February 9, 2015

Seneca on the Shortness of Life

Life without any chance of death is hardly worth living
Health breakthroughs seem like great news, but we all need mortality as motivation

From this week's Brainpickings'  15 worthy resolutions for 2015 from some of history's greatest minds comes these quotes from Seneca's On the Shortness of Life. Seneca writes:

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it... Life is long if you know how to use it.

To those who so squander their time, he offers an unambiguous admonition:

You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire... How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

The cure he prescribes is rather simple, yet far from easy to enact:

Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2015

Seneca on the Shortness of Life

Life without any chance of death is hardly worth living
Health breakthroughs seem like great news, but we all need mortality as motivation

From this week's Brainpickings'  15 worthy resolutions for 2015 from some of history's greatest minds comes these quotes from Seneca's On the Shortness of Life. Seneca writes:

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it... Life is long if you know how to use it.

To those who so squander their time, he offers an unambiguous admonition:

You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire... How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

The cure he prescribes is rather simple, yet far from easy to enact:

Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 PM | Permalink

July 8, 2013

Death by urinating on a third rail

Man dies from electrocution while urinating on subway's third rail

A Brooklyn man was electrocuted to death after urinating on the third rail early Monday morning.

Matthew Zeno, 30, had earlier been to a few bars with a friend before making the fateful decision that ended his life just after 3am Monday morning.

What is clear is that Zeno relieving himself on the subway’s third rail killed him by electrocution, authorities said. His friend was also electrocuted trying to save him and is listed in stable condition at a local hospital.
Zeno was a fitness fanatic who competed in Rugged Maniac races.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:25 PM | Permalink

May 26, 2013

Letters to my sons

Words to live by  A dying GI writes letters to his sons.  An example of the great gift  parents can leave to their  children of any age.  You can imagine how these letters will be treasured for decades to come.

Lt. Col. Mark Weber prepared his family for the worst countless times during his 23-year Army career — but now faces a battle he knows he can’t win.

In December 2010, doctors diagnosed Weber, who had survived 19 years in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, with Stage 4 intestinal cancer.

Told he had only two months to live, the decorated soldier set out to write a farewell letter to his three sons, Matthew, now 17, and twins Joshua and Nick, 12.

“Along the way, I hope you’ll consult these pages as often and as casually as you would if I were still here and you could pick up the phone,” he writes. “These pages reflect observations and perspective rather than advice or instruction.”
* “We’re taught early in life that being afraid is something to be ashamed of. This is wrongheaded. Fear is healthy. Fear keeps us alive. When I went through the Army’s airborne and air assault schools and learned to jump out of planes and slide down ropes hanging from helicopters, I did not want to be sitting next to any trooper who wasn’t just a little afraid about what he or she was going to do.”

* “Strength is about getting something done, even when you have iron-clad excuses or reasons for not doing it. Your mom has a hard time seeing how she exemplifies this, but she has shown it to us every day.”

* “Everyone has things they don’t want to do—there’s no crime in that. But there’s a big difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t want to’ when it comes to facing the path of comfort or the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge . . . I am proposing that ‘can do’ is often just one or two short steps beyond ‘can’t do,’ and the territory in between is fertile ground for personal growth and professional achievement.”

* “The value of noticing and caring about what is right in front of your face—simple, common social graces. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you,’ for starters, but also giving credit to others when and where credit is due, taking a personal interest in those you serve or who serve you, and ‘unplugging’ from gadgets and the churn around you in order to give a person your full attention. These are simple to talk about but harder to do, and they not only lead to success but encourage others to help you succeed or manage your failures.”

* “There is a time and a place for crying and laughing. And figuring out how to cry and laugh at hardship or death is as kill worth honing into a fine art when you’re young.”

* “Pain and suffering—self inflicted or otherwise—is not merely a rude interruption of your journey, but one of the very purposes of the journey.”

* “If I’m truly and finally proud of anything in my life, it is that I lived it in constant striving, continuous searching, and willing struggle, while conducting as honest an exploration of this world as I knew how to do.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 PM | Permalink

January 1, 2013

Life lessons learned from the newly departed

Lessons for the Living From the Departed

I asked a handful of my favorite writers to pick a life lost this year that inspired them in a similar way.

RAY BRADBURY, B. 1920  The Untortured Artist
" “You remain invested in your inner child by exploding every day. You don’t worry about the future, you don’t worry about the past — you just explode.”
SUSAN JEFFERS, B. 1938  The Apprehensive Optimist

“We live in a society that teaches us to grasp for control, total control, of everything,” she writes in “Embracing Uncertainty.” But perhaps the grasping only makes things worse.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | 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

January 10, 2012

Main Street was the place to be

Respect for a fallen soldier

Army Private First Class Justin Whitmire, age 20, was laid to rest today. He was killed after only 11 days in Afghanistan, just 2 days after Christmas, as he and other medics were heading out on a volunteer mission. Their jeep ran over an IED. Before he deployed, he told his youth pastor that he wanted to be a soldier because soldiers help and serve.

The Westboro folks promised to come and disrupt the funeral. Within minutes, news sites and Facebook spread the dreaded news. I should thank them. Not for their hate but for the mobilization they caused.

Hundreds of the Patriot Guard rode shotgun. In addition,  the folks in the Upstate of South Carolina volunteered to line the way to the cemetery. This was not a counter protest. It was an honor guard. The crowd was amazing — and American. Dads with sons, senior citizens, families, single adults, moms with babies in strollers, Scout troops, young couples, and veterans.  The wardrobe was either red, white, and blue or black. Flags flew everywhere. Signs thanking Pfc Whitmire for his service and ultimate sacrifice were frequent.

The cars in the procession all had people wiping their eyes. The soldiers looked stunned. As the cars went by, I wondered if they knew we were there — well, until I saw the first 25 phones filming the crowds. We nodded our support to them. They smiled their appreciation to us. Did the soldiers who were driving in the procession know we were standing there for them too?

The nation lost one of its finest. I weep for his parents. I am humbled by the response complete strangers showed to his passing. Today Main Street was the place to be.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 AM | Permalink

September 16, 2011

What a letter can mean

He Had a Great Career

The sun shone brightly that September morning as the brothers stood next to the grave of their late father.  Just a few minutes before, the grave had been surrounded by family and their father’s business friends and their ears filled with the kind words of Father Benton, their parish priest.  These words of praise for their father’s life ringing in their ears left them feeling empty and uncomfortable as they stared at the granite headstone.

“I would only say this to you, but I don’t know how I should feel right now.”  Mike declared to Greg as they walked back to their car.  “Dad spent our entire lives on an airplane, chained to his office or playing golf with his buddies on the weekend.  I feel like we didn’t even know him.  I know this sounds selfish, but I feel cheated!”

Greg nervously took the pages from his mother’s hand and saw what looked to be a typed letter to him and his brother from their father.  It was dated September 12th- the day before he was found dead of a heart attack on the running trail near his office.  He began reading…
I have been reflecting a lot lately on my life and the kind of husband and father I have been.  It is probably no surprise to you that I give myself a failing grade.  I realize very clearly that I have not been there for you and your mother over the years.  It is easy to justify and rationalize our actions and I have done that for years.  I convinced myself that our big house, nice cars, great vacations and the lifestyle I provided for us was worth my slavish devotion to my career.  In many ways I am acting exactly like my own father.  I thought this justified all of my absences and the sacrifices I forced our family to make over the years.  I now realize that I have been living a lie… it was not worth it.
I want you to promise me something... Please learn from my example!  Be a better father, husband and steward than I was and don’t waste the years ahead of you.  I wish someone had gotten my attention when I was much younger and helped me not waste the greatest years of my life.  I hope to do that for you in the years ahead.

