Tony Rossi, Director of Communications                                        

June 19 , 2022

Accompanying Dad Through Death Into Life 

Though Noreen Madden Mcinnes’s memoir is titled “Keep At It, Riley! Accompanying My Father

Through Death Into Life,” no one in her family is actually named Riley. It was simply the family motto,

passed from generation to generation, as a way to say, “You never give up, you never give in. You

just give it to the Lord. And what seems an annoyance or a problem, it’s really a blessing.” 

It was the motto by which Noreen’s father Frank lived his life to the fullest. During a “Christopher Closeup” interview, she described him as a people person whose warm and friendly personality remained with him through all his health struggles. For instance, Noreen recalled taking her dad to a rehab session in the hospital, filled with patients in wheelchairs. He was placed next to a sickly-looking man. Suddenly, this man happily exclaimed, “Frank!” With a big smile, Frank greeted him, saying, “Hello, Donald, how are you today?” 

“You could see this gentleman was so happy to see my dad,” said Noreen. “The nurse leans in and says to me, ‘Donald’s been here for three months, and he’s only said one word: Frank.’” 

“In those few minutes,” continued Noreen “I’m like, look at this poor person that’s sick and didn’t have any family with him. But just a smile and greeting [from my dad], and you see the dignity that he too is made in the image and likeness of God, regardless of his suffering, sickness and illness.” 

On the topic of dignity, Noreen added: “Keep At It, Riley! explains what dying with dignity is, where you are surrounded with love and care—and Christ is our accompaniment… Interestingly, in physician assisted suicide, the predominant reason for choosing that is that people feel that they do not want to be a burden on their loved ones, so they think this is the way to opt out of it. In describing my father, [he was] a gift…to me and all those around him in his last days. He wasn’t a burden; he was a gift. So this is in response to those that feel that they’ll be a burden on others: they can still be a gift, even though they’re sick. So many today don’t have that same strong faith in the Lord, so if they’re in their last days, ask for the sacraments, ask for Anointing of the Sick, ask for Communion, witness [your] strong faith. What better gift can you give than that?” 

Though Noreen still sheds tears talking about the loss of her father, she also expresses deep gratitude that she was able to serve him in his final months as an “anam cara,” which is an Irish term for a spiritual midwife who accompanies the dying from this life into their “eternal reward in heaven.” And again, her Catholic faith played the key role.  

Noreen observed that while the elderly sometimes seem to be on a downward spiral, becoming more sick and frail as time passes, “in reality, it’s a spiral upwards towards Heaven. They’re being called home to God…To accompany someone in that time is a gift…because it’s the Lord that is our anam cara, accompanying us…[I knew that my father would] be called home to the Lord, and I would meet him again one day. As sad as I am for myself without him here, I know he has his eternal reward.”