TIME relationships

Who Knew? Husbands Can Be Nagged to Death

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Frederic Cirou—Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Danish research suggests a demanding spouse and whiny kids can send a person to an early grave--and that men are more vulnerable than women

A new study suggests that being needled by or arguing a lot with spouses, neighbors or relatives can shorten a person’s life. And that men, particularly those who are unemployed, are especially susceptible.

The research, published online in published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, asked almost 10,000 Danish men and women aged 36 to 52 about their daily social interactions. The researchers were pretty nosy, asking participants two main questions: “In your everyday life, do you experience that any of the following people demand too much of you or seriously worry you?’ and “In your everyday life, do you experience conflicts with any of the following people?” participants could choose friends, neighbors, partners, extended family or children.

Nine percent of the participants reported always or often experiencing demands or worries from their partner, 10% from children, 6% from family and 2% from friends. And 6% always or often experienced conflicts with their partner, 6% with their children, 2% with their family and 1% with friends.

In the course of the 11 years that the Danes were followed, 4% of the women and 6% of the men died, mostly of cancer, but also of the usual life-ending maladies: heart disease, liver disease from drinking, or accidents and suicide. And even after taking into account such factors as gender, marital status, long term conditions, depressive symptoms, available emotional support, and social class (defined by job title), the researchers determined that those who were frequently worried by or had demands placed on them by partners and/or children had a 50%-100% higher risk of early mortality than those who lived more peaceable lives.

“In this study, we found that men were especially vulnerable to frequent worries/demands from their partner, contradicting earlier findings suggesting that women were more vulnerable to stressful social relations,” write the authors, Rikke Lund, Ulla Christensen, Charlotte Juul Nilsson, Margit Kriegbaum, and Naja Hulvej Rod, all of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

They added that their findings were in line with other studies that found that men respond to stress with higher levels of cortisol, which may louse up their health. Only demanding spouses and children seemed to have this life-threatening effect on people. Annoying neighbors and in-laws, not so much.

Frequent arguments also led to a greater likelihood of dropping early from the mortal coil, but the data suggested that conflict was an equal opportunity grim reaper: both men and women were affected the same and it didn’t much matter who the arguments were with.

Because those who were both unemployed and involved in the most arguments had the highest risk of premature death, the researchers acknowledged that some of these effects could be attributed to differential vulnerability, that is, that people with fewer resources are less able to deal with stresses than more wealthy people can.

They recommend that social services providers teach skills in handling worries and demands as well as conflict management within couples and families.

TIME health

The Medieval Black Death Made You Healthier—If You Survived

Plague killed millions in Europe
The Black Death killed as much as half of Europe's population Photo by Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images

The plague was horrific, could hit without warning and killed tens of millions in 14th century Europe. But paradoxically, the population that survived ended up better off, with higher wages, cleaner living conditions and healthier food

Game of Thrones doesn’t tell you the half of it. Life during the medieval ages was nasty, brutish and short. That was especially true during what became known as the Black Death. The widespread outbreak of plague struck between 1347 and 1351, killing tens of millions of people, resulting in the loss of 30 to 50% of the region’s population. The disease itself was horrific. “In men and women alive,” wrote the Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio, “at the beginning of the malady, certain swellings, either on the groin or under the armpits…waxed to the bigness of a common apple, others to the size of an egg, some more and some less, and these the vulgar named plague-boils.” And it seemed to strike indiscriminately and without warning. People could be healthy in the morning and dead by evening.

The upside, if you can call it that, is that the plaque left in its wake populations that were healthier and more robust than people who existed before the plague struck, according to a new study published today in PLOS ONE. “The Black Death was a selective killer,” says Sharon DeWitte, a biological anthropologist at the University of South Carolina and the author of the paper. “And after the Black Death ended, there was actually an improvement in the standard of living.” The plague was natural selection in action.

