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I picked up the phone with my rehearsed, “Hello. This is the Wilde Funeral Home. Caleb speaking.” The voice on the other end says abruptly, “I have a problem … my son-in-law was killed in a motorcycle accident yesterday.”
Now that I know the nature of her call, the next five or six sentences are as rehearsed as the first.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you” she says.
I pause … waiting to see if the silence elicits any farther response; and, at the same time I’m contemplating if I should deviate from the script and ask her about details of the death.
Keeping with the script, I continue on, inquiring about the hospital he’s at, the name of her daughter, her daughter’s phone number and then the hardest question of them all:
“Do you know if you want embalming or cremation?” I say with hesitation.
And what proceeded was her only scripted response.
“It depends on the condition of his body. The coroner told us he slammed into a tree without his helmet on, but they wouldn’t tell us anymore. If he’s bad … cremation. If he’s okay … embalming.”
We went over the plan of action, which consists of me calling the hospital to see if her son-in-law’s released, calling the coroner to inquire about the condition of the body and then calling her back to let her know a time she could come in to the funeral home and make arrangements.
I called the coroner’s office.
Got the release from the hospital.
And an hour later I was standing in the morgue unzipping the body bag to see if the body of this 40 year old man was viewable. It was the back of the head that hit the tree … something we could fix for his wife and four young children (ages 5 to 13), so they could see their husband and daddy one last time.
15 hours of restoration. He still didn’t look right. Dead people never look right. We’re so used to seeing them alive that dead is never accurate … but this was different. This was a motorcycle accident that threw a man into a tree.
We gave the wife the choice to continue on with the public viewing or close the lid and she chose to keep it open, sharing the reality and source of her pain in all its distortion … sharing it even with her four young children and all their schoolmates that came out in support, many of whom saw unperfected death for the very first time.
The scheduled end of the viewing came and went but people kept coming to view.
Finally the last person filed past the casket and the family knew the time to say their last good-bye had approached.
The viewing was held in a church, with the casket positioned at the front of a totally full sanctuary. As a way to provide privacy to the family, we turned the open casket around so that the lid blocked the view from the pews … creating a private space where tears could be shed in all their honest shock.
The sanctuary echoed with the cries of four children and their mother.
And the sanctuary echoed with the cries of four weeping children and their mother … making time stand silent.
The grandfather came up to the casket, wrapped his arms around the children and said, “This is hard for you to understand.” The tear soaked porcelain skin cheeks. The last look of their father’s physical body save the memories their young minds have stored.
In those moments as the sanctuary resounded with the cries produced by an inexplicable death, there wasn’t a person in the room who understood.
Yet all tried to understand. All grasped for an explanation.
In these moments — as we watched these young children — we all became like them. With all the well intended cliches emptied of meaning, we allowed our minds to reconcile with what our hearts were telling us: we simply can’t understand something that doesn’t make sense.
Because of this, many parents and guardians wonder how to discuss the topic of death with a child when necessary, whether due to the loss of an immediate family member, close relative or a friend — or else caused by a tragedy elsewhere in the world that receives significant media coverage. Here are several suggestions to help your child better understand and cope with the reality of dying and death.
Be Honest and Direct While you might feel tempted to use “softer” terms with your child when explaining the concept of death, you should avoid using euphemisms, especially with kids around age six or younger. Any parent who’s regretted telling a child sitting in the back seat of the car that they would arrive “soon” — only to hear “Are we there yet?” 60 seconds later — understands that young children often interpret what they are told literally. Thus, explaining the death of a grandparent by telling a child that he or she is “sleeping” or “went away on a long trip” will likely trigger additional questions, such as “When will he wake up?” or “When will she come back?”
In addition, being indirect about death can actually complicate your child’s grief responseby causing unnecessary fears as children continue to process what they are told. Using a euphemism such as “We lost Grandma,” for example, might make your son or daughter later worry that another loved one will disappear every time he or she hears someone is going away. Likewise, telling a child that a deceased family member is “taking a long nap” might make your child fearful whenever you tell him or her it is naptime.
Listen, Then Explain, Then Answer Whether a loved one died following a long illness, for example, or perhaps unexpectedly because of a traffic accident, you should first ask your child what he or she knows about the situation. Children often perceive or sense surprisingly more than adults realize. By listening to what your child knows, or thinks he or she knows, you can then offer a brief account of the death that provides only as much detail as you feel your child needs or can absorb, while also addressing any of his or her initial questions or misperceptions.
A child’s ability to understand the concept of death varies with age, so you should explain death in an age-appropriate but honest manner. Generally, it should prove sufficient to tell a child aged six or younger that a person’s body “stopped working” and “could not be fixed.” Six- to 10-year-olds usually grasp the finality of death to some degree by now, but will often fear that death is a “monster” or somehow “contagious,” so your explanation should include reassurance that this will not occur. Those nearing their teens, or teenagers, will usually begin to understand the forever-nature of death, but also begin to ask life’s “big questions” about their mortality and the meaning of life.
After listening to your child and then offering an honest explanation of the situation, you should allow your child to ask you questions — if he or she feels like it. Younger children will typically ask questions of a practical nature, such as where the loved is right now or if pets also go to heaven. You should answer such questions honestly and patiently, and be prepared for your child to ask similar questions in the days and weeks ahead. Older kids, such as preteens and teens, might not ask any questions initially, but you should make it clear that you are available to talk if/whenever he or she wants.
Be the Parent, But Let Your Kids be Kids Finally, it’s important to remember that parents (and adults in general) often focus too much on their worries and woes, and can lose sight of the fact that children are not “mini versions” of themselves. In other words, just because you have been thinking continually about the death of a loved one, do not assume your child is continually thinking about the loss, too. Children — particularly younger ones — possess the remarkable ability to focus on something serious one minute and to laugh or play with complete abandon the next.
