A Bittersweet Dream In her first academic position, this SLP carries memories of a fellow graduate student with her. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   December 01, 2014
A Bittersweet Dream
Author Notes
  • Kelly Farquharson, PhD, CCC-SLP, is assistant professor in the Emerson College Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She researches the cognitive, linguistic, orthographic and environmental factors that influence how children with speech and language disorders acquire literacy skills. kyfarq@gmail.com
    Kelly Farquharson, PhD, CCC-SLP, is assistant professor in the Emerson College Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She researches the cognitive, linguistic, orthographic and environmental factors that influence how children with speech and language disorders acquire literacy skills. kyfarq@gmail.com×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   December 01, 2014
A Bittersweet Dream
The ASHA Leader, December 2014, Vol. 19, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19122014.72
The ASHA Leader, December 2014, Vol. 19, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19122014.72
I recently began a new career path in speech-language pathology as an assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders at Emerson College in Boston. After five years of doctoral training, I am thrilled to be transitioning into my new position. Those five years have taught me more about life than I could have ever imagined: becoming not just a scientist, writer, teacher and academic, but also a good listener, friend, companion and confidant.
I can pinpoint one person—besides my incredible mentors—who helped to shape me: Christopher Norman. Chris and I started at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2009. We were a cohort of two with dreams of someday becoming professors. We had different advisors and different research interests—as a person who stuttered, he was fascinated by fluency disorders.
Chris was hilarious, friendly, kind, generous, brilliant, inquisitive and fun-loving. He had a laugh that was beyond infectious; I hear it when I’m laughing hard. We had both been school-based SLPs, and loved gummy bears, wine and dance parties. As the first few months of our PhD programs progressed, I was struck by how lucky I was to have Chris as my partner for the journey. He made everything more fun and talked me through the many tough times and doubts. We shared a tiny office and, despite our frequent bouts of distractibility, were surprisingly productive. We quickly developed an incredible group of academic and social buddies with the other doctoral students in the department.
In November 2010, two years into our program, Chris was facing a perfect storm of life stressors. The details are his to keep. He was experiencing pain I cannot fathom, and made a choice I sometimes still cannot believe. I’ll never forget the moments leading up to the news of Chris’s suicide. In the weeks and months that followed, I met Chris’s friends and family from all across the globe. Though we were coping with an insurmountable loss, we saw a little bit of Chris in one another and clung to that. In sharing his memory, we developed wonderful friendships—how much he would have loved seeing us all together and knowing that we still rely on one another. These supportive relationships will undoubtedly last our lifetimes.
The searing pain of loss still returns, four years later. The time flew by, but there were days that seemed to last forever. So much about my life and how I approach situations has changed, largely due to losing Chris. I am more cautious with my heart but free in my compassion. I am more understanding and a better listener. I no longer question motives or attitudes that I may not share. People are often facing life factors that they do not reveal; I have learned to provide a supportive environment to those who choose privacy.
These life lessons were hard, but I take them with me as I begin my dream job—Chris’s dream job. I moved to Boston, a city he loved and lived in, that mourned his loss with me and created a memorial scholarship fund in his honor. Although I would give anything to be able to share this part of my journey with him, I know he’s always by my side, rooting for me and sending me a “cheers!” from afar.
1 Comment
December 7, 2014
Nancy Hall
Thank you Kelly
Kelly, your message hit me so powerfully. Chris was my client, undergraduate student and research assistant. I enjoyed him immensely, watched him develop into a mature professional, and was thrilled to share in his excitement about his doctoral studies. Chris was a very special person and he touched others in ways he never realized. I miss him, but know he is celebrating your accomplishments. In the CSD department at the University of Maine we established the Chris Norman Book Award, typically a book on stuttering, awarded to the graduating student who best exemplifies Chris' qualities of generosity and commitment to improving the world. Thank you for sharing.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
December 2014
Volume 19, Issue 12