May 4, 2017

Death in the Most Rock-and-Roll Way Ever

The Music Legend Who Died Onstage

When musician Bruce Hampton collapsed on stage Monday night, his band thought it was a theatrical end to a celebratory night and kept on playing for several minutes.....The guitarist/singer/bandleader was performing at Atlanta’s Fox Theater for his 70th birthday surrounded by over 30 of his acolytes, including members of the Allman Brothers Band, Phish, REM, Blues Traveler and Widespread Panic. They were all there because they consider Mr. Hampton a primary musical inspiration.

 Guitarist Bruce Hampton

The sold-out show concluded with the musicians on stage smiling broadly as Mr. Hampton led them through Bobby Bland’s “Turn On Your Lovelight.” He pointed to 14-year-old Brandon Niederauer to solo on guitar and then went to one knee, collapsed and died. It was several minutes before the band stopped and EMTs rushed on stage to try and revive Mr. Hampton.

He died shortly thereafter at a nearby hospital.

“It wasn’t the first time any of us had seen him on the floor like James Brown,” says Jeff Sipe, a drummer and longtime collaborator who was conducting the musicians. “It took a minute for concern to grow.”

Fans and musicians who were present described a raucous crowd of 5,000 chanting “Bruuuuuce” throughout the night. Mr. Hampton performed a 20-minute set at the start and then joined in occasionally, mostly watching from a chair on stage. Performers ranged across generations, from the 14-year-old Niederauer, a star of Broadway’s “School of Rock,” to 88-year-old pianist Johnny Knapp, who recorded with Billie Holiday.

“Everybody was devastated,” says Mr. Haynes, himself a jam band kingpin as frontman for Gov’t Mule and formerly the Allman Brothers Band. “It was one of the most epic nights of music anyone on stage or in the audience has ever experienced. To go from honoring Bruce in this amazing way to mourning him in the blink of an eye was emotionally jarring.”....

“There was an incredible feeling in the building that it was a family reunion as much as concert,” says Widespread Panic’s John Bell. “Everyone rose to the occasion, including Bruce, who was playing and singing as well as I’ve ever seen him. He was in command until the last second and it was glorious to see. I believe he went from fully present in this world to fully present in another world, with very little in the middle.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

March 18, 2017

Soul Midwives

'Midwives' of mercy: The new breed of inspirational carers helping to ensure people's dying days are spent in the comfort of their own homes has sprung up in the U.K

Soul midwifery is a unique approach to end-of-life care. In the words of Felicity Warner, the woman who founded it, 'just as a birth midwife ensures a safe delivery into this world, the soul midwife's role is to do the same for the dying, to make a good death possible, a dignified, peaceful and even enriching experience'.

 Felicty Warner Soul Midwife
Felicity Warner

The work of soul midwives was recognized when Felicity Warner was named 2017 End of Life Care Champion by the National Council for Palliative Care and the Royal College of Nursing. The seed for soul midwifery was planted more than 20 years ago when Felicity, now 58, was working as a journalist and interviewed several women dying of breast cancer.  The women told 'how lonely it felt to be dying despite their medical care and their families around them'.

Not only were their doctors and nurses too busy to talk about death and dying but, surprisingly, Felicity found the women were becoming increasingly distant from friends and family who couldn't cope with the reality and masked it with platitudes such as: 'You'll be feeling better soon.'  Researching how people died before the rise of modern 'curative' Western medicine, Felicity found a range of practices 'that had in common the fact that they respected the act of dying as a sacred time'.

She established soul midwifery in 2004, and has since trained 600 soul midwives — many already have a health practitioner qualification — with an initial three-day course, followed by an apprenticeship lasting around a year.
Qualified soul midwives' costs are in line with local rates for services such as counselling, though many also work as volunteers at hospices or use the qualification to help care for a terminally ill relative.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:05 PM | Permalink

December 5, 2016

The Art of Dying Well

The Catholic Church has long had an interest in helping those faced with the prospect of death and dying and a fund of experience to share in was traditionally called the art of dying well, or in Latin, Ars Moriendi.  Sensing this was a good time to look afresh at that tradition, the Catholic Church of England and Wales devised a new website called The Art of Dying Well.

It's an excellent website and not just for Catholics.  A quick excerpt:

The underlying ethos of the art of dying well applies just as well to anyone of any, or no faith, undergoing the final journey. All of us will fall, all of us will need help, and all of us can use the experience we gain in helping people on the climb creatively for the good of others.

There are several sections and short videos in each section.
What is dying well? 

While a good death will mean different things to us all, there are many universal questions

Talking about death

Aside from birth, dying is the only other experience we will all share. So why is it so hard to talk about it? And, why is it so important that we should?

Facing death personally

Living with the knowledge that death is close at hand can take a huge emotional toll. Knowing that your feelings are normal and expected, may help you to cope.

Losing a loved one

Losing someone you love is undeniably painful, but rising above grief and connecting spiritually to something greater might help you to find meaning.

Caring for the dying

This is an excellent website

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:07 PM | Permalink

July 28, 2016

Radiant joy at the moment of death

Who smiles like this near the moment of death?

 Sister Cecilia

Death is a tragedy for mortal man, and yet with faith in eternity and anticipation of the embrace of our heavenly Father, death becomes radiant.

We share today the news of the death of Sister Cecilia, a Carmelite of Santa Fe in Argentina, who suffered from lung cancer. She astonished those who surrounded her in her agony, [smiling as she approached her culmination.]

The death of Sister Cecilia; the rest of the story

Despite her illness, she did not lose her joy, which was sustained by the support of her numerous family members, who remained close by. Joyful nieces and nephews congregated in the gardens outside the hospital where she was admitted for some weeks, sending her messages and helium balloons to distract and entertain her from the window.

Her joy was accompanied — or perhaps explained — by a profound state of prayer. Whenever she could, she put on her habit so as to participate at Mass in the hospital chapel. She lived these Masses with the same devotion that characterized her life behind the grille of the Carmel of Villa Pueyrredon in Buenos Aires.

Despite her illness, Sister Cecilia remained quite lucid. Though she couldn’t talk during her last months, her weak gestures at each Mass gave evidence of her attention and fervor. When the prayers of the faithful included the intention of the sick, her expression showed her gratitude.
She “has softly fallen asleep in the Lord, after an extremely painful illness, which she always endured with joy and surrender to her Divine Spouse,” her sisters in the Carmel of Santa Fe said in announcing her death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 AM | Permalink

July 27, 2016

The Dying Role

From Being Mortal:Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Technological society has forgotten what scholars call the “dying role” and its importance to people as life approaches its end. People want to share memories, pass on wisdoms and keepsakes, settle relationships, establish their legacies, make peace with God, and ensure that those who are left behind will be okay. They want to end their stories on their own terms. This role is, observers argue, among life’s most important, for both the dying and those left behind. And if it is, the way we deny people this role, out of obtuseness and neglect, is cause for everlasting shame. Over and over, we in medicine inflict deep gouges at the end of people’s lives and then stand oblivious to the harm done.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:06 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2015

Medicare will reimburse doctors for conducting end-of-life discussions

Doctors should have been doing this all along, but the pressures on billing made it difficult, so now End-of-Life Discussions Will Be Reimbursed by Medicare

The federal government will pay doctors who speak with patients about the type of medical care they want when they are near death, a turning point after a similar proposal six years ago ran into opposition and was stripped from what became the Affordable Care Act.

The rule announced Friday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will reimburse, starting Jan. 1, health-care providers if they choose to have conversations with Medicare patients about advance care planning—also known as end-of-life discussions. The decision affects about 50 million beneficiaries and could ripple through the health-care industry. Private insurers often follow payment practices adopted by Medicare, the national insurance program for seniors and the disabled.

Efforts to provide compensation to doctors who hold such consultations was opposed in 2009 by mostly Republican opponents of the health-care overhaul, who said the law would lead to “death panels” tasked with seeking out cost savings by rationing care. A provision to pay physicians for such end-of-life counseling was stripped from the final bill.

But the rule, proposed in July, hasn’t triggered the same backlash as before. Since 2010, legislation that would allow reimbursements to physicians for advance planning discussions has gained bipartisan support and backing from hospice and physician groups. Some private insurers already have begun paying providers for the discussions, as have a handful of state Medicaid programs.

The public also supports the move. Eight in 10 people in the U.S. said Medicare and private health insurers should pay for end-of-life conversations, according to a September poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:34 PM | Permalink

February 19, 2015

Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

My Own Life

A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver.
While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.

And yet, one line from Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: “It is difficult,” he wrote, “to be more detached from life than I am at present.”

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Via Ann Althouse, a wonderful interview, Sachs Appeal, in The Guardian

He has allowed himself one small indulgence, though - a short book, Oaxaca Journal, about an expedition to Mexico on the trail of rare ferns. Sack loves ferns. "They're harmless, benign, and they're ancient," he enthuses. "They go back a billion years. The way they coil up, like watch-springs…" He is lost in thought. "They give me a feeling of the future. The future, all coiled up."

Also via Althouse, an astonishing photo of Oliver Sachs on a motorcycle in 1961 by Douglas White.

From Wikipedia

Beginning in 1970, Sacks wrote of his experience with neurological patients. His books have been translated into over 25 languages. In addition to his books, Sacks is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, as well as other medical, scientific, and general publications.[\ He was awarded the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science in 2001.

Sacks' work has been featured in a "broader range of media than those of any other contemporary medical author"and in 1990, The New York Times said he "has become a kind of poet laureate of contemporary medicine" His descriptions of people coping with and adapting to neurological conditions or injuries often illuminate the ways in which the normal brain deals with perception, memory and individuality.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink

February 9, 2015

Psychedelic therapy for the dying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

October 9, 2014

Two young women face death in different ways

Cancer patient Brittany Maynard, 29, has scheduled her death for Nov. 1 She is suffering from a malignant brain tumor, stage 4 and wants to die "on her own terms" in Portland where she and her family relocated because Oregon law allows terminally-ill patients to end their lives. She is using her last days to advocate for physician-assisted suicide and explains her choice in  My right to death with dignity at 29.

Kara Tippets, a woman of faith and a mother of four, writes a blog called Mundane Faithfulness and just published on October 1, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard.  Diagnosed with breast cancer at 36 which two years later has metastasized into her entire body and into her brain, Kara posted an open letter to Dear Brittany : Why We Don't Have to Be So Afraid of Dying & Suffering that We Choose Suicide.

………So hear these words from a heart full of love for you.

Brittany, your life matters, your story matters, and your suffering matters. Thank you for stepping out from the privacy of your story and sharing it openly.

We see you, we see your life, and there are countless lovers of your heart that are praying you would change your mind.

Brittany, I love you, and I’m sorry you are dying. I am sorry that we are both being asked to walk a road that feels simply impossible to walk.
Dear heart, we simply disagree. Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known.

In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.
Brittany, when we trust Jesus to be the carrier, protecter, redeemer of our hearts, death is no longer dying. My heart longs for you to know this truth, this love, this forever living.

You have been told a lie. A horrible lie, that your dying will not be beautiful. That the suffering will be too great.
I pray they reach the multitudes that are looking at your story and believing the lie that suffering is a mistake, that dying isn’t to be braved, that choosing our death is the courageous story.

No – hastening death was never what God intended.

But in our dying, He does meet us with His beautiful grace. The hippocratic oath matters, and those that are choosing to walk away from it need to be challenged.

These two women illustrate two very different approaches to suffering and death.  Brittany doesn't want to put herself or her family through protracted suffering and fears she would become resistant to pain-killers and linger on in hospice.  By choosing physician-assisted suicide, she is seeking some control over her death.

Kara is a remarkable witness to how faith can transform suffering into 'Big Love'.  As she writes in Kept

Here is my hope, here is my heart. There are certainly people who vehemently disagree with my stance on this. Can we speak kindly to one another in our disagreement. We are talking about possibly the most tender moment in the life of another- let’s care for one another as we disagree with gentleness.

I’m bringing as much love to this topic as I am able.  And, of coarse my faith is intertwined. If I believe something- wouldn’t it be an unkindness for me not to want to share it with another. I believe each breath of Brittany matters, is important, is seen. I want her to know I love her, my faith asks me to share my love. My big love matters. And I pray it will meet her- not the endless unkindness that surround her. This is not a Kara vs. Brittany issue. This is one broken and sick woman looking upon another and saying she matters.
This is not a simple journey. These steps towards my last breath are not simple, easy, fearless, but we are kept. We are carried. Our story matters. Our brokenness is seen.

Yes she evangelizes and if your heart is not hardened, you can hear what she says

I would say before cancer I was a shy evangelist. But now- now that I know there is a limit to my days- I’m giving what was never mine to keep. Why would I hold tightly to this Jesus that asks me to open my hands and pour out His big love. Why? No- I delight that I get this opportunity to share the love I know. If I were in this bed, and you knew unbelievable, overwhelming, overflowing, unbelievable love and you didn’t share it with me- Well friends- I simply can’t be quieted. I have love to share.

"The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering
but a supernatural use for it,"
  Simone Weil.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2014

Dying on your own terms in not giving up

Deborah Klotz in The Boston Globe  Stuart Scott’s ESPY speech omits mention of dying the good death

After being diagnosed with a rare cancer seven years ago, ESPN anchor Stuart Scott has been living life on his own terms, fighting — as he told a crowd of television viewers during the ESPY awards on Wednesday night — and never giving up…..

It was a powerful, heartfelt moment. Left unsaid, however, was that Scott, 48, is likely going to die at some point from his cancer that has metastasized, causing liver and kidney complications. I worry that the expectation he sets for cancer patients to fight the good fight leaves those who choose to accept the inevitable feeling ashamed or defeated.
But what if a cancer patient doesn’t want to fight to the last breath? What if that person elects to skip chemotherapy — and perhaps live a few months less — to be able to sit on the porch and watch the sunrise or die peacefully surrounded by family at home?

Can we not celebrate the lives of those patients as well, even if they choose to opt out of the fight? When cancer cruelly strikes a person young, like Valvano and Scott, doctors, loved ones, and friends expect them to try every treatment possible (regardless of the side effects) to have the best shot at a cure.
A Dana-Farber Cancer Institute study published in March found that more than half of end-stage cancer patients receive chemotherapy during the last few months of their life, and those who received such treatment were more likely to die in a hospital intensive care unit, hooked to a ventilator, rather than at home as they would have preferred.

Scott spoke of how important it was to have his doctors and family members fight for him when he was too tired to fight on his own. He’s opting to enter a clinical trial for a new drug to help him in his battle. While I respect him for this decision, I would have respected him the same had he chosen not to try an experimental treatment.

But I question whether society would have or whether he would have been given the “perseverance award” if he had spoken about his decision to die on his own terms.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:41 PM | Permalink

January 22, 2014

Way to go

New York woman dies at peace after month-long farewell party and 'one last blowout' New Year's Eve bash

In late November, Marcy Glanz was hit with some awful news: after battling with ovarian cancer for nearly three years, her doctors told her she had but a few weeks to live.  With just a few, short weeks left on earth, Ms. Glanz didn't succumb to self-pity or fear - rather, she used her remaining days to essentially have a month-long farewell party, during which she could say her goodbyes to the scores of friends she made in her 62 years on earth.

'Many of us die too soon and have no chance to say goodbye, or we have a long, ugly painful demise,' her husband, Marion Stewart, said. 'Hers was neither of those.'
Glanz's final days are recounted in a lengthy piece in The New York Times, which describes her desires for her final weeks as wanting 'a monthlong farewell party that mixed frivolity and friendship, laughter and tears.' Ms. Glanz got her wish.
Rather than spend her final weeks in a hospital or hospice, Ms. Glanz was able to remain in her home on West 90th Street in Manhattan, where a medical staff was brought in to give her the care she needed as she prepared to lay down her arms in her long battle against cancer.

Ms. Glanz - who had a master's degree in educational psychology from Harvard - spent much of December sharing memories with her family in the forms of old pictures and home movies.  Mr. Stewart notes that while there was some crying as he, his wife and their two sons remembered happier times, 'but there was a lot more laughing than crying.'

'We did many of the things that people do after death, but we did it before she died,' he says.

Ms. Glanz even helped plan her own memorial service, giving her husband specific instructions on everything down to the music and speakers.  'There was no "Woe is me" or "I can’t stand this,’” he said. 'There was just a peacefulness and wanting to wrap everything up.'

One of Ms. Glanz's biggest regrets was that her unfortunate death would mean she would never meet her grandchildren. So, in preparation, her sons brought her a copy of Goodnight Moon - the same book she used to read to them before they went to sleep - and she recorded herself reading it so her future grandchildren could hear her voice and be 'tucked in by the grandmother they never met.'

On New Year's Eve, Ms. Glanz decided that she wanted to have 'one last blowout party' at the apartment she shared with her husband.  She invited 20 people and made toasts with ginger ale as she worked the room wearing a pink, fuzzy boa.

The next day - New Year's Day - was the last day Ms. Glanz could speak. She died on January 5 - in her bed and surrounded by her family.  'She had the ability and wherewithal to say everything she wanted to say,' Ms. Paura said. 'It was as if, by facing her death through the prism of love,  she transcended it.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2013

Born on the same day, married 75 years, they died a day apart

 Helen&Les Brown 75Years

Long-time Long Beach couple die a day apart

Their friends and family agree -- if two people ever were "made for each other," it was Helen and Les Brown.

Both were born on the same day, Dec. 31, 1918. Helen and Les were high school sweethearts who celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary this year. It would be their last; Helen died on July 16, and Les died the next day, July 17.  They were 94.

"It was a real love match, wasn't it," their oldest son, Les Jr., said. "They were together every day for 75 years."  Daniel, the couple's youngest son, agreed.

"My mom often said she didn't want to see my father die, and he didn't want to live without her," Daniel said.
Like the Bible says, 'They were as one,' " Brobst said, adding that he will always remember how compatible his friends were as a couple.

Les, who had Parkinson's disease, and Helen, who had developed stomach cancer, will have a joint memorial service.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

May 23, 2013

Married 83 years, parted by death

America's longest married couple are finally parted by death… after 83 years

The world's longest married couple have finally been separated after 83 years - by death.    The accolade enjoyed by Steve Wrubel, 103, and his wife Vickie, 102, from Tampa Bay, Florida, came to an end on Monday morning when Vickie passed away.

 Married 83 Years

After the 102-year-old broke her hip two years ago and began to suffer from other problems due to old age, she was moved to a nursing home where Steve would visit her every day.  They would sit together in silence, holding hands, as they always did.

Her niece Jane Messing told The Tampa Bay Times the fuss made over their long marriage made her feel special. 'Like a princess,' Messing said.

The Wrubel's lived together in an adult living facility in Romeo, Michigan, until Vickie silently slipped away on Monday morning.

'They made a mark. They took care of each other. They loved each other and set an example.
'Thank God she and Uncle Steve were finally together at the end.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

February 4, 2013

'We were doing what we loved when tragedy struck'

Boyfriend's heartbreak his girlfriend dies in his arms after getting caught in avalanche

Elizabeth ‘Liza’ Benson was backcountry skiing with her boyfriend, Jason Ray, near Clause Peak in Wyoming last weekend when the slide drew her into the tree, causing fatal head and body trauma.

 Lisa Benson

On Sunday afternoon, Ms Benson was skiing with her boyfriend, and two other friends, including a physician. The group was skiing in the backcountry, where the powder is often fresher, but there is a significant risk of avalanches.  According to the Sublette County Sheriff’s Department, the 28-year-old athlete was caught in a small slide west of Bondurant. Trapped in the snows, she hit a tree. Mr Ray, who works as a seasonal administrator for the Sublette County Search & Rescue team, rushed down to her aide.  The physician was quick on the scene as well and administered CPR to Ms Benson, but realized the young woman had died in her boyfriend’s arms.  Ms Benson was slated to graduate with a physician’s assistant degree, according to the Jackson Hole News and Guide.

I know she died happy and with someone she loved so much,’ her sister, Adrienne Benson, told the paper. ‘And it was really fast.’

Other friends and co-workers described her as passionate, with a deep love for the outdoors. She had met Mr Ray at a clinic last October, and told her sister that only after a week, she had met her soulmate. Mr Ray told the News and Guide that they were ‘doing what we loved together when tragedy struck.’ He added that the two had plans to marry.

What a sad death for this young woman.  Does the fact that she was doing what she loved and died in the arms of her boyfriend make it a good death?  I'm not sure, but I'll call it that anyway.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:13 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2012

4 days left before the Mayan doomsday, what to read?

