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EndNotes

Archive for December 2011

Year-end promises

Today’s feature section offers some easy, practical insights when making those resolutions, plans, and hopes for self-improvement in the new year.

While we may long to be tidier, thinner and more relaxed, just wishing will not make it so. Some simple steps can lead us to our goals.

(S-R archives photo)

Why we need year-in-review stories

I know some people feel irritation at all those year-in-review stories that appear this weekend. But I think they help us.

Each year contains a lifetime. Major changes. Births, deaths, retirements. One task at the end of a long life is to do a life review, understand what mattered, what didn't.

2011 is dead forever. Not coming back. No chance for a redo.

Those end of year stories? Little life reviews. Grief work in disguise.

Saying goodbye to Jordy

We had a dozen early retirements in the newsroom and co-workers last days have been staggered throughout the month.

Today is the final day for Jeff Jordan, “Jordy” to all of us here.

You know the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy says she'll miss the Scarecrow the most? I think everyone here feels that about Jordy. (We liked everyone else who left, too).

Jordy will do a part-time gig on the sports desk, so he'll still be among us a couple of times a week, but his leaving got me thinking of the legacies we leave behind in our workplaces. They can be almost as important as the legacies we leave behind in families.

Jordy leaves this workplace legacy:

1) Always positive. Took time to call or email you if he liked your story.

2) In the darkest of times here, and believe me we had some dark days between 2003 and 2008, Jordy always pointed out something here we should be grateful for. Including having a newspaper job.

3) He always made you feel like the most important person he could be talking with at that moment.

4) He was (and still is) funny and fun.

5) He never, that I recall, said anything mean about another co-worker. And if you did, he always tried to point something out good about that person.

6) He worked his butt off until the end (actually everyone who left did the same).

Jordy, good luck on the next chapter. See you around the sports “arena” here. You've been an amazing blessing to me these past 27 years here.

(Photo of Jordy, left, on his first day of work here, summer 1972) 

Going home, for good

 While small-town life has its limitations, and having the neighbors know your business can be annoying, those same neighbors can become your community of strength and survival.

 Rod Dreher writes for The American Conservative and is part of a communitarian conservative tradition; his ability to “work from home” allowed him to leave Philadelphia and return to his hometown of St. Francisville, La.  A town full of saints.

New York Times columnist David Brooks tells the story of how the death of Dreher’s sister drew a community together and brought Dreher home – for good.

(S-R archives photo)

Dying online: A teen’s final gift

Check this out. It's going viral on YouTube and Facebook and now, the mainstream media.

From the LA Times:

Ben Breedlove died on Christmas, leaving behind a wordless, two-part YouTube video message about chronic illness, death and the afterlife viewed more than 450,000 times as of Wednesday. Breedlove, 18, of Austin, Texas, suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle that worsened over time and eventually contributed to his death from a heart attack. 

See first part of video here. Second here.

Brave young man….

To the ends of the Earth

We often read about parents doing amazing things for their children. Taking a bullet. Donating a kidney. Mortgaging the house for college.

But how far and wide would you go to rescue an older parent from some horrible situation? In my Christmas Day story, Jeannine Marx Fruci talked about saving her mother's life in Aruba.

Would you have done the same?

(Photo by Chris Anderson/S-R)

Good Riddance Day

Folks in New York'sTimes Square today have a chance to say “good riddance” to the worst of 2011 in their lives. And we can, too, via cyberspace. Inspired by a Latin American tradition where people put items into dolls and then set the dolls on fire,  the ritual destroys the symbols of not-so-good memories of the past year.

I would settle for the cyberspace opportunity - and leave your household's dolls at rest.

Happy New Year.

(S-R archives photo)

Modern warfare

My two great-nephews play a video game which mimics a war zone where soldiers battle and kill one another, several times in the course of a game. I have never seen one of these before and was frankly quite shocked at the violence. So I had a discussion with the boys and their parents and they explained that they monitor the game time, and the dad plays with them, and they talk about the cartoonish nature of video games. Still, it was a bit shocking to see for the first time. Anyone else out there have a similar reaction to modern video games?

Childhood Wisdom

During this week, after the Christmas rush and before the silliness of New Year's Eve, we often pause to assess our path, our choices. Some of us make resolutions - you know, lose weight, relax more, spend more time socializing - and often these promises to self evaporate into good intentions, not kept.  

