Author: Sabrina

Monday morning I jumped in the car with the teens for a 2-day, 2-school tour. It was the first time I went any further south than Nipomo since we stopped Sam’s treatment because it wasn’t doing any good (did it ever?). As we approached that invisible hurdle, the tears and quiet sounds I can’t describe but feel desperate began to well up. I cried intermittently from Willow Road to Winchester Canyon. Either the teens were too into their books and knitting, or they are used to me sniffling all the time, because neither of them said anything. After the Winchester Canyon exit I snapped to attention, remembering our goal was visiting a college and I didn’t know where I was going so I needed a kid to navigate.

We did fine visiting schools. We had the usual. “Sam should be here,” and “What would Sam think?” moments (especially as we ate lunch beside a pond that was home to ginormous koi, who I am convinced were capable of leaping out of the water and snapping bits of sandwich and chip out of our hands) but we did okay. We even enjoyed ourselves.

Thursday I finally “forced” Teen the Elder to go to the doctor to have his wrist checked out. We thought he sprained it in late November (He fell. He was running backwards. For fun. Not for fitness.), and 6 weeks later it just didn’t seem to be getting any better so our pediatrician sent him for an xray.

It’s broken. Guess where the pediatric orthopaedist’s office is? Santa Barbara. Across the street from the hospital and clinic where Sam received most of his treatment. When I heard the address I think I started to hyperventilate.

We made an appointment for next Wednesday so I had plenty of time to dread it for many reasons-How bad is the break? Does he need surgery? Will he be able to play saxophone and piano? When I see the hospital and clinic will I freak out?

Minutes after setting the appointment the receptionist called me back. “We have an opening tomorrow? Can you come down tomorrow?” Of course we can. Less time for anticipating how awful it will feel to be in that neighborhood again. Kids are still on break, so back to Santa Barbara we went.

Getting to that hospital area from Southbound 101 is a bit roundabout. You have to exit the freeway and then get back on northbound for one exit, but I did it once a week for 10 months, so I’m a pro.

I did okay. Yes my heart was pounding. Yes, my breath was fast and shallow. I felt anger. And sadness. And longing. But so much anger.

The big, lovable goof will have surgery on his hand in 10 days. There will be a pin in his scaphoid and he’ll be in a cast for 6 weeks. It’s possible he’ll need a bone graft. He will play saxophone and he will play piano, even with a cast on. He may need physical therapy but he’ll be just fine.

And I’m “fine.” I’m angry. I’m sad. I don’t feel like doing much of anything, but I do as much as I can. The fight continues, and apparently our current weapon of choice is pancakes. Yes, that’s right, pancakes. The Lovely Lemonade Ladies are holding a pancake breakfast and raffle in honor of Sammy. A complete breakfast (pancakes, eggs, sausage, coffee, and juice) is only $5 for adults and $3 for kids! Eat all the pancakes you want! All proceeds will go to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Sunday, February 2nd
8-11:30
The Grange
370 South 13TH ST
Grover Beach, CA

If you aren’t local to Grover Beach, you can get involved by donating to the event. You can also donate to St. Baldrick’s via #36 Rabbis in honor of Sammy Sommer (son of my friends Michael and Phyllis-see how they’re holding up here.). If making a donation is not in your budget right now, then share this information with everyone you know-Facebook, Twitter, email, blog, you could even talk about it in real life!

The fight also involves getting our government to pay attention. Tony Stoddard (Cole’s Dad) is doing an excellent job at that. You can sign his petition, and make phone calls (White House Phone: 202-456-1111. Calling Hours – 9:00am to 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday). The focus right now is on getting the White House lit or decorated with gold in September. Good things are happening.

Or at least I want to be.

I realize I’m trying to freeze time for myself. I’m helping my surviving children to move forward by supporting their endeavors at school and encouraging Teen the Elder as he applies to colleges and completes the testing the schools require (770 on his Literature and Math 2 SAT subjects tests, and 800 on his Physics SAT subjects test-it’s my blog. I can brag if I want to). John has made progress with setting up his home office with my assistance. But me, I’m frozen, content to sit on the couch all day.

