Monday, March 12, 2012

A Few Minutes with Karen Collins, Author of Danny Boy

The song "Danny Boy" is a favorite of many, myself included, and I especially enjoy playing it on the piano. So when I received a notice that Savage Press, a local book publisher, was publishing a book titled Danny Boy, it caught my eye. I asked author Karen Collins if we could meet and she gladly accommodated me. Her spirit has the effervescence of youth and innocence, and one gets the feeling that her book will prove to be a very different experience than many books on death and dying. One reason I wanted to share this was because of her comments on CaringBridge and hospice. I've written about terminal health care in the past and thought this might be a good topic to re-visit.

Why did you write this book?
Karen Collins: One day, shortly after Dan’s funeral, I was reading the Guest Book messages of condolence on CaringBridge and one message after another told me Dan inspired them and the whole community by his courage, his strength, his humor and his faith. Many people attending the funeral repeated the same words to me and also talked about his willingness to share end of life topics, subjects that are usually avoided, but he shared them graciously and beautifully.

I didn’t write the journals alone. Dan and I did them together. I did the typing but he was totally involved in the words. I also remembered the words of the hospice chaplain and hospice bereavement counselor when they told us that more than 50% of hospice patients refuse to open the door to them. Some of them also refuse visits from their own spiritual leaders. They accept help from the hospice nurse for their body but do not accept help for their soul. To me, that meant they were angry at God, or they don’t realize the support these people will give to them as they face death.

I began to talk to Jesus, asking Him if I should publish Dan’s story. Almost immediately, I had an answer. The name Mike Savage came to my mind right then – a man I did not know personally, a writer and publisher from Superior. And, the Lord told me to “Go out and spread My Word.” I called Mike at once and he said he wanted to meet me in person. I was not surprised to learn during our first meeting that I was led to a man of faith. I told Mike that all of my profits for the publication are to be shared equally between CaringBridge and St. Mary’s Hospice Department. I told him that if one person facing death or a personal trauma in their life reads the book and is inspired to reach to the Lord, it is worth every penny I paid for the book to be published. Mike agreed during that first meeting to publish Danny Boy and we both agreed the book’s success will be in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

EN: How was Dan's life changed by being a cancer survivor in 1984?
KC: Dan told me, “I am on borrowed time. God has given me a gift of more time to spend with you and our family and I want to use it the best way possible.”

EN: Were you surprised when you learned the statistics about hospice patients not wanting to be visited?
KC: Yes, Dan and I were shocked by these words and we were also sad for their loss. Dan told me to write in one of the Caring Bridge journals that he did not understand how anyone can face terminal illness without faith in God and life everlasting. He enjoyed and appreciated the visits with the hospice chaplain, the bereavement counselor and our parish priest, and was happy that he was strong enough to attend Mass during the week, even with an oxygen tank on his shoulder. He said all their visits made him happy and then he said that going to Mass always, “Lifts my Spirit.”

EN: To get started you initially assembled the Caring Bridge material about Dan. What is Caring Bridge and why is this valuable for people?
KC: is a free nonprofit website that connects family and friends across the world. The headline of the site reads, “Connecting Family and Friends When Health Matters Most”

When readers open Danny Boy, they will begin sharing our twelve-month journey, beginning with the day he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung cancer and told he may live one more year. Dan’s story of treatments and his health updates are entered by us in Journals and all the return messages from friends are in the Guest Book.

Family and friends all over the world will see these updates of their loved one. Telephone calls, cards, emails are not necessary – all the communication can be done on CaringBridge. It is a blessing to the patient and the family, no longer is there a need to make continuous telephone calls repeating the same message over and over at a time when it is difficult to tell the story once. Dan’s website lists 7,200 visits from family and friends.

EN: In what ways will this book help others dealing with cancer or the loss of a loved one?
KC: I believe that reading the daily journals of Dan’s battle with cancer will help others recognize that when they have faith in life everlasting, they too will be given strength and courage to face their treatments and to face their death without fear. My prayer is that Danny Boy will inspire others to reach out to God as they are facing all their battles in life. It will show how Dan reached up his hand to God on his last day, and how he opened his door to the hospice chaplain, bereavement counselor and his priest and reaped the benefits of their counsel. They will see how an ordinary man died with peace in his heart, and ready for everlasting life.

When they read the CaringBridge website, I think they will witness how the website helps the patient to share their journey with family and friends across the world. By reading Dan’s guest book messages, they will read the love, the friendship and the encouragement from all the special people in their life, even though they do not see them in person. All these messages were humbling to Dan and to our children. They made him smile every day.

By reading “Karen’s story” of their life together, they will see how an ordinary man died with peace in his heart, more than ready for his life everlasting.

To learn more about Danny Boy or purchase a copy, visit the Savage Press website.


julie mellum said...

Tears are rolling down my face as I write this, because of the beauty of this interview with Karen Collins. Her faith, like Dan's, will be an inspiration to anyone who reads "Danny Boy." Everything written about Karen in this interview was and still is true of her. It was also true of Dan. Noone knew Karen would become an author, including Karen perhaps. I can't wait to read this book! Julie Mellum

Ed Newman said...

Thank you, Julie, for leaving this comment. I know that these are often hard things to write about. The transparency is refreshing.

Amy Eliot said...

This is a lovely interview, Ed and Karen. I have a copy of Danny Boy and look forward to reading it. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

We can’t all face death with the courage that Dan had but are thankful for his example. As Dan and Karen shared their story on Caring Bridge, we followed their journey and hoped that our prayers would somehow help. Caring Bridge and now Karen’s book has
been so insightful in how we can overcome adversity, how our Faith can strengthen us and help us reach a level of peace never imagined.
‘Thank you’ Dan and ‘Thank you’ Karen for an inspirational story we can learn from and share with others.
Bev Lindsey

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