Mining gold in the Klondike was arduous work; in fact, just getting to the Klondike was arduous work. Prospectors had to haul a ton of supplies over the Chilkoot Pass, or risk running out of food, but they were unable to carry more than 80 pounds over the pass at a time. One miner carried a ton of supplies over the pass, then made his way to Lake Lindemann. He built a boat there, then lost all his supplies when the boat crashed while running down the rapids. The miner then started over. He bought another ton of supplies, carried the supplies over the Chilkoot Pass, made his way to Lake Lindemann, and built another boat. Unfortunately, he again lost all his supplies when this boat crashed while running down the rapids. This time, the miner shot himself and died.
On April 24, 1915, the Turks began to commit genocide against the Armenian people because the Armenians lived both in Turkey and in Russia, the enemy of Turkey. By the time the Turks were defeated in 1918, they had killed over a million Armenians, and in the famine that followed the end of the war, hundreds of thousands more Armenians starved to death. Should such atrocities be remembered, or is it better to forget them? Adolf Hitler provides the answer to that question. When he decided to “kill without mercy all men, women, and children of Polish race or language,” some people told him that they were worried about world opinion. Hitler responded, “Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?”
On January 21, 1793, just before King Louis XVI was executed at the guillotine during the French Revolution, he tried to speak to the crowd that had gathered to watch him die. However, the officer in charge of the execution did not want the King to be heard, so he ordered his drummers to play loudly and drown out the words of the King. After the King’s head had been chopped off by the guillotine, the executioner lifted it up and displayed it to the people, who cheered. Much blood had spurted from the King’s body, and the crowd sopped it up with handkerchiefs and pieces of cloth to keep as souvenirs. Some members of the crowd even danced around the guillotine.
Near the end of his life, the heart of Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco grew weaker, and his cardiologist, Dr. Ignacio Chávez, recommended that he stop the strenuous work of painting huge murals and instead concentrate on the less strenuous work of creating easel paintings. However, Mr. Orozco refused to take this advice. Instead, he remarked to his wife, “I’m not going to do as the doctor says and abandon mural painting. I prefer physical death to the moral death that would be the equivalent of giving up mural painting.”
Judge Roy Bean, the Law West of the Pecos, also served as coroner. Once, he had to travel a hard 15 miles on muleback to investigate an accident. Falling timbers had crushed ten men, seven of whom were dead. The other three men were badly wounded. Judge Bean looked over all the men, and because he didn’t want to have to make a second 15-mile trip on muleback a few days later, he ruled that all ten men had died in an accident. He explained, “Them three fellas is bound to die.”
The book jacket of Graham Crackers, a compilation of humorous bits written by Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, shows photographs of how Mr. Chapman looked at age 12 and how he looks today. The “today” photograph shows a funerary urn — Mr. Chapman died on Oct. 4, 1989, the day before Monty Python celebrated its 20th anniversary. According to fellow Python member Terry Jones, Mr. Chapman’s death was “the worst case of party-pooping I’ve ever seen.”
The epitaph on William Shakespeare’s gravestone reads, “Good friend, for Jesus sake forbear / To dig the dust enclosed here. / Blest be the man that spares these stones, / And curst be he that moves my bones.” Although Shakespeare’s wife and daughter wished to be buried in the same grave as he, people so feared the curse written in the epitaph that their wishes were not respected.
The French Revolution degenerated into a Reign of Terror, and in September of 1792, mobs gave 1,400 political prisoners trials that lasted one minute each, then executed them with guillotines. The death toll did not stop there, as more and more innocent people were killed. In 1794, Antoine Lavoisier, the founder of modern chemistry and a true French patriot, died at a guillotine.
John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln on Friday, April 14, 1865. Although physicians tried all night to save the President’s life, he died at 7:22 a.m. After President Lincoln died, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton stated, “Now he belongs to the ages.” When President Lincoln’s son, Tad, learned of the assassination, he shouted, “They killed my pa! They killed my pa!”
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was sickened by what he found in the concentration camps when the Allies won World War II, and he wanted German citizens to know what their leaders had done. Therefore, he brought German citizens into the concentration camps and showed them the crematoria, the showers that dispensed deadly gas rather than water, and piles of corpses.
African-American novelist Zora Neale Hurston, author of the critically acclaimed Their Eyes Were Watching God, died penniless in 1960. When she was buried, her grave was unmarked. Fortunately, another acclaimed African-American novelist, Alice Walker, refused to let Ms. Hurston lie in a unmarked grave. In 1973, Ms. Walker located the grave and put a headstone on it.
Franklin D. Roosevelt almost did not become President of the United States. As he was speaking in Miami, Florida, a would-be assassin fired a gun at him, but missed and hit Chicago mayor Anton Cermak instead. Mr. Cermak died a few days later, but not before telling Mr. Roosevelt, “I’m glad it was me instead of you.”
African-American dancer-cum-choreographer Katherine Dunham accomplished many things in her life, winning the National Medal of the Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement. She once said, “I used to want the words ‘She tried’ on my tombstone. Now I want ‘She did it.’”
Some European countries treat their cemeteries as living gardens. They are designed as much for the living as for the dead, and they include such things as picnic areas and jogging, bicycling, and hiking paths.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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