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african american obituaries for 2017
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6 Things We Need To Stop Saying To Bereaved Parents

    Joan Markwell knows the gut-wrenching, hollow feeling left behind when a child is taken too early. It’s a feeling that mothers have experienced recently and throughout the last few years after tragic attacks in Orlando, Manchester, London, San Bernardino, Calif., and Charleston, S.C., just to name a few.

    With every new tragedy, vigil, story on the news or anniversary recognizing these events, plenty of mothers like Markwell – who lost her adult child to cancer – feel the sting of the wound that accompanies their loss.

    While that wound may have healed, there is still a scar left as a reminder of the pain that still lives on for many grieving family members, including mothers who are surviving with that pain in many different ways.

    “When a mother loses a child, the grief dictates her life,” says Markwell, author of the book Softening the Grief. “You don’t see an end to the pain. As the body reacts to the stress you feel, physical pain follows. Sleep is out of the question.”

    It’s a grief that only they understand, however, and one that others usually don’t know how to deal with.

    “The first time we meet a friend since the death of our child occurred can be frightening,” says Markwell, “It’s not that we don’t want to see them; we just can’t face anyone without tearing up.”

    To avoid those awkward situations, Markwell offers up some phrases you should avoid saying to grieving parents and instead offers alternatives:

  • “You Are So Strong.” In reality we are exhausted from trying to look strong. Try this instead: “I know it’s hard to be strong right now. I’m here for you to lean on anytime. I have an open heart and time to listen.”

  • “Be Glad You Have Other Children.” We may have other children, but they cannot replace the child we’ve lost. Try this instead: “No child is replaceable, but I hope having your surviving children around you helps in easing the pain of your loss.”

  • “You’re not the first mother who has lot a child.” Yes, but this is the first time I’ve lost my child. Try this instead: “I know mothers who have lost children and how much they grieved. That has made me aware of what a fight this is for you. You will continue to be in my thoughts.”

  • “My child almost died, I know how you feel.” If you said this, you only had a clue about how it might feel to lose a child. Try this instead: “My child had a close brush with death, which was terrifying enough. There can be no comparison to actually losing a child.”

  • “Time heals all wounds.” In time the mind covers wounds with scar tissue and pain lessens. But it’s never gone. Try this instead: “I hope in time your pain and grief will soften. Knowing it will take time, I stand beside you for the long haul.”

  • “Everything Happens for a Reason.” There is never a good enough reason as to why our children were taken. Try this instead: “It goes beyond reason for any child to be taken from a mother. There was certainly no good reason to lose yours.”

    “These awkward but common questions and statements can trigger a world of grief for bereaved mothers,” says Markwell. “When talking to a grieving parent about their lost child, it’s best to take a step back and choose your words carefully.”

    About Joan E. Markwell
    Joan Markwell is a small business and real estate owner who resides in Lawrenceburg, Ky. She is a former board member of the Lawrenceburg (Ky.) Chamber of Commerce, former board member of the Spencer County (Ky.) Tourism Board and former vice president of the National Association of Women in Construction, Bluegrass Chapter (Lexington, Ky.). Markwell lost her daughter Cindy – who was a mother of two herself – to cancer in 2013. Cindy’s children, Lucas and Samuel, are a big part of Markwell’s life, as is her son, Kris Fields.

    Softening the Grief

The Party No One Wants To Plan

    People rarely like to dwell on the fact that they or a loved one will die someday, even though it’s an inevitable part of life.

    From a practical standpoint, we would make preparations to ensure that survivors aren’t placed in financial jeopardy, and that they know the deceased person’s final wishes.

    “But the reality is that people procrastinate because the topic is too painful to think about,” says Susan Alpert, author of Later is Too Late: Hard Conversations That Can’t Wait (

    Alpert, who lost her husband suddenly after 46 years of marriage, knows from experience about the confusion, chaos and disastrous financial consequences that occur, and she believes it’s time for people to make a change in their thinking and planning about death.

    “No one wants to admit that life has an end, but picture your spouse, your children, your parents, or anyone else you hold dear,” she says. “What would their lives be like if you died and hadn’t properly prepared your estate and legal documents?”

    Survivors also are often left to make decisions about funerals or memorial services while they are still grieving. Just 23 percent of people over age 50 have planned for their funeral or burial, according to the AARP. Meanwhile, funerals come with a hefty price tag that keeps rising, with the average cost in 2014 at $7,181, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

    “Making arrangements for your own funeral may feel surreal,” Alpert says. “But imagine the pain others will have dealing with that if you don’t step up and do it for them – and take care of the cost now if possible.” The good news, she says, is that despite the emotion involved, preparing for death can be handled over time and at your own pace, although it does require motivation and organization.

    Among the things to consider:

  • Collect important documents and details in one place. Some of the personal information that should be gathered together would include names of your doctors, your bank accounts, Social Security information, life insurance policies, a will and anything else that’s critical to your estate. Having all the important personal information in one place makes a huge difference in reducing stress and making the process easier for the person or persons left behind.

  • Plan that funeral. It’s not a pleasant topic, but it’s natural to wonder how our lives will be honored after death. Our vision might not be the same as family members, Alpert says, so it’s important to decide how and where the final resting place will be and whether there should a funeral or a memorial service. Do you want a burial or cremation? Do you prefer an old-fashioned obituary or a simple social media announcement?

  • Hire experts. “There is a business for every need, and the arena of death is no exception,” Alpert says. Try contacting a team of professionals – attorneys, accountants, financial advisors – who can help sort through all the financial and legal details ahead of time so there are fewer challenges to face at the time of death.

  • “The best way to honor a loved one’s legacy is to ensure that his or her wishes are carried out after death,” Alpert says. “But that shouldn’t happen at the expense of a budget when you’re grieving and can’t make clear decisions.”

