dogs, travel

Heading south… don’t know how much writing I’ll be doing…

But I’m sure you folks can get along fine without a daily dose of snark from yours truly. I am bringing my computer with me, because I’ll probably want to do some writing. It’s what I do to relax and decompress. I expect we’ll be busy, though, especially next weekend, when we plan to be on a wine tasting tour that will be packed with activities. I may be too tired or drunk to write at that point.

I did have a fun time last night, listening to and watching live music videos on YouTube. It put me in the right mood for our road trip that starts today. Hopefully, we won’t encounter any disasters. I did buy insurance for this trip, mainly because of the state of the world right now. With any luck, we won’t have to use it.

If any of you can spare some good thoughts, I’d love for you to send some along to Arran, who is probably going to sulk when he realizes he’s going to be at the Hunde Hotel while we’re gone. He would much rather hang out with Bill and listen to tunes with us… like he did last night. 😉

What can I say? Arran just can’t fight this feeling anymore…

I expect Noyzi will be delighted to go to the pension. He seems to enjoy being boarded, as it’s a chance for him to hang out with other dogs, play, and run. He lived his first couple of years on a farm in Kosovo, so he’s used to the communal lifestyle. He also enjoys changes of scenery more than Arran does.

Anyway, I hope it will be an uneventful break for them. I always miss them when we take trips, and I know they miss us, too. I expect I’ll be pining for them by Monday. But we really do need to get out of town for a break. Bill, especially, needs a vacation pretty badly. He’s wound up like a spring. Last night, he was fretting because I told him he should wash his new t-shirts before wearing them, and he was upset because it would make him late going to bed, which might make him late getting up, and getting on the road… I found myself telling him that it’s just a vacation we’re going on, and he doesn’t need to freak out over time. 🙂 He finally relaxed a little and, as I expected, we’re right on schedule to depart. Hopefully, we’ll be in Switzerland by mid afternoon, checking into our first hotel of several.

Well, I don’t have much else to write about at this point, and it’s about time to load up and go… so please wish us luck. Or, at least try not to wish us ill. 😉 I’ll probably check in while we’re gone.

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expressions, music, obits

April truly is the cruelest month for some people…

I woke up this morning to read a gorgeous, heartfelt, loving tribute my cousin, Clark, wrote for his wife, Chris. Today would have been their 38th wedding anniversary, had his wife not passed away on April 10, 2022. My cousin has spent the past fourteen months taking care of Chris, who had cancer that spread throughout her body. I know my cousin and his family have faced cancer too many times. What makes the timing of this loss especially cruel for this couple is that Chris passed just days before their daughter’s wedding. But, as my cousins in that part of my family are very devoted to their Christian faith, they did note that Chris probably had the best view of her middle daughter’s spring wedding.

I’m not the most religious person myself, but I like to think that Chris was watching her beautiful middle daughter walk down the aisle to her new husband. It’s a comforting thought. As we’re all in need of comfort lately, I see no harm at all in believing fervently that Chris is celebrating among the angels with other loved ones.

A few days ago, one of Bill’s high school friends also departed this life. His circumstances were very different than Chris’s. Mark decided to die on his own terms. I don’t know the exact details surrounding Mark’s death, other than that he committed suicide. He evidently left no clue to his family and many friends that he was choosing to die. Based on what’s on his social media, many people were left in total shock and grief. I see that in the days before he died, Mark tied up some loose ends. He spent time with friends and loved ones, and took pictures, which he posted on his profile.

While I am generally in favor of letting people exercise free agency and self-determination, I can’t help but wonder how those people who spent those last moments of Mark’s life feel about his decision. Granted, there is nothing they can do about it now, which probably makes this even worse for them. Maybe it’s pointless to be angry about Mark’s final actions on Good Friday. I can only speak for myself when I say that Mark’s decision probably would have devastated me, if I had known him better. As it was, I never met the man in person, although I know Ex knew him. I wonder if she knows what he did. I’m not about to tell her, of course… But I do wonder.