In a way, that’s a marker of how brutal the medieval era was. It took a serial killer of a plague to actually bring about an improvement in living conditions. If that sounds counterintuitive, think about how life might have changed after half of Europe’s population died off. Suddenly there was a dramatic drop in the number of able-bodied adults available to do work, which meant survivors could charge more for their labor. At the same time, fewer people meant a decreased demand for foods, goods and housing—and as a result, the prices for all three dropped. By the late 15th century, real wages were three times higher than they were at the beginning of the 14th century, before the plague struck. Diets improved as employers were forced to raise wages and offer extra food and clothing to attract workers. As a result, the money spent per capita on food in the wake of the Black Death actually increased. “People were able to eat more meat and high-quality bread, which in turn would have improved health,” says DeWitte.

But the clearest evidence that people were healthier after the Black Death than they were before it comes in the bodies themselves. DeWitte looked at skeletal samples taken from medieval cemeteries in London both before the plague and after it. She found that post-Black Death samples had a higher proportion of older adults, and that morality risks were generally lower in the post-Black Death population than before the epidemic. In other words, if you were strong and lucky enough to survive one of the deadliest epidemics in human history, you were probably strong enough to live to a relatively ripe old age. And since the Black Death was so widespread, that was true for the surviving population as a whole.

Earlier studies looking at historical documents like diaries, letters and wills from the time period had shown conflicting results, but that kind of data only covers the very small part of the population that was literate, male and relatively well off. The advantage of DeWitte’s grave-combing bioarchaeological research methods is that they encompass a much more representative swath of the medieval population. “This provides information about the people who are missing from historical documents, including women and children,” says DeWitte. Not everyone in medieval London left a will behind—but everyone left a corpse.

So for survivors, life after the Black Death would have been at least a little less nasty, brutish and short than life before it. But that doesn’t mean the survivors were really the lucky ones. The Black Death was a period of unremitting horror and terror, the likes of which we can’t imagine. No one knew how the disease spread, or how to treat it. Popular but gruesome methods like blood-letting or boil-lancing would have been counterproductive at best, assuming victims could find anyone to treat them. Doctors abandoned their patients for fear of infection, and priests even refused to give last rites to the dying—an appalling dereliction given medieval fears of eternal damnation. Even animals like sheep, cows and pigs fell victim to the disease. “The people who survived the Black Death would have lost everyone they knew,” says DeWitte. “They’re the people I feel sorry for.” If the Black Death really was natural selection at work, it was the cruelest form imaginable.

TIME

Jail Where Inmate ‘Baked to Death’ Had Known Heating Problem

Hot Cell Death
Alma Murdough and her daughter Cheryl Warner hold a photo of Murdough's son, Jerome Murdough, at her home in the Queens borough of New York, March 12, 2014. Jason DeCrow—AP

Jerome Murdough, an inmate at Rikers Island, was found in a pool of blood and vomit in an overheated cell one day after employees prepared multiple requests to fix the heating problem

Jail authorities knew of an heating problem and requested repairs one day before a mentally-ill inmate died in an overheated cell, though the repairs were delayed because of a long weekend.

According to the Associated Press, two repair requests prepared on Friday, Feb. 14 weren’t received until the following Tuesday because the maintenance department does not process work orders on weekends and because that Monday, President’s Day, was a federal holiday.

Jerome Murdough, a 56-year-old former Marine, was arrested one week before his death for trespassing onto a Harlem public housing project while seeking warm shelter from a cold night. Four hours after his body was found in a pool of blood and vomit in a Rikers Island jail cell, his internal temperature was 103 degrees.

A spokesperson did return the AP’s request for comment.

In March, one of four anonymous jail officials interviewed by AP said that Murdough “basically baked to death,” though the medical examiner’s office have not yet determined an official cause of death.

The interviewed officials said Murdough was on anti-seizure and anti-psychotic medication, which may have made the inmates especially vulnerable to heat, and that he did not open a vent in his cell to cool down, as others in the jail did.

