U.S. Citizen Unnatural Deaths Around The World

My fellow Americans, as we know the summer travel season is now well underway:

Screen capture of the U.S. State Department web site.
Screen capture of the U.S. State Department web site.

Turns out Americans die abroad much the same ways as at home. Most non-natural deaths are not a consequence of terrorism or war. Other than in certain places, they are due mostly to accidents and suicides.

At that State Department page, using the drop down menu you may choose a month/year period combination and country. After a click you’ll discover how, and precisely where, Americans there died of non-natural causes between 2002 and 2014. Isn’t our government helpful?

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A Joy Departs

My sister-in-law lost her younger sister about two weeks ago. We’re going to her funeral in Essex today.

As a toddler, Donna had been a victim of medical malpractice that led to traumatic brain damage. Her family received a huge compensation package from the National Health Service (NHS). The money was set aside to make sure she was properly looked after for the rest of her life.

And every pound and pence would be needed. It was projected she would not live to 21. But she far outlived medical estimates.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an older woman in a wheelchair.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an older woman in a wheelchair.

Donna never grew “old.” But, for over 35 years, she had been unable to do almost anything for herself. Her parents and family – her mother especially – mostly looked after her.

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India: Something Huge Will Be Missing If I Ever Get There

After our “road trip” odyssey, we’re settled in here for the week in Fernandina Beach. My Dad had been to Florida only once before, back in 1985, to settle my late grandmother’s estate (after she had died in Hudson, near Tampa). Now here for our holiday, he is thoroughly enjoying himself – which was our goal after he nearly died of heart failure back in August.

View down the beach on Amelia Island, yesterday morning, around 10 am. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View down the beach on Amelia Island, yesterday morning, around 10 am. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View out from Amelia Island, yesterday morning, about 10 am. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View out from Amelia Island, yesterday morning, about 10 am. [Photo by me, 2015.]
One of my now bigger regrets – one never to be remedied – is when our friend Kam (the London-born and raised daughter of Sikh immigrants to the U.K., and who died suddenly at age 45 in February 2014) remarked a year or so before her death that she had wanted to visit India with us.

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The Difference Between “Friends” And, Uh, “Friends”

I stumbled on two thoughtful recent Guardian pieces on internet friendships. They seemed worth sharing for a Saturday post. The first: “How do you tell who’s a real friend and who’s just a ‘Friend’ on the internet?”:

….Being eliminated from a friend’s life used to mean ignored phone calls and mutual, public recriminations to third parties; today, it’s as easy as untagging yourself from an ussie and clicking unfollow on Twitter. On the other side, you’re at even more of a loss when you click on the profile of a Twitter friend with whom you’d had a long and fruitful online discussion the day before and see a blank space where it used to say “FOLLOWS YOU”. Every time you log-in, wherever it may be, you could find yourself invisible to someone you thought was your friend, and found out was only a fair-weather follower.

We live on the internet now. That whole idea about how we have to look up from our phones and digital devices to have real lives and experiences is over. There isn’t always a difference between emotion and emoticon. Our challenge now is to integrate our humanity into our online lives….

Then there was this one from early February on Internet “loss”: “How do you grieve when you lose an internet friend?” – and the author is not talking here about merely being “unfollowed”:

….In an age where the internet acts as a force-multiplier for sociability (if only for those who are native to it), it is now possible to develop friendships with people we’ve never met at all. Twitter is more than just a conversation; it is a schoolyard, a lunchroom, a water cooler. “Internet friends” are still friends – at least as much as “friends” on Facebook who we haven’t seen in years.

I found out that my friend had died late at night, and reflexively direct-messaged her boyfriend on Twitter. The next morning, I wasn’t sure if I’d made a mistake: I was a stranger to them, really….

It is fascinating what has evolved in only a decade or two. Once upon a time my (internalized) general rule was a “friend” was someone I knew in person and could call on the phone and he/she would NOT be stunned to hear from me. But if any of our mobiles rang right now and on the other end (without pre-planning of course) happened to be someone who “follows” us and whom we also “follow,” but whom we’ve also never met, let’s be honest most of us would probably think something was, umm, not quite right here. ;-)

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Good Days And Bad Days

It’s a beautiful late afternoon now after a snowy, cloudy start here in La Clusaz, France – about an hour’s drive from Geneva, where we’d landed yesterday afternoon:

Snowy hillside, just outside La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Snowy hillside, just outside La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]

Where we’re staying…. the chalet owner and staff…. let’s just say there seems some future story “material” here. ;-)

Out and about today, my wife also said she saw some #jesuischarlie signs around some ski lifts.

Simultaneously it’s a lousy personal “anniversary” today:

Black

I “borrowed” that black page idea from Tristram Shandy. It pretty much sums up how I feel over her death February 2, 2014.

Although we’re on holiday, that doesn’t mean all is forgotten. She’s been on our minds and in our conversations a lot more in recent days. I suppose “one year” is one of those “milestones.”

Hope you’re having a good day, wherever you are. :-)

A Birthday Remembrance

As you know, I didn’t get Frontiers finished in time for publication today. I had fought to make today (which was slightly earlier than I had planned) in memory of one of the real-life inspirations for my novel(s) – although I never told her that (and never would have). However, she’d known I was writing the first one, Passports. The last time we saw each other in person, in mid-2013, she’d urged me on to do the best I could and said she was sure it would be great.

