Meet our founder
My name is Maura McInerney-Rowley, and I founded Memento Mori to normalize talking about and preparing for end-of-life because the way our society handles death, dying, and grief is broken.
As a former wedding planner turned death doula with experience in early-stage startups and venture capital, I love creating meaningful experiences and building innovative solutions.
When I'm not working on Memento Mori, I enjoy snowboarding, trying new TikTok recipes, browsing homes on Zillow I can’t afford, playing with my nephew, and talking about death!
My first memory of my mom, Maureen, being sick was when I was six years old.
I walked across the hall to my parent's bedroom to get my coloring book. As I opened the door, I saw my mom lying in bed. She didn't look like her usual energetic self; she looked tired and in pain. My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer and undergone a mastectomy.
After almost a decade of being cancer free, my mom started to have dreadful back pain. She went to a doctor who told her it was probably just a disc issue, but the pain worsened to the point that she couldn't get out of bed. Then, on a recommendation from a doctor friend, Maureen got a CT Scan, in which they found her breast cancer had come back, spread, and eaten into her spine.
This was a challenging time for my family and there is a memory that sticks out in my brain. I was sitting downstairs in our tv room with my godmother Kris, who was helping me write a paper for my 9th-grade English class because I was struggling to concentrate, distracted by the sounds of my mom throwing up from chemotherapy.
Whether by infusion, pill, or a combination of both, my mother would receive chemotherapy for the rest of her life, but she hid it well. My mom was a badass, so it's no surprise that she had a survivor mentality (take the next chemo until it stops working and hope they develop new ones). Still, sometimes I wonder if the cancer "survivor mentality" in our society is partly to blame for why I never fully accepted she had a terminal diagnosis, to begin with.
In high school, I remember attending one of my mom's chemo appointments with her and her doctor told me that he called my mom "Miracle Maureen" because she had done really well on a treatment that only works for a small percentage of people. From that moment on, although I knew my mom would eventually die, I naively never thought it would be from cancer. She had made it this far; why not the rest of her life?
April - August, 2011
A few years passed, and I started to gain a sense of normalcy. However, that quickly changed during the spring of my sophomore year in college when my grandmother died. Then that summer, my uncle died, and in the fall, at the start of my junior year in college, I received a phone call that would change my life forever.
One day when my mom went in for a routine appointment, they discovered that the cancer was progressing but that she wasn't strong enough to receive treatment to fight it. Instead, her doctor suggested she go into hospice to receive comfort care, but Maureen, with her survivor mentality, resisted.
However, the doctors convinced her by promising she could come out of hospice if she became healthy enough to resume treatment.
Around this time, I was preparing to go on a spring semester study abroad in Argentina, so my mom asked the doctor if they thought she would still be around when I got back. The doctor said he could not guarantee that, so my parents thought they should let me know and bring me home from college.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was on my way to class, and I was nearly halfway there, crossing a parking lot when my phone rang. I picked it up, and all I remember hearing on the other line was, "you need to come home. Mom is dying." I collapsed onto the ground, sobbing hysterically and screaming.
I crawled like an infant to the nearest object that would block me from the view of my peers passing on their way to class. I crouched behind a dumpster crying my eyes out, as I sat rocking myself back and forth in the fetal position for what seemed like hours.
Only two weeks had passed between the time I got that phone call and when we held my mother's funeral. They were simultaneously the fastest and slowest two weeks of my life. While I am incredibly grateful that I could be by my mother's side to say goodbye at the time of her death, I felt completely unprepared and overwhelmed during the entire experience.
October 2011 - July 2021
I spent the next decade in and out of processing my grief. Sometimes dealing with it head-on and sometimes using substances to numb the pain. I was not ok but pretended like I was because I didn't know what else to do, and society expected me to return to normal after 6-12 months. This chapter of my life is a story for another time.
Fast forward to ten years later, about a week and a half before starting my second year of business school, I was attending a wedding where I was asked to read a poem about lost loved ones. The poem was significant to the bride and me, as we had bonded over having both lost parents in our early 20s.
Tragically, unbeknownst to everyone at the wedding, the poem would take on a deeper meaning when on the morning of the wedding, we learned a guest (one of the bride and groom's friends from college) had unexpectedly died the night before. The shocking and abrupt nature of this death, juxtaposed with a wedding, had my head spinning about how the deceased's family would handle logistics and that while they are entirely different events on different timelines, there are many similarities between planning a wedding and a funeral.