[AP]

TIME Oklahoma

Inside Oklahoma’s Botched Execution

After he'd been declared unconscious, Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett twitched and gasped and said "something's wrong," before dying of a heart attack. The disorderly execution reignited the debate on states' ability to administer lethal injections that meet the U.S. constitutional laws

This week, Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett died following a 43-minute long execution gone awry. Exactly what happened during 25 of those 43 minutes is known only to the prison officials inside the execution chamber, as Lockett’s attorneys were told to leave the viewing room.

While authorities have released a timeline of his execution, many questions remain unanswered on exactly what went wrong in Lockett’s execution, the latest in a series of lethal injection executions that have not gone as planned. The United Nations human rights office in Geneva said on Friday that the process to which Clayton Lockett was subjected may have amounted to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” under international human rights law, and may have violated the US constitution.

Lockett’s case has fueled a renewed debate around the use of lethal injection in the United States — since a number of executions have gone awry after states began experimenting with different drug combinations.

Watch TIME’s Josh Sanburn in the video above talk about what we know — and what we don’t know — about Lockett’s execution, and what that says about the state of the death penalty carried out by lethal injection in the United States.

 

 

 

 

TIME celebrities

Report: Peaches Geldof Died From Heroin Overdose

Peaches Geldof on Feb. 25, 2014 in Paris.
Peaches Geldof on Feb. 25, 2014 in Paris. Julien Hekimian—Getty Images

A coroner's report to be released on Thursday is expected to show that the 25-year-old television presenter and socialite, daughter of Irish musician Bob Geldof, died of a heroin overdose last month, just as her mother did nearly a decade and a half ago

Peaches Geldof died from a heroin overdose, according to a coroner’s report due to be released on Thursday and obtained by the London Times.

The 25-year-old television presenter and former model was found dead in her home near London last month.

The daughter of Irish musician Bob Geldof, she shared the same tragic fate as her mother, British television personality Paula Yates, who died from a heroin overdose when Peaches Geldof was 11 years old.

Geldof left behind her husband Thomas Cohen and two sons.

[The Times]

TIME viral

Here’s a Terrifying Video of a 6 Year Old Riding a Harley

The world's bravest elementary schooler

File this one under “questionable parenting.” And “insanity.” And “kinda awesome.”

YouTube user Jacob Hughes’ above video apparently shows a father and son motorcycle ride—that long cherished bonding ritual—except the son in question is six years old.

Sadly, there’s little context for the clip. Its description only says “6-Year-Old Boy Riding Father’s Harley On An Open Road!” It’s hard to say when or where this actually took place. Either way, it’s almost certainly totally illegal. Then again, the family that gets horribly maimed together stays together.

TIME faith

Beyond Death: The Science of the Afterlife

TIME Inc.

If you’ve seen heaven, does that mean it exists?

This question is more than a mind-bender. For thousands of years, certain people have claimed to have actually visited the place that, Saint Paul promised, “no eye has seen … and no human mind has conceived,” and their stories very often follow the same narrative arc.

A skeptic, a rogue or an innocent suffers hardship or injury: he is hit on the head, he suffers a stroke, he sustains damage in a car crash or on the operating table. A feeling of disconnection comes over him, a sense of being “outside” himself. Perhaps he encounters an opening: a gate, a door, a tunnel. And then, all at once, he is being guided through other worlds that look and feel to him more “real” than the world in which he once existed. These realms are both familiar and strange, containing music that doesn’t sound like music and light brighter than any light, and creatures that may or may not be angels, and the familiar faces of loved ones lost as well as figures from history and sometimes—depending on the narrator—even Jesus himself. The tourist is agape. Words fail. He leaves reluctantly to reoccupy his body and this earth. But the experience changes him forever. Convinced as he is of a wholly different reality, he is calmer, more self-assured, determined to persuade the world of heaven’s truth. He tells his story to the masses. “Heaven is real!” he proclaims.

