On Friday, July 22, 2016, Jubilant Madalyn Ross was rushed to the hospital with stroke symptoms. On Thursday, July 28, six days later, Madalyn died. She was 65 years old. She and her husband, Keith Calhoun, also a Jubilant, were to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary on August 17, 2016.
The day before she was taken to the hospital, Madalyn was full of life – planning a trip to Florida to help her mom and step-father move to Asheville and getting ready to go with Keith on a trip to celebrate their anniversary. But a freak thing happened with her body. Madalyn had some calcium build-up on her heart. The calcium shattered and sent hundreds of bits of it into her brain. Like shrapnel. It was a tragic and utterly unexpected death.
But, like any life or death, there is always more to it than you might imagine. Madalyn was a generously giving person. A big, big heart. Her sister, Marla, describes her as “a shining light. Radiating joy, love and laughter. She loved her family, friends, she loved travel, art, music, pottery, cooking and advocating for others.”
And advocating for others was, perhaps, the last thing she did on this planet. Her husband, Keith, tells it this way:
We brought Maddie in on Friday afternoon. She had started slurring her speech. She tried to write and couldn’t even do that. She said, “Just let me sleep;” but I could see something was badly wrong and realized that she had to be taken in. There in the hospital, she was not fully conscious and doctors began running tests and doing screenings. Maddie had always felt strongly about women’s rights. She was a caregiver straight up, and especially when it came to women. She was always doing everything she knew how to do for women. Maddie and I were always about giving to the less fortunate; but it was helping women become strong and find their place that really was Maddie’s passion.
She was clear that women had always gotten the short end of the stick in our world; and as I was waiting there with her, I suddenly realized that we had promised to bring food that night for the homeless women who were staying at Room In The Inn at Jubilee! And I knew that Maddie would definitely want me to go to the grocery store and get ice cream for the women. We had provided breakfast that day and had promised to bring dessert.
There was no question in my mind. Maddie and I had committed to this and she would definitely want me to do it…in fact, demand that I do it. So I left her at the hospital, went to the store, bought ice cream and took it to Jubilee! When I knocked on the door and someone came, I wanted to make sure she knew that this was from Maddie, so I said, “This is from Maddie Ross.” Because it was. Even from her deathbed, this was the way Maddie lived.
There are all kinds of ways to make your curtain call on this planet. All kinds of ways to bow out. Giving generously to others may be the best way yet. That was Maddie. And, as a little side note, awhile back, after we sang a Jimmy Buffet song on Sunday morning at Jubilee!, Maddie confided in me that when she was young, she met the young Jimmy Buffet in Key West and they became friends. Yet another reason to love Maddie.