Archive for August 2011
My mom's best friend, Peggy Swift, would have turned 88 today. She died in February in Hawaii, where she had moved several years ago to be near her two favorites in life: her children and the sun.
Peggy called my mom almost every morning in my young life and when I answered, she always asked how I was doing first before asking for my mom, and her voice is one of the forever voices in my memory.
When my mother-in-law visited here from California in the late 1980s, Peggy asked her out for dinner, though she didn't even know her, just because she was nice that way. She lived on a beautiful farm then near Wandermere. My husband took this photo that night and I realize, looking at it today, that all the people in the photo are gone, except for me and my 90-year-old mother. Dick Swift, my dad, my mother-in-law, Peggy (far right, in the pink earrings.)
We grieve all the time, in quieter ways, the friends of our parents, as we get older and they die off, more and more of them each day, it seems.
Peggy wrote me a letter in the last month of her life, as she was slowly dying from pancreatic cancer. She said: “It is twilight here. Twilight in my life, too. The bell does not ring to tell me that I need to go to another line. But the bell rings with a loud whang when it comes with memories.”
Today, I miss Peggy and feel grateful for her incredible generous spirit, on that beautiful evening years ago when everyone in this photo, taken at twilight, was still alive.
(Tony Wadden photo)
OfficialWire News Bureau reports today that a global study shows that the “United States now trails 40 other countries when it comes to risk of newborn death with a newborn death rate of 4.3 per 1,000 live births. In 1990 the United States had the 28th lowest risk.”
Countries better at saving their newborns include Malaysia, Cuba, and Poland.
The report also included this less suprising, but sad, facts: “Afghan babies face the greatest risks, with one of every 19 dying in the first month of life. India has the greatest number of newborn deaths overall — more than 900,000 annually.”
(About photo: This AP photo show Afghan children playing. These are the luckier ones. They survived their newborn years only to face war years as children)
My sister Janice and I have been tracking for years how crazy people, and things, seem to get the last week of August. Part of it might be a weird grief process as we bid farewell to summer, the season of light, in many ways.
Grief of all kinds produces anxiety. it is always a dynamic process. So even those of us who love autumn best of all might feel some of this anxiety. And people seem to act out in weird ways, too.
I know there is a some mental illness going on in the above examples, but things feel a little dicey everywhere this week.
Anyone else experience the August crazies? What is your theory? Summer grief or something else?
(AP file photo of a museum-goer looking at the famous painting “The Scream,” a painting associated with out-of-control anxiety)
Many cultures believe in the healing power of water: most religious traditions use water as a primary symbol of new life, renewal, change, power. A program called Healing Waters has unique healing properties for our recovering veterans: through fly fishing.
Started in the Washington, DC area, the program has expanded across the country to disabled veterans in our Department of Defense and Department of Veteran Affairs hospitals.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings.
“It really raised my self esteem, and it felt like I could do something, because lots of time we’re told we can’t do anything because we’ve got a mental illness.” —California veteran
(Spokesman-Review archive photo)
The National Institutes of Health released a report today showing that half of the cases of bladder cancer, in both men and women, can be attributed to smoking.
It used to be just 30 percent for women but “the researchers estimated that smoking is responsible for about half of female bladder cancer cases—similar to the proportion found in men in this and previous studies. The increase in the proportion of smoking-attributable bladder cancer cases among women is likely explained by the greater prevalence of smoking among women.”
About 15,000 people will die of bladder cancer in 2011, the report said. This is a cancer that can be prevented, in half the cases simply by not smoking.
(AP file photo)
An intriguing study, released by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, found that 800 U.S. military personnel who committed suicide had low omega-3 levels.
Omega-3 is a fatty acid found most commonly in fish and linked to increased heart health and mood improvement.
“A previous placebo-controlled trial demonstrated that 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day reduced suicidal thinking by 45 percent as well as depression and anxiety scores among individuals with recurrent self-harm,” according to an NIH press release.
Would this finding prompt you to eat more fish — or take fish oil capsules?
