Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Losing a friend

Journey with an old classmate

July 5, 2018

We share the same name.

I remember her as wild and audacious at a time when I was the new girl at her Catholic High School, hesitant and introverted.

Decades later, she messaged me when I was the new middle-ager arriving on FB, and I was surprised to learn that she (like me) was fully adulting–not only as a wife and mother (unimaginable!) but as a widely, impactful professor (more unimaginable!)

Given the limitations of “knowing” someone within the confines of a high school uniform, I was further delighted to discover that beyond her memorable snark and comedy, there was a kind, tender and thoughtful soul–revealed in her very private responses to my very public writing–which I received from her from time to time in messages and in delightful hand-written notes and even in that rare in-the-flesh connection when we shared a pew or two back east.

She is still passionate about horses and friends. And now her 3 children. Her husband. Her work.

Looking back to high school, I can see passion as her sustaining quality. Living large. Gusto.

It’s hard to imagine such a life/light vulnerable.

The love shining back at her in this moment is exponentially large.

Send yours if you will out to Washington state.

May we all step inside this light of connection to hold and be held in times of difficulty.

ps. Kelly, our name means WARRIOR.


July 6, 2018

My first Cortado.

What I loved about youth was the way i could throw it all away. Sex with a total stranger on a ship crossing the channel. Tequila shots from Kass’s pump. Pool crashing and star-gazing with another’s lover. All night pillow talk. Another party. Another concert. Another city. Another train. Another friend of a friend’s couch. Hitchhiking. Road tripping. Heading out for a season in the Rockies.

There was so much life on the table that there was plenty to waste.

A high school classmate took a fall on Tuesday. A car accident on the side of the road. An overdose. A suicide. An empty nest in August.

In 2 weeks I’ll see my oldest friend.I want to wrap my arms around her and not let go.

Maybe I should have ordered the Flat White.


July 8, 2018


This morning in my Facebook feed. A highschool classmate with whom I share a name. She took a fall on Tuesday beside her horse.

This morning we hear from her husband through a friend:

Kelly has taken the next step in her adventure… with strength and grace and beauty, as always.

And just as my heart collapses for him and their 3 children and Kelly’s life ending at 54, the very next post I see is that of a newborn.

The baby of my cousin’s daughter.
Arrived this same week.
“Aria,” they call her.
An operatic solo.

And isn’t that just like Kelly, as testimonied by friends and family and students and colleagues–near and far–past and present–as together we prayed/hoped/shouted/danced for a different ending than the one we’ve been given just  now.


July 9, 2018

Take a walk

Her husband writes:

Good morning to everyone, and peace be with all of you. I’ve picked up Kelly’s phone this morning for the first time, and I’m not Facebook savvy. I’m hesitant to post because I don’t want to stop the flow of love and remembrance and tributes and photos and stories. So don’t stop.

I’ve only read a few posts, and been deeply moved, to laughter and tears and admiration, by all of them. I will read them all, eventually, but know that the kids and Kelly’s enormous circle of friends are following right along.

Kelly loved life, and so many people, as fully as she could, and these last few days have shown all of us that her connections are even broader and deeper than any of us realized.

For today, and tomorrow, and as long as you can, keep her in your hearts, and live by her example, loving deeply, laughing often, reaching out, bringing together, questioning, wondering, inspiring, reading, mentoring and collaborating and learning, and walking in the light, both literally and spiritually.

(Our family) treasures these memories you are sharing. Keep it up.

Peace be with all of you. Now go take a walk, and take Kelly with you…


July 9, 2018

Post from a colleague:

July 10, 2018

Good morning!

Her husband writes:

Good morning!

There’s been some conflicting information about Kelly’s accident, so hopefully a few details will at least help make sense of what happened, if not why.

…On a beautiful Tuesday evening she picked up her horse from the trainer where he’d been while she was away. Since she was looking forward to riding in the Albion, WA 4th of July parade the next day, she led Eddie on a walk around the neighborhood — on foot. About a quarter-mile from home, walking into a slight ditch, her feet slipped from beneath her, and she fell with her head hitting the ground first.

