May 27, 2018
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There’s no grand plan for death

By Emmet Meara, Special to the BDN

How do you plan to die?
Our friends at Budget Insurance have compiled a list of unusual deaths, probably to remind us that we have little to say about it. You will take what you get, unless you plan to swim to Vinalhaven.
Our pals at Budget Insurance remind us that “most of us die in ways that appear unrelated to a grander plan. But there are those whose deaths seem to indicate the universe is conspiring to make a statement.” To underline their hypothesis, they presented the Ironic Dozen.
Marcus Licinius was a member of the first Roman Triumverate with Julius Caesar. He was known for his flair as a general and for his great wealth which he used to fund his own army. Now, that’s wealth. Too bad he took on the mighty Parthians, who whipped him on the battlefield in 53 B.C. then poured molten gold down his throat. Let’s hope the 99 percenters don’t adopt that tactic.
Clement Laird Vallandigham is one of my very favorite lawyers now. He was a fiery advocate for his clients, and to demonstrate in 1871 that it was possible for a shooting victim to have shot himself accidentally, our boy actually shot himself accidentally in front of the jury. The bad news was that he died, but his client was found innocent of murder and walked out the courtroom door. Thanks, Clement.
Bobby Leach was a wild man who cheated death many times, including, honest to God, going over Niagara Falls in 1911 in a barrel. Well, he broke his jaw and kneecaps, but he lived to tell about it. You won’t believe this, but he slipped on an orange peel (not a banana peel) fractured his leg, got gangrene and died.
Gangrene must have been a big problem before miracle drugs.

Italian composer and ballet dancer Jean-Baptiste Lully was celebrating the recovery of King Louis XIV in 1867, rehearsing a dance number and slamming a staff in time with the music. You guessed it. He struck his foot, got an infection and died of gangrene.
I always wanted to live in New Orleans. They celebrate everything there. In 1985, they celebrated at the recreation department’s swimming pool because no one had drowned all year. With four lifeguards at the party, Jerome Moody somehow slipped into the pool during the party and drowned. They didn’t find him until the post-party cleanup. And you think a few broken glasses are bad.
Sometimes I think there is a plan for all of us. And sometimes I don’t. Someone was watching when Michael Anderson Godwin was sentenced to the electric chair but managed to get the sentence reduced to life imprisonment. But in 1989 he had a problem with his cell light and stood on the toilet to fix it. Want to guess what happened?
George Story could always brag that his picture was on the first cover of Life Magazine, in 1936, under the caption “Life Begins.” The magazine ran periodic updates on Story’s story until 2000 when the magazine announced it was ceasing publication, Story dropped dead a few weeks later. The last Life issue, “A Life Ends” featured an article on Story’s death.

In Kentucky, Mel Ignatow was acquitted of a grisly murder which included tying his victim to a coffee table. When later evidence surfaced proving that Ignatow was indeed guilty, he could not be tried a second time, but he was convicted of perjury. He served less than 10 years and was released in 2006. In 2008, he tripped and fell at home, cutting himself badly on his coffee table. He bled to death on his living room floor. Honest. You can look it up.
You can live as healthful a lifestyle as you want. You still are going to die. Ask Jerome Rodale, one of the founders of the organic food movement. He told The New York Times in 1971 that he planned to live to be 100. The very next day, at the age of 72, he dropped dead on “The Dick Cavett Show.”
Jim Fixx was an early fitness guru who emphasized the healthful effects of running and wrote the popular “The Complete Book of Running.” He dropped cigarettes and started running 10 miles a day, inspiring a generation of couch potatoes. In 1984, at age 52, Fixx died of a heart attack right after his daily run.
Or, you can live as hedonistic a lifestyle as you choose.
King Adolf Frederick of Sweden wasn’t good for much, other than eating. In 1771, he was quite hungry and Burger King wasn’t open yet. He ordered the royal chef to prepare caviar, lobster, sauerkraut and smoked herring. King Adolf washed it all down with Champagne, natch, then ordered a platter of semla, his favorite pastry. The king didn’t know when to quit. But his heart did.
Felix Lloyd Powell was an unhappy person even though he was the one who penned the song “Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile.” It was a great morale booster in World War I. It didn’t do much for Powell, however, who committed suicide in 1942.
Maybe there is a plan. I wish I knew.

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