The Military's Role During COVID-19 2020-05-25

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

already solemn day of remembrance this Memorial Day is heavy with the extra burden of the covid nineteen pandemic loved ones. Can't mourn or be together the way that they might have a year ago and throughout this pandemic the US Armed Forces whose primary mission is to defend the American people against enemies foreign and domestic had to contend with an invisible enemy. Today we ask. What is the role of the military in pandemic? And what should it be? I'M SHUMITA BASU. And that's where we start today on the takeaway. According to a twenty nineteen army manual the mission of the DOD in a pandemic is to preserve US combat capabilities and readiness and to support US government efforts to save lives reduce human suffering and slow the spread of infection. Now we've seen the flyovers by the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy. Blue Angels to thank the frontline heroes the deployment of Naval Hospital ships to California and New York to handle patients spillover from their overburdened hospitals and the deployment of more than forty thousand National Guard members to help states battle the virus. Now those deployments face a hard stop on June twenty-fourth according to the trump administration that leaves the guard members with an eighty nine day deployment. Just one day shy of the ninety day mark that would make them eligible for early retirement and post nine eleven. Gi Bill Benefits. We will assess all of this with two people. William Arkan an army veteran journalist and author of more than a dozen books on the military and Geoffrey corn professor of law at South Texas College of Law Houston and retired. Army lieutenant colonel. Hello William Jeffrey. Welcome to the show. Thank you for having me and thank you also and bill. I'm curious really in the event of a pandemic or large public health crisis. What is the military supposed to do? And what have they been doing right now? Well the entire paradigm of emergency response sort of been turned on its head as a result of CORONA VIRUS. The paradigm that we've been operating with really since nine eleven is that a disaster occurs some place and assistance comes in from the outside the military mobilizes resources and they come from the outside to assist in civil government and civil response of course with Corona virus. There is no outside so we we've had to turn the entire paradigm of response on its head not just civil response but also the military response so I would say that in Corona virus that the paradigm for pandemic response has really been just thrown out the window. This war plan. If you will didn't survive contact with the enemy as they say and Jeffrey can you? Maybe tell the between how the National Guard is supposed to function in a moment like this compared to say other branches. I will say out of the gate that I don't completely agree with the paradigm being completely flipped on. Its head. As a matter of fact I think in some ways the Domestic Emergency Response Paradigm involving. The military has been pretty effective to date. And what I mean by. That is the expectation that there's a crisis in the state that challenges the State Authority then the National Guard which is under the authority of the state governor. Unless it's been put into federal service by the president will be the first military entity that will be called out to assist civil authorities. I think where I agree with. Bill is that that paradigm normally functions in a state or regional basis. So for example where I live in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. The governor called out the National Guard and he could rely on other states to send support from their national guard to bolster that response. What we have here is a national emergency. This is unprecedented in recent history. So you've got this odd situation where you have state governors calling up their national guard. Units and those units are not necessarily sufficient to meet the crisis so they then have to go through. Fema ASK FEMA to get federal military forces to help them and the federal forces have to come through an order of through the Department of Defence which is normally coordinated by FEMA. I mean have we seen anything comparable to this in the past? I take your point Jeffrey. That this this is different. Because it's unfolding in a national way very differently than sort of state centered responses. Is there anything comparable in history that we can look at? And maybe learn from in terms of military response. Well I mean I think that the closest thing we would have to this would be immediate aftermath of nine eleven where it was perceived as an attack on the nation and therefore it was predominantly a a homeland defense mission. Initially but generally I would say no. I think that this is really unique because the emergency is challenging so many states at the same time. And we've seen this in the news. There are incidents in history. Where a state get so overwhelmed by civil disturbance for example that they have to go to the federal government and ask for assistance from federal military forces. That's very rare because federal military forces are prohibited by law from participating in law enforcement unless the president votes a law. Call the insurrection. At the last time that happened was in response to the Los Angeles. Riots following the Rodney King Verdict in one thousand nine hundred ninety two. So it's very uncommon for the federal forces to be used to support the state in a