Tuesday, April 21, 2015


     Often one works for a lifetime, makes countless sacrifices, and does a great deal of plannng in order to provide financial security for one's heirs.  On the other hand, often too little time and thught is spent on other considerations involving one's survivors.
     What should be done in the event of one's death is of primary importance.  It is a difficult enough time for the spouse and close relatives without having to make decisions regarding your wishes - particularly if these have never been expressed.  Discuss the subject openly and, better yet, include your wishes in written form (called Letter of Instruction).
     Plan ahead concerning other matters as well.  Should the survivor stay where he or she is and live alone?  Would it be better to move in with grown children, another relative, a friend, a retirement community?  Unless this type of question is explored and answered, one has not fully provided for one's survivors.

Friday, April 17, 2015


     You may never get over grieving, but you can get through it.  The best therapy for grief and loneliness is loving relationships with others.  In fact, one of the antidotes for loneliness is people.
     It is not what happens to you but what you do about it that determines the outcome.  Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes.  People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.  Loneliness can never be overcome by inactivity.
     Healing takes time. No matter how hard you try, no matter how firmly you believe, no matter how sincerely you pray - it takes time.  Grief is the price tag we find on the package of love.
     Learn to manage your grief or it will manage you.  If you keep looking back at the door of sorrow, you will miss the doors ahead which may offer happiness and fulfillment.  Try it - maybe something good will happen.  T it - maybe something bad will happen.  Don't try it - nothing will happen.

Monday, March 30, 2015


     There are a number of important advantages to choosing a funeral home in advance of death.  To begin with, it will enable you to find the one that best suits your needs.  As with most other professions, there is a whole range to choose from.  With a little effort on your part, you can find a funeral home that will offer the arrangements you want, whether simple or elaborate; and at a price you feel is fair.
     Having preselected a funeral home can be especially helpful if you or a loved one dies away from home.  They can help make arrangements with a funeral home in the area where the death occurred to bring you or your loved one home.  If the place was another country, this is doubly true.  Our county's embassy or consulate abroad MUST have the name of the receiving funeral home in the home city so that the remains can be brought back into the United States and ultimately home.  Having named one in advance will save the survivors from having to investigate and decide upon a funeral home under the pressure of haste and grief.

Friday, March 27, 2015


   All of us have had the experience of opening a bill and being staggered by the amount.  This is often because what we THOUGHT we were paying has been considerably augmented by "hidden costs," -- taxes service charges, surcharges, interest charges, ect.
   The great majority of funeral directors adhere to a professional code of ethics which includes provisions for seeing that this doesn't happen.  In order to eliminate those hidden costs, you will find that these funeral directors are explicit about the costs of goods and services.  In addition, once the family decides on the kind of service desired, the funeral director should provide a written document for the family to review and approve.
   This should include a description of the service and price.  Any supplemental charges for merchandise or service should be listed.  It should also make mention of any sums which the funeral director will advance on behold of the family, e.g. newspaper notices, death certificates, flowers or any other charges incurred outside the funeral home.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

When Animals Grieve - Insect "Undertakers"

Insect "Undertakers"

Indeed one of the smallest living creatures on our planet — the lowly ant — has demonstrated behavior that bears a striking similarity to that of humans dealing with death. Ants are social insects, living in colonies where each ant has a certain social role to play, as well as specific chores to carry out. And some ants are responsible with handling the colony's dead. These tiny undertakers are tasked with removing deceased ants to whatever is designated as their "cemetery'”. Those who study ants, particularly warring ants, also report that this species of ants remove their dead from the battlefield, dragging them back to their colony.

There's a species of European wood ants that tends to get involved in long bloody ant wars. And in those cases, the victorious ants bring the dead ants back home to eat because they're rich in protein. This type of behavior — eating their dead — seems to be specific to that particular type of ant, rather than reflecting general ant behavior.

Honeybees, another species of social insects, are so fastidious about their living quarters that if an intruder such as a field mouse enters a hive and dies inside it, the resident bees will try to remove the remains. Should those removal efforts be unsuccessful, the bees will embalm the corpse in resin collected from neighboring trees, according to professor Gene Robinson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

(Next Week... Tears in the Ocean")

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When Animals Grieve - Elephants

Elephant Mourning

Among the best examples of grief in wild animals is found in elephants in the wild. Joyce Poole, a renowned animal researcher wrote the following:

“As I watched Tonie’s vigil over her dead newborn, I got my first very strong feeling that elephants grieve. I will never forget the expression on her face, her eyes, her mouth, the way she carried her ears, her head, and her body. Every part of her spelled grief. Young elephants who saw their mothers being killed often wake up screaming."