Despite the fact that Maya calendars actually predict that life will go on,  there's a rush on for bomb-proof survival bunkers for those who believe Only 4 days to go until the Mayan Doomsday

Too late now to get one now, so the next question is what shall we read to learn how we should act?  NPR suggests 3 books to read before the end of the world

Decameron  by Giovanni Boccaccio

A 14th century allegory about 10 Florentines who hole up in a secluded villa to flee the Black Death, entertaining each other with endless stories, the Decameron offers literature's first and perhaps best answer to the question of what to do while waiting to die. Boccaccio's answer? Stay up all night, tell stories, make jokes and ignore what's coming.

On The Beach by Nevil Shute

…deeply felt portrait of an ensemble of heroes in southern Australia, waiting for the radiation cloud unleashed by a nuclear exchange to reach their shores. Stubbornly, heroically, they cling to their humanity — to politeness and small talk, to hunting and fishing and car racing, to family and friends and the possibility of love. The moral center is Cmdr. Dwight Towers, an American submarine captain — and now the de facto admiral of the U.S. Navy — who refuses to abandon his post, and refuses even a sexual liaison out of fealty to his wife, back home in Connecticut and certainly dead.

The Children Of Men by P. D. James

Here the British author P.D. James imagines the world in 2021, when mankind has lost the ability to reproduce. With no new generations being born, civilization is in a long holding pattern, waiting to die off, and James examines what happens to government, to the art of medicine and to human relationships. It's one of the master detective writer's rare forays outside her genre; it's also rare how successfully the movie version adapts, and even deepens, the book's tone of simmering violence and melancholy. (It may just be the casting of Clive Owen, who radiates those two qualities).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:58 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2012

Stephen Covey R.I.P.

 Stephen Covey

From Forbes, Stephen R. Covey, '7 Habits' Author, Dies At 79

A bright light has gone out today.  Professor Stephen R. Covey dies at age 79

Dr. Stephen R. Covey passed away at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center at 2:15 a.m. after suffering residual effects from a bicycling accident on the steep foothill roads of Provo, Utah in April. He has 9 children and 52 grandchildren and passed away surrounded by his wife, Sandra, and each of his children.

He was the author of the wildly popular “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” that was published in 1989 and has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages. He was included among Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential Americans in 1996. I feel comfortable abbreviating the full book name to ’7 Habits’ in the title because everybody and their dog has now written a book playing off of Dr. Covey’s original book.

Yes, he was the first, and he was original.
Dr. Covey and his famous book brought a new language to business….Many of his principles have become cliche, but even though they are commonly used in language, they still aren’t commonly used in practice.

From The New York Times, the Herald of Good Habits

Mr. Covey’s book sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, and also became the first audiobook to sell more than a million copies. After conferring with Mr. Covey over Thanksgiving in 1994, President Bill Clinton said American productivity would greatly increase if people followed Mr. Covey’s advice. More than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies flocked to use a consulting company he had founded.

Mr. Covey was a bit baffled by his success. He said he was simply telling people what he thought they already knew: the efficacy of good behavior. All that people had to do was form habits out of their best instincts, he said, calling his seven nuggets of knowledge natural laws, like gravity. They are:

1. Be proactive
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Put first things first
4. Think “win-win.”
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
6. Synergize
7. Sharpen the saw; that is, undergo frequent self-renewal.

“We believe that organizational behavior is individual behavior collectivized,” Mr. Covey said.
Stephen Richards Covey was born on Oct. 24, 1932, in Salt Lake City, and grew up on an egg farm outside the city. A promising athletic career was cut short by degeneration in his legs, causing him to use crutches for three years as a teenager.  In an interview with Fortune magazine in 1994, he told of his parents’ constant encouragement. “You’re going to do great on this test,” he remembered his mother saying as he went to sleep the night before a school exam. “You can do anything you want.”

He entered the University of Utah at 16 and earned a degree in business administration. He spent two years in Britain as a Mormon missionary before returning to the United States to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He sometimes preached the Mormon doctrine on Boston Common.
After another missionary stint, in Ireland, he earned a doctorate in religious education from Brigham Young University. His thesis was on “success literature” in American history.

Salt Lake Tribune, ‘7 Habits’ gave business guru Stephen R. Covey fame, fortune
Management guru was praised as one of business world’s most creative thinkers.

Son Sean Covey said his father had been in Montana on a family get-together when he began to decline and was rushed to Idaho Falls, the closest hospital.

"Our family, all nine kids and our spouses and my mom, were able to gather together again to be with him for the last few hours of his life, which is what he always wanted," Sean Covey said in an email.
Lee Perry, a professor of human and associate dean at the Marriott School of Management at BYU, said he first encountered Covey as a missionary when his mother sent him quotes from a 1973 Covey book, "Spiritual Roots of Human Relations." Perry then took a class from Covey as a BYU undergraduate, and when he returned as a professor of organizational behavior, he occupied Covey’s old office.

"Steve was an original thinker but he was also was a great collector of ideas," Perry said. "His real genius was in taking a mixture of his own ideas, ideas imbedded in the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and from other academics — primarily in organizational behavior — and creating this ingenious blend that resonated with people."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 AM | Permalink

March 14, 2012

‘He always said that’s the way he wanted to go.’

'He always said that's the way he wanted to go': Conductor dies in front of violinist wife DURING orchestra concert

A conductor suffered a fatal heart attack in the middle of a concert as his violinist wife watched in horror, it emerged today.

Vincent LaGuardia, 68, was taken ill as he conducted the Longtime Arapahoe Philharmonic, at Mission Hills Church, in Littleton, Colorado, on Friday.

He was conducting Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, during the orchestra’s second-to-last performance of the season.

 Conductor Dies During Concert

The orchestra was about two thirds of the way through the piece when Mr LaGuardia fell to the floor.

Tracey LaGuardia, his wife of 25 years, was playing lead violin and looked on helplessly as desperate attempts were made to revive him.

‘All of a sudden, I looked up and he leaned into the front stand and fell onto his nose… he never came to,’ Mrs LaGuardia told AP.

She said he had suffered a massive heart attack in 1997 and had not been feeling well earlier in the week.

It happened so fast,’ she added. ‘He always said that’s the way he wanted to go.’
'One thing I just can't get out of my mind - this is what he loved to do and he died doing that,' Mrs Elias said Friday.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:30 AM | Permalink

February 28, 2012

When Doctors Die

I can never read or post too many articles like this.

Why Doctors Die Differently

What's unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care that they could want. But they tend to go serenely and gently.

Doctors don't want to die any more than anyone else does. But they usually have talked about the limits of modern medicine with their families. They want to make sure that, when the time comes, no heroic measures are taken. During their last moments, they know, for instance, that they don't want someone breaking their ribs by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (which is what happens when CPR is done right).
more people receive futile "lifesaving" care, and fewer people die at home than did, say, 60 years ago. Nursing professor Karen Kehl, in an article called "Moving Toward Peace: An Analysis of the Concept of a Good Death," ranked the attributes of a graceful death, among them: being comfortable and in control, having a sense of closure, making the most of relationships and having family involved in care. Hospitals today provide few of these qualities.

Written directives can give patients far more control over how their lives end. But while most of us accept that taxes are inescapable, death is a much harder pill to swallow, which keeps the vast majority of Americans from making proper arrangements.

It doesn't have to be that way. Several years ago, at age 60, my older cousin Torch (born at home by the light of a flashlight, or torch) had a seizure. It turned out to be the result of lung cancer that had gone to his brain. We learned that with aggressive treatment, including three to five hospital visits a week for chemotherapy, he would live perhaps four months.

Torch was no doctor, but he knew that he wanted a life of quality, not just quantity. Ultimately, he decided against any treatment and simply took pills for brain swelling. He moved in with me.

We spent the next eight months having fun together like we hadn't had in decades. We went to Disneyland, his first time, and we hung out at home. Torch was a sports nut, and he was very happy to watch sports and eat my cooking. He had no serious pain, and he remained high-spirited.

One day, he didn't wake up. He spent the next three days in a coma-like sleep and then died. The cost of his medical care for those eight months, for the one drug he was taking, was about $20.

As for me, my doctor has my choices on record. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night. Like my mentor Charlie. Like my cousin Torch. Like so many of my fellow doctors.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:48 PM | Permalink

February 23, 2012

The Lost Art of Dying

In the Guardian, Ash Wednesday: The Lost Art of Dying

But art-house cinema and the Catholic church are two of the very few places where death remains part of the public conversation.  Elsewhere, death is camouflaged by fluffy euphemisms like "passing away" or "falling asleep", or otherwise approached with detachment through the scientific discourse of medicine. Long before the present government dreamt up its latest reforms to the NHS, death itself had been culturally privatized.

These days, if we are asked how we want to die, we generally say that we want it to happen quickly, painlessly and preferably in our sleep. In other words, we don't want dying to become something we experience as a part of life. This would have made little sense to generations past. For centuries, what was feared most was "dying unprepared". Death was an opportunity to put things right. To say the things that had been left unsaid: "Sorry", "I was wrong", "I always loved you". We used to die surrounded by our extended family. Now we die surrounded by technology, with a belief in medical science often replacing the traditional puzzle of human existence.

A culture that keeps death out of sight and mind is one that is increasingly lost for words when comforting others in their grief. Instead of having that important conversation in the supermarket with the lady down the street who has lost her husband, we slip down the next aisle with the self-justifying thought that we do not want to disturb her

As a hospital chaplain administering to the dying you learn a lot about life and human dignity

At various times I have acted as a hospital chaplain or as a visitor at a hospice (sadly this is something I no longer do) and this has brought me into contact with a lot of people who were in the process of dying. You learn a lot about life and human dignity when you are with the dying. All of them, without a single exception, were people who died calmly, peacefully, indeed, serenely and happily, which was wonderful to see. I remember the very first dying people I ever visited in hospital: they were the sort of people who cheered you up with their radiant love of God and neighbour. It is some decades ago now, but I still remember them, and I particularly remember the way they so devotedly received Holy Communion in their hospital beds. Having known them gives me great existential confidence.

I really do not mind dying, or the prospect of death, having seen so many people go through it so happily. All I want when I am dying – I suppose I had better mention it just in case people don’t take it as read – is the presence of a priest, who will administer Holy Communion (if possible) and the Sacrament of the Sick. And I also want to hear the prayers for the dying, particularly the wonderful words of the Final Commendation, along with the Apostolic Pardon.

In case you do not know them, the Prayer of Commendation goes like this:

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you,
go forth Christian soul.
May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with Joseph, and all the angels and saints.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2012

Who will be crying at your funeral?

Who Will Be Crying At Your Funeral?

