company that arranges burials in Jakarta for its 23,000 members. "It's different from existing cemeteries which are something frightening."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

The Merry Cemetery

  Romanian Gravestone
via Scribal Terror comes this Romanian gravestone

Burn in Hell you damned Taxi                       
That came from Sibiu
As large as Romania is
You couldn’t find any other place to stop
Only in front of my house
To kill me?"

She got it from The Spirit of Romania featuring the Merry Cemetery

The Merry Cemetery, an original folkloric art museum was founded in 1935 by a craftsman named Ioan Stan Patras and owes its fame to the vivid colors of the headboards on which are naively painted scenes narrating the biography of the deceased. The accompanying simple-rhyming stanzas are sometimes lyrical, sometimes ironic, but always sincere and never indulgent. The cemetery has become a chronicle of the local community.

....as a reward for its unicity and originality, Sapanta was declared the second  memorial monument of the world, right after the Egyptian Valley Of The Kings.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 6, 2007

Eternal Embrace

   Eternity Loving Embrace-1

For more then 5000 years, this couple has been locked in loving embrace.  Dubbed the Lovers of Valdero, the couple's bones have been excavated in Mantua where Shakespeare's Romeo was exiled.

Elena Menotti, leader of the dig said

"I am so thrilled at this find. I have been involved in lots of digs all over Italy but nothing has excited me as much as this."

"I've been doing this job for 25 years. I've done digs at Pompeii, all the famous sites.

"But I've never been so moved because this is the discovery of something special."

In the end, it's all about love, isn't it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

The Corruption of Intimacy

What do you think about medical staff at a school of anatomy who mishandle body parts, fondle the breasts and genitals of cadavers, even use a skull for degrading purposes?

It all happened at the University of New South Wales in Australia. 

Four staff members are under investigation and the Deputy Vice Chancellor apologized for the distress the families of body donors are experiencing.

"The difficulty is we are still trying to fully understand what happened.

It's a far cry from these students who paid homage to their cadavers. with

humble observations and boundless gratitude spilled from students who'd learned much about the human body through six months of dissection
in a memorial service organized by Linda Walters, the director of anatomy at Glendale medical university.

It makes me believe this statement by Ed Brenegar I came across yesterday.

At the heart of sin is the corruption of intimacy

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:34 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 31, 2007

Stonehenge was a Burial Site

Recent excavations near Stonehenge strongly suggest it was a burial site

That finding, said Parker Pearson, is supported by the earlier discovery of cremated remains at Stonehenge and new work indicating that as many as 250 cremated bodies are there.

"My guess is that they were throwing ashes, human bones and perhaps even whole bodies into the water, a practice seen in other river settings," Parker Pearson said.

Of Stonehenge, he said "it was our biggest cemetery of that time."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 26, 2007

Funeral Shock

Herzlinde Eissler didn't understand why her family didn't visit her in the hospital over Christmas.  When she was discharged, she went home only to discover her family organizing her funeral.

Her son Leopold Eissler, 39, said he had gone to visit his mother shortly before Christmas only to be told she was dead and had then spent the festive period organising her funeral.

He said: "I'm not sure whether to be delighted because my mother is alive or furious that they could have made such a mistake at the hospital.

"At least it explains why they could not find the body when we wanted to pay our last respects.

"I could not believe it when she walked in through the front door and the whole family were all sitting around dressed in black and planning the funeral."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 18, 2007

First Catholic Crematorium

First Catholic Crematorium will be built in New Jersey

Despite the Catholic Church's preference for burial, the Metuchen Diocese will break ground today on the first crematory in the United States to be built by a diocese.

After forbidding cremation for centuries, the church began allowing it for Catholics in 1963, while maintaining a strong preference for burial.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2007

Imperial Tombs

The imposing burial mounds of Japan's ancient emperors, the Imperial tombs, have lain virtually untouched for 1700 years.

Today, several academic organizations - historians, archaeologists, zoologists  - have been granted royal permission to visit and inspect.

Given that there are more than 200,000 ancient burial mounds, called kofun, and even if only the biggest  were revered as the tombs of ancient emperors, many have been wrongly designated as such.

Did the Japanese imperial bloodline consist only of Japanese or were there intermarriages with Chinese and Korean ancestors?

Purity of bloodline was and still is a big deal in Japan even if it seems pretty silly to me. 

Until now, the Imperial Household Agency refused  all requests for inspections maintaining that "the tranquillity of the imperial souls should not be disturbed."