Therefore, as a parent, you should avoid projecting your grief response onto your child. Regardless of how you’re feeling, try to make an honest assessment of how news of the death is affecting your child. Watch for changes in mood or behavior, such as acting out, a need for more touching or hugging, problems sleeping, panic attacks, or complaints of physical ailments, for instance. These could be signs that your child is not coping with the loss effectively.
Dallas mortuary’s TV show is a controversial undertaking
Lara Solt/Staff Photographer
John Beckwith Jr. (top center) and family members Carolyn Haynes, John Beckwith Sr. (seated) and John Beckwith III own Golden Gate Funeral Home, one of the nation’s largest and most respected African-American funeral homes.
But even for a shameless genre that spawned such boob-tube tomfoolery as All My Babies’ Mamas andHere Comes Honey Boo Boo, the latest lure, Best Funeral Ever, may take the cake.
Most shocking is that the TLC series, which debuted as a pilot program in January and made its season premiere Monday night, was launched at one of the most respected and largest African-American funeral homes in the nation.
And that, for better or worse, happens to be in Dallas, at the Golden Gate Funeral Home, a fast-growing family-owned enterprise that is a force to be reckoned with in the multibillion-dollar-a-year nationwide funeral business.
John Beckwith Jr., a charismatic 47-year-old whose uncanny sense of humor belies his profession, is the front man for Best Funeral Ever, which turns the solemn into spectacle.
Episodes feature everything from fake mourners, which Beckwith says he’s never used other than in the TV show, and a wedding for the cremated remains of a couple that died 10 months apart.
Nothing seems off limit, whether it’s putting someone in a chocolate casket or staging a track race for a former Olympic runner.
For all that, Beckwith has been lampooned. Some critics say he’s turning the mortuary business his parents founded into a national laughingstock.
“It’s official,” Nsenga K. Burton, an editor-at-large for The Root, wrote after the pilot aired in January. “Reality-television executives have lost their minds … setting back images of black folks in television at least 60 years.”
You won’t hear me trying to talk Burton out of her unsparingly harsh characterizations. Black folks waitedforever for some TV show to put their family life in a positive light. So it’s fair to wonder whether this genre is working to undo what The Cosby Show finally achieved 29 years ago.
“I get what they’re saying,” Beckwith said. “But there is another side of the story.”
And here’s where Beckwith shines, where his business savvy shows and one appreciates the method to this madness.
“One of the biggest problems we’ve had in the funeral business was it’s so secret,” he said.
So a few years ago, to demystify his trade, Beckwith started hosting a local weekly TV and radio program called Ask the Undertaker.
He also launched a ride-along program that allows people to shadow Golden Gate officials and observe how they work with families.
“The only limitation we have is that they are not allowed to go into our morgue, for privacy reasons,” he said. “And they can’t go into our files.”
Beckwith is breaking down other barriers, too: In a business that remains largely segregated, he’s trying to attract more Latino and Anglo families.
“We want to bury everybody,” he said. “But more than anything, when a family walks through those doors, we want to make them feel special and empowered at a time when they’re grieving.”
His easygoing if unorthodox approach is working. The small business that started in Waxahachie 33 years ago has expanded to Fort Worth and Louisiana and settled into larger digs in Oak Cliff.
The funeral home buries or cremates about 2,500 people a year and generates about $10 million a year, he said. “We’re definitely in the Top 5 of any nationwide black funeral homes,” he said.
Beckwith isn’t taking criticism of the reality show lightly. When some of his longtime customers first saw it, he said, “They were like, ‘John, what are you doing?’ We really surprised people with the plot.”
“We were a little upset” at the initial reaction “because we thought people knew us,” he said. “More than 98 percent of our services are traditional.”
Several families featured in the show were among the 200 guests at a red-carpet event that Beckwith and the show’s producers hosted Monday night at the University of North Texas at Dallas.
The families said the zany services were cathartic for them and in keeping with the spirit of those laid to rest.
“When you’re watching it,” Beckwith said, “I know you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But we’re not celebrating anyone’s death. We’re celebrating their life.”
James Ragland writes on race and culture, education, social services and public health. Follow him on Twitter at @jamesrag land61 and on Facebook at facebook.com/JamesRagland61.
We interrupt the cheer of the festive season to remind you that you’re going to die.
If you thought Christmas spending was a strain on the bank account, the cost of your funeral will see you turn in your freshly dug grave.
Sure, death is a one-off expense (unless you believe in reincarnation) but it can easily set you back more than $10,000.
If you pop your clogs without a plan in place, you could leave friends and relatives picking up the tab.
And that can be quite an impressive bill.
The headstone alone starts from around $1000, while the coffin will usually cost at least the same again.
Add another $500 to $700 for embalming, and $1200 to $3000 for council burial fees.
That’s not to mention the flowers, service, celebrant, venue, death notices and other sundry expenses, says Funeral Directors Association president Eion McKinnon.
"My average funeral would be somewhere in the vicinity of $9000, today."
Of course, your final send-off doesn’t have to be an extravagant affair. The most crucial factor is whether you opt for a burial or cremation.
Cemetery plots have become hot real estate in some cities, with already heavily subsidised prices soaring.
Souly Cremations is a new entrant to the market, specifically targeted at those who want a more affordable disembarkment from the realm of the living.
"A lot of people are a bit more open to a crematorium now," says managing director Aleisha Morris.
One lady who phoned her recently had spent $12,000 burying her father.
"I think people are kind of realising it’s crazy to spend that much on a funeral."
Souly Cremations’ cheapest, no-frills package costs $1795- which gets you a basic casket, all the documents and return of the ashes.
Rather than paying big money for funeral ceremonies, Morris says families are increasingly conducting DIY affairs.
"We’ll give them the ashes back, and they’ll have a memorial service at an RSA or a barbecue at home, or just whatever they’re wanting to organise," she says.
"Everyone’s really different, but definitely the cost side of it is a major."
If you know you’re leaving enough money behind to cover your affairs, you might not be worried about putting relatives under pressure.
But bear in mind that it can be months between your death and the actual settlement of your estate.
Funeral homes are running a business, says McKinnon - they have to get paid too.
If they don’t, some will charge a monthly fee or interest on the unpaid bill after a certain period.
This means families often do have to come up with the cash, and at quite short notice if the death was unexpected.
So what can you do to make sure your death is as stress-free as possible for grieving relatives?
Relying on government assistance is not a good idea.
Work and Income will pay up to a maximum of $1971, which is reduced by every dollar you have to your name.
"The WINZ grant is means-tested, and of course it doesn’t go very far at all," says McKinnon.
Theoretically, it could cover the most basic cremation with no service, but it’s not always easy getting the money.
Then there’s insurance, usually marketed with a tug at the heartstrings of how you need to protect your family.
"At the moment there’s a huge push by insurance companies for people to take out policies," says McKinnon.
The Insurance and Savings Ombudsman (ISO) scheme is not a big fan of funeral plan cover.
In one of the cases it investigated, a pensioner’s premiums were hiked to the point where she could no longer afford to pay them.
She had already paid more than $3000 - which was more than the actual sum she was insured for.
The ISO calculated that if she made it to the age of 90, she would have ended up forking out a further $10,800.
And yet the brochure the company sent her claimed she could “protect [her] family from less than the cost of a cup of coffee”.
"The ISO Scheme is particularly concerned about the emotional nature of the marketing around these policies and whether consumers’ attention is drawn to the fact that the premiums paid may exceed the benefit payable," the ISO says.
Consumer New Zealand suggests you check you’re not already covered.
Some companies provide up to $15,000 for funerals in standard life insurance products, so you don’t need to buy a separate policy.
Another option is the pre-paid funeral, which makes up a small but significant part of the market.
McKinnon couldn’t say how much exactly, but says its popularity has been reasonably steady over the last 10 years or so.
Unlike insurance, the money you contribute to a pre-paid plan funeral trust is set aside for your death, regardless of whether you stop contributing.
Funeral-link, a scheme endorsed by McKinnon’s organisation, offers two options.
You can take out a fixed plan, which locks in the funeral services you want at today’s prices.
That carries a set-up fee of $400 plus GST, and is only available for cremation.
Otherwise you can get a non-fixed plan with a set-up fee of $150, plus GST.
The funds you contribute are drawn down to pay for services in the prices of the day, with any extra costs or surpluses returned to the estate.
With administration fees of $50 plus GST every year or part-year, it’s still not necessarily a very cost-effective option.
If you had the prescience to fix a sum of money 15 years before you actually died, you’d be rewarded with fees of something like $1300.
Consumer NZ also warns that if you change your mind about signing up, it’s hard to get your money out.
"These plans aren’t for everyone and there are simpler ways of funding your final farewell," it says.
One alternative option might be to set up a savings account or pool of money clearly earmarked for funeral costs.
At the very least, you have to give the morbid topic some thought.
Encouragingly, most of us are.
McKinnon has two decades’ experience in the industry. “Our contemporary generations are much more open to talking about this,” he says.
"They ask questions, they want to know - and we’re very willing to provide those answers."
Adopt a Skull and Save a Collection That Helped Debunk Phrenology
Photo: The Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia wants you to adopt a skull. Among their strange and fascinating collection of medical artifacts and anatomical specimens is a collection of 139 skulls collected in the 1800s by Viennese anatomist Joseph Hyrtl, who was trying to debunk the then-popular pseudoscience of phrenology.
Your $200 donation pays for the initial restoration and remounting of a skull of your choosing, and gets your name on a small plaque next to your adopted skull for the next year.
Photo: The Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
The catalog of the skulls hints at many interesting stories. Some specimens have already been adopted, including the skulls of a Viennese prostitute, a notorious Thai criminal, and a tightrope walker who broke his neck (adopted by the editors of a blog called Skull-A-Day). The same goes for Geza Uirmeny of Hungary (or possibly Romania), who attempted suicide at age 70 by cutting his throat, but remarkably survived, and perhaps even more remarkably “lived until 80 without melancholy.”
And, alas, there’s Andrejew Sokoloff, who belonged to a Russian sect that practiced castration as a safeguard against ungodly lust. Sokoloff “died of self-inflicted removal of testicles,” according to museum records, but his skull will be well cared for thanks to the generosity of Judy and George Wohlreich.
There are roughly 100 skulls still awaiting adoption, says museum curator Anna Dhody. They include sailors, soldiers, robbers, and Gypsies. Anton Mikschik, a 17-year-old Moravian shoemaker’s apprentice, killed himself after getting caught stealing. Maria Falkensteiner, a Tyrolean maidservant, was just 22 when she died of meningitis. Joska Soltesz, a Hungarian reformist and soldier, died of pneumonia at 28.
The skulls have been in the museum’s collection since 1874. They include only 14 women, but represent a wide range of ages, from 8 to 80. Many died in poorhouses or jails, or from suicide or execution, which probably made it easier for Hyrtl’s associates to obtain the remains without facing resistance from surviving relatives. Such practices would be completely unacceptable today, but for 19th century anatomists it was standard procedure. In at least one case Hyrtl apparently employed the services of a grave robber.
Hyrtl taught anatomy at the University of Vienna, and he was a consummate collector. His personal collection may have once included the skull of Mozart. In addition to human skulls, he possessed 800 fish skeletons and more than 300 “organs of hearing” from a variety of animals.
Hyrtl lived during the heyday of phrenology, the idea that the brain was made up of discrete mental organs, each with a specific function. The size of each organ in a given person was thought to indicate the strength of the corresponding mental faculty. These ranged from things like benevolence and cautiousness to the propensity to bear lots of offspring. Because the skull remains soft during infancy, the thinking went, its external bumps reflected the size of the mental organs underneath — and, by proxy, the character of the person.
“Phrenology was an accepted science, and what went hand in hand with that at the time was the assumption that the Caucasian race was the most superior race,” Dhody said.
It’s all bunk, of course. Today that’s obvious. Hyrtl didn’t buy it either, but his reasons weren’t entirely scientific. A devout Catholic, he believed that the mind and brain developed according to God’s plan and therefore had no relationship to any measurements of the skull, which like any part of the body would be subject to forces in the natural world. He set out to prove this by collecting skulls.
He hoped to show — and did — that there was as much variation in cranial anatomy within the European Caucasian population as there was between different racial groups. His findings undermined the racist suppositions of the phrenologists.
Although he was already famous in academic circles, Hyrtl did not make a lot of friends with this line of inquiry and seems to have been forced into early retirement from the university as a result, Dhody says. “He definitely made waves.” By the end of his life he found himself in financial trouble, and began selling off collections. The Mütter bought the skulls and an assortment of other anatomical specimens from Hyrtl in 1874 for 6,410 Austrian thalers, or about $4,800 at the time.
The skulls are on display in the museum’s mezzanine, and the original cast iron mounts are damaging them because they transmit vibrations caused by visitors walking past their cases, Dhody says. The museum launched its Save Our Skulls campaign last summer, hoping to raise enough money to replace the old mounts with new vibration-absorbing mounts customized for each skull.
The campaign is scheduled to end December 31st, but Dhody says the museum may extend it in hopes of finding more skull sponsors.
South Africa is still bedeviled by challenges, from class inequality to political corruption to AIDS. And with Mandela’s death, it has lost a beacon of optimism.
Feb. 1990: NBC’s Robin Lloyd reports on Nelson Mandela on the eve of his release from prison in 1990. Mandela’s name has become a rallying cry for the overthrow of apartheid, but no one but prison guards and visitors have actually seen him since he was jailed 27 years ago.
In his jailhouse memoirs, Mandela wrote that even after spending so many years in a Spartan cell on Robben Island – with one visitor a year and one letter every six months – he still had faith in human nature.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion,” he wrote in “Long Walk to Freedom.”
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Mandela retired from public life in 2004 with the half-joking directive, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” and had largely stepped out of the spotlight, spending much of his time with family in his childhood village.
His health had been fragile in recent years. He had spent almost three months in a hospital in Pretoria after being admitted in June for a recurring lung infection. He was released on Sept. 1.
In his later years, Mandela was known to his countrymen simply as Madiba, the name of his tribe and a mark of great honor. But when he was born on July 18, 1918, he was named Rolihlahla, which translated roughly – and prophetically – to “troublemaker.”
South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela turned 93 today, as 12 million school children celebrated his life in song. Brian Williams reports.
Mandela was nine when his father died, and he was sent from his rural village to the provincial capital to be raised by a fellow chief. The first member of his family to get a formal education, he went to boarding school and then enrolled in South Africa’s elite Fort Hare University, where his activism unfurled with a student boycott.
As a young law scholar, he joined the resurgent African National Congress just a few years before the National Party – controlled by the Afrikaners, the descendants of Dutch and French settlers – came to power on a platform of apartheid, in which the government enforced racial segregation and stripped non-whites of economic and political power.
As an ANC leader, Mandela advocated peaceful resistance against government discrimination and oppression – until 1961, when he launched a military wing called Spear of the Nation and a campaign of sabotage.
The next year, he was arrested and soon hit with treason charges. At the opening of his trial in 1964, he said his adoption of armed struggle was a last resort born of bloody crackdowns by the government.
“Fifty years of non-violence had brought the African people nothing but more and more repressive legislation and fewer and few rights,” he said from the dock.
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
April, 1994: Former political prisoner Nelson Mandela is on the verge of being elected South Africa’s first black president.
He was sentenced to life in prison and sent to Robben Island. As inmate No. 466/64, he slept on the floor of a six-foot-wide cell, did hard labor in a quarry, organized fellow prisoners – and earned a law degree by correspondence.
As the years passed, his incarceration drew ever more attention, with intensifying cries for his release as a global anti-apartheid movement gained traction. Songs were dedicated to him and 600 million people watched the Free Mandela concert at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1988.
In 1985, he turned down the government’s offer to free him if he renounced armed struggle against apartheid. It wasn’t until South African President P.W. Botha had a stroke and was replaced by F.W. de Klerk in 1989 that the stage was set for his release.
After a ban on the ANC was repealed, a whiter-haired Mandela walked out prison before a jubilant crowd and told a rally in Cape Town that the fight was far from over.
“Our struggle has reached a decisive moment,” he said. “We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait.”
Over the next two years, Mandela proved himself a formidable negotiator as he pushed South Africa toward its first multiracial elections amid tension and violence. He and de Klerk were honored with the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.
When the elections were held in April 1994, the ex-prisoner became the next president and embarked on a mission of racial reconciliation, government rebuilding and economic rehabilitation.
Philip Littleton / AFP - Getty Images, file
Springbok captain Francois Pienaar receives the Rugby World Cup from South African President Nelson Mandela at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on June 24, 1995.
A year into his tenure, with racial tensions threatening to explode into civil war, Mandela orchestrated an iconic, unifying moment: He donned the green jersey of the Springboks rugby team – beloved by whites, despised by blacks – to present the World Cup trophy to the team captain while the stunned crowd erupted in cheers of “Nelson! Nelson!”
He chose to serve only one five-year term – during which he divorced his second wife, Winnie, a controversial activist, and married his third, Graca, the widow of the late president of Mozambique.
After leaving politics, he concentrated on his philanthropic foundation. He began speaking out on AIDS, which had ravaged his country and which some critics said he had not made a priority as president.
When he officially announced he was leaving public life in 2004, it signaled he was slowing down, but he still made his presence known. For his 89th birthday, he launched a “council of elders,” statesmen and women from around the world who would promote peace. For his 90th, he celebrated at a star-studded concert in London’s Hyde Park.
As he noted in 2003, “If there is anything that would kill me it is to wake up in the morning not knowing what to do.”
In April, de Klerk was asked on the BBC if he feared that Mandela’s eventual death would expose fissures in South Africa that his grandfatherly presence had kept knitted together.
De Klerk said that Madiba would be just as unifying a force in death.
“When Mandela goes, it will be a moment when all South Africans put away their political differences, take hands, and will together honor maybe the biggest South African that has ever lived,” he said.
According to the article, 87-year-old Eleanor died in Monroe, North Carolina on the morning of November 29 while in hospice care. Hours later, Frank, unaware that his wife had died, suffered respiratory failure and followed her.
Their love story is one for the ages. Frank and Eleanor met at a car dealership back in 1948 where Frank was shopping for a ride and Eleanor was working as a secretary. When asked if he wanted to test drive a car, Frank responded, “Yes, but only if I can take your secretary with me,” the couple’s daughter Linda Purser told the Charlotte Observer.
The couple’s bond lasted over six decades and produced two children and three grandchildren.
Purser told the Observer that her parents’ marriage was strong until the end. Before Eleanor was moved to hospice care, Frank looked after her even while the pair lived in a nursing home together. “[Frank] was still able to walk, and she wasn’t. She was supposed to pull a cord to alert the staff when she needed something, but she’d just call him instead,” Purser explained.
“He was doing stuff he wasn’t supposed to be doing. He did for her anything she wanted because he just adored her so much. And she sure loved him, too,” she added.
The two were buried together at Lakeland Memorial Park in North Carolina.
DEBATERS Christopher Coutts A Lifetime After the Baby Boom, a Burial Boom CHRISTOPHER COUTTS, PROFESSOR OF URBAN PLANNING Richard Moylan Country Plots and Alternative Spaces RICHARD MOYLAN, GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY Melinda Hunt A Respectful Approach for Unclaimed Bodies MELINDA HUNT, HART ISLAND PROJECT Moona Taslim Minimizing Costs, When Burial Is Required MOONA TASLIM, HAJI TASLIM FUNERALS Oliver Peacock Instead of Urban Sprawl, Create a Forest OLIVER PEACOCK, WOODLAND BURIALS Charles Morris Green Burial Is Friendler to the Earth CHARLES MORRIS, GREEN BURIAL COUNCIL INTERNATIONAL Marc Jahr Preserve Memory and Remember Life’s Brevity MARC JAHR, AUTHOR INTRODUCTION cemeteryy Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times Washington Cemetery in Borough Park, Brooklyn. The world’s cities are running out of space to bury their dead. After all, apartment dwellers can’t bury relatives in the front yard. While traditions like All Souls’ Day, All Saints’ Day, the Day of the Dead and Samhain honor the dead this week, we ask a question for the living: Where will our bodies go?
What to do with an ancient skull and head collection?
By Faye Chambers BBC News Online
Major General Horatio Gordon Robley with his collection of Maori heads, 1895 Collectors of tattooed or shrunken tribal heads sometimes donated items to museums and academic institutions as they were founded Continue reading the main story 1/3 Continue reading the main story Related Stories Maori head returned to New Zealand Maori head returning to New Zealand Maori head repatriated 170 years on Mummified heads, tattooed skulls and relics of sacrifices are among the collection of about 60 ancient body parts that the University of Birmingham no longer wants in its stores. But what do you do with an ancient skull and head collection of potentially culturally sensitive artefacts? After returning a Maori tattooed head and skulls to New Zealand, university staff revealed the institute is facing the problem of what to do with other ancient remains identified in the medical school stores. Dr June Jones, religious and cultural diversity expert at the university, said the remains reflect European exploration and the former British Empire. ‘Deeply ashamed’ Warrington Museum mask of a tattooed Maori head A mask of a Maori tattooed head, similar to one returned by Birmingham University, is on display in Warrington Each item is boxed and labelled with a location, including Fiji, East Africa, Australia, the USA and New Zealand. Some are simply classified ‘Inca’. The fact is the university would rather not own this material at all. There is scant paperwork about how the body parts came to be in Birmingham, but it is likely they were collected by wealthy individuals in the 1700s and 1800s before being donated to the medical school, which was founded in 1825.
"To keep them would be wrong," said Dr Jones. "These items being stolen or traded is an example of historical practices we’re now deeply ashamed of," she added. The collection is made up mostly of skulls. Some of them show marks that suggest they have been used for phrenology, a practice popular in the 19th Century that tried to prove links between head shape and character. Others are misshapen, which the university suspects were children selected for sacrifice whose heads were bound from birth to produce unusual deformities. Continue reading the main story Toi moko - Maori preserved heads Under Maori tradition tattoos were inscribed on the faces of chiefs and warriors After death the head - considered sacred - was smoked and dried in the sun for preservation Heads were sometimes taken in tribal wars In the late 18th Century European collectors started to buy them as curiosities In 1831 the sale of toi moko was banned by the governor of New Zealand Trade continued illegally for almost a century Experts estimate there are 650 Maori remains held worldwide, mostly in European institutions The university still receives enquiries from donors wishing to help the anatomy department after their death, but it does not use ancient remains for teaching or display. Dr Jones recently instigated the repatriation of a tattooed Maori head and skeletal remains to New Zealand. Inviting Maori delegates from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa to collect the artefacts - their ancestors - was the culmination of more than two years’ research work. Arapata Hakiwai, the Maori leader of the museum, said: "Repatriation is always very special, it’s the return of our ancestors home." Dr Jones has also returned one set of skulls herself, carried as luggage with special permission, on a flight to California.
