April 25, 2017

The Good Cemeterian

This Florida man is 'Good Cemeterian'

 Andrew Lumash

Andrew Lumish, 46, has made it his life's mission to restore forgotten and decaying headstones of military veterans in order to honor the contributions they have made to their country. Lumish, an owner of a cleaning service, spends spends his free time cleaning veterans' tombstones. He has scrubbed away time on more than 300 tombstones over two years time.

 Lumish With Cleaning Tools

A particularly aged tombstone can take up to four months to fully clean and Lumish takes the time in between to learn about the person, in order to bring their memory and resting place back to life. 

 Funete Restored Tombstone

Johnny Fuente was an immigrant from Spain who served in the U.S. Air Force in WWII and Korea.


Lumish said: 'If [people] can’t read it at all, they can’t celebrate it, they can’t honor that person, they can’t appreciate that person'  'Whereas if you properly restore the monuments, you can begin an entire conversation, and potentially -- in a figurative sense -- bring that person back to life'

You can follow The Good Cemeterian on Facebook  where he posts photos and the stories behind the restored tombstones and even details of the cleaning products he uses.

CBS did a lovely short video on Andrew Lumish which you can see here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink

April 30, 2013

Gravestones hold hands over a wall that separates a wife from her husband

 Hands Across Gravestones

What a lasting image of love over the walls that separate people

Catholic wife and Protestant husband, separated after death by religious bigotry

Grave of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband. The Protestant Colonel of Cavalry, JWC of Gorkum married the Catholic damsel JCPH of Aefferden. This "mixed" marriage, at that time (the 19th century), would have given them trouble. The wife wanted to be buried next to her husband, but the difference in their denomination would not allow that. So the Colonel was buried in the Protestant part, against the separation wall and his wife was buried on the Catholic side.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

April 4, 2012

The Astonishing Toll of the Civil War

A new analysis ups the number of the Civil War dead by 20% , an equivalent to 6.2 million deaths today.

U.S. Civil War Took Bigger Toll Than Previously Estimated, New Analysis Suggests

Historian David Hacker says

"The traditional estimate has become iconic.  It's been quoted for the last hundred years or more. If you go with that total for a minute -- 620,000 -- the number of men dying in the Civil War is more than in all other American wars from the American Revolution through the Korean War combined. And consider that the American population in 1860 was about 31 million people, about one-tenth the size it is today. If the war were fought today, the number of deaths would total 6.2 million."
Like earlier estimates, Hacker's includes men who died in battle as well as soldiers who died as a result of poor conditions in military camps.

"Roughly two out of three men who died in the war died from disease," Hacker says. "The war took men from all over the country and brought them all together into camps that became very filthy very quickly." Deaths resulted from diarrhea, dysentery, measles, typhoid and malaria, among other illnesses.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2011

The Beauty of the Seed Bank

On the remote Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, you will find the Svalbard Global Seed Vault preserving samples of a wide variety of plant seeds from gene banks around the world.  Just in case.

What you wouldn't expect is its awesome beauty as you can see in this photoseries.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink

August 24, 2011

Clergy banned from 9/11 ceremony UPDATED. FDNY banned too


Bloomberg Bans Clergy From 9/11 Ceremony but Ground Zero Mosque OK

Religious leaders are calling on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reverse course and offer clergy a role in the ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Rudy Washington, a deputy mayor in former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's administration, said he's outraged. Mr. Washington organized an interfaith ceremony at Yankee Stadium shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"This is America, and to have a memorial service where there's no prayer, this appears to be insanity to me," said Mr. Washington, who has suffered severe medical problems connected to the time he spent at Ground Zero

The Anchoress brings us word of the Secret Heroes at Ground Zero

Afterwards, [Cardinal Egan] worked at Ground Zero, a site so contaminated that officials told him to discard all his clothes when he returned home. He anointed bodies, listened to rescuers, and consoled both the disconsolate and their consolers. He celebrated funeral Masses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and led prayers when President George W. Bush arrived at Ground Zero, and at an ecumenical service he organized Yankee Stadium.