Maybe the burials are far enough past, the myth of racial purity increasingly heavy to continue to support that the findings of the new inspections  - which should be extremely interesting no matter what they show  = are more tantalizing and attracting than the continued adherence to the myth of blood purity.

It's like CSI examining the physical evidence of Japan's ancient history, an imperial myth and a long-buried secret known only to mother earth.

Imperial Tombs opened to view

The Japanese royal family claims direct descent from Amaterasu, the Shinto celestial sun goddess who rules Takamagahara (“high celestial plain”)

She presented her grandson, Ninigi no Mikoto, with the Imperial Regalia, right — a mirror, a sword and a jewel — also known as the Three Sacred Treasures, representing courage, wisdom and benevolence

Ninigi no Mikoto in turn passed the regalia on to his descendants, and the three treasures are now considered the symbols of Imperial legitimacy

After the Second World War the Imperial’s Family claim to be deities was officially abolished.

via Pure Land Mountain, So Who is Buried in All Those Emperors' Tombs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 11, 2007

Terror of the Cloud People

  600 Year Old Mummy

Three months ago, a farmer working high in the mountains at the edge of the Peruvian rainforest came across a hidden burial vault. 

Archaeologists exploring the site have found Kuelap, a spectacular citadal of the Chachapoyas, the cloud people, consisting of more than 400 buildings and defensive towers.

Moment 600 years ago that terror came to Mummies of the Amazon.

Herman Crobera, leader of the archaeological team says, "This is a discovery of transcendental importance."

"It is the first time any kind of underground burial site this size has been found belonging to Chachapoyas or other cultures in the region."
'The remote site for this cemetery tells us that the Chachapoyas had enormous respect for their ancestors because they hid them away for protection,' added Mr Crobera.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Still Not Buried

James Brown apparently didn't leave any directions about his burial.

James Brown's Body Has Not Been Buried

The body of soul singer James Brown has yet to be buried as attorneys and his children work to settle issues surrounding his estate, including where he will be laid to rest.

For now, his body lies in a sealed casket in his home on Beech Island,..The room where Brown's body lies is being kept at a controlled temperature, and security guards keep watch.
The hope is that all parties can sit down and figure out what the problem is and what the challenges are," attorney Thornton Morris said. "And once we figure out what the challenges are we'll see if we can't resolve something that's a win for everybody."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 31, 2006

The Latest in Green Burial

A very good, short essay with slide show on the latest in green burial is Death Be Not Manicured in Slate.

Each year in the United States, coffins and vaults result in more metal being put in the ground than was used to make the Golden Gate Bridge, and enough concrete to build a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit.

Looks like the Green Burial Council will be approving death-care providers who meet newly-drafted professional standards so we all can easily identify the ethical and environmentally sound ones when the time comes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:58 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 30, 2006

James Brown's Goodbye

Via  Goodbye to the Godfather of Soul at Pajamas Media comes Farewell Tour to James Brown Ends.

The farewell tour for Brown _ loved in Augusta as much for his generosity and influence as for his music _ wound down with an afternoon funeral, two days after a boisterous viewing in the famed Apollo Theater in New York.
More than 8,500 fans packed James Brown Arena, where Brown lay in front of the bandstand in his third outfit in three days _ a black jacket and gloves, red shirt and sequined shoes.

As the service began shortly after 1 p.m., dozens of friends and relatives filed slowly past the casket.

The procession was followed by a video of Brown's last performance in Augusta and his final concert in London _ where he performed a slow, soulful version of Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:55 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 26, 2006

Girl Without a Name

For four years, detectives sought the identity of the young girl found dead in a duffel bag.

“We felt this was a good kid,” Dudek said. “We were doing everything we could.”

They rounded up specialists, who donated their time to examine her bones and her teeth. They had her DNA tested.
The girl without a name was buried under a marker reading "Unknown Child of God" in a funeral paid for by nearly 100 people.

Last week, they got their answer. The girl's mother was devastated.

“It's sad, but at least now she knows,” Dudek said.

Del Carmen was moved to learn how a community of strangers had come to care for her daughter, dedicating years to investigate her death and giving her a dignified burial, he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:12 PM | Permalink

December 13, 2006

A glorious, remarkable leave-taking

To understand better the nature of grief, it helps to understand that "death doesn't end a relationship, it ends a life". 

Patti Digh begins her essay  Forever hold your penguin dear with that quote which she attributes to Jack Lemmon.

