March 15, 1988 will forever be etched into my memory. It was that cold, windy night when the seed, later to bloom into a comprehensive caregiving model, was planted at an emergency meeting for a friend in the office of Dr. Sukie Miller.
Dr. Miller had strongly urged her patient, Susan Farrow, to reach out past her emotional comfort zone and ask her friends for help. Susan was a divorced, working mom with two teens and a painful bone cancer. To make matters worse she had no family nearby. However, by bringing what was a diverse bunch of friends together for some honest dialogue, we were able to plunge into action the very next morning.
We owe a huge debt to the insight, wisdom, and brilliance of Dr. Miller who truly understood the power of “group.” The 12 of us who attended that meeting went on to prove her right by supporting our friend in every way imaginable until she died nearly four years later. And we managed it without any one getting stuck doing too much. And best of all, we were bonded forever by this challenging yet significant life experience that resulted in us becoming widely known as “Susan’s Funny Family.”
Later, Dr. Miller was the chief cheerleader when Cappy Capossela and I decided to document our systems into a handbook that others could follow to create a “caregiving family” of their own. Dr. Miller offered her guidance and gifted us with the eloquent FORWARD to Share The Care, first published in 1995.
Then, out of the blue, in early 2002 Cappy was stricken with a brain tumor and needed her own Share The Care group. Following Cappy’s death later that year, Dr. Miller again provided her enormous enthusiasm and encouragement for my decision to make Share The Care more widely known by founding our organization. And, as a member of our Board of Advisors for the last 10 years, she was always generous with her suggestions.
Dr. Sukie Miller was a profound influence in my life. I think it was her fearless and optimistic outlook that will be most treasured by me and surely by so many others in different parts of the world whose lives she touched. We will all miss this vivacious, and extraordinary woman with so many far-reaching legacies.
SUKIE MILLER, Ph.D. was an early director of Esalen Institute, was a member of the Board of the Jung Institute of San Francisco and the Board of Medical Quality Assurance, the licensing board for the State of California. She had been a frequent consultant to Cancer and Social Action programs in Brazil.
In 1972 she founded and directed the pioneering Institute for the Study of Humanistic Medicine. One of the first researchers to study the cross cultural dimensions and implications of beliefs of the Afterdeath, her books Finding Hope When a Child Dies and After Death; How People Around the World Map the Journey After Life are published by Simon and Schuster.
Dr. Miller lived for years in Sao Paulo, Brazil where she continued to see clients with chronic and terminal diseases and worked extensively with groups.