My Semester of Death

Most eighteen-year-old young adults go to college to learn about freedom, new skill-sets, and partying. I learned about all of those, plus I also learned about death. During my last semester of my freshmen year, I had two out of the ordinary deaths happen within a couple months. One death happened the first week of the semester and the second happened the last week of my freshmen year.

I had to take several English classes for my minor during my first couple years of college. During my second semester, I took an English Literature class. The first class session was on a Thursday in the Tuesday-Thursday class. The elderly professor meandered into class several minutes late. She looked like she had to be in her eighties or nineties.

The professor passed out the syllabus right away. Everything she did was at a snail-pace. She explained that she was the President of the American Bronte Sister Society and that a lot of her research was on Charlotte and Emily Bronte. Reading over the syllabus, I was not overly excited about having to read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

The professor explained that she had been very ill the previous semester and that she had to take the entire semester off from teaching. She said she felt much better and that she was excited about being healthy enough to make it through an entire semester. She let us go after fifteen minutes, which was exciting to the entire class.

My grandparents lived in Morgantown, where I attended school at West Virginia University. I went to their house that Sunday for lunch. My grandfather always read the local Dominion Post and there was one sitting on the lunch table, so I skimmed it while waiting for my lunch. A couple pages in, I came across the obituary section and there was a large picture of my English professor. She had passed away the day after our first class.

I went to a school of close to 30,000 students, so I didn’t know anybody in my class. When we went back to the English class on Tuesday, there was no professor in the class by the time it was scheduled to start. Since most college aged kids don’t read the newspaper, I figured that I should inform everyone that I thought she might have passed away.

When I told this to the class, they took it a completely different way than I imagined. Most thought I was joking. I even had a couple people tell me that it was pretty messed up that I would make up that the professor died. We sat there for about fifteen more minutes, and I felt several pairs of strangers eyes beating down on the back of my head thinking I was a jerk for my “joke.”

After the fifteen minutes had passed, a younger lady came into the class and set some books on the table. She looked at the class and introduced herself, and told everyone that she had bad news that our professor had passed away. She would take over for the rest of the semester and since the news was probably shocking to us all, she went ahead and released us for the day. I don’t think anyone thought I was a jerk anymore.

A couple months later as the semester came to an end, another abnormal death happened right across the hall from my dorm room. My residential adviser was a very nice guy, but also very unusual. He was a senior and called himself the nickname of a superhero and asked that we all call him the same thing. He had a poster of the superhero on his door and several in his room.

His room was right across the hall from mine. I really didn’t see him a ton that year. We might have had one or two dorm meetings (at least that I went to over the year). We got an email towards of the end of the semester ¬†that he wanted us to stop by his room and let us know the day we were moving out so he could come check our rooms off.

The Saturday through Tuesday before¬†exams started on Wednesday at WVU was called “Dead Week.” Since everyone was supposed to be studying and a lot of professors cancelled classes, the campus was supposed to be “dead.” It just so happened that my residential adviser was dead in his room across the hall for the entirety of “Dead Week.”

I knocked on my RA’s door to let him know I would be leaving Thursday. He didn’t answer, and I tried a couple more times over the next couple days with no answer. Eventually I just left a note under the door, not knowing he had been in the room the whole time.

I was in and out of my room studying those couple days and attending classes. On the Tuesday of “Dead Week,” I was walking back to my dorm, and a gurney with a body under a sheet was being wheeled out of the front entrance to my residence hall. Naturally, there was a big group of students standing around and checking this out. I walked over to some of the group that I knew, and they informed me that it was my RA.

I later found out that he had been dead in the room for four days. The front door was a solid metal door so the smell didn’t seep out into my hall. Our dorms had bathrooms connected to a back door of the dorm rooms that were shared with four other rooms. Since he was across the hall from me, I didn’t share a bathroom with him. Unfortunately, for those four rooms that did share a bathroom with him, those doors were made of thin wood.

After the smell got so bad in the bathroom, and the RA had stopped responding to his superiors, the residence director broke into his room. The RA was dead near his bed. He died of accidental asphyxiation. I will not explain why somebody would die that way in my blog, it isn’t a flattering way to go!

My final semester of my freshmen year of college started with a death and ended with another. While I wasn’t close with either of these two people, they did play an important role of my freshmen year.