Embracing Death


2014-0805 Maire Catilin KentWhen he shared the story, my initial thought was I should not repost the story. After reading the story just once, I concluded the story was about Maire Caitlin Kent who died of cardiac sarcoma when she was 24. I thought the story was interesting, and it might appeal to some people, but I was reluctant to repost the story. However, I read the article again and realized there is much more to the story than I originally realized.

The following explanations for my initial reaction seem most likely:

  • I am not comfortable talking or writing about death.
  • I am concerned the people who read my posts might not be comfortable reading about death.
  • I am uncomfortable with the connection between cancer and death. Although I was not diagnosed with cardiac sarcoma, I was diagnosed with a brain cancer.

Death is mentioned in many religious, spiritual, and philosophical texts. However, I ultimately decided to repost the article not for religious, spiritual, or philosophical reasons, but because I realized the story was about the same topics that interest survivors — attitude, patience, research, planning, decision making,  goal setting, success, and survival.

Maire’s Wish

It was her wish to have her ashes journey out to sea in order to travel the world. A book that she and her siblings read growing up, “Paddle to the Sea” inspired this idea that she had. This is a story about a little boy who carved a wooden canoe with an Indian in it so that it could travel the Great Lakes and make it all the way to the sea. Maire loved this story and thought that this would be a great ending for her journey.

With the help of a blind woodworker named George Wurtzel, who’s based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Maire’s wish is on its way to becoming a reality. After meeting with Maire just a few weeks before she died, George was able to give her a brief glimpse of what her boat would look like.

In the weeks after her death, George has tirelessly worked to complete this boat for Maire. Here is a look at the progress.

Maire’s entire story will be documented, including her boat’s journey, in a film series created by filmmaker Keith Famie. The series is titled “The Embrace of Dying: how we deal with the end of life.”

View the trailer here.

In the wake of Maire’s death, her doctor, cardio-oncologist Monika Leja at the University of Michigan, has worked with the university to establish the Maire Kent Memorial Fund for Cardiac Tumor Research. To learn more or make a donation click here.

To view a photo slideshow of George working on Maire’s boat click here.


Thank you to Roger for sharing the story with me; Maire Caitlin Kent for sharing her story; and the many people who, directly or indirectly made it possible to include the picture, video, and text I used in this post.


  1. The young woman impressed me with her courage and generosity to share one of the most difficult intimate times in her life. During her struggle she was able to continue to love and support others.

    “Your time to die” reminded me to contemplate my death and drastically change the way I live now, again and fill my life with greater appreciation for the gift of life, quickly deliver my overdue apologies, messages of gratitude, love and forgiveness, and reevaluate my goals to make sure they will help me accomplish what I consider most important before I die.

    1. Esther, hopefully you are not planning to die any time in the near future. However, I think it is a great idea to plan for the inevitable and enjoy life while you can.

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