Anne Flaherty McDowell

A week ago today one of my favorite people passed to the other side, my cousin Anne Flaherty McDowell. She would have been 51 if she had lived another month and she lived most of her life in Gilbert, AZ. Her mother is my Aunt Lee and my dad’s younger sister. Her father was my dear uncle Bob, who passed a couple of years ago. I grew up in CA and Anne and her siblings in AZ, but because my dad had a small plane and strong family ties to AZ, we saw them several times each year and usually did a cousin exchange once or twice a summer as kids. Anne and her sister Charlene were like two more sisters.

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Uncle Arden, Aunt Lee, Uncle David and Aunt Louise    

Anne died of breast cancer that was first diagnosed in 1995. She had surgery and chemo and a 7-year remission, but 6 years ago it came back in her bones as a stage 4 cancer. She has outlived the odds living as long as she did. I found out that she only went on hospice care a week or so before her death when they discovered that the cancer had destroyed her liver. Until then she was fighting it for all she was worth, trying the next chemo out there, knowing that there wasn’t a cure, but just trying to buy more time with her family. She loved life and fought hard for it, never complaining or whining.

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Cousins Tim Flaherty and Alayne Udall Faverau

Anne was a remarkable person. She was the bravest of all of us girl cousins (there were about 10 of us on the Udall side in a 4 year window) and most of the boys. She was the first one to try something difficult. She was fearless, but smart. She was always laughing and upbeat. I remember how at the family gathering where she told us about her mastectomy. She laughed at the perfect symmetry of it as her husband Jim had lost his left hand in an accident and she had lost her right breast! How I admired her courage, strength, and faith.

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Cousin Charlene Flaherty Hawkins and Me 

She and Jim seemed to have a wonderful marriage. I assume this because they both seemed so happy and they raised 5 wonderful sons who also seem well adjusted and happy as well. The boys (all eagle scouts) were the speakers at her funeral last Saturday and they made Anne and Jim proud I am sure. The service was only an hour and they painted a lovely sketch of Anne’s glorious life. The youngest son Matt would have graduated this week from high school, but graduation came a week early for him when school officials brought the ceremony to Anne in her bedroom the day before she passed so she could live to see all the boys graduate, one of her goals.

 

I found out about the funeral last Thursday night after 9 pm and was on my way down Friday by 9am. I called my cousin Dave Palmer to see if he would pick me up at the airport and put me up for two nights. It was wonderful to see my beloved cousins and aunts and uncles again down in AZ. It has been way too long. I just adore them all and feel such a strong bond to these people who were such a part of my youth.

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Cousin Dave Palmer’s daughter Jacklin and family dog Ginger 

At the viewing there were many photos of Anne on display. One of my favorites was one of her doing a handstand (she was a natural gymnast before tumbling lessons were available). It was so Anne. I had this strong mental image of her doing a handstand and round offs down the aisle at the church in front of her casket as they headed out to the hearse. I didn’t recognize that body in the casket as her; the spark, and the laugh were gone. Although I know she hated to leave her boys and Jim, how she must have rejoiced to leave that ravaged body.  Thank you Anne for being so much fun and for being such an example to me. We all have to jump off that inevitable cliff called the end of life someday and you have shown us how it is done.

This article about Ann appeared in an Arizona paper this week.

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