Jack Lemmon? but I digress.

when people die, we move so quickly in the opposite direction, to have those bodies picked up and cleaned and sanitized. Pema Chodron has written that “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” To look away, not at; to dispose of quickly. Dead bodies are fearful things. We have lost sight, perhaps, of where we really are. When I try to locate myself in space and in place, why am I always confined to this space, this place? Am I my body, or is it merely a container for me? Why should I run at its disease, its death?

Death is mystery. It is awful and transformational and freeing and heartbreaking—it is also Truth and therefore fearful for many of us, for me. But this young woman has changed that—what a gift I have received from someone I never met, will never meet.

What follows is the most remarkable leave-taking I've ever read.

It is a story so beautiful and so raw and so very intensely real that it breaks my heart and heals it all at the same time. And there is more. Just as the penguin story kept coming, there is more.
Don’t try telling me that life isn’t circular in some significant ways. We are tying bows around significances every day, I think. We just don’t know it, or not yet.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Billy Graham and a talking cow

Billy Graham is torn between the wishes of his frail, sick 86-year-old wife Ruth and those of his son and heir Franklin Graham.    Then crime novelist Patricia Cornwell gets into the picture.

A Family at Cross-Purposes and arguing over where Billy Graham will be buried, in Charlotte with a talking cow or at the Cove.

The burial issue threatens to tear asunder what some have called the royal family of American religion, and Billy is being asked to make a Solomon-like choice between the wishes of his heir and his wife of 63 years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

December 6, 2006

In the Best of Taste

When a revered political columnist and food writer plans his own memorial service, it is sui generis, in the Kennedy Center, no less.

How many reporters became famous, really famous, for the immensity of their expense accounts?

Johnny  Apple's Service, In the Best of Taste.

a post-service buffet to remember. Apple would have savored the spread laid on by 21 of the Washington area's best restaurants, and lubricated by the wines of 20 American vineyards. Apple apparently knew the proprietors of all 41 -- and of course had sampled their production, in all likelihood prodigiously. Had he been able to partake, Apple would have particularly liked the huge fresh oysters flavored with generous dollops of real Russian caviar provided by Patrick O'Connell of the Inn at Little Washington.

Luckily for the 750 or so in the crowd, everyone knew Apple, so they could laugh at Apple stories told by 13 eulogists while images of the vast man himself danced in their imaginations

Ward Just, the novelist and former Washington Post reporter whose eulogy was read by Purdum yesterday, put his finger on the essence of Apple's professional personality: "Johnny Apple was primarily interested in the demystification of things: the Iowa caucuses, Finnish architecture, the proper way to poach some wretched fish . . ."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 30, 2006

Military Honors and Cemetery for Canine Combatants

Dateline Fort Huachuca

Military honors were given to  Staff Sgt Wendy, a decorated Belgium Malinois, who helped protect American forces in Afghanistan.

Military working dogs are provided honors at their burial service because the Army considers them soldiers.

A firing party shot off 21 rounds, a bugler played taps and the flag was unfolded and then folded over the spot where her cremated remains were placed.

Besides having a rank, always one grade higher than their handler, military working dogs have a service number and can receive decorations.

Wendy was awarded an Army Commendation Medal by the commander of the 10th Mountain Division for her work as an explosive detecting dog while serving in Afghanistan.

The bond between the military dogs and their handlers is very touching. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 29, 2006

Morgue Workers Shocked at Fast Track

In Australia, the autopsy of the father of 4 jailed gang rapists,  was fast-tracked so he could be buried quickly according to Muslim tradition. 

The father was facing charges for lying to the police to protect his sons and had assailed his sons' victims in court, saying that the young girls should not have been alone at night.

Autopsy fast-tracked

The apparent attempt to give priority to the man, known to the public as Dr K, shocked morgue workers at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, who are so short-staffed they can take days to complete a post-mortem examination.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 PM | Permalink

November 28, 2006

Deadbeat Dad Arrested at Mother's Wake

Deadbeat Dad Arrested at Mother's Wake

Stephen Burns walked into a Braintree funeral home Tuesday for his mother's wake. He walked out a short time later in handcuffs, escorted by two constables.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Burns is one of the state's worst deadbeat dads. He owes more than $160,000 in child support, dating back 20 years.

A warrant first went out for Burns arrest in 2001, when he skipped a court date. It was reissued Tuesday when the mother of Burns children discovered he was in town for his mother's funeral.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:36 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 18, 2006

Cemetery 2.0

How will you be remembered when you're gone?  Elliott Makin envisions a digital cemetery, one that networks traditional tombstones to the electronic records of the people who lie beneath.