Instead, enjoy the wisdom about your earlier years - childhood years between toddlerhood and teen land. What truths define that time in your life?  

Gregory Cowles, an editor at The New York Times Book Review, has compiled a list of favorite quotations about middle childhood ranging from television shows like “The Little Rascals” to popular children’s books by Judy Blume and others.

  Readers have added some favorites:

 There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you—just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”

― Shel Silverstein 

Seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting. It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse. As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armor themselves against wonder. Flowers once the size of pine trees return to clay pots. Even terror diminishes. The giants and giantesses of the nursery shrink to crabby teachers and human fathers.

- Leonard Cohen, The Favorite Game

 How do you describe those wonder years of childhood?

(S-R archives photo)

  

A Christmas Wish

The best Christmas card message in my mailbox

 A Christmas Wish…

 May we break down boundaries, tear down walls, and build on the fountain of goodness inside each of us. May we look past differences, gain understanding, and embrace acceptance. May we reach out to each other rather than resist. May we be better stewards of the earth, protecting and replenishing the beauties of nature. May we practice gratitude for all we have, rather than complain about our needs. May we seek cures for the sick, help for the hungry, and love for the lonely. May we share our talents, give our time, and teach our children. May we hold hope for the future very tenderly in our hearts and do all we can to build for the bright tomorrows. And may we love with our whole hearts, for that's the only way to love.

 May your heart be filled with the spirit of the season…

(S-R archives photo)

Looking at 2011: Images of our journey

As the year ends, we look back at the events - global, communal, private - that define 2011. From Egypt's Tahrir Square to Wall Street; from Libya's political upheaval to Japan's quaking destruction, we have witnessed drama and change. Osama bin Laden is dead; our soldiers (we can now “ask, tell”) have left Iraq.  The 9/11 New York memorial offers an oasis of peace. A prince took a wife in London; Republican candidates took to the campaign trail.  The space shuttle landed for the last time.

Take a few minutes to enjoy the New York Times “The Year in Pictures” with Colum McCann's words; be amazed at the journey we - now seven billion of us - have taken together on our planet.

(S-R archives photo)

Holiday Affair

While writing out Christmas cards and channel surfing last night, I happened upon the 1949 film Holiday Affair on TCM. It's about a widow torn between two men at Christmas. She has a son. Her husband has died in World War II.

It's not one of the classics of Christmas, though it has a following of some kind. But I watched it until the end, mesmerized by Christmas past when department stores were huge, when little boys prayed for toy trains because all the adults rode in real trains (the final scene takes place on a New York-California train on New Year's Eve, party in the train!)

The scenes moved slowly, as they did in old movies. And of course, it was in black and white.

A few years ago, when I did a story on the Crescent Department store of old and its famous Christmas decorations, one of the psychologists I interviewed told me the word nostalgia is not a warm and fuzzy word. Indeed, it's formed from two Greek roots. One means “return home.” The other “pain.”

I went to bed feeling a little blue, filled with nostalgia for Christmases in a simpler time. For lives lived in slower scenes, for the golden era of trains.  

Which Christmas movies evoke nostalgia for you?

(Christmas Tree at Crescent Department store, 1958, from S-R archives)

Candid Christmas photos

Many of my grown nieces and nephews send out Christmas postcards with beautiful photos of their children on them, taken in photo studios.

The professional photos always allow a fond memory to surface from 1957, when my mom and dad gathered us in the living room and took the photo themselves.

Bad light (notice the flash in the mirror), crazy looking baby brother, weird outfits (I'm all dressed up but my sister's pretty casual). I also love the things on the mantle, the plant vase, the statue of Mary.

No matter whether professional or amateur, these Christmas photos are valuable artifacts. They freeze families in time. Once there were just six of us kids. Now our extended (and fertile) family numbers more than 50!

But once upon a time, there were just the eight of us — six kids, two parents — and a camera session the week before Christmas. 

Armand Nigro tells his stories now

My Saturday story was about Armand Nirgro, an 83-year-old Spokane Jesuit who has led retreats all over the world, including in India and Rome for Mother Teresa and her order of sisters.