Even though I never met Mark, I have been affected by his decision to kill himself. Bill hadn’t seen Mark in many years, but he remembered him fondly and was still upset by his decision to kill himself. I have been here to comfort him, which means that Mark’s death touches me, too. Yes, there were tears shed for him in our house, if that matters to anyone.

Bill and I both understand that there were obviously things going on in Mark’s life that must have been too much for him to take. What went wrong was obviously none of our business… and, when it comes down to it, death is something we all have to face at some point. Maybe it gave Mark comfort to go out on his own terms. I am a bit concerned for his survivors, though… especially the ones who were there at the end. He apparently never let on to what he was planning, and he never gave them a chance to voice to him how they felt about it. Maybe they feel cheated or angry… although so far, I’ve seen nothing but an outpouring of love and good wishes. Personally, while I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes fantasize about doing what Mark did, I also think it was kind of a selfish thing to do. But then, I also remember that it was his life, and when it comes down to it, he wasn’t obligated to live for anyone. As far as I know, he had no children and was no longer married. His parents predeceased him. Maybe he just felt “done”. Or maybe he was very depressed or suffering from some ailment no one else knew about. I guess we’ll never know.

This morning, I noticed that I was getting a lot of hits from North Carolina. People are hitting a post I wrote back in February about a man named Chad Carswell. I had read about him in the Washington Post. Mr. Carswell was making news for needing a kidney transplant, but refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. To be honest, I wasn’t, and am still not, very impressed by that choice. However, I do recognize that not getting a vaccine is his choice to make. It’s his life.

My post about his case was admittedly a little snarky and, perhaps, even kind of rude. It’s been interesting to see the delayed reaction to that post from early February. I can see that the people who have found it are sharing it and clicking it repeatedly, also hitting the disclaimer link, and even my travel blog. I’m not sure what they’re looking for. My mind hasn’t changed about that situation, although I still agree that people should always have the right to make choices. That right extends to everyone, though. A surgeon has the right to refuse to perform surgery on someone who isn’t medically qualified to have surgery. I don’t know what’s currently going on regarding Chad Carswell’s case. It’s none of my business, and frankly, doesn’t necessarily interest me at this point in time. But obviously, something has triggered people to read my post about him. I do wish him well, even if I disagree with his decision not to get vaccinated. Hopefully, his decision doesn’t lead to his loved ones and friends mourning his passing in April, too.

Anyway, since death is on my mind today, I decided to record a song. I actually discovered this very simple song by John Prine only this morning. I thought it was kind of poignant and fitting, given how many losses I have experienced this April and in past Aprils… For some reason, April really is the cruelest month. It’s the month when it seems like so many people have died senselessly in school shootings, bombings, wars, suicides, and due to illnesses… As I watch flowers and trees literally bursting into bloom on a daily basis, I can’t help but think of people who have departed life in April, or have had their lives completely changed or ruined due to someone else’s choices. So below is my rendering of “I Remember Everything”, which was apparently released after Prine’s untimely and gruesome death from COVID-19. It gave me some comfort to sing it, even if it may not be among my better performances.

Incidentally, Switzerland is a place where people can legally choose to die… and it does appear to be a heavenly place to be in some areas.

I tried to do another video featuring my homely, middle-aged, mom-bodied visage on camera, but I couldn’t get the video to sync properly with the audio. I don’t look particularly great on camera as it is, and wasn’t wanting the video to look like a poorly dubbed martial arts film from the 70s. I got tired of screwing with it and decided to just use some photos from our visit to Switzerland last summer. The shots are of Lakes Zurich and Lucerne, which I found very peaceful to look at. “I Remember Everything” is yet another song I could probably do on guitar if I put my mind to it. Maybe I’ll try that at some point. But for now, here’s my latest musical effort. I hope someone enjoys it. I’m sure John Prine would have appreciated the chance to get vaccinated against COVID, although I really don’t know how he would have felt about it. I do know that a lot of people miss him, including relatively new admirers like me.

Edited to add… It occurs to me that John Prine died in April, too… and I just discovered another one of his songs. This one was about what he planned to do after death. It made me smile, especially since the chords are super easy and I could play along with it. Wonder if this is what came to pass for him when he did finally die in 2020…

I can actually play guitar to this one, and it’s quite fun to do so!

Now, as it’s Thursday and we’re about to leave town, I better close this post and get on with my chores of the day, such as they are. Gotta vacuum, you know… and walk the dogs.

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mental health, religion, tragedies

Switzerland and Utah have more in common than beautiful mountain views…

This post has to do with mass suicide. If you think you might be triggered, you might want to move on to your next Internet station.

The New York Times‘ headline said “4 Die After Falling From Balcony in Swiss Resort Town”. I was instantly curious, since I’ve heard the Swiss are even more anal retentive about safety and precision than the Germans are. Before I read the article, I said to Bill, “Someone is going to get sued into oblivion for this.” I said that because the headline made it sound like negligence was involved and I just assumed that a lovely family had plunged to their deaths because a balcony gave way. The strange truth was, this tragedy had nothing to do with a builder’s or safety inspector’s negligence. Apparently, these four people died on purpose. A fifth person remains hospitalized in serious condition.

The small group of people who died yesterday in Montreux, a beautiful resort town in western Switzerland near idyllic Lake Geneva, were not publicly identified in the article. However, the police believe they were French nationals and members of the same family, consisting of a 40 year old man, his 41 year old wife, his wife’s twin sister, and their 8 year old daughter. The couple’s 15 year old son somehow managed to survive the plunge from the seventh floor apartment from which they all apparently jumped.

When the article was published, the police were still trying to determine exactly what led up to the circumstances leading to this family’s fall from their balcony. According to the story, two police officers had knocked on the family’s door at about 7am. The officers were there to give the parents a summons involving the homeschooling of one of the children. Homeschooling is legal in Switzerland, but children who are homeschooled are still required to be routinely monitored by officials to determine their educational progress. When parents are out of touch with officials, police officers are tasked with issuing summonses. Evidently, this family was not allowing their homeschooled child to be checked.

After they knocked on the door, the police officers heard a voice from inside the apartment, asking them to identify themselves. Then, there was silence. As the officers were about to leave the building, a witness had called the police to inform them that people had fallen from a seventh floor balcony. A neighbor of the family’s stated that the family was very “discreet”. That makes me think that there was something weird going on, even before the adults apparently decided that suicide en masse was the answer to their problems.

I read some of the comments regarding this piece, and one lady posted that this story reminded her of an incident that happened in Salt Lake City Utah in 1978. Her comment is below.

This sounds like an instance in the 1970s involving a family who came to be known as “The Leaping Longos” after a mother and her seven children all jumped out of their hotel room window. It turned out that the father had killed himself the day before and their mother forced them all to jump in some weird type of suicide pact. They were practicing their own brand of religion based on the Mormon church and the father was also evading the authorities. 

This family likely all jumped to their deaths as well, but only after the authorities showed up. The authorities were only trying to establish what was happening with the children due to them being home schooled but it is very likely that they had something else to hide. Fortunately one son has survived, and once he’s able to talk about what happened I’m sure the full story will unfold.

The poor kid has become an orphan and I hope he’s able to recover because it would be even more tragic if he’s permanently impaired.

I was around in 1978, but I was a young child at the time. Obviously, I had never heard of the “Leaping Longos” before I read the above comment. I decided to look them up to see if there was any information about this family. Sure enough, I found the story after a couple of minutes of looking. Here’s a link to a 1993 era article by Deseret News about the lone survivor of the Utah incident. In that case, the lone survivor was a fifteen year old girl. Like the rest of her family, Longo changed her name; in the Deseret article she is called Rachel David.

On August 3, 1978, the David family (originally identified as the Longo family) made the bizarre decision to leap from an eleventh floor balcony at the International Dune Hotel in Salt Lake City. The family had been living in the hotel for about a year, when the patriarch, 39 year old Immanuel David (originally named Charles Bruce Longo), committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Three days after the suicide, 38 year old Rebecca David and her seven children either jumped or were thrown from the balcony. The lone survivor, Rachel, spent many months in a hospital before she was placed in foster care. She was wheelchair bound in 1993, when she was interviewed by the hosts of the television tabloid show, Inside Edition.

In 1993, Rachel David still believed that her father was God and would be returning to Earth. She also said that she had willingly jumped. She also said that she had been trying to follow the suicide order and, as of 1993, had attempted to kill herself many times. Another article, circa 2000, describes the survivor as “brain damaged”. At the time that article was written, Rachel David was still living with “remnants” of the House of David near Denver, Colorado.

Below is a screenshot of a news article that was written in 1978, just after this event took place.

Freaky story… I wonder if this French family was involved in a similar cult.

And here is a broadcast news item about the 1978 Utah incident…

I can’t even imagine how horrifying this was to witness…

Why do these culty types always gravitate to the name “Immanuel”? Especially when they have ties to Mormonism? According to the news report, David was an excommunicated member of the LDS church. The father was not employed at the time of his death, although according to the video, the bill for the $95 a day was paid on time and in cash, usually with $100 bills. The news story is astonishing, as the physician is very openly talking about the surviving girl’s injuries. We didn’t have HIPAA in those days.

As I listen to this surprisingly lengthy report, I’m confused by the discrepancies in the people’s names. According to the news article, the father’s name was Charles Bruce Longo, but this news report refers to him as Bruce David Longo. And then he changed his name, and all of the names of his wife and children were changed.

As for the French family in Switzerland, slightly more news has emerged about their apparently sudden and bizarre exit from Earth. Apparently, the mother in the French family was a dentist who had worked in Paris. Her sister was an ophthalmologist. The father worked at home. The family had been living in Switzerland for some time, and had residence status. The Daily Mail offers an article with some rather salacious details omitted from the more respectable newspaper articles. Apparently, the family used incense a lot, and ordered many packages. It will be interesting to learn more about why this tragedy occurred, and if this family has anything else in common with the “Leaping Longos” of Salt Lake City.

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book reviews, healthcare, love, marriage

A review of Amy Bloom’s beautiful love story, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss…

Amy Bloom is not the most conventional person, but I do notice that we have a few things in common. Like me, she is educated as a social worker. Unlike me, she actually practiced social work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who does psychotherapy. Like me, Amy Bloom is a writer. Unlike me, she’s written books that actually got published and have landed her on best seller lists. I have not read any of Bloom’s other books, but maybe I will, now that I’ve finished her beautiful love story about losing her husband, In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss.

Although I like to write book reviews, it’s not so often anymore that I read them written by others. I tend to buy and read books based on recommendations in news stories or certain groups I follow. I like true stories, though, so when I saw Amy Bloom’s latest book, a true story, reviewed in both The New York Times and the Washington Post, I took notice. I’m pretty sure it was The New York Times‘ review that I read first, and I downloaded the book as soon as I read the review. I was that certain I was going to like the book. And now that I’ve finished reading Bloom’s heartbreaking story about saying goodbye to her husband, Brian Ameche, I know that my instincts were right.

Amy Bloom and her late husband, Brian Ameche, came together after both had been in unhappy relationships. Bloom’s first marriage produced three children, while Ameche never had children of his own. Bloom is Jewish, while Ameche had been raised Catholic and later attended a Unitarian Universalist Church for awhile. The two met in 2005 and started out as friends. Bloom hadn’t even been all that impressed with Brian at first. But then she realized that he reminded her of the best father figure she’d ever had, a ninth grade teacher who managed to inspire scores of people. In 2007, the couple wed, and Ameche soon went from never having had children to being a “grandpa” to four granddaughters.

As Bloom writes it, she and Brian had a pretty comfortable lifestyle with many friends, dinners out, and travels. But then Brian, who had been a football player at Yale in his younger years, started having problems at work. He had been an architect and spent his working life creating beautiful, useful buildings. But his work soon became unreliable and he couldn’t finish projects on time. He bought bizarre gifts and clothing, including a $500 sweatshirt. His handwriting changed, as did his habits, which became more odd as the days passed. Soon, all he wanted to talk about was his glory days playing football at Yale.

A neurologist broke the devastating news that Brian had early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. After talking to the doctor, the couple went out and bought “Goodbye, I Love You” stationery, so Brian could write notes to his loved ones before his mind became too addled. And then he told his wife and that long goodbye was not for him. He wanted to depart this life before Alzheimer’s stripped him of his dignity and self-determination.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the concept of a “right to die” is still emerging. Although there are states where euthanasia is possible, they all have rules that would make it difficult in Brian’s case. Most states, for example, require that the patient be a resident, and have doctors certify that death will occur within six months. There are strict rules about how much “help” a person who wishes to die on their own terms can receive from other people. Violating those rules could land Amy or anyone else who helped Brian in legal jeopardy. Then there were the ways that people tend to commit suicide when they aren’t considering a medical intervention. Again… they were potentially risky, messy, or dangerous, and there was always the chance that the method would fail and Brian would be left alive, but helpless.

Amy Bloom eventually found an answer in a Swiss organization called Dignitas, located in a suburb of Zurich, Switzerland. There, Brian could die peacefully, provided the couple paid the organization’s fee (about $10,000), and Brian passed all of the requirements that would secure approval. For instance, Brian had to prove that he wasn’t suffering from clinical depression, and that had to be verified by a physician. He had to be interviewed extensively and convince Dignitas staff that he was serious about his desire to die and there wasn’t any coercion, financial gain, or intimidation behind his request.

In Love is the story about how Amy and Brian came to their decision to end Brian’s life on Brian’s terms. As I read this lovingly composed book, I got a sense that I would enjoy knowing Amy and Brian. It almost made me wish we were in the States, living in Connecticut. Amy seems to me to be a very intriguing person. She even consults a tarot card reader as she makes the decision when to go to Switzerland. I don’t have any experience with tarot cards myself, but my husband, Bill, is interested in them. I found it eerie when Amy wrote that her trusted reader told her that Brian’s decision to end his life was fine, but they must take the first date open to them. The reader, who was very insightful, said that she saw difficulties ahead if they didn’t take care of business immediately. As Amy Bloom was coming home from Zurich after watching her husband die, the very first COVID-19 cases were being discovered in the United States. Brian died January 30, 2020. Less than two months later, the world would lock down.

I found this book interesting for a lot of reasons. Personally, I think that people should have the ability to end their lives humanely if they want to do that. I don’t think it’s wrong for people who wish to be euthanized to be carefully interviewed and screened, but I absolutely believe that there are times when it is appropriate to allow people to commit suicide. I have felt this way since I was a teenager… Once, I even got compared to Hitler by my high school speech teacher because I misspoke, as teens do, and put my thoughts in a way that didn’t translate the way they should have. I just don’t believe that people should have to linger when death is inevitable, and waiting for it to come “naturally” will be painful, undignified, and exorbitantly expensive. We all have to die someday, and while I don’t condone suicide for “selfish” or manipulative reasons, I do think sometimes it is appropriate to choose one’s own exit, so to speak.

I also found this book interesting because, besides having a few things in common with Amy Bloom, I enjoyed reading about her trip to Zurich. Bill and I went there last year for the first time, even though we’ve lived a relatively short distance from there for years. I had always heard Zurich was a “boring” city, but we didn’t find it that way at all, probably because Bill is now studying Carl Jung, and Jung lived in Zurich. So does Tina Turner. 😉 I did get a charge when Bloom wrote about visiting Marc Chagall’s famous windows in the Frauenkirche. Bill and I have been there, too. Also, I thought it was touching when Brian tells his wife that she must write his story… and she obliges, with this very sensitive and loving memoir.

Anyway, I’m glad I read Amy Bloom’s beautiful tribute to the love she shared with her husband. She was there when he needed her, and they spared each other the long, cruel, undignified goodbye that comes as Alzheimer’s Disease inevitably progresses. Maybe Brian Ameche’s exit wasn’t for everyone, but I think there will be some people who are helped by reading In Love. And some people will just be very moved by it, as I was.

Highly recommended.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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