The impact left a small bump on her head, but initiated massive internal bleeding, which led to profound and irreversible damage. She walked her horse home, put him out in the pasture, came inside, grabbed an ice pack, called to (our kids), and they decided to take her to the emergency room. She lost and never regained consciousness before she got to the hospital.

Pullman Regional immediately called LifeFlight for transport to Sacred Heart in Spokane, but all of the neurosurgeons agree that nothing could have been done outside the first 10 minutes or so, and in that window Kelly was still walking with her horse in the Palouse hills she loved so well.

Because Kelly was young, strong, healthy, and possessed of an indomitable will to live, she defied predictions for several days, which allowed her family and many friends to say goodbye to the woman they loved and admired. She passed peacefully as first light filled the sky.

Please keep her in your hearts, and keep the memories and tributes and photos coming. They are a treasure and a blessing and a solace and a smile to all of us who knew and loved and worked with Kelly, from family members and lifelong friends to casual acquaintances and professional colleagues.

Peace be with all of you.


July 11, 2018

A young friend of Kelly writes:

So apparently, Kelly has made it through orientation in record time (as expected) and the admins in heaven are letting miracles and moments like this bless our lives down here.


July 11, 2018

Her huband writes:

Good morning!

We are working on plans for a celebration of Kelly’s life — as soon as we have things figured out, they will be posted here as well as other sites. You Facebook readers will be some of the first to know.

We are also working on details of a memorial fund to, as Provost Dan Bernardo puts it, ‘perpetuate Kelly’s legacy at WSU.’ We are all sorry that the WSU family only had a year of Kelly’s enthusiasm and action and vision as Vice Provost, but we are hopeful her memory and momentum will be carried forward. Details as they become available.

Make sure to take a walk today, even if it’s just around the block.



July 12, 2018

Better for a while

Her husband writes:

Good morning!

We are very close to finalizing the details for a celebration of Kelly’s life and legacy…

Sharing this song this morning, because it feels right. It’s a favorite of ours. It’s for all of you, who ‘make it seem better for a while.


July 13, 2018

Her husband writes:

Good morning!

Here are the details, press release-style:

Dr. Kelly Ward, Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Recognition at Washington State University (WSU), passed away on July 8, 2018.

A celebration of Kelly’s life and legacy will be held on Saturday, August 4, 2018 at 2:00 PM in the M.G. Carey Senior Ballroom in the Compton Union Building (CUB) on the WSU campus in Pullman, Washington. A reception will follow at the Lewis Alumni Centre, also located on the WSU campus. Program details for both events will be finalized and released in the near future.

The Funeral Mass for Kelly will be celebrated at 7 PM on Friday, August 3rd at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pullman.

Gifts in memory of Kelly can be sent to the “Kelly Ward Legacy Fund” at the WSU Foundation ( The Kelly Ward Legacy Fund has been established for the advancement of women faculty at Washington State University. The Office of the Provost will work with the Association for Faculty Women and the Commission on the Status of Women to ensure that Dr. Ward’s legacy continues in perpetuity.

For those traveling to Pullman, hotel blocks have been reserved at the following locations:

July 14, 2018

She listened to the end

Her husband writes:

Good morning!

I promise I won’t keep doing this every day, but it’s therapeutic. I’d love to talk and write with so many of you, so this is a small step…

Yesterday I moved the truck back to its spot beside the barn – Kelly had left it in the usual location for unloading horses. I knew from a message that she had been ‘jamming’ to music as she drove home Tuesday night, and as I turned on the CD, it switched from track 6 to track 7, so I know that this is the last song Kelly listened to, and that she listened to the end.

July 15, 2018


Her husband writes:

Good Morning!

…Kelly and I have lived together since 1991, and she has written in her journal every day. I have NEVER seen any of the entries. Last night, while putting something away, I saw the book on the bedside and looked at the final page.

These are the last words Kelly wrote to herself that Tuesday morning:

‘Do not be held back * Surrender the material’