(AP file photo)
Friday, unofficial photographs were circulating in Web world allegedly showing Steve Jobs of Apple fame walking out of a hospital, skeletal looking. For those of us who have seen people in the last weeks or days of their lives, it's no mistaking that the man in the photos is in his final days.
All weekend, I wondered what the impact might be if Jobs decided to really be open about this final “app” and release some photos, some thoughts on his dying. We are still a culture that sanitizes death. Unless you have had the honor of sitting with family members and friends in their final days, your idea of death might come only from movies or from glimpsing dead bodies in war zones, hundreds of zones away.
Seems my “ideath” hope for Jobs was not original to me. One of my favorite writers, Tom Junod, wrote on an Esquire blog a similar hope. He wrote: Steve Jobs, who has done more than anyone to make the idea of a “digital life” possible, might have one last lesson for us, by letting us in on his digital death.
(Archive AP photo of Steve Jobs in healthier days)
Aging brings surprises: we do not recover as quickly or as easily from ailments. Sometimes we end up with illnesses that are chronic: congestive heart failure, arthritis, bursitis. English novelist, Aldous Huxley, wrote: “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.”
Pat Summitt, the coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team, has created a life of amazing experiences as a coach for women's basketball - once considered a second-class activity.
And now, she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
Summitt has already proven her skills on the court. And with this recent diagnosis, continues to live her dreams, sharing her experience with a world of spectators, watching what she will do with what has happened to her.
A report yesterday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included these statistics/facts on death by murder.
1) An estimated 50,000 persons die annually in the United States as a result of violence-related injuries.
2) The CDC classifies suicide as murder. And a majority — 58.7% — of deaths were suicides, followed by “homicides and deaths involving legal intervention (i.e. deaths caused by police and other persons with legal authority to use deadly force, excluding legal executions) — 26.4% — and then deaths of undetermined intent — 14.5% — and unintentional firearm deaths — 0.4 percent.
3) Firearms were used in the majority —51.5% — of suicide deaths, followed by hanging/strangulation/suffocation (23.1%) and poisoning (18.1%). The most common method used by male suicides was a firearm (57.1%), followed by hanging/strangulation/suffocation (24.2%). Among females, poisons were used most often (40.7%) followed by firearms (31.3%).
4) The homicide rate was three times higher for males compared to females. The highest rates were among black non-Hispanic males and males aged 20—24 years.
5) Among homicide deaths, firearms were used as weapons in approximately two thirds of the incidents. Firearms were used in approximately 75% of homicide incidents that involved multiple victims and 80% of homicide-suicide incidents. Firearms also were commonly used to commit suicide.
I was surprised that suicide is considered murder. Anyone else?
Susie Leonard Weller of Liberty Lake, a stage 3 colon cancer, who has taught parenting, family management and workplace success skills for the Community Colleges of Spokane for more than 19 years, will share some of her wisdom with the Inland Northwest community.
Here are the particulars:
This past week, I've listened to several people who are dealing with loss and needed to just vent awhile, with nothing from the peanut gallery — me.
I was so thankful for the course I took at GU during my pastoral ministry studies, titled “Pastoral Counseling.”
It basically taught me that all I was doing up to that time when people shared their problems was not helpful at all. So here's my primer on listening to grief, learned from doing everything wrong before.
1) Just listen. And then listen some more. When dealing with crisis, or loss, or unexpected bad news, people need to sort it out verbally, without distractions.
I used to interrupt people with questions, because I was curious about some details of their story (speaking here about listening as a friend, not in my journalism role.) But the questions become distractions and the helpful process of “venting” is cut short.
2) Don't give any advice unless specifically asked.
3) Don't counter with your own stories of similar tragedies or losses. Your intentions, like mine were, are likely good. You want the person to know that you understand what they are saying. But they don't really care about so and so who had a similar experience. They want to talk about theirs.
4) Don't try to “solve” the situation. We jump to problem solving as a defense, because sometimes what we are listening to is hard to hear. But our fixes likely aren't what is needed. The person experiencing the loss will eventually figure things out.
5) Just listen. And listen some more. It's the best gift you can give someone in a time of crisis.