I have seen the light and I hope to make amends.  Again, please find it in your hearts to forgive me.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 PM | Permalink

April 11, 2011

Last words: “Louise, you gorgeous fool”

Via Maggie's Farm comes this excerpt from the writings of Louis Dickinson Rich

Now I am older. I have met with poverty, flood, famine, hurricane, brutalizing labor, and illness, on extremely personal grounds. I have seen the sudden and tragic deaths of those nearest and dearest to me. I have had to shoulder responsibilities, for which I am ill fitted, and the much more difficult burden of sudden, if brief, fame. I have been hard pressed for money, as we say in Maine. I’m not whining. I’ve had a wonderful life, with the joys far outweighing the sorrows. But still, in all, there have been times when I was fair to middlin’ desperate.

There was time when my husband and my year-old son and my mother-in-law and I had one meal a day. We ate baked potatoes and salt. It didn’t do us adults any harm, and my neighbor woman, Alice Miller, provided me with six oranges and six quarts of milk a week—she kept two cows—for the baby. She said her doctor’s book said that babies needed it.

Then there was the time in December. My husband and I were laughing together over a silly joke in the evening after dinner, relaxed in our slippers before the open fire. We’d spent the day snugging down the cabin for winter, and we felt good knowing that there were forty miles of lake and impossible road between us and the nearest settlement. We were having fun. “Louise, you gorgeous fool,” he said, and died.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 AM | Permalink

September 25, 2010

Greatest mass murderer in history

Astonishing how so few people know of this.  Since no literary work has come to shine a light on that terrible period of time, I can only hope that the memories of what the Chinese people suffered are guarded within familes and passed on. 

Mao's Great Leap Forward 'killed 45 million in four years'

Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, qualifies as the greatest mass murderer in world history, an expert who had unprecedented access to official Communist Party archives said yesterday.

Speaking at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival, Frank Dikötter, a Hong Kong-based historian, said he found that during the time that Mao was enforcing the Great Leap Forward in 1958, in an effort to catch up with the economy of the Western world, he was responsible for overseeing "one of the worst catastrophes the world has ever known".

Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude.
At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.
Mr Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago. He argued that this devastating period of history – which has until now remained hidden – has international resonance.
"It ranks alongside the gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century.
His book, Mao's Great Famine; The Story of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, reveals that while
this is a part of history that has been "quite forgotten" in the official memory of the People's Republic of China, there was a "staggering degree of violence" that was, remarkably, carefully catalogued in Public Security Bureau reports, which featured among the provincial archives he studied. In them, he found that the members of the rural farming communities were seen by the Party merely as "digits", or a faceless workforce. For those who committed any acts of disobedience, however minor, the punishments were huge.

State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2010

"They are hungry for reality," students and Life Chronicles

Just a couple of weeks ago, I read a Boston Globe story about Karyn Slomski, a young mother of 4-year-old Maggie and 6-year-old Brendan , who was dying of cancer. 

Slomski, who has advanced breast cancer, approached her social worker at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute about making a video as a way for her husband and children to remember her....

“It tears me up that they won’t have a mom, and this is a way I can leave a small piece of me with them.’’
“I want them to be able to see me when I’m gone, to see us all together as a family,’’ said Slomski, 38, as the videographer prepared for the session. “I wanted something more than pictures, for them to remember me. And to remember how happy we all were.’’

It was just two weeks ago that the video was made.  Yesterday, Karyn Slomski died. But she parted with lasting words, a little piece of herself in a living memory made possible by LifeChronicles.

I posted about  the article and video that will last - Beyond a Lifetime, but I wanted to do more.  I wanted to focus on Life Chronicles and its founder Kate Carter who  travels the country to record interviews with the dying as memories for their children.  She  So I called her up and interviewed her.


Kate is like many who find new passion and purpose in mid-life and the seeds of her re-blooming will touch families for decades to come.

Approaching 40, after any number of jobs when she was younger, Kate wanted to do something different, something she had never done before.  She began an internship in TV production to learn all about the field, but when she completed it, she didn't know what to do.  Since she didn't much care for commercial television, she did something uncharacteristic for her, she waited.  For two years.  Then a friend of hers whose husband died of Lou Gehrig’s disease six weeks earlier was told that she had breast cancer and the prognosis was poor.  She had three children, 16, 13, and 10, who were about to be orphaned.

Kate knew what she could do.  She could capture the essence of her friend on videotape, the very best of her and all that she wanted her children know.  That’s how Life Chronicles began.    The initial focus on the terminally ill (with referrals coming from hospices and cancer centers) broadened to include life chronicles of seniors, some of them in early stages of Alzheimer’s, and the parents of children who must stay in hospital for an extended period of time.

Some 700 interviews have been made, every one a means to keep the memories of a person vivid and  alive.  Every one, an immeasurable treasure to a family.    The gift returns to the giver and Kate says that she is never more connected to the universe than when she is talking with a terminally ill person.

Life Chronicles, a non-profit 501(c)3, doesn’t charge families of the terminally ill for interviews because Kate knows very well that families are often a financial crisis as well.    Despite these difficult financial times for fund-raising,  Kate charges ahead,  shooting out blast emails for donations of  miles so she can fly cross country to interview a mother of two who will be dead in less than a month.  Supporting her are many student volunteers across the country.  Even those who were just looking for experience to add to their resumes, have been  transformed by the experience of listening to people reflect on their lives as they are about to die.

Kate says, “They are hungry for reality.”  They want to know about real life and drink in the profound and positive messages they hear from the old and the dying.  One student wrote, "For one hour I was completely absorbed into the life of someone else in a way I had never been before.  I vividly remember every detail of her apartment, just as I recall every detail of her life story. As we left, tears streaming down my cheek, I understood how much this taping really meant to her; I helped this stranger pass her message on. …. What started as a required internship assignment evolved into a deep understanding that community is a gathering of unique individuals who share their lives together. We create our legacies with and through each other.”

Life Chronicles began to bring comfort to families in crisis, yet, the very process of doing so has opened up the lives of the student volunteers.  After videotaping the life chronicle of an elderly and beloved priest whose life was rich with wisdom, Kate had an epiphany when she realized that young people aren't hearing these lessons.
"We need to go where the young people are and they are on the Internet."

And so Life Space was born as a way to "refresh and restore values in our society through the power of video".
The 700 interviews already are being harvested with clips organized by topic.    And what topics: overcoming adversity, living through the Great Depression, experiencing World War II, experiencing loss, the power of selflessness, the meaning of life and much more. 

LifeSpace isn't live yet, but students are being trained and equipped to expand their archive and a model is being developed that can be replicated anywhere.  Even better, a LifeChronicles kit is being created that schools can use on their own so their students can go out into their communities and capture life stories, life lessons, and values from the dying and from a generation rich in wisdom and love of life and family.  From one generation to another,  heart speaks to heart.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:15 PM | Permalink

August 16, 2010

He risked his life to save his brother

It's a sad story, but also one of "friendship, faith and the ultimate sacrifice".

Donor dies after live liver transplant at CU Hospital

AURORA, Colo. - A man who agreed to donate part of his liver to help save his brother died just four days after the transplant procedure at The University of Colorado Hospital.It's the first death of a living liver donor in Colorado and only the fourth in the U.S


In the initial days following the procedure, both men were recovering at different rates. Ryan's family says one minute Chad was doing better, and then Ryan, and vice versa.

On July 30, Ryan was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit. The next day, on the evening of July 31, he suddenly went into cardiac arrest, lapsed into a coma and was placed on life support.
He died two days later, on Aug. 2.
Ryan Arnold was healthy, active and strong. He was a husband and father of three little boys, ages 1, 4 and 6.
Chad is now recovering at home. He's tired and weak, but otherwise doing well.
He described to us how he first learned of his brother's death.
"My dad came to my hospital room and grabbed my feet. He leaned forward and said, 'I've got some bad news." He was holding back the tears. "Ryan's gone, but we still serve a good God.' He couldn't have said it better," Chad told us. Ryan gave Chad the gift of life, a gift which led to his own death. And because of that, Chad refuses to place the focus on himself
"This is a story about a man who is deeply convicted by his faith and because of that, what he did for me was just sort of a normal thing that he did for people. Ryan is the hero in this," Chad says.
And while there's a huge scar on the outside, there's one on the inside as well. Chad is now committed to living his life the way Ryan lived his: with faith, compassion and humility.
"Ryan gave without hesitation. It's the ultimate sacrifice, but he'd do it again."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

August 9, 2010

Patricia Neal R.I.P.

The actress, who won an Academy Award for her role in the 1963 film 'Hud,' persevered through a life that was marked by a succession of tragedies.

LA Times obituary by Jack Jones

Actress Patricia Neal, who rebuilt a troubled career to win an Academy Award only to face a more desperate battle for survival when three strokes left her paralyzed and unable to speak or remember, has died. She was 84.
A succession of tragedies marked the life of the actress whose bright promise on Broadway in the mid-1940s took her to Hollywood and into a succession of lackluster films, as well as a desperate love affair with actor Gary Cooper and marriage to British writer Roald Dahl.

Her infant son's brain was damaged when his stroller was struck by a New York City taxicab, a daughter died as a result of measles and then — only a year after she finally won critical acclaim and an Oscar for her portrayal of the weary housekeeper in the 1963 film "Hud" — she suffered three strokes that appeared to end her career.

With the determined help of her husband, Neal recovered sufficiently to return to films, but then lost Dahl to another woman whom she had accepted as a friend.

 Patricia Neal

Creative Minority Report

When Neal was young she fell in love and had an extended affair with her married co-star Gary Cooper. When Neal became pregnant with his child he urged her to have an abortion which she did. Gary Cooper's daughter Maria Cooper famously spat on Neal for carrying on an affair with her father.

Later, however, Maria Cooper and Neal became great friends and it was Maria Cooper who helped bring Neal back to her Catholic faith by having her spend some time at a convent where former actress Sister Dolores was prioress.

From a tribute to her by Monsignor Lisante when she received a pro-life award.

And I said, "In your life, Pat, if there was one thing you could change, what would it be?" And Patricia Neal said, "Father, none of the things you just mentioned." But she said, "Forty years ago I became involved with the actor Gary Cooper, and by him I became pregnant. As he was a married man and I was young in Hollywood and not wanting to ruin my career, we chose to have the baby aborted." She said, "Father, alone in the night for over 40 years, I have cried for my child. And if there is one thing I wish I had the courage to do over in my life, I wish I had the courage to have that baby."

Patricia Neal has put herself on the line in saying to many, many women who have experienced abortion or thought about abortion, "Don't make my mistake. Let your baby live." What's particularly painful, but poignant in this story is that some years later, Patricia became good friends with Maria Cooper, the only child of Gary Cooper and his wife. And Maria Cooper said, "You know, I know you had the affair with my father and I have long ago forgiven that. But one thing I find it hard to accept is that as an only child, I so wish that you'd had my brother or my sister. Because in so many ways, I wish so much that you had chosen life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:04 PM | Permalink

March 27, 2009

Lessons from Oakland

Thousands attend funeral of the 4 Oakland police officers slain last week

...some 19,000 law-enforcement officers from coast to coast gathered along with grateful community members at the Oracle Arena in Oakland for a final send-off for their brothers in blue.

All four veteran officers died Saturday when a wanted parolee, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon, opened fire in separate incidents just hours apart in East Oakland.

Police Shot Funeral Oakland.Lrg

A rumbling cortege of motorcycle officers escorted each hearse to the arena, keeping a tight and sharp formation just as Dunakin would have liked it, his colleagues said. They passed underneath a giant American flag hanging between the extended ladders of two Oakland fire trucks. Hundreds of police vehicles, from bomb-squad trucks, motorcycles, Ford Crown Victoria and Dodge Charger cruisers, filled the parking lot.

There were police cars from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and New York and a rainbow of uniforms that filled the arena and the adjacent Oakland Coliseum, where an overflow crowd watched the service on two big screens.

Their badges wrapped with black bands of mourning, hundreds of officers in dress uniforms lined the steps outside the arena and saluted as one by one, honor guards escorted four flag-draped caskets inside, followed by the officers' families. A sign at the complex read, "Forever Heroes."

Many officers dabbed at their eyes with white gloves as the caskets were placed in front of a flower-adorned stage beside their pictures. The police motorcycles of Dunakin and Hege and two pairs of empty boots sat nearby.

After the funeral, the officers were to be honored with a 21-gun salute from a military cannon, and 20 helicopters from across the nation were to fly in a "missing man" formation. Miles-long formations of police cars, their emergency lights whirling,

The four slain

Oakland police Sgt. Mark Dunakin, or "Dunny," as everybody called him, was a big teddy bear and die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes and Pittsburgh Steelers fan who proudly patrolled the streets on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Traffic Officer John Hege was a "beer and brownie man" who combined his love for the department and the Oakland Raiders by working overtime at the Coliseum during home games.

SWAT Sgt. Ervin Romans was a former Marine Corps drill sergeant, a "tactical guru" and expert marksman who instilled the importance of safety on the hundreds of officers he trained.

Sgt. Daniel Sakai juggled the duties of being a patrol sergeant and a SWAT entry team leader, yet still insisted on working out and running with officers preparing to take a grueling physical test.

Police Shot Calif Motorcycles

8 hour caravan from Orange County.

Last Saturday, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon shot and killed officers Erv Romans, 43, Mark Dunakin, 40, and Dan Sakai, 35. A fourth officer, John Hege, 41, was taken off live support after being declared brain dead.

Mixon was wanted for a parole violation, and opened fire during a traffic stop before heading home and opening fire on SWAT officers who were pursuing him with an AK-47, officials said.


When the caravan arrived, the cars and motorcycles drove past Oracle Arena in a singe-file line and shone their lights in a display of respect.

The Bookworm said some 80 police officers from Boston and even representatives from Scotland Yard were expected.  The Bookworm is a new blog for me that I discovered via links from the Anchoress and American Digest .  She said something at the end of her post that warmed my heart.

