Maddy died on April 7th, 1998, and even as she died, she taught us about life. She taught us about compassion and courage and creativity. About how to care for those who struggle and how to laugh in the face of absurdity. She taught us to walk lightly through our lives, leaving the marks of our footsteps behind us.  She taught us by showing us how she lived and how she died. 

Climbing a mountain in Austria was one of Maddy’s dreams, and after four years of climbing the rough face of another type of mountain, Ewing’s Sarcoma, she has reached its summit. Through her vantage point on the very top, I believe that she can see the majesty of a world that she touched so gently and changed so remarkably. 

Maddy’s music and her poetry and her incredible zest for living...her writing and her humor, her gift for making  the best of every situation and her passion to fix the world and make it a softer place are a legacy that she leaves us all.  She lives forever in memories tucked away and in her words on the World Wide Web. Words with such power that we will feel them, and find comfort in them, and listen to them echo from that very grand mountain peak...a peak that separates what we know from what we have yet to learn. 

The philosopher Kahlil Gibran wrote of death, and his words remind me of Maddy. I have a hunch that she would have loved them. 

“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.” 

Maddy's story Maddy's sister Maddy's poetry Maddy's brother
About waterbugs
Talking to children about death

Camp Heaven

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Joan Fleitas,  Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468

Last updated: November 14, 2004