Posts Tagged With: Death

Community wake-up call

Fr John was excited when the Bishop told him hie was going to be given his own parish, his first one. It would be a challenge the Bishop warned him, the parish had been in decline for a long while and he had been given one last chance to turn it round. When he arrived at the small town, the locals told him he was wasting his time – the parish was dead.  So he placed an advert in the local newspaper declaring since the parish was dead a funeral would be held the following week.

The Church was crowded by the curious who were rewarded with the sight of a huge coffin covered in flowers.  After reading the obituary the young priest invited people up tp pay their last respects. As the long curious queue passed by each looked into the coffin and then glanced guiltily away.

At the bottom of the coffin lay a mirror solemnly reflecting the last remains of the church in the startled faces of the congregation.

 

Adapted version of a story by Ann Cooper.

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Ignoring Wisdom

Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan’s destructive tsunami . But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day. “High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan’s northeastern shore. Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries.

The markers don’t all indicate where it’s safe to build. Some simply stand – or stood, until they were washed away by the tsunami – as daily reminders of the risk. “If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis,” reads one. In the bustle of modern life, many forgot.More than 12,000 people have been confirmed dead and officials fear the number killed could rise to 25,000 from the March 11 disaster. More than 100,000 are still sheltering in schools and other buildings, almost a month later. A few lucky individuals may move into the first completed units of temporary housing this weekend.

 

“People had this crucial knowledge, but they were busy with their lives and jobs, and many forgot,” said Yotaru Hatamura, a scholar who has studied the tablets.

One stone marker warned of the danger in the coastal city of Kesennuma: “Always be prepared for unexpected tsunamis. Choose life over your possessions and valuables.”

Tetsuko Takahashi, 70, safe in her hillside house, watched from her front window as others ignored that advice. She saw a ship swept a half-mile (nearly a kilometer) inland, crushing buildings in its path.”After the earthquake, people went back to their homes to get their valuables and stow their ‘tatami’ floor mats. They all got caught,” she said. Earlier generations also left warnings in place names, calling one town “Octopus Grounds” for the sea life washed up by tsunamis and naming temples after the powerful waves, said Fumihiko Imamura, a professor in disaster planning at Tohoku University in Sendai, a tsunami-hit city.”It takes about three generations for people to forget. Those that experience the disaster themselves pass it to their children and their grandchildren, but then the memory fades,” he said.

 

 

 

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The angel on the cliff

In those bleak moments when the lost souls stood atop the cliff, wondering whether to jump, the sound of the wind and the waves was broken by a soft voice. “Why don’t you come and have a cup of tea?” the stranger would ask. And when they turned to him, his smile was often their salvation.

For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia’s most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. Local officials say around one person a week commits suicide there, but the man widely regarded as a guardian angel and named a citizen of the year has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

.Each morning, he climbs out of bed, pads over to the bedroom window of his modest, two-story home, and scans the cliff. If he spots anyone standing alone too close to the precipice, he hurries to their side. Some he speaks with are fighting medical problems, others suffering mental illness. Sometimes, the ones who jump leave behind reminders of themselves on the edge — notes, wallets, shoes. Ritchie once rushed over to help a man on crutches. By the time he arrived, the crutches were all that remained.

In his younger years, he would occasionally climb the fence to hold people back while Moya called the police. He would help rescue crews haul up the bodies of those who couldn’t be saved. And he would invite the rescuers back to his house afterward for a comforting drink. But he remains available to lend an ear, though he never tries to counsel, advise or pry. He just gives them a warm smile, asks if they’d like to talk and invites them back to his house for tea. Sometimes, they join him.

“I’m offering them an alternative, really,” Ritchie says. “I always act in a friendly manner. I smile.”

A smile cannot, of course, save everyone; the motivations behind suicide are too varied. But simple kindness can be surprisingly effective. Mental health professionals tell the story of a note left behind by a man who jumped off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way to the bridge, the man wrote, I will not jump.

In 2006, the government recognized Ritchie’s efforts with a Medal of the Order of Australia, among the nation’s highest civilian honors. It hangs on his living room wall above a painting of a sunshine someone left in his mailbox. On it is a message calling Ritchie “an angel that walks amongst us.”One woman he saved, who came back to thank him. He spotted her sitting alone one day, her purse already beyond the fence. He invited her to his house to meet Moya and have tea. The couple listened to her problems and shared breakfast with her. Eventually, her mood improved and she drove home.A couple of months later, she returned with a bottle of champagne. And about once a year, she visits or writes, assuring them she is happy and well.

Categories: Awareness, Love, Service, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Till Death do us part

A devoted Iowa couple married for 72 years died holding hands in the hospital last week, exactly one hour apart.The passing reflected the nature of their marriage, where, “As a rule, everything was done together,” said the couple’s daughter. Gordon Yeager, 94, and his wife Norma, 90, left their small town of State Center, Iowa, on Wednesday to go into town, but never made it. A car accident sent the couple to the emergency room and intensive care unit with broken bones and other injuries. But, even in the hospital, their concerns were each other.

“She was saying her chest hurt and what’s wrong with Dad? Even laying there like that, she was worried about Dad,” said the couple’s son. “And his back was hurting and he was asking about Mom.”When it became clear that their conditions were not improving, the couple was moved into a room together in beds side-by-side where they could hold hands.”They joined hands; his right hand, her left hand,” Gordon Yeager died at 3:38 p.m. He was no longer breathing, but the family was surprised by what his monitor showed.”Someone in there said, ‘Why, then, when we look at the monitor is the heart still beating?'” Sheets recalled. “The nurse said Dad was picking up Mom’s heartbeat through Mom’s hand.””And we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Mom’s heart is beating through him,'” Norma Yeager died exactly an hour later.”Dad used to say that a woman is always worth waiting for,” Dennis Yeager said. “Dad waited an hour for her and held the door for her.”            Story – Tim SJ

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