I always view tragedies like this as reminders — reminders not to wait until it’s too late to say how you value someone.  No matter the heart-felt outpouring at today’s memorial service, friends, family, colleagues and politicos will be saying things that Sgts. Mark Dunakin, 40, Erv Romans, 43, Daniel Sakai, 35, and Officer John Hege, 41, won’t be around to hear.

When my Mom turned 80, I temporarily stole her address book and wrote to every living person in it asking them to send a letter with a personal message and a remembrance about her.  Photos would be welcome too.  My sister, who is artistic, then assembled the dozens of responses in a beautiful album.  My mother almost cried when she got the album and (this is true) carried it with her everywhere she went for almost a year.  To know, not only that her friends loved and valued her, but why they did so, meant everything to her.

Don’t wait until those near you die before you open your mouth and say the things you should have said before.  Tell your family members you love them — and tell them why.  Give your friend a true compliment — a deep one, about his or her personality, not just the usual “great shirt,” or “nice hair” kind of thing.  Praise a colleague’s work.  These things matter, and one of the greatest regrets we always have when people die is all the things we should have said before.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2009

Revenge from beyond the grave

They say revenge is a dish best served cold.

But few would go as far as Megan Swanston, who waited until after her death to get back at her three daughters for trying to throw her out of her home.

Instead of sharing her £20,000 estate between them, it emerged yesterday that she changed her will to give all the money to the hospice where she spent her last months.

Revenge from beyond the grave...Mother leaves  $40k to hospice and nothing to daughters who tried to evict her from her home.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:59 PM | Permalink

November 8, 2006

Life Lessons from Oriana Fallaci

On meeting Oriana by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. "Darling, It Hurts to Be Alone."

Suddenly she changes the subject. "You must have a child," she says. "I only regret one thing in my life, and that is that I do not have children. I wanted them, tried to have them, but I tried too late, and I failed." "Darling," she says, "it hurts to be alone. Life is lonely. It must be, sometimes. Still I would very much have liked to have a child. I would have liked to pass on life."

She hands me her books, in Italian. Then many life lessons follow. "Darling, don't let life pass you by." She refuses to let me say goodbye and invites me to visit her again. This morning I still wanted to visit her again, when I heard, on the radio, that the life of this greatness was over. "Darling, when the cancer kills me, many will celebrate." I will mourn her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:27 PM | Permalink

August 12, 2006

"No one ever taught me to grow old"

From the Newsweek  cover story on Billy Graham

To everything there is a season, says the author of Ecclesiastes, and for Billy Graham this is the season of coping with the toll of time. Getting around is harder; so is recalling familiar Scriptures. Yet rather than simply withdrawing into the shadows to enjoy a few richly deserved quiet years with his wife and family, Graham believes he may have been called to a last mission: to soldier on by faith, praying and pondering and sharing what he has come to see and feel and think in the twilight of his life.
All my life I've been taught how to die, but no one ever taught me how to grow old," Graham remarked one day to his daughter Anne Graham Lotz. "And I told him, 'Well, Daddy, you are now teaching all of us'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Legacy of Resentment

Here's a chilling legacy and reminder that your children see you for who you are, even if you're wildly famous and celebrated.

Deadly legacy of a Goon

Michael’s legacy from his overpowering parent was simply an unresolved resentment which, however, he was determined to come to terms with before he died.

In 2000 he wrote a book, Sellers On Sellers, in which he summed up his father’s life — and his own — in a memorably sad epitaph.

‘He had been there: starred in the movies, married the young women, driven the fast cars, taken the drugs, drunk the wine, made all the cash, spent the cash and let down all those people who had ever really cared for him.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

May 4, 2006

Another Pickled Corpse

Pickled Corpse

Hungarian builders who drank their way to the bottom of a huge barrel of rum while renovating a house got a nasty surprise when a pickled corpse tumbled out of the empty barrel.
....the body of the man had been shipped back from Jamaica 20 years ago by his wife in the barrel of rum in order to avoid the cost and paperwork of an official return.
Some of the workers liked the "special taste" so they decanted a few bottles to take back home, that is before the body of a naked man fell out.

They are not the only people to have enjoyed the special taste rum acquires from a human corpse as I posted earlier in Tapping the Admiral.

  Lord Nelson-1

There's a lesson in this. Know where your rum comes from.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 PM | Permalink

April 3, 2006

Lee Marvin, PFC, US Marine Corps

  Lee Marvin-1

Who knew that Lee Marvin received a Purple Heart for wounds received during the battle for Saipan in June 1944?

Barbara Mikelson tells us that he was wounded in his buttocks by fire which severed his sciatic nerve and that Marvin, private first class in the Marines is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

  Lee Marvin Gravestone

I liked Lee Marvin when I saw him in films because he reminded a lot of my first husband. I like him even more now that I know he didn't succumb to Hollywood foolishness.

"I only make movies to finance my fishing," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 AM | Permalink

March 31, 2006

The Legacy of Hugh Hefner

Like Presidents, Hugh Hefner at 80 is worried about his legacy.

The founder of Playboy, says a Reuters profile, has become "utterly obsessed with his own legacy" and lately has "filled some 1,500 leather-bound scrapbooks about his life and history to date." From the first issue of Playboy to appear on Chicago newsstands in 1953 right up to the latest clippings on his current reality show, "The Girls Next Door," no trace of Mr. Hefner's storied adventures will be lost to posterity.

He's even picked out his grave site, directly adjacent to Marilyn Monroe's tomb at Westwood Memorial Park.

But he can't pretty up the reality that he will be known principally as a pornographer writes Matthew Scully in the Wall St Journal.

It was Mr. Hefner who put the real money in porn, a business hard to go poor in under any circumstances (except for the unfortunates given starring roles) and today a $57 billion-a-year global industry. He brought it into the central stream of culture, so that now even upscale bookstores stock Penthouse or similar offerings without a second thought. He gave porn that "classy" feel and its phony creed of "artistic" expression and protected "speech" by which far livelier fare than Playboy would soon ease into popular culture.

Playboy Enterprises itself, years ago, dropped the pretense of refinement and delicacy, following the money into hard-core cable. Soft-core, hard-core, these were all along just degrees of exploitation and self-debasement and for the procurers a purely legal and commercial calculation.

Scully's right when he says that not many women think that the world is a better place because of Playboy or "the smug, selfish ethic it has always purveyed"

Scully concludes:
All of us have our share of faults and sins to account for. But the lowest of vices and "strangest secret of hell," as G.K. Chesterton called it, is the desire to pervert others, to coax and corrupt them and drag them down with you.

In the end, your legacy is the impact of your being on earth on the lives of others.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 PM | Permalink

March 7, 2006

When Children Die

When children die, parents are devastated. What used to be a common denominator among American families is now uncommon.

Still 55,000 children die each year, more than half are less than a year old and the great majority die in hospitals

We can't always prevent someone from dying, but we can create a better situation," said Dr. Linda Siegel, a pediatric critical care and palliative care expert at Kravis Children's Hospital at Mount Sinai Medical Center, in New York City. For example, she said, a child can die with monitors screeching and a code team present, shocking their heart, trying to revive them, or a child can die with a parent holding them, the room lights low and soft music playing in the background.

