Saturday, June 10, 2023

Q&A with Suzanne Marriott




Suzanne Marriott is the author of the new memoir Watching for Dragonflies: A Caregiver's Transformative Journey. She lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills.


Q: Why did you decide to write this book?


A: I felt called to write this book for two reasons: (1) to help me understand and process my years as a caregiver for my husband, Michael, and (2) to offer inspiration and companionship to other caregivers and anyone facing a life-altering challenge.


Writing my memoir took 15 years. I began by writing my husband’s story, because, after having been so focused on him over the 10 years of his illness, I was still putting his story first. Gradually, I began to revise my book to focus on my story and how I changed and grew. Of course, his story is still there, but the focus has shifted.


I kept detailed journals over the 10 years of my caregiving journey and, after my husband’s death, these journal entries became the basis for my memoir. So, my story began with my husband’s diagnosis, and the book began shortly after his death.


When I started sharing my journal entries with my therapist, she encouraged me to turn these into a book. My story, she believed, would be an inspiration for other caregivers.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: When Michael was still walking with the aid of his two hiking poles, we took an RV trip up the coast of Northern California. We stayed in campgrounds, and one of these was on the Eel River.


One day when we had gone down to the river, I was busy swimming against the mild current and letting it carry me back, then doing it all over again. At one point, I noticed that Michael had been standing by the far bank for quite a while. I went over to him and asked him what he was doing. “I’m watching the dragonflies,” he told me.


It was then that I noticed there was a host of dragonflies flitting among the reeds that grew along the bank. We both stood transfixed, watching their transparent wings reflect the sunlight, transforming them into prisms of iridescent color. They were creating a miniature light show as they darted and twisted, abruptly turning and changing direction.


Despite his disability, and because of the coolness of the water, he had been able to walk in the shallows across this narrow part of the river without using his poles, and he was excited to share his reward with me—the wonder of dancing dragonflies.


In years to come, dragonflies became a powerful symbol for Michael—a transformative symbol of strength and renewal, a symbol of being whole. After Michael’s death, I came to view dragonflies as a symbol of his soul in flight, and I became the watcher for dragonflies.

Q: The author Kathryn McCamant said of the book, “Suzanne’s intimate story of living through the diagnosis, long decline and death of a loved partner helps one imagine the unimaginable in such a human way. By sharing her story, she helps us face our own fears, and to see that such challenges can bring even deeper connection.” What do you think of that description?


A: I am so grateful to Kathryn McCamant for her insightful description, and I can only hope that my story will inspire others to face their fears and to realize the deeper connection that challenges such as mine can bring.


I believe it was our love for each other and our commitment to our marriage that brought us through those difficult times and allowed our intimacy to grow and our marriage to transform.


Together, we learned to communicate openly and to empathize with and have compassion for each other, and, when necessary, to forgive. As time went on, our trust in each other grew.


Many marriages don’t survive the shock and realities of a chronic illness. I’m so grateful that ours was one that did.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write this book?


A: It was very rewarding to finally see my book published. It had been my dream for many years. The writing itself was cathartic. It put me in the role of witness and gave me the distance to see how our intimacy had grown, how Michael had coped with his illness, and how my abilities, confidence, and assertiveness had grown in order to meet the challenges inherent in this illness and in caregiving.


In the process of writing this book, I came to realize and appreciate the many ways in which my psychological and spiritual seeking had led me to discover inner resources and new capabilities.


I was empowered by inner wisdom figures, dream revelations, and shamanic and Tibetan Buddhist practices that guided my transformative journey. They also came to my aide as I faced my diagnosis with cancer and allowed me to see my cancer not as a possible death sentence but as an opportunity for growth.


I utilized energy workers, hypnosis, guided imagery, and many other spiritual and psychological modalities in facing this challenge. My husband, though at that time in a wheelchair, was my rock, loving and supportive, and I came to appreciate him and our enduring love anew.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’ve been writing guest blogs and articles for a variety of websites and doing interviews in connection with my book. One recent blog for Caregiver’s Voice concerned my caregiving for both my father and my husband and how the former had informed the latter.


I continue to write in my journal and to read voraciously, especially books of a spiritual nature. I recently finished Michael Singer’s Living the Untethered Life, which I found illuminating and inspirational.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Spirituality&Health magazine featured my memoir in their May/June issue in the section entitled Relationships. It contained my first chapter and connected my memoir to a Yucatan workshop for writers that the editor, Steven Keisling, had organized. It was thrilling to see this coverage in a magazine I admire and have subscribed to for many years.


I continue to reach out to my readers on my Transformative Caregiving website,, and Facebook page,, and I look forward to receiving their thoughts and feelings about this challenging topic.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment