Willow, Morgan Grayce – 49

Death & dying; friendship; keeping vigil with dying loved one; grief; last moments

Writing Description:
In 1984, I was finishing up graduate school in Colorado when I learned that my friend and classmate Rita Repka had been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in the Transkei in South Africa, then still in the thrall of apartheid. She’d been working for a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called the Appropriate Technology Unit. The local hospital in Umtata did not have a pathology lab, so medical personnel could not determine the degree of her internal injuries. Ten days after the accident, she suffered major organ failure and was flown to Addington General Hospital in Durban. Since the artery of her right leg had been severely crushed, they had to amputate below the knee. I was chosen from among her friends to go and be with her in the ICU, and, we hoped, accompany her back to a hospital in the States. It turned out I was to accompany her into death. “Vigil” is my journal of my journey there and of Rita’s death.

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Occupation and Interests:
Morgan Grayce Willow has received awards in both poetry and prose from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and others. In 2009, she published the poetry collections Between (Nodin Press) and Silk (Shu Kuang Press), as well as a letterpress chapbook, The Maps are Words (Red Dragonfly Press). Her memoir “Riding Shotgun for Stanley Home Products” appeared in Riding Shotgun: Women Write about Their Mothers (Borealis Books, 2008). A former sign language interpreter, Morgan’s essay “Double Language” about the inherent conflict between being a writer and being an interpreter, appeared in Third Coast in 2004. “Signs of the Time” received honorable mention in the Judith Kitchen Prize and appears in the 2011 Water~Stone Review. Morgan lives in Minneapolis. For more information see morgangraycewillow.com.


Author Location(s):
Fort Collins, Colorado

Writing Location(s):
Durban, South Africa. Also Umtata, capital city of the Transkei, one of the homelands of South Africa. The complete journal, from which “Vigil” is excerpted, includes much more detail and other locations in South Africa.

Spring, 1984





Number of Pages, etc.:
17 print pages

Contact Person:
Morgan Grayce Willow

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Entry Filed under: 1. Listings,Female,Journals, Diaries, and Notebooks,w