law enforcement function. It's much more common for federal forces to provide kind of humanitarian assistance. To help mitigate a disaster or an emergency because in that capacity they're not enforcing law bill in Congress. I understand that. Lawmakers are currently negotiating. What the next Corona virus relief package might look like and I understand. The Pentagon has requested funds. Does it look like we will be increasing our military spending during this pandemic? It's really difficult to Discuss the military on Memorial Day and be critical. There's some danger involved both in sounding unpatriotic and disrespectful of those who do serve. But we should look at the facts of what happened here in Corona virus at no time. Despite this national crisis did the military mobilized more than sixty two thousand people and sixty two thousand sounds like a lot and in fact it is a lot but we should also remind ourselves that on nine eleven in response to those attacks in Washington and New York that the National Guard mobilized the same number of people in fact November twentieth. Two Thousand and one the National Guard and Reserves Mobilization peaked at fifty seven thousand. Almost exactly the same as the peak during corona virus. Now why do I say all of this? Because it's important for us to recognize that the military is an augmenting institution. It's not the primary responder and it shouldn't be the primary responder that one of the reasons why the military is limited in what it can do and how much it can mobilize is that. It's not configured for civil response these are mostly eighteen year olds with guns and people who are have the mission of defending the country and fighting the nation's wars and so rather than looking to the military and saying kind of blindly that they did a great job in corona virus. And we should give them more money. I think it's really a more of a lesson of how we need to build up our civil health and public health capacities that that. There's only so much that the military can contribute so let's talk about one aspect layer of healthcare capacity and maybe Geoffrey. You can speak to this. There was some controversy over the naval ships that docked in California and New York to handle patient overflow from hospitals. Some people pointed out that it didn't seem like those ships really handled as many cova patients as they should have. Tell us what you know about that. Yeah first off. I couldn't agree more with bill that there's a general public. I guess. Misunderstanding of what the military is when this began. I heard mayors and governors saying. Get the military in here. Get the military in here. I mean an armored division or a mechanized infantry battalion is not going to do much to help you when you're trying to provide medical care and the military doesn't have an endless supply of indigenous medical capability what they have is the ability to deploy medical resources very quickly and get them set up very quickly but they are very carefully tailored to the needs of the force. Meaning you know if there's a combat support hospital like the TV show Mash. There's a mobile combat support. Hospital hospital is designated to provide medical support to the troops in the field during a war and When the hospital ships were sent to to New York and Los Angeles I think people have to recognize that for Pentagon planners the world is a very unpredictable place. And we don't know what's coming down the road a week from now or two weeks from now we've learned this through history and those ships might necessarily have to be diverted very quickly to support the combat forces there principally tasked to provide medical care to so my reaction. When I saw that the ship in New York was not taking Cova D- patients that it was being used for non. Kobe treatment to free up resources in the civilian hospitals for Covid was not that that was a failure to me that was logical because the last thing that the ODI except would be the idea that suddenly an emergency arose somewhere. The ship had to deploy to provide medical support and half of the ship's crew had been exposed to corona virus. So it's very difficult balance for dod to make when they commit their resources in support of civil authority because they have actual national security missions that they always have to be prepared to execute. And Jeffrey what do you think we can learn from the way that the military has been deployed in this moment and the way that the military is acting within. Its own ranks. Well I think one of the lessons. It's going to come out of this. And one of the points of inquiry is how prepared the nation is for a real national emergency and what is the right balance between in the at the federal response level between The use of military assets and non military assets of. I actually think there are a lot of unanswered questions. About the impact of this event on readiness the inability to engage in training the inability to move people around the inability to engage in coalition training and operations. I think is going to have a negative effect on readiness but I also think there's another interesting aspect of this and that and that is that there are times when a response like this requires the ability of leadership to order certain measures that have to be complied with Geoffrey. Corn is professor of law at South Texas College of Law Houston and retired. Army lieutenant. Colonel and William Larkin is an army veteran a journalist and author of more than a dozen books on the military. Thank you both very much for joining us today. Thank you so