    About Susan Alpert
    Susan Covell Alpert, author of Later is Too Late: Hard Conversations That Can’t Wait (, is a lecturer, consultant, entrepreneur and frequent guest on national radio and television shows. Alpert, who holds a master’s degree in psychology and education, has been the owner of several multi-million dollar companies and is experienced in negotiation, finance, international services, and business. Alpert also is author of Driving Solo: Dealing with Grief and the Business of Financial Survival.

Famous African-Americans Who Have Passed On

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Della Reese -   Della Reese, the husky-voiced singer and actress who spent almost a decade playing a down-to-earth heavenly messenger on the CBS series “Touched by an Angel” and became an ordained minister in real life, died 11/19/2017. She was 86.
Earle Hyman -   Earle Hyman, actor of screen and stage best known as Grandpa Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," died 11/17/2017 at age 91. Hyman's death was first reported by Broadway Black.
Keith Wilder -   Keith Wilder, the singer of the influential Seventies funk outfit Heatwave, died 10/29/17 at the age of 65. Wilder's cousin and bandmate, Billy Jones, told that Wilder was suffering from health problems and died in his sleep. No specific cause of death has been revealed.
Fats Domino -   Legendary artist Fats Domino has died age 89, according to local reports from New Orleans. The American singer, pianist and recording artist pioneered rock and roll and inspired countless artists. His daughter confirmed his death, saying he died peacefully surrounded by family.
Robert Guillaume -   Emmy Award-winning actor Robert Guillaume, best known as the title character in the TV sitcom “Benson,” died. He was 89. His wife Donna Brown Guillaume told the Associated Press he died at their Los Angeles home.
Charles Bradley -   Charles Bradley, the acclaimed soul singer and live dynamo who saw his career ascend late in life, has died following a long bout with cancer. He was 68.
Bernie Casey -   Bernie Casey, best known for his scene-stealing role in Revenge of the Nerds and as the star of I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, has died at the age of 78. The actor’s rep confirmed that he died peacefully in a Los Angeles hospital Tuesday, surrounded by loved ones.
Dick Gregory -   Dick Gregory, the pioneering black satirist who transformed cool humor into a barbed force for civil rights in the 1960s, then veered from his craft for a life devoted to protest and fasting in the name of assorted social causes, health regimens and conspiracy theories, died 8/19 in Washington. He was 84.
Ken Norton -   Ken Norton died at age 70 years old on 6/14/2017 at a Veterans Affairs' medical facility in Henderson, Nevada, according to Gene Kilroy, who had managed Ali and more recently visited Norton as he recovered from a stroke.
Cortez Kennedy -   Seahawks Hall of Fame defensive lineman Cortez Kennedy died at age 48. Orlando police confirmed Kennedy’s death to the Blytheville Courier News, saying there was "nothing suspicious" about it. An investigation is ongoing.
Christopher 'Big Black' Boykin -   Big Black" Boykin, half of MTV's "Rob & Big" duo, died on 5/8/2017, his rep confirmed to Variety. He was 45. No official cause of death yet, but multiple people connected to Chris tell us they believe it was a heart attack.
Cuba Gooding Sr. -   was found dead in a parked vehicle in California Thursday afternoon. 4/20/17. Gooding was reportedly slumped over in his silver Jaguar, which was parked on Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills. The fire department attempted CPR, but could not resuscitate him.
Linda Hopkins -   whose soaring, gospel-rooted voice was heard on Broadway in the 1970s in “Inner City” and the one-woman show “Me and Bessie,” and in the 1980s in the long-running revue “Black and Blue,” died 4/10/17 in Milwaukee. She was 92.
Charlie Murphy -   the older brother of Eddie Murphy, a Chappelle's Show star and an accomplished comedian in his own right, died 4/12/17 in New York City. He was 57. Murphy's cause of death was leukemia.
Lonnie Brooks -   whose relationship with his adopted home was cemented by his hit recording of Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago," died at age 83.
Chuck Berry -   whose rollicking songs, springy guitar riffs and onstage duck walk defined rock & roll during its early years and for decades to come, died on March 18th. Berry was 90 years old.
Derek Walcott -   The literary world has lost one of its lions. Sir Derek Walcott, the Nobel Prize winning poet and playwright has passed away. He was 87.
Auntie Fee -   Viral internet sensation Auntie Fee has passed away after spending three days on life support. The video cook's March 14 heart attack led to her untimely death.
Walter "Junie" Morrison -   was a musician and record producer. He was a member of the Ohio Players in the early 1970s, and later became the musical director of P-Funk (Parliament-Funkadelic). Morrison died on January 21, 2017, at the age of 62.
Joni Sledge -  Singer Joni Sledge, founding member of the iconic musical group Sister Sledge, has passed away. According to a statement released by the group’s reps, Sledge was found unresponsive at her home in Phoenix, Arizona on March 10 and was later pronounced dead. She was 60.
Leon Ware -  renowned songwriter, producer and singer who penned hits for artists like Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones, died at 77 on 2/23/17.
Clyde Stubblefield -  James Brown's 'Funky Drummer' Clyde Stubblefield, who created famous drum break that was sampled on over 1,000 songs, dies at 73 on 2/18/2017. He had been suffering from kidney disease for 10 years.
Al Jarreau -  Just days after announcing that he was retiring from touring after being hospitalized for exhaustion, legendary jazz singer Al Jarreau passed away 2/12/17 Sunday morning in Los Angeles.
Eddie Long, -  the embattled pastor of Georgia megachurch, New Birth Missionary Baptist, has died from an “aggressive form of cancer” 1/15/17 according to the church. He was 63 years old.


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