The Book of Enoch, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, tells a version of this story and so does the Book of Revelation, Christianity’s most foundational description of the sights and sounds of heaven. So do the medieval visionaries whose accounts were to the Middle Ages what reality TV is to the 21st century: “real” events marketed as popular entertainment (with an edifying Christian message thrown in). And despite—or perhaps because of—the increasing rationalism of our times, this narrative genre thrives today. Ninety Minutes in Heaven (2004), about a Christian pastor who ascended to God after a car wreck; Heaven Is for Real (2010), about a child who sees heaven during surgery; and Proof of Heaven, by a Duke-trained neurosurgeon who traveled to heaven in 2012, have all been bestsellers, all following the same storyline. The neurosurgeon, Eben Alexander, said in Newsweek in 2012 that his experience convinced him that his consciousness (the soul, or the self) exists somehow separate from or outside the mind and can travel to other dimensions on its own. “This world of consciousness beyond the body,” he wrote, “is the true new frontier, not just of science but of humankind itself, and it is my profound hope that what happened to me will bring the world one step closer to accepting it.”

Tales like these are thrilling in part because their tellers hold the passionate conviction of religious converts: I saw it, so it must be true. According to a Gallup poll, about 8 million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience (NDE), and many of them regard this experience as proof of an afterlife—a parallel, spiritual realm, more real, many say, than this one. Raymond Moody, who wrote Life After Life in 1975, one of the first popular books about NDEs, told CNN in 2013 that among people who have had such experiences, conviction about an afterlife transcends the particulars of religion. “A lot of people talk about encountering a being of light,” he said. “Christians call it Christ. Jewish people say it’s an angel. I’ve gone to different continents, and you can hear the same thing in China, India and Japan about meeting a being of complete love and compassion.” Moody was one of the founders of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, a group devoted to building global understanding of such experiences.

It’s an inversion, almost, of the old philosophical puzzle: If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If you are certain that you saw something (or felt something or heard something), does it mean that it’s empirically proven? And if you are predisposed to want to see something, are you likelier to see it, the way Harry Potter saw his dear departed mother in Hogwarts’s magic mirror? And finally, if you see something while you are stressed or unconscious or traumatized in some way, does that circumstance delegitimize the veracity of your vision? This is the trouble with NDEs as a field of scientific study: you can’t have a control group. Most people on the brink of dying do die (and so cannot describe what that process is like), and those who survive approach the brink in such different ways—car accident, stroke, heart attack—that it’s impossible to compare their experiences empirically. But over the years, science has posited a number of theories about the connection between visions of heaven and the chemical and physical processes that occur at death.

Andrew Newberg is a neuroscientist and professor at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital and has made his reputation studying the brain scans of religious people (nuns and monks) who have ecstatic experiences as they meditate. He believes the “tunnel” and the “light” that NDE-ers so frequently describe can be easily explained. As your eyesight fades, you lose the peripheral areas first, he points out. “That’s why you’d have a tunnel sensation.” If you see a bright light, that could be the central part of the visual system shutting down last.

Newberg puts forward the following scenario, which he emphasizes is guesswork: When people die, two parts of the brain that usually work in opposition to each other act cooperatively. The sympathetic nervous system—a web of nerves and neurons that run through the spinal cord and spread to virtually every organ in the body—is responsible for arousal or excitement. It gets you ready for action. The parasympathetic system, with which the sympathetic system is entwined, calms you down and rejuvenates you. In life, the turning on of one system promotes the shutting down of the other. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in when a car cuts you off on the highway; the parasympathetic system is in charge as you’re falling asleep. But in the brains of people having mystical experiences, and perhaps in death, both systems are fully “on,” giving a person a sensation both of slowing down, being “out of body,” and of seeing things vividly, including memories of important people and past events. It is possible, Newberg asserts—though not at all certain—that visions of heaven are merely chemical and neurological events that occur during death.