Free Stock Photo: A mixed flock of waterfowl flying in the sunset
Free Stock Photo: A mixed flock of waterfowl flying in the sunset

She died back on February 2. I wrote a post about her eight days later. If you’d like to re-read it, click here.

Today would have been her 46th birthday.

Have a good Sunday, wherever you are reading this. And thank you for reading, following, and sharing my novel-writing site. :-)

“Delays, delays, delays”

For some reason, among all my London commuting on trains or in traffic I clearly remember one episode years ago of being stuck on the Underground’s Piccadilly line in north London. As the train waited motionless for what seemed like interminable minutes just outside a station (it was probably Arnos Grove), the driver came on the public address system and explained there’d been a problem at the station moments before and that he had to wait for verbal confirmation to proceed. We all heard him sigh and mumble, “Delays, delays, delays….”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a subway train
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a subway train

What does that have to do with this post? It’s that I won’t get Frontiers published tomorrow. And I’m thoroughly annoyed at myself over the “delay.”

Yesterday, I found several more “tiny errors,” including the word “talking” where it should have appeared as “taking.” I’ve only read that chapter about, oh, half a dozen times recently. And I’ve also run it through Word’s grammar check? I don’t understand….

Not exactly something to put me in the best frame of mind. I desperately wanted it out for Kam’s birthday, which was November 9th. But I also thought to myself what she might say if I could tell her. With her warm smile, she would probably observe something like, “Rob, it’s soooo nice of you, but don’t release it for me if you’re not happy with it. Get it the way you want it. C’mooooon, now….” (She often softly drew out words for emphasis.)

So I will “scrub” Frontiers a bit more for a few days. I feel better finally telling you all. I had become increasingly grouchy as I realized I would not make my self-imposed deadline.

I’ve been at this since January. A few days more to “make sure” is neither here nor there. Everyone, do please try to control your eager anticipation for a little while longer. ;-)

In Her Memory

Following on from yesterday, some “insider” info. If you’ve been stopping by since February, you may know. They were not idle words: I am going to do it. She will have her own page among the front matter:

image

The cameo appearance has made it into the tale as well.

I’ve left everything I could on Frontiers’ pages. It’s not perfect, naturally, but hand on heart I feel I’ve given it my best effort. That’s all we can ever aim to do, isn’t it?

Free Stock Photo: Sunflowers in a field.
Free Stock Photo: Sunflowers in a field.

A thought, a dedication, a nod. Just something. In a two decades’ long friendship, she never let us down. I pray I haven’t let her down now.

Whew, I need a cup of coffee….

Sworn To Secrecy

Not exactly an uplifting Monday post. For that, I apologize in advance. Sorry.

Sunday evening, my wife got an email from a friend whom we, and most everyone else, already know has a serious, long-term illness. She wrote that she has just been told she probably has only months to live. She noted that the only person who knows that is – unsurprisingly – her husband (they have no children).

And now, so does my wife; she’s second. She asked my wife not to tell anyone else; but, naturally, my wife immediately told me. However, I don’t really count as someone else, because I’m essentially a “dead end,” a cul-de-sac: I’m certainly not going to tell anyone.

There I was yesterday morning, thinking, oh, I’ll have a quiet day and try to “de-stress.” In my creative cocoon, I was seeing light at the end of the latest tunnel: the sequel is almost done. Finally, that struggle is nearing its end.

How unimportant the likes of that always seems whenever we are unexpectedly thrust back into unforgiving, actual reality.

View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]
View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]

Earlier this year, we’d already endured the worst death I have ever experienced. “I wonder if that’s what they told Kam?” was my knee-jerk response when my wife told me about this, more distant, friend. Later, we tried to lose ourselves in the first episode of the newest season of Downton Abbey.

Life is full of harsh moments like this. Yet this is new to me: What does one do with information like this when you are asked to keep it in confidence? The person facing the terminal illness has shared what she has been told of her fate, yet where does that leave those few who are told and then sworn to secrecy?

All I can say is that, having slept on it, possessing such information leaves me with a guilty sense of awful insider knowledge. Even if keeping it “quiet” is based on the best of intentions (to spare feelings, worry, etc.), important people are being left out of the loop; and they shouldn’t be. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, it’s never fair to them.

The Sheer Terror

As we know, dreams make good fictional plot devices. However, our “real” ones are often stranger and funnier than anything we can concoct, of course. How bizarre our brains can be.

I woke up about 5 this morning all disturbed after a nightmare. Wide awake, I slipped downstairs. I poured a glass of milk and sat for a moment in the kitchen before going back to bed.

I’d thought I’d been quiet. But my getting up had disturbed my wife. As I returned, in the darkness she asked, “Is everything okay?”

“Fine,” I whispered. “Sorry. I had a nightmare, was all dry and just needed a quick drink.”

“About what?”

As I climbed back into bed, I admitted, “It seems ridiculous now, but it was frightening while I was dreaming it. It was about Kam.”

I heard a sharp intake of breath from my wife.

I continued, “No, no. It was weird. I haven’t dreamed of her since she died. We were in a restaurant together and no one would serve us.”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a waitress with an empty tray.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a waitress with an empty tray.

My wife burst out laughing. Kam was an avid restaurant goer. Countless times we had all ventured to places she had chosen. She had excellent taste.

If my wife wasn’t completely wide awake before then, she was now. After regaining control of herself, she asked, “Was anyone else there with you two?”

“No. Just she and I.”

“Well, wherever she is,” she smiled, “she must be trying to tell you something.” :-)