Susan Seats was a caregiver for her father for six years. While at times challenging, it was fulfilling to be there for him in his time of need and bring him joy when she could. Holding a living memorial, honoring her father while he was alive and could hear everything people wanted to say, and recording his life story are among those moments she holds close to her heart.
“There are always ways to incorporate some meaning into life no matter what the circumstances,” she says.
Susan, an Oak Park resident, and three other Ventura County residents shared their journeys as caregivers April 20, 2023, at the Camarillo Public Library as part of an event co-organized by the Camarillo Health Care District and library. The event was free and open to the public, attracting more than 60 people.
Dr. Ruby Simpkins and Joanna Wullschleger, both of Camarillo, and Michelle Rogers of Ventura joined Susan in sharing true, personal stories. All are also featured on the District’s podcast, “Stories from the Heart: Inspiring Tales of Life, Love and Learning,” which is available on the District’s website, camhealth.com, through SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Ruby is a doctor who practiced internal medicine in Agoura Hills for 33 years. She is also a “storyhealer,” someone who weaves tales primarily to heal the soul, spirit and body. She made her debut as a storyteller at By The Sea Theater in Malibu and has been featured at the Promenade Playhouse in Santa Monica, as well as other venues across California.
Ruby’s story is about family love and support. It stresses the importance of community in nurturing, protecting and encouraging its young, especially in poor and disadvantaged communities.
“My story shows that we have different motivations to achieve our goals,” Ruby says. “If we are strong enough and persistent, we can reach our goals.”
Ruby’s story recounts her great-aunt’s stroke and how the events that unfolded propelled her to become a doctor.
“Greatest lesson learned on my journey is that we are all one,” she says. “We must help and support each other. We must share, connect and empathize with each other. Compassion and love are the answers.”
Michelle's story is about her decision to give the gift of life. She calls her story the "unwhitting kidney donor" because she never throught she would be donating her kidney. But when she was the only match for her boyfriend's sister, she had to think long and hard.
"I thought about losing my dad to a heart attack, my sister to suicide and husband to cancer, and I felt like I had no control in those situations. I was just a bystandar. But donating one of my kidneys gave me an opportunity to intervene and save a life," she said.
Joanna’s story is about grief – grief as a mother, wife and caregiver – and how she has persevered throughout her journey.
“I believe that when your loved ones have serious illnesses, it makes you stronger to accept all that life has to offer – both good and bad,” she says.
Susan's story conveys that no one should live with regrets.
“I learned the importance of responding to take care of someone you love," she said. "It’s not easy – it’s exhausting and difficult to watch someone suffer … yet at the same time there are so many cherished moments of laughter and sharing memories.
“I am glad I was able to share in such an intimate journey of my dad’s life. I realize that it was a way to give back to the many sacrifices he made in his life for his children.”
Anyone interested in sharing their story on our podcast, should click on this link to fill out our application.