"Health-care providers need to be aware of the impact they have on the family at the end of life. Those memories, they carry with them for the rest of their lives," she said.
A recent survey of parents whose children have died in hospitals has identified six areas of critical importance that could improve pediatric end-of-life care.

Parents felt it was important for doctors to give them the big picture and to be honest with them about their child's situation, no matter how grim the prognosis. "What we cannot handle is not knowing what is going on," wrote one parent.
Siegel said palliative care can be helpful from the time of diagnosis through to the end of the child's life, however. "We need to support parents emotionally. We need to help them maintain hope, but prepare them for what's going to happen," she said, adding that there can be reluctance to calling on palliative care specialists. "It's so unnatural for children to die before their parents, it's hard for everyone to shift to palliative care."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

February 28, 2006

Hope and sadness

What could be sadder than the sudden death of your young six year old daughter of bacterial menigitis?

Daniel Steinberg has started a new blog to share his thoughts of hope and sadness with his family, friends and the wider world. His pain will cause many more parents to cherish their children more deeply. Dear Elena

On unfinished business

Please don’t leave things unsaid that you need to say and consider not saying those things that don’t need saying. As miserable as I feel, I am comforted by having followed this advice with my children.

At the funeral

Maggie, that’s going to be a big problem for a while. There are people that won’t know what to say to you so they won’t say anything. They won’t look at me and you and mom. The death of a child - particularly this type of death - is very frightening to a parent. Some of them feel sorrow. Some of them feel guilt. Many of them feel afraid. Some fear that by meeting our gaze they will catch something they can’t overcome. It’s called deep sadness.
Our sadness is not for anything in the past....Our sadness is for the future where we won’t get to see Elena at things we anticipated.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

February 15, 2006

Different bells

They became so accustomed to the funeral home, they decided to get married there.

After all, both had been widowed and they met at a grief support group.

You never know when and where you'll meet that certain someone.

Going to the (funeral chapel)

They thought the funeral home would be the perfect place to marry.
“We kind of are disappointed that we’re not going to be attending the grief support group, but we’re not grieving anymore,” Judy said, grinning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 AM | Permalink

September 29, 2005

Legacy Blogging

"I will not forget. I promise to remember forever. I will live my life better and for all of us because I am alive and you are no longer. I won't let this happen again. I will remind the world for you, the students of Tiananmen Square. My Heroes. My Big Brothers and Sisters.

From the BBC's So what's the point of blogging

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:26 PM | Permalink

September 26, 2005

Birth dearth

Edmund Burke wrote in 1790 that the very nature of the state is a contract between generations, "a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born."

James Pinkerton in a masterful review of the Corpse Bride asks why the movie isn't truer to its Russian folk tale roots. The original tale has roots in the Ukranian-shetl 'cholera wedding' held in a cemetery that concludes when the living bride cradles the corpse bride in her arms and says,

Don't worry, I'll live your dreams for you, I'll live your hopes for you, I'll have your children for you, I'll have enough children for the two of us and you can rest in peace knowing that our children and our children's children will be well cared for and will not forget us.

Pinkerton ponders the duty the dead impose upon the living
a duty that's both awe-inspiring and empowering. One can feel crushed by that burden, but one can also feel inspired to great feats -- the point of the [movie Chariots of Fire.]

He says
Death at a young age doesn't loom over us today, as it did in centuries past. What we must live with instead is in a way even more mysterious and ominous -- the lack of young life.

The birth-dearth, the too-little examined consequence of an aging society, is having profound consequences in Europe. It will roil our societies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:31 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2005

Third Age Blog

I'm one voice in a group of talented people each with a distinctive voice, experience and expertise: Connie Goldman, Jacqueline Marcell, Jed Diamond, Lisa Haneberg, Rinatte Paries, Ronni Bennett, Sharon Whiteley, Susan Anderson, Susan Mitchell, Tom Blake and Yvonne Divita.

I write about many of the same things I do on Business of Life and Legacy Matters but often in a more personal way.

Until I can get me on of those doohickies that signifies a new post on another blog, I'm just going to periodically round-up a group of posts and link them here in reverse chronological order.

Rules of Life
Responding to Suffering
Make Haste for a Neighborhood Barbecue
Lessons of Katrina
Afraid to Get Prepared?
Intensely Alive While Dying
Why Can't We Talk About the Important Things?
A Gift of Stories
Good enough is good enough
Learning from Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

August 12, 2005

Death Meditation

I write about death so much not just because I think it's one of life's greatest mysteries, but also because keeping the thought of death near the top of your mind is the best way to live your life in the fullest, richest way doing only what you think are the most important things.

I've quoted Steve Jobs earlier in Life's Change Agent.

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself:  "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Evelyn Rodriguez quotes Jobs too and also Geshe Michael Roche who wrote what she thinks may be the best business book ever, "The Diamond Cutter : The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life" which I'm definitely going to read.

If you were really going to die tonight, would you sit and read through the whole Sunday paper, or most of the magazines you subscribe to? Would you really surf around the TV looking desperately for anything of even minor interest? Would you still go out and spend an hour or two at lunch or dinner, gossiping about the other managers. Decide then: If not on the day I die, then not now either. Because, frankly, it may really be today. -

In If Not On The Day I Die, Then Not Today, Evelyn writes about the Death Meditation.

To put it simply, you just wake up in the morning and stay there in bed, lying down, without opening your eyes. And you say to yourself: "I'm going to die tonight. What would be the best thing to do with the rest of my time?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

August 7, 2005

Visiting My Grave

  Joi Ito's Grave

After the study group meeting at City Hall, I visited our family grave. I took a look at where my name will at some point be etched as the 19th family head of the Ito family. I took the opportunity to grill my uncle a bit more about the specifics of our history since I'll be the custodian of this information at some point.
As always, staring at the place on the gravestone where my name will be etched along with all of the previous family members makes me feel like a mere blip in history and is humbling and strange.

Joi Ito visits his hometown in Japan and his family grave. 

From Japan, Joi writes today in The New York Times about An Anniversary to Forget

My grandparents' generation remembers the suffering, but tries to forget it. My parents' generation still does not trust the military. The pacifist stance of that generation comes in great part from the mistrust of the Japanese military.
For my generation, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and the war in general now represent the equivalent of a cultural "game over" or "reset" button. Through a combination of conscious policy and unconscious culture, the painful memories and images of the war have lost their context, surfacing only as twisted echoes in our subculture. The result, for better and worse, is that, 60 years after Hiroshima, we dwell more on the future than the past.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:30 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2005

Better for Knowing Them


Only 14, Tylor Lauck who has been sent home to die, says, "If people knew their time was running out, they wouldn't waste it so much."

Fortunately, Tylor's is going home to the embrace of a loving family.  His father  says, "My time with Tylor is more valuable than any money in the world. "  His mother says,

.. most people talk themselves out of being positive. They tell themselves they should be feeling terrible and depressed or sorry for themselves. I refused to do that. While I’m fighting for my child’s life I want to make every day a great day for him.”

Tylor suffers from an aggressive form of cancer that has already attacked his lymph nodes, caused the amputation of one of his legs, and has now gone to his brain.   

I learned about Tylor from Dawn Eden who also wrote about Trevor Romain, a children's book author whose purpose in life is to "inspire kids to face everyday challenges through courage, compassion and creativity." 