Since at least the 1980s, scientists have theorized that NDEs occur as a kind of physiological defense mechanism. In order to guard against damage during trauma, the brain releases protective chemicals that also happen to trigger intense hallucinations. This theory gained traction after scientists realized that virtually all of the features of an NDE—a sense of moving through a tunnel, an out-of-body feeling, spiritual awe, visual hallucinations, intense memories—can be reproduced with a stiff dose of ketamine, a horse tranquilizer frequently used as a party drug. In 2000 a psychiatrist named Karl Jansen wrote a book called Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, in which he interviewed a number of recreational users. One of them described a drug trip in a way that might be familiar to Dante, or the author of Revelation. “I came out into a golden Light. I rose into the Light and found myself having an unspoken exchange with the Light, which I believed to be God … I didn’t believe in God, which made the experience even more startling. Afterwards, I walked around the house for hours saying ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.’ ”

For some scientists, however, purely scientific explanations of heavenly visions do not suffice. Emily Williams Kelly is a psychologist who works at the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies, which treats the study of NDEs as legitimate science. Her résumé is impressive: she has degrees from Duke, the University of Virginia and the University of Edinburgh—not institutions one usually associates with the study of the supernatural or paranormal. Kelly has spent her career researching, as she puts it, “the interface between the brain and the mind.” Practically speaking, she interviews dying people and tries to find patterns among their similarities. Kelly believes the experiences of people who have had near-death visions demonstrate that consciousness exists even after normal brain function ceases. (She would seem to provide some corroboration for Eben Alexander’s claims.) This theory, she argues, could suggest explanations for the afterlife: “If our conscious experience totally depends on the brain, then there can’t be an afterlife—when the brain is gone, the mind is gone. But it’s not that simple. Even when the brain seems to be virtually disabled, people are still having these experiences.”

What is she saying? That upon death, people really go to another realm? And that science can prove it? Kelly shrugs. NDEs “tell us to open our minds and think there may be a great deal more to mind and consciousness—that’s as far as I’m willing to go.”

When Alexander published his book in 2012, drawing on the work of Kelly and her husband, Edward, he drew derision, as he knew he would, from broad segments of the rationalist and scientific communities. Having fallen into a coma after contracting bacterial meningitis, he saw incredible things. “I was a speck on a beautiful butterfly wing,” he said in an interview, “millions of other butterflies around us. We were flying through blooming flowers, blossoms on trees, and they were all coming out as we flew through them…[There were] waterfalls, pools of water, indescribable colors, and above there were these arcs of silver and gold light and beautiful hymns coming down from them. Indescribably gorgeous hymns. I later came to call them ‘angels,’ those arcs of light in the sky.” This experience convinced him beyond any doubt of the existence of a loving God and the ability of souls to travel to the realms where God lives. The idea of a godless universe “now lies broken at our feet, ” he wrote in his book. “What happened to me destroyed it, and I intend to spend the rest of my life investigating the true nature of consciousness and making the fact that we are more, much more than our physical brains as clear as I can.”

The rationalist author Sam Harris, who is also a neuroscientist, aimed a fierce critique at Alexander’s account of his NDE. On his blog, Harris wrote that while he had no particular convictions about the essence or origins of consciousness, he was quite sure Alexander’s argument was specious. No one’s cerebral cortex shuts down entirely during coma, Harris pointed out. Additionally, the doctor showed no understanding of the kinds of neurotransmitters that can be released by the brain during trauma, including one called DMT, which produces hallucinations. “Let me suggest that, whether or not heaven exists, Alexander sounds precisely how a scientist should not sound when he doesn’t know what he is talking about, ” Harris concluded.

My own concern is somewhat different, relating back to the tree-in-the-forest conundrum. I believe Alexander (and all the others who testify to having visited heaven) saw what he says he saw, but one person’s vision, seen during trauma, does not add up to proof. Further all the emphasis on Alexander’s scientific credentials that accompanied the marketing of his book is disingenuous and entirely beside the point: the veracity of a vision of heaven would have nothing to do with where one went to medical school.

Adapted from Visions of Heaven: A Journey Through the Afterlife, available wherever books are sold.