Other priests sprang into action too. Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, head of Catholic Charities of the New York Archdiocese, saw that it was not just Wall Street people with significant finances who were affected. It was also those who live on the edge, such as the wait staff at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop one of the Twin Towers. Msgr. Sullivan contacted the unions and said Catholic Charities would pay the salaries for six months for restaurant workers there, who were suddenly out of work — enough time, he thought, for them to find another job.

Banned.  They are all banned.

The first recorded victim of the 9/11 attacks was Fr. Mychall Judge, a Franciscan priest and chaplain of the Fire Department of New York .

 Michael Judge

Wikipedia's account of Fr, Judge

Upon hearing the news that the World Trade Center had been hit, Father Judge rushed to the site. He was met by the Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, who asked him to pray for the city and its victims. Judge administered the Last Rites to some lying on the streets, then entered the lobby of the World Trade Center North Tower, where an emergency command post was organized. There he continued offering aid and prayers for the rescuers, the injured and dead.

When the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 AM, debris went flying through the North Tower lobby, killing many inside, including Judge. At the moment he was struck in the head and killed, Judge was repeatedly praying aloud, "Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!", according to Judge's biographer and New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly.

Shortly after his death, an NYPD lieutenant, who had also been buried in the collapse, found Judge's body and assisted by two firemen and two civilian bystanders carried it out of the North Tower lobby to nearby St Peter's Church. This event was captured in the documentary film 9/11, shot by Jules and Gedeon Naudet. Shannon Stapleton, photographer from Reuters, photographed Judge's body being carried out of the rubble by five men.[12] It became one of the most famous images related to 9/11. The Philadelphia Weekly reports the photograph is considered an American Pietà.

Here's a photo of Catholic priests in FBI jackets at Ground Zero.  911-Ground-Zero-Catholic-Priests-In-Fbi-Coats   

UPDATE:  I didn't realize that  First Responders were banned from the memorial service too!

No representatives from the police or fire department or volunteers.  No FDNY!

first responder John Feal, founder of an advocacy group for the police officers, firefighters, civilian volunteers and others who worked at ground zero, assailed Brent's response, saying Bloomberg "lives in his own world."  "The best of the best that this country offered 10 years ago are being neglected and denied their rightful place," Feal said.

The Anchoress reminds us

Of the First Responders, 343 members of the FDNY lost their lives. The NYPD lost 23. The Port Authority Police lost 37. Of the 2998 killed at Ground Zero, 403 of them were First Responders, and one of them was a priest. That’s what, about 12% of the total?

The most potent and lasting  memory I have of 9/11 is that of the firemen running up the stairs, sacrificing their lives to save others

Just who does Bloomberg plan to invite anyway?  My guess more politicians and donors.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 PM | Permalink

May 30, 2011

The American Colonel Who Saved Chartres Cathedral

As the WWII generation dies away, so will many of their stories unless they are recorded or memorialized in same way, saved,  remembered and passed on to our children.  It was the local citizens of Chartres, France, who memorialized the brave American who saved one of the greatest cathedrals in the world, preserving the memory of what he had done for 50 years before his family learned about it.

A Colonel at Chartres

. . . My wife’s maternal grandfather was a colonel in the U.S. Army in WWII. They were closing in on Chartres from the southwest, and they came under heavy artillery fire from the Germans in the town. An order was issued to shell the cathedral on the assumption that the Germans were using the tower to locate the Allied forces. My wife’s grandfather questioned the strategy of taking out the cathedral on a hunch and volunteered to go behind enemy lines to find out whether the Germans really were occupying the cathedral. His offer was accepted, and he found himself climbing the cathedral tower alone, not knowing whether an enemy unit was a step or turn away. After finding the tower unoccupied, he rejoined his forces, reporting that the cathedral was clear. The order to shell the cathedral was withdrawn, and the Allies took the town. During the gunfight, my wife’s grandfather was killed. He is buried in St. James Cemetery in Brittany.