She said: “I spent most of the day crying. It’s a huge responsibility looking after these things. It is almost like carrying a baby and giving it back to its mum. “They are so much more than bones to the tribes, they are getting their heritage back.” Dr June Jones and John Burch Dr June Jones and the boxed skulls were received by John Burch, Salinan Tribe Traditional Lead Roseanna Maxwell, a member of the Salinan tribe present at the Californian repatriation, said: “Words cannot express the depth of gratitude owed to Birmingham University. “This shows other universities, museums and private collectors how to take a look in their own closets and repatriate to culturally affiliated tribes.” Jonathan Reinarz, from the History of Medicine Unit at the university, said: “We have to take responsibility for this. This is not our past, this is in front of us now. “Repatriating material shows recognition for tribal people and their rights, it underlines how they need to be seen.” The New Zealand government has been proactive in researching Maori remains and has archives suggesting more than 400 are still held in the UK alone. At one stage Aberdeen University claimed to own about 80,000 Maori exhibits. Some of these were returned in 2006, when Neil Curtis, the curator of the university’s Marischal Museum, said: “They are no longer objects, they are people.”
Oxford University continues to display some of its tribal remains publically, in the Pitt Rivers Museum. It has a policy of assessing education and research significance before remains are considered for repatriation. Birmingham University is now planning to return skulls to Australia, despite having limited details of where they originated. Birmingham University repatriated remains on their way to the Sacred Repository within Te Papa The Maori remains from Birmingham University were received in a formal ceremony in New Zealand “DNA testing is expensive, at £300 a sample, and because these skulls are so old there’s no guarantee of a good result,” said Dr Jones. Instead, archives have been studied and information sought from indigenous leaders. A decision will be made by the end of the year on whether to invite indigenous representatives to Birmingham or to send Dr Jones to Australia with the remains. The rest of the collection has a less certain future because there is so little evidence about its past.
Many countries visited by collectors do not have official repatriation programmes or the resources to undertake research. Where no provenance and rightful owner can be found, the university admits it may have to “sensitively destroy” remains by cremation. For now, though, the team’s research continues.
Sound therapists and Manchester band Marconi Union compiled the song. Scientists played it to 40 women and found it to be more effective at helping them relax than songs by Enya, Mozart and Coldplay.
Weightless works by using specific rhythms, tones, frequencies and intervals to relax the listener. A continuous rhythm of 60 BPM causes the brainwaves and heart rate to synchronise with the rhythm: a process known as ‘entrainment’. Low underlying bass tones relax the listener and a low whooshing sound with a trance-like quality takes the listener into an even deeper state of calm.
Dr David Lewis, one of the UK’s leading stress specialists said: “‘Weightless’ induced the greatest relaxation – higher than any of the other music tested. Brain imaging studies have shown that music works at a very deep level within the brain, stimulating not only those regions responsible for processing sound but also ones associated with emotions.”
The study - commissioned by bubble bath and shower gel firm Radox Spa - found the song was even more relaxing than a massage, walk or cup of tea. So relaxing is the tune, apparently, that people are being Rex advised against listening to it while driving.
The top 10 most relaxing tunes were: 1. Marconi Union - Weightless 2. Airstream - Electra 3. DJ Shah - Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix) 4. Enya - Watermark 5. Coldplay - Strawberry Swing 6. Barcelona - Please Don’t Go 7. All Saints - Pure Shores 8. AdelevSomeone Like You 9. Mozart - Canzonetta Sull’aria 10. Cafe Del Mar - We Can Fly
my muscles stopped functioning
I was so relieved this wasn’t a trick. Very soothing.
Have you guys ever heard of Near Death Experiences?
Near Death Experiences are when a person comes extremely close to dying or does die but is then revived. In those times, a lot of people talk about bright lights, some will say they saw a place or angels.
50% of people who have NDE’s also experience music. They often describe it as without rhythm or beat. Just a beautiful, soft, flowing music. They say it’s the most beautiful music they’ve ever experience and, for quite a few people, hearing this music has changed their life, made them want to be a better person.
There was one person, a guy called Steve Roach, who got into a bike crash and went through an NDE and he heard this music as well. He then spent years trying to recreate it. When he had, to what was the best he could, he released the music. Many people who heard the music said that it was the same as what they’d heard when they were near death and that it made them cry from happiness at hearing it again.
The music in this track is very similar to the music that Roach produced.
A lot of people believe that this music that people here during NDE’s is the sound of the universe. Some believe that it’s angels singing them to heaven. Other’s believe it’s just chemicals and hormones and brain synapses creating an auditory hallucination. Either way though, I find it extremely comforting and quite beautiful that this happens.
In perhaps the death that shook the technology world more than any other in 2013, Internet activist and virtuoso programmer Aaron Swartz took his own life on Jan. 11 at age 26. Swartz helped develop RSS at age 14 and went on to found Infogami, a wiki application framework, which later merged with Reddit. In 2010, Swartz started Demand Progress, a group that fought against Internet censorship and legislation such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). He eventually faced legal trouble for downloading and harvesting millions of academic journal articles from the digital library JSTOR. Swartz was reportedly battling depression.
If you’re using a computer mouse right now, you can thank Douglas Engelbart. Video game lovers can be grateful for Hiroshi Yamauchi, who propelled the industry forward during his many years as president of Nintendo.
Scroll through the gallery above to read more about the accomplishments of 10 prominent innovators in science and technology who died in 2013.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Are you sitting down while reading this? Well that could be shortening your lifespan. Let’s be honest: From the moment we’re born, we’re all dying just as we’re living. But certain mundane things we do every day may actually be helping us get there faster. None of this means we should even try to eliminate these behaviors from our lives entirely, but it’s proof that overdoing anything, even when seemingly innocuous, can have serious impacts on our health. Below we’ve rounded up 11 everyday things you’re probably doing that could potentially shorten your lifespan:
1. You’re having a hard time finding love. 124323534 Having a difficult time finding a mate can shave off months of your life, while being single for prolonged periods of time could cost you a whole decade. A study by Harvard Medical School found that communities with gender ratios skewing significantly more male or female caused the minority sex to have shorter lifespans. Even when exposed to short timeframes of competition, such as attending a high school entirely of one gender, participants were found to have generally shorter lives. Lead researcher Nicholas Christakis stressed this ratio had a sexual mating basis, rather than simple social dominance. On top of all this, another study found that never getting married could increase risk of death over a lifetime by 32 percent, and led to the previously mentioned loss of a decade. That said, changing attitudes toward the social necessity of getting married over the 60-year research period could have potentially affected the results. In 1950, Census data shows that 78 percent of households were occupied by a married couple — by 2010, that figure had dropped to 48 percent. In other words? Being single or partnered and unmarried is no longer the minority status.
