Before It's News | People
What does green burial look like, and how does it compare to the usual death-rite conventions? Click here for a slide show.
An epitaph from a headstone
in a Pennsylvania Dutch cemetary:
"Here lies the body of Isaac Shook
We always knew he lied
He said he was just a wee bit sick
Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York:
Born 1903 - Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft to
see if the car was on the way down.
In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:
Here lies an Atheist
All dressed up
And no place to
In a London, England, cemetery:
Here lies Ann Mann,
Who lived an old maid
an old Mann.
December 8, 1767
On the grave of Anna Wallace in a Ribbesford, England, cemetery:
The children of Israel wanted bread,
And the Lord sent
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,
And the Devil sent him Anna.
In a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery:
Here lies Johnny Yeast.
For not rising.
In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, cemetery:
Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake.
Stepped on the gas
of the brake.
In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery:
Here lays The Kid.
We planted him raw.
He was quick
on the trigger
But slow on the draw.
A lawyer's epitaph in England:
Sir John Strange.
Here lies an honest lawyer,
John Penny's epitaph in the Wimborne, England, cemetery:
Reader, if cash thou art
In want of any,
Dig 6 feet
And thou wilt find a Penny.
In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England:
On the 22nd of June,
Went out of tune.
On W.C. Fields tombstone:
"All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."
Anna Hopewell's grave in Enosburg Falls,Vermont:
Here lies the body of our Anna -
Done to death by a banana.
wasn't the fruit that laid her low,
But the skin of the thing that made her go.
On a grave from the 1880s in Nantucket, Massachusetts:
Under the sod and under the trees,
Lies the body of Jonathan
He is not here, there's only the pod.
Pease shelled out and went to God.
In a cemetery in England:
Remember man, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, you soon will be.
Prepare yourself and follow me
To which someone replied by writing on the tombstone:
To follow you I'll not consent
Until I know which way you went
From Boot Hill, in Tombstone, Arizona:
Here lies Lester Moore
One slug from a 44
Some signs of impending death for the superstitious:
Cracks appearing in bread while baking
Missing a row while planting
A dog whining under a window
A child crying while being baptized
A picture falling from the wall
Horses neighing at a funeral
A cricket in the house
Sneezing at the table
Pulling at the bedclothes while you're sick
Ringsel: Buddhist Relics
November 7, 2003 -- An usual world exhibition is offering a rare look at
the physical remains said to be of Shakyamuni Buddha and other great Buddhist teachers. The Heart Shrine Relics, so named
because they will be placed permanently in the heart area of a 500-foot statue to be constructed in Kushinagar, a town in
northern India where Buddha died, include fossilized blood, bone fragments and ringsel -- tiny pearl-like beads said to be
formed when a spiritually pure master is cremated. Most of the 1,000 relics, which were donated by museums, monasteries and
individuals -- with a few salvaged from statues destroyed when China invaded Tibet half a century ago -- are kept in small
gold urns with glass tops and displayed in glass cases.
Victoria Ewart, global manager of the Heart Shrine Relic Tour,
describes the spiritual significance of the relics, which will remain on tour through 2008. "The relics are produced because
the master has spiritual realizations," Ewart explains "So, when the body is cremated, then these ringsel -- relics -- are
found among the ashes. And they're deliberately left there because the master wishes to leave an object of veneration."
-- from the Religion & Ethics Newsweekly newsletter, November 5, 2003.
More on this and other religious topics at the website at PBS.
Death is in! Some of TV's current and upcoming shows are deadly serious;
others are light, sardonic, even a tad kooky. But brush aside differences in style and tone, and you can recognize the same
'Dead' Man Revives After Night in Morgue
August 22, 2003 HANOI -- An elderly Vietnamese man thought to have died in a hospital revived after spending the night in the morgue. Nguyen
Van Quan, 73, was declared dead and taken to a Ho Chi Minh City hospital morgue on the night of August 15 but was found alive
by his daughter the next morning as she was retrieving the body for the funeral.
"I was shocked and frightened when I saw the blanket that covered my father
moving," Quan's daughter was quoted as saying. "When the morgue's officials pulled back the blanket, my father's eyes moved,
brightening with joy."
A doctor at the Nguyen Tri Phuong hospital, where Quan had been admitted
after complaining of chest pain. After Quan's heart failed and he was declared dead, the man was placed in the morgue where
he was laid for seven hours among corpses. He is now in the emergency section of the hospital.