much thank you. Who Are you remembering on this Memorial Day from Washington State? I am remembering a Vietnam veteran. A man I was engaged to as an eighteen year old girl. I broke up with him when he deployed to. What I thought would be an easy tour for him in Turkey that I just recently learned. He did go to Vietnam. And I'm so sorry to know how he suffered and how it impacted the rest of his life so he is on my mind this Memorial Day. I'm calling for Morristown New Jersey and my name's Mercedes. My grandfather fought in world war. Two Germany really crowded his contribution in the Puerto Rican men of color especially in light of today's political narrative. My name is Kenneth Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I WON'T BE REMEMBERING MY DAD. Live from nineteen twenty five to twenty fifteen served as a North Atlantic the Mediterranean South Pacific and China. I gave him a thank you card every November for the last twenty years of his life. Hi this is b.j Anderson from style or it can. My grandfather was a veteran of world war. One and my dad was a veteran of world. War Two my wife and I will be tending our memorial garden that we planted to honor all of our loved ones in normal years. We'd have a couple of hundred people gathering at our farm this year it will be just the two of US reflecting on how the global challenge that we're all fighting today is not a war and on how we don't have a president inspiring and unifying the country with America proudly joining forces against a global threat as it did in those two world. Wars know we just heard some of your stories of veterans that your remembering on this Memorial Day and now we want to turn to a bigger conversation about honoring those we've lost in this moment along with our colleagues at death sex and money and the newsroom of home station. Wnyc we've been asking for your memories and stories about the people you've lost during the COVID nineteen crisis fossil and my brother. Charles was forty two the oldest of three children and a loyal big brother to his two little sisters but I will never forget is his bright blue eyes. His this capable humor his dizzying vocabulary his biting wit and most certainly his loved for his son. Hi this is Kelly from Tampa and we lost my grandmother on Mother's Day weekend and even thirteen years deep into the dementia. That stole so much of her. All Nanna Joni needed was a glass of white Zinfandel our spotify playlist and our company for her to laugh at every joke and to endlessly repeat. The Sky is so blue. The trees are full of fruit and we could not ask for a better day. I will surely remember that and so much more about her and we were lucky to have Rica grants pass. I'll never forget that. She was my mother and she spent forty years worked. Hard for forty years to write family letters to keep her children connected. My Name's Amy forgettable about my mother sense of adventure. She was a trailblazer in so many ways that I only appreciated much later. She thought nothing of loading the three of US plus one friend each into the car and setting off for a museum in Boston or Salisbury Beach Winter plus our dog or just stand with the crowd to catch a glimpse of a visiting dignitary. She believed in the power of witnessing events first hand and making up ones online quality that stood her in good stead during her long career as a photojournalist covering life in small towns southern New England but the Eagle Tribune. I'm commending reverend so Lipka Cherkasky for has been he was he and his wife Erin did so many things together and they would share their pictures and their stories and those of us who knew him and loved him knew how much he treasure his relationship with Aaron my name is Kathleen Celine and I'm calling from Girard Ohio. Hi this is Katie from St Louis Missouri and I am honoring Grandpa Ted. Who died on the other day and I will never forget his smile and his ability to communicate even though he lost his each six years ago after a stroke this is Elisabeth Abraham from Minneapolis. I husband passed away. August second of two thousand nineteen and what I remember most is wonderful must for me and it was mutual joining me to talk about some of what you've shared and the Act of remembering in this moment is Anna sale host of the podcast death sex and Money Ana. Hi and welcome thank you. Thanks for having me. Oh and thanks for being here. What a time for your show death sex and money three things that we need to talk about more and things that have gotten even bigger and more complicated during a pandemic I would imagine. Yeah of all things that we're dealing with. That are always hard. But we're dealing with more in isolation than usual and in particular. I think death is one of those things. That's really hard to figure out how to how to move through and grieve when you're doing it in isolation Sure so. Why did you and your team want to collect these these stories these memories right now. Well I mean clearly there's just so much death and loss around us you know almost one hundred thousand deaths here in the US from covid nineteen in even if that's happening now that aren't related to the corona virus. Were not able to sort of mark them through familiar rituals in the ways that we would when we aren't an isolation or sheltering at home. And when you don't have the rituals that we normally do to mark loss I think that there's there's not a space To think about the meaning of people in your lives there's not a space to gather together and to to grieve together so we wanted to try to create this other new space of of an