TIME psychology

Nine Hard-Won Lessons About Grief

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After journalist Jill Smolowe buried her husband, sister, mother and mother-in-law within the space of 17 months, she expected to fall apart. To her surprise — and relief — her grief bore no resemblance to the portrait of paralyzing despair depicted in American films, TV shows and memoirs. Here, she shares the coping strategies that helped her keep going:

1. Remain connected to your life. When a loved one passes away (or receives a dire diagnosis), your life undergoes a seismic shift. As your Old Normal totters, well-meaning friends and relatives reinforce your feeling of disconnect from your old life by assuming that the only topic you want to talk about is your worry and sorrow. Perhaps that’s true. But if you, as I did, find the concerned “How are you’s” more exhausting than comforting, direct the conversation toward more familiar terrain. “How do you read Putin’s moves in Ukraine?” “What is ‘conscious uncoupling,’ exactly?” Your heart may not be in it, but as the focus moves away from your distress, you may find your thoughts do, too. Even a few minutes respite can be replenishing.

2. Do not assume your sorrow will overwhelm you. Bereavement research of the last 20 years shows that a clear majority of mourners are quite resilient. They experience their grief as a constant oscillation between sadness and lighter moments. This helps them not only to endure their sadness, but also to experience pleasure even during the earliest days of loss. As for the five-stage cycle of grief so popular in our cultural script, it is a myth. Dismissed by bereavement researchers long ago, the cycle’s five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) were based on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s observations of the dying — not the people left behind.

3. Tune into what you actually feel and need. When I lost Joe, my beloved husband of 24 years, I assumed that collapse would follow. The way I envisioned it, one day soon I would get into bed, pull the sheet over my head and not get up. To my surprise — and relief — that day never arrived. Instead, I continued to function much as I normally do, albeit with emotions more intense than usual. Within two weeks of Joe’s death, it became clear to me that sitting home only added to the weight of his absence. So, I went back to work. I resumed walks with friends. I attended my daughter’s crew regattas. Though my sorrow accompanied me everywhere, the effort helped me to get out of my head and reconnect with the parts of my life that remained intact.

4. If you don’t want to, don’t. This piece of advice, offered by three widowed acquaintances on separate occasions, proved a keeper. Early on, I let it guide my responses to social invitations. I also let it inform my responses to inquiries, both sincere and casual, about how I was doing. If I didn’t feel like talking about my grief, I didn’t. As weeks, then months went by, I came to understand that, for me, grief was an intensely private experience. If I was going to cry (as I did daily for many months), I preferred to do it when I was alone. My feelings of loss were too personal and too impossible to explain. Talking about them did not help.

5. People are not mind readers; tell them what you need. Friends want to be supportive, but they will lean on their own (often untested) preconceptions about grief if you don’t speak up. For me, the commiserating hugs, worried looks and somber conversations got old, fast. I let friends know that what I needed most was for them to talk to me about their lives, their kids, their work. That response felt awkward, even ungracious, at times. But later several friends told me that by giving them clear guidance, I made it “easy” for them to help me. (Note to friends: helping a grieving person to focus on her strengths, rather than her sorrow, can be very therapeutic.)

6. For those who aim to lend support, watch for cues, listen carefully. Heartfelt though it may be, an offer of “If there is anything I can do …” is tantamount to offering nothing. (Trust me. A bereft person doesn’t want be saddled with the task of making you feel useful.) Instead, be attentive. If your concerned “Tell me how you are” meets with a brisk “Fine, how was your vacation?” that’s a signal to change the channel. If you notice a grieving neighbor’s trashcans are still curbside two days after the garbage pickup, ask if she wants them returned to her porch — or better yet, just do it. If your phone messages aren’t being returned, try email. Mourners appreciate your concern, but they may not be ready to deal with it on your schedule.

7. Express your love and appreciation. If there was any silver lining in Joe’s death, it was that we had time to prepare. While we didn’t anticipate that he would die, we knew from the day of his leukemia diagnosis that death was a possible outcome. Over the next two and half years, we constantly expressed not only our love, but also our appreciation for each other and for the life we’d built together. I’d always known that Joe loved me, but his acknowledgments of things I’d done for him and sacrifices I’d made on behalf of our marriage would later prove consoling. Those conversations also provided opportunity to address our unresolved issues. After Joe died, my grief was unencumbered by either unfinished business or regret that I’d left something important unsaid.

