Mary Beth Keaney began volunteering at L’Arche through the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in 2015. For the next two years, Mary Beth faithfully spent Monday afternoons at Highland House and Friday afternoons at 6th Street House.
While with us, she eagerly and easily jumped into daily life at L’Arche; playing games, washing dishes, cutting vegetables in preparation for dinner, hanging out on the front porch, checking in on members of the home (core and assistant family members alike), and doling out hugs.
When Mary Beth walked in the door, she brought with her a gentle and easy spirit, and as a result, we often affectionately referred to her as our “L’Arche Grandmother” (even the oldest member in community who was clearly older than her). She also shared her family, as she invited her granddaughters into our homes a number of times; as well as invited us into her spaces by having us in her home and many of us out to her lake house. Laurie, from 6th Street house, remembers her “always bringing love, joy, beautiful smile… and of course, friendship!”
Charles remembers how much Mary Beth reminded him of his mom and how comforted he felt by her presence. I personally knew that Mary Beth was more than just a volunteer when I was having my own health scares and she offered to take me into the hospital for a procedure and then took care of me in her home afterwards. When Mary Beth shared with us that she had breast cancer, we were all devastated along with her.
As we L’Archies are pretty good at doing, we tried our best to rally around Mary Beth through letters of encouragement, drawings, video messages, and prayers – and continued to do so throughout the year. About two months ago, Mary Beth shared she had some good results on a test and, likewise, we rejoiced with her. It was, therefore, all the more difficult to learn that she had a turn for the worse and went into hospice care, shortly followed by her passing. For those of us who knew her, we are each grieving in our own way, but can all agree we are grateful to have known her and experienced her friendship.
Tamarah Bush is a longtime L’Arche assistant in our DC and Virginia communities. She will be attending Princeton Theological Seminary in July.