An Expert on Death

This afternoon, I was honored to be a guest-lecturer / speaker for a large class of mostly pharmacy students at Ohio State University, who will one day be future practioners. Due to the magic of the inter-webs, I spoke to the large class of students and the professor, from the comfort of my room in smalltown Massachusetts.

They are learning about emergency codes and patient care and medical emergencies, and wanted me to speak about how I was treated by the E.R. staff and the hospital, on the day of Don's sudden death. I got to read a bit from my book about that day, speak with them about the life-altering after-effects of sudden loss and losing your partner to death, and then do a Q&A, in which they asked some really intelligent and thoughtful questions about my story.

The whole thing felt very "full-circle" in the very best of ways.

The fact that I was a college professor for so many years, now speaking as a guest-talker to college students. The fact that Don was in EMS, and dealt with E.R. on a daily basis at work, and then ended up in the E.R. as a patient. The fact that I was bringing relevant and helpful information to these young adults, who will soon be taking care of patients in the real world, and knowing they were taking in what I had to say about how we can do better with the way we treat patients AND those who are grieving.

I loved the idea that I was speaking to the practioners and doctors and medical teams of tomorrow, about how to better serve the patients of tomorrow, who will certainly need them. It felt very full-circle, and like the kind of thing that Don would be incredibly proud of. (he would have made a silly joke like: "oh, now you're stealing my thunder in the medical field too!?!" ) 

It is so very bizarre and weird to me that my life has come to this place, where I am suddenly and randomly a person that other people listen to and ask questions to, about loss and grief and death. How did I become an expert? Well, in the absolute worst possible wy, i guess. And when I say expert, Im being sarcastic. I dont want to be an expert on sudden death. I wish I didnt know all the things that I know about how life-altering this is, how much it hurts, and how non-linear it all is. I wish my husband didn't die and that I wasn't talking to college kids about ways we can improve our compassion when it comes to people living with loss. But he did die, and I do know how it feels and what it's like and what some good things to say are, and some really awful things to say. And passing that infornation forward could help someone else in having a little bit less of a nightmare during their experience with loss and grief. 

And the truth is, lately, I have been missing Don. So intensely. 

And doing this thing today made me feel him close again. 

Like our worlds collided for an hour or so. 

And it was magic. 


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  • Carolyn M Smith
    commented 2019-01-26 15:15:02 -0800
    This gave me the chills. Good on you Kelley ❤️.
  • Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT
    commented 2019-01-25 14:14:21 -0800
    But you ARE an expert, Kelley ~ and you are sharing your expertise with those who need it most. I cannot think of a better way to pay tribute to your beloved Don than this. Blessings to you, and thank you for sharing your hard-won wisdom in this important way. ♥