Trevor and Tylor are writing a book together and I for one can't wait to see it.  Trevor writes a wonderful blog with charming illustrations.  There you can read a lot more about Tylor and his remarkable family.  They've certainly won my respect and prayers.

Even though Dean and Denise have gone through hell and back and have very little left after the enormous medical bills that have ravaged the family, their generosity brought me to tears countless times during the weekend. They have lost pretty much everything, yet they share what little they have so generously. I have never seen them falter in taking care of their kids. Their enthusiasm and faith keeps their family strong, despite the obvious pain and despair that continues to tear each of their souls apart....The conversations below say more that I can ever say about this truly remarkable family who have taught me the value of life and the true meaning of love.

Tylor is a hoot.  When asked what medications help you the most, Tylor says, "Pretty nurses."

Trevor and Tylor and his family are inspiring examples of how you can take the hardest stuff of life,  recognize the suffering, and still  transform it into something transcendent with a love that spills over in its abundance like ripples in a pond to warm the hearts of countless unknown people.

What are Trevor's books if not ways for dying children to love and laugh with ideas for tricks to play on their nurses and doctors.  What light shines from the Lauck family, showing us this is how to do it.  This is how to live and love even as we die.  Who can not be elevated by their example and wish to act half as well when the time comes.

Both Great Legacies.

Too many people don't know how to act or what to say when someone dies.  They don't know how to give quiet comfort.  Trevor's  DVD could be just the thing for anxious parents.  What on Earth Do You Do If Someone Dies?    They will probably like his other books as well, all from the Comical Sense Company with two taglines: "Entertainment that matters" and "Kids think he's funny.  Parents trust him"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

July 25, 2005

Buy Red When You're Blue

Maureen Dowd pens a wonderful tribute to her mother who passed away last week.   

MY mom always wanted to be a writer. In 1926, when she was 18, she applied for a job at The Washington Post. An editor there told her that the characters she'd meet as a reporter were far too shady for a nice young lady.
But someone who wants to write will find a way to write. And someone who wants to change the world can do it without a big platform or high-profile byline.

Just an ordinary life made extraordinary when closing examined.

Mom was not famous, but she was remarkable. Her library included Oscar Wilde, Civil War chronicles, Irish history and poetry books, as well as "Writing to the Point: Six Basic Steps," and the 1979 "Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Satisfactions of Housewifery and Motherhood in the Age of Do-Your-Own-Thing.'"

She touches on small things.

Without ever mentioning it to anyone, she constantly wrote out a stream of very small checks from her police widow's pension for children who were sick and poor.

She didn't limit her charity to poor kids. When 6-year-old Al Gore III was struck by a car in 1989, she sent him a get-well card and a crisp dollar bill. "Children like getting a little treat when they're not feeling well," she explained.

She traces the arc of a life that spanned much of the nation's history.

As a child she saw the last of the Civil War veterans marching in Memorial Day parades, and as the wife of a D.C. police inspector she made friends with her neighbor, Pop Seymour, the last person alive who saw Lincoln shot at Ford's Theater. (He was 5 and saw the president slump in his box.)

She tells stories.

One of her big thrills came in 1990 when she went to the White House Christmas party with me and President Bush gave her a kiss. On the way home, she said to me in a steely voice, "I don't ever want you to be mean to that man again."

Stories that paint a picture.

As my mom lay in pain, at 97 her organs finally shutting down, my sister asked her if she would like a highball. Over the last six years, Mom had managed to get through going into a wheelchair and losing her sight, all without painkillers or antidepressants - just her usual evening glass of bourbon and soda.

Her sense of taste was gone, and she could no longer speak, but she nodded, game as ever, just to show us you can have life even in death. We flavored her spoonful of ice chips with bourbon, soon followed by a morphine chaser.

And tell life lessons.

I just know that I will follow the advice she gave me in a letter while I was in college, after I didn't get asked to a Valentine's Day dance. She sent me a check for $15 and told me to always buy something red if you're blue - a lipstick, a dress.

"It will be your 'Red Badge of Courage,' " she wrote. And courage was a subject the lady knew something about.

If you want to write about your parents, Dowd's tribute is a great example of how to do it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

July 12, 2005

A Shameful Legacy

Not all Legacies are Great.  Many are shameful as we are reminded on the 10th anniversary of Srebrenica where 8000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered because their Dutch peacekeepers wouldn't fight to save them.   

The killings began on July 11, 1995 when Bosnian Serb soldiers overran the town, which was at the time in a United Nations "safe" zone.
Outgunned UN troops watched as the men were separated from the women. The men and boys were led off and slaughtered, and their bodies dumped in mass graves throughout eastern Bosnia.  The Srebrenica victims were among about 250,000 people killed in the 1992-95 war among Bosnian Muslims, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has indicted the alleged masterminds of the massacre - Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic ? for genocide and crimes against humanity at Srebrenica and elsewhere. Both are still at large.

Switzerland's Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the ICTY, did not attend the commemoration ceremony "out of respect for the victims". Her spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said that Del Ponte could not look the victims straight in the face while those responsible were still on the run."As long as they are not arrested, justice will not be done," she commented.

Mark Brown, the special envoy of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, read out a personal message

We cannot evade our own share of responsibility. As I wrote in my report in 1999 we made serious errors of judgement rooted in a philosophy of impartiality and non-violence, which however admirable was unsuited to the conflict in Bosnia. That is why, as I also wrote, the tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our, the UN, history forever.

One refugee, now in Chicago, is the artist Samir Biscevic, who continues to bear witness to the suffering through his art.

"Slowly, little by little, I wanted my artwork to be dedicated to Bosnian victims," he said. "Talking about truth, that is healing. That's what makes our pain less."

On Monday, nearly 1,000 spectators gathered in Daley Plaza to mark the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre--
"I wanted to show people how does it look when you have 1,000 people on the ground," Biscevic said. "Then you can imagine 10,000. I tried to paint the last minutes on the ground. I'd like the people here to feel something as those people who died."

But to Biscevic, the most important statement was illustrated by the blindfolds on bystanders in Daley Plaza, showing how the international community turned a blind eye to the atrocities.

UPDATE 1.  Christopher Hitchens on the lessons of Srebrenica

Above all, what I remember is the sense of shame. A French general named Philippe Morillon had promised the terrified refugees that they would be safe. A Dutch commander had been mandated to make good on this promise. The United Nations, the European Union, the "peacekeepers" of all nations had assured the terrified civilians of Bosnia-Herzegovina that the international community was stronger than Milosevic's depraved regime and the death squads that it had spawned. And those who were so foolish as to trust this pledge were then hideously put to death. On video. In plain sight. Scanned from NATO and American satellites circulating indifferently in outer space. What must it be like to die like that, gutted like a sheep in full view of the vaunted "international community," while your family is bullied and humbled in front of you and while your captors and killers taunt you in their stolen or borrowed United Nations blue helmets? Because yes, all that really happened, too, and meanwhile the nurturing and protective Dutch officers were photographed clinking glasses of champagne with Gen. Ratko Mladic. Shame isn't really the word for it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:51 PM | Permalink

June 27, 2005

Helen Keller

Born on June 27, 1880, soon to become deaf and blind, Helen Keller became a role model for millions.  Today is her 125th birthday and the American Foundation for the Blind is celebrating the life and legacy of this remarkable woman. 

