Natural Causes

When the comedian, Jonathan Winters, died on April 11, some news accounts listed “natural” as the cause of death.  How can that be?  There is no such thing as “natural causes.”  Winters passed away from something, some “unnatural cause.”

Disease is not a natural condition of life.  If it was, why do doctors attempt to treat it?

Failing to disclose cause of death is a peeve I’ve long held with the media.  The media disclose everything else about celebrities until they die.  Only then are the bereaved families and paid PR hacks allowed to control the news.

Long Row publishes in January an annual Death List of those who are well-known to him with dates, ages, places and causes.   Of the 24 deaths recorded so far this year, 18 causes of death were found in initial reports.  For instance, we know that five passed away from heart-related causes and eight from cancer.

Then there are the six mysteries, including Winters.  Not immediately available were the causes for the baseball players Stan Musial and Virgil “Fire” Trucks,  singers Rise Stevens and George Jones and, of all people, the former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop.  What did most of these deaths have in common?  Advanced age, that’s what.  Stevens died at 99, Koop at 96, Trucks 95 and Musial 92.   Apparently in the media’s eye, anyone over 90 does not die of anything.  They just die of the natural cause of “old age.”

The obituary of George Jones in the New York Times is another matter.  He was only 81.  The second paragraph provides only a clue to his death.  Jones, it read, was admitted to a Nashville hospital the week before with “fever and high blood pressure.”   Symptoms, yes.  But what brought on those conditions?  Another bout with drugs and alcohol?  What?

You can argue cause of death is a sensitive issue.  And a very personal one.  I say it is the public’s right to know the cause of all deaths, not just those of celebrities.  Knowing cause of death, even in those over the age of 100, provides important data.  They put names and faces to dry statistics as we try to understand death and its causes.

Just because he died at the advanced age of 87, Winters should not be given a free pass by the media.  They owe it to the public to disclose the truth.  We read these initial reports with great interest.  But if and when the cause emerges at a later date, we are off to the next interesting thing and never get back to cause of death.

“Natural causes.”  It’s just a symbol for what the media believes is an apathetic public’s disinterest in unpleasant facts.

Winter’s remnants

The gazanias usually do well in hot weather.

The gazanias usually do well in hot weather.

The desert winter forecast was one thing but we got another.

January weather was cold and somewhat rainy.  Frigid air swept down like Goth raiders on my Roman driveway garden.  Frost patrol was performed with due diligence, but Jack got to many of the plants that should be blooming now.  The wedelia, though covered, was a complete loss, it appears, and other potential beauties were pruned and rehabbed.

This is the first year I've had good  luck with dianthus.

This is the first year I’ve had good luck with dianthus.

It is a week into spring and we are in prime growing season here in the Sonoran Desert.  Wildflowers have bedecked the urban mountains since late February, early March.

Ice plant doing OK after jittery start.

Ice plant doing OK after jittery start.

The driveway has perked up some.  The ice plant, the red salvia, the gazanias and others stretch their colorful blooms for the sun, a sun which in a few weeks will deliver triple-digit temperatures and an enormous amount of stress to my green-leaved friends.

The red salvia, always a winner.

The red salvia, always a winner.

I thought I would post some of winter’s remnants before the harsh weather strikes.

This Iceland poppy won't be around much longer.

This Iceland poppy won’t be around much longer.

Had gun, didn’t help

He was a former soldier, carried a gun even when walking his dog and had every reason to believe his life was in danger.  And yet Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland and his wife were gunned down in their Forney, TX, home a few days ago.

For those tragically disillusioned Americans who believe guns are going to protect them, this should be a wake-up call.  Killers, rapists and burglars do not knock on the front door and announce their intentions.  Many of them plan and are shrewd enough to carry out their missions.

The answer is to begin a program to bring guns under control in this country.  And a good place to start is background checks.  It is not the ultimate answer to our sick gun culture but like the war on tobacco it is a start in a long battle.