British and Kenyan scientists have observed elephants guarding the bodies of their dead. The researchers also report seeing elephants becoming agitated and appearing to investigate the dead animal, even touching the skull and tusks with their trunks and feet in a ceremonial way. Elephants have also been observed emitting secretions from their temples while near the body of a dead animal.

The scientists report elephants gently investigating the bones with their trunks and feet while remaining very quiet. Sometimes elephants completely unrelated to the deceased will still visit their graves, and when an elephant is hurt, other elephants will aid them.  Although scientists have found no evidence supporting the long-held myth, perpetuated by the Tarzan movies of the 1940s and `50s, that elephants visit “elephant graveyards”, they do report that the elephants’ interest in the ivory and skulls of their own species means that elephants would be highly likely to visit the bones of relatives who die within their home range.

Their grief is visible when the elephants shed tears, bury their dead, go into depression or starve themselves in reaction to a loss. One elephant at an Indian zoo was so distraught over the death of her friend that she refused to eat or drink, leading to her own death.

David Field, head of animal care for London and Whipsnade Zoos in the U.K., wrote this in The New Scientist:

"Elephants are highly intelligent and highly tactile animals. The fact they are able to distinguish between their own skulls and those of other species is not surprising. Elephants themselves are a matriarchal society filled with aunties and family members who have close bonds within a group. Therefore, a death in the family could have an impact on social bonding and structure within the group, just as it does in human families."

Anthony Hall-Martin reported the following from an elephant death ritual he witnessed in Addo, South Africa:

"The entire families of a dead female elephant — including her baby — were seen gently touching her body with their trunks, trying to lift her. As they gathered around the dead mother, the herd began to rumble loudly. The calf was observed to be weeping and made sounds that sounded like a scream before the entire herd fell silent. Then, as a group, the elephants began throwing leaves and dirt over the body and broke off tree branches to cover her. They spent the next two days quietly standing over her body, leaving only to get water or food, but they would always return."

(Next Week... Insect "Undertakers")

Thursday, June 13, 2013

When Animals Grieve

Many years ago, after our house cat had been run over, two friends — without knowing about the other gifted us with two kittens from two different litters. Once they became big cats, we allowed them to play in the backyard and then, after we knew for sure they would return home after roaming during the day, we took the next step and installed a "kitty door" so they could come and go as they pleased. 

About four years later, after we had all become accustomed to the pair sleeping at the end of our son's bed, they were late coming home. About 10 p.m. we finally heard the kitty door and went to greet them, knowing they would be hungry. 

What greeted us was something I had never dreamed of seeing. I was immediately thankful we had not allowed Erik to stay up and wait for his pets. Sylvester, the smaller silver male, seemed to be fine, but Midnight, the larger black male, had obviously been the victim of a sick-minded torching after being doused with gasoline. Midnight wouldn't eat, drink the milk our vet had recommended to dilute the poison of the gasoline, nor could he walk normally. Sylvester (nicknamed "Silly Kitty") had no appetite either and, instead, stayed right beside his lifelong companion. 

We stayed awake the whole night, trying everything we could think of, but Midnight did not respond. Finally, the big black cat got up and hobbled to the door. Silly Kitty was right behind and, together, they disappeared into the first rays of dawn.

That was the last we saw of them both and, after shedding tears and cursing the perpetrator, we were thankful our young son had not seen the cruelty and the distressed condition poor Midnight was in or the painful grief Sylvester was experiencing.

Countless animal lovers have reported similar signs of grief in their own beloved pets. Scientists confirm that many animals do show visible behaviors that suggest grief well beyond a simple awareness that a fellow animal is dead or ill,

According to Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., in an Oct. 29, 2009, issue of Psychology Today, there is no doubt that many species of animals have rich, deep emotions, including grief.

Why do animals grieve?

Some researchers theorize grief reactions may allow for the reshuffling of status relationships or the filling of the reproductive vacancy left by the deceased, or for fostering continuity of the group or herd. Others say grief and mourning strengthens social bonds among the survivors of the herd as they gather to pay their last respects to their dead, enhancing group identity at a time when the herd could, indeed, be weakened. Not all that different from what happens in human groups when a family, school, workplace or neighborhood is shaken by a significant loss.

(Next Week... Elephant Mourning)