WBEZ | death http://www.wbez.org/tags/death Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en StoryCorps: Adoptive mom encourages teenage boy http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-adoptive-mom-encourages-teenage-boy-111112 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/scorpsadopt.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>&ldquo;My mom was the only one there, but she was a good mom,&rdquo; Matt Fitzsimmons says in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps. &ldquo;She loved us very much. But she didn&rsquo;t have much to work with, because she was a single mom. And she passed on from cancer when I was 14. My dad came back like two months before my mom passed, and he was going to take care of us. But my dad had enough troubles of his own, with alcohol. So my sister and I had to deal with a single alcoholic parent in the house and basically he was perpetually mad at us for no good reason.&rdquo;</p><p>Fitzsimmons came to StoryCorps with Shirley Paulson, a woman who&rsquo;d known him since before he was born. She had just moved back to Chicago around the time of Fitzsimmons&rsquo; mother&rsquo;s funeral.</p><p>&ldquo;I found you then after your younger sister had gone off to school and you were living alone then with your dad&hellip;That was bad. If I remember correctly you were living with your dad in the house with a dog and a couple cats and it seemed like they had more care than you did.&rdquo;</p><p>Paulson explains how Fitzsimmons worked one summer at a camp alongside their son, Tim.</p><p>&ldquo;When we went to the airport to pick up Tim from camp, Tim said, &lsquo;Matt needs a ride home. Can we bring him home?&rsquo; Sure. So we just jumped you in the car and when we dropped you off at your house, I was stunned to realize that here you&rsquo;d been away all summer, you got your luggage out of the car, went up to the house, and there was nobody there to even say hello.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;Oh he was there,&rdquo; Fitzsimmons says. &ldquo;He was just asleep on the couch, with the five cars in the driveway and the lawn really long.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;Exactly,&rdquo; Paulson says. &ldquo;Well, the next day was Labor Day and I thought: Why don&rsquo;t we invite Matt over? We thought maybe you&rsquo;d like to come and join us. So I was a little bit nervous calling you &lsquo;cause I didn&rsquo;t know you that well. So we invited you and you said so quickly: &lsquo;Yes! Sure!&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;And I noticed that you ate and ate and ate and ate. You were hungry. And so I said to my husband afterwards: &lsquo;Do you think Matt would like to come over for some more food tomorrow?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Then it became obvious that you were joining us more than the typical teenager coming over to have food with a family.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think I talked your head off,&rdquo; Fitzsimmons says. &ldquo;We talked a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, we did talk a lot,&rdquo; Paulson says, &ldquo;and I loved that. I felt honored that you would &ndash; as a teenager - take the time to talk to me. And share your life, and it meant so much to me. It really did. But I don&rsquo;t think you realized for a while what it meant to be in the family. It took you a while to register. And it was hard to do because you had to deal with the fact that you had a family. And yet you also were being part of us. And you had loyalty to your family, which was right to do.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It was frustrating to me to have to drive you home every day across Glenview and drop you off into that nothing of a house. And then come back and pick you up the next day and bring you home and have some nice time with you and drive you back home again. And I thought: &lsquo;Why won&rsquo;t he just move in?&rsquo; But there was some stuff you had to deal with.&rdquo;</p><p>Fitzsimmons says, &ldquo;So, you were the nice person helping me. Then you converted into parental person, which is a huge shift, because you went from nice to &lsquo;You have to do this to get to the next stage of your life.&rsquo;&hellip;When I think about all those twists and turns throughout life. And if I didn&rsquo;t do this turn or that turn where would I be&hellip;That was probably the biggest turn for you to say, &lsquo;We&rsquo;re going to save him from devastation.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Of course we didn&rsquo;t think of saving you. We thought of we needed you. You&rsquo;ll get that through your head one of these days.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll say it officially: I love you.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Oh, Matt! Can I say &lsquo;I love you&rsquo; too?