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MACKBOOK .pdf



Original filename: MACKBOOK.pdf
Author: Mack

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MACKENZIE KATHLEEN McDERMOTT
1994 ~ 2014

St. Louis, 2013

INTRODUCTION ………………………………………………………………. 4
I. HER LIFE…………………………………………………………………….. 8
II. HER WORDS ………………………………………………………………. 42
Personal Essays ……………………………………………………….. 44
Politics …………………………………………………………………… 70
Poetry ……………………………………………………………………. 83
Fiction …………………………………………………………………….106
Music & Culture ………………………………………………………. 122
Correspondence ……………………………………………………….. 146
III. EPILOGUE …………………………………………………………………186

INTRODUCTION
I began compiling this book in October 2014, in the first weeks after the sudden death of
my daughter, Mackenzie. It started as an attempt to preserve her writing: newspaper columns
from high school and college, essays, reviews, fiction, poetry, political pieces. By Mack’s
twentieth year, writing was a central part of her life, and it had become a connection point
between us. My last conversation with her, an email exchange three days before she died, had
been about her latest piece of fiction and her plans for it. In those first hellish weeks after we lost
her, as her mother Stacy and her sister Savannah and I struggled with our shock and heartbreak, I
found some relief in searching out her written words.
The idea, initially, was simply to collect her writing so that family and friends could read
it. I would get up early most mornings, often before dawn, to sit at the long dining room table
that Mack helped me assemble last summer, pour a cup of coffee, open her laptop computer, and
gather up her words. The words were scattered in various places: her class papers, the Truman
State University media website, the texts and emails she’d sent us, and in the computer itself,
which we’d retrieved from her room in Spain. I found much more writing than we’d known was
out there. Pulling it all together was a complicated task that required some focus, a welcome
distraction from the grief. The words were a comfort to read. Her voice—passionate, smart,
sardonic, young—suffused it all. Reading it, I could almost hear her saying the words.
Most people understand that there’s nothing worse than losing a child, but until you’re
there, it’s impossible to describe how difficult it is even to function. One of the things you look
for is a reason to get out of bed. This project became that for me. It came to feel like I was
spending my mornings with Mack. Stacy had her blog, Savannah had her travels, I had this.
As I organized her writing, I added a few photos to the words, just to visually break up
the copy. Then I added more of them. There were so many photos of her available—thousands of
old prints that Stacy kept in boxes in our bedroom closet, thousands more digital images in our
computers, cell phones and social media. The pictures, like the writing, provided a connection to
Mackenzie that I badly needed. I liked the stories that the pictures told, alongside the words.
Soon, the writing collection was doubling as a scrapbook.

4

A collection of writing needs context—who was the writer, what were the circumstances
behind her writing?—so I tried to provide that. It started as a few short notes about her writing,
then more extensive narratives about the writer behind it, and then the words that others had
written to and about her. In telling the story of her words, I found myself telling the story of her
life.
And that’s what this project finally became: the story of Mack’s life, told in her words
and in her images, in the correspondence that her friends and family had with her while she lived,
and in memorials that so many people who loved her wrote to her after she died.
I dread the end of this project; I’ve loved having these mornings with my girl. But she
deserves this book, so I’m finishing it. My hope is that those who knew her will recognize her in
these pages, and that those who didn’t know her will get to meet her. And that her words will in
some small way keep this amazing young woman alive.

Kevin McDermott
St. Louis, Missouri
March 1, 2015

Her Christmas gift to her dad, 2012

5

HER LIFE

6

HER LIFE

I. HER LIFE
Mackenzie Kathleen McDermott was born on March
17, 1994—St. Patrick’s Day—at St. John’s Hospital
in Springfield, Illinois.

She died on October 7, 2014, in her apartment in
Burgos, Spain, of an adrenal deficiency due to
Addison’s disease.

Mack packed more life into her twenty years, six
months and twenty days than most people ever do.
She was a natural athlete, a sharp wit, a steadfast
friend, a promising writer. She saw California and
Florida, Mexico and Honduras, Ireland and Spain.
She loved animals, her acoustic guitar, bacon,
political satire, and the color purple. She disliked
insects, tomatoes, social injustice, and mornings.

>
7

HER LIFE

She grew up in Springfield, in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln. It had been his
hometown, his political base and his burial site. Mack’s street was named after Lincoln, her
historian-mother’s job revolved around Lincoln, her dad initially wrote for the same Springfield
newspaper that had published Lincoln’s Whig screeds when he was starting out in politics. As a
teenager, she worked one summer at her mother’s office, processing Lincoln documents. “The
weight of Lincoln’s legacy is a heavy burden to bear . . . it is also hard to get that thing off your
back,” Mack quipped in a 2012 essay about growing up in Springfield. “Lincoln is everywhere.”
She was a late talker and an early walker, the mirror-opposite of what her gabby,
immobile older sister Savannah had been. Macko, as we called her early on (the “o” would later
drop), was toddling around at nine months, and breaking things, gleefully, from the time she
could reach them. “She was strong beyond her size, and she always left a path of destruction
behind her,” her mother Stacy wrote in a blog entry entitled “Macko the Terrible.” We once
turned our backs long enough for her to get hold of our new stereo system, and within moments
the CD loader was ripped out and hanging from its wires and she was flinging CDs over her
shoulders with both hands. Getting her into a car
seat was a wrestling match every time.
“I still remember Mr. Hathaway walking
into my kindergarten classroom to tell me my little
sister had just been born. I was so excited to meet
you,” her sister Savannah wrote to Mack from
Spain upon Mack’s eighteenth birthday. “You
were a pain in the ass of a kid—always getting into
everything and breaking shit and just making so, so
much noise—but even when I was annoyed with
you, I always thought it was pretty awesome to
have a sister.” (Mack responded: “I've always
looked up to you to see what you do . . . and then
do the opposite . . .”)
As soon as we could, we channeled Mackenzie’s destructive energy into sports. At age
five she was playing organized basketball. She took taekwondo starting in Kindergarten,
eventually reaching the rank of green belt. At seven, she was the only girl on a boys’ tackle

>
8


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