-- Edited and excerpted from Reuters
An article on a June 1999 experiment conducted at the University
of Arizona. One of the four "mediums" who participated in the study was John Edwards.
A Minister's Obligations
It was early one morning when the Pastor heard a noise outside his door.
When he opened it, he found a donkey standing outside, which immediately fell over dead. Not exactly knowing what to do about
the situation, he called the local sheriff and told him about the jackass laying before him.
The sheriff couldn't resist jabbing at the Minister and said, "Pastor,
I thought the first duty of the Minister was to bury the dead."
Without hesitation, the Pastor said, "No the first duty of the Minister
is to notify the next of kin." -- Freaky Animals
Ashes to Ashes; Dust to Dust
Ever wonder why you can't find those words in the Bible? Like many "biblical quotes," the reason is that they aren't there. There are actual references to ashes
and to dust in the Bible in relation to creation and to death, but you won't find them put together in the way commonly used
at funeral services. There are many reasons why ashes and dust should be mentioned, however.
When a body is cremated, it becomes ashes. When a body is stored
in a container, whether it be stone, steel, or wood, it will eventually decompose and become some form of dust. There is some
scientific evidence that we are indeed, as the Bible says, made of dust -- the cosmic kind. Moreover, many other mythologies
speak of ashes and dust in reference to both creation and death.
On Ash Wednesday, a priest says the words, "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt
return," as he uses his thumb to smear blessed
ashes on the foreheads of the faithful in the sign of the cross.
The Anglican's Book of Common Prayer called for the words "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust
to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection" to be spoken at a burial as far back as 1559.
At funerals of the members of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars, this touching variation of the Anglican speech is given: "O God, Creator of the universe
and Commander of the hosts of heaven, to thy care we commit the spirit of our departed Compatriot. While by day the sun makes
its round, and by night the stars keep watch and ward over this bivouac of our dead. We commit his body to the earth. Dust
to dust, ashes to ashes in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead through Our Lord Jesus Christ. May his
soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercies of Christ rest in peace. Amen." A Confederate flag should be draped over the coffin to honor the fallen hero
-- who most likely never actually fought in the Civil War, but in life, liked to identify with that role.
Read about alternatives to caskets or urns: turn your loved one's cremains into a diamond or blast them into outer space!
LifeGem Memorials can turn dead people or pets into diamonds for as little as $3,950, and if you lose your precious jewel, they store
extra carbon so they can make you a new one.
Eternal Reefs makes bodies into "reef balls" in an ecology-friendly effort to shore up our ailing reefs with artificial ones. You can be
part of a single reef ball community off the coast of Florida or South Carolina by mixing it up with the remains of other
people for as little as $850 in a kind of time-share -- which lasts an eternity.
The Celestis Foundation are the ones who sent Timothy Leary and Gene Roddenberry into the Final Frontier. You have your choice of destinations: you
can orbit the Earth, they can send you to the moon, or send you on a one-way trip into deep space. Their fifth mission is
scheduled for December 2003.
Or you can always mix some of your loved one's cremains in with paint use them to
add some texture to a work of art Bettye Brokl of Eternally Yours has sold more than 300 memorial art works composed of human or pet remains -- charging from $350 to $950.
You could always try a little creativity yourself, and mix some cremains with some
spackle or wall paint and give your living room or guest room some decorative flair. This would be a great way to authenticate
the atmosphere of a room furnished with inherited furniture. -- the Editor
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a
thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
~ Mary Frye
The second joke I ever heard, at about 4 years of age: "Why do they build fences around graveyards?" -- "Because people are dying
to get in."
The third joke I learned: "How
many dead people are buried in that graveyard?" -- "All of them."
What was the first joke I learned? The one about the chicken crossing
the road, of course. -- the Editor
Chickens and Death
The connection between death and chickens may not be readily apparent
-- unless you are thinking of dinner -- but I know of a case of a chicken in Romania, wherein a peasant woman found the
mystery of life and death together.
Inside the hen she was preparing for dinner on the 7th of November 2001,
she found three fully-formed live chicks. They weren't inside eggs. She was astonished and disturbed, and called both a veterinarian
and a priest to her home for counsel.