email inbox to send your memories of people. You've lost Just to mark them to to mark their loss and to say this is what it meant that they were here Let's play one of those memories that a listener sent in this is Rebecca in Colorado. I unfortunately lost my grandmother to cope with nineteen And I live across the country from my whole family. So it's been dislike this really isolating experience I'm trying to remember a lot of the positives. My Grandmother was always just this ray of sunshine. She loved being with family was so important to her and she used to call me her rainbow which. I always took with like a grain of salt but looking back it was such a beautiful word to describe the relationship that she and I had together And even though she's gone that love of family is something that I think Continues on through all of us? That such a lovely detail but her grandmother called her rainbow. I feel like we've been hearing from lots of people just how difficult it is to not have that physical gathering and to be a part at this time. Have you been hearing that a lot from folks the the difficulty of grieving alone and not together? Yeah I mean I think that for people who are losing people close to them you know. Even if they're nearby just not being able to be physically next to them while they pass. is is really upsetting And then if you're grieving away even if you weren't that close to someone who died when you don't have a place to go for memorial service for example where you can just like go through a receiving line and say to the family members of someone who died you know I. I will miss them and give a hug. When all you have his words it's different and so It's in we don't. We're not really skilled at that. We're not really skilled at saying to somebody calling them up and saying this is what your mother meant to me and I want you to know that So these were all having to sort of swept through these very different kind of social interactions while we can't be alongside one another physically. It's it's hard now and I wanNA share a call that came to us this week. It came from someone who's father died very recently. My is James Badillo from Providence Rhode Island. My father was one of the most amazing men I've ever known. It was an amazing husband and amazing Father Naval War veteran in Vietnam. He just passed recently due to lung cancer from chemicals and various agents in Vietnam demand could build anything and fix anything with his amazing hands. He created the world with his hands and I his only son have his hands. I see them every day and try to use as well for my family as he did for his. I just WanNa thank James for sharing his father's memory with all of us. I mean. That's quite a metaphor. I see my father's hands and think about what he built. And I WANNA build something similar. You have been hearing from people who are not just describing a very close family member. Right you've been. Hearing from some folks were describing acquaintances or maybe even people that they knew in passing but that had a really big impact on them right yeah. These are some of my favorite messages. Because it's just the kind of thing that maybe over the potluck at the after the memorial service the kinds of stories that would get passed between acquaintances of people. I like hearing these and they don't really have anywhere else to go right now and this is a message we got from a woman named Dina and Bloomfield New Jersey. She sent in this memory. Andy Giuliano put up with me for. Decades is my go-to contractor. He taught me that anything built could be taken apart to stack moving boxes close to the front door and then an estimate is only estimate he attracted the best most meticulous team and made my dreams come true project after project decade after decade. He even built a home for my tortoise. I'm GONNA Miss Sandy Forever. And the world is last without him. He built a home for her tortoise. When we lose someone and even if it's someone that we didn't know all that well or wasn't related to us. I think that we start to assemble these lists right the things that we will always associate them with. And that's what I heard in Dina's message. Yeah and you've been talking on your show dot sex money. It's been around for six years. Now you've been talking with people about death and processing for all these years and I wonder what you feel like you've learned from people about the value of talking about grief and loss and what we can be thinking about in this moment when there is so much grief and loss happening. You know something. I've been thinking about a lot is I've heard from people who have experienced really Deep Grief How much they appreciate. When people in their lives acquaintances like people will bring up somebody. Who's died? They can notice that that people will avoid talking about somebody who died because they don't want to upset you or they don't know what to say and just what a gift it can feel like when somebody says. Oh I was thinking about your husband the other day. Do you remember when this happened. And just getting to share memories with one another. That's something that I hope. This project kind of prompts people to do to save his stuff out loud to the people in your lives to create community around loss and to honor people's Memories It's something that you can do and you have to try a little harder right now because we're not all going to gather in one room and think about someone's life and their meaning and their legacy because we can't do that right now so you have to pick up the phone or write that note