The locals somehow pieced together the story I have just recounted, and, for many years, they recognized his bravery in saving their cathedral with a plaque on a sidewalk in Lèves (on the outskirts of Chartres) where he was killed. The only problem was that they did not know how to read American dog tags. His name was Welborn Griffith (so one could forgive their not knowing which was a first name and which a last name), but they got the names reversed, and his plaque read “Griffith Welborn.” For nearly 50 years, the story about the cathedral was unknown to his family in the U.S. because of this mistake — and would have remained unknown had it not been for a historian in Lèves who maintains a small World War II museum there.

In the mid-1990s, this historian, Monsieur Papillon, realized the mistaken reversal of Colonel Griffith’s names and, upon correcting the mistake, located his only living descendant — my mother-in-law in Jacksonville, Fla. With the aid of a translator, he contacted her and told her the story of her father and Chartres Cathedral. Soon thereafter, a ceremony was held at the cathedral to honor the officer who had seen fit to question the order to bomb the cathedral, and my wife’s family was truly touched when they played “The Star-Spangled Banner” — right in the cathedral. The plaque has been corrected, and a park has been dedicated in his honor . . .

Here's another story about a woman who found her own way of honoring one who served.  It wasn't until Lee came over to move something heavy in his closet that she  learned what Sargent Major Sparky McKenna kept hidden.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 AM | Permalink

May 14, 2011

How Pocahontas became Lady Rebecca of Virginia

She studied Christianity, converted and was baptized Rebecca before she married John Rolfe.

Two years later Rolfe, Pocahontas and their son, Thomas, plus 12 Indians went to England where she was received as a lady and was presented to Queen Anne as "Lady Rebecca of Virginia."  While preparing to return to America, she got small pox and died.  She was buried in England with this plaque, "Rebecca Rolfe of Virginia, Lady Born."  There is a statue of her there and a copy of it is in Jamestown. John Rolfe returned to Jamestown to build up his plantation and was killed by Pocahontas' uncle in 1622.  Their son, Thomas, returned to America in 1635, married and had 12 children.  These descendants married into Virginia families and some eventually served in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

 Pocahontas Malick

The Unknown Story of Pocahontas

Pocahontas is the tale of a heroine, a child who exhibited moral courage and independence, a child who went against everything she'd been taught all her life in favor of the convictions of her own mind, thus proving that one's race does not have to determine one's culture or destiny. Her bravery was a great and crucial help to the survival of the colony at Jamestown and she deserves to be remembered as a part of our country's legacy..

Forget the Disney versions, see the luminously told story by Terence Malick in the film The New World, starring Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer and Q'orianka Kilcher seen in the photo above.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

February 21, 2011

"Washington is the mightiest name on earth" Abe Lincoln

I never liked Presidents' Day because of its slide into moral equivalency.

We do Washington, and the nation, two great disservices by calling today Presidents Day. Doing so elevates rogues and mediocrities to Washington's level and lowers Washington to the level of a mere President.

So let's celebrate the remarkable man our first president was, a truly transformative leader that founded a great nation and changed the world.

His motto: "For God and My Country".  His other personal motto: "Deeds not words".

What did this home-schooled man accomplish?

• Elected Surveyor of Culpepper County - 1749-1751
• Appointed Adjutant General of Virginia militia - 1752, an adjutant general is the chief administrative officer of the militia, this made him a Major at the age of 20
• Appointed Lieutenant and Colonel of Virginia Regiment - 1754
• Commander of Virginia Military - 1755-1758
• Elected to Virginia House of Burgesses - 1759-1774
• Justice of the Peace - Fairfax County, Virginia - 1760-1774
• Delegate to Continental Congress - 1774-1775
• Appointed Commander-in-Chief of Continental Forces by Continental Congress - 1775-1783
• Presiding officer over Constitutional Convention - 1787
• First President of the United States - 1789-1797 - elected twice