She reported that the chicken was acting peculiar and hadn't laid an
egg in days. Perhaps this finally answers the long-asked question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" -- Source: Ananova
My first recollected experience with death also came in the form of chickens, or
chicks to be precise. My grandmother had ordered a quantity of eggs and all the paraphernalia to hatch them one spring. The
baby chicks were so tiny, I could feel their sharp little bones under their downy yellow feathers.
Eagerly anticipating the stocking of our freezer, she was dismayed when a late freeze
struck. I remember the horrible site of a lonely chick, dead, its feet frozen in a puddle of rainwater. I wondered if it had
died before they became stuck or if it had become stuck and frozen in place.
Perhaps one of the most gruesome characteristics of chickens is their
ability to run around the barnyard for some time before succumbing to the injury of having their head chopped off. There have
been some incidents where such chickens defy the odds and death itself, by continuing to live for days, weeks, or months.
Mourn Not the Dead
Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie --
Dust unto dust --
calm, sweet earth that mothers all who die
As all men must;
Mourn not your captive comrades who must dwell --
Too strong to strive
Within each steel-bound coffin of a cell,
But rather mourn the apathetic throng --
The cowed and the meek --
see the world's great anguish and its wrong
And dare not speak! ~ Ralph Chaplin
|Deadlines and Headlines
|For Crime News, See Criminal Minds
Two mains areas of the law apply to dead people: 1) disposal of bodies; and 2) crimes committed against dead bodies. In
both cases, the laws are a tangle of competing rights, often pitting the wishes of the deceased against the wishes of their
survivors against the police powers of the state. The disputes range from battles over the harvesting of sperm from a corpse
to whether sex with a dead body is rape. (In most states it isn't, unless you thought the body was alive while you did it.)
(The law's like that.) -- Dahlia Lithwick
|Autopsy Set courtesy CollectMedicalAntiques.com
An autopsy is a formal examination of a dead body, also called a postmortem examination or a necropsy. Autopsies have been
conducted for more than 2,000 years.
Until the 20th century, however, they were rarely performed except in the
case of a legal need to establish a cause of death. There have always been taboos in every society associated with the treatment of the dead, and some religions
forbade autopsy. Postmortems -- and even vivisection -- were usually performed on criminals or on people who had no one to protect them from victimization, like the poor, the insane, or the mentally retarded.
In the first recorded autopsy, Roman physician Antistius performed one on the corpse of Julius Caesar in 44 BC after he was murdered by his own senators. He documented 23 stab wounds, including the puncture between the first and second ribs that actually killed
him, said by some to have been delivered by his friend Brutus. The next recorded autopsy took place in 1410 on Pope Alexander V to determine whether he had been poisoned by his successor,
John the XXIII, the Antipope -- he wasn't.
The Chinese developed the first forensic science handbook ca 1248 AD, titled
Hsi YŁan Lu. The book contained instructions for the examination of corpses; ascertaining
the cause of death; identification of wounds delivered by different weapons of varying degrees of sharpness; determining whether
bodies found in water had been drowned or killed beforehand; and determining whether a body had been burned before or after
death. The Europeans developed their own book, the Constitutio Bambergensis Criminalis. by 1507, but aside from acknowledging
their usefulness in determining infanticide, doctors were used most often in crime solving in deciding whether suspects could
endure torture to elicit confessions.
From the 17th to early 20th centuries, there was a general movement toward
enlightenment in all areas of knowledge, and the workings of the human body began to be
unlocked. Though they performed surgery on living people only reluctantly, doctors and other scientists felt that an autopsy was just the thing needed to explore the frontiers of the causes of illnesses
and conditions, and thereby cure them or prevent them.
Giovanni Morgagni, who while only in his 20s was appointed to teach at the prestigious University
of Padua, advanced medical knowledge through observation, experimentation, and autopsy study. At the age of 80, he published
a book detailing 640 post-mortem dissections he had conducted:
Standing on the central oval of the great anatomy theatre
built at the University of Padua in 1594 and preserved today as a museum, Morgagni would await the arrival of a corpse, which
would rise up through a hole in the centre of the room. Standing on wooden tiers around him, students would watch the master
perform the dissection. ~
Men like Morgagni had lofty goals, but it soon led to some shady dealings.
By the late 1800s, there were so many demands for autopsies by doctors
and anatomists that they had to resort to illegal or unethical means to obtain their subjects. There was a bit of money to
be made in the trade of fresh bodies by the unscrupulous -- some even "made" their own corpses -- and even medical students had to become skilled at stealing remains in order to ensure having one to
The bereaved had to watch over the graves of their loved ones to prevent
body snatchers to dig them up and sell them until they were too decomposed to be valuable, hence the term, graveyard shift.
Today, the use of autopsies is declining for a variety of reasons. Their usefulness as a research tool is less significant;
advances in medicine have made the cause of death a foregone conclusion in most cases; and performing them involves an unnecessary
expense unless there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.
Some suggest that the decline in autopsies also reflects the increase
in malpractice cases. The doctors aren't telling, and the dead aren't talking. -- Sources: TrueCrimeGroup, Medicine.net, Medical Dispatch, Anil Aggrawal, and The Giant O'Brien, by Hilary Mantel
6 Feet Under: The HBO drama that convinced many people they might actually
want to be an undertaker. This show begins every episode with a death, and the interactions between all the regular characters
are all intertwined around the wake which follows. Die-hard fans can play the 6 Feet Under Trivia Game.
BlockDeath: This site features re-constructions of death-apparatus and
torture devices using the ubiquitous little plastic blocks that shall remain nameless here in order to abstain from copyright
finagling. If you live in a house with children, you are no doubt familiar with the blocks, and with the intense
pain they cause when stepped on with bare feet.
Caskets on Parade: This is the site of a Dead Pool contest, ongoing since 1978, the object of which is the identification -- in advance -- of up to 75 people
who you think are going to die this year. The site features a "Victims of the Dead Reaper" obituary database. Grim Reaper also has a Celebrity Death Pool, and a Dead Musicians Directory. There are a plethora of Dead Pool sites online, but COP has had a long survival.
Cryonics: Visit the web page of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the world's largest provider of cryonics services, to learn more about turning yourself or a loved one into
a corpse-sickle "Alcor has been celebrating life through science since 1972,". but as far as I
know, you have to be stone-dead before they can freeze you.
Death and Dementia: Over 2,400 working links at this site explore topics such
as horror and blood, death and disfigurement, and other delights.
Death by Car: The final pit-stop for articles about famous people
who died in car wrecks.
The Death Clock
The internet's friendly reminder that time is slipping away...second by second. Find out your personal day of death: but don't
dismay. The site also gives you friendly advice on ways you might be able to postpone that day, freeze your body for possible
reanimation, and plan your estate.
Death in Ancient Egypt: Now these folk really knew how to do death. An Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
The Death Test: Yet another test to determine your longevity. This one said
I will die 10 years sooner than the other one. I don't believe it -- I plan to live forever.
Eaters of the Dead: The Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea held lavish
mortuary feasts to commemorate their dead -- by feasting on their corpses. Through consuming every bit of their flesh and bone, the Fore believed that the dead would live forever. Other tribes,
including the Wari -- far across the ocean in South America -- also practiced this custom. Cannibalism led to the emergence of the disease kuru among the Fore, a neurological disorder in which the brain tissue of an infected person wastes away and develops
holes like a sponge. Despite the horrifying symptoms of the disease it was causing, the practice continued among the Fore
until 1960, when outsiders abolished it, and incidences of kuru among the Fore decreased. The model of humans eating humans and becoming diseased is the same model that has allowed the evolution of BSE, commonly known as Mad Cow disease, which
crosses the species barrier as easily as kuru did when scientists gave it to monkeys by having them eat mashed Fore
brains. When humans eat meat from a BSE-infected cow or sheep, they develop Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human variant,
and so this kind of infection comes full circle: humans feed an animal its own kind, the animal becomes sick, and humans
become sick from eating the animals. To sum things up, dining on your own kind isn't likely to ensure that the dead will live forever -- if the diner dies. Dining upon a diner of its
own kind is no assurance of health, either -- but, as the Fore said to the Wari, Bone Appetit!
Find-a-Grave: Find the graves of relatives or famous people from around
"The only things certain are death and taxes." The difference being, you EXPECT to get ripped-off on taxes! Plan your burial in different
The Grateful Dead: What compilation of sites about death could be complete without a mention of the Dreadful Great?
Some say their keyboardists are cursed, but I think that Alpine Valley is cursed. Their official site has information on the bandmembers' activities since Jerry died, and if you
follow the link to the almanac section, you'll find an archive of Dead history and many beautiful pieces of
trippy-nostalgic Dead-inspired art.
The History of Funeral Customs: From the burial grounds of Neanderthals to the modern-day
funeral, the Wyoming Funeral Directors Association reveals many obscure facts from cultures around the world and throughout
Mortuary Customs Among the Southeastern Bantu: A splendid essay by Max Gluckman of the Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing.
The Bantu, like many African tribespeople, believe in ghosts. They believe that ghosts come from a dead person's shadow, or
from the breath they exhale at death. Appeasing the ghosts of the dead is a very important task for them, and for many other
cultures. It's not a good thing to have a p#ssed off ghost around.
The Natural Death Center: Supporting those dying at home (and their caregivers) so
that death, funeral, and burial can be a natural, environmentally-conscious do-it-yourself experience.
Obituaries: the Last Word: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." ~ Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, upon learning that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal.
A Pagan View of the Afterlife: Most Wiccans don't believe in heaven or hell, and other
Pagan faiths have their own visions of the afterlife too. Where do we all go after we die?
The Political Graveyard: A database of historic cemeteries; the website that tells
where the dead presidents are buried.
Reincarnation: "Whatever you want your death to be, let first your life be exactly the same -- because death is not separate from life, it is not an end to life, but only a change. Life continues, has continued, will always continue. But forms become useless, old, more a burden than a joy; it is better to
give life a new, fresh form. Death is a blessing, it is not a curse." ~ Osho
Romani Death Rituals and Customs: The Roma, best-known as the Gypsies, have a profound belief in the supernatural: who hasn't heard of a Gypsy Fortune Teller or the curse of the Evil Eye?. The cry of an owl may be a harbinger of death; the dying one must never be left alone. When a person dies, they may be reincarnated as another human or as an animal,
but most feared of all is that they may return as a mulo, or the living dead.
Search the Social Security Death Index: Ancestry.com helps you locate information to help you research
your family tree. Watch out when you shake that tree, you never know what might fall out.
Sociology of Death and Dying
Professor Michael Kearl's guide to sociological thanatology: death from the well-researched
academic's perspective. You shouldn't die without looking at this site -- it covers nearly every topic and has links, links,
and more links. A Ring of Death website.
Stick Death-Bowl: This one is short and makes a splash. Many other animations --
many set to death metal -- are available at the index.
Sudden-Infant-Death Syndrome (SIDS): This website is dedicated to topics pertaining to coping
with SIDS in the family. A co-worker's baby girl died of SIDS and he has never gotten over the loss; his wife's grief is still
overwhelming many years later. I'm so glad there are support resources out there for people who have been dealt such a terrible
Why Egyptians Wrapped Their Mummies Everyone knows that the Egyptians went to somewhat
extreme lengths to ensure their continued life after death. They built huge tombs, hoarded wealth, and performed elaborate
preparations on their bodies after death. It all reflects back on their religion, beliefs and mythology.
What could better be the last word on death than zombies?
"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather,
not screaming in terror like his passengers." ~
"Don't be caught dead with a necrophiliac." ~ Lee Rodgers
"Death is in, man! Death is in!" ~ a line in Bob Fosse's All That Jazz
"Until the day of his death, no man can be sure of his courage." ~ Jean Anouilh (1910-1987) French playwright
"If I lived a billion years more,
in my body or yours, there's not a single experience on earth that could ever be as good as being dead. Nothing." ~ Dr. Dianne Morrissey
"My problem was never with death. My problem was with living." ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying
"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve
it through not dying." ~
Popularized by soldiers in the Crimean War ca 1854-1856, there are
many versions of this song. Still sung by children -- who think they are immortal -- here is one version:
Don't ever laugh when a hearse goes by,
For you may be the next to die.
They wrap you up in a bloody sheet
From your head down to your feet.
They put you
in a big black box
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.
All goes well for about a week,
Then your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle
on your snout.
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping
You spread it on a slice of bread,
And that's what you eat when you
Your eyes fall in, your teeth fall out,
Your liver turns
So never laugh when a hearse goes by,
For you may be the
next to die.
The how, why, and ethical dilemmas of cloning from the cells of dead
There are scientists out there trying to bring the dead back to life.
They're not mad, but they are dedicated, because they believe it will happen, sooner or later. It might not occur on a cold
stone slab, there probably won't be lightning flashing between huge electrodes, and it definitely won't take place in a gothic
German castle. But it will happen. Somewhere, scientists will revive the dead--and not just an individual, but an entire species.