He has early stage Alzheimer's, and The Ministry Institue in Spokane, which he founded decades ago as Mater Dei, then a seminary for older men called to the priesthood, is capturing his memories and legacy. He is being videotaped, and the Institute— which now offers spiritual renewal for clergy and lay people — is asking people to send in their memories.

I've known Nigro all my life. He was friends with my parents and also, like my mom, traces his early roots to Spokane's turn-of-the-20th century Italian immigrant community.

I sat in on an hour-long video sesssion for the story. A few end-of-life lessons were learned that day.

1) The more honest we are about an Alzheimer's diagnosis, as Nigro is, the better it is for the people who love you. It gives them time to say the words now.

2) We can hope for a certain ending but then let go when our ending doesn't happen as planned. Nigro walked me to my car after the video session and said he hopes and prays he'll die soon. He said, “I wish I could hear Jesus' footsteps behind me.” But he is willing to let it unfold.

In a retreat he did for my women's group several years ago, he suggested this prayer each morning:

“Whatever death you forsee, I accept it.”'

(Colin Mulvany, S-R photo)

Heading home…finally

 After almost nine years, the American presence in Iraq is over. Early today the last  American soldiers rolled out of Iraq and into Kuwait.

 Since March of 2003, 4,500 American lives were lost; $800 billion - invested in this war.  Like all wars, the question, “Was it worth it?” cannot be easily answered and is subject to opinion.

 “My heart goes out to the Iraqis,” said Warrant Officer John Jewell, acknowledging the challenges ahead. “The innocent always pay the bill.”

For today, 500 American soldiers have rolled into their immediate future, home for the holidays.  What do they look forward to? 

“In a guard tower overlooking a now empty checkpoint at the base, Sgt. Ashley Vorhees and another soldier talked about what they looked forward to most in getting home. The 29-year-old Vorhees planned to go for Mexican food at Rosa's, a restaurant in Killeen, Texas. Another joy of home, she said: you don't have to bring your weapon when you go to the bathroom.”

(S-R archives photo)

Magic number? 65!

My television idol, Patty Duke, turned 65 last week. She shared her experience of filing for Social Security and Medicare benefits. Duke - Anna Pearce in real life - has been a spokesperson for Social Security, telling boomers to enroll for benefits online - via their laptops, in their pajamas, from the comfort of home.

 Pearce was an idol for many girls in the '60s with her extroverted personality and tall, clunky boyfriend, Richard. I liked that she was definitely smarter than he was - a rare portrayal in that era.

 While I have never met Pearce, I have tracked her career, her health challenges, her adoption advocacy and her involvement in Spokane theater. And when I turn 65, I will crawl into my red pajamas, log on and sign up for my benefits, too.

 Happy birthday, Anna!

(S-R archives photo, courtesy of Patty Duke)

Silenced forever: Christopher Hitchens

Writer Christopher Hitchens died yesterday of cancer of the esophagus at 62. He was absolutely one of my favorite writers. He took on those he deemed hypocritical, including Mother Teresa. He was a prolific writer who smoked and drank “enough to kill or stun the average mule,” as he once said, according to AP writer Hillel Italie, who wrote an extraordinary obituary.

Hitchens, one of the most famous atheists of our time, wrote a heartfelt article in this month's Vanity Fair. He took issue with the line that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. He had lost his speaking voice and his fingers were no longer working well, due to the cancer or the treatment's side effects. He was losing his ability to write. So death, which came earlier than many thought, might have come at a time he welcomed.

I'm sad his voice will be silenced now forever, except in his brilliant writings he left behind.

Godspeed, Christopher. Or rather, Humanspeed!

(S-R archives photo)

Tell the stories ~ they are gifts

I received an e-mail – written by my dad’s co-worker, friend and, really, the son he never had. My dad died in 2005 and I miss him every day. Every day. The message made my heart sing and is the best gift I could receive this holiday season. So tell the stories, share the memories of those whose earthly journeys have ended. The memories – stories perhaps unknown – will give the gift of presence. The real celebration of this season.

The lovely message follows:

I think about Don often, especially at Xmas time, because he so obviously loved Xmas and because he was just a naturally generous man.  I remember shopping with him- we never actually went on shopping trips, but there was incidental shopping on the way back from lunch.  I recall the year he bought each of his daughters a new dress coat, and him lugging 4 large boxes back to his office from Dayton’s. 