I attended a memorial service last week for a 23-year-old man whose life ended far too soon.
The service was so crowded that if a Fire Marshal had driven by there would have definitely been an issue. When the often-awkward time arrived to open up the microphone to anyone wanting to say something about the deceased – it wasn’t awkward; it was an amazing and inspiring time, which lasted more than 90 minutes. People who knew him well, barely knew him at all, hadn’t seem him in years, and people from different religious, economic and generational backgrounds all shared stories about how he touched their lives. His time on this earth had huge impact – will yours?
This man was a servant. This man was a leader. This man was an example for us all. He understood what mattered; he used his time where it made the biggest difference. He never talked about doing things – he just did them. He was mature beyond his years and lived a life people won’t forget. The world is a better place because he was here. Do you have the courage to make the world better?

What will your funeral look like? If you haven’t lived the life you’d want publicly recounted someday, it’s not too late to change. The future isn’t some ethereal, distant event – it begins in just a fraction of a second.  Only YOU can choose how you’ll live your life.  Leadership isn’t about titles – it’s about the choices you make, the causes you serve, and the people you impact. The best legacy is one that can be lived before it’s left behind. Who’ll be crying at your funeral?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2012

Death at 95 at fashion show

Zelda Kaplan dies at New York Fashion Week after collapsing at front row of Joanna Mastroianni runway show

The Fashion Week crowd was stunned Wednesday when 95-year-old nightlife legend Zelda Kaplan died during a runway show.

Kaplan was seated near gossip queen Cindy Adams and supermodel Carol Alt in the front row of designer Joanna Mastroianni’s show when she appeared to faint, falling forward in her seat and “it looked like her eyelids started to flutter,” one witness said.

Moments earlier, she had caught the eye of photographers with her scarlet print skirt suit, matching hat and black heels.

A former ballroom dance instructor and a champion of women’s rights, the twice-divorced Kaplan refused to be defined by her age, remaining a club kid at heart.

“She did have one crazy, fun life, that lady,” said Amy Sacco, owner of shuttered nightclub Bungalow 8. “She was the most loyal customer ever, and the most fun.”

Decked out in her signature African-print dresses and oversize sunglasses, Kaplan “could outlast the wildest youngsters,” said Sacco. “There were 20-year-olds who couldn't keep up with her.”

 Zelda Kaplan 95

Zelda Kaplan, 95,  at the fashion show moments before her death

I bet that she would have thought this was a good death and great way to go.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2012

The last surviving WWI veteran dies

Last surviving veteran of First World War dies aged 110

Florence Green, the world's last surviving First World War veteran has died, marking the end of an era in British history.

Mrs Green passed away in her sleep at a care home in Norfolk just two weeks before her 111th birthday.

The great-grandmother signed up to the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) 93 years ago in September 1918, when she was aged just 17.

She was the last surviving person to have served in WWI following the death of British-born sailor Claude Choules in Australia last year.

During the First World War she worked at Narborough Airfield and RAF Marham, Norfolk, as an Officer's Mess steward.

 Florence Green 110

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink

December 27, 2011

Oh wow

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

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

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

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

October 30, 2011

Last words of Steve Jobs, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."

Mona Simpson gave the eulogy for her late brother Steve Jobs at his memorial service on October 16.

Sister reveals how Steve Jobs spent the final hours and his last, enigmatic words

In a touching eulogy about her late brother at his memorial service on October 16, Mona Simpson described the Apple founder's last hours and the enigmatic words he uttered before he died.

She told the group of mourners at the Memorial Church of Stanford University that Steve Jobs looked at his wife and children, then beyond them, before uttering: 'OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.'

 Steve Jobs Eulogy

Describing his death in the eulogy reprinted in the New York Times, she said: 'Steve’s final words were monosyllables, repeated three times.

'Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them, before saying his final words.'
She described in the eulogy how she waited her whole life for a man she could love and would love her in return. She thought she would find this man in her father or future husband - in fact, she found it in her brother.

 Mona Simpson

The father-of-four was a man who lived for his family and lived for love, she said, describing him as 'girl-like' when it came to matters of the heart.
In the eulogy, she divided the Apple visionary's life into three chapters and spoke eloquently of the things she learned from him in those three distinct periods - his full life, his illness, his dying.
Even when her brother was sick, 'his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held' and he went through 67 nurses before finding 'kindred spirits' in three he put all of his trust in until the end, according to his sister.

She described the time he was in a standard ICU unit and asked for a notepad, saying just this one time, he would like to be treated a little special.

She said: 'He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and X-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit.

The New York Times has the full text of the eulogy and it's a wonderful one.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 PM | Permalink

October 20, 2011

One flesh, One heart beating for two

The story of the couple who were married for 72 and died holding hands has gone around the world.
But, as usual, The Daily Mail has the best written account.

Extraordinary love story of couple married for 72 years who died holding hands just an hour apart - and how wife's heartbeat kept her dead husband's heart monitor going

After 72 years of marriage they had only an hour's separation between them in their passing, yet their locked hands never let go.

The family of the Iowa couple say their life together was a real-life love story, never separated, even after their tragic car accident which sent them both to the hospital.

'They believed in marriage,' Dennis Yeager, the youngest son of Gordon Yeager, 94, and wife Norma, 90, told MailOnline. 'They chose each other and once they had committed, that was it.'

 Gordon,Norma Yeager

The couple were both born in Iowa before Gordon Yeager moved to a farm a Minnesota with his family. After it was badly hit by the Depression, 16-year-old Gordon returned to work at the Chevrolet Garage in State Center, Iowa - a business which he would eventually go on to own.

It was once back in the town, he fell in love with Norma who was still studying at high school.
After his proposal, Gordon and Norma were married on the very day that she graduated, May 26, 1939.  It was a small wedding held at 8pm that evening in the home of Gordon's sister, the expense of which was covered by the young man's first pay cheque.
After celebrating the rare achievement of a 70th wedding anniversary, surrounded by family, Dennis said his parents loved to spend time watching sports, socialising and walking their little Yorkie dog Radar.

'They were not your typical 90-year-olds,' he added. Dennis said that his father would continuously say, 'I have to stick around. I can't go until she does because I have to stay here for her and she would say the same thing.'

Last Wednesday while making a trip into town, the car Gordon Yeager was driving mistakenly pulled out in front of another.  A police report said the oncoming driver tried to avoid the collision, but it wasn't able to stop in time.  Rushing to the hospital, Dennis said he found his parents sharing a unit in the intensive care unit. Never separated and holding hands they lay, though 'not really responsive,' he said.

That afternoon at 3:38pm, Gordon passed away, with his wife and family beside him. The anomaly began though for the family, when Gordon's heart monitor kept beeping.  'It was really strange. They were holding hands, and dad stopped breathing but I couldn't figure out what was going on because the heart monitor was still going,' Dennis recalled.

'But we were like, he isn't breathing. How does he still have a heart beat?'

Dennis asked a nurse who checked, pointing out the couple's hands which were still locked together.
'Her heart was beating through him and picking it up,' Dennis said the nurse explained.
Exactly one hour later though, at 4:48pm, Norma died too.

'Neither one of them would've wanted to be without each other. I couldn't figure out how it was going to work,' said daughter Donna Sheets on what life would have been like for the other if only one had survived. 'We were very blessed, honestly, that they went this way.'

The couple held hands at their funeral Tuesday, sharing the same casket. Their family says after they are cremated, their ashes will be mixed together.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, We shall not see his like again


The co-founder and, until last August, CEO of Apple Inc was the most celebrated person in technology and business on the planet. No one will take issue with the official Apple statement that “The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”
No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there,” he told the Stanford graduates. “And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new … Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
It seemed Jobs had come to terms with his fate. He would spend time with his family and do what he could at Apple.

 Steve Applepic


Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being.  Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor.  Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

The Anchoress

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
Reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! and yet to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? — Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

Well, we are stardust, finally. And what a force has passed, like a comet, through our era!


New York Times obituary by John Markoff

In his early years at Apple, his meddling in tiny details maddened colleagues, and his criticism could be caustic and even humiliating. But he grew to elicit extraordinary loyalty.

“He was the most passionate leader one could hope for, a motivating force without parallel,” wrote Steven Levy
Great products, he said, were a triumph of taste, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you are doing.”
Mr. Jobs’s genius lay in his ability to simplify complex, highly engineered products, “to strip away the excess layers of business, design and innovation until only the simple, elegant reality remained.”
Mr. Jobs’s own research and intuition, not focus groups, were his guide. When asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”
In a commencement address given at Stanford in 2005, he said he had decided to leave college because it was consuming all of his parents’ savings.  Leaving school, however, also freed his curiosity to follow his interests.
If he had a motto, it may have come from “The Whole Earth Catalog,” which he said had deeply influenced him as a young man. The book, he said in his commencement address at Stanford in 2005, ends with the admonition Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

“I have always wished that for myself,” he said.

Best round-up in The Daily Mail The man who changed the world: Apple founder Steve Jobs, 56, dies weeks after quitting as boss of firm he started in his garage

To see his legacy, look around you

Everywhere you look, you can see people playing games and talking on their iPhones, reading books on their iPads, and browsing the web on their MacBooks. But Jobs didn't want to make devices that were only fit for consuming content, he wanted to help people make it. What we can't see are the countless books, artworks, movies, websites, apps, and songs that were made on Apple products and have enriched the world.

 Thankyou Steve

How he met his wife Laurene

Steve first met Laurene after noticing her in the front row at one of his speeches at Stanford University. He asked her out to dinner that night.

"I was in the parking lot with the key in the car, and I thought to myself, 'If this is my last night on earth, would I rather spend it at a business meeting or with this woman?' I ran across the parking lot, asked her if she'd have dinner with me. She said yes, we walked into town and we've been together ever since."

His family's statement

Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family.

'In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve's illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories.

'We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.'


May he rest in peace and perpetual light shine upon him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:42 PM | Permalink

September 20, 2011

“It is an honor for me to be allowed in these rooms’’

Helping patients in their final moments

 Hospice Worker

As a hospice worker, Joe Ackerman is in the room when patients take their last breath. These moments, he said, are often filled with dignity and grace.

“It is an honor for me to be allowed in these rooms,’’ said Ackerman, 40, an administrator at the Merrimack Valley Hospice House in Haverhill. “You see the best in people at that time, and I leave with a sense of love and spirit that reaffirms life.’’

Patients come to a hospice when a cure is no longer possible for their illness, whether HIV, congestive heart failure, or neurological diseases. For cancer patients, hospice can be a peaceful end to depleting rounds of chemotherapy, and the pain and nausea that follows.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:28 PM | Permalink

“It is an honor for me to be allowed in these rooms’’

 Hospice Worker

Helping patients in their final moments

As a hospice worker, Joe Ackerman is in the room when patients take their last breath. These moments, he said, are often filled with dignity and grace.