record that voice memo It's up to us to take that step. It takes a little extra effort saying in this man. We will keep collecting your memories and stories of people that you lost during this time. Record your memory on your phone. Email it to remembering at WNYC DOT ORG and we'll stay in touch with Anna and all of our friends at sex money to let you know when they'll be sharing more about this project and a sail thank you so much. Thank you I'm Shumita Basu in for Tanzania Vega and this is the takeaway. It's good to have you with us on Memorial Day. We have one more conversation for you. Since the pandemic began the volume of obituaries and paid death. Notices in our newspapers have become a powerful reminder of the loss we're all experiencing right now and in the absence of traditional mourning rituals like funerals. The obituary pages are becoming a communal space for us to grieve together. In this moment for more on what obituaries mean during this pandemic I spoke with Maureen. O'donald the obituary writer for the Chicago sun-times and a former president of the society of professional writers and John Pope a contributing writer for the Times Picayune Newark are liens advocate and the author of the book getting off at elision fields obituaries from the New Orleans Times Picayune. John's been writing obituaries for decades. Now and he's developed a pretty good sense for what makes a good obituary. Here's what he's always looking for. Something that punches. My Quirky buttons something. That makes me think. Wow this is something people would like to know about. For instance. There was a dear friend of mine. Who was the city's chief administrative officer her father had died? He was a letter carrier. Everyone loved him and we chatted about that for a while. Okay Brenda what else. She said well pope in World War Two. He was a spy and I said cool. He was one of the few African Americans in counterintelligence he was signed a pug thing English Channel probably where Black Before d day might be leaking out and he was one of the first guards in a presidential security detail. Now that's a cool story. John's talked about finding the rose. Bud moment you know on the reference to citizen Kane. You're you're finding out what makes somebody tick and one of my talk about kind of a typical Chicago. Area resident named Jim Cole. He grew up in a well to do suburb but became fascinated by a beers at a young age and he wound up moving to the American west and he became a wildlife photographer specializing in grizzly bears. In the course of my research which was spurred just by a classified death notice mentioning his love of Grizzly bears. In of course my research I wound up talking to a gentleman. I think is title was director of Bear Management at one of our national parks and it turned out. Jim Cole was the only known person in North America to have survived not not one but two attacks by Grizzly bears because in his photography he got a little too close to some Mama. Bear's what are the components of an obituary? What are the parts that you're definitely looking for draw always finding out you know who they are occupation survivors where they died When they died and where they were born I like to ask questions that elicit more than a. Yes or no answer. You don't say you know. Did your mother enjoy cooking or did your mother enjoy dancing? I want to know what kind of car did she drive. Did she like dogs. Oh what kind of dog. Oh she had eight boxers in her lifetime and What TV shows did she like How about if I walked into her house? What's the first thing I'd notice so I'm asking specific questions to make that person come alive again. I like to take my cue from question on the first night of Passover. It's a very on the question. How is this night different from all other nights? My question is how is this person? Or how is this story different from all other stories and saying this? The specific is universal. Great Indian film director Mira Nair said that and Roger. Ebert are film. Critic used to quote her the more specific you find out about the person the more universal bit story. Is You know whether you writing about a Japanese American who settled in Chicago after getting out of an internment camp or an Irish immigrant or an African American came north in the great migration or someone who fled the Middle East after conflict. Yes those are specific stories. But they're universal to it's every grandparents or great grandparents story so since you're both professional obituary writers and thinkers. I hear what you're saying that you're often looking for kind of a quirky or detail when deciding who to write about but what about during a crisis like the one we're currently going through How do you decide who gets an obituary in this moment? And who doesn't we pitch stories but the it's the up to the editors say or Nay and it's not as simple as saying oh someone died. Let's do an Obe it no. This crisis is happening at a point when the print industry has already an economic crisis and with the Kobe nineteen epidemic. The number of ADS HAS SHRUNK. Which means that number of pages and news whole have shrunk but has to be someone who has not only succumbed to corona virus but also someone who was somehow noteworthy for instance. One of the people I wrote about here was an Obgyn who delivered more than three thousand babies during his career. Another one opened up the US trade with China. After thirty years and most recently there was a community college administrator who died of the virus and she was a saint. She bought helped kids by textbooks. She