Spoken Lives series motivates through stories of pain and resilience

'How do you go on when your life has exploded into a million pieces?' asks speaker Sarah Keast

Four speakers at Spoken Lives with Curator
(L-R) Spoken Lives speakers Arlene Vandersloot, Sandee Waite, Sarah Keast, Mariatu Kamara and curator Elizabeth Verwey at the February event. Amanda Da Silva/Toronto Observer

With a quiver in her voice, Sarah Keast recalled the day of her husband’s death of an accidental heroin overdose. She and her daughters, aged two and five at the time, were enjoying an excursion with her parents when they received the call that would change their lives forever.

“How do you go on when your life has exploded into a million pieces?” asked Keast, who talked about her experience at a recent Spoken Lives: Toronto Central event. “Pieces that were so small, that despite trying so hard to put them back together, that puzzle proved too hard to do. I can’t figure out how the puzzle of my old life fits together.”

Kevin Keast died in August of 2016. He was 36 years old.

At the Feb. 25 talk, Sarah Keast described the difficulty of raising two children as a single parent while trying to keep the missing parent a part of their lives.

“Ever since Kevin died, I always say yes to doing events and talks like this,” she said after the talk.

Keast has been writing a blog, “Adventures in Widowed Parenting,” since her husband died. In it, she describes moving forward with her life after loss. She also became an activist to raise awareness about mental health and substance use and was featured in a TEDxToronto talk last year.

Spoken Lives: Toronto Central is a monthly series held at Mustard Seed on Queen Street East. Curated by Elizabeth Verwey, it features four speakers who present stories that are informative and motivational.

Following Keast was speaker Mariatu Kamara, who came to Canada from Sierra Leone in 2002. Now a UNICEF Special Representative and co-author of a book called The Bite of the Mango, Kamara spoke of how rebels took her from her village during the civil war there, severing her hands and killing many innocent people.

Despite the horrors she faced, she spoke with confidence and strength as she told her story of survival and her new life in Canada as an amputee.

The final two speakers, Sandee Waite and Arlene Vandersloot, talked of how childhood ailments and traumas shaped their lives and the process of becoming at peace with themselves.

As the event came to an end, audience members had a chance to converse with the speakers one on one.

“When you attend, you never know what you’re going to get” said Chris Davies, a long-time attendee. “I’m always surprised because women that look like me or my mom have such unbelievable stories to tell that we all focus in on. I just admire how much courage it takes to share these stories.”

Sandra Huehn, also a regular, agreed, saying it was “the most emotional evening yet.”

The next event will be held April 29. For more information, go to https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/spoken-lives-toronto-central-monday-april-29-2019-tickets-55763310563.

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Posted: Feb 28 2019 11:59 am
Filed under: Arts & Life