“It is an honor for me to be allowed in these rooms,’’ said Ackerman, 40, an administrator at the Merrimack Valley Hospice House in Haverhill. “You see the best in people at that time, and I leave with a sense of love and spirit that reaffirms life.’’

Patients come to a hospice when a cure is no longer possible for their illness, whether HIV, congestive heart failure, or neurological diseases. For cancer patients, hospice can be a peaceful end to depleting rounds of chemotherapy, and the pain and nausea that follows.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

August 7, 2011

"He died between the 'drest crab' and the beouf en daube"

He died between the 'drest crab' and the boeuf en daube

Ten years ago this week, Brian Brindley, one of my closest friends, threw a sumptuous dinner party at the Athenaeum Club to celebrate his 70th birthday. Brian had been one of the most cultivated and flamboyant clergymen in the Church of England: he looked like an enormously fat 18th–century monsignor. By now, however, he was a Roman Catholic layman. A famous epicurean, he had managed to boil down the menu to just seven courses: prosciutto and figs; avgolemono; “drest crab”; boeuf en daube; summer pudding; angels on horseback; and fruit for dessert. The crab was to be accompanied by samphire – an endangered species, he told me proudly. (This was a man who refused to wear fur unless it was “cruel fur”.) The invitations instructed guests to wear “black tie and short coat (smoking or tuxedo)”.

There were 14 of us in the intimate North Library of the club; Brian was worried that a guest might drop out, leaving us an unlucky 13, so he persuaded a friend to sit by the phone, ready to don a dinner jacket if the need arose. As it happened, however, we were destined to be 13 after all. For, between the drest crab and the boeuf en daube, poor Brian died.

I say “poor Brian”, but the truth is that this was a magnificent exit. He had been horribly ill with heart failure for years; he expected and dreaded a lingering death in hospital. As it was, he died surrounded by his closest friends, during a feast of his own devising. His heart simply stopped; his white head lolled forward; he was unconscious before he knew what was happening.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2011

"A peacemaker, he rescued child soldiers and bought slaves in order to set them free"

Born in Italy, ordained a priest in San Diego, Cesare Mazzolati  began his most challenging mission in  Sudan, almost 30 years ago.  In 1990, he was appointed apostolic administrator of the war-torn Diocese of Rumbek where "he zealously set to work, re-opening missions and negotiating humanitarian assistance and the freedom of very young slaves."

He was consecrated bishop in 1999 by Pope John Paul II.  The diocese stated: "He took to heart the mandate given to him on that day by the Holy Father, John Paul II, namely, to relieve 'a people who have suffered too much for too long' from 'the anguish of an unjust war' and 'to help them to restore the dignity of their human rights.'

Following the comprehensive peace agreement of 2005 and after decades of civil war,  South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9 of this year.  Bishop Mazzolati presided over the official opening prayer during the Independence Day celebrations.

Just one week later, the South Sudan Bishop died while celebrating Mass.

"A week later," a communiqué from the diocese announced, "God called home his faithful servant during Eucharist, at the moment of consecration. Surely, it was a privilege from God for Bishop Cesare Mazzolari to die in the presence of Jesus during the Eucharist, in his own cathedral and among his priests, religious and faithful."

The faithful of the diocese expressed "deep and heartfelt appreciation of his dedicated service and lifelong faithful witness to the Gospel among the people of South Sudan."

 Bishop Mazzolari2

A peacemaker, he rescued child soldiers and bought slaves in order to set them free.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

July 15, 2011

How a Bishop dies

Bishop Michael Evans faced death as a gateway to eternal life

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

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

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

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

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

November 26, 2010

"A new ideal for how we die"

I don't know how I missed this when it came out in August. It's a great piece. A must-read.

Atul Gawande explores what medicine should do when it can't save your life in Letting Go

Almost all these patients had known, for some time, that they had a terminal condition. Yet they—along with their families and doctors—were unprepared for the final stage. “We are having more conversation now about what patients want for the end of their life, by far, than they have had in all their lives to this point,” my friend said. “The problem is that’s way too late.” In 2008, the national Coping with Cancer project published a study showing that terminally ill cancer patients who were put on a mechanical ventilator, given electrical defibrillation or chest compressions, or admitted, near death, to intensive care had a substantially worse quality of life in their last week than those who received no such interventions. And, six months after their death, their caregivers were three times as likely to suffer major depression. Spending one’s final days in an I.C.U. because of terminal illness is for most people a kind of failure. You lie on a ventilator, your every organ shutting down, your mind teetering on delirium and permanently beyond realizing that you will never leave this borrowed, fluorescent place. The end comes with no chance for you to have said goodbye or “It’s O.K.” or “I’m sorry” or “I love you.”

People have concerns besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys of patients with terminal illness find that their top priorities include, in addition to avoiding suffering, being with family, having the touch of others, being mentally aware, and not becoming a burden to others. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The hard question we face, then, is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a health-care system that will actually help dying patients achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.

Read Gawande encounters hospice for the first time with one of his two dying patients and what hospice nurse Lee Creed has to say about the difference between hospice care and ordinary medical care for a dying patient.

The difference between standard medical care and hospice is not the difference between treating and doing nothing, she explained. The difference was in your priorities. In ordinary medicine, the goal is to extend life. We’ll sacrifice the quality of your existence now—by performing surgery, providing chemotherapy, putting you in intensive care—for the chance of gaining time later. Hospice deploys nurses, doctors, and social workers to help people with a fatal illness have the fullest possible lives right now. That means focussing on objectives like freedom from pain and discomfort, or maintaining mental awareness for as long as possible, or getting out with family once in a while. Hospice and palliative-care specialists aren’t much concerned about whether that makes people’s lives longer or shorter.
In comparing the deaths of his two patients Gawande writes:
Dave Galloway died one week later—at home, at peace, and surrounded by family. A week after that, Lee Cox died, too. But, as if to show just how resistant to formula human lives are, Cox had never reconciled herself to the incurability of her illnesses. So when her family found her in cardiac arrest one morning they followed her wishes and called 911 instead of the hospice service. The emergency medical technicians and firefighters and police rushed in. They pulled off her clothes and pumped her chest, put a tube in her airway and forced oxygen into her lungs, and tried to see if they could shock her heart back. But such efforts rarely succeed with terminal patients, and they did not succeed with her. Hospice has tried to offer a new ideal for how we die.
People who had substantive discussions with their doctor about their end-of-life preferences were far more likely to die at peace and in control of their situation, and to spare their family anguish.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 PM | Permalink

November 10, 2010

Jill Clayburgh, R.I.P.

Surrounded by her family at home, Jill Clayburgh died at 66 of chronic lymphoctic leukemia said her husband, the playwright David Rabe.

She dealt with the disease courageously, quietly and privately, Rabe said, and conducted herself with enormous grace "and made it into an opportunity for her children to grow and be human."

An appreciation by Janet Maslin in the New York Times.

In the most famous scene in Jill Clayburgh’s most influential movie, her character reacted to the news that her husband wanted to leave her. Ms. Clayburgh’s Erica responded with such naturalness, confusion and wounded pride that she captured the imagination of a generation.
Enlarge This Image

“As Miss Clayburgh plays this scene,” Vincent Canby wrote about “An Unmarried Woman” in 1978, “one has a vision of all the immutable things that can be destroyed in less than a minute, from landscapes and ships and reputations to perfect marriages.” But she proved that a reputation could be made in less than a minute too.

 Clayburgh, Jill

She remained elegant, lovely and so recognizable that she became accustomed to being treated as an avatar. “My God, you’ve defined my entire life for me,” one weeping “Unmarried Woman” fan told her in 2002, and that experience was apparently not unusual for her. When she and Lily, an actress, roomed together in Manhattan in 2005 as both of them prepared for stage appearances, a writer for The New York Times visited the 61-year-old eternal heroine and still saw her unforgettable movie persona.

“Jill Clayburgh appears to be living in an updated Jill Clayburgh vehicle,” Nancy Hass wrote. “Fluttery-yet-determined mom flees comfortable exurban married life to share tiny Manhattan apartment of headstrong, aspiring-actress daughter. Conflict, hilarity and, of course, self-actualization ensue.” For Jill Clayburgh, in both her life and work, that’s just what happened.

Paul Mazursky said

“Jill was a beautiful person and an extraordinary actress. I loved her and miss her. She was deep, funny, surprising, sexy, a great mother and a great wife. … What more can I tell you?”

A classmate at The Brearly School writes an appreciation

Other girls in other schools all over the world have stood out from their classmates and fascinated them as Jill fascinated us. But there was something else, something more enduring about Jill that set her apart: her immense talent. That, combined with her powerful discipline.
While the majority of her classmates were in the chorus, Jill memorized vast swathes of Euripides, Shakespeare, and Gilbert & Sullivan. If most of us forgot our lines, who would have noticed? But Jill, from an early age, carried the plays entirely from memory. Of all her starring roles at school, the most memorable to me was the tragic heroine Hecuba in The Trojan Women of Euripides. This was when she was 11 years old. The character she played was a mother and a grandmother, as well as a queen....It was a performance — a tour de force — that more than half a century later is still vivid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:19 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2010

He died on the altar serving God

Priest dies during morning Mass

ALRICO Those who knew Monsignor John Scully said he wouldn't have wanted his life to end any differently.

Scully died this morning while offering Mass at St. Stephen's Catholic Church.

"It is so fitting for a man who dedicated his whole life to God," said the Rev. Bill Swengros, the church's pastor.

Swengros said Scully, 85, had some type of cardiac event after giving the homily and while preparing to offer communion.

"He has such a big heart and it just gave out," he said. "All he really wanted to do was serve God and his people. It was really so perfect."
"No doubt the diocese lost a legend today … a great priest who served the church from the time he was a young man to the very end," said the Rev. Len Plazewski, the diocese's director of vocations. "The parishes he founded, the schools he started … he was unparalleled in the energy he had for God's people."

Those who knew Scully said he could be stubborn, but that was part of his zeal. They said his death was fitting.

"He was a priest for every day of his life right up until the very end," said Frank Murphy, diocese spokesman. "I think honestly….one of his prayers was that he could die on the altar serving God. And that's just what happened."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 AM | Permalink

September 14, 2010

"An enviable exit from a life well lived"

The sudden death of the father of Prime Minister David Cameron sparked this appreciation from Tim Jeal.