No Pasaran has gathered some Keller quotes that begin to show why this woman is and was so universally admired and so many of her life lessons taken to heart.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.

All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.

As selfishness and complaint pervert the mind, so love with its joy clears and sharpens the vision.

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.

When one door of happiness closes, another one opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 PM | Permalink

June 14, 2005

Blood Money

Rarely talked about, "blood money" is not an uncommon response to insurance money received after the death of a loved one.  Some won't ever spend it, others give it away, still others, like Kathy Trant, spend it foolishly.

When her husband died in the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, relatives, friends and strangers opened their hearts and their wallets to Kathy Trant, donating millions of dollars to Trant and her three children.
The money was meant to compensate for the income Dan Trant would have used to support his family for years to come. But to Trant it represented blood money, money that couldn't make up for what she had lost.
"It's blood money that I don't want," Trant said. "I want my husband back."

"The issue of survival guilt is a big one," said April Lane Benson, psychologist and author of the book "I Shop Therefore I Am." "People who lost someone on 9/11 feel a total lack of control for a long period of time. That's why they say, 'I might as well blow everything I have. I could be the next one to go.'"


Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

May 20, 2005

You Don't Remember Me, Do You...

Lindsey and Nash became friends at the Western Sizzlin Steak House, both dreaming of the day they could fight the bad guys.

Nash was a 23 year old patrolman when he was shot and killed by a driver he pulled over for a traffic violation.  Lindsey, the sheriff of Lamar County, wrote a tribute 17 years later for Nash and for all the law officers who help us every day, sometimes risking their lives to do so. 

People see the uniform and the badge, and they rarely take time to find out a law enforcement officer's name or look at his or her face.

His tribute to law officers has won national thanks.
Here it is.  You Don't Remember Me, Do You..

There's a lesson here for all of us.  When someone helps us, whether or not it's part of their job, ask them their name and thank them by their name. 

The attitude of gratitude will make them feel appreciated and you feel better.  Everyone wants to be seen and appreciated.  Everyone. 

Do this throughout your day, every day,  and I guarantee you'll make the world a better place.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who unlocked your car after you accidentally locked the keys and your baby up at the mall.

I was the one who gave you a ride to the gas station when you ran out of gas on that backroad.

I was the one who changed your tire because you couldn't figure out how to work the stupid scissor jack.

I was the one who directed you safely through that busy intersection when the traffic signals weren't working.

I was the one who gave you a jump-start after you left your lights on.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who found the item that identified the guy who raped your daughter.

I was the one who spent my days off in court to testify and help convict the man who beat your son so badly.

I was the one who located your grandmother in the woods that night when it was 22 degrees and she had wandered away from the nursing home.

I was the one who loaned you the raincoat the night we stood and watched your house burn.

I was the one who talked with you for two hours about your son running away from home.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who held your hand, wiped the blood out of you eyes, and calmed you down while the Fire Department cut you out of what was left of your car.

I was the one who called you at 2 a.m. to come pick up your 16 year old daughterbecause she had been drinking too much.

I was the one who knocked on your door at 4 a.m. to let you know your 16 year old daughter would never be coming home again.

I was the one who did CPR on your 3 year old after you found him in the pool.

I was the one who helped deliver your new baby when you didn't quite make it to the ER.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who got that snake out of your bathroom around midnight.

I was the one who got my knees and elbows scraped up fighting with the shoplifter with your carton of cigarettes.

I was the one who took your son for a "ride-along" so he could see what it was really like.

I was the one who gave you the right directions so you wouldn't miss that business meeting.

I was the one who stopped you to let you know your right rear tire was going flat.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who escorted your son's funeral procession from the church to the cemeteryand cried behind my sunglasses because he was my friend, too.

I was the one watched over your place while you were on vacation.

I was the one who worked for you on Christmas Day so you could be off with your family.

I was the one who joked around with you after your truck got hit by a trainand you walked away without a scratch.

I was the one was able to talk your husband into going into counseling with you.

You don't remember me, do you...

I was the one who got shot when I pulled over a car for a traffic violation and the driver turned out to be an escaped convict who had sworn he would never go back to prison.

Oh, by the way, my memorial service is at 2 p.m.

Will you remember me now?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2005

Some Life lessons from Albert Einstein

Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people— first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving...

I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves— this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth.

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery— even if mixed with fear— that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man.

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink

February 14, 2005

On the very edge of life and death

Some people fight to be born and some fight to wake up, both to ponder if you are responsible for making life and death decisions for another person.

This baby survived three abortions, was born alive at 24 weeks  in a case documented in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

She claimed she had been told that an ultrasound scan had confirmed the child was dead - but shortly afterwards she went into labour.

The 24-year-old mum - who has not been named - changed her mind about wanting to keep the baby after she felt him move on her way home.

Her son is now two years old and is the first long-term abortion survivor to have been born so prematurely.

This woman awoke from a 20 year coma.

"Hi mum," she said to her mother.
The words were a shock and a joy for Scantlin's parents.
"There's just no words," mother Betsy Scantlin told a CBS television news show. "I've just laughed ever since because it's just so amazing."

And this woman emerged from a six week coma to be told that she had been stricken with meningitis and cancer ----and that she had given birth to a baby girl!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:49 PM | Permalink

October 13, 2004

Maya Angelou's life lessons after 74 years.

Oprah interviewed Maya Angelou on her 74th birthday who revealed lessons she's learned from life.

    I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life. I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life." I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:17 PM | Permalink

September 5, 2004

We Never Knew How Happy We Were

Anyone reading about the horrific events at the school in Baslan where terrorists took a school and more than 1000 people hostage must imagine, if only for an unbearable moment, could it happen here.

    "At least 1,200 people had been crammed into the school gymnasium, with no food and little water, and with a frightening network of bombs laced overhead. New York Times link. .... 1 Beslan

    People did what they could to take care of themselves, shedding clothes to cool down, and tearing apart textbooks to use as fans. "For two days I was continually waving my arm to fan my children," Ms. Bekoyeva said. The terrorists also gradually restricted access to the bathroom, first allowing five hostages at a time to use the toilets, then three. With little chance for their turn, the younger children could not hold back and relieved themselves in the crowd's midst. "We had them urinate into bundles of cloth," Emma said.
    Ms. Bekoyeva said she handed six or seven children out the window, as older children scrambled past. Then she went out. She and her two sons ran to a shed, took shelter in it as the bullets flew by, and then Azamat punched out the back window, and they scrambled through it. After another sprint they came to the Russian police officers and soldiers. Most of them realized they were safe, but all did not. Seeing the police, Emma was confused. "I got scared and thought they were other terrorists,' she said. "But one embraced me and said, 'Do not be afraid.' "

    Asamaz stopped when he reached a covered place near the police, and as the battle raged a few yards behind them, he snatched grapes from the trellises and handed them to the children with him - the first food they had had in more than two days.

    Now lying in bed, he winced as his aunt Zalina Basiyeva put a traditional medicine on his burns. Outside their window, people clustered in the courtyard, waiting for news. Everything the people of Beslan thought they knew about living, his aunt said, had changed. She rubbed bits of the filament of eggshell onto the boy's blisters and burns, and said the lesson was indelible: "We never knew how happy we were."