gave transit passes when they didn't have money that obe it has gotten more feedback on facebook and on. Our newspaper's website than any other orbit. I've ever thousands of people but it reminded me of what again other cinematic reference Clarence. The Angel said to George Bailey in. It's a wonderful life. One person's life touches many others Maureen. What about for you? Who are some of the people that you've been writing obituaries for during this time? One thing that I like to do and I think it's a service to our readers is to write about a variety of people different ethnicities different professions different generations different genders people who seen life's rich pageant. Whether it was survived having the Spanish flu epidemic or liberating a concentration camp in world war two or inventing at an chocolate chip cookie recipe. I've often said that I think obituary writers are frustrated. History teachers were trying to Share different stories with our readers and some of the coronavirus obituaries. I've done One of course you couldn't ignore it was John. Prying you know one of the most beloved troubadours in America he was admired by everyone from Bob Dylan to a black keys to Casey. Musk graves to roger waters from Pink Floyd and started out as a postman in Maywood Illinois. Right outside of Chicago jump. Ryan used to start composing his lyrics in his head while he was walking delivering mail. I also wrote about a woman Amelia Pond Torelli. She helped operate Tony's Italian Deli in Chicago and she fed thousands of people with her. Ready made meals and LASAGNA. This was a woman who survived the Nazis coming to her mountaintop town in Italy at twelve or fourteen years old. Her father had to drag her away from the Nazis because she was raining verbal abuse on them when they stole her pet goat for lunch. She immigrated started new life in America worked at the family business and covert took her. Now you've both mention such specific and human and lovely details about some of the people that you've written about. Ki tells how you find out these really specific details when you want to write an obituary and I imagine. I wonder whether that process is different in the obituaries. You're writing right now for people who are dying at this moment especially non celebrities we're reporters and we just have to find out something that will give us more than what. I call a resume. Oh Bit Yeah my friend Molly. I've said that about as Dulles bus station Chile. I'm doing a bit today on the found of the New Orleans film festival a French said whenever I walk into a move. He was standing in the lobby. He talked about the movie and that'd be film. I was seeing just little details. It makes the person stand out. It's it's all about the details. Yes and that's a that's a hardy perennial you do that whether it's the year two thousand and or the year two thousand twenty when? I'm writing about somebody like John Prying who so well known. I'm looking for the Chicago stories from his origin. That people may not know. And you you always look for the greater context. Here we have food two of my favorite obits or food obits Ella Brennan who is the matriarch of the family that runs commander's palace and other restaurants and Leah Chase the queen of Creole cuisine. Who Fed the civil rights movement? So you put Miss Leah. Who died year at the age of ninety six against this background of the Civil Rights Movement? She Fed the civil rights movement. James Baldwin loved or Gumbo and it turns into a pretty rich story. You know on this show a few weeks ago. We talked about funerals right now. And how of course the pandemic has really complicated are available to mourn collectively. Have you been thinking about the function of the obituary pages in this moment and how they're possibly filling that gap? It's definitely is because there's no other way to do it. Publicly Ellis Marsalis. Who was a major New Orleans musician? Who lived in my neighborhood? Deserved a second line brass band people following with umbrellas and Handke's celebrating his life New Orleans funeral right. Yeah I I noticed when I see page after page after page of death notices there. It's greeting if make one point here that I was thinking when Maureen was telling her wonderful stories. But we're doing here. Is What Mark Elite Fox in a documentary called OBE. It said that an obituary is only tangentially about death. What you're doing. An obituary is recalling and prep celebrating the person's life. These are sort of the way. Were community grieving. Now yes funeral homes are live streaming wakes and lives Live streaming gravesite services. But I think the death notices that I'm seeing the Chicago Sun. Times are expanding. I think that the family friends and funeral homes are putting in so many more details as a way to sort of be a community support group. I mentioned to someone this week that I was reading a death notice about a woman who loved cats and yes in the past I might see. She loved her Pinky. But in this death notice they mentioned every cat the individual it ever owned and it was so endearing to me to read about pinky storm. Ginger eefja midnight princess. That was probably every cat this person owned from when they were sixteen to when they were eighty six and before the coronavirus pandemic. I'm not so sure people would've put in every cat you know but I think it's a something we need to do to connect and celebrate each other. What it makes me think of what Linda Loman said. Near the end of death of a salesman attention must be paid. Yes and then also Marshall McLuhan