8. Gratitude is a potent antidote. As I worked on Joe’s eulogy, it occurred to me that too often such loving sentiments are reserved for memorial services. I wanted the people whose kindness had touched or steadied me during Joe’s long illness to know what I valued most about their support. Now. Before it was too late. So, I began writing thank-you letters that detailed what exactly it was about each person’s support that had lightened my load. Each time I unbottled my gratitude, it helped me to recognize the many reasons I had to go on without Joe.

9. Know your loved one’s final wishes. During a particularly gruesome hospitalization, Joe told me, “There are some things I want you to know, in case I die.” He specified the items he wanted me to save for our daughter, and told me to discard the rest. He told me he wanted to be cremated and wanted a memorial service. And he told me, “You should remarry.” Though numbing in the moment, his stated wishes proved a gift. Weeks later when he died and I was in the blur of new grief, I didn’t have to second-guess his burial preferences. His detachment about his possessions enabled me to sift and discard as I chose. And his generous statement about marriage enabled me to move on without guilt, knowing that he wanted me to build a new life.

Jill Smolowe is the author of the new memoir Four Funerals and a Wedding: Resilience in a Time of Grief.

TIME Drugs

Spring Breaker Fell to His Death After Eating Pot Cookies

The young man who fell to his death from the fourth floor of a hotel in Denver began speaking erratically and behaving violently shortly after eating the cannabis-infused cookies, the coroner's report finds

A young man who died when he fell off a balcony in Denver last month had eaten marijuana-laced cookies before the accident, according to the local coroner.

The coroner’s report on the accident found that the man, 19-year-old Levy Thamba, died because of the injuries he suffered from the fall from the fourth floor of a hotel, the Denver Post reports. The coroner listed the intoxication from the marijuana cookies he had eaten prior to the fall as a significant factor contributing to his death.

Thamba, a student visiting the city on spring break, began speaking erratically and behaving violently shortly after eating the cannabis-infused cookies.

“[His] friends attempted to calm him down and were temporarily successful,” the report states. “However, [he] eventually reportedly jumped out of bed, went outside the hotel room, and jumped over the balcony railing.”

Pot tourism is a growing business in Colorado ever since marijuana sales for recreational use became legal in the state this year. The coroner’s office said Thamba didn’t have a history of mental-health issues, the Post reports.

“We have no history of any other issues until he eats a marijuana cookie and becomes erratic and this happens,” corner spokeswoman Michelle Weiss-Samaras said. “It’s the one thing we have that’s significant.”

[The Denver Post]

TIME natural disaster

Washington Mudslide Death Toll Hits 29

Benton County Assistant Fire Chief Jack Coats makes his way over debris left by a mudslide in Oso
Benton County Assistant Fire Chief Jack Coats makes his way over debris left by a mudslide in Oso, Wash., April 2, 2014. Max Whittaker—Reuters

Authorities say at least 29 people died in the Snohomish County, Wash. mudslide nearly a week and a half ago, as rescue workers continue picking through the debris field in the hopes of finding the people that are still missing

Updated April 2 at 11:20am ET

The number of confirmed deaths in the Washington state mudslide has increased to 29, officials said Wednesday.

Twenty-two of the bodies were identified as of Tuesday, up from 19 the day before. As the Snohomish County medical examiner’s office worked to identify the six other victims, rescue workers continued picking through the debris field in the hopes of finding the people that are still missing.

The search has been made slightly easier as receding floodwaters have exposed more ground that can now be examined by the search crews, the Associated Press reports. Treacherous conditions and bad weather have complicated the search for human remains buried in the debris, which is contaminated by chemicals, fuel and human waste.

Both rescue workers and search dogs are being hosed down at decontamination stations after completing their tasks.

“We’ve already had a little bit of dysentery out here,” Lt. Richard Burke of the Bellevue Fire Department told CBS News. “People are working in a septic tank of materials. We want them washed and decontaminated.”

The mudslide flattened more than two dozens homes when it hit the outskirts of the small town of Oso on March 22.

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