  Cemetery 2.0

Elliott Malkin Cemetery 2.0
Cemetery 2.0 is a concept for a set of networked devices that connect burial sites to online memorials for the deceased. The prototype, at left, links Hyman Victor's gravestone in Chicago, to his surviving Internet presence, including his:

• Flickr Genealogical Repository
• Facebook Memorial Profile
• Pedigree Resource File (GEDCOM)
• Family Tree of the Jewish People entry (GEDCOM)

The Cemetery 2.0 device maintains a live satellite Internet connection. Visitors to the physical memorial can view related memorials on the device display, while visitors paying their respects at any of the online memorials will recognize that their browsing is associated directly with the actual burial site.

He links to Digital Remains by Michele Gauler
via Boing Boing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 AM | Permalink

October 28, 2006

Fire at Crematorium

A six-hundred pound man proved too much for one crematorium.

His body fluids seeped onto the floor and ignited a fire.

Fire breaks out at Salt Lake Crematorium.

Firefighters rarely see these kind of fires.

But they say a six-hundred-pound body can create problems during a cremation.

"It really does condense or breaks down that fat into a greasy product, just like a grease fire," said Freitag. "Only a little bit can cause a flame to go up."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:46 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Living in Cemeteries

In Manila it's so crowded, that some are converting mausoleums into living quarters as squatters have moved into cemeteries.    As All Saints Day and All Souls Day, Catholic feasts on November 1 and 2,
approach and families plan picnics on the the graves of their ancestors, many squatters who find shelter among the graves will be asked to leave by cemetery caretakers.

Where the living share space with the dead

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 26, 2006

Castro's Funeral

Seems as if Castro is dying of stomach cancer, if not already dead.

Funeral for a Tyrant

Confirmation of the terminal illness comes from the usual sources but in a non-conventional manner. The Cuban government has been summoning to Havana representatives of the major international media to negotiate the best seats, camera angles, and interviews with the despot’s political survivors, and to inform them of the ground rules for coverage of the state funeral.

The foreign media are being told that the model for Castro’s funeral is that of Pope John Paul II a year ago. The Cubans actually believe — or pretend — that the death of a tyrant deserves the same attention as that of the world’s great men of peace.

This is one of Castro’s lasting legacies to his countrymen: moral disorientation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:14 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 19, 2006

Really Alive and Really Dead

Today we are mainly concerned whether people are still really alive when they are in a persistent vegetative state.

Reborn Indeed

Music Stirred Her Damaged Brain

There's More 'There' There.

One Settlement, Another Judicial Homicide

A hundred years ago, the concern was whether a person was really dead.    The fear of being buried alive was so great that all sorts of methods were used to determine whether a person was dead.  The Athanasius Kircher Society writes about some of them in A Short History of Security Coffins.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:55 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 18, 2006

Funeral Directors Plead Guilty

In the gruesome case of the funeral directors who plundered corpses to sell body parts. seven funeral directors have secretly pleaded guilty to an indictment brought by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

"It is clear that many more funeral home directors were involved in this enterprise," Hynes said.

The names of the funeral directors have not been disclosed because they have all agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation involving funeral homes in New York City and Rochester.

7 Plead Guilty in Stolen Body Parts Case.

Four original defendants in the case were to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon.  Michael Mastromarino, a former oral surgeon, and three other men are accused of secretly removed skin, bone and other transplantable parts from hundreds of bodies without the permission of families.

Mastromarino, owner of Biomedical Tissue Services of Fort Lee, N.J., allegedly made millions of dollars by selling the stolen tissue to biomedical companies that supply material for procedures including dental implants and hip replacements, prosecutors said.

At the time, prosecutors said they had unearthed evidence that death certificates and other paperwork were falsified. In Cooke's case, his age was recorded as 85 rather than 95 and the cause of death was listed as heart attack instead of lung cancer that had spread to his bones.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:27 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 13, 2006

"Funeral Pompeii" Unveiled.

When clearing a spot for the construction of a parking garage in Vatican city, a truck was spotted hauling tombstones with Latin inscriptions.

Today, as part of the Vatican Museum's 500th anniversary, the pagan Necropolis, called the "little Pompeii of cemeteries"  will be open to the public, even as excavation and conservation is still on-going.

Vatican Necropolis, Almost a Garage.

What has been unveiled is a cemetery of the middle class in the first century.

Necropolis Unveiled.  Below are some photographs which, if you click, you will see enlarged.