Even If the government can protect the so-called "hard targets" like government buildings, nuclear plants, major financial buildings or airports, what about the "soft targets" -like schools?
We can hope for front line protection and good information from those in charge. In the event of a natural disaster or God forbid, a terrorist attack of some sort, we must realize that ultimately, in those first days, we are responsible for ourselves, our loved ones and those around us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

August 1, 2004

Life Lessons from Dave Barry

A friend in California sent me these life lessons from Dave Barry who calls it SIXTEEN THINGS THAT IT TOOK ME OVER 50 YEARS TO LEARN

1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a
laxative on the same night.

2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human
race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential,
that word would be "meetings."

3. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental

4. People who want to share their religious views with you almost
never want you to share yours with them.

5. You should not confuse your career with your life.

6. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

7. Never lick a steak knife.

8. The most destructive force in the universe is gossip.

9. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and
compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.

10. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely
suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an
actual baby emerging from her at that moment.

11. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other
people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.

12. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age,
gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that,
deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.

13. A person, who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a
nice person. (This is very important. Pay attention. It never

14. Your friends love you anyway.

15. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone
amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the

FINAL Thought for the day:

Men are like a fine wine. They start out as grapes, and it's up to
women to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something
acceptable to have dinner with.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2004

Did Bill Gates really say that?

Life Lessons from Bill Gates

    Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.

    Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

    Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

    Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.

    Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping - they called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

    Rule No. 6:   It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.

    Rule No. 7:   Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

    Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

    Rule No. 9:   Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. Very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

    Rule No. 10:   Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. .

    Rule No. 11:   Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

From Snopes , the real scope

    This list is the work of Charles J. Sykes, author of the book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, Or Add. Many versions of this list omit the last three rules:

    Rule No. 12:   Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.

    Rule No. 13:   You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

    Rule No. 14:   Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now. You're welcome.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:48 PM | Permalink

June 21, 2004

Growing Older is Mandatory, Growing Up is Optional

I can't remember who sent this to me, and I've tried unsuccessfully to find the original author. Could it be Julie Hubert if so thanks and for the rest of you, the irresistible story of Rose below

The first day of school our professor
introduced himself and challenged us to
get to know someone we didn`t already know. I
stood up to look around when a gentle hand
touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a
wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me
with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose.
I`m eighty - seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"

I laughed and enthusiastically responded,
"Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.

"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.

She jokingly replied, "I`m here to meet a rich husband, get married,
have a couple of children, and then retire and travel."

"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated
her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

"I always dreamed of having a college education
and now I`m getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared
a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends.

Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and
talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine"
as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and
she easily made friends wherever she went.

She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed
upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football
banquet. I`ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced
and stepped up to the podium.

As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three
by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she
leaned into the microphone and simply said "I`m sorry I`m so jittery.
I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I`ll never get
my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began: "We do not stop
playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.
There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy,
and achieving success.

"You have to laugh and find humor every day."

"You`ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.
We have so many people walking around who are dead
and don`t even know it!"

"There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.
If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and
don`t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I
am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do
anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That
doesn`t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by
always finding the opportunity in change."

"Have no regrets. The elderly usually don`t have regrets for what
we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who
fear death are those with regrets."

She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose."

She challenged each of us to study the lyrics
and live them out in our daily lives.

At the years end Rose finished the college degree
she had begun all those years ago.

One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute
to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it`s never
too late to be all you can possibly be.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:39 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2004

Some life lessons from Julia Child

I've always felt a special kinship to Julia Child because we both went to Smith College, lived in Cambridge at the same time and shopped at the Broadway supermarket and we both love Pepperidge Farm's goldfish crackers. If you haven't had a chance to see Julia Child's kitchen that she donated to the Smithsonian, you can hear Julia and take a tour here.

Julia hates health food, believes that the only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook and that life itself is the proper binge.

Interviewed by Esquire Magazine in 2000, she revealed more of the lessons she learned in life.

    I'm awfully sorry for people who are taken in by all of today's dietary mumbo jumbo. They are not getting any enjoyment out of their food.

    Fat gives things flavor.

    Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.

    If you're in a good profession, it's hard to get bored, because you're never finished--there will always be work you haven't yet done.

    People are uncertain because they don't have the self-confidence to make decisions. The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It's doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it.

    Always remember: If you're alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who's going to know?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

May 8, 2004

CDs and DVDs will rot

Another reason for online backups. . It's a good thing that storage prices continue to fall. "CD rot" is a gradual deterioration of the data carrying layer.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:22 AM | Permalink

May 6, 2004

Robert de Niro on his one regret

Now owned by the Chicago Tribune, Esquire has just won 4 awards for magazine excellence. Cited for general excellence in the 100,000-250,000 circulation category Esquire was lauded for mixing "meaty investigative journalism with clever service packages to create the very model of a modern major city magazine"

What I Have Learned is one of its best features that appears each month.
Robert de Niro said not getting his family history together for his kids is his one regret.

    When a parent dies, it's the end. I always wanted to chronicle the family history with my mother. She was always interested in that. I wanted some researchers I'd worked with to talk to my mother, but my mother was a little antsy about it. I know she would've gotten into it. It would have been okay with my father, too. But I wasn't forceful, and I didn't make it happen. It's the one regret I have. I didn't get as much of the family history as I could have for the kids.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 AM | Permalink

April 23, 2004

Life lessons from an unknown source

After I finally learned how to apply junk mail filters to my mailbox, I had to apply rules to a number of old emails. The following is from my brother Billy and I don't know where he got it from, so here are life lessons from an unknown source


    Age 5 - I learned that I like my teacher because she cries when we sing "Silent Night".

    Age 7 - I learned that our dog doesn't want to eat my broccoli either.

    Age 9 - I learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what they are doing and wave back.
    Age 12 - I learned that just when I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes me clean it up again.

    Age 14 - I learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering someone else up.
    Age 15 - I learned that although it's hard to admit it, I'm secretly glad my parents are strict with me.

    Age 24 - I learned that silent company is often more healing than words of advice.

    Age 26 - I learned that brushing my child's hair is one of life's great pleasures.

    Age 29 - I learned that wherever I go, the world's worst drivers have followed me there.

    Age 30 - I learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it.

    Age 42 - I learned that there are people who love you dearly but just don't know how to show it.

    Age 44 - I learned that you can make some one's day by simply sending them a little note.

    Age 46 - I learned that the greater a person's sense of guilt, the greater his or her need to cast blame on others.

    Age 47 - I learned that children and grandparents are natural allies
    Age 48 - I learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

    Age 49 - I learned that singing "Amazing Grace" can lift my spirits for hours.

    Age 50 - I learned that motel mattresses are better on the side away from the phone.

    Age 51 - I learned that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

    Age 52 - I learned that keeping a vegetable garden is worth a medicine cabinet full of pills.

    Age 53 - I learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die.

    Age 58 - I learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.

    Age 61 - I learned that if you want to do something positive for your children, work to improve your marriage.

    Age 62 - I learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

    Age 64 - I learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.

    Age 65 - I learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, the needs of others, your work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.
    Age 66 - I learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision.

    Age 72 - I learned that everyone can use a prayer.

    Age 82 - I learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

    Age 90 - I learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch-holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

    Age 92 - I learned that I still have a lot to learn.
    I learned that you should pass this on to someone you care about. Sometimes they just need a little something to make them smile.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink