Death

Is there a Happy Ending? Hollywood versus Life

by Gavin

In the movies and many made for TV programmes, there is rapprochement between sons and their fathers, often on the deathbed. There is closure and acceptance, a final peace.

In real life this is not often the case. My father died last year after a 3 year battle with emphysema. He slowly withered over 3 years until his heart gave out. It was sudden and painless which was the best way for him to go.

About a month before he went, we drove down to see him. I was between contracts so had some time and had decided to walk the last mile with him and if he wanted, hold his hand at the end so he could have the love of his family with him as he went to wherever people go when they die.

But, this is where real life separates from idealised make-believe, as seen on TV. After a 4 hour drive to get there on a wet Friday afternoon we all sat down for a drink and a chat. He started to rip into me for not doing some things differently. I have burned into my brain his face turning purple as he gasped for air shaking his 84 year finger at me in rebuke and pouring out his venom. It would have been comical if it was not so real.

I was worried he was going to keel over on the spot he was getting so worked up. My wife was surprised at his venomous outburst and rather shocked. My mum attempting to sooth the waters said don’t worry dear he doesn’t mean it; it’s just the medication making him irritable.

Sometime later that evening in the quiet of our room I was talking with my wife and had a realisation. I had been there before. This is how he was 50 years ago when I was a child. He had always been this way. He had just removed the veneer of respectability as he got closer to death. This was the old man I knew and had grown up with.

We had never got along very well. My world was different from his and he never respected or understood mine and would often criticise or condemn my efforts without enough knowledge to hold a reasonable opinion. Read more »

Photo Of The Day

The Irish Independent ran a defiant front page on the 12 February, 2016, responding to threats on its journalists who are being targeted by organized gangs. The headline reads: ‘Why We Won’t be Intimidated’ and features a photo of Sunday Independent reporter, Veronica Guerin, who was gunned down in 1996 by a Dublin crime gang for writing a number of stories on their crimes.

The Irish Independent ran a defiant front page on the 12 February, 2016, responding to threats on its journalists who are being targeted by organized gangs. The headline reads: ‘Why We Won’t be Intimidated’ and features a photo of Sunday Independent reporter, Veronica Guerin, who was gunned down in 1996 by a Dublin crime gang for writing a number of stories on their crimes.

 A Journalist’s Risks

Dying to Tell a Story

 The Veronica Guerin Story

When Veronica Guerin was murdered in June 1996, she was not only the most famous journalist in Ireland; she was something of a national heroine. Her exposes on the criminal underworld in Dublin and the violent rise of powerful drug dealers captured the nation’s attention. Her murder touched off the largest criminal investigation in Irish history. Moreover, her death transformed the country in ways few could have expected.

Veronica “Ronnie” Guerin was born in Dublin, Ireland on July 5, 1959. On June 26, 1996 Guerin became the twenty-fourth journalist to be killed for her writings to the public. She was a journalist working for the Sunday Independent when she was assassinated by Irish drug dealers while sitting in her car at an intersection on the Naas dual carriageway.

What made her stand up and decide that enough was enough, that something had to be said about the drugs in Dublin when no one else would? It was as simple as seeing what needed to be changed in her city. She didn’t have illustrious beginnings, one that would fuel her passion for journalism and for bringing the truth to light. She was born to a large family and grew up in North Dublin. She was educated by nuns in Killester and attended Trinity College where she developed a strong interest in politics. She studied accountancy at the college, before joining her father’s accountancy firm; she would later bring this experience into her investigations on fraud. After leaving her accountancy job, she started her own public relations firm before joining the Sunday Business Post.

But it was at the Sunday Tribune that her reputation began to grow as an investigative journalist when she got the first interview with Bishop Eamon Casey. He had fled to Ecuador when his affair and his son were revealed to the world in a book.

In 1994 she joined the Sunday Independent, where she began publishing the interviews with members of the Irish underworld that led to her death. Ironically, she was assassinated two days before she was supposed to speak at a conference in London on “Dying to Tell a Story: Journalists at Risk.” Guerin had her own style of writing that set her apart from other journalists. Her editor at the Sunday Independent, Willie Kealy, believes she provided a different voice than those that were present in Irish journalism at the time, someone who was unafraid to break out of the mould.

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Photo Of The Day

Jerry Lee Lewis and wife Shawn Stevens Lewis attend a Pre-GRAMMY Party at the Biltmore Hotel. February 23, 1983| Credit: Ron Galella/Getty Images.

Jerry Lee Lewis and wife Shawn Stevens Lewis attend a Pre-GRAMMY Party at the Biltmore Hotel. February 23, 1983| Credit: Ron Galella/Getty Images.