• Chaired Constitutional Convention in 1789
• Averted war with France or Britain in early part of his presidency, always promoting neutrality toward conflicts between other nations
• Stopped the first uprising against Federal government, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, in 1794
• By voluntarily retiring at the end of his second term, Washington established the American precedent of a non-violent transfer of power to new administrations
• Oversaw creation of first National Bank
• Oversaw creation of Jay Treaty which ended many conflicts remaining with Britain at the end of the Revolutionary War

What King George III said when he learned that Washington was going to retire as Commander of the Continental Forces

"If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world

This is what Abraham Lincoln had to say about George Washington

This is the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birth-day of Washington. We are met to celebrate this day. Washington is the mightiest name of earth — long since mightiest in the cause of civil liberty; still mightiest in moral reformation. On that name, an eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked deathless splendor, leave it shining on.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

January 20, 2011

John Kennedy's Inauguration.

Fifty years ago today was John Fitzgerald Kennedy's inauguration. As a young girl I remember being so excited and proud that the next President was from Massachusetts and was so handsome, so Catholic with so much vigah and his wife was so beautiful.

I had his autograph, passed out flyers - as if they were needed in Massachusetts - and saw Kennedy in person the night before the election at his final campaign rally at Boston Garden. It was the first political and civic event in which I fully participated. I watched every show, read every story and saved countless magazines and newspapers because it was real history.

I just about memorized his inaugural speech. "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country" galvanized me.

It's been fifty years since I've seen this float and the photograph brings it all back.


This is a Globe file photo captioned

Kennedy's inaugural parade float depicted Massachusetts as the "Cradle of Liberty" and JFK's path to the presidency. The float is seen as it passed the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

More Globe file photos here. LIFE has s a fine collection of rare and unseen JFK Inauguration photos. Image JFK in top hat and tails.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 PM | Permalink

May 31, 2010

"The endless chain of the mourning and the dead"

Mark Helprin on the "universal connection" that links every living American with those who have fallen in American wars.

I have seen lonely people of advancing age, yet as constant as angels, keeping faith to those they loved who fell in wars that current generations, not having known them, cannot even forget. The sight of them moving hesitantly among the tablets and crosses is enough to break your heart. Let that break be the father to a profound resolution to fulfill our obligation to the endless chain of the mourning and the dead. Shall we not sacrifice where required? Shall we not prove more responsible, courageous, honest, and assiduous? Shall we not illuminate our decisions with the light that comes from the stress of soul, and ever keep faith with the fallen by embracing the soldiers who fight in our name? The answer must be that we shall.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 12, 2010

He put the heads on Pez

Who knew that Pez was a Viennese candy marketed to adults as an alternative to smoking?

The idea to market the candy to children in dispensers with heads and feet came from the United States, and Curtis Allina, a survivor of concentration camps made it happen.

Curtis Allin, 87, Put Heads on Pez Dispensers.

Introduced into the United States in the early 1950s, Pez sold fitfully. Then someone thought of remarketing it as a children’s candy, in fruit flavors, packed in whimsical dispensers. It fell to Mr. Allina to persuade the home office in Vienna, by all accounts a conservative outfit that took sober pride in its grown-up mint.

Mr. Allina prevailed, and the first two character dispensers, Santa Claus and a robot known as the Space Trooper, were introduced in 1955. Unlike today’s plain-stemmed, headed-and-footed dispensers, both were full-body figures, completely sculptured from top to toe.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

November 23, 2009

The responsibility of adults to transfer the 'store of human knowledge'

Frank Furdedi in Spiked argues Let’s give children the ‘store of human knowledge’ 

In flattering kids as ‘digital natives’ for whom the past is irrelevant, we degrade a vital adult mission: transmitting knowledge.

Present educational fads are based on the premise that because we live in a new, digitally driven society, the intellectual legacy of the past and the experience of grown-ups have little significance for the schooling of children.
Although education is celebrated as one of the most important institutions of society, there is a casual disrespect for the content of what children are taught. Curriculum engineers often display indifference, if not contempt, for abstract thought and the knowledge developed in the past. .
Sadly, the ceaseless repetition of the idea that the past is irrelevant desensitises people from understanding the influence of the legacy of human development on their lives. The constant talk of ceaseless change tends to naturalise it and turn it into an omnipotent autonomous force that subjects human beings to its will.
The fetishisation of change is symptomatic of a mood of intellectual malaise, where notions of truth, knowledge and meaning have acquired a provisional character. Perversely, the transformation of change into a metaphysical force haunting humanity actually desensitises society from distinguishing between a passing novelty and qualitative change. That is why lessons learned through the experience of the past are so important for helping society face the future. When change is objectified, it turns into spectacle that distracts society from valuing the truths and insights it has acquired throughout the best moments of human history.

 Symbol Knowledge

An attitude of conservation is called for specifically in the context of intergenerational transmission of this legacy. Until recently, leading thinkers from across the ideological divide understood the significance of transmitting the knowledge of the past to young people. Conservative thinker Matthew Arnold’s formulation of passing on ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’ is virtually identical to Lenin’s insistence that education needs to transmit the ‘store of human knowledge’.
A liberal humanist education is underpinned by the assumption that children are rightful heirs to the legacy of the past. It takes responsibility for ensuring this inheritance is handed over to the young.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:32 AM | Permalink

September 11, 2009

Teardrop memorial in New York harbor

While we haven't been able to erect a memorial at Ground Zero, the Russians gave us a moving sculpture in Bayonne New Jersey, overlooking the New York harbor.  Astonishing that I never knew about it before this week.

 Teardrop Memorial Harbor-1

A Beau Geste: the 9/11 Tear Drop Memorial

The Tear Drop Memorial was created by Georgian/Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and is officially titled "To the Struggle Against World Terrorism" or "The Memorial at Harbor View Park". The monument is located at The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, New Jersey, and is lined up to look upon the Statue of Liberty. The persons most likely to see it would be those coming into the harbor by boat.

The monolithic block of vertical, earth-colored stone is over 100 feet high. It appears rent in the center from top to bottom and in the gap is a 40 foot, four ton nickel-plated tear drop. The base of the monument is a multi-faceted onyx pedestal inscribed with the names of all of those that perished on 9-11-01, from Flight 93 in Pennsylvania to the Pentagon to the twin Trade Towers.

The symbolisms of this touching and costly gesture are as profound as those of our adopted First Lady, the Statue of Liberty. The Tear Drop and the Russian people deserve, in spite of whatever else they are, a commensurate acknowledgment of this moving symbol of sympathy. It's a crime that even three years later the Russian's simpatico for our losses has not been widely recognized by America and her leaders.

 Teardrop Memorial 1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink

September 1, 2009

Remembering the tragedy of Poland

September 1, 1939 by George Marlin

Seventy years ago today, Adolf Hitler started the most horrendous war in the history of mankind by ordering the German Wehrmacht to invade and conquer Poland. The Polish army fought valiantly but they were no match for Germany’s sixty-five highly mechanized divisions and 1.8-million troops.


Hitler, who despised Poland and held that all Poles were subhuman, ordered his invading army to kill “without pity or mercy, all men, women and children of Polish descent or language.” In the first thirty days of occupation, the Wehrmacht destroyed 531 towns and villages and murdered over 16,000 civilians. Hitler’s aim was more than expanding Germany’s borders; he wanted the “annihilation of living forces” by means of extermination and enslavement. “All Poles,” Heinrich Himmler declared, “will disappear from the world.” The Nazi Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank, told his henchmen: “The Pole has no rights whatsoever. . . . A major goal of our plan is to finish off as speedily as possible all troublemaking politicians, priests, and leaders who fall into our hands.