In the St. Aloysius Church bulletin Sunday, there was an obituary of Jesus, written in newspaper style from the “Lake Galilee Gazette.” Not sure who wrote it, but here's what it said:
Jesus, son of Joseph. Age: 33. Born in Nazareth, Galilee, of Joseph, carpenter, and Mary, housewife. Joined his father in business as Joseph and Son, LLC. Graduate of Nazareth Synagogue with certificate in Hebrew Prophet Studies. Developed a following as preacher and teacher with some apparent success in healing ministry throughout our area. Became enmeshed in politico/religious intrigues in recent years leading to conviction and execution by Roman authorities this past week. Interment services held in Jerusalem according to custom. Survived by mother, numerous cousins and extended family. Remembrances may be sent to a charity of one's choice.
Anything you'd add?
(From Spokesman-Review archives, this is an undated copy of an original painting of Jesus Christ by portrait painter Stanley Gordon)
My friend Chris awoke Monday morning to the discovery that her blue Passat had been stolen out of her garage. The garage door caught on a garbage can and was accidentally left open all night. She lives in a very nice Mead-area neighborhood, has a barking dog and a hubby who was likely inside watching TV when it happened.
A sheriff's deputy told her the car was used the next day in a burglary in the Sundance area. But no other sightings, so far, of the vehicle.
She is going through stages of grief. Shock first and today, anger. But she has appreciated all the support from Facebook friends. More than 40 comments of consolation. People who are victims of crime experience a grief process and can feel all emotions associated with grief over a death. Shock, anger, sadness.
It's an important reminder to acknowledge these kinds of losses, too.
And PS: If you see a deep blue Passat, license plate, 420YVJ, Whitworth sticker in the window, call Crime Check.
(Tony Wadden photo of a Passat for sale in a Spokane lot. Not the stolen car)
In our EndNotes column yesterday, Cathy wrote an excellent explainer concerning music-thanatology, basically harp music played in the hospital rooms of the sick and dying.
When my mom's wonderful companion of four years, Hollis Ladd, was dying at Sacred Heart Medical Center three years ago, a music thanatologist named Donna came to the room twice, and she played the harp for 30 minutes.
Two of my great-nephews, Max and Sam, happened to be there and they were quiet all the way through, even though Sam especially was in a rowdy stage and only about 7.
I looked out the windows to the clouds passing by, looked at Hollis in a coma, peaceful in his face, and it remains, to this day, one of the most peaceful memories of my 56 years.
This is powerful healing music. If you have a loved one dying in a hospital, ask if music-thanatolgy is available.
The Associated Press is reporting that singer Amy Winehouse, discovered dead at 27, had no illegal drugs in her system when she died.
Now the focus is on the alcohol that might have contributed to her death. But her father, Mitch Winehouse, said that the singer had said to him, “'Dad I've had enough of drinking, I can't stand the look on your and the family's faces anymore.'”
There is a chance they'll never figure out what killed her. I have known, and heard about, several younger folks who died and no cause was ever discovered, including the boyfriend of a college friend who died one night in his sleep. No drugs. No drinking.
This blog about end-of-life issues enables us to track here other things that come to an end, such as technology items and lifestyles.
In today's Spokesman-Review, I wrote about the end of the train hobo lifestyle. People don't ride the rails anymore. Why? Railcars are no longer “rider-friendly” and railroads have cracked down on trespassing.
The train hobo culture was always more glamorous in books and movies than in reality, but it's still difficult to believe it's gone for good.
(S-R photo by Chris Anderson. Note the modern train cars — nowhere to grab onto or sit upon.)
In yesterday's Spokesman-Review, my favorite obituary was that of Yekaterina Sergeyevna Makhanova, an 85-year-old immigrant from the former Soviet Union. She was born in the Ukraine and moved, in 1996, to Deer Park and then Newman Lake “be with her children here in America.”
She was mother to 14 children, 84 grandchildren and 55 great-granchildren and “her family tree consists of 213 people of which 210 are living.”
We rarely see obituaries in our classified obits from residents of the former Soviet Union even though the Inland Northwest area is home to immigrants from there, more than 20,000.