Ian Cameron: A loving end to a life well-lived.

David Cameron would have learnt early from his father something most us don't discover until life has knocked us about a bit: that lots of people, who don't win races or make a huge fuss about their lot, are actually quietly coping with situations requiring immense courage and determination. This quiet coping without fuss and self-pity was the example that Ian Cameron set his son and to which he has paid tribute. "Whingeing was not on the menu," one family member has tersely recalled.

The death of a parent is always sad – and deeply shocking when unexpected – but to have started out in life, as Ian Cameron did, perhaps not expecting to live long, due to his disability, and then having a successful career, a happy family life and living to 77, quite apart from witnessing that extraordinary event in Downing Street and hearing of a new granddaughter born, can only be seen as truly marvellous. To die quickly on a family holiday and not survive and suffer a diminished life is to make an enviable exit from a life well lived.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2010

Gloria Winters, "Penny" in "Sky King" RIP

From Jeffrey Jena at Big Hollywood comes the news that Gloria Winters, best known as Penny in Sky King, has died of pneumonia.   

Pining for Sky King's Penny

 Gloria-Winters Sky-King

You may remember her better as Sky King’s niece, Penny. A perky all-American blond who was immortalized in song by Jimmy Buffet in his homage to all things fifties, “Pencil Thin Moustache” She was the girl next door for millions of American boys. It looked like Penny had the perfect life for someone growing up in small town Kentucky; no parents, not a lot of school and a cool uncle with an airplane who lets her get involved in his adventures.

Ms. Winters died last week at her home in Southern California. She will always be remembered as the wholesome Penny because Ms. Winters had the good sense to quit acting before she became a failure as an adult actress or fell into alcoholism or drug addiction. From accounts I have read she did exactly what her character Penny would have, got out while the getting was good and lived a normal life.

When I was about 5 or 6 and television was brand new, I would watch every single episode of Sky King.  I wanted to be like Penny and have an exciting and adventurous life.  How lovely that she was smart enough to have a normal life.

New York Times obituary

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

August 30, 2010

"I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends"

A palliative care nurse sums up the Regrets of the Dying in a surprisingly poignant piece. Read it all.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Read it all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

May 26, 2010

"Awake at his own wake"

Thou most kind and gentle death

Those familiar with the writings of St. Francis of Assisi will recognize the line from the hymn "All Creatures of our God and King" based on his writings. He portrays death as "kind and gentle," certainly a minority view in our culture and even in our faith. It bespeaks a familiarity with death that seems to have been more prevalent in previous generations than it is today.

Death got personal for me 2 weeks ago when my mother-in-law died unexpectedly. Mother-in-law jokes aside, she and I got along very well.  She had sold her home of 40 years in Phoenix and built a house on our land in Michigan, living in our home with us for 5 months while we watched her house go up. She moved into her new house in March 2009, and got to enjoy it for one year. Mom was a part of our daily lives. My children would go over to "Nanna's house" regularly, whether to learn to sew, to help out, or just to hang out with her. She’d come over for dinner once in a while and certainly was always with us for special occasions. During Easter Week, she fell ill and died.

At her wake in Phoenix, I was speaking with a friend who shared that her own dear father had passed away the previous month. He had been terminally ill and had a sense that his death was not too far off, and he had always wanted to "be awake at his own wake." So he threw a St. Patrick's Day party. He invited family and friends to join him in this day of revelry.  Friends he hadn’t seen in over 20 years came, knowing that this would probably be the last time they saw him. He rejected his medications and his dialysis that day, and ate and drank whatever he wanted. He visited with everyone and had "the best day of his life." The next morning, as his beloved wife of 40-plus years went to Mass, he passed away with two of his daughters holding his hands.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2010

Beloved and Venerable Bede

The last days of St Bede the Venerable, whose feast day is today

How much he was beloved by them is made manifest by the touching account of the saint's last sickness and death left us by Cuthbert, one of his disciples.

Their studious pursuits were not given up on account of his illness and they read aloud by his bedside, but constantly the reading was interrupted by their tears.

"I can with truth declare", writes Cuthbert of his beloved master, "that I never saw with my eyes or heard with my ears anyone return thanks so unceasingly to the living God." Even on the day of his death (the vigil of the Ascension, 735) the saint was still busy dictating a translation of the Gospel of St. John.

In the evening the boy Wilbert, who was writing it, said to him: "There is still one sentence, dear master, which is not written down." And when this had been supplied, and the boy had told him it was finished,

"Thou hast spoken truth", Bede answered, "it is finished. Take my head in thy hands for it much delights me to sit opposite any holy place where I used to pray, that so sitting I may call upon my Father."

And thus upon the floor of his cell singing, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost" and the rest, he peacefully breathed his last breath.

 St Bede

Called "The Father of English History:, he wrote the first history of the Church in England in 731. 
In numberless ways, but especially in his moderation, gentleness, and breadth of view, Bede stands out from his contemporaries. In point of scholarship he was undoubtedly the most learned man of his time. A very remarkable trait, noticed by Plummer (I, p. xxiii), is his sense of literary property, an extraordinary thing in that age. He himself scrupulously noted in his writings the passages he had borrowed from others and he even begs the copyists of his works to preserve the references,

Pope Benedict's remarks on St. Bede last year
Following the "realism" of the catecheses of Cyril, Ambrose and Augustine, Bede teaches that the sacraments of Christian initiation make every faithful person "not only a Christian but Christ." In fact, every time that a faithful soul receives and guards the Word of God with love, in imitation of Mary, he conceives and generates Christ again. And every time that a group of neophytes receives the Easter sacraments, the Church is "self-generated," or to use a still more daring expression, the Church becomes "Mother of God," participating in the generation of her children, by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks to this way of making theology, interlacing the Bible, the liturgy and history, Bede has a timely message for the different "states of life":

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 PM | 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

February 26, 2010

"Society no longer knows how to deal with death"

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Nichols calls for culture that encourages spiritual preparation for death

Speaking in his homily at a Mass for the Sick at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflected on death and suffering in health care. He advocated a culture of “true compassion and healing” that does not fear death but prepares for it with prayer, the sacraments, and “daily abandonment to God.”

“A culture of true compassion and healing fosters a deep respect and attentive care of the whole person, it promotes genuine care characterized by a sense of humility, a profound respect for others, and a refusal to see them as no more than a medical or behavioral problem to be tackled and resolved. To care in this way is a gift of oneself to another. And, as with all true giving, the giver also receives.”

Rejoicing in Christian faith, the archbishop said, makes clear the “very fundamental truth” that each person has a God-given dignity and “a quality of life in relationship to God that can never be reduced to its external human behaviors.

“From the outside a life might seem restricted, reduced or burdensome,” the archbishop noted. “But from within, where the love and comfort of God is experienced, that same life might well be rich in both experience and promise.”
We do not know how to deal with death. But fear cannot be our guide,” Archbishop Nichols stated.

He cited the Bishops of England and Wales’ recent document which said that respecting life and accepting death must be priorities in end-of-life care.

“We should never try to bring about death,” they wrote, but accepting death means that we should prepare properly and not “flee from the inevitable.”

“A religious person will see both life and death as coming from God,” the bishops added, describing each human being as “more than a bundle of genes and actions.”

The bishops said a “reductionist” mode of operating health care is a “hidden violence” in the system, stressing that death cannot be reduced to a “clinical event.”

Archbishop Nichols added, the “spiritual being of every person” must be central to health care, especially at the time of death.

“This moment is central to our pilgrim journey. We practice for it, day by day, rehearsing our final act of trust with smaller daily acts of abandonment to God, in prayer, in kindness towards others, and in our sacramental life.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:05 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2010

"'If I die tomorrow, I'll know I'll die happy, because my degree's in the works"

That's what New Hampshire resident Harriet Richardson Ames said from the hospice where she was being cared for when told that Keene State was researching her coursework to see whether it could award her the diploma Mrs Ames so    desired.

Her daughter said,  "She had what I call a 'bucket list,' and that was the last thing on it."

  She got her college degree one day before dying, three weeks after turning 100.

 Harriet Richardson Ames

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:13 PM | Permalink

January 2, 2010

When all hope is lost, pray

A woman who was completely prepared to die, finds the unexpected in Guide to a good life.

Every summer but for three since 1953, Lella has returned to the three-storey towering white clapboard house by a brook in Judique, a rural community hugging the western coast of the island. She was born in the house with windows of wavy glass, walls of Douglas fir and a wood stove burning in June out of necessity. For three months of the year, they would open the kitchen door and serve their friends tea in the afternoon and something stronger in the evening and host ice cream picnics.

Michael, along with daughter Melissa, made the 13-hour drive for his parents. Lella's husband, Bob Dubuque, a retired Walpole police officer, had a serious stroke 10 years ago.

They arrived in July. Lella's brother had opened the house. A cousin had scattered vases of wildflowers, Lella's favourite, about the rooms. Her twin brothers flew in from Windsor, Ont. Her son, Mark, came from Kentucky.

Over the course of a week, more than 100 people came to see her in what has been described as a living wake. They exchanged old stories and brought her rosary beads, prayer cards, holy oil, even blessed salt. Lella assured anyone who asked about her illness that she was "looking forward to the journey" and to being with her relatives in Heaven.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:17 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2009

He died mid-mediation

 Pandito Hambolama

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

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

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2009

Stepping into eternity

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

‘I am stepping out of time into eternity'

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

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2009

Stone altar falls on man

Man killed in church after stone altar falls on him.

Gunther Link, a devout Catholic, prayed to be saved after he was trapped in a lift – but was killed when he went to church to give thanks and the stone altar fell on him.

Link, 45, died instantly as he was crushed under the ancient 860lb monument in the Weinhaus Church in Vienna, Austria.

Roman Hahslinger, a police spokesman, said: "He was a very religious man and had been scared when he was trapped in the lift and had prayed for release.

"A short while later he was pulled out of the elevator and he went straight to the church to thank God.

"He seems to have embraced a stone pillar on which the stone altar was perched and it fell on him, killing him instantly.

It makes you think when your time has come, it's come, although I am glad he died instantly and in a good place, far better than an elevator .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink

July 31, 2009

A good death

The monk who died with a smile on his face

 Joseph Vatopedi Smiling Monk

This photo of Elder Joseph of Vatopedi, a monk of Mt Athos, was taken at his funeral.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:08 PM | Permalink

July 9, 2009

Dying with reverence and friends a gentle death

With Faith and Friends, Convent Offers Model for End of Life

For the elderly and infirm Roman Catholic sisters here, all of this takes place in a Mother House designed like a secular retirement community for a congregation that is literally dying off, like so many religious orders. On average, one sister dies each month, right here, not in the hospital, because few choose aggressive medical intervention at the end of life, although they are welcome to it if they want.

