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On Death and Dying
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Margret Kress Memorial Page

7-11-07 - Andrew Main writes about the photos of Thomas Kelly, one of which might be the one Maggie Kress was admiring when she had her fatal stroke, others on the Aghora of India who practice in graveyards and more.

I mentioned in the report on Maggie's memorial that a photographer named Thomas Kelly was with her in her last moments. I heard him on the radio the following week; turns out he's a Santa Fe native who's lived in Nepal for decades, traveled around the world photographing remarkable people and places for clients like Time magazine, NY Times and other major international publications, and is in town for a show of his photographs at a local gallery.

So I went to the gallery's website, and found a most impressive collection of photographs. The first two in particular caught my eye: "Aghora Path" and "Aghori". I went to Wikipedia and searched for "Aghora", which turned out to be a Hindu sect of yogis who practice in graveyards or cremation grounds, smear their bodies with corpse ashes, drink from skull cups, etc.

The article says "Aghori means non-terrifying in Sanskrit, and may refer to how members of the sect view death." Indeed, the dictionary gives "ghora: venerable, awful, sublime; terrific, frightful, terrible, dreadful, violent." (And the "a-" is the usual Indic negative prefix.) (Actually, it's "aghora" that means non-terrifying; "aghori" is a person who embodies or practices said quality, as in yoga/yogi.)

Anyway, I thought of the recent discussions at, and thought you might be interested and would also like to see the photos -- there are a lot, from Nepal, India, Tibet, tribal Africa, China and the Amazon. A couple of Mount Kailash, one of which I suppose might have been the last thing Maggie saw in this world. It's an impressive mountain from any angle.

Another Wikipedia article was also interesting, about Bhagwan Ramji, an "Aghori saint" in India -- which includes a link to an ashram in Sonoma (!) apparently headed by a disciple of said saint. Looks like a nice place; apparently they don't emphasize the more distinctive practices of the aghoris in India.

P.S.: Here's a direct link to the photo of Mt. Kailash which I suspect -- I like to think, anyway -- might have been the one Maggie was looking at [when she had her fatal stroke]. This is only a conjecture, based on what I remember of the story Thomas Kelly told at the memorial. I haven't spoken with him about it.

In the radio interview, he said the Chinese are now building roads and other development around the mountain, so I guess things will be different there pretty soon. I suppose at least we can hope they won't build a tram to the top. "Everything changes."


8-16-07 - Andrew writes further - I've heard from Thomas Kelly; I think he's saying I have it right about which photo Maggie was perusing:

"I'll go through the website and let you know but in short, you have in correct: Maggie and I were sitting at her dining table while I was showing her pages from my Tibet Bonpo book about the Inner Kailash Kora when she collapsed into the folds of the book. She died in the Inner Kora where she wanted to be in the summer of 2008. I was hoping to take her there and now I can rest knowing she's already there!"

He's just returning from a tour in Mongolia, and says he'll write more later. BTW, the title of the photo I linked is "Inner Kora, Mt. Kailash, Tibet." And here's a link to his information page at the gallery. And this is the book.

See the photographs of Thomas Kelly

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