 Invasion Poland 2

To successfully eliminate Polish nationalism, which had survived centuries of oppression, the Nazis knew they had to suppress the Church. In the annexed Polish lands, the Nazis were ruthless. Catholic churches, seminaries, monasteries, schools and universities were closed. Five thousand priests and nuns were imprisoned in concentration camps. Over 1,800 priests, 200 monks, 300 nuns and 100 seminarians died in the camps. In the post-war Polish White Book, the government conceded that Catholic life under the Germans was reduced “to what it was at the time of the Catacombs.”
In those catacombs, Karol Wojtyla would become a priest, then cardinal and then pope.

And for forty-five years, as priest, cardinal-archbishop, and pope, he relentlessly pursued a strategy of cultural resistance that eventually undermined Poland’s Communist government, destabilized Soviet domination throughout Eastern Europe, and brought down the Iron Curtain.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 PM | Permalink

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

Kelly Strong

From 1776 the Musical, here is Momma Look Sharp

It's a long line of men willing to die so that we could be free from 1776 until today, across time and space.  Let us give recollect and give thanks to all the fallen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

May 19, 2009

The Warrior Legacy Foundation

Blackfive introduces the Warrior Legacy Foundation and Ace joins in

Matt has a post up at BLACKFIVE telling the whole story, but basically those of us who didn't feel the warrior class and those who support them were being heard have formed this group. We will be ensuring that the stories that have been ignored are told to all Americans and the world and that the service and sacrifices of our troops are recognized and honored. Membership is open to anyone who believes this cause is worthy.


The Warrior Legacy Foundation
is a non-partisan organization that is committed to the protection and promotion of the reputation and dignity of America’s Warriors.

Across every generation, at war and at peace, America has asked her citizens to protect liberty and defend freedom at all costs. No matter the terrain or political climate, America’s Warriors have met every challenge and made every sacrifice that was asked of them in order to defeat our enemies and protect our way of life. The Warrior Legacy Foundation is a passionate advocate for the preservation and elevation of the hallowed legacy of the American Warrior Class.

They have asked for nothing and have given us everything.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 AM | Permalink

January 24, 2009

"The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground."

The Holocaust Memory Keeper

Father Patrick Desbois is a French Catholic priest who, virtually single-handedly, has undertaken the task of excavating the history of previously undocumented Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union, including an estimated 1.5 million people who were murdered in Ukraine. Father Desbois was born 10 years after the end of World War II -- and yet, through his tireless actions, he exemplifies the "righteous gentile." The term is generally used to recognize non-Jews who, during the Holocaust, risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis. Father Desbois is a generation too late to save lives. Instead, he has saved memory and history.

Father Desbois's French grandfather was imprisoned in a forced-labor camp in Rawa Ruska in the Ukraine during the war with 25,000 other French soldiers captured by the Germans. This initially motivated the priest to travel to the region and learn more about all of the Nazis' victims.

Father Desbois is tired, as the circles beneath his eyes attest, but he wants to learn more. In 2009, he and his team will expand their work into Belarus and Ossetia. He hopes people will contact him through his organization's Web site, yahadinunum.org, and tell him where to look for more mass graves and more eyewitnesses to history.

"These were young children who were forced, in the course of one day, to fill the grave and to witness," Father Desbois said. "They heard the last words of the dead. They want to speak."

Time is working against the priest, who accompanies researchers on most of their trips into the former Soviet Union and has, to this point, personally interviewed 823 witnesses. Each interview takes up to two hours, and his team takes 10 to 15 trips a year to the region, each lasting no more than 17 days because, he explains, "We can't bear more, psychologically." But the surviving witnesses, most of whom were children at the time of the massacres, are already in their late 70s and early 80s, and Father Desbois worries that they won't be able to tell their stories for much longer.

But this project that has become his life's work, he says, is inspired by two sources far greater than either history or circumstance. One is "min hashamayim," Father Desbois says in Hebrew -- from heaven, which inspires us to build relationships with our fellow human beings. The other inspiration, he explains, comes from the earthly world, and what is written in Genesis about the blood of Abel, murdered by Cain: "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground."