I know you know this, but your dad was a special man.  He was a huge influence in my life and he’s still thought about and missed by his friends as well as his family.  I hope you and your families are well and that you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Please give my best to your sisters. 

To whom can you send a memory gift  during the holidays?

RIP: DWT?

In my first reporting job, in 1979 in Fort Lauderdale, our bureau was filled with 20something reporters. We had a Friday ritual. We would leave work about 5, go to the store next door, buy six-packs of beer and then drive to someone's house for a party. Always, the driver cracked open a beer, too, and merrily drank all the way to the party, sometimes a half hour's drive away.

I think to those days and wonder how we ever dared to do that. But it was an accepted part of the culture then.

With the annoucement yesterday that the National Transportation Safety Board is proposing a ban on texting and cell phone talking for all drivers, I wonder if it will seem as strange 30 years from now that once drivers texted and talked while driving.

The ban on drinking and driving has saved lives; so, too, should a ban on DWT — Driving while texting.

More damn things to worry about

I love receiving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emerging infectious diseases report, taken from the journal of the same name. Here's what's new, according to the CDC press release:

1. Babesiosis among Elderly Medicare Beneficiaries in the United States, 2006–2008, Mikhail Menis et al.
“In the United States, recently, there has been an increase in the number of reported clinical and transfusion-transmitted babesiosis cases. Human babesiosis is a tick-borne disease that is generally mild but may cause life-threatening anemia in people at high risk, such as the elderly.”

2. Multistate Outbreak of MDR TB Identified by Genotype Cluster Investigation, Pennan M. Barry et al.
“In the United States, more than half the cases of tuberculosis (TB) occur in people born outside this country. Many immigrants are assumed to have been infected before coming to the United States; however, genotype matching shows that they can be infected after arrival.”

3. Rabies in Captive Deer, Pennsylvania, USA, 2007–2010, Brett W. Petersen et al. 
“Four deer farmers in Pennsylvania were potentially exposed to rabies and received vaccination against rabies. More cases could be prevented by vaccinating deer against rabies, decreasing wildlife contact with captive deer, and educating deer farmers about their risks.”

4. Dengue Outbreak in Key West, Florida, USA, 2009, Elizabeth G. Radke, et al. 
“Factors that put people at risk for dengue infections included having windows frequently open, using air conditioning less frequently and having yards with large amounts of vegetation or bird baths. Preventing future cases will require personal protection against mosquitoes, mosquito control, early diagnosis, appropriate testing, and prompt reporting of suspected cases. A total of 27 and 66 cases of locally acquired dengue were reported in Key West in 2009 and 2010, respectively. There were no cases of locally acquired dengue in 2011, which is indicative of the success that local health authorities, mosquito control and the public are having in controlling dengue in Key West.”

(S-R file photo)   

Vodka and bourbon for the dead

Our column today talked about how to acknowledge, during holiday celebrations, a child who has died. Cathy has some good suggestions here.

We have a long tradition at our house of honoring the deceased elders by placing their favorite alcoholic drink in front of their photos on the kitchen counter. So it's bourbon for my dad, Papa Joe, scotch for my brother-in-law Adam and and vodka for Hollis, my mother's late-in-life boyfriend who died three years ago.

We take sips of the drinks during the family gatherings. We call it “spirit food” because my Lakota friend, Faith Spotted Eagle, told me that in her tradition, food is placed on a plate for the loved ones who have passed.

(S-R archives photo)

From firsts to finals

Yesterday, more than 150 folks gathered to honor the 12 men who are taking early retirement from the newspaper. These are my peers, guys I've known for 20 plus years. Lots of former S-R staffers came to the party, and it was a chance to catch up. The members of our  “class” of S-R journalists are in our 50s and 60s. Yesterday, we talked about parents who were sick or who had died, medical challenges personally and with family members. Grown children and now for many, grandchildren. And, of course, retirements.

Those discussions, more than people getting and looking older, were the proof of time passing to me. This morning I realized that with my peers in high school and college it was first dates, first kisses, first college tests, and in the 20s and 30s, we talked about these firsts: marriages, divorces, babies, work firsts.

The discussions change with every life era. And so be it. My wish this morning is to stay in touch with the retiring 12 through the years so that in our 80s and 90s we will have some interesting talks about the “finals” of life.

