Mary Alice Duffy
Adapted from: "Mary Alice Duffy Finally 'Goes for the Gold'" by Micheletta McGee, RSM
In a photo album entitled, "This is My Life," Mary Alice Duffy, born the daughter of Mary and Francis Duffy on June 12, 1944, captioned her baby picture "A Bundle of Joy." Those of us who knew and loved Mary Alice would indeed agree, she was a bundle of joy and much, much more.
Our friendship began when we were 14 years old. Memories of our high school days bring a smile to my face, although at the time we were not always laughing. Mary Alice was a risk taker by nature and possessed a spirit of mischievousness and lightheartedness. As you can imagine, we often found ourselves in the thick of things. Enough said! This quality of risk taking deepened with time. She lived boldly and courageously which readied her, it seems, for the fortitude and faith she would need to live her life to the fullest as a three-time kidney transplant recipient.
Devotion and love characterized her relationship with her dearest friend, her mother. In spite of her physical challenges since the early '70s, Mary Alice lived with and cared for her father, grandmother, and mother over the years. As one friend said, "Suffering never turned Mary Alice in on herself." For several years she became active in volunteer work, sharing her time and talent coaching volleyball and basketball and at times assisting with gym classes in her parish school. Much time and energy was expended as a volunteer at the Delaware Valley Transplant Program with Liaisons for Life to promote organ donation. "If one person gets off dialysis because of my story, then it's all been worth it." Mary Alice delivered Meals on Wheels and visited her Mom every day in a lifecare facility. While there she often ran errands for folks. One of the staff, upon hearing of Mary Alice's death, spoke through her tears, "I am really sorry to hear this news. l really liked Miss Duffy and will miss her. From her I learned devotion and compassion for the elderly."
Over the years, Mary Alice alternated between dialysis and three kidney transplants. Yes, the life/death cycle became a familiar rhythm in her life. Truly, she lived her life with passion and in the service of the gospel, serving as an Associate in Mercy. Many persons benefited from her compassionate ways.
Life was not a spectator sport for Mary Alice. She participated twice in the US Transplant Games, most recently last August in Salt Lake City, Utah. "Although I will be going down on the plane ride to the Games by myself, I know that in reality I won't be really by myself but part of a very special community," she said to a reporter for the Delaware County News. In the '93 games she took a silver medal in badminton and a bronze in the softball toss. As a member of Team Philadelphia '96. she brought home a bronze medal for her back stroke in the swimming competition.
Even in her dying process Mary Alice thought of others.
As recently as last spring, she expressed a fear of dying alone. Those fears were allayed as one by one her friends and brother arrived to keep vigil by her side praying, singing hymns and witnessing her moving closer to her lifetime goal. This time she was going for the gold. Even in her dying process Mary Alice thought of others. "Isn't anyone tired?" "No need to stay." "Go home," were just some of the phrases she printed on her tablet. She offered us reassurances. "I have no concerns. I am ready to meet my Maker." I was deeply touched when, unable to speak, she gave me a "thumbs up" sign. (Editor's note: Mary Alice amazed us too, when we visited her in those final, seemingly unresponsive days, to see her "thumbs up" signal as we left her room.) What a blessing and a privilege to be that "special community" which accompanied her in her final labor of love the labor of love which brought her to the finish line, to the winning of the gold and into the eternal embrace of her loving and merciful God. Oh, what joy and rejoicing there will be when we all meet again in heaven!
The day after her passing, following a viewing of Mary Alice's arm-raised celebration of victory poster at the DVTP Team Philadelphia '96 dinner, tear-filled friends gathered for the releasing of a dozen Monarch butterflies (a sign of angels among us) in her memory. While Mary Alice will be missed by all, her smile will always bring warmth to our hearts.