Asides: Headlines from the week

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IT IS WRITTEN that there is a time for every purpose under heaven, and while it is more cheerful to think about the time to be born, the time to die demands some thought, too. Pittsburgh area residents have apparently given it some. A survey by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that 53 percent of the people who died in Allegheny County in 2009-10 used hospice services compared with the national rate of 42 percent. (The national rate is about 44 percent now.) Hospice care brings comfort to the dying in ways that traditional hospital services do not. It marshals staff and volunteers who specialize in end-of-life care that avoids futile interventions and makes dying patients as comfortable as they can be as nature takes its course. In the end, a good life deserves a good death — a wisdom that Pittsburghers understand more than most.

NOT THAT LIFE is always easy — and those who work in the Allegheny County Department of Human Services know this better than anyone. They serve some 200,000 people a year who have myriad needs. The leader of the 950-strong department is Marc Cherna, a native New Yorker who will turn 63 this week. He came to Pittsburgh in 1996 to head the county’s children and youth services and is credited with turning that dysfunctional operation around. He has done a fine job at Human Services, too. Last week it was announced that the Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest foster child organization, had awarded him its Casey Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Child Welfare Leadership. Congratulations to him and his staff.

THE POLAR VORTEX made life difficult for Pittsburghers and much of the nation last week, and forecasters at week’s end were predicting a brief let-up, then another plunge to frigid temperatures. But Pittsburghers seem to be taking the cold in stride. Although last year’s easy winter may have spoiled some people, harsh winters remain part of the local DNA. Besides, it is also written, although not in the Old Testament, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” It may seem hopelessly cold now, but in Punxsutawney in just a week a groundhog will be stirring.

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