But, like my Italian immigrant relatives who came to Spokane in the early 20th century, that population doesn't surface often in the mainstream press. So we don't have many of the details of their lives, such as all the living Mrs. Makhanova did in her 85 years, 15 of them in the Inland Northwest.
German researchers report that specially-trained dogs can now detect lung cancer – more accurately than a CT scan – by sniffing patients' breath. How do they do it?
“Lung cancer patients breathed into glass tubes that contained fleece to capture the odors of the specific organic compounds scientists theorized were associated with the onset and progression of lung cancer,” reports the Schillerhoehe study.
Dogs are trained to sniff many odors – drug dealers who try to smuggle their heroin can tell you that. Perhaps we ought to look at our canine friends with more respect and seek to use their natural talents to detect our deadly enemies.
My dad was described as a “downtown kind of guy.” He loved to walk through the Minneapolis skyways at noon. Strolling through the department stores and walkways on his way to lunch, he’d say hello to people he knew, and give us the details: “I went to school with him in Duluth…his son plays in the Edina High School Varsity Band…” And he had his favorite stops for errands – drop off dry cleaning, replace a watch battery and mail a package - as well as for conversations.
Downtown Spokane has a similar heartbeat: Riverfront Park, favorite eateries, upscale shopping and the I-need-to-mail-a -package post office, in a favorite, historic, 102-year-old building.
Today, the United States Postal Service announced it will be vacating that sacred space next year for a yet- to-be-determined location.
These transitions from the old to the unknown mark our contemporary climate and remind us of life’s inherent uncertainty; a transition for a “downtown kind of person” now needing a new routine for errands and conversation. And that lovely building seeking new first-floor tenants.
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of Giovanni Pelle, father of Dan Pelle, one the newspaper's amazing photographers. Giovanni was Italian-American and famous for his spaghetti sauce. He used this cooking talent for the greater good. As his obit read:
He made the best spaghetti sauce on the planet and his family and friends will always cherish the memories of wonderful Italian meals around the table. He was especially proud of feeding legendary baseball coach Tommy Lasorda at the Pelle home. He extended his cooking talents to many spaghetti dinners which raised money for area churches, most notably St. Francis Xavier church where he was a longtime member.
As an Italian-American, I know firsthand that many Italian men are the excellent cooks in the family. I hope they leave us their recipes, but part of the magic of the taste is the way the men cook it, so it's never quite recaptured after they are gone. Just another thing to miss.
The news out of University of Pennsylvania this week about their serial killers caused me to weep. “Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania transformed patients' own white blood cells into 'serial killers' capable of annihilating cancer cells within the body. The two patients who experienced full recovery are still in remission more than a year later.”
I am a cancer survivor, (my husband is one, too), and I know the treatment choices for cancer patients: they all feel like walking into fire to treat or cure this horrible disease.
In the story The Lady, or the Tiger? the offender is offered a unique form of “justice:” he may choose one door and be rewarded with marriage to a beautiful woman or open another door and be destroyed by the tiger. All cancer choices felt like tigers. Imagine a door that leads to one's own white cells as the answer to a cancer diagnosis!
The cost to move ahead through this new door is resource- intensive, the cost of not moving ahead - holds only tigers.
I stopped into the Safeway store on Northwest Boulevard on Spokane's North Side last night around dinnertime, and it was packed, five or six deep in line.
I asked the clerk if it was because it was a Thursday evening and maybe people were planning on 3-day weekends and stocking up. She said, “No, it's like this every day this time now because Albertson's closed.”
Albertson's closed its Northwest Boulevard store Aug. 11. Officials said it was “based on business factors.”
The store opened in 1980, when I was living and working in the East, but it was my parent's favorite store, so I visited there often and when I moved back to Spokane, it became one of the stores I frequented.
I drive by it every day to and from work and it looks sad to me, boarded up, empty parking lot. Even grocery stores hold memories. One day my mom ran into a high school buddy and her husband there. They struck up a conversation, resumed their friendship and now, 15 years later, they are both 90, widowed but see one another once a week for dinner and a movie.
It seems weird to grieve the end of businesses, but I think sometimes, we do. I still miss Town and Country Restaurant on Trent Avenue, where my sisters and I all held our wedding receptions.