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;You do all the time!&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="888px"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/storycorps-adoptive-mom-encourages-teenage-boy-111112 YouTube mortician is a living, breathing FAQ on death http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2014-10-30/youtube-mortician-living-breathing-faq-death-111024 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/caitlin doughty.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Caitlin Doughty is the host of the popular YouTube series <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/OrderoftheGoodDeath" target="_blank"><em>Ask a Mortician</em></a> and author of a new memoir:&nbsp;<em>Smoke Gets in Your Eyes &amp; Other Lessons from the Crematory</em>. She&rsquo;s also founder of the group of funeral professionals called <a href="https://orderofthegooddeath.com" target="_blank">The Order of the Good Death</a>.<br />She joined Afternoon Shift host Niala Boodhoo for Tech Shift as part of our <a href="https://soundcloud.com/techshift/sets/death-in-the-digital-age" target="_blank">week of conversations</a> about the relationship between death and the digital realm.</p><p>Doughty will speak at at <a href="http://packergallery.com/press/oct31.html" target="_blank">Packer Schopf Gallery in the West Loop on Oct. 31</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Why did you start making the <em>Ask a Mortician</em> YouTube videos?</strong></p><p>I was working at a funeral home in Los Angeles and the vice president was making question and answer videos for the company. And they were so bad. Like you could see her get up at the end to turn the camera off. I was watching them and just thinking &#39;I know I could do better than this.&#39; I had already started this group called The Order of the Good Death trying to bring conversations about mortality back into culture and starting a web series was just one more shot in the dark to see if we could get the conversation started.</p><p><strong>Were you surprised at how popular<em> Ask a Mortician</em> has been?</strong></p><p>Yes and no. There&rsquo;s not really anything else like it. It&rsquo;s not like makeup videos or science videos where there&rsquo;s a precedent. But at the same time, I know what it&rsquo;s like at cocktail parties. I know what it&rsquo;s like at family reunions. People have thousands of questions.</p><p><strong>Sometimes online learning it gets criticized as being impersonal. But when it comes to something like death, does distance help because people are so uncomfortable asking about it?</strong></p><p>Actually what I&rsquo;ve found is I can make one video and it will have 30 times the impact as a single blog post because with death I think people want a friendly face. They want someone saying &lsquo;Hey! I know we&rsquo;re talking about decomposition, and that&rsquo;s super freaky, but I&rsquo;m a friendly person who can calmly handle it and give you a scientific but also kind of humorous answer.&#39; The people factor is I think what&rsquo;s made it successful.</p><p><strong>You mention in <em>Smoke Gets in Your Eyes</em> that people can now handle funeral arrangements from death to the arrival of an urn completely online. How do you feel about that?</strong></p><p>I&rsquo;m not pro that. I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s stoppable now that it&rsquo;s started. It&rsquo;s going to continue growing in popularity. Someone can call from a hospital, or type information in online, have it faxed to a funeral home, never speak to a funeral home employee at all, and then the ashes are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service two weeks later. So you never see the body. Never talk to a living person. And then it&rsquo;s just these intangible ashes that come at the end. I don&rsquo;t know if that&rsquo;s really how human beings have evolved to handle death. And just taking death entirely out of our culture doesn&rsquo;t seem like that healthy of an option to me.</p><p><strong>You studied medieval history at the University of Chicago. There is certainly less mystery now about how people die, but as you said there&rsquo;s also this more impersonal relationship with the dead. Do you think advancements in medical science have made us more or less afraid of death than societies were in the past?</strong></p><p>That&rsquo;s the interesting paradox. Because on one hand, in the Middle Ages, you had no idea what blood did. You thought that it was the four humors and flem and bile that were where sickness came from. They did dissections on dogs to study human anatomy. We had virtually no idea how the human body actually worked. Yet, we had dead bodies and death around us all the time. People died in their homes, and then you would bury them in the churchyard or in the church itself. So there would be bodies under the floorboards, in the walls, in the rafters. So you didn&rsquo;t have the opportunity not to be comfortable with death.