I think I figured out why I don’t feel ready to go back to work. I mean besides the crying off and on all day long. Besides the lack of focus and lack of sleep. Besides the angry outbursts. I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I go for walks. I take care of my family-plan meals for the week, shop, cook, do laundry. But none of that’s my life really.

You see if I go back to work then I’d be moving on with my life, and if I move on with my life then the space between me and Sam will grow. Right now I don’t feel too different from the way I felt in the moments after Sam died. And if I stay on the couch and do nothing more mentally taxing than attempt for bazillionth time to beat level 147 on Candy Crush (curse you, Candy Crush!), then it’s as if time hasn’t passed.

But time is passing. 11 days after Sam’s death we experienced our first Halloween without him. In November we observed John’s birthday, Chanukah, and Thanksgiving despite the hole in our family. We’ve marked one month since he died, then two. We went on our first road trip without him, and ate out for the first time (“Table for 5, please…I mean 4.”). In December we went to the movies as a family of 4, and talked about the last time we had been there with Sam.

At the start of each month I’ve woken up thinking of Sam and how this is a month he will never see. This is a month in which we will be entirely without him.

2013 is coming to an end. Sam was here for 2013. We sipped sparkling apple cider at midnight New Foundland time, and hoped 2013 would bring the shrinking or at least stabilization of his tumor. We didn’t get what we wanted. One could argue that 2013 has been the absolute, hands-down, worst year of my life. But I don’t want it to end.

With the end of 2013 comes the start of a year Sam will never see; the continuation of a year of firsts we do not celebrate. 2014 propels me into a future without Sam. 2014 pulls me further away from him, but no closer to anything else I can see.

That’s it. There will be no wise conclusion to this post. Don’t expect a, “Happy New Year!” from me. I am frozen.

People keep asking me if I am sleeping. I lie and tell them I am. Well, it’s not really lying. I do sleep. Maybe not enough.

Every night I lie in bed and read until I nod off. My book (or Sam’s kindle, or iPad) will fall onto my chest, and startle me into the realization that I am no longer reading but I am, in fact, sleeping. So I set the book (or device) aside, and burrow down under the covers next to my husband, and wait. Pretty much every night without fail my brain springs back to life, and the broken record of Sam’s last hours, minutes, and moments begins.

I tell myself I don’t have to do this. I tell myself it’s ok not to think about Sam in order to sleep. It doesn’t work.

I search for a memory of the day that’s pleasant-like today’s paddle board outing-and try to remember every detail, in order, in hopes of distracting myself to sleep. It doesn’t work.

Emptying my mind does not help-that just leaves space for the memory of his labored breathing to take hold.

Filling my mind with thoughts of the glassy water of the bay and the seals like long-whiskered dogs in the water doesn’t do the trick either. I can’t stay focused long enough on any one thing to fall asleep. Within seconds the memory of his eyes opening for the first time in hours just before his last breath sneaks in.

Suddenly I am filled with guilt that in those last hours when his breathing was labored and no amount of morphine would smooth it out, why didn’t I just pick him up and hold him? The evening before we had found the perfect position for his comfort, which was reclined against the arm of the couch, and it seemed that every time I moved him in the slightest-to give medicine or ease breathing-I just made things worse. Nothing worked. I guess that’s my answer. I didn’t pick him up because I was afraid I would make him uncomfortable. So I settled for sitting next to him and holding his hand and talking to him.

Nothing worked. And there is so much guilt associated with my inability to make his death peaceful.

Just as in the treatment of his cancer-Nothing worked. And even though it makes no sense, there is also so much guilt around our inability to save him.

So, to answer the question about sleeping honestly, “Not very well.” Nothing works.

The death of Superman Sam has had me thinking. Although my own Sam has only been gone 56 days, or maybe because he’s only been gone 56 days, I feel like I can offer some advice to those that love and want to support the Sommer family.