What business do you miss?
(Spokesman-Review archive photo)
Do you believe in miracles?
Our pets love us and offer comfort and care – without condition. Imagine the joy in recovering your pet one year after a fatal car accident took away your husband and child. May Caesar live a long and happy life as he makes his way home to an eager and still-healing family.
The Associated Press reported today on a study published in the August issue of Archives of Suicide Research:
A movie analysis shows depictions of explicit and graphic suicides tripled from 1950 to 2006. An analysis by Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center of 855 top box office films also says there's no difference between PG-13- and R-rated films in the most explicit portrayals of suicide. Lead author Patrick Jamieson says the researchers can't establish a definite link but the tripling of U.S. teen suicides since 1960 has coincided with the increase in movie suicide portrayals.
I don't know how powerful movies really are in this regard. There is, however, research that shows suicide can run in families, but whether it's a negative role-modeling issue or a genetic predisposition to family depression is a subject of debate.
Whatever the reasons, sad all around.
(Archive AP photo of actresses, from left, Leslie Hayman, Kirsten Dunst, A.J. Cook and Chelse Swain appear in Sofia Coppola's “The Virgin Suicides” a dark comedy about five doomed sisters and the teen-age boys who worship them.)
In today's EndNotes column, we addressed this dilemma: When you give a memorial contribution in honor of someone who has died, does the nonprofit tell the family how much you coughed up?
Short answer: Nope.
Question for our readers: Do you regularly give memorial donations in honor of people who died? If yes, what is the average amount you send?
You read about these events: life-long lovers who die within hours of each other. Read the story of Bob and Kay Sarver who died within 15 hours of each other.
Perhaps our spiritual connections with each other influence our bodies more than we realize.
If you could orchestrate your poetic departure from this life, what would you imagine for yourself?
(S-R archives photo)
In the fitness center locker room this morning, I struck up a conversation with a woman named Connie who had attended her 1971 Ferris High School 40th reunion over the weekend.
Out of a class of about 525, at least 31 have died, and the number could be slightly higher, Connie believed, because some there were remembering folks who were not on the official list of those who had passed on.
We had an involuntary moment of silence because 31 sounded like a lot. I think when we remember high school, we are all frozen in our prime, and so to imagine 31 gone, it seemed astounding.
My 40th high school reunion is in two years. I try never to miss reunions because I like to see how people's stories turn out. But they are also a good reminder of the passing of time and how much we should savor the gift of each day, each year, each decade, each reunion.
Paula Davis, funeral director for Heritage Funeral Home, is on a crusade to get people to write their own obituary. In my Sunday story, she explained one reason to do it:
“You spend days planning a birthday party or a vacation,” she said. “And then all of a sudden a death occurs and you have three or four hours to get this obituary written because we have to get it to the paper. If you have to start from square one, that is not enough time.”
Have you written your own obit? If yes, send me an excerpt and I'll put it on the blog.
(Jesse Tinsley S-R photo of Paula Davis at Corbin Senior Center)
My Saturday Wise Words interview was with Larry Rider, deputy chief of Spokane Valley Fire Department. He talked about the difference between fitness levels 32 years ago, when he first became a firefighter, and now. His imagery in the excerpt below certainly reflects the difference in eating habits then and now.
Back when I first came on, they’d get oysters and they’d batter fry them. Or the guy would take bacon grease and pour it over his eggs. You could kill a horse. They wondered why they were dying of heart attacks. Today you’ll see the guys steaming vegetables. It’s just an entirely different culture than it was 32 years ago.
But it does make you wonder what we've had to give up in flavor for long-term health.I still miss chicken liver pasta, for instance.
What kill-a-horse-foods do you miss?
(S-R photo by Colin Mulvany)
Lucille Ball would be 100 years old today if she were still alive. She was the wacky star of I Love Lucy, the comedy hit of the 1950s. In each episode Lucy worked diligently to outwit her husband, Ricky Ricardo (played by Desi Arnaz, her real-life husband, too). As a stay-at-home wife, she was always up to something. In real life, she was always up to something, too. She was the first woman to own her own film studio ( Desilu). Lucille Ball used physical comedy in her television series, but she was beautiful, too, as a Ziegfield Girl and Goldwyn Girl. Ball received thirteen Emmy Award nominations and won the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979. She died in 1989…Happy birthday to a timeless woman whose work continues to entertain and delight audiences of all ages.
