How DID It All Start?

Sue Collins
Sue Collins

You wouldn’t have automatically assumed Sue and I would team up for anything. Sue’s been an RN for 30-odd years (some very odd), and a hospice nurse for 29 and counting. I’m a writer who was one of the first women in the country to earn a US Coast Guard license to run coastal tugs. I sail, Sue rows.  Sue is a Baltimore girl. I was once a Baltimore girl. Oh, wait. There might have been something…

Plus, Sue had been wanting to write a book, and I was looking for my next project. Then one day in early 2013, a mutual friend invited the two of us to join her for lunch to talk about the possibility of collaborating on a book. We laughed. A lot. About death — not your usual topic of hilarity.But we were really laughing about the absurdity of life, the craziness of dysfunctional families (which includes most of us – all happy families are alike, but dysfunctional families are dysfunctional in their own unique, crazy-making, hilarious ways), and the ways we can deal with the really hard bits that keep us from losing our minds.

We realized we were on the same page spiritually. Sue’s original book idea had been to share stories of some of the incredible things she has witnessed over the years that encourage her to believe that this corporal existence, the one we nip, tuck and liposuction so assiduously, is not the last place our real selves inhabit. I’ve always believed that there is more life after the one we have here is extinguished. (If, as I tell friends who are doubters, I’m wrong, I’ll be none the wiser when I go. So there.). We’re both inveterate encouragers, but we’re both also pragmatic. Death is inevitable.

But between life humming along on all cylinders and the screeching halt that is death, there’s a whole load of stuff , including the sometimes difficult last bits of life,the time when most of us will need more help than we expect — or that we thought we’d have to give someone we love. The caregiving and cared-for part. That’s the part that Sue deals with professionally, and it’s a part that I have dealt with non-professionally.

So, Sue and I embarked on writing a book together. The result was: OK Now What? A Caregiver’s Guide to What Matters (Head to Wind Publishing, 2014). Intentionally short (160 pages) since caregivers are already stressed out and don’t have time to read a tome, it’s filled with advice, tips, lists, sources and, importantly, the stories of those who have been there done that. It’s practical, encouraging and has been, we know from readers (see reviews), a huge help to those who have helped, in Ram Dass’s words, ‘to walk someone home.’ Sue says the book is “what I wish the families and friends I deal with every day knew before they got there.”

For more info, go to

Nancy Taylor Robson
Nancy Taylor Robson

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