The Covid-19 pandemic has not passed by the Carroll campus. Like so many communities around the world, we have had losses in our Carroll family: parents, grandparents, alumni, extended relations and friends. The pandemic also brought the loss of two beloved faculty members. Professor Kelly Lynn Raether passed away on November 26, 2020. It was Thanks-giving Day, and she was 42 years old. Weeks later, on New Year’s Day, Kelly was joined in eternity by her dear friend and colleague, Dr. James Joseph LaRosa. Jim was 44.
Kelly and Jim were both faculty members in Carroll’s nationally renowned nursing program. As registered nurses and practitioners in the field, both placed patient care above all else and taught from personal experience. Each had served in a variety of health care settings. Jim, for instance, had worked in hospice care. Kelly not only taught at Carroll but was also an EMT Captain with the Ixonia Fire Department. Both were deeply rooted in our local community and fiercely committed to service. Each modeled lifelong learning, striving for academic excellence and enhancing their teaching through their own educational goals. Jim had recently earned his doctorate, and Kelly was actively pursuing her own. They both loved to teach, and it showed.
For students, Jim and Kelly were more than bearers of knowledge. They were trusted confidants, life coaches, professional mentors and personal role models. At our campus memorial service, nursing students reflected on the ways Kelly and Jim touched their lives, making them work harder and strive to be the best students, nurses and people they could be. Students spoke of their professors’ caring nature, of their open offices and hearts, their genuine and generous in spirits. Jim and Kelly’s legacy will be lasting, as the echoes of their wisdom will reverberate through their former students and the lives of every patient those alumni serve.
Loss is painful, and there has been so much loss in the world. The coronavirus has passed over us like an angel of death, stealing away the breath of many, taking one and leaving another. Now, as warm rays of hope begin to break through this year-long wintery night, we cautiously emerge blinking and a bit stunned. The world is not as it was. We are not as we were. We will have to relearn how to be together.
Honoring those we have lost will help us get there. The stories we share, the memories we carry, will help us position our pain in a longer narrative of healing. We will have to spend time looking back in order to find our way forward, and the lessons from loss will continue to unfold well into our future. And all of this will take time…I suspect much more time than we’d like. Grief always takes longer than we’d like. But if we can together be students of our grief and learners in the classroom of loss, we will discover the deeper wisdom of grace and gratitude that gives rhythm to our days and meaning to our lives.