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Healing With Words

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Retired Teacher Kay Fast Authors Book About Grief

By Joe Foreman, Editor

It’s story of love. A story of grief. A story of faith.

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For the author of Learning To Live Again - Villisca resident and retired Glenwood Community High School vocal music director Kay Fast – expressing her thoughts and feelings in the written word has been a significant part of the ongoing healing process she’s experienced since the death of her husband Rich in December 2016.

“Writing it was probably the single best thing I did for myself in the healing process,” Fast said. “I hope the book will help other people who are struggling with that grief process.”

Fast retired from a 34-year career in music education in May 2015 with plans of spending more quality time with her elderly parents, children, grandchildren and most importantly her husband of nearly 40 years. Less than a month into her retirement, Rich was diagnosed with a rare and highly aggressive form of lymphoma. Many hours and days over the next 18 months would be spent at doctors’ offices, cancer treatment centers and hospitals. It was an emotional roller coaster that culminated with Rich’s peaceful passing in the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 2016 – less than two weeks before his 60th birthday.

Kay Fast had journaled Rich’s entire cancer journey, but the idea for writing the book came about six months after his passing.

“I was still struggling with the healing process,” she said. “It just came to me to write down my feelings. I journaled every day of the particulars of what Rich went through in that cancer journey. That was the first chapter and I referred to the notes I had saved. Everything else just flowed after that.

“I felt like it was God-driven. It was just so easy.”

The love Rich and Kay Fast shared during their time together and their faith in God is evident throughout the book. In one chapter, Kay notes, “Rich was always my best friend and my true love.”

Their faith is presented in scriptural references included at the beginning of each of the nine chapters.

“Our faith in God was important in that whole journey,” she said. “We felt like God just actually carried us through times when we could hardly stand ourselves. That was just a big part of his journey and that’s something I wanted to share through the book, too.

“I know he’s in Heaven and I know I’m going to see him again, so that’s definitely a comfort, too.”

In her writing, Fast is honest, blunt and straight forward in discussing the anger, sadness and pain she felt in the days and months after Rich’s death. She talks of the visitation following Rich’s death as being one of the worst experiences of her life, making mention of some of the “wrong” and insensitive things she heard from seemingly well-intentioned people. She also discusses the “loss of identity” a person experiences when their spouse dies and what it’s like to be looked upon as a “widow”

“If you haven’t been through this grief process yourself, you really don’t know how to help people,” she said. “I felt like my friends were there, but they really didn’t understand.”

Fast has heard from several people who’ve read the book.

“Everybody seems to take something different out of the book,” she said. “Some people say, ‘What a loving tribute to Rich.’ Others say, ‘I’m never going to take my husband for granted again.’ Some will say, ‘Thanks for being honest about grief – I’m experiencing that and it’s helping me.’ Then, there are a few people that said it sparked a little reminder about how important faith is.”

Fast said writing the book has helped her gradually begin to move on with her life without Rich, but there’s still time of pain and  loneliness. She said she’s blessed to have her immediate family nearby.

“My grandkids are keeping me busy and so are my parents. I’m just kind of waiting around for God to show me my next purpose” she said.

Print and electronic editions of Learning To Live Again are available through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Print copies are also available at Pudgy Pumpkin gift shop in Red Oak.