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Archive for May 2011

A baby’s final gift

Last week, I met a beautiful couple from Turkey, in Spokane for a year doing university studies, whose baby died less than a month after being born. It was a privilege to meet them.

They were surrounded by help and support from many people in Spokane — from Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, from the MISS Foundaiton, from Whitworth and WSU.

Here was the lede of the story (which ran as a sidebar with my main story in the post below):

Baby Duru, born with a malignant brain tumor, was a few days shy of 1 month old when she died Feb. 16 in her mother’s arms, with her father close by. Her parents, Umut Eroglu and Duygu Toygur Eroglu, are from Turkey.In their country, young parents with dying babies are not encouraged to be with their babies as death approaches.“There is a belief that if you attach too much, you will be sad too much,” mom Duygu said.

Read the rest.

(Photo courtesy of Karin Knapp)

Never Forgotten: Programs to know about

If you know  a couple who has been told that their baby will be stillborn or live just a short time after birth, please let them know about two programs for families like them in the Inland Northwest.

Forget-Me-Not at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital walks alongside families in this journey from the moment they find out.

The MISS Foundation, Spokane chapter, offers support after parents leave the hospital.

Here's the link to my Sunday story.


(SR/Dan Pelle photo of Carolyn Ringo, left, and Sarah Bain, right)

A poem, a poppy

Did you ever wonder what the connection is between poppies and Memorial Day?

Read on…

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army


Find a

A work buddy told me about a cool website,, where you can look for gravesites in a variety of ways. You can search on a name or search at a specific cemetery.

I tried Fairmount Memorial Park on Spokane's North side. And though it lists, in alphabetical order, about 6.000 people buried there, the searches on my family members buried there didn't find them but I did find some old friends of my parent's.

Anyway, it's worth a look.

Travel adventures: healing journeys?

When her marriage ended, writer Laura Fraser went to Italy and met an older Frenchman, whom she writes about in her memoir, “An Italian Affair.”  He is married, she is seeking. They make love, dine sumptuously, and explore new places as well as each other. Ultimately, the affair reignites passion she thought was forfeited through her divorce.

 Twenty-five years ago this weekend, my good friend said, “I do.” When the marriage ended, she, too, traveled into wonderful new adventures (minus the Frenchman). Seven years later, she has managed to trek the mountains of Bhutan (twice), explore Bangkok, Belize, Brazil and reflect on it all in a nice condo in Tucson. I won't dish about the man.

When endings occur, perhaps the best way to find ourselves is to leave the familiar and explore. As T.S. Eliot wrote: 

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

 How have your travel adventures brought healing to difficult endings in your life?  

Giving up the keys

One of the hardest activities for older people to give up is driving a car. Some even report feelings similar to the classic stages of grief. Denial that they shouldn’t drive. Bargaining with grown children who urge them to stop. Anger when the grown children persist. And, eventually for most, acceptance that putting away the keys is a good idea. A recent study might give these grown children some ammunition.


The National Institutes of Health recently reported on Australian researchers who studied the driving habits of 266 healthy drivers, ages 70 to 88. The drivers aged 85 to 89 averaged four critical mistakes (such as failing to check a blind spot) in a 12-mile road test; drivers 70 to 74 averaged less than one.

The study, first reported online in the journal Neuropsychology, is likely to be controversial, NIH acknowledged.



One more damn thing to worry about

Because of this column, I get emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency sends out a weekly morbidity and mortality report with other items of interest.

Today, they had a little tidbit about Jamestown Canyon virus, spread by mosquitoes, and recently spread to the Northwest. I have never heard of this one before.

If I'm reading the release correctly, it's going to be a bad mosquito season all around.

Read the summary, and judge, for yourself:

Jamestown Canyon virus (JCV) is a mosquito borne pathogen that circulates widely in North America primarily between deer and a variety of mosquito species. JCV can also infect humans, but reports of human JCV infections in the United States have been rare and confined to the midwestern and northeastern states. Most reported illnesses caused by JCV have been mild, but moderate-to-severe central nervous system involvement including meningoencephalitis has been documented. In May 2009, the first human case of JCV infection in Montana was detected, suggesting that the geographic distribution of human JCV infection is wider than previously recognized, and that increased JCV surveillance is needed to determine whether mosquito-borne viruses other than West Nile virus (WNV) pose a risk to humans in the region. The recent detection of a human JCV infection in Montana with illness onset in May means that mosquito borne virus transmission and disease begins in spring and lasts until the first freeze and indicates a much longer mosquito-borne disease risk than previously indicated by WNV alone.

