Apples and Other Things: Memories of Maeve

by cindy

Sometimes, some people are just too extraordinary for this world to sustain. Sometimes, perhaps, their light, their glory, shines too brightly and simply cannot be contained. Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean was one of those. To lose her and her son Gideon is a tragedy beyond belief. It isn’t fair. It defies logic. It defies reason. And losing those we love, like Maeve and Gideon, hurts us to the deepest parts of our beings. In spite of our sorrow, however, we know that Maeve, being the force that she was, would rather us remember her with the effervescent joy that she shared. I thank the good Lord that she shared it with me.

For many of us, the earliest memory of Maeve would be of Maeve bursting. Bursting into a home. Bursting into a meeting. Bursting toward you with long, lean, outstretched arms and a lightbulb of a smile. She burst into our lives and immediately burst into our hearts. With her irrepressible smile and uncontainable energy, she managed to elevate the atmosphere of any gathering, large or small. She was Maeve. The mere mentioning of her name to anyone who also had the good fortune of knowing her would bring a smile and a nodding head, instant acknowledgment of her magnetic personality. Maeve the Magical.

The first time I met Maeve was a bit different. She and my daughter Erin, having become great friends during college, were driving home together for one college break or another. Maeve arrived at our home to deliver Erin before heading further down the highway to her home in Baltimore, about an hour away. It was late. It was dark. It was winter. The drive from Boston had been long and Maeve was feeling just a bit under the weather. That meant two things: one, there was little of her typical bursting and, two, the mom in me insisted she rest at our home for the night. After alerting her parents, she tumbled right into bed.

She awoke the next day feeling better. Upon hearing that she was hungry, my husband Dave and I went into high gear with breakfast planning. 

“Bacon? Eggs? Pancakes? French Toast? Fried eggs? Scrambled eggs? English muffins! Oh, did I mention eggs? Oatmeal? What sounds good to you, Maeve?”

“Umm…Do you have any fruit? Maybe a banana? Or an apple?”

Thus, began what I believe may be a slightly unique connection in our friendship with Maeve.

She loved fruit. All kinds of fruit, the fresher the better. From that point forward, if I knew Maeve was coming to our house, I made certain I had a large bowl of assorted fresh fruit. And when she left, I also made sure she took a hefty helping of the fruit with her, along with, maybe, some home baked cookies. Maybe.

Erin and Maeve continued to build on their friendship and generously brought us into their happy world whenever possible. Even over summers, she and Maeve spent as much time together as their various internships would allow. Maeve spent time with us, cheerfully fitting in with any plans we may have already made. Pool party? Yes. Birthdays? Oh, yes! Trips to Farmers Markets? Absolutely yes!

Our local Farmers Market was a particular favorite. While visiting us for one weekend, Maeve joined Erin and me on a jaunt to the local market. There, we each took advantage of the stunning array of fresh fruit and vegetables. Maeve was enchanted with all of it and enthusiastically (was there anything she didn’t do enthusiastically?) bought quite a bagful of fruit: plums, strawberries, nectarines and, probably, an apple or two. As we rode home in Erin’s little car, Maeve munched happily away, excited to take the rest of her fruit with her when she returned home later that day.

Not long after, Erin returned to Boston, leaving her car in our driveway. There it sat for the rest of the summer, through sunshine and rain, humidity and heat. As autumn arrived, I decided I should drive it for a bit, just to make sure the car was still in running order. 

In I hopped. After slowly pulling out of the driveway, I began to smell something odd. I rolled down the window thinking (hoping?) the smell came from outside. It did not. The smell continued to gradually increase. Could there be something inside the car? I wasn’t sure until I came to a sudden stop. It was then that I heard an alarming slurrrsh followed by an overwhelmingly foul odor. I pulled over to investigate. There, under the front passenger seat, I found what was left of Maeve’s bag of Farmers Market fruit, nicely liquified. Obviously, the fruit had never made it down the road to Baltimore on that summer’s day. Maeve is unforgettable for many reasons, but this memory is likely to be uniquely ours.

A few years later, I was asked to prepare the centerpieces for Maeve and Dave’s wedding. “Nothing fussy” I was told. “Just something simple and kinda functional, like fruit or something. Green, too. I like green.” 

I was delighted and began busily testing ideas and sending photos of prototypes to them. One idea after another was rejected, always politely, always patiently, and always with the caveat, “Just keep it simple. Like maybe, I don’t know, like maybe apples. Green apples.” Eventually, I got the message. Apples. Lots and lots of green apples. Green apples everywhere. She did allow me to throw some votives and such around the tables too, but in the end, apples perfectly fit the day, the bride, and the party.

Maeve and Dave became members of our family. We shared some holidays, even a Christmas here or there. We delighted in the birth of each of their children although it was Gideon whom we knew best. As the years went by, between raising three children of their own and being engaged in dynamic careers, we didn’t get to see them as often as we would have liked. We knew Gideon to be a miniature mixture of both his parents. We had no doubt that the future held great promise for him and, he for the future. We looked forward to the day when life settled down just a little and we could once again be together. We looked forward to that day when once again, Maeve, carrying on her hip whichever child needed her, came bursting into our home.

The last time I saw Maeve, David, and the children was at the Memorial Celebration for her grandfather. We had been thrilled to be invited and hoped to see each of them for a little bit after the program. There were a lot of people who evidently felt the same way, as many who sat like us in the audience wormed their way toward the family members who had been seated along the sides. It was crowded but we were determined. It had been far too long since we had seen this very special family. With my Dave trailing along behind me as best he could, I made the proverbial bee line toward the area where I had last spotted Maeve.  Alas, she was no longer there. Disappointed, I turned to Dave who agreed that we should probably leave.

Suddenly, a brilliant, energy-charged voice burst through the chaos. And there she was, grinning, laughing, eyes twinkling and arms outstretched toward us. May I just tell you how powerful her hugs were? Had I known what was to come, I would have never, ever let go.

We love you, Maeve. We love you, Gideon. We love you Dave and Gabriella and Toby. If there can be any consolation in all of this tragedy it is perhaps that they are travelling though time and space together. The world is darker, true. The Universe has diminished in ways we will feel for the rest of our lives. We will go forward but not without a permanently deep and abiding sense of loss. 

It is always said that each day should be treasured as the gift that it is. Maeve did just that. She lived that. She treasured every person, every apple, every moment, every day. And perhaps that is the lesson she was put here to teach us. It is now our lesson to live. 

Maeve, Gideon, you are both so loved. Your lights will continue to shine in our hearts. Forever.