&nbsp;</p><p>And now it&rsquo;s almost the exact reverse of that. We have all of these intimate understandings of how the body works and how it might stop and how we might fix it. But when it comes to death, we don&rsquo;t see the body. We don&rsquo;t interact with it. And really even dying has been taken out of the home as well. I think that&rsquo;s something we&rsquo;re struggling with now.</p><p><strong>How has technology changed the way the funeral business works?</strong></p><p>If it makes more sense to drive your Prius to the family&rsquo;s home with your iPad to do the death certificate like that instead of them coming to an old, traditional funeral home, that can make some families feel a lot better. But at the same time we don&rsquo;t want technology to overpower the interactive experience of mourning and grief and all the options a family has to be there for some kind of ritual and some kind of performative mourning.&nbsp;</p><p>Also, crematories and embalming facilities now are largely centralized. Bodies are taken to all one location as opposed to the idea of the mom and pop funeral home where the body is there the whole time. And then also there&rsquo;s the idea that people want to know more about death and have access to that through the Internet. Whereas before the funeral industry could get away with all manner of things and get away with being secretive, they can&rsquo;t really now because there are people online asking questions.</p><p><em>This conversation has been lightly edited.</em></p></p> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2014-10-30/youtube-mortician-living-breathing-faq-death-111024 Journalist and doctor encourage honest conversations about death http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/journalist-and-doctor-encourage-honest-conversations-about-death-110729 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/StoryCorps 140829 Mary Randi bh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago journalist<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-01-18/news/1001170139_1_chicago-reporter-cltv-chicago-mayor-richard-daley"> Carlos Hernandez Gomez</a>, a former WBEZ staffer died from colon cancer in 2010. His wife, WGN Reporter Randi Belisomo, says she was caught off guard by the death, even though he had been fighting illness for some time. Afterwards, Belisomo<a href="http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2013/08/13/learning-talk-about-death"> teamed up with one of his doctors, Mary Mulcahy</a>, to get people talking about end-of-life issues. Together, they created an organization called<a href="http://www.lifemattersmedia.org"> Life Matters Media</a>.</p><p>In this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps, Belisomo tells Dr. Mulcahy, &ldquo;You, being his doctor, you would always say, &lsquo;We can treat you Carlos, but we can&rsquo;t cure you.&rsquo; And so we treated and we treated and we treated, but nobody ever said, &lsquo;You&rsquo;re dying.&rsquo; And one day I lost him, suddenly. It shouldn&rsquo;t have come as a surprise but it did. And so months down the road, I asked you that question: &lsquo;Why didn&rsquo;t you ever tell me that Carlos was dying?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;My original answer was: &lsquo;I did,&rsquo;&rdquo; Dr. Mulcahy tells Belisomo. &ldquo;But, in thinking about it, I realized that I probably never used those words.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Why not?&rdquo; Belisomo asks.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, it&rsquo;s hard to know when someone is dying,&rdquo; Mulcahy says. &ldquo;It was true that he was going to die&hellip;but he wasn&rsquo;t dying at the time. When somebody is still treating their disease, it&rsquo;s hard to have both of those things in parallel: You&rsquo;re treating their disease, but they&rsquo;re dying. Something&rsquo;s gotta give. And I think, at the time, the mode was to treat the disease. And we could talk about him dying when we didn&rsquo;t have treatment.&rdquo;</p><p>Since co-founding Life Matters Media, Dr. Mulcahy says she&rsquo;s more direct with patients and their families when death is near. She sees her role differently too. She wants to help people get as much out of life as they can, and to use what time they have left wisely. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve learned that the more you do talk about end of life and planning for end of life, it isn&rsquo;t as scary,&rdquo; Mulcahy says. &ldquo;It isn&rsquo;t something to be avoided&hellip;Whether you use the words dying or not, even if somebody is going to die, it&rsquo;s reasonable to have these conversations.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;What would a good end of life experience be?&rdquo; Belisomo asks.</p><p>&ldquo;Somebody who is at peace with the fact that their life is ending,&rdquo; Mulcahy says. &ldquo;They have come to terms with it to the best that they can. They have said the things that are important to their loved ones. Their loved ones have had the opportunity to tell them how important they were to their life.&rdquo;</p><p>When someone is preparing to die, &ldquo;Everything should be in order,&rdquo; Belisomo says. &ldquo;Saying what you want to say, knowing that the people you love are taken care of, doing all that you can. People think they&rsquo;re being strong by saying I&rsquo;m gonna fight, fight, fight, and I&rsquo;m gonna beat whatever disease with which I&rsquo;m afflicted, but I think the truly strong person can look at the whole scope of the situation and take care of their relationships and their unfinished business.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="888px"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/journalist-and-doctor-encourage-honest-conversations-about-death-110729 Friends bond over grief http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/friends-bond-over-grief-110224 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/140523%20StoryCorps%20Julie%20Karen.JPG" style="float: left; height: 233px; width: 350px; margin: 5px;" title="Friends Julie Knausenberger and Karen Williams interviewed each other at the Chicago StoryCorps Booth. (Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)" />Julie Knausenberger was ten when her dad died as a by-stander in a drive-by shooting. Years later, her sister died of a heroin overdose.</p><p>Karen Williams&rsquo; dad died of a heart attack just before she turned ten. And her sister died in a car accident.</p><p>The two friends recently interviewed each other at the Chicago StoryCorps Booth and talked about how those deaths allowed them to forge a lasting friendship.</p><p>The first time they met was at a gathering for students of their graduate school in Washington, DC. The night they met, Karen told Julie she was going to meet her deceased sister&rsquo;s best friend. Karen said, &ldquo;Usually when someone&rsquo;s genuinely being friendly and asking questions to get to know your family, I tend to do this apologetic thing where I&rsquo;m like: You&rsquo;re going to ask me these really kind questions and I&rsquo;m going to have to say yep, my father also died&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>And instead, Julie said, &ldquo;Oh my God! Your sister died too!? Your dad died too?!&rdquo;</p><p>Her sister had recently died and she wanted to know the details of what had happened to Karen&rsquo;s sister and dad. Was it sudden? Were they sick? Was it traumatic?</p><p>Karen was taken aback by the conversation. It was the first time that she could talk to someone openly about their deaths without feeling guilty about bringing the other person down.</p><p>And with that, the two began a friendship that has stood the test of time. They have helped each other along the way with a healthy doses of humor and honesty.<br />&ldquo;You were the first friend I made that really took me as I was and reminded me that I have a lot of cool things to offer to other people,&rdquo; Julie said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m really glad that we found each other.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, I feel really glad that we ended up in the same place at the same time.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 23 May 2014 08:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/friends-bond-over-grief-110224 Burying Cook County's unclaimed dead http://www.wbez.org/news/burying-cook-countys-unclaimed-dead-110092 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Burial 1.2.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Jesse Aguirre’s family could not afford a funeral and so they left his body at Cook County’s morgue. The county buried him this spring." />In a corner of Mount Olive Cemetery in Chicago&rsquo;s far north side, wooden sawhorses and orange plastic cones sat as if part of a construction zone. But then, several hearses drove-up and 23 adult coffins were placed on the sawhorses.</p><p>Cook County usually buries unclaimed bodies in the warm months, when the ground is soft and burials are easier. The burials include many people whose families cannot afford funerals.</p><p>Jesse Aguirre clutched a handful of flowers. He walked up to a man with a clipboard and asked which car was carrying his father, also named Jesse Aguirre. The man pointed. The Aguirre family watched as a plain wooden box was pulled out of the hearse.</p><p>&ldquo;He passed four days before Christmas, so December 21st,&rdquo; says Jesse of his dead father.</p><p>The family has been waiting four months to bury Jesse Aguirre. They say they did not claim the body because they couldn&rsquo;t afford a funeral.</p><p>Jessica Aguirre is wearing a t-shirt with her grandfather&rsquo;s birth and death date on it and a picture of him, beaming. &ldquo;He was a great guy. Always smiling,&rdquo; she said.&nbsp;</p><p>Jessica said she was heartbroken when her family could not bury her grandfather. &ldquo;I was waiting and waiting and waiting. (I was) actually trying to work as much as I could so I wouldn&rsquo;t accept that he was gone,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Jessica said it was not until she saw her grandfather put in the ground, that she finally accepted his death. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s going to be here, so I can always come and visit him,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The Aguirre family hugged county staff and thanked them. The burial was the result of a collaboration that started in a dark time for the Cook County Medical Examiners Office. About two years ago, media reported that the morgue was overcrowded. Bodies were stacked on top of one another and the remains of stillborn babies were tossed into boxes.</p><p>Marty Flagg, Vice-President of the Cook County Funeral Directors Association, saw pictures on the news. &ldquo;The first thing that ran through my mind was &lsquo;some action needs to be taken for these people to get them buried.&rsquo; And immediately I picked up the phone and called a couple of other members of Cook County Funeral Association and said &lsquo;I got an idea&rsquo;&rdquo;.&nbsp;</p><p>Flagg proposed that funeral directors volunteer their services.&nbsp; At the same time, the Archdiocese of Chicago decided to donate funeral plots. Roman Szabelski is with Catholic Cemeteries. &ldquo;There is an old quote, I wish I memorized more of it, it said, &lsquo;See how a community treats their dead and you will learn a lot about that country,&rdquo; said Szabelski.</p><p>The Funeral Directors Association and Catholic Cemeteries have buried about 200 people over the last two years. But this is the last burial with the donated plots. Burials will continue at Homewood Memorial Gardens Cemetery where the county has a contract.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Burial%202.1.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Jesse Aguirre’s family could not afford a funeral and so they left his body at Cook County’s morgue. The county buried him this spring. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" />Homewood also came under attack a few years ago for mishandling indigent burials.<br />But the county says a lot has changed since then.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, we are changing all our processes and looking at them very carefully,&rdquo; said James Sledge, Executive Officer at Cook County&rsquo;s Medical Examiners Office.</p><p>The county has a purchased a new cooler and passed an ordinance that allows cremation. Cremation may save the county money and prevent overcrowding in the future, but so far, few bodies have been cremated. &ldquo;At the moment, burial is still the preferred method for everyone in Cook County,&rdquo; said Sledge.</p><p>The county says it will not creamate any unidentified bodies because someone could eventually claim them, or they could be needed in an investigation. Their website currently lists 36 unidentified remains-- a man with tattoos of wings found in an abandoned building and a young female found in a parking lot are among those listed.</p><p>Sometimes, the public website has pictures of the bodies to help identify them. The site also lists the names of 83 people who have been identified but are unclaimed.</p><p>Most of the time loved ones do not show up for the burials. But today, each body has a volunteer, usually a funeral director, who will stay until the body is buried. Chrissy Knauer Fisk works at a funeral vault company and volunteered to accompany Roberta Hall&rsquo;s body. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m honored to be Roberta&rsquo;s person,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Knauer Fisk stands with her hand on the coffin. A truck comes and lowers the body into the ground. Knauer Fisk looks around and tries to memorize the location. The only thing she knows about Roberta Hall is her name. But Knauer Fisk says she plans to come visit. She said, &ldquo;She has to have someone, why not me?&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan covers policy and social service issues for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 09:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/burying-cook-countys-unclaimed-dead-110092 New exhibit takes unique look at death, food and remembrance http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/new-exhibit-takes-unique-look-death-food-and-remembrance-109974 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/death exhibit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When someone passes away today, it&rsquo;s pretty common for friends and family to reminisce about them over food and drink. Just think about all those casseroles and cookies that pile up or about hoisting a glass at an Irish wake.</p><p>It turns out, in some ancient cultures, that use of food went, well, further.</p><p>A new show at the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Oriental Institute opens Tuesday, and it takes an unusual look at death. The show&rsquo;s called <a href="http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/special/remembrance/" target="_blank">&ldquo;In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>It examines how we&rsquo;ve remembered our loved ones across cultures and time, and the ways people have tried to control how they&rsquo;ll be thought of too. It highlights some ancient Middle Eastern cultures that believed souls lived on in monuments and needed to be fed so later generations could just come and hang out with them.</p><p>&ldquo;Cultures all over world, in all different periods in all areas of the world have done this, have had some way of maintaining contact their deceased ancestors,&rdquo; said Emily Teeter, a research associate and special exhibits coordinator at the Oriental Institute.</p><p>&ldquo;In Egyptian theology, they thought they would live forever, as long as they were remembered by the living,&rdquo; she said, adding that this ancient culture believed part of the soul lived on in monuments, and keeping those souls alive required lots and lots of food.</p><p>She pointed to a stone slab with an engraving of a couple who were unmistakably Egyptian, with angular black wigs, jeweled collars.</p><p>All over the monument, there are tiny carvings of birds, oxen, bread, even beer. Teeter said those are instructions on what to bring the couple to keep them alive: They wanted a thousand each of oxen, birds, bread and beer.</p><p>&ldquo;The Egyptian dead were apparently constantly hungry,&rdquo; Teeter said. &ldquo;...To stay alive you need to eat, and their whole goal with mummification, with creating these monuments, is to live eternally.&rdquo;</p><p>Teeter said the couple - who died more than 4,000 years ago -- even planned ahead on what to do once all their descendants had passed away, and there was no one to bring them food anymore. The engraving says that if visitors don&rsquo;t happen to have 1,000 oxen on them, it&rsquo;s enough to just pray for the food.</p><p>And it&rsquo;s not just the ancient Middle East where rites like this happened. At an excavation site in Vatican City, University of Chicago Divinity School Dean Margaret Mitchell saw tubes sticking out of burial sites. She said that was so people could pour in beverages to share with their dead loved ones.</p><p>Mitchell said some Roman catacombs had tables for people to eat between rows of burial urns.</p><p>&ldquo;Whether the dead can still eat a Twinkie or can still drink a good glass of merlot, it&rsquo;s a way of tenderly caring for the dead,&rdquo; Mitchell said.</p><p>The monuments go beyond providing the living with that connection to the dead, or assuring the dead will keep getting fed. In some cases, these statues and stones let people control how they&rsquo;ll be remembered.</p><p>The exhibit&rsquo;s showpiece is a replica of an ornately carved memorial stone of a man named Katumuwa. He&rsquo;s in fancy dress, sitting at a banquet table full of food, looking relaxed and happy in the afterlife. Before he died, commissioned it himself.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just &lsquo;Pete was here,&rsquo; but it&rsquo;s even bigger,&rdquo; Mitchell said. She likened this memorial stone to the huge monument Illinois politician Roland Burris has had built, even though he&rsquo;s still very much alive.</p><p>It&rsquo;s like saying, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not going to leave it to the winds or your children to decide how you&rsquo;re going to be remembered, but I want to steer that process myself,&rdquo; Mitchell said. &ldquo;In some ways, the monuments are like a fist to the sky that says, I refuse to be forgotten.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporter covering religion, culture and science. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 05:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/new-exhibit-takes-unique-look-death-food-and-remembrance-109974 Morning Shift: Tips for your summer BBQ http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-02/morning-shift-tips-your-summer-bbq-108268 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BBQ-Flickr- digital vincent.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Want to know what cuts would be best for your next BBQ? Butcher Bob Levitt lets us know how you can throw the BBQ of your dreams. And NPR host Scott Simon discusses why he decided to tweet about his mother&#39;s final days.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-34.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-34" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Tips for your summer BBQ" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Fri, 02 Aug 2013 08:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-02/morning-shift-tips-your-summer-bbq-108268 After Aaron http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/after-aaron-104940 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/aaron%20swartz%20flickr%20sage%20ross.jpg" style="height: 496px; width: 620px;" title="Aaron Swartz (Flickr/Sage Ross)" /></div><p>I am still wearing my best black wool dress. I am drained from crying, and from staying awake late last night reading tributes online. I am thinking about what it means to be a suicide survivor. I have just been to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-born-internet-activist-aaron-swartz-dies-26-104883">Aaron Swartz&rsquo;s funeral</a>.</p><p>I have known Aaron&rsquo;s partner, Taren, for 12 years. We share a mutual best friend &ndash; mine from high school, hers from college. In the time I&rsquo;ve known Taren we have been bridesmaids together in two different weddings. We have traveled together, confided in one another and offered one another advice. I know that in losing Aaron Swartz the world lost a great visionary, a public intellectual, and a technological pioneer. I know his death and the controversy surrounding it have become an international news story. But ever since I learned of Aaron&rsquo;s death I have been looking at this tragedy through the lens of my friend&rsquo;s deep personal loss.</p><p>According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention some 34,000 people die by suicide every year in the U.S. But that number is dwarfed by the number of &ldquo;survivors,&rdquo; the devastated friends, family and loved ones suicide leaves behind.</p><p>In their grief, survivors experience shock and depression, understandably, but also anger, sometimes even anger towards the deceased. There is also guilt: the sense they could or should have done more before it was too late.</p><p>I saw those emotions unfurled at Aaron&rsquo;s funeral. The service took place in a small synagogue in Highland Park, Ill., a suburb north of Chicago. There were no flowers, but no protestors either, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/westboro-baptist-church-aaron-swartz-anonymous_n_2479019.html">despite earlier threats from the Westboro Baptist Church</a>. Aaron&rsquo;s body lay in a wooden casket outside the sanctuary. Jewish law dictates that the body of the deceased not be alone for an instant before he is buried, so a dedicated mourner sat in a folding chair beside the coffin and prayed over Aaron while mourners filed into the hall.</p><p>Taren delivered the first eulogy, staring from the podium into a sea of dark suits. She looked spent and wan; her large eyes were ringed with dark circles and her hair hung down in a curtain beside her face. But she laughed as she recounted how she and Aaron had shared a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of mac n&rsquo; cheese &ndash; his favorites &ndash; at a happy hour in New York the night before his death. How he had promised to reward the diligent cleaning of her inbox with one cuddle for every email deleted, how he had woken her up one Saturday morning, imploring, &ldquo;I need to talk to you about Bayesian statistics.&rdquo;</p><p>OK, she had said that day, but could she wake up a little bit first? No, he insisted. This was very important. They spent the next several hours working out a complex mathematical equation, &ldquo;trying to remember how to do multivariable calculus,&rdquo; and, it seemed from her account, feeling very lucky to have one another.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;That is what Aaron meant to me,&rdquo; Taren said. &ldquo;These simple moments of joy.&rdquo;</p><p>But Taren shared other memories, too: how tired Aaron seemed in recent weeks, how overwhelmed and helpless he felt. She and Aaron&rsquo;s other friends and mentors &ndash; including Tim Berners-Lee, the godfather of the World Wide Web, and copyright activist Lawrence Lessig &ndash; painted a picture of a remarkable young man, but also a very vulnerable one. In their memorials, Aaron did not come across as depressed &ndash; just backed into a corner. Aaron, it seems, was surrounded by people who adored him, and yet he felt alone. Even the people closest to him did not realize just how alone he felt.</p><p>Aaron&rsquo;s father, Robert, has already been quoted today saying that his son &ldquo;didn&rsquo;t commit suicide,&rdquo; that MIT and the government were responsible for his death. But Mr. Swartz also said he blamed himself for not doing enough to protect his son.</p><p>Aaron&rsquo;s defense attorney, Elliot Peters, admitted to feeling &ldquo;disappointed&rdquo; in Aaron. But he also seemed angry that he wouldn&rsquo;t have the chance to defend Aaron in court, and spun out his never-to-be-realized fantasy: that day when a jury would have found Aaron not guilty, and they would have been able to &ldquo;get the last word.&rdquo;</p><p>Lessig, Aaron&rsquo;s long-time friend and mentor, prepared a memorial slideshow that &ldquo;only [he] and Aaron would ever get to see,&rdquo; and told mourners they had &ldquo;lost an elder&rdquo; this week, someone wise beyond his years. But Lessig followed that by saying they had also &ldquo;lost a child,&rdquo; one who desperately needed to be protected.</p><p>They are all survivors now, searching for answers and casting blame, whether on themselves or on others. Let us be kind to them, and comfort them, and protect them however we can -- just as they have asked us to do a better job of protecting other people in pain. Let us offer <a href="http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&amp;page_ID=FED822A2-D88D-4DBD-6E1B55D56C229A75">the advice given here</a>: Be kind to yourself. When you feel ready, begin to go on with your life. Eventually starting to enjoy life again is not a betrayal of your loved one, but rather a sign that you&#39;ve begun to heal.</p><p>Towards the end of the service, a young girl walked up to Taren and put her arms around her neck. It was Ada, the daughter of Aaron&rsquo;s ex-girlfriend <a href="http://www.quinnnorton.com/said/">Quinn Norton</a>. Norton <a href="http://www.quinnnorton.com/said/?p=644">wrote about her relationship with Aaron</a>, and of his love for Ada, the day after his death. &ldquo;In his darkest moments, when I couldn&rsquo;t reach him, Ada could still touch him, even if only for a moment,&rdquo; she wrote. &nbsp;</p><p>Taren must have known, because she too seemed immensely grateful for the girl&rsquo;s affection. She crisscrossed her arms around Ada. She rested her forehead on the girl&rsquo;s. And her body shook with sobs as the rabbi delivered his closing prayer.&nbsp;</p><p><em>If you&rsquo;re having thoughts of suicide please speak to someone. In the U.S. call 1-800-273-8255.</em></p></p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 17:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/after-aaron-104940 Chicago woman, 83, dies of cold exposure http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-woman-83-dies-cold-exposure-104102 <p><p>Authorities say an 83-year-old Chicago woman was the first cold-related death of the season in Cook County.</p><p>The Cook County Medical Examiner&#39;s Office says a relative found Florence Hawkins unresponsive in her bed. She was pronounced dead at her home on the city&#39;s South Side on Tuesday.</p><p>The medical examiner&#39;s office says an autopsy on Wednesday found Hawkins died of cold exposure and that heart disease was a contributing factor.</p><p>The National Weather Service reports that the low temperature on Tuesday was 17 degrees and Monday night&#39;s low was 23 degrees.</p><p>Authorities say there were at least seven cold-related deaths in Cook County during the cold season of 2011-2012 with the first reported on Dec. 3, 2011.</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 09:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-woman-83-dies-cold-exposure-104102 Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47 http://www.wbez.org/news/simmons-adam-yauch-beastie-boys-dead-47-98832 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/3662173894_5fcc382e81_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated on 5/04/2012 at 1:48 pm</em></p><p>Adam Yauch, the gravelly voiced Beastie Boys&nbsp;rapper who co-founded the seminal hip-hop group, has died at age&nbsp;47.</p><div>Yauch's representatives confirmed that the rapper died Friday&nbsp;morning in New York after a nearly three-year battle with cancer.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Also known as MCA, Yauch was diagnosed with a cancerous salivary&nbsp;gland in 2009. He had undergone surgery and radiation.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>At the time, Yauch expressed hope it was "very treatable," but&nbsp;his illness caused the group to cancel shows and delayed the&nbsp;release of its 2011 album, "Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2."</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Brooklyn-born Yauch created the Beastie Boys with high&nbsp;school friend Michael "Mike D" Diamond. Originally conceived as a&nbsp;hardcore punk group, it became a hip-hop trio after Adam&nbsp;"Ad-Rock" Horovitz joined.</div></p> Fri, 04 May 2012 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/simmons-adam-yauch-beastie-boys-dead-47-98832