(Spokesman-Review archives photo)
On Monday, after a busy weekend with houseguests and many family activities, I was pretty darn tired when I hit the newsroom. I had two stories to write for the weekend and our syndicated EndNotes column was due to McClatchy-Tribune by Wednesday.
A story came up here that I knew I should write, but I didn't readily volunteer, because I felt the week was already going to be so busy.
That night, I continued reading the book No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. I was in awe of all that Eleanor Roosevelt did in the war years, when she was about my age.
She helped organize civilians in the war effort, traveled overseas to comfort injured soldiers, visited women working in factories and was instrumental in influencing the government and companies to offer on-site childcare. She was also a mother, grandmother and devoted to several friends, and she supported her husband as best she could. And here's the clincher. She wrote a daily newspaper column, 400 words, that was syndicated throughout the country. A DAILY column.
I felt like such a wimp. On Tuesday, I volunteered to write the extra story. Eleanor Roosevelt role-modeled how to buck up from the grave.
Anyone else ever had a similar experience?
(About the photo: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt greeted Miss Spokane at a War Bond Rally in Seattle in 1943. Photo archive/The Spokesman-Review)
Every month it seems, we get pitched stories about people biking hundreds of miles, or running hundreds of miles, for a cause. Today I got a press release announcing that ”Professor Henry Sanchez, the Tacolist.com Barefoot Eco-Runner, is running from Argentina to Alaska to bring awareness of protecting and reforesting our planet.”
I always turn these stories down, because I always suspect a hidden agenda, one the runner or biker might not be aware of.
I think they are running from grief. Over a hard marriage, a troubled career, a death. Or they are running to work out some unresolved grief. The hardest thing in times of sorrow and despair is to stay still with the pain. This is just my theory.
Also, these runners or bikers almost always depend on help and comfort along the way. Often from strangers. In grief, it can be difficult to get what you need from those closest to you. And indeed Sanchez has found great support. “Four hundred firehouses have supported him throughout his journey by providing shelter and food,” according to the press release.
In the movie Forest Gump the Tom Hanks character knew he was running out of his grief for his dead mother and his failed romance. And when his sorrow was spent after three years, he quit running.
(S-R archive photo)
One thing I love about the blog is the help it provides me in clarifying what nagging “voices” I need to pay attention to inside my head.
Chuck Hennessey, a well-known funeral director in Spokane, died Saturday of cancer. He had just turned 80 two weeks ago.
Chuck was a familiar face at almost all Catholic funerals. As a funeral-goer, I've run into him many times over the years and interviewed him in 2003 for a column on attending funerals. He was on a short list for a Wise Words interview (a series of conversations I do each month with wise people in our community.)
I finally called him a couple of months ago, but he was out of town and then I heard he might not be doing so well.
And then Saturday, the cancer he battled for nine years, a battle he was very open about, finally got the best of him. I should have listened to the voice in my head that said Chuck won't be around forever, talk to him soon. But I think part of me thought Chuck would be around forever, because he was such a fixture at funerals for more than 50 years.
(Photo courtesy of Hennessey Funeral Homes)
While sitting in church yesterday at St. Al's, I waved to several of the dads I know because I help out in Sunday school. Many of the young families know one another, which means the kids get to know the other moms and dads, too.
I did a flashback to my years as a child at St. Charles when the dads were young and handsome and so vital in the world. We called them all by their last names with “Mr” in front of it. Mr. Butler. Mr. Henry. Mr. Fritzen. Mr. Russell. Mr. Swoboda. Mr. Hopp. Most all of them are dead now. Memories.
Thought of them when I read last week that Mr. Pupo died. Harry Pupo was one of the kindest of the kind dads, always with a smile and a question for the younger ones.
In his obit, his family listed his advice to others:
“Vive Bene, Di Risata Multo, Spesso L'Amore “Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.”
(Harry Pupo family photo)