I've written about Father Patrick before in The Evil That Men Plan and Do

These people want absolutely to speak before they die," says Father Desbois of the bystanders. "They want to say the truth."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 PM | Permalink

December 7, 2008

Quick bites of Goethe

As heirs to Western civilization, our common legacy as is so vast and so great, we can not take it all in.    At best, we dip into it from time to time, sometimes as a citizen when we vote or speak against the government without any fear ; sometimes as believers when we gather in faith communities to worship God without any thought that we may be endangering our lives.  Other times we are transported in a museum before a Renaissance painting or a Greek sculpture or in a symphony hall listening to Bach's St. Matthew's Passion.

But often we depend on others to communicate the greatness of someone long dead but whose legacy still nourishes minds and hearts.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was such a man. 

According to George Eliot, Goethe was "Germany's greatest man of letters. —poet, critic, playwright, and novelist—and the last true polymath to walk the earth."  I suppose he holds a similar position in the German imagination as Thomas Jefferson, another polymath, holds in the American imagination. 

 Goethe By Steiler, Karl Joseph

The Reader's Companion to World Literature says
Goethe comes as close to deserving the title of a universal genius as any man who has ever lived.  though he will be considered here as a man of letters, it is important to remember that he had an intelligent grasp of all the arts, that he successfully carried burdensome responsibilities as a public administrator, and that his scientific interests led him to make significant contributions to mineralogy, optics, comparative anatomy and plant morphology.

Today we look to bloggers who write about what they love.  Elizabeth Powers is the Goethe girl, a writer and literary scholar with a Ph.D in German literature and a consultant to the Metropolitan Museum.  She loves Goethe and has begun a blog Goethe Etc. that vibrates with sympathy with this great man and, like him, is interested and learned about many things. 

Maybe that's how we ordinary people can preserve Western civilization.  By writing about what we love and value, sharing our appreciation with the world and passing it on to the people we love.

Maybe we only have time for quick bites of what we most need - the accumulated wisdom of the past.  For me, quick bites are quotes and here are some:

On Character:  Talents are best nurtured in solitude; character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.

On Courtesy: There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love.—From it springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior....There is no outward sign of true courtesy that does not rest on a deep moral foundation.

On Happiness: The most happy man is he who knows how to bring into relation the end and the beginning of his life.  One has only to grow older to become more tolerant. I see no fault that I might not have committed myself.

On Kindness: Kindness is the golden chain by which society  is bound  together.

On Life:  Life is a quarry, out of which we are to mold and chisel and complete a character. Life is the childhood of our immortality.

On Love: We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.

On Immortality:  Those who hope for no other life are dead even for this.

On Architecture: I call architecture frozen music.

On Nature: Nature is the living, visible garment of God.

On Riches: Riches amassed in haste will diminish, but those collected by little and little will multiply.

On the Bible: It is a belief in the Bible, the fruit of deep meditation, which has served me as the guide of my moral and literary life.—I have found it a capital safely invested, and richly productive of interest.

And others I liked
Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.

Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.

First and last, what is demanded of genius is love of truth.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 PM | Permalink

November 13, 2008

Auschwitz through the lens of the SS

A photo album by a Nazi leader in the camp that lay forgotten in an attic for sixty years.

 Auschwitz Ss Photo Album

"They were young and out for a good time."

Auschwitz through the lens of the SS  looks a lot like a resort camp.

We all know that monsters do monstrous things. But when you see people who look like they're nice guys, in a fairly benign setting, and we know for a fact that they were doing monstrous things, then it raises all sorts of questions about what's man's capacity for evil. In a different setting would they still be monsters?

They were all too frighteningly human.

It makes you think about how people could come to this. That they don't look like monsters. They look like me. They look like my next door neighbor. Is he capable of that? Am I?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:44 PM | Permalink

*Henry VII, "a spot of blood and grease on the history of England"

By focusing on his sexual life, the recent BBC series on the Tudors fails, I am told, to
remind us that Henry VIII became a bloody tyrant.  John Hinton calls it A spot of blood and grease on the history of England.