Breast cancer treatment: choices from hell

 On Tuesday, 37-year-old Guiliana Rancic, the host of E!, will undergo a bilateral mastectomy. The young woman has been diagnosed with breast cancer; she told reporters that she does not want to spend the rest of her life  wondering if the cancer has returned in her breasts.

When diagnosed, women often have a choice among various combinations of surgery, radiation and/or chemo, depending on the stage and type of breast cancer. Rancic is choosing to avoid chemo and radiation by opting for the surgery.

Many women, who may be genetically predisposed to breast cancer, face the question of prophylactic mastectomy as a way to prevent the disease from occurring as well as ease the stress of constant monitoring.  FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) is a nonprofit organization for women whose family history and genetic status puts them at high risk for ovarian cancer and/or breast cancer. Their website offers women - “previvors” and survivors - a chance to access information and each other.

When I faced my own breast cancer treatment choices, I told my husband that I was so frightened by it all, I didn’t know where I would find the courage to do what I needed to do. In a gentle reply he said, “I have lots of courage, you can have some of mine.” Guiliana will be able to draw on the courage of all the women who have gone before her, who have made these choices from hell - and are now living healthy, amazing lives. I am happy to offer her my courage, too.

Worldwide Candle Lighting

Losing a child trumps all other deaths, as parents of children who have died will tell you eloquently.

Sunday, throughout the world, parents and friends of children who died will light candles in their honor.

In Spokane, the candlelight remembrance, sponsored by The Compassionate Friends Spokane chapter, will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Veradale United Church of Christ in the Spokane Valley.

To contact the Spokane Chapter of The Compassionate Friends call 509-850-0823 or email info@tcfspokane.org, and visit the TCF of Spokane  website at www.tcfspokane.org/

Jack McPeck of The Spokane Chapter of The Compassionate Friends (TCF) said that the “death of a child is devastating and it’s important to the family that the child always be remembered. That’s why members of the Spokane Chapter of The Compassionate Friends (TCF) will participate in an annual worldwide event designed to honor the memories of all children, regardless of age, who have died. The chapter is joining Sunday, December 11, 2011 with hundreds of organized memorial services around the world for The Compassionate Friends 15th annual Worldwide Candle Lighting, an event now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting in the world.”

To contact the Spokane Chapter of The Compassionate Friends call 509-850-0823 or email info@tcfspokane.org, and visit the TCF of Spokane  website at www.tcfspokane.org/  

The top 10 things that kill us

The Centers for Disease Control just released the 10 leading causes of death in the United States in 2008 and 2009.

Here they are:

1) Diseases of the heart.

2) Malignant neoplasms (the medical name for cancer).

3) Chronic lower respiratory diseases

4) Cerebro-vascular diseases

5) Accidents

6) Alzheimer's disease

7) Diabetes mellitus

8) Influenza and pnuemonia

9) Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (diseases of the kidney and urinary system)

10) Suicide

Community Memorial Tree Friday

The holidays can be hard for those who have lost loved ones. Hospice of Spokane's Community Memorial Tree allows folks who have lost loved ones to decorate paper doves in their memory.

The doves are then hung on a beautiful tree. Last year, more than 1,000 of our community members made doves for the tree.

There is no cost to create the dove on the memorial tree which will be on display Dec. 9 through Dec. 18.

The opening ceremony is tomorrow at 10 at River Park Square, third level.

But you can create your memorial dove anytime from Dec.10 until the 18. Hospice folks will be at the tree to assist with the doves and also talk about services available from Hospice of Spokane.

“Horse Puckey!”

He was the still point in that M*A*S*H world of humor, tragedy and social commentary about war in one of the most well-written shows we may ever know.  

Harry Morgan died at the age of 96. His role as the crusty, but soft-hearted, Col. Potter of the 4077 will live long after today. Every Monday night we plopped ourselves in front of that television to listen to the wit and wisdom - and insights about the real price of war. The dialog was rich with humor and political commentary. Morgan's salty character added poignancy and the voice of the “older soldier.”  He entertained us and educated us, with grace.

Frock: The end of words

I have been doing research in our newspaper archives in recent weeks for various stories and always pause when I come across words that have died from common usage.

For some reason, the word “frock” has surfaced again and again.

Frock: A woman's dress.

