An Angel Who Walked Among Us
The year was 1998, and I was excited beyond belief to be presenting at the International Symposium on Dental Hygiene in Florence, Italy.
The year was 1998, and I was excited beyond belief to be presenting at the International Symposium on Dental Hygiene in Florence, Italy. My presentation was one of only two pre-symposium workshops; the other featured Michele L. Darby, BSDH, MS. I had never met Michele, but of course I knew who she was. Actually, I was in awe of her. Her teaching, writing, and speaking reputation was stellar, and her accomplishments in the dental hygiene profession both nationally and globally were not only admirable, they were groundbreaking. To say that I was honored to be on the same program as Michele is a huge understatement.
To add to the fun atmosphere of the meeting, the speakers were all housed in the same quaint Florentine hotel, so we saw each other frequently throughout the conference. The first time I spoke with Michele I was starstruck and tongue-tied. I needn’t have worried, as she couldn’t have been more friendly. We had our Italian backgrounds in common and hit it off right away. In fact, we talked about my growing speaking and writing career and she was gracious enough to offer me words of encouragement. She also introduced me to her husband and young family, as they were planning to travel together throughout Italy after her speaking engagement. I will never forget how she made me feel like a true colleague.
While our paths crossed on several occasions afterward, that first meeting remains in my memory as if it was yesterday. That’s how Michele made you feel—like you were the most important person in the room. I would see Michele for the final time in November. While I didn’t know it would be the last occasion we’d share together, I knew she would be leaving us soon. We were both attending the North American/Global Dental Hygiene Research Conference in Bethesda, Maryland. I was privileged to sit with her at the gala dinner celebration, and Michele was as vibrant, caring, and kind as that first time we met in Florence. I was still in awe—this time not just because of who she was but because of the life lessons she had taught us all.
We have lost not only a dental hygiene icon, but an amazing human being. Michele traveled her final journey with dignity and grace, and, in that journey, continued to teach and inspire us. Ciao, bella—gli angeli vi danno benvenuto (the angels welcome you)!
Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
To learn more about Michele L. Darby, BSDH, MS, and her contributions to the dental hygiene profession, as well as details on her celebration of life service, click here.
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. March 2015;13(3):10.