Read the full report

(AP archive photo)

A TV “friend” dies suddenly

My husband and I, early birds, always have MSNBC's Morning Joe on  while we drink coffee and read the newspaper together.

Mark Haines, co-author of CNBC's “Squawk on the Street” died unexpectedly Tuesday. He was a little crotchety but smart with a good sense of humor.

When the news came over a news wire, I immediately called my husband at home to tell him. We reacted the way you might when a neighbor you like but don't know too well dies suddenly. We'll miss him on our morning TV.

This is grief in the modern age.

(AP photo)

Renewal in Everday Loss

Nancy Copeland-Payton, medical doctor and Presbyterian minister, will facilitate a one-day retreat in Sandpoint June 4 on the gifts that can result when a person is able to let go of losses.

She is the author of the 2009 book: The Losses of Our Lives – The Sacred Gifts of Renewal in Everyday Loss.

Patty Hutchens, a freelance writer based in Sandpoint, is getting the word out about the retreat. She recently wrote:

Sandpoint’s Dr. Nancy Copeland-Payton has experienced many levels of grief over the years, both personally and when assisting others through their various journeys of loss.  Both as a medical doctor and during her career as a Presbyterian minister, Copeland-Payton has witnessed the many ways in which people deal with losses both great and small. “I have accompanied people through end of life losses, illness and devastating emergency room losses,” said Copeland-Payton.  “And as a pastor I have walked with people through losses in their lives in a different way. From birth until we take our last breath, we are immersed in a continuing flow of immeasurable gifts and unwanted losses,” said Dr. Copeland-Payton.  “When we intentionally enter into our journey through the layers of everyday loss, the terrain of larger loss is not totally alien or terrifying.”

The retreat will be held June 4 at the Brown House next to Bonner General Hospital. The class will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the cost is $30.  Snacks will be provided and attendees are encouraged to also bring a sack lunch.   

 To register please contact Ginny Moody at 208-263-6057 or email her at

Dream destinations - spiritually speaking


I have attended two funerals and one bed-side vigil in the last week.

These experiences offer time to reflect on what is important in life as well as how we nurture our own spirituality.

Travel writer, Rick Steves, recently interviewed by U.S. Catholic, offers information on his five most spiritual places in Europe.    

What is your dream destination for nurturing your spirit?

(AP photo of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy)

Secondhand smoke and the brain

Some of us in our 50s and beyond often comment about growing up in smoke-filled homes. Almost all the parents of my childhood smoked.

My husband's father was an insomniac and smoked all night in bed, in between reading. (My mother-in-law lived into her 90s, despite sharing a bedroom with the chain-smoking reader hubby,  so no apparent long-lasting damage there.)

Anyway, a recent National Institutes of Health report listed all the dangers of secondhand smoke: 50,000 deaths attributed to it, same brain changes for the nonsmoker as the smoker, a propensity to smoking later in life for kids raised around smoking adults.

Makes me wonder how any of us made into adulthood, surrounded by the haze.

DId your parents smoke in your home? Any lifelong effects you can trace from it?

(AP file photo)

Rapture: Not-so-good to go

The end of the world, predicted by preacher Harold Camping, must be set for another day: we're still here. But we had fun with the pretend possibilities!  

The Baltimore Sun published a Q and A with must I return my library books or will I be able to take them with me? questions.  

 A colleague, citing my theology degree, figured I would be a goner. But I was confident that this final exam was probably not predicated on graduate papers. Still, she wanted me to put in a good word for her about purgatory.  I asked if she wanted purgatory to be her destination or did she need an exit strategy?

 She wrote: “If there’s any question that I’ll go DIRECTLY to heaven then I’m willing to do time in purgatory (to get there).

 “My understanding is you must wear unflattering purgatory-issued apparel and are punished by spending your days splitting rocks with hammers. You spend nights praying for forgiveness and then you are absolved of your sinful ways and the exit is to heaven.

 “If not, just put in a good word for me in heaven. Tell them there must be some error in the paperwork.

 “Thanks. See you tomorrow (at the rapture).”