“The Strange And Mysterious Death of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis”

Jerry Lee Lewis (born September 29, 1935) the American singer-songwriter, musician, and pianist, often known by his nickname, The Killer. He is often viewed as “rock & roll’s first great wild man.

Tragedies have cast a pall over much of The Killer’s life. At age 22, after helping lead the rockabilly revolution with such hits as Great Balls of Fire and Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’On, he watched his career tailspin into scandal when he took his 13-year-old cousin Myra for his third wife. In 1962 his 3-year-old son, Steve Allen Lewis, named after the talk-show host, drowned in the family pool. Eleven years later Jerry Lee Lewis Jr., 19, was killed in an auto accident. Lewis’ bouts with drink and drugs came to be as commonly publicized as his marital woes, and in 1980 his estranged fourth wife, Jaren, took him to court, accusing him of threatening her life. While awaiting a final divorce decree, Jaren, 39, also drowned in a swimming accident.

The killer was in his bedroom, behind the door of iron bars, as Sonny Daniels, the first ambulance man, moved down the long hall to the guest bed- room to check the report: “Unconscious party at the Jerry Lee Lewis residence.”

Lottie Jackson, the housekeeper, showed Sonny into a spotless room: Gauzy drapes filtered the noonday light; there was nothing on the tables, no clothes strewn about, no dust; just a body on the bed, turned away slightly toward the wall, with the covers drawn up to the neck. Sonny probed with his big, blunt fingers at a slender wrist: it was cold. “It’s Miz Lewis,” Lottie said. “I came in…I couldn’t wake her up….” Sonny already had the covers back, his thick hand on the woman’s neck where the carotid pulse should be: The neck retained its body warmth, but no pulse. Now he bent his pink moon-face with its sandy fuzz of first beard over her pale lips: no breath. He checked the eyes. “Her eyes were all dilated. That’s an automatic sign that her brain has done died completely.”

Matthew Snyder, the second ambulance man, had barely finished Emergency Medical Technician school. He was twenty, blond, beefy, even younger than Sonny, and just starting with the Hernando, Mississippi, ambulance team. Even rookies knew there wasn’t anything uncommon about a run to Jerry Lee’s to wake up some passed-out person. But Matthew saw there was something uncommonly wrong now, as he caught the look of worry and excitement from Sonny over at the bed. “Go ahead and check her over,” said Sonny, and Matthew restarted the process with the woman’s delicate wrist. He saw, up on her forearm, the row of angry little bruises, like someone had grabbed her hard. He saw the little stain of dried blood on the web of her hand. He shook his head at Sonny: no pulse.

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It is never too late

I am only 24 years old, yet I have actually already chosen my last tie. It’s the one that I will wear on my funeral a few months from now. It may not match my suit, but I think it’s perfect for the occasion.

The cancer diagnosis came too late to give me at least a tenuous hope for a long life, but I realized that the most important thing about death is to ensure that you leave this world a little better than it was before you existed with your contributions. The way I’ve lived my life so far, my existence or more precisely the loss of it, will not matter because I have lived without doing anything impactful.

Before, there were so many things that occupied my mind. When I learned how much time I had left, however, it became clear which things are really important. So, I am writing to you for a selfish reason. I want to give meaning to my life by sharing with you what I have realized:

Don’t waste your time on work that you don’t enjoy. It is obvious that you cannot succeed in something that you don’t like. Patience, passion, and dedication come easily only when you love what you do.

It’s stupid to be afraid of others’ opinions. Fear weakens and paralyzes you. If you let it, it can grow worse and worse every day until there is nothing left of you, but a shell of yourself. Listen to your inner voice and go with it. Some people may call you crazy, but some may even think you’re a legend.

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Photo Of The Day

Sandra Bridewell and Alan Rehrig, her third husband.

Sandra Bridewell and Alan Rehrig, her third husband.

The Black Widow

Sandra Bridewell was on her way up in Dallas society. She was beautiful, alluring, rich. But her husbands kept dying. So did one of her best friends. Her first husband’s death was ruled a suicide, though there were those who raised questions about that finding. Her second husband died of cancer, but Bridewell didn’t appear terribly attentive to his needs in his final weeks.

Her third husband was found shot to death in his vehicle in Oklahoma not long after he was supposed to have met with Bridewell (at that point, they were estranged.) And then there’s the case of her friend Betsy, the wife of the cancer doctor who treated Bridewell’s second husband. Betsy was found dead of a gunshot wound in her car in a Love Field parking lot. That too was ruled a suicide, though the circumstances were suspicious.