   Sleeping Slave-2

Sleeping Slave

  Ancient Necropolis Overview-2

Overview of necropolis

  Mosaic Floor Vatican Necropolis-1


  Baby's  Grave  At  Vatican-1

Baby's grave

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 11, 2006

60 years later, missing airman identified

A missing airman, First Lt Shannon Estill of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, lost in action in WWII, has been identified and will be returned to his family to be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

After being struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire in 1945, his plane exploded and crashed in eastern Germany.  U.S. military personnel could not recover his remains after the war since the crash site was in the Russian-occupied section of Germany.

Two German nationals found the crash site in 2003.  Two military teams  interviewed people who had witnessed the crash as children  and excavated the site over two years before enough evidence was found to identify the body.

Missing WWII Airmen is Identified.

HT Solomania.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:42 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 10, 2006

Dust to Dust

I wrote about the Promessa process over 2 years ago.

Now it seems more than a quarter of local authorities surveyed in Britain are actively considering the freeze-drying of corpses.

Many cemeteries will run out of space in 10 years so they are looking for solutions to the lack of space.  They could have double-decker graves or have the graves "standing up" with coffins placed vertically.

Cremation has its own problems as  dental fillings create mercury emissions.  Many crematoria have to be completely rebuilt to comply with government regulations.

No wonder freeze-drying seems so attractive.  After the body is dipped into liquid nitrogen, it's placed on a vibrating mat until it disintegrates into a fine powder.  A magnetic field then removes metal objects like dental fillings and metal pins in the body.

Cremation to be replaced by eco-friendly freeze-drying of corpses.

The phrase "dust to dust" is not from the Bible, but from the burial rite in the Book of Common Prayer.

In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ,
we commend to Almighty God our brother <name>; and we commit his body to the ground;
earth to earth; ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The Lord bless him and keep him,
the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious unto him and give him peace. Amen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Turning the Dead

In Madagascar, the tradition of partying with the dead, called the turning of the dead, is dividing some families who have become Christian.

In Madagascar, Digging Up the Dead Divides Families (Wall St Journal, subscribers only)

Seeing how much his father's body had decayed since his death nine years earlier was bad enough. But the whole custom of removing ancestors from their tombs, dressing them in fresh shrouds and dancing with their bodies suddenly struck the born-again Mr. Rabeatoandro as un-Christian.

So Mr. Rabeatoandro, a 48-year-old English teacher, told his family that never again would he participate in the "turning of the dead" ceremony.

His theological decision has carried a steep emotional price. Mr. Rabeatoandro's relatives were aghast. His brothers refused to discuss the matter with him. His mother worried that ignoring the dead could bring bad luck. "Someone who refuses to turn the ancestors denies his identity as a Malagasy," says Mr. Rabeatoandro's cousin, Joseph Rabefararano, a 66-year-old retired house painter. "He leaves the family."
Today, 52% of Malagasy practice indigenous religions, while 41% are Christians, according to the CIA World Factbook. The reality, however, is far more complicated. Many families include both Christians and animists. And many individuals blend Christianity with a belief that the ancestors can intercede with the Creator to bless the living with wealth, health and happiness or, if mistreated, curse them with unemployment, disease and misery.

In some famadihanas, the families take the bodies on a stroll through town, to show the ancestors what is new, and introduce them to children born since they last left the tomb. The thinking is that, to help the living, the dead must be familiar with their lives.
Catholics are often accepting of the ceremony. Father Solofomampionona Razafindrakoto, a 29-year-old Carmelite priest, sees the ancestors as akin to Catholic saints and the corpses akin to the relics kept in many churches. He has even celebrated mass before a famadihana. "The saints were people like us," he says. "They knew our lives and our suffering. Now they are close to God, and that's why we pray to them."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:54 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 6, 2006

Amish Funerals

The courage of the young Amish girls in facing death is astounding. 

'Shoot Us, Not Them' Brave Girls Pleaded in Bid to Save Schoolmates

Staring down the barrel of Charles Carl Roberts' gun, 13-year-old Marian Fisher and her 11-year-old sister, Barbie, bravely pleaded with the madman to shoot them and spare the eight other girls he was holding hostage.

"Marian said, 'Shoot me first,' and Barbie said, 'Shoot me second,' " said midwife Rita Rhoads, who had helped deliver several of the victims.

"They were really trying to save the younger girls. It is a real reflection of their faith."

"They all knew they were going to be shot. They just stood there with courage," Rhoads said. "There was no atmosphere of panic there. They were courageous."

I wrote yesterday about Plain Evil and Plain Good and the amazing outreach and forgiveness of the Amish towards the gunman's family.

Yesterday was the first day of 4 funerals.  The fifth will be held today.

Funerals were held in the homes of Marian Fisher, 12; Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7: and two sisters, Mary Liz Miller, 8 and Lena Miller, 7.

Three long processions of 34 dark buggies and carriages left each of the victim's homes to a hilltop cemetery shaded by two elm trees.

Pennsylvania state troopers on horseback and a funeral director's black car with flashing yellow lights cleared the way for the buggies and the black carriages carrying the hand-built wooden coffins.

Pennsylvania State Police troopers were intent on preserving the families' privacy.  All roads were blocked off and airspace for 2 miles in all directions was closed.
Earlier, hundreds of Amish men and women, wearing black hats, dresses and suits, had gathered at the homes of each of the victims' families to chant hymns and prayers in Amish German during funeral services closed to the public.

Then, starting at 11 a.m., they placed Naomi Rose's simple coffin in a buggy and drove her body to be laid to rest - followed four hours later by Marian's body, and two hours after that by the Miller sisters.

At the wind-swept cemetery, friends and relatives took one last look before placing the lids on the coffins and lowering them into their graves.

Relatives took turns throwing dirt atop the coffins.

It was a somber occasion, and, for the Amish, a profound one. Funerals are their most important religious event, for they believe they are sending a loved one into the arms of God.

Reported the Washington Post in A Plain and Profound Farewell, a neighbor who declined to give her name said, "You learn a lot from [the Amish], how they deal with things.  It's just amazing. It's not just words."


Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 AM | Permalink

October 3, 2006

Top Ten Funeral Songs in Britain

In Britain, a survey of funeral homes reveals the top ten pop songs requested to be played at funerals.

Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler
My Heart Will Go On - Celine Dion
3. I
Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston
Simply The Best - Tina Turner
Angels - Robbie Williams
You'll Never Walk Alone - Gerry And The Pacemakers
Candle In The Wind - Elton John
Unchained Melody - Righteous Brothers
Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon And Garfunkel
Time To Say Goodbye - Sarah Brightman

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:16 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 28, 2006

Exhuming the Past

It may take 20 years, but families will not rest until they can learn what happened to their loved ones, recover their bodies and bury their dead themselves.

Exhuming the Past in a Painful Quest

Spurred by a surge of requests from victims' families this year, dozens of forensic anthropologists have been fanning out across the countryside to search for remains of the 200,000 people -- most of them Mayan Indian civilians -- who were killed or abducted during the 36-year conflict.

Many were massacred by military forces and dumped into mass graves. Others were buried hurriedly in unmarked, secret locations by relatives anxious to avoid rampaging troops.
The remains of fewer than 5,000 victims have been returned to their families.

The anguish of those still searching was palpable among the two dozen Mayan Indians who attended a recent exhumation near this town in the central Guatemalan department of Quiche.

Most were subsistence farmers and manual laborers who could speak only their native Mayan language and could ill afford to take time off from work. Yet day after day they hiked to the grave site atop a mist-shrouded mountain -- the women bearing small children strapped to their backs with colorful blankets, the men shouldering shovels to help the forensic team dig for bodies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 24, 2006

Politics in the cemetery

In Nottingham, England, a new cemetery is being built, the first in 85 years.

A multi-faith cemetery will have all its graves aligned with Mecca, despite Christian burials traditionally facing east......

In today's secular society you could be forgiven for not knowing which direction Christian graves face.

Ancient tradition shows they should look east in anticipation of the second coming of Jesus Christ.

But all headstones at the new £2.5m High Wood Cemetery in Bulwell will be plotted to face north-east, in line with Islamic faith.

Muslims believe the dead look over their shoulder towards Mecca, towards the south-east.

Despite there being separate sections at the cemetery in Low Wood Road for different faiths, the council wanted to give a tidy, linear appearance.

A Question of Faith...or Tidiness?  via LGF.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 16, 2006

When Santera Comes to Your Local Cemetery

Santera and voodoo practices in Florida are disturbing the locals.

Desecration of Grave Linked to Religious Ritual

A grieving widow who visited her husband's grave expected to find fresh sod and flowers, not a ritualistic slaughter of animals next to the headstone.
But atop the two-week-old grave was a dead chicken, a set of goat hoofs and four dead puppies.  Worst of all, the puppies were headless.
"I was horrified," said the woman, who asked not to be identified because she wanted to shield her family from the desecration.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 AM | Permalink | TrackBack