Looks like I'll see her on Monday, in the cafeteria, instead. We both have lots of unfinished business to tend to before we slip into that work-release program of splitting rocks.

 I'll stick to (occasionally) splitting infinitives, for now.

 Do you know anyone who really believed Saturday was 'the end' and made changes in their life?

Hospice of Spokane offers class for newly bereaved

Hospice of Spokane has some excellent programs for people in grief.

Here’s some information about a new offering, the Newly Bereaved Class, sent from Dale Hammond of Hospice of Spokane.

The series will offer information, education and activities in a group setting. Instructors will lead group discussions and use print and video curriculum from various national resources like the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Content will cover topics including “Getting in Touch” (identifying and normalizing feelings and reactions), “Telling Your Story,” “Self Care,” “Relationships,” “Special Days” and “A New Normal.”

Class attendees who complete the series will learn about the bereavement process and are welcome to transition into our free grief support groups if they wish.

There is no cost to attend the series. The classes will be on the first, second and third Thursdays of each month beginning June, and will run 1:30-2:30. People who wish to attend should call Hospice of Spokane’s bereavement department at 509.456.0438 or email

RIP: Paper books

It will likely be many more years until all printed books are replaced by e-books.

But perhaps in history “books” it will someday be noted that on May 19, 2011 Inc. announced that “after less than four years of selling electronic books, it’s now selling more of them than printed books.”

(Read item at end of today's business page briefs column.) 

Do you read e-books yet? Will you miss printed books, hard or paperback, when they finally die?

 (Newsday archive photo by Ken Spencer)

Living to 100

Many years ago, I profiled several centenarians and asked a gerontologist the secret to living to 100.

He said: “Choose your parents. Wear a seatbelt.”  In other words, genetics and safety.

This week, the CDC released figures on seat belt use in the United States for 2009, the most recent data year.

The agency reported that “using a seat belt is one of the most effective means of preventing serious injury or death in the event of a crash. Seat belts saved an estimated 12,713 lives in 2009, but almost 4,000 additional lives could have been saved if every occupant had been buckled up.”

Which leads me to today's question: Do you want to live to 100?

(AP file photo of a Waco High School student whose life was saved by a seat belt) 

Preparing for the zombie apocalypse

Get A Kit,    Make A Plan, Be Prepared.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a new blog and social media campaign to help people prepare for emergencies. When I first read about it, I thought it was a spoof of some kind, but it's for real. They are telling people how to prepare for a zombie takeover. When you read further into the blog, you realize it's a good way to catch people's attention and the “meat” of it is how to prepare for less sensational emergencies, such as floods and tornadoes.

It's pretty creative. Gives you hope that when younger people are hired into established corporations and government agencies to do their social media outreach, they'll be able to think out of the box.

Or in the case of this campaign, out of the coffin.

(CDC graphic)

When should you take off your rings?

 Our syndicated column this week answered a question about when a widowed person should take off his or her wedding ring.

Right away? When you start dating? Never?

The experts weighed in, but here we'd like to ask any widowers and widows out there:

How and when did you make the decision about your rings?


(Photo from PR/Newswire)

Harmon Killebrew has died at age 74

Update: Harmon Killebrew died this morning at age 74. Here's Catherine's post from Sunday, with childhood photo of Catherine (with glasses holding puppy), her two sisters and the Killebrews, Elaine and Harmon.

Harmon is heading for home

Harmon Killebrew - Baseball Hall of Famer with 573 home runs - is making his way toward home for the last time. He announced last week that he is seeking hospice care after fighting esophageal cancer.

As a Minnesota-grown girl, my Minnesota Twins hero was Harmon Killebrew . And I have a 1967 scrapbook that says so. 

The Killebrew family also lived in our Edina, Minnesota neighborhood for a brief time. We met when their family dog ran away from home and everyone helped in the search. When their dog gave birth to puppies, my sisters and I convinced our parents that a poodle puppy was essential to our happiness. We named the puppy - what else? - Homer.

Mrs. Killebrew asked me to baby-sit one evening when she needed to run errands. It was 1968 and the night of the All-Star game. Harmon was playing. I was stunned that she was not home watching the game! But family life carried on and she managed the daily details. Then a baseball official called to report Harmon's injury to his hamstring muscle. I remember feeling the anxiety of sharing the news with Mrs. Killebrew. Harmon recovered and eventually resumed his career.

Harmon Killebrew played baseball before the sport was riddled with steroids, sex scandals and obscene salaries. Killebrew's generous demeanor: “Sure, I'll sign autographs!” made him a credible ambassador for baseball as well as a role model of integrity and kindness. 

Thank you, Harmon Killebrew, for sharing your baseball passion and talent with all your fans; for sharing your gentle spirit off the field with neighbors and friends. And as you make this final journey, heading for home, please glance back - at your fans, your baseball colleagues and friends, who send you forth with great gratitude and our prayers.

Water, water everywhere

Water, water everywhere! Rebecca's post reminds me of a story from our family history.  

In 1948 my great aunt and uncle (yes, they really were great!) lived in Vanport City, Oregon, a city quickly constructed in 1943 to house the workers at the wartime Kaiser Shipyards in Portland and Vancouver.

In the spring of 1948, high levels of snow melting from the mountains and heavy rains filled the tributaries feeding the Columbia River.  On the afternoon of May 30, a 200-foot section of the dike broke, sending a wall of water into the community.  My uncle, not believing the false assurances voiced over the radio, had rented a pickup truck and piled his family, a few belongings and the home-alone children from next door, into the truck.

 Before he drove away, he decided he could not leave the new refrigerator behind. He managed to clunk it down the staircase, out the door and up into the back of the truck.  Uncle Art drove off the  traffic-jammed road and across fields to escape the water. Everyone survived and the refrigerator had a decades-long life in its new home, Milwaukie, Oregon.

Do it now

Yesterday, I was at a meeting with folks who do emergency preparedness in the county and as part of the meeting, we were offered a tour of the Avista dams downtown.

The last spot on the tour was an outside viewing section for the lower falls. The Spokane River is pretty high and glorious right now and though I'd seen these lower falls before from this viewpoint, I decided to make the last stop, despite the hours of work awaiting me in the office.

I climbed down the steps to the viewpoint (you can get there through the City Hall parking lot) and it's stunning, like being in a science fiction movie, water crashing right next to you.

The reason I decided to see the river like this? Last week in an interview, Margo Long, head of the Gifted Education Center at Whitworth University said this:

When I talk to young mothers, I always remind them of one of my favorite bylaws: “Do now what you cannot do later.” It usually gives us perspective and puts our focus back on the children.

I'm going to adapt Margo's words to many decisions now, because as you age, it's good to ponder the things you might not be able to do later. I'll likely be able to make the short hike down to the lower falls for many years to come, but you never know. So I went. No regrets.

Albert Brooks and the Boomer Flu

Comedian, author and actor Albert Brooks has a novel out about the near future. It takes place in the year 2030 and is named 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America.

In it, aging baby boomers are in a constant struggle with the younger generation over politics, resources and other things. I've seen other predictions of the coming “generational wars.” And Brooks discussed this in a recent  USA Today interview.

USA Today: Old people are targets in your novel. You're 63. Do you worry about this scenario?

Brooks: Yes, I have. I've always thought because of our generation — the size of it — it's apparent that unless we're killed off by some Boomer flu, we're going to be here and people are going to have to deal with us.

Your opinion: Generational wars coming soon?

Yellow pages: RIP

One thing you'll see in this blog on occasion is the announcement, or the prediction, of technologies or ways of life that are dying off in our culture.

Ideas, technology and trends have a life cycle and eventually die, too. Just like humans.

In today's Spokesman-Review, we ran a Los Angeles Times story about the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voting to restrict delivery of the Yellow Pages to houses and businesses that really want them.


It's a move to cut out paper waste, but how many years will it be until the Yellow Pages disappear entirely, replaced by computer and cell phone apps? Or until business advertising is implanted directly into our brains.? Just joking on that.  I hope…

Leaving Chastity behind


Today Sonny and Cher's daughter comes back to the world as their son. After decades of struggle to match his gender identity with his physical body, Chaz speaks about the painful struggle and what it took to align his self-understanding with his body.

The book Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man goes on sale today.

The documentary, about the transition from Chastity Bono into a male, debuts tonight on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

While we all talk about the importance of becoming who we truly are, Chastity, now Chaz, publically teaches us about the difficult and painful life a transgendered person leads. His courage to become who he really is - through radical changes - is an object lesson for all of us, no matter what our struggle is to find our authentic self.

(AP photo)

How do you pray for a miracle?

A friend of mine has a grown child who has struggled with mental illness for many years now. After the last update, not a good one, I said: “Let's ask any Catholics we know to pray for a miracle to cure your child's mental illness. Pope John Paul needs a second miracle to be named a saint, maybe we should ask him?”

We kind of laughed about it, but it got me wondering what it takes to get a miracle from someone on the road to sainthood.

So I found an article about it by John Allen, a writer for National Catholic Reporter and, in my opinion, one of the best Catholic world writers of all time. I found an article he'd written about the topic.

Allen writes:

 According to the traditional criteria, for a healing to be certified as miraculous, it must be:

  • Immediate
  • Complete
  • Permanent
  • Scientifically inexplicable

Allen also described the situation with the 49-year-old French nun named Marie Simon-Pierre Normand who was cured of her Parkinson's. That miracle got John Paul II to the beatification stage.

On the night of June 2, 2005, she told her superior of her intention to resign, who suggested that she pray anew to John Paul II. Normand said the superior suggested that she write the pope’s name on a piece of paper, which by that stage she normally couldn’t do because of tremors in her hands. The superior insisted, suggesting that the left-handed Normand use her right hand, and she complied. That night, she said, she was able to sleep well, despite the fact that the pain of the disease usually kept her awake.

The next morning, she said, she awoke feeling much greater movement in her body, and went directly to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. She said she prayed the “luminous mysteries” of the rosary (a new devotion introduced by John Paul II in 2002). Afterwards, she said, she went to the regular morning Mass with the other sisters, where she became convinced she was cured. Four days later she had a regularly scheduled appointment with her neurologist, who, she said, was amazed by the complete disappearance of her symptoms.

Worth a try? If anyone does try this at home, let us know!

(AP archive photo)

When names die, too

The HBO Depression-era series, Mildred Pierce, along with the release last week of the Social Security Administration's top 1,000 baby names of 2010 got me thinking to the way names die off, too.

One of my mom's closest friends, and an important mom from my childhood, was named Mildred. Her name disappeared from the top 1,000 list in 1984.

But maybe there's hope. Hazel dropped off the list from 1976 until reappearing in 1998. Its comeback continues.

I wish the same for Mildred.

(Photo of HBO's Mildred Pierce by AP/HBO)

She wore the dress just twice

One of my favorite spirituality writers is Ron Rolheiser and his Mother's Day column today was beautiful. He explained how his mother died too young, leaving a big brood of children that “felt too young to be on its own.”

Here's the graph that sticks with me this Mother's Day evening:

“She died of pancreatitis and a broken heart, just three months after she had nursed my dad through a year-long, losing, battle with cancer. As my dad lay dying, one of my brothers and I took her to a shop to buy a dress for the funeral. She splurged and bought the most expensive dress she'd ever purchased. When she tried on the dress the sales clerk told her: “You look terrific in that dress! I hope you enjoy wearing it!” She wore it just twice, once to her husband's funeral and once to her own. The irony of the salesclerk's comment hasn't been lost.”

Age and illness: The great leveler

The photo of Osama bin Laden, looking old and gray, in the dingy room watching his old speeches on old tapes on a television screen reminds me of the times I've heard — and read of — people encountering a scary or mean person from their childhood who is now an old person and powerless.

They often wonder what they ever feared, now that the scary person is so pathetic.

Sometimes, older age is a great leveler. In bin Laden's case, indeed.

Mother’s Day: a day of gratitude, grief and grace

Mother's Day brings feelings of gratitude for the mom we have and what she has brought to our life.


For some people, the day stirs up grief for the mother who has died, grief for the kind of mom we never had, or grief over the mother we cannot become - due to infertility or adoption roadblocks.

Perhaps today we can celebrate not only our own mom, but also the women who care for us in good times and bad, who foster our dreams and dare to tell us the truth about ourselves; the women who courageously step into our suffering, our sadness as well as our joy - and stay near.

Perhaps today we can honor the part of us who loves, nurtures, and guides the children in our lives - no matter how they come to us: through blood or circumstance.

Today, I thank all the women who love my son - godmothers bringing him kindness, love, humor and adventures. You are the moms in the moments of his life. You bring traditions, memories, and a touchstone of love that I alone cannot.

Thank you, forever, and happy Mother's Day.

Resting her head forever

Richard Miller, who worked in our newsroom for many years and now is a communications professional at Washington State University, has become a spotter for interesting obituaries.

Last week he sent me this line from an Idaho Statesman obit about a woman named Ellen:

We both liked this line:

“Carried away on the wings of angels, she is secure in the arms of our Savior, her head comfortably and attractively tilted at about a 45 degree angle so that it rests on our Lord's right shoulder.”


Planet Earth: 89 years left?

Last week in his Earthweek column, syndicated writer Steve Newman quoted “two of the world's most respected scientists” saying that human civilization has only a 50 percent chance of surviving until 2100 without being done in by a nuclear threat, climate change, overpopulation — or perhaps an asteroid or electromagnetic solar storms that fry our electronics.

Neither Newman, nor the scientists, are chicken-little types. Then this week we had the story about the melting of Arctic ice which means that sea levels could rise as much as 5 feet this century.

In the sci-fi movie A. I. Artificial Intelligence, the sea levels have risen dramatically. Helicopters fly to offices in the top floors of Manhattan skyscrapers, for instance, because those are the only floors left not underwater.

Thinking about the world dramatically changed within 90 years is a good conversation starter. In our water aerobics class, one guy joked: “It makes you rethink buying something you hope will become a valuable antique to pass onto your children.”

When you read reports about the world changing so dramatically, do you feel relief, panic or nothing much at all?

 (AP photo from the movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence) 

Thank you, Mr. President

Thank you, Mr. President

Thank you, Mr. President for not releasing the photos of Osama bin Laden’s body. We do not need the evidence. See story.


We trust that the months of planning, the built-to-scale model of the compound, the drills, the intelligence data and your wisdom, empowered the magnificent Navy SEALS to complete their assignment. Now families who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attack are perhaps offered a piece of comfort.

Thank you, Mr. President, for not only keeping your promise, but doing so, with dignity.  

You know, what’s his name?

 My husband I now have a rule that when we're in conversation over coffee and we can't find the right word, person, book title, movie title, we don't pause at the forgetting but move on. So instead of saying, “You know, that guy who played the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz who didn't have a brain, you know?” We say: “The guy who played the Scarecrow. I'll remember tonight when I'm falling asleep.”

 The rapid fire brains of our youth are not as rapid firing anymore. It's a loss. But apparently, it's within the normal range of forgetting. HealthDay, a medical news service, sent out this recent press release on older brains:

Slowing of the brain's processing speed as people age is the prime cause of typical communication problems in older adults, new research indicates.In the study, University of Kansas researchers compared the ability of young and older adults to do two things at once: keep a cursor on a moving target on a computer screen while responding to questions. Overall, younger adults did better at this dual-tasking. Psychology professor Susan Kemper, a senior scientist at the Gerontology Center at the university's Life Span Institute, said in a university news release: “What I think is going on is that you have to rapidly switch your attention from tracking to talking, going back and forth pretty rapidly, and that's where the processing speed really comes in,” Kemper said. “Older adults seem to be slower at switching between tasks so their functional ceiling is lower.”

Do you have any remembering tricks?

(AP Archive Photo)

Greek tragedies: the burial of bin Laden

U.S. officials said they buried bin Laden at sea, and the controversy begins. According to an Associated Press story: “Muslim clerics said today that Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea was a violation of Islamic tradition that may further provoke militant calls for revenge attacks against American targets.”

Immediately, I thought of the Greek tragedies in which improper burials were important to the overall narrative.

Antigone, the main character of Sophocles'  ancient play by the same name, finally kills herself, after being condemned for giving her brother a proper burial. He was thought to be a traitor. Turns out, the gods were on his side. But by the time the word came down, too late for Antigone.

And in the Iliad, Achilles kills his enemy Hector,and drags the body behind his chariot, in a huge act of disrespect. In one of the Illiad's most touching scenes,  Hector's father pleads with Achilles for a proper burial for his son and Achilles relents.

So this burial stuff is as ancient, and powerful, as the long-ago Greeks.

Antigone is still performed in high schools and colleges and students still read the Iliad. Brad Pitt played Achilles in the movie Troy in 2007. (See photo).

So this rage over bin Laden's burial at sea  isn't going to go away soon.


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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

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