       Henry Viii

Holbein's strutting monarch shows Henry in his last dozen years when, in Charles Dickens's glorious phrase, he was "a spot of blood and grease on the history of England".

This was the man who broke with Rome and made himself supreme head of the Church, who married six wives, divorcing two and executing two others.

Henry dissolved 600 monasteries, demolished most of them and shattered the religious pieties and practices of a thousand years. Drunk with power - not to mention the wine, women and song of his endless days of pleasure - he beheaded nobles and Ministers, some of them his closest friends, tortured to death rebels and traitors, boiled prisoners and burned heretics.

He was 18 when he suddenly became king.  What did Sir Thomas More see in him as a young king?  How did a virtuous prince become a bloodthirsty tyrant?

In astonishment and dismay, Sir Thomas was to become one of the Henry's victims, climbing the scaffold and later being made a saint. But earlier More had proclaimed in verses he penned to celebrate Henry's coronation that he was a new messiah and his reign a second coming.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

March 7, 2008

Helen Keller as a young girl with Anne Sullivan

Look what was in the attic of the family home of Thaxter Spencer in Waltham, Mass, for more than a hundred years until he donated the photo albums, letters and diaries to the New England Historic Genealogical Society last June

The earliest photo, taken in 1888, of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.

Jan Seymour-Ford, a research librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, which both Sullivan and Keller attended, said she was moved to see how deeply connected the women were, even in 1888.
"The way Anne is gazing so intently at Helen, I think it's a beautiful portrait of the devotion that lasted between these two women all of Anne's life," Seymour-Ford said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:38 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2008

"The work of death' in The Republic of Suffering

From This Republic of Suffering, the new book by  Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female president of Harvard University.

Mortality defines the human condition. "We all have our dead — we all have our Graves," a Confederate Episcopal bishop observed in an 1862 sermon. Every era, he explained, must confront "like miseries"; every age must search for "like consolation." Yet death has its discontinuities as well. Men and women approach death in ways shaped by history, by culture, by conditions that vary over time and across space. Even though "we all have our dead," and even though we all die, we do so differently from generation to generation and from place to place.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the United States embarked on a new relationship with death, entering into a civil war that proved bloodier than any other conflict in American history, a war that would presage the slaughter of World War I's Western Front and the global carnage of the twentieth century. The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865, an estimated 620,000, is approximately equal to the total American fatalities in the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined. The Civil War's rate of death, its incidence in comparison with the size of the American population, was six times that of World War II.
In the Civil War the United States, North and South, reaped what many participants described as a "harvest of death." By the midpoint of the conflict, it seemed that in the South, "nearly every household mourns some loved one lost." Loss became commonplace; death was no longer encountered individually; death's threat, its proximity, and its actuality became the most widely shared of the war's experiences. As a Confederate soldier observed, death "reigned with universal sway," ruling homes and lives, demanding attention and response
The need to manage death is the particular lot of humanity.

It is work to deal with the dead as well, to remove them in the literal sense of disposing of their bodies, and it is also work to remove them in a more figurative sense. The bereaved struggle to separate themselves from the dead through ritual and mourning. Families and communities must repair the rent in the domestic and social fabric, and societies, nations, and cultures must work to understand and explain unfathomable loss.
The work of death was Civil War America's most fundamental and most demanding undertaking.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 AM | Permalink

November 16, 2007

Harnessing technology to open up the ancient past

If you are collecting information about your family origins, you must see The Peopling of the World to see how far back your ancestors go. 

 Peopling The World

Kudos to the Bradshaw Foundation for the presentation created by Stephen Oppenehimer that shows the world migrations of the human species based on the latest genetic research based on a synthesis of recent mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome evidence with archaeology, climatology and fossil study.

They call it an "iLecture" ( information lecture), a fact-driven documentary film presenting the latest theories using experts from  around the world and plan a new one each month, harnessing technology to open up the ancient past.

Fine foundation work and a hat tip to Maggie's Farm.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 AM | Permalink