I don’t have advice on what to say. I haven’t figured that out yet. I do know that it does not help to talk about G-d’s plan, heaven, angels, being in a better place, etc. There is nothing you can say that will make them feel better. There is nothing you can say that will make them feel better. Just be with them. Hold hands. Tell them you love them. Say his name.

Here you go-thoughts on paper (or a screen. Whatever):

Do not ask, “Is there anything I can do?” “Is there anything you need?” The bereaved parent will likely answer, “No.” Unless you can bring the dead back to life or build a time machine, these open-ended questions are not helpful.

Just offer to do something. Guess at what they might need and offer to do it. Don’t say, “Can I…?” Or “When would be a good time for me to…?” A better approach would be to say, ” I would like to…(insert helpful thing here). Is…(insert day/time here)a good time?”

Here’s a list of things every family might need at one time or another, depending on where they live or the time of year:

Laundry
Shovel snow
Mow lawn
Clean bathroom
Feed and care for pets
Drive kids to activities
Buy groceries
Vacuum
Take out trash
Return library books

So you might say, “Phyllis, I would like to come over and do your laundry. Is tomorrow at 10am a good time?” Now she might say, “No thanks,” because maybe her mom is there and handling that aspect of running the house. At this point I would suggest that you either offer to do something else right away or that you let her know that you’ll check in with her in a few days to make the same offer.

Here’s another way to approach helping-When Sam was on hospice (almost 5 months), I had a few friends who with regularity would text me when they were out shopping. “Hi! I’m at Costco (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Albertson’s). Do you need anything?” This is a great way to offer help. I would be reluctant to hand someone my whole list, but if we’re out of toilet paper or bread or eggs, I can accept this small gesture.

Offer to visit when visitors might be thinning, like after Shiva. Don’t say, “Call me when you’re ready for a visit.” You call or text and offer. And if they say no, call next week, and the week after, and the week after. And if you call and they don’t answer, leave a message. I could not talk to people in the early days, but I did listen to messages. Texting is easier.

If you are far away and can’t be there to help, donate to their St. Baldrick’s campaign, or the MACC Fund. Send a card, especially after a few weeks when they stop coming. Use his name-“Sam had the best laugh.” It will be appreciated. I promise.

You know Michael and Phyllis, and so I’m betting you know what they need. Trust your gut.

I’ve been sitting in this spot on the couch since 7am. It’s almost 10:30am. It’s Sunday, so if you’re lucky enough to have a day off and have no plans, which occasionally happens to most of us, you could get away with this. This doing nothing.

Thing is, I did the same thing yesterday. Yesterday I folded half of the clothes in a laundry basket that’s been sitting here since Friday night. I’m still in pjs. I haven’t brushed my teeth. I do have plans. They’re not big. I keep them small on purpose-being gentle with myself: Finish folding the laundry, get dressed (no shower), brush my teeth, read a book, go for a walk, do some yoga, bake granola bars (a pre-cancer Sunday ritual I’m trying to bring back), cook dinner (what’s the point, without my Sam?).

I’ve become fairly comfortable with these small, daily goals. I feel downright accomplished when I complete the small tasks I set out for myself. It’s a good day if everyone has food to eat, clothes to wear and teens get to school and get back home again.

On Friday I learned that the committee at my place of employment denied my request for another month of catastrophic leave. Back in July or August my advocates with HR and the school board felt there would be no problem with me sitting out this entire school year on catastrophic leave. Sam’s terminal illness and death are a catastrophe. He is dead and I have lost my bearings and my remaining children and my husband are also spinning, helplessly. It seemed reasonable that I take this year to try and piece us back together in some semblance of family-this new, fractured unit of four.