In a spacious apartment near the San Francisco Yacht Club, over-looking the bay, there lives a pretty woman who mostly stays to herself. She is 43 years old but looks younger. Always dressed immaculately, she carries herself in that calm, refined way of those who have known the comforts of money for a long time. Whenever she goes to the shops down the hill, her magnificent dark eyes lock onto the gaze of those she meets, and her smile is so natural that it can make men, even at a first meeting, feel oddly enchanted.

But here in Belvedere, a quiet shoreside village in posh Marin County, the woman keeps her distance. She comes to pick up her mail at a private mail box, and occasionally she eats lunch at one of the little restaurants that face the water. In the afternoon, she picks up her children at their school. Few of her neighbours have even met her. “She had this beautiful voice,” recalls long-time resident Silvia Davidson, who briefly leased a home to the new woman, “and she looked beautiful. But — how do I say this? She was like a mystery. She would say very little about herself.”

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Photo Of The Day

Photo via Gray’s Harbor County Sheriff’s Office. In a small black trashcan under the nightstand was the previous morning’s Daily World a local newspaper that served Gray’s Harbour and an empty plastic Pepsi cup. Next to it, a crumpled piece of thick white paper, no bigger than six inches wide, that read “SUICIDE” in block capitals.

Photo via Gray’s Harbour County Sheriff’s Office. In a small black trashcan under the nightstand was the previous morning’s Daily World a local newspaper that served Gray’s Harbour and an empty plastic Pepsi cup. Next to it, a crumpled piece of thick white paper, no bigger than six inches wide, that read “SUICIDE” in block capitals.

The Strange Case of the Man With No Name

In life, he was evasive and strange. In death, he became a 9/11 terrorist, a ghostly apparition and an internet superstar.

On Friday, September 14, 2001, Lyle Stevik arrived at an average motel in a sleepy, nondescript town close to Washington’s Pacific coastline. It was a typical September day: 52 degrees and drizzly. “Welcome. Surf’s Up. Life Is Good,” read the shabby sign outside the entrance to the Lake Quinault Inn, a cheerfully optimistic motto for such an ordinary place.

Stevik, who appeared to be in his twenties, did what countless guests had done before. He grabbed a pen and scribbled his details on the hotel’s registration slip:

Name: Lyle Stevik

Address: 1019 S. Progress Ave.

State: ID … Meridian

Nothing about this was exceptional, especially given the context. Three days earlier and 3,000 miles away, three planes smashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing 2,996 people, injuring 6,000 and setting off a national security crisis. 9/11 made the history books; in the isolated town of Amanda Park, 9/14 was seriously dull.

In 2001, Lake Quinault Inn was still a family affair: Barbara — affectionately known as Aunt Barb — on front desk duty, was clerk-come-manager; her nephew, Gabe, owned the motel and adjacent store. The Inn, built in the 1960s, with six rooms in the main building and two in an annex, had slid into disrepair. But to the few travelers to stay in this picturesque patch of the Olympic Peninsula, it didn’t matter. The rooms were decent enough, and, at less than $50 per night, they were the cheapest in town.

Aunt Barb gave Lyle the key to room eight in the motel’s annex, and he paid in cash. Behind it, Olympic Mobile RV Park, was a miniature metropolis of trailers, broken cars, and spare tires. Inside, furnishings included a double bed, a dusty carpet, nicotine-stained vinyl curtains, and a glass dressing table — a steal for $43.87.

Lyle returned to the front desk just 60 minutes later — flushed, agitated, disturbed. Apparently, the trailer park was too noisy. He wanted to switch rooms. Even though she had just met him, this second encounter was far more memorable. Lyle avoided eye contact; he was acting weird; he gave Aunt Barb the creeps.

She handed him the key to room five, smack-dab in the middle of the main building, overlooking a tiny car lot. It was just like room eight — the carpet dusty, the curtains stained — but Lyle liked room five. He slept there that night. And the night after.

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Photo Of The Day

J. M. Barrie, the boys' foster father.

J. M. Barrie, the boys’ foster father.

The Lost Ones

The Real Boys of Neverland

Few works of literature have idealized childhood so profoundly as Peter Pan. But the Llewelyn Davies brothers who inspired J.M. Barrie to create the world of Neverland would grow up to become “Lost Boys” of a more tragic sort, beset by misfortune and unhappiness.

J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, was born on the 9th of May, 1860, in the family home at Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland. His father, David, was a weaver. His mother, Margaret Ogilvy, was later the subject of one of her son’s books.

When Barrie was six, his brother David died very unexpectedly. The shock of the loss so affected Barrie’s mother that, for the remainder of her life, she never got over his death.

