Be ready for surprises.

Mrs. MacDowell was 101 years old. I met her when she was living with her granddaughter, Moira. Moira had three teenagers. My visit was the last of my week, and when I entered her house it was pure fun and chaos. It was four hours before the senior prom, and the house was a cacophony of girls singing over their blow dryers motors, competing rap, hip hop and country music throughout the house and the endearing sight of mothers being rejected as they pinned boutonnières and picked dust off the lapels of their sons’ ill-fitting tuxedoes.

Mrs. MacDowell had been moved into her 15-year-old grandson’s room. Moira impatiently instructed, “Move the fighting guys and take the bubblegum girly posters off the wall and clear a spot on your dresser that the nurses can put their equipment on. Oh, before you go downstairs, can you nail her cross on the wall?” His bed was dismantled and he was shipped to the basement to live. Before Gran moved in he had decided to duct tape a Rocky poster to the ceiling over her hospital bed in case she “needs inspiration.”

The Surprise happened after an impromptu serenade by the girls with brushes in their hair. Combined with the quiet realization she was on end of life care−Mrs. MacDowell chose to die.


Yep; she died right then and there in the middle of all the fun.


When I saw her take that deep quick breath with the catch at the top, all I could manage to say was “Oh shit.” Then I shouted out to everyone, “You better get in here. Now!” Everyone stood there looking at her. My comment, “Um, sometimes people choose to go at the oddest times” fell on deaf ears.

Then the beautiful Irish traditions began. The window was opened to allow Mrs. MacDowell’s soul to be on it’s journey, her crucifix was taken off the wall and placed in her folded hands. Even among their disbelief of the timing of her death, her family and friends began reciting ancient Gaelic prayers and sharing wonderful memories.


Embrace everything. Push nothing away.





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