2. You’re sitting down for more than a few hours every day. 113199922 Two whole years of your life could be cut just from sitting more than three hours a day. Australian researchers published in the British Medical Journal found that even regular exercise couldn’t deter the potential negative effects of sitting for long stretches of time. Another study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine found that sitting for more than 11 hours a day increased the risk of death by 40 percent over the next three years, compared to sitting for under four hours a day. Time to get that stand-up desk.
3. You’re neglecting your friends. 113200109 People with weak social connections were found to die at much higher rates than their counterparts, according to research by Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which collected data from 148 different studies. The same researchers found that prolonged loneliness could be as bad for your lifespan as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. On top of all this, elderly people with large circles of friends were found to be 22 percent less likely to die over a tested study period, and those social connections generally promote brain health in aging brains.
4. You’re vegging out in front of your TV. 124908333 Watching just two hours of television a day can lead to an increased risk of premature death, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to Harvard researchers. The negative effects of watching television seem to overlap with the potential negative effects of sitting too much, but watching television seems to make the negative effects of sitting even worse. According to the New York Times, “every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.”
5. You’re eating too much unhealthy food. 145071773 Perhaps this sounds obvious, but the truth is that so many of us continue to do it. The existence of the “Stroke Belt” — which includes many southeastern states and ranges from parts of Texas to Virginia, overlapping with much of the “Diabetes Belt” — has led to many studies trying to figure out why life expectancy is so low and strokes are so common there. One such study focused on a town in East Texas. The residents of this town died seven years earlier than the healthiest Texans, according to the research done by the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. As the New York Times reported, “The proof of Anderson County’s live-hard, die-young culture is in the bread pudding — and the all-you-can-eat fried catfish, the drive-through tobacco barns and the dozens of doughnut shops that dot this East Texas county of about 57,000.” As far as what foods to especially avoid, eating red meat seems to shorten life expectancy by as much as 20 percent when eating extra portions.
6. You’re still looking for a job. 135468516 Being unemployed can increase a person’s risk of premature death by 63 percent, according to findings by Canadian researchers after analyzing 40 years of data from 20 million people in 15 countries. Other more specific studies on the changing mortality rates of American white women found that “the two factors most strongly associated with higher death rates were smoking and not having a job.” Another found that older people who lost their jobs during the recession could have seen their lifespan decrease by as many as three years.
7. You’re dealing with a long commute. 87957687 Commutes of about an hour have been found to increase stress and have been linked to the same negative effects as sitting. Long commutes also reduce the likelihood that individuals will consistently participate in health related activities. The greatest lifespan risk is with female commuters, who were found to have significantly shorter lifespans after consistently commuting for 31 miles or more, according to researchers at Sweden’s Umeå University. The cause for the dip in female life expectancies has been the topic of much speculation lately, but while the Swedish research was able to link commuting to obesity, insomnia and a higher rate of divorce, it wasn’t able to pinpoint why female mortality rates are higher.
8. You’re having a dry-spell. 88786500 A study among men found that failing to orgasm for extended periods of time can potentially cause your mortality rate to be 50 percent higher than for those who have frequent orgasms. This result was found even when controlling for factors such as age, smoking, and social class. On the opposite spectrum, orgasms have been linked to quite a few additional health benefits.
9. You’re putting up with annoying co-workers. 88786595 Missing out on strong connections with your co-workers can also potentially mean missing out on a longer life. According to researchers at Tel Aviv University, “Peer social support, which could represent how well a participant is socially integrated in his or her employment context, is a potent predictor of the risk of all causes of mortality.” Although having feelings of encouragement coming from bosses and managers didn’t seem to affect the subjects’ lifespans, those who reported feelings of low social support at work were 2.4 times more likely to die over the study period.
10. You’re not sleeping enough (or maybe too much?) 124334647 Harvard Medical School points out that research has shown that life expectancies significantly decrease in subjects who average less than five or more than nine hours a night. Most of us suffer from too little rather than too much sleep, but research suggests there truly is a sleep “sweet spot” — at least if you’re primarily concerned about living for as long as possible. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, dementia, cognitive and memory problems, weight gain and early death. And some research shows that too much (dramatically, unusually too much) regular sleep could be problematic as well. Research has also shown that we need an average of eight hours to function optimally, but another, somewhat controversial study found that getting more than seven hours of sleep a night has been linked to shortened lifespans. A 12 percent increase in mortality rate was found in people who slept eight hours versus those who hovered closer to seven, in a 2002 study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. However, other studies have found that needing to sleep for too long may be a sign of other physical ailments, from diabetes to depression.
11. You’re fearing death or that you won’t live for as long as you’d like. 173291495 This is a painful paradox. A fear of a shortened lifespans, or Thanatophobia, can potentially end up causing - a shortened lifespan. A 2012 study on cancer patients published in the US National Library of Medicine ended up finding that, “life expectancy was perceived as shortened in patients with death anxiety.” Outside of cancer patients, an intense fear of death can also lead to a three to five times increase in the risk of cardiovascular ailments, according to research on Americans who feared death from another terrorist attack following Sept. 11, 2001. Although a slight fear of death has been shown to have positive benefits, like an increase in exercise and healthy eating, the fear has been shown to significantly affect lifespans, especially in adults nearing the age of being considered elderly. These effects can also be correlated to especially paranoid people having weaker connections with society and increased feelings of alienation — the negative effects of which were both discussed above. Sorry about your inevitable collapse.
