Victoria “Vicki” Joseph’s budding career as a playwright and novelist was cut short when she died of chronic rejection of her transplanted lungs on Aug. 2, 2009.
Joseph had been a librarian, a criminal defense attorney and a college professor at Elms College in Chicopee, MA, before taking a leave of absence early in 2009 to concentrate on her writing.
The year began well for her. Two of her plays were accepted for performance and she was elected to the board of the Alpha-1 Foundation. In June her full-length play Inhale was premiered in a shortened form by the Gallery Players of Brooklyn, NY, but it proved to be her final triumph.
Joseph, 54, had lung disease related to Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. She died at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH, where she had received her double lung transplant in November 2006.
She is survived by her husband, David Brown of Agawam, MA, her father Victor, brother Stephen, and stepdaughters Harriet and Alexa.
A celebration of her life was held at Elms College in November, including a live performance of her short play Objection.
HER LIFE IN HER OWN WORDS
The invitation to the celebration read: “Join us to celebrate Vicki’s extraordinary journey and achievements through the memories of family, friends and colleagues, images from her life, and her own words.”
Why she became a librarian:
I graduated from Elms College in 1977. I was an English major and determined to NOT be a teacher. My first job after college was as a Children’s Librarian for the Springfield City Library…
The attorney career:
“I never wanted to be an attorney. But… my brother did… and my parents asked me to take a LSAT (Law School Admission Test) preparation course to assist my brother. Unbeknownst to my parents, or me, the fee for taking the LSAT was included in the course. So… I went along with my brother and took the LSAT… FOR FUN. While my brother decided NOT to become an attorney after all, I was intrigued. My parents offered to pay for my law school education and I was off and running!
On becoming a professor:
I worked for a local attorney who had committed to teaching a Business Law course at the Elms. He tired of the course and agreed to pay me for my time if I would teach it for him. I walked into a classroom at the Elms, a place I knew well, and began teaching. Then, suddenly, it all came together. The law, the storytelling, the fun I’d always sought from my work, was all there.
The writing career and her failing lungs:
I’m writing furiously, as though there were no five-year plan. As though there were no five years. As though I won’t be there or here at all.
I’m waiting something for which no living thing should have to wait… I’m waiting for a chance to breathe again…
The doctors tell me only 50% of lung transplant recipients live as long as five years. They try not to look away and I, with a patient’s keen sense, hear them beg me silently not to ask for more. I beg them, silently in turn, not to tell me more and not to give me less…
I’m teaching myself a new language. Instead of fear or grief, I’ve chosen immortality as my second tongue. Each day I touch my keyboard and leave my trail. I write and think about writing and write again. There are short stories, essays, snatches of dialog, vignettes that capture a moment, all here, all alive, all connecting me to the world, because, whether I’m here or not, at the end of the next five years, my words, I know, will still be.
Hopes for life after transplant:
And then, I’ll inhale, as all living humans are meant to do. And then, because it is as important to me as breath, once I inhale again, I shall write again.
And then, from that moment, I’ll count the days until I reach five years and see who and where I am. Hopefully, I’ll be dreaming in chapters instead of sentences. I’ll be prolific and wise and well-read by millions. And, hopefully, I’ll be taking deep breaths and living each moment as though there were no such thing as a five-year plan.
Written September 2006. Joseph had her double lung transplant Nov. 24, 2006. She died less than 33 months later.
The celebration of Vicki Joseph’s life was also an awareness and fundraising event for the Alpha-1 Foundation. As tributes, friends created “Inhale” bracelets and a program booklet celebrating her life and career. The booklets are still available. Please just send your name and mailing address to David Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.