Anderson, Indiana

Novak's story of grief offers hope to hurting families

Fri, 2012-11-16 10:00 -- univcomm
November 16, 2012

Misty Novak had no idea what she would experience after losing her son, Zachary, 25, in a plane crash more than six years ago.

Novak, of Anderson [and a 1978 graduate of Anderson University], had countless books about grief but she didn’t feel like any of them properly addressed the emotions of the first year.

“A lot of books skimmed it but none really talked about what that first year was like,” she said. “I got a lot of nudging that I should write about it. It was like a calling for me.”

So when Novak retired — after 31 years as a teacher with Anderson Community Schools — she penned See You In a Minute: A mother’s journey through the first year of grief. Novak recently published the book that is currently for sale on Amazon. The book will also be sold at two upcoming book signings — from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Moneyhun’s and on Dec. 14 and 15 at the Anderson Public Library. Proceeds will benefit an Anderson University scholarship in Zachary’s name.

“I wanted to make a difference for those who don’t understand loss or are going through it themselves,” she said.

Talented son

Zachary Novak could do anything, she said. He began playing piano at three and at a very young age was proficient in the instrument. But his passions exceeded music. Novak bragged about her son’s skills as an artist and writer. Teachers of those subjects, as well as music, encouraged him to pursue careers in those fields.

He chose music, the art he for which he had a passion. Zachary continued the others as hobbies.

Even before he could drive, Zachary began a job as a choir director at Bethel United Methodist Church and then became choir director at his own Saint Ambrose Catholic Church, where he was also the organist.

“We received so many letters after he died that were so kind, talking about all the things he had done that we never even knew about,” Novak said. “Besides being excessively talented he gave so much to others.”

Zachary graduated from Anderson University with a degree in music education. In 2006, he was attending Indiana University working on his master’s in conducting when the accident happened. He and four vocal performance majors from the school [including fellow AU alum Garth Eppley] were returning from a rehearsal for a community concert in West Lafayette when their plane crashed near the Bloomington airport, killing the five students instantly.

Last March, Anderson University announced a gift from the Novak family to name the Green Room in the York Performance Hall and Galleries project in memory of Zachary, who earned his bachelor of arts there in 2004.

A cathartic process

The process of writing the book was cathartic for Novak — although in some ways painful for her and her family — reliving the grief. But she felt compelled to write, even the intimate details, about what she went through in order to help give others that their emotions are OK.

“You really aren’t anything without your faith, your hope, and the love of others that get you through all of it,” Novak said. “After an experience like this, you could lose touch with your faith or you could deepen it. The book talks about all the miracles seen along the way. I hope it instills some hope for those that are in the depths of despair with grief too.”

Books purchased at the upcoming book signing will include a CD of songs performed by Zachary. He gave his mother the songs the year before he died. The title of the first song is “Being Alive.”

“Music can be healing,” Novak said. “Each one of the chapters in the book is the title of one of the songs. You can play the song and read the chapter or wait until the book is done.”

Misty and husband Dan Novak have two other children — Joel, 31, married to Hillary, with two children of their own, and daughter Brytni Hessler, married to Jason, with two children.

— Abbey Doyle is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission. Additional content by Anderson University listed in brackets. Photo credit: Don Knight/The Herald Bulletin.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.