I left for a backpacking trip in Alaska the day after the wedding. So in the beautiful backcountry of Denali, without internet or cell service to distract me, I reflected upon what had just occurred. During the week-long trip, one guide (hey Sam!) asked me what the highs and lows of my 20s were. I immediately knew my low was my mother's death two months before my 21st birthday, but I struggled to name any highs amidst the intensity of my mother’s death.
Who knows if it was the topic that influenced the weather or vice versa, but the entire week-long trip was spent hiking in the freezing rain. Not the sunny Alaska in August I had envisioned. Later in the day, as I contemplated death, hiking up a rock face with no cell service or internet to distract me from my thoughts, I came across a tiny purple flower being whipped back and forth by the rain. I couldn’t believe that this little flower, growing out of the rockface, was so resilient and able to survive so high up on the mountain with no other life in sight. Then majestically, like out of a Disney movie, the clouds parted, and the sun came out, and I could see Denali for the first time in days. I sat down, soaked up the sunshine and the view, and had a moment of profound reflection, thinking about how peaceful it would be to die surrounded by nature with a magnificent view.
The next day, I had a very close call when I slipped in the mud going downhill and nearly fell off the face of the mountain due to the weight of my 60lb backpack. Causing me to pause again and reflect on how fleeting life can be.
On the last day of the trip, I hiked 7 miles out on a badly sprained ankle and flew home to Ann Arbor at 3 AM. When I arrived Sunday, I had less than 24 hours before my classes started on Monday. That Monday morning, I attended my New Venture Creation Class, and the concept for Memento Mori was born.
What's the meaning behind Memento Mori?
The concept of Memento Mori has a long history. Many cultures and civilizations have referenced it throughout the centuries. "Memento Mori" means "remember that you will die" in Latin.
However, the point of this reminder isn't to be morbid or promote fear but to remind people of their mortality and the impermanence of life. Contemplating and repeating the phrase will help you create meaning and purpose in life.
In fact, studies show that talking about your mortality makes you happier, healthier, and even funnier!
Memento Mori is here to help guide you through end-of-life planning with curiosity and compassion.
Provide a deeper understanding of death, dying and, ultimately, clarity of life purpose
Built by families, for families.
Memento Mori offers an easier and engaging way to design, document, and discuss end-of-life wishes.
Our goal is to normalize talking about and planning for end-of-life, so we can alleviate some of the burdens for you and your loved ones by preparing ahead.
If you're thinking to yourself...
"I'm young and healthy, I don't need to plan yet"
"I don't care what happens to me / or my family will take care of it."
"There's no point because I don't own anything of value."
Then you're missing the point.
Why make an end-of-life plan?
Why plan? By nature, we are planners, and we plan for everything!
We make a list for the grocery store and plan what to wear on a date. We plan birthday parties, weddings, and vacations. We prepare for college, births, and retirement. Yet most of us don’t want to think about or plan for death. Being proactive about planning is essential because we genuinely don’t know what will happen when.
As parents, you leave detailed instructions for a babysitter during the few hours or days you will be away from home.
Yet, 68% of Americans do not have a will outlining a guardian for their children or how they should be cared for. As a parent, you are responsible for ensuring that your children are taken care of if something happens to you.
As someone with parents over 65, you might have witnessed changes in their health with aging. Your parent(s) will soon need to prepare for lifestyle adjustments and how their living situation might change due to new or worsening health issues.
However, you probably haven't discussed their end-of-life wishes. Do you know if they want to be buried or cremated? Do you know who their medical power of attorney is? Do you know what their ideal death looks like? Despite 80% of Americans wanting to die at home, only 20% do, and most families are unprepared to take on the caregiver role. Please don't wait any longer to plan for the inevitable. Take control to ensure your loved ones are cared for, their stories are recorded, and their values are honored.
Are you retired or nearing retirement? Congratulations, you're about to or are experiencing some well-deserved time off! While we all hope to live long and healthy lives, life is fleeting and unpredictable. That's why creating an end-of-life plan is imperative.
When you die, your loved ones must make tough decisions about medical care, funeral arrangements, and financial matters. By creating an end-of-life plan, you can give them the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are carrying out your wishes. We know these topics can be challenging to discuss, but having these conversations and making a plan is essential. Don't leave your loved ones in the dark - take action today and create an end-of-life plan. It is a responsible and compassionate way to protect your family and yourself.
Perhaps you've done some planning.
Maybe you’ve thought about whether you want to be buried or cremated, but there is so much more for loved ones to know and make decisions on.
If you have more than one family member to make these decisions, odds are they won’t all agree. Getting people to agree on where to have dinner or what movie to see is hard enough. Imagine getting everyone to agree on important decisions like what to do with your belongings, and where to scatter your cremains.