when I was in college back ages ago said that seeing a story about an event you attended means that event mattered. Same with an Obita a death notice. It means that this person mattered in the overall scheme of things. You've been writing obits for decades now. I wonder how what you're doing right now compares to the process. You went through writing obituaries during other crises like during Hurricane Katrina for example your New Orleans or the AIDS CRISIS. Well first of all a story is a story and we report the story whatever be occasion might be age is more appropriate because I started writing a obituaries in the early days of AIDS back. Nobody really knew what it and everybody was terrified. I don't think we should attach a whole lot of what I call. Woo Woo to code. Obits I mean they are. They are new stories yes the occasion said but we report same way. We report any other obituary at any other time. Go after the fact see where they lead you. Correct me if I'm wrong but you've actually written your own obituary right twice. What was were both of those crosses. He's like I'm still. Why did you first of all? You're an editor Chan. Border put in in two thousand one. I was medical reporter when I had a the Centers for Disease Control Fellowship. I thought no telling where I'll wind up so I'll have an orbit ready well. I survived and in two thousand fifteen hours going on a safari to Kenya Tanzania. I thought better update that obits pope. Wow I mean how. How does it feel to sort of steel yourself for For writing something that would be read by others about you after your death. Who Better to write it? Also I mean. I wrote my wife's obituary the day after she day she died because I knew her better than anyone else. I didn't want any lesser hands to touch as obituary writers. You are very used to confronting death. And what have you learned from thinking about death and lost? That could be helpful for our listeners. To hear right now. Don't put off till tomorrow what you should be doing today. I've written and John will probably agree with me. I've written so many obituaries where somebody retired on a Friday and they died. Suddenly the following Tuesday and relatives said to me he always wanted to go on safari. He always wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef. He always dreamed of seeing Venice. And that has definitely impacted my life. I'M GONNA turn seventy a year and a half ago at my motto. Became if not now when and just do it? I want to go to Rwanda to see the guerrillas. I want to go to India. I went to add Arctic and January. Again I wanted to go and Maurice Excellently right and you also learn. Kindness and patience never argue with the family of the deceased never. Yes you write the story but thank you decide whether they want to talk to you. Because you don't have a subpoena. They they'll come around. To your point of view most my my mother quoted Scripture Allot soft answer turned away wrath but grievous words stirred up anger so you don't want to alienate the people you need to talk to. I have one other thought about lessons. I've learned from writing obituaries I'm a child of Irish immigrants and frequently have gone to the Irish Heritage Center here in Chicago for dances for Irish fests for Saint Patrick's Day and for more than twenty years. You know I would watch the Kaley dancers doing traditional. Irish dances with fabulous. Names like the siege of Anna's dances named after old wars and battles and in the middle of all these Irish Americans and Irish immigrants. Doing the dances was an African American man and he was very serious and he's very good at these dances and I meant to introduce myself to him to find out his story. Well I didn't the years. Go by you're busy. You're all Elysium at the next festival. Well he died a couple of years ago and I decided to look into his life and it was fascinating. His name was Alan Beal. I think he was a physicist. Has Scientific background? And he was fascinated by the patterns of these dances which are kind of like square dancing precursors to square dancing and he not only became adept at these dances. He knew more of these dances than I will ever know. And he knew their origins from fifteen hundred sixteen hundreds and he became this beloved Kaley Dancer. Who would go all over the Midwest with other dancers to perform and enjoy these old these old airs as the Irish Colin? And I you know I wrote a little story and most of the time we try to keep ourselves out of Obituaries John. Right but this time I put myself in there and I said. Please don't wait till tomorrow to introduce yourself to a person to reconnect with an old high school friend to right a wrong to say. You're sorry you know do it. Now because Allen passed away very young I saw my high school physics teacher in a checkout line years ago with his mother. I should have gone up and said Mr Meyer. I'm John Pope. I say how much you meant to me and how much you've shaped my thinking. I didn't John. Pope is a contributing writer for the Times. Picayune New Orleans advocate and Maureen. O'donnell is the obituary writer for the Chicago Sun. Times so fascinating so great to talk to both of you. Thank you thank you for. Thank you so much for being with us on this Memorial Day you can call us anytime at eight seven seven eight might take or send us a tweet at the takeaway with any of your thoughts. You can also tweet at me if you'd like. I'm at shoebox zoo. That's S. H. U. Asu thank you so much for listening. I'm Shumita Basu in Tanzania Vega and this is the takeaway talk to you tomorrow.

Coming up next