“Widow’s Walk: A Journey Home” – Memoir by Callie Cochran-Hager

PUEBLO, CO.  When former Dwight resident Kent Hager passed away in 2019, his wife of 31+ years, Callie Cochran-Hager,, found writing about it to be cathartic, and her journal eventually evolved into a personal memoir that chronicles an ongoing grief journey.

The book, entitled “Widow’s Walk: A Journey Home,” is available for sale in softcover and kindle forms through Amazon.

After Hager graduated from Dwight Township High School in 1971, he attended Hanover College in Indiana and Florida State University, where he obtained his master’s degree in planning. He was preceded in death by his mother, Lois Hager; his older brother, Scott Hager; and his father, George Hager.

The couple met in Alamosa in the early 1980s when she was a student at Adams State College and he worked as a planner for the San Luis Valley Council of Governments. Hager obtained a seven-year grant to serve as a circuit rider city manager for Center, Saguache, Manassa and Creede. In 1985 he assumed the role of the city/county/land use administrator for Mineral County and served for 10 years. The couple married in Creede in 1988 and later moved to Leadville where he was hired as the Lake County Administrator. In 1999 they moved to Wisconsin with their two young daughters. Hager served as the New London city administrator and was set to retire after 20 years. Two weeks before he retired, he received a cancer diagnosis and succumbed five months later. His cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, also known as bile duct cancer, had spread to his liver and was incurable. He met his fate with quiet courage and grace, she said.

Kent Hager and Callie Cochran-Hager

“We were shocked,” she admitted. “Kent worked so hard and looked forward to retirement. We had planned to eventually return to Colorado and resume our life in the high country, travel and play. We dreamed of returning to Creede and reuniting with our friends after so many years of living apart.”

Following his death and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cochran-Hager finished her 19th year of teaching English/Language Arts at New London High School.  She retired in June of 2020. Her final year brought no closure, she recalled. When schools closed in March and did not resume, she was not able to say good-bye to her students or colleagues. Working from the home she shared with her late husband felt awkward and lonely as well, and the decision to move came easy.

“My heart pulled me back to Colorado,” she said. “After losing Kent, I wanted to live near my mom and brother, so I found a house in my hometown of Pueblo and purchased it virtually, which was risky.” She was joined by the couple’s two adult daughters, Erin and Quinn and Quinn’s husband, Joshua. They all live and work in Pueblo and find comfort in one another and the memories of husband and father.

All this time she continued to write.

“The book is made up of snippets of the grieving process,” she said. “I was able to be creative with a variety of narratives. I used vocabulary lists, letters, stream-of-conscious musings, and pictures to tell the story. As it progressed, I thought the book might provide an opportunity to share my story of loss and to validate others’ journeys. What people often don’t understand, unless they personally experience profound loss, is that grief is not linear. You don’t start at Point A and move to Point Z. Grief is circular. It has no beginning or end. Folks unrealistically expect the grief stricken to get over it and move forward. There’s no getting over it. Our lives are forever changed. We are forever changed.”

Assisted by editor and layout designer Phyllis Peterson of Magnolia Studio in New London, Wisconsin, Cochran-Hager launched the book in late August of 2022. The memoir has received positive reviews, and she is scheduled to participate as a reader with local grief groups at churches and bookstores in Colorado.

Cochran-Hager, who taught creative writing to her students, said it’s important to “write what you know.” She did not, however, dream she would write a memoir about death and survival. “I always dreamed of writing the great American novel. I guess nothing is stopping me now. This book is essentially my love letter to Kent, but it’s more than that. It’s a validation of grief. I hope it shares our story and offers grace and hope to others.”

“Widow’s Walk: A Journey Home” is available through Amazon at https://amzn.to/3ASK75S.