I'm surprised the word hasn't be usurped by someone making it a swear word alternative. You know what I mean. I'm glad it hasn't. When I see the word “frock” I think of times in decades past when women wore frocks most of the day, even at home.

 

(Women in frocks from the movie “Stepford Wives.” S-R archives)

Young nurses: Some good news at last

Labor economists have long been saying that the unemployment rate will get better once the boomers feel confident enough to get the heck out of the workplace. And then there will be labor shortages.

The non-boomers are waiting, but certain labor shortages worry boomers, such as shortages of nurses and geriatric docs.

Well one worry was eased today with this story from AP and OfficialWire. Here's an excerpt:

A surge in young nurses may ease forecasts of coming shortages as their baby-boomer coworkers retire.The past decade brought a 62 percent increase in the number of younger registered nurses entering the workforce, researchers reported Monday in the journal Health Affairs. A young influx is noteworthy because at least 900,000 of the nation's roughly 3 million nurses are older than 50, meaning they're nearing retirement. At the same time, the population is aging and getting more chronic diseases, bringing an increased demand for care even before the new health care law that promises to help 32 million more Americans gain insurance within a few years.

Wedding lessons

My husband and I attended a lovely wedding last night, in a room filled with long-time married couples. It struck me that really no other decision — not even the profession you choose — determines how your life plays out. You and a spouse or partner choose where to live, if and when to have children, what friends you'll hang around with. When you marry you inherit a bunch of other family members. Even if you divorce, the marriage carries on its influence in the rest of your life, especially if you have children together. And at the beginning of a marriage, romantic love blinds you to the lifelong implications. Maybe that is a good thing. The couples we knew at the wedding who had been together 30, 40 years or more hit the dance floor with gusto. They have had their struggles, their joys and, I'm sure, their doubts, but at the wedding we all danced the dance of commitment.

Do you hear what I hear?

In the Christian tradition - Advent is here. A time of waiting, reflecting, listening in the darkness - waiting for the light. 

In U.S. Catholic, an essay published a few years ago always centers me at this time of year; I am reminded that the Spirit moves through all people and God being the creative being that God is…often sends prophets who are the least likely folks we would think to be prophets. People like Bonnie.

 May this time of winter darkness, be illuminated by voices weak, strong, daring, longing. And may we listen and take heed.

(S-R archives photo)

Coming up: National Handwashing Awareness Week

The Centers for Disease Control is reminding all of us about National Handwashing Awareness Week, starting Sunday.

Not to be too OCD about it, but washing hands is one of the easiest ways to prevent illness. Experts advise singing “Happy Birthday” when you wash so that you get a full 20 seconds in.

When I wash the hands of the little ones in my extended family, I instead adapt the song “I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” from the musical South Pacific.

Here are my lyrics: “Im gonna wash those germs right out of my hands and send them down the sink.”

From the CDC:

How to wash hands:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap.
  • Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
  • Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

When to wash hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal food or waste
  • After touching garbage

NYT: Can Ambien wake the near-dead?

The New York Times has a fascinating story today about a young man named Chris who has been in one of those semi-comas for years but who is now showing some amazing alertness, thanks to Ambien, which is usually a sleep aid.

Excerpt:

Convinced that the son they know and love is still “in there,” Chris’s parents have spent the past three years searching for a way to bring him back out. So far, their best hope has come from an unlikely source: Ambien. A growing body of case reports suggests that the popular sleep aid can have a profound — and paradoxical — effect on patients like Chris. Rather than put them to sleep, both Ambien and its generic twin, zolpidem, appear to awaken at least some of them. The early reports were so pronounced that until recently, doctors had a hard time believing them. Only now, more than a decade after the initial discovery, are they taking a closer look.

Pondering the Hours of Other

While waking up this morning, it dawned on me that, for many of us, the hours of a day are divided thusly: Work, eight hours. Sleep, eight hours (if you are lucky.) That leaves eight more hours for “Other.” In those hours, we clean, bathe, cook, watch TV, care for children, spouses,grandchildren, read, eat, exercise, hang out on the computer, perhaps pray, shop, wait in doctor's offices, drive to and from places, try to sleep, try to wake up, worry, hope. At the end of our lives, I wonder if the most important living we do will have been in those Hours of Other.

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at endnotescolumn@gmail.com.

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