Books by Kay Kramer

Released: Feb. 16, 1993

The touching, instructive memoir of a couple facing the husband's death from cancer. Herb Kramer is 67 when his death sentence falls: metastatic prostate cancer, incurable. A communications consultant, he lives for family and job, with no thought of dying or death. He wants to deny the news. But his second wife, Kay, is a grief therapist, a friend of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's. Together, Kay and Herb decide to face Herb's demise by writing about it. Their text consists of ``meditations'' by Herb that raise various issues about death, with corresponding ``conversations'' in which husband and wife together hammer out their feelings on each topic. Herb is the skeptic, afraid of death's pain and rot, doubtful about an afterlife. Kay treats death as a time for inner healing, and affirms that ``we are saved, and we are eternal.'' Some vexing questions are discussed: When should children be informed of a parent's fatal illness? Should one die in hospital, hospice, or home? Kay rejects euthanasia and suicide (and favors criminal penalties for those who assist such practices). Death, she teaches Herb, must be ``a time of redemption and peace.'' She counsels Herb on how to resolve ``unfinished business,'' how to nurture hope, and how to let go, in the process producing a self-help manual free of goop, a notable achievement. As time passes, a change comes over Herb. He dreams of God's presence and begins to pray. A mysterious, winged being appears to comfort him. He draws nourishment from poets—Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman—and tells us how they helped him to see ``landscapes of richness and wonder that seem to presage the wonder to be.'' Three years after his diagnosis, he dies at home, on April 9, 1992. In an appendix, Kay describes guided imagery exercises that helped Herb make the most of his final months. Priceless firsthand advice on a subject still deep in the shadows. Read full book review >