“We approach our living and our dying in the same way, with discernment,” said Sister Mary Lou Mitchell, the congregation president. “Maybe this is one of the messages we can send to society, by modeling it.”

Primary care for most of the ailing sisters is provided by Dr. Robert C. McCann, a geriatrician at the University of Rochester, who says that through a combination of philosophy and happenstance, “they have better deaths than any I’ve ever seen.”
“There is a time to die and a way to do that with reverence,” said Sister Mary Lou, 56, a former nurse. “Hospitals should not be meccas for dying. Dying belongs at home, in the community. We built this place with that in mind.”

Dr. McCann said that the sisters’ religious faith insulated them from existential suffering — the “Why me?” refrain commonly heard among those without a belief in an afterlife. Absent that anxiety and fear, Dr. McCann said, there is less pain, less depression, and thus the sisters require only one-third the amount of narcotics he uses to manage end-of-life symptoms among hospitalized patients.
Some days, Dr. McCann said, he arrives with his “head spinning,” from hospitals and intensive-care units where death can be tortured, impersonal and wastefully expensive, only to find himself in a “different world where it’s really possible to focus on what’s important for people” and, he adds, “what’s exportable, what we can learn from an ideal environment like this.”

Several priests have moved into this Mother House like Father Shannon.

He shares with them the security of knowing he will not die among strangers who have nothing in common but age and infirmity.

“This is what our culture, our society, is starved for, to be rich in relationships,” Sister Mary Lou said. “This is what everyone should have.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 AM | Permalink

May 19, 2009

Msgr William Kerr died while preaching a sermon

Matthew of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping delivers the sad news that Msgr William Kerr who baptized him in 1983, was felled by a massive stroke while in the pulpit last week at the co-cathedral of St. Thomas More. 

There is a fascinating connection to Ted Bundy, the story of which you click the link to read.  I want to focus on his last remarkable and unfinished homily.

Today, I want to share with you an anniversary that is important to me. I speak of the anniversary of my ordination as a deacon and of my first assignment. On my way to receiving that first assignment, I stopped by the chapel to go over my resume with God. This was in St. Louis and ten parishes and a hospital were to be assigned to deacons. I told God, "I would do well in a parish. You know I'm not good with hospitals."

After that, I stepped over to the bishop's office. I met with the bishop and received my assignment – it was the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was immediately directed to the burn unit. This particular hospital was famous for its burn unit and very gravely injured burn patients were brought here. I learned that the chaplain was out for the day and I was faced with this daunting task without any instructions. It was the doctor and me. He advised me to look in the patients' eyes and not at their disfiguring injuries.

My first patient was a young man who had been burned by an explosion. He was in critical condition. This young man, who came to have a tremendous influence on my life, worked in a factory. He had been tasked with picking up rags and spent containers. He disposed of them in an incinerator. This was a chemical factory and unfortunately the containers held chemicals that exploded, seriously burning him in the process.

His name was Michael, Michael Anderson, and he said, "'Father,'" (he called me 'Father,') I always wanted to be a priest, and now I won't get to – so I am offering my suffering to strengthen you in your ministry.

Amazed and almost at a loss for words, I said to him, "Now, Michael, we will get through this, together." But Michael, who probably had a better sense of his situation than I did, responded by insisting he would offer his suffering for me and my ministry.

Next to Michael was another patient who was well known in the area. He heard Michael's conversation with me and told him to put in a good word for him in heaven.

The doctor told me it was important for the patients to scream, to help them relieve their agonizing pain. But Michael never screamed. He held his suffering to himself until he died.

During the next few hours, I got to know Michael. The singular circumstances of our meeting led to friendship, and a special bond between us. And, over the course of my life, I have repeatedly felt that bond and that friendship. Many times I have asked Michael to pray for me to strengthen me in my ministry.

I often think about the priceless blessings I received from being assigned to that hospital and from meeting Michael. God knows us and he knows where we belong, even if we do not know ourselves. We must pray… we must pray…Michael…

R.I.P. Requiescat in pace

A.P. Obit

Whether he was visiting refugees in Rwanda or Bosnia or sharing Thanksgiving dinner each year with his longtime friend Roger Staubach , the former Dallas Cowboys and Navy star quarterback, Kerr touched lives, his friends say.

"He was as good a person as you would ever want to meet," Staubach told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. "He was always dedicated to others."

Post-Gazette Obit

Monsignor William Kerr, a former president of La Roche College whose pursuit of peace touched presidents and prisoners, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke May 3 during Mass in a Florida cathedral. He was 68.
When serial killer Ted Bundy murdered two women and severely injured two others in a sorority house in 1978, Monsignor Kerr was called to give last rites. Mr. Bundy sought counseling from Monsignor Kerr, who last visited him two days before his 1989 execution.

By then, Monsignor Kerr had spent five years as vice president for university relations at Catholic University. In 1992 he became president of La Roche.

"Under his leadership, La Roche College was transformed from a regional coeducational, liberal arts college into a global community of learners with a burgeoning international presence," said Sister Candace Introcaso, the current president.
"For a man who gave his life to the church delivering the word, that's a pretty sweet way to go," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 PM | Permalink

April 13, 2009

"That's the way to go"

Via the Deacon's Bench, comes this story in the Washington Post about a Maryland priest who died on Holy Thursday.

Md. Priest's Death Adds Meaning to Holy Week

Dying on Holy Thursday -- the day marking the creation of the priesthood -- on the floor of his parish's sanctuary, under the eyes of a statue of the patron saint of happy deaths, the Rev. G. William Finch left his Rockville congregation with powerful Easter symbolism.

Even as St. Raphael Catholic Church, one of the region's few Roman Catholic megachurches, mourned its pastor, members said yesterday that the imagery was striking. Not only did Finch die just after he finished saying Mass, surrounded by parishioners praying the rosary and priests anointing him, next to the statue of Saint Joseph, but it happened just before Easter, a time when Christians focus intensely on mortality.

That left Finch's community grief-stricken and inspired by the memory of a jolly 55-year-old who loved red wine, Italian food and dancing fervently.

"As tragic as it was, it was kind of perfect," John Reutemann, a seminarian who grew up at St. Raphael's, said yesterday afternoon in the sanctuary, which was quiet except for the organist practicing for last night's Easter Vigil and for today's services. "He celebrated the priesthood, had a great bottle of wine [the night before, for his birthday], celebrated Mass, Saint Joseph looking down at him. That's the way to go!"


Finch had just finished leading Mass, and most parishioners were gone when he felt chest pains, the onset of a heart attack. He asked a priest to anoint him, something done for the sick or those near death. He was taken to a hospital but could not be revived.

"It was kind of a beautiful death," Dwyer said, choking back tears. "Sometimes in a priest's life, you're alone. Maybe he could have gone back to his room, but he was right there."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

February 13, 2009

Being in a mystery

Amy Wellborn on the death of her husband Michael Dubriel.

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

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

At last.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

November 16, 2008

Death by Stomping Wine

Two French wine-makers suffocated by carbon dioxide fumes from grapes they were treading

Two amateur French wine makers have died after they were suffocated by the fumes from the grapes they were treading with their bare feet.

The victims had volunteered to help a friend make wine at his vineyard in the northern Ardeche region and had climbed into the six-foot wide vat to begin the traditional process of extracting the juice from the grapes.

But police believe Daniel Moulin, 48, and 50-year-old Gerard Dachis were overcome by carbon dioxide fumes that are given off during fermentation and collapsed.

I can't decide what category this fits in, so it goes in both - No Way to Go and  Good Death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:42 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2008

Bowler Dies Moments After First 300 Game

Bowler Dies Moments After First 300 Game

Don Doane belonged to the same team at a Ravenna bowling alley for 45 years.

Just moments after rolling the first perfect 300 game of his life, Doane collapsed onto the floor while high-fiving his Nutt Farm teammates.

The 62-year-old Ravenna resident was taken to a local hospital but couldn't be saved. A medical examiner determined that a heart attack killed Doane.

UPDATE from his teammates

The teammates say he was giving a high-five minutes before. They tried to revive him but Doane never spoke another word. He died of what was apparently a massive heart attack "He looked fine, reached across the table and gave me a high-five and he fell over," says Place. 

"I think he died by the time he hit the floor." Don Doane was a member of the "Nutt Farm" bowling team at Ravenna Bowl for 45 years. His teammates says its strange not to see him on league nights.

"It was like a book, a final chapter," says Place. "He threw his 300 game with all of his friends, gave each other high-fives and it's like the story ended. He died with a smile on his face."  "Don will be a legend," says Nutt. 'It's something that will never be forgotten as long as people bowl here." Ravenna Bowl is planning a memorial ceremony for Doan's' wife Linda and son Chad.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

September 12, 2008

Father Died Saving Son

In the Washington Post, Jonathan Mummolo writes that the Father Who Died Saving Son Known for Sacrifice

If you ever ran into Nokesville dad Thomas S. Vander Woude, chances are you would also see his son Joseph. Whether Vander Woude was volunteering at church, coaching basketball or working on his farm, Joseph was often right there with him, pitching in with a smile, friends and neighbors said yesterday.

When Joseph, 20, who has Down syndrome, fell into a septic tank Monday in his back yard, Vander Woude jumped in after him. He saved him. And he died where he spent so much time living: at his son's side.

"That's how he lived," Vander Woude's daughter-in-law and neighbor, Maryan Vander Woude, said yesterday. "He lived sacrificing his life, everything, for his family."

Vander Woude, 66, had gone to Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville on Monday, just as he did every day, and then worked in the yard with Joseph, the youngest of his seven sons, affectionately known as Josie. Joseph apparently fell through a piece of metal that covered a 2-by-2-foot opening in the septic tank, according to Prince William County police and family members.

Vander Woude rushed to the tank; a workman at the house saw what was happening and told Vander Woude's wife, Mary Ellen, police said. They called 911 about 12 p.m. and tried to help the father and son in the meantime.

At some point, Vander Woude jumped in the tank, submerging himself in sewage so he could push his son up from below and keep his head above the muck, while Joseph's mom and the workman pulled from above.

For those who knew him, Vander Woude's sacrifice was in keeping with a lifetime of giving.

"He's the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back," said neighbor Lee DeBrish. "And if he didn't have one, he'd buy one for you."

Vander Woude was a pilot in Vietnam, a daughter-in-law said. After the war, he worked as a commercial airline pilot and in the early 1980s moved his family to Prince William from Georgia. In the years to come, he would wear many hats: farmer, athletic director, volunteer coach, parishioner, handy neighbor, grandfather of 24, husband for 43 years.

What a remarkable man.  May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2008

Singing a happy song, the world's oldest blogger dies

Olive Riley began blogging at 108 to share stories from her life in the Australian outback, during two world wars and raising children on her own.   

She delighted in her notoriety because she said it kept her mind fresh.  She died singing a happy song as she did every day.

Ronni Bennet muses on the longevity of elderbloggers and leaves good advice for leaving a final blog post at the ready.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

September 15, 2007

Alex the Parrot

 Alex The Parrot

When Dr. Pepperberg put Alex parrot in his cage last Thursday night, he looked at her and said,"You be good, see you tomorrow.  I love you."

Next day he was found dead in his cage.

Brainy Parrot Dies, Emotive to the End.

In 1977, when Dr. Pepperberg, then a doctoral student in chemistry at Harvard, bought Alex from a pet store, scientists had little expectation that any bird could learn to communicate with humans, as opposed to just mimicking words and sounds. Research in other birds had been not promising.

But by using novel methods of teaching, Dr. Pepperberg prompted Alex to learn scores of words, which he could put into categories, and to count small numbers of items, as well as recognize colors and shapes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

April 18, 2007

Liviu Librescu, Professor and Hero

He lived through horror of the holocaust.  He refused to swear allegiance to and then escaped from Communist Romania.  When horror came to Virginia Tech, he saw it for the evil it was and sacrificed his life to save his  students.

Liviu Librescu, 76, a professor of aerospace and ocean engineering, died holding the door against horror.  He saved a classroom of students, giving them time to jump out the window, while he held the door shut with his body until the gunman, Seung-hui Cho, forced it open and shot him dead.

My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Librescu's son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday
in a telephone interview from his home outside Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping.

Librescu emigrated to Israel, then to the United States where he and his wife enjoyed two decades of peace and prosperity.

The story of his heroic act shot around the world.  But he is mourned by those who knew him and those who loved him, from the academic community in Romania where he was recognized with honorary degrees for his academic work, to his friends in Israel, and to his wife and son who, in their grief, must be immensely proud.

Our deep condolences and our salute to a brave hero.

Update.  Joe Katzman writes

In the Jewish community, the response to hearing of a loved one's death is "may his memory be a blessing." Prof. Librescu's clearly is, demonstrating what real matryrdom is about - dying not to kill others, but to save them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:20 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 21, 2007

They do not leave us

For those with faith Our dead are not absent and Love never ends.

The great and sad mistake of many people -- among them even pious persons -- is to imagine that those whom death has taken, leave us. They do not leave us. They remain! Where are they? In darkness? Oh no! It is we who are in darkness. We do not see them, but they see us. Their eyes, radiant with glory, are fixed upon our eyes . . . Oh infinite consolation! Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent. They are living near us, transfigured into light, into power, into love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

March 7, 2007

Winemaker Ernest Gallo Died, age 97

Just two months after his father shot his mother to death and then killed himself, Ernest Gallo got a wine recipe from the public library and took  $5900 to begin making and selling wine for 50 cents a gallon.

Little did he know that the E&J Gallo Winery would become an empire selling 75 million cases of wine and changing the way ordinary Americans drank wine.    Nor did he imagine that drinking his own wine help him live until age 97, or that he would become immensely wealthy and die peacefully surrounded by his family.

"My father died knowing that he had lived life to its fullest," his son said in a statement.

Ernest Gallo, the marketing genius who parlayed $5,900 and a wine recipe from the Modesto Public Library into the world's largest winemaking empire, died Tuesday at his home in Modesto. He was 97.

"He passed away peacefully this afternoon surrounded by his family," said Susan Hensley, vice president of public relations for E.& J. Gallo Winery.

LA Times
"No one worked harder to build the base of American wine drinkers that we have today," Joseph Ciatti, owner of the nation's largest grape and bulk wine broker, said Tuesday. "Ernest made quality wine for the masses at a good price."
When the Gallo brothers started the business, the joke was that Ernest's goal was to sell more wine than Julio could make, and Julio's was to make more wine than Ernest could sell.

Washington Post
If some Americans were uncertain about placing a bottle of wine on their table or of opening one at their parties, Mr. Gallo allayed their fears and stimulated their desires with his advertising, using billboards and later television. From 1948 to 1955, Gallo sales grew almost fourfold.

The brothers' winery, which began with a staff of three -- Mr. Gallo, his wife, Amelia, and his brother -- grew to have more than 4,600 employees and a presence in more than 90 countries

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:39 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 10, 2007

Returning to Earth

From a review by Will Blythe entitled Food for the Soul. of Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison.

Note how he records his family's history before he goes, so the memory is not lost.

In Donald’s opening monologue, a rambling family history for the benefit of his children, recorded by Cynthia, his wife and teenage sweetheart, Donald announces, “It seems I’m to leave the earth early but these things happen to people.” His mind remains clear while his body becomes “desiccated road kill,” as K puts it. Barely able to swallow, he must sniff rather than taste a final meal of barbecued pork ribs. However, Donald doesn’t rage against the dying of the light, nor indulge in the deathbed histrionics of Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilyich. Dying seems to strike him as no more an aberration than birds returning to their roost at dusk. His mortality evokes the sense of a man going home at twilight, of — echoing the book’s lovely title — returning to earth. A luminous, sad calm pervades this novel.
Donald’s dignified death is of a piece with his life (my father, a doctor, once said that in his experience people died as they lived, in character right to the end).
This regal suicide marks only the halfway point of “Returning to Earth.” The novel’s subject now becomes an absence; Donald’s survivors must learn to negotiate the hole left in them by his departure. ... In treating the raggedy contours of grief, Harrison shows no patience with that banality known as “closure.”
“There’s much talk about ‘healing’ these days before the blood is dry on the pavement,” Donald’s brother-in-law, David, complains.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:34 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 25, 2006

Developer of LexisNexis Died in front of his Computer.

The "inventor" and developer of Lexis Nexis, the vast electronic database  used by law firms, the news industry and libraries, died November 12. 

H. Donald Wilson, 82, died of a heart attack in front of his computer at his home.

From the Washington Post.

"He was essentially a practical visionary," said Paul G. Zurkowski, president of the Information Industry Association from 1969 to 1989. "At the time, the technologies were just emerging and people were focusing on the technology, but Don focused on their application to publishing."

Mr. Wilson started by developing a business plan for an engineer's invention of how to better search text for certain words or phrases. That plan became a company that started LexisNexis, now the world's largest online electronic library of legal opinions, public records, news and business information.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:17 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 22, 2006

The Arc of a Life

Born during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, died in Iraq, the remarkable arc of the life of Tung Nguyen says much about sacrifice and what it means to be an American writes Seth Gitell in the New York Sun.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 23, 2006

He put Australian wine on the map

If you've ever drunk Australian wine and enjoyed it, you have Len Evans to thank. 

When asked what his greatest achievement was, Evans replied, "To make people want to drink wine for the sheer fun of it. To show the enjoyment in wine. You know, wine's a bloody drink. It's just a lovely drink."

Steve Waterson pens a wonderful tribute to his father-in-law, Len Evans in A Man in Full

One summer evening 15 years ago Len Evans grabbed a good bottle of burgundy and led me out to his veranda for the would-be son-in-law conversation. As the sun fell behind the Hunter Valley's Brokenback range, we got to the part where he gauged my prospects. I was struggling with some banal career decision: one path boring but financially secure, the other much more interesting but relatively poorly paid. Seeking approval, I ventured that the sensible thing might be to go dull and safe. Len thought for a moment, turned to me and asked: "How many lives are you planning to have?"
Most of the time, the expression "living life to the full" is a platitude. Len turned it into a masterclass, and we were his students. His professional face was that of the wine man, and according to those equipped to judge, he had few rivals in the world for depth of knowledge. Fewer still could match his palate; none could equal his contribution to Australia's wine industry. But to celebrate that expertise alone is to limit him. To my eye, his greatest love was people. His adored wife Trish, his children and grandchildren came first, without question, but I know of no one who took more energetic pleasure in friends and strangers, entertaining them with wine, song, fine food and, above all, laughter.

Via Tim Blair, Len Remembered.

The obituary for the man who put Australian wine on the map

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:50 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

August 21, 2006

The Last Days of Aaron Spelling

Dominick Dunne, one of the few people who knew him when he was poor  writes about the last days of Aaron Spelling in the current Vanity Fair.   

He had become a deeply unhappy man, living sick and isolated in the biggest house in town, cut off from nearly everyone, estranged even from his daughter, and fearful that he was being betrayed.  "There wasn't anybody sitting in there with him," one of his friends informed me.  "Just a maid with a vacuum cleaner, cleaning the room."

How sad is that.  Money can buy a lot of things, but not a good death.

Here is the N.Y. Times obituary.

Vanity Fair has not put Dunne's article online but there is a very good photo essay, Rare Scenes from 9/11.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 11, 2006

A Fitting Death

Sometimes the way someone dies just fits. There's no disrespect to say David Bright died a good death, doing what he loved most.

Researcher Dies After Andrea Doria Dive

David Bright, a leading researcher into underwater exploration and shipwrecks, has died after diving to the site of the Andrea Doria off Nantucket, where he was working in preparation for the wreck's 50th anniversary. He was 49.

Bright, of Flemington, N.J., resurfaced from a dive late Saturday with decompression sickness and went into cardiac arrest, according to the Coast Guard. He was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital a short time later.

Bright was a historian and an experienced technical diver who had explored the Titanic, Andrea Doria and other shipwrecks many times - 120 times for the Andrea Doria

"His passion has been growing for a little over 30 years, all kinds of shipwrecks and getting to know them," Elaine Bright, his wife of 23 years, said Monday.

"It's very traumatizing to his entire family but we know that he's happy. It's a very sad thing, but water, scuba diving was what he wanted to do," she said.

R.I.P. and condolences to his family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 PM | Permalink

July 10, 2006

Rodolfo dies hoisting Italy's flag

A seventy-seven year old Italian man, clasping the tricolore, died instantly as he fell from a ladder as he tried to attach Italy's flag to a pole.

Man dies hoisting flag for World Cup final

He could have been only happier if he tried to hoist it after Italy's victory. A great way to go.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 PM | Permalink | TrackBack