With new momentum to shatter long-standing taboos and stop tip-toeing around death — from “death with dignity” measures sweeping the country to projects promoting kitchen table “conversations” about our parents’ deepest dying wishes — a re-energized DIY death movement is emerging.
There’s a social network for dead people Published November 21, 2013FoxNews.com social-network-for-dead-neshama.jpg NESHAMA.INFO If you have a pulse, this social network is not for you. Israeli entrepreneur Shelly Furman Asa spent an estimated $40,000 to build Neshama.info in order to preserve and record headstones in Israel. “It’s a kind of social network for the dead, or for their relatives,” Asa told Israeli paper Haaretz. ” That’s what I was after on my website, [also in English, though names of the deceased can only be searched in Hebrew]. We worked on it for a year, and it went online last month. Asa hopes that Neshama, which means soul in Hebrew, will be a way for people to commemorate their loved ones. “There are many things that have been done in connection with the commemoration of soldiers, Holocaust victims and so on. But we don’t have simple ways to commemorate – with high visibility – ordinary, everyday people who did not die in heroic circumstances.” There are currently 120,000 gravestones on the site and Asa has plans to continue to expand the site.
A daughter lost a father, friends lost a loved one and movie fans lost a heartthrob actor when 40-year-old Paul Walker died Saturday after the red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT he was riding in as a passenger crashed and caught fire in Santa Clarita, Calif.
The news of his death, accompanied by photos of his piercing blue eyes, quickly went viral, with some people hoping this was just another celebrity-death hoax. But it wasn’t. Walker, who starred in the Fast and Furious films as undercover agent Brian O’ Conner, did die.
To grieve, people rallied on social media. On Twitter, “RIPPaulWalker,” “Fast & Furious” and “Brian O’ Connor” became worldwide trending topics, and remained so well into Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, his Fast and Furiouscostars shared memories and condolences on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Fans on Facebook organized in-person gatherings to pay tribute to Walker. Across social platforms, people quoted lines from his movies.
"A lot has changed," reads one quote, from 2009’s Fast & Furious.
And a lot will change as the film franchise, which has earned more than $2.3 billion worldwide since 2001, scrambles to decide the brand’s future. Filming for Fast & Furious 7 began in September, but the cast and crew was on break at the time of Walker’s death.
Will Universal Pictures find a replacement, incorporate his death into the film or do something else?
Will Universal Pictures find a replacement, incorporate his death into the film or do something else?
Universal executives and director James Wan met Sunday to discuss how to move on without Walker. While the movie won’t be scrapped, it may be delayed, according toHollywood Reporter. If its current schedule remains intact, however, the film will arrive in theaters this July.
The film’s Facebook page, which has more than 40 million Likes, released a tribute, below, on Sunday. The comment thread, like many comment threads about Walker’s passing, is serving as a digital memorial.
An unconfirmed quote, supposedly said by Walker at some point, is also making the rounds. It reads, “If one day the speed kills me, do not cry because I was smiling.” Despite knowing whether Walker really said those words, the phrase has been incorporated into photos of him, and shared widely across social media.
Walker’s Final Moments
Following a death nowadays, social-media users have unprecedented access to official reports and clues to a celebrity’s final moments. Law enforcement agencies, coroner’s offices, businesses and witnesses are routinely on social media, and together with news reports from trusted media outlets, they offer insight into what might have happened.
Speed was a factor in Walker’s fatal accident, which killed two people, according to tweeted reports from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Walker was the passenger in a red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT reportedly driven by Roger Rodas, his friend and owner of car-customization shop Always Evolving. On Saturday, the Facebook page for Always Evolving posted a photo of this red Porsche, which may be the car that crashed, burst into flames and killed Walker and Rodas. Though it’s unclear whether this is the exact car involved in the crash, it is a Porsche Carrera GT and it was at the event.
Prior to the crash, Walker was at an Always Evolving toy drive, where race cars were on display and people were collecting toys for victims of natural disasters. Jim Torp, an attendee at the event, told People that after Walker and Rodas drove away in the Porsche, he heard a loud bang and saw smoke a block away, so people rushed to the scene and saw the vehicle on fire.
Wreckage of fiery crash immediately surfaced across social platforms:
"The scene was chaotic," Torp told People. “There were probably about 20 friends and employees, screaming and crying, who had grabbed fire extinguishers and had been doing what they could to rescue the guys. The fire department and sheriffs had just arrived, as well, and they were trying to secure the scene.”
Walker’s 15-year-old daughter, Meadow Rain, was also at the toy drive. Rodas was a father of two.
A day after the crash, mourners gathered at the scene of the accident, on the 28300 block of Rye Canyon Loop in Valencia, Santa Clarita Valley. Los Angeles Times reporter James Barragan is using Twitter and Instagram to share live updates from the scene, including an emotional Instagram video of Fast and Furious costar Tyrese Gibson crying as he visited the makeshift memorial for Walker and Rodas.
Rodas and Walker were taking the Porsche for a “joyride before taking it back to warehouse,” Barragan heard Torp saying at the scene. Barragan also tweeted, “Walker was happy and joking with ppl at event minutes before his death,” according to a witness.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department posted the following report online, which describes the accident. It said the coroner will eventually release the cause of death for both victims:
Sheriff’s deputies from Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station responded to a report of a traffic collision at approximately 3:30PM in the 28300 block of Rye Canyon Loop, Valencia, on Saturday, November 30, 2013.
When they arrived, deputies found the vehicle engulfed in flames. The Los Angeles County Fire Department responded, extinguished the fire and subsequently located two victims inside the vehicle. The victims were pronounced dead at the scene.
The cause of the collision is under investigation by traffic investigators with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The Office of the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner will determine the identities and the cause of death of the victims.
If you have any information about the cause of the collision, please call sheriff’s traffic investigators at 661-255-1121. Or if you wish to remain anonymous, call “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org
Representatives managing Walker’s Facebook and Twitter accounts posted messages to confirm the actor’s death.
TMZ also shared its last known footage of Walker, which was recorded on Sept. 10, below: