Monday, April 30, 2012

"The Greatest Obituary of All Time"

I read a lot of obituaries.  Some are long.  Some are short.  Some are flowery.  Some are just the facts.  When this obituary was published in the Denver Post it became known on the internet as the greatest of all time.  While it is hard for me to judge such things, I would agree that it is pretty good.  I never knew Michael "Flathead" Blanchard but I appreciate his sense of humor.  And I kind of wish I had known him.  The obit is below.  Here is a great article about his funeral.
Blanchard, Michael "Flathead"
1944 ~ 2012
A Celebration of the life of Michael "Flathead" Blanchard will be held on April 14th, 3 pm 8160 Rosemary St, Commerce City. Weary of reading obituaries noting someone's courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors' orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died.
Mike was born July 1944 in Colorado to Clyde and Ethel Blanchard. A community activist, he is noted for saving the Dr. Justina Ford house from demolition and defending those who could not defend themselves. He was a Republican delegate, life member of the NRA, founder and President of the Dead Cats MC. He loved music.
Mike was preceded in death by Clyde and Ethel Blanchard, survived by his beloved sons Mike and Chopper, former wife Jane Transue, brother Stephen Blanchard (Susan), Uncle Don and Aunt Cynthia Blanchard(his favorite); Uncle Dill and Aunt Dot, cousins and nephews, Baba Yaga can kiss his butt. So many of his childhood friends that weren't killed in Vietnam went on to become criminals, prostitutes and/or Democrats. He asks that you stop by and re-tell the stories he can no longer tell. As the Celebration will contain Adult material we respectfully ask that no children under 18 attend.

Monday, April 30, 2012 by Amber Wollesen, MD · 0

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Alzheimer's Project

The Alzheimer's Project is an HBO documentary series that debuted in 2009. It consists of 4 documentaries that look at the science of the disease and those affected by the disease, the people with the disease, their caregivers and children. There is also a supplementary series of short videos.

What really caught my attention in this three year old series was the documentary entitled "Grandpa, do you know who I am?" It was narrated by Maria Shriver whose father, Sargent Shriver, suffered from Alzheimer's. (He died in 2011.) This video was geared toward children dealing with grandparents with Alzheimer's.

They followed several different children in different circumstances. One family of children was having an open conversation with their grandfather with early Alzheimer's about what was happening to him and how he was dealing with it. One girl was helping to care for her grandmother in her home and another had a grandmother in a nursing home.

The very emotional part of the video was when they discussed some of the behavioral changes in their grandparents. One child described her nursing home bound grandmother slapping her for no apparent reason. In another scene, a grandmother yells at her granddaughter to leave when she tries to read to her.

The video is mixed with messages for children dealing with similar situations, like this is the disease not really your grandparent and try to be a keeper of your grandparents memories.

This documentary series is very well done as HBO documentaries tend to be. It was made in collaboration with National Institute on Aging. What I really appreciated is that the videos are all available online here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012 by Amber Wollesen, MD · 1

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Missa Solis, Requiem For Eli

When composer Nigel Westlake's 21 year old son was suddenly and tragically killed in 2008, he didn't think he'd be able to write music again.  An entire year went by before Westlake realized he couldn't spend the rest of his life stuck in grief.

Walking back into the studio again after so much time, he found a previously written piece lying on his desk called Missa Solis.  He'd forgotten about the piece and began thumbing through it again, finding an old Italian poem he had put to music about the sun.  It reads, "My joy is born every time I gaze at my beautiful sun, but my life dies when I cannot look at it. For the very sight is bliss to me. Oh sun, immortal life giver, do not hide, for I know that when I am unable to see you, life could not be worse."

In his current grief stricken state, the context changed.  All he could think about was his son, the similarities to the sun could not be ignored.  He began to write and work again, using this poem as a starting point. Daily his work became like therapy, a way to put the spirit of his son to rest.

The orchestral requiem premiered in October 2011 with the Sydney Symphony, but has just recently won Australia's Orchestral Work of the Year.

The work is in 8 movements, lasting 44 minutes. It really is breathtaking, and I encourage you to listen to it in its entirety.  You can watch video from the premiere from by following this link.

The titles of the movements are as follows: Prologue, At the Edge, Song of Transience, Aurora, Nasce la gioia mia, Hymn to the Atan, Sidereus Nuncius, and O Sol Almo Imortal.  

Some of the themes are less subtle when dealing with death, as the Song of Transience which is an excerpt from the Tibetan book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. There is a solo in this movement, by a young male treble singer. I couldn't help but think of Westlake's own son as the boy sang.  To read more notes from each movement visit this website written by Westlake himself.

If you cannot listen to the entire orchestral work, YouTube does have snippets from the 5th movement and the final movement.  You can hear the climactic choral section below, interspersed with percussion that reminds one of fireworks or gunshots. Just when you think it is over a sudden quiet and peaceful ending with the strings section occurs, symbolizing a laying to rest.

Once again, from death, art has been created. I'm grateful to artists like Nigel Westlake for courageously allowing us to experience the process.

*photo from the Australian Broadcasting Network piece on Nigel Westlake. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012 by Amy Clarkson · 0