Sometimes Jamie would wear his brother’s clothes and, on entering his mother’s darkened bedroom, would pretend to be the lost son. Later, when Barrie became a writer, the theme of death, and the concept of ghosts, would populate his stories.

In the summer of 1901, the four small Llewelyn Davies brothers—George, John, Peter and Michael—hadn’t any idea of what they were getting themselves into. Darting around Black Lake, in the Surrey region of England, they were playing at castaways, taking turns at walking the plank, substituting wooden dowels for swords. Their idyll was not just a theory. The country around them was still one in which children as young as nine worked in factories, but the Llewelyn boys were protected by their reverie.

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Photo Of The Day

Gramps 1

They Called him Gramp

A Story of Dying

On February 11 , 1974 , Frank Tugend , aged eighty-one and of dubiously sound mind — but certainly of sound body removed his false teeth and announced that he was no longer going to eat or drink.

Three weeks later to the day, he died.

The remarkable thing was how Gramp died.

Franks death brought to a close a three-year ordeal–and three-year documentation-of gradual, but finally total, deterioration. Through camera and tapes his family recorded Frank Tugend’s involvement with the curse that is described as senility, or hardening of the arteries, or generalized arteriosclerosis. In real life it translates into standing naked in front of the picture window, or “talking” to a giant red rabbit that lives in the refrigerator, or being unable to control one’s bowels. It is by no means unique millions of families are dealing with the problem right now.

As they were recording their experiences over the last three years of his life, they also had to decide in the last weeks whether or not to have him hospitalized to be sustained by intravenous tubes. But after he had made it clear that he wanted to die, they chose to let him die at home, with some dignity intact.

Frank Tugend an upstanding family man began a tragic three-year decline brought about by generalized arteriosclerosis. His memory began to fail. At first, he lost the ability to drive.

Then, the ability to remember who, and where he was. The once polite man began to hallucinate and became aggressive to visitors. He and his family were ostracized by the community. His behaviour was often erratic. Having lost the ability to bathe, dress, and control his bowels, he required constant care.

The simplicity of Gramp’s lifestyle tended to minimize difficulties he might have had with “forgetfulness” and confusion. Essentially a loner, he spent his days chopping wood and keeping his property tidy, or taking walks in the surrounding woods. When he was with others, it was usually his family, who saw him every day and didn’t really, or comprehend; the changes that were taking place in Gramp.

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Photo Of The Day

Photo: August 01, 1944| Crédits : W. Eugene Smith. Desperation: Saipan civilians commit suicide rather than surrendering to American troops.

Photo: August 01, 1944| Crédits : W. Eugene Smith.
Desperation: Saipan civilians commit suicide rather than surrendering to American troops.

Suicide Cliff

The Battle of the Island of Saipan is most remembered as an amazing show of US military defiance, but there was another act of defiance which took place during that bloody battle: Mass Suicide.

Fearing the US troops would torture and murder them—mainly due to propaganda laid out by the Japanese Imperial Army—the citizens of Saipan walked into the sea, or jumped off the cliffs and drowned themselves. The most notorious scene of the mass suicide was Marpi Point, a steep 250-meter (800 ft) precipice where American soldiers witnessed entire families fling themselves into the waves. First the older children pushed the younger children over the edge, then the mothers would push the eldest children, and finally the fathers would push their wives, before jumping over the edge themselves. Thousands of civilians died this way.

The Imperial Army drove residents from shelters, took their food, prohibited them from surrendering, tortured, and slaughtered them on grounds of suspected spying. They forced people into “mutual killing” among close relatives, and left the sick and handicapped on the battlefield.

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Auckland: too expensive to live, now too expensive to die

Auckland Council is charging too much for cemetery services, forcing grieving families to choose cremation instead of burial, funeral directors say.

A review of the management of cemeteries and fees in New Zealand’s largest city by the Funeral Directors Association has found the council “fails” to deliver on quality, affordability, and timeliness of services but performs in three other areas.

“There is no longer equality for Aucklanders who need to access cemeteries and services,” association chief executive Katrina Shanks says.

Since a harmonisation process for Auckland cemetery service began last July the cost of a burial plot has increased by up to 15 percent and interment fees have risen 667 percent, she says.

Burial and interment in an adult lawn area in Auckland costs $4410.

“For those families forced by financial constraints to choose cremation over burial the options have been further limited by the council’s exorbitant hike in ash-plot fees,” Ms Shanks says.

Interment of ashes costs $1129.

Getting buried in Auckland is now for Rich Pricks.   Read more »