By Mary-Ellen Davis, News Editor
Photo by Mary-Ellen Davis, The Towerlight
Towson University members gathered at Speakers Circle for a candlelight vigil Monday night as they mourned the loss of one of their own.
Mariana “Mighty Mare” McConnie, a deaf studies major and active sorority member of Delta Phi Epsilon, died Jan. 19 after fighting a lifelong battle against cystic fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis, often referred to as CF, is a progressive, genetic disease that causes lung infections and often limits the ability to breathe in the affected person.
Despite her struggle with CF, sorority sister Kelly Cadwallader said that McConnie was someone who lived up to Delta Phi Epsilon’s motto, “Esse quam videri.”
“It means to be, rather than seem to be,” Cadwallader said. “It means to take action and live to be the person you want to be, rather than seem to be someone you’re not. When I met Mariana McConnie, she exuded strength, humor, compassion, persistence, intelligence, love and acceptance of anyone that was brave enough to live their lives authentically and unapologetically, just as she did.”
Over the course of her life, McConnie had two double lung transplants. The first took place in 2014 and the second in March of 2018.
“She fought as hard as she could until the very moment she died” said Kayla Hester, McConnie’s sorority big. “But we can all find peace in knowing she is breathing deeper and easier than ever in the presence of the lord.”
Hester received a call from McConnie’s mother just days before her death, telling her to come to the hospital as quickly as she could. Following McConnie’s passing, Hester was one of the people to help sort through McConnie’s room, where she found a black journal with a list of people she had hoped to write letters to.
“Following a letter to her parents, there was a page that contained two words, and nothing else,” Hester told those who gathered. “‘Dear Kayla.’ One of my sisters put it perfectly. Mariana and I had our own language.”
Hester now has those two words tattooed on her arm as a way of always being able to read McConnie’s letter to her in their own language.
Father Matt Buening, Towson University’s Catholic chaplain, said that McConnie’s advocacy and fight against CF reminded him that, in a way, everyone is a transplant on Earth.
“We are all here in this broken world longing for something more, longing for a time when there will be no more division or disease, pain or suffering, and that as we grow and blossom, and shed our light here on earth, we know that we will one day grow in a place forever,” Buening said. “That there is no more pain where there is no more suffering, and in that wonderful place we remind ourselves that we are together.”
Hester urged the crowd to live the way McConnie did, and to not hold grudges.
“Mariana lived to ensure that everyone the crossed her path felt loved, and I encouraged you all to do the same,” she said.