Officially my leave ended on Tuesday. So in the vision of this committee I should’ve gone to work this week. Right now, if I were working tomorrow, I would be in my classroom prepping for the week. Instead I am on the couch. According to the committee I am ready to take responsibility for the education of 30 young people. Per the committee I am ready to drop the teens at school, manage a classroom of 30 Sam’s for 6 hours, work until 5 or 6 planning the next day, and come home to what? Last week one of the teens cried every day after school over the stress of grieving, keeping up, and catching up. Last week one of the teens left the house in a fit of grieving anger and I drove around the neighborhood looking for that one to offer comfort and a ride home. When I think about returning to work I mostly think of the cost to the teens and John. I haven’t even begun to think about how I am yet. How will I be around children Sam’s age? Will I be constantly distracted with thoughts like-“He should be here.”? Will I be irritable? Cranky? Unfocused? I can’t concentrate long enough to read a book or fold a load of laundry. What kind of teacher will I be?

I think I’d be a pretty crappy teacher if I went back to work right now. I think I wouldn’t want my kid in my class. HR is on my side. So is the board. They want to offer me administrative leave. It’s the best they can do. It means I have to prove my unfitness for work right now (prove that 56 days after Sam’s death I am still grieving too hard to work?) It also means that the sub in my room will be paid out of my salary. These are rather large inconveniences that I (and my family) are prepared to accept if they allow me to stay home to continue this imperfect reassembling of my family.

And just in case anyone is still actually with me and reading, sweet Superman Sam died yesterday. He was 8. Here’s a link to his mom’s blog. http://supermansamuel.blogspot.com/2013/12/what-im-missing.html?m=1

From John, because I have no words…

After May 29, 2013 I struggled with a question off-and-on, the answer to which I’m pretty sure I knew, and probably because I didn’t like the answer, I continued struggling with the question. The question was: What’s worse, having a child whom you know is going to die and having to deal with all the horror that itself presents; or, actually having him die?

At the time, the feeling of being “buried alive” while we struggled to make the most of each day we had with Sam seemed to be the most difficult. How can you “enjoy” life with such a dark cloud hanging over your head? But, of course, we did. We had many absolutely wonderful times with Sam after we were told he was going to die. But at the end of each day (and many times throughout the day) we had to inwardly confront the reality that our little boy was dying. So each day was a struggle, a mental and emotional obstacle course that exhausted us and left us terribly conflicted and, well, just so sad.

But then, on October 20, 2013, he died. He actually died. It is, even now, incredibly hard to fathom. It still just doesn’t seem possible. How could it possibly be that our incredibly sweet, oh-so-huggable and kissable, bright, shining, inquisitive and inspiring darling little baby boy—is dead? He isn’t coming back. We will not see him sitting in his chair, or lying on the couch anymore; we won’t get to wake up next to him in the morning; we won’t get to kiss him goodnight and say “nighty, night; you have sweet dreams; I love you very much; and I’ll be seeing you in the morning”, as we did every night before he went to sleep. Unfathomable.

And right there is the answer to the question: What’s worse, living with a child you know is going to die, or actually having him die? It’s the dying part. Believe me…it’s the dying part that is worse. And now, 49 days later, it’s only now that I am finally beginning to remember the “old Sam”. The vivacious Sam. The healthy Sam.

I had a dream the other night about Sam. He and I were playing—what else—Cow! It was awesome. There we were just like old times in our imaginary wonderland. In the dream Sam was healthy and happy and perfect, and was speaking like the Sam we all know, with inflection and character and imagination. And then he laughed! Oh, that laugh! That visceral, infectious laugh. His whole body would laugh. His whole being would laugh. It came right from his soul. That smile and that laugh just seem to embody for me the whole totality of knowing Sam, in all his wonder.

It was an incredible gift to have known Sam. Even though he was my son (of course you would expect me to say good things) he was just so engaging and interesting and fun…I just adored him. And though I can’t have him here with me, to play with and laugh with, and just be a father to, I finally have him back in my memories and in my dreams. And as much as it hurts, I think it’s the first step towards some healing. This wound will never go away—it’s just way too big and there will always be some scar tissue—but it’s getting a little easier to breathe and walk and talk again.

These milestones are so painful. And to have them piled up against each other, like cars on Highway 99 in Tule fog, is unbearable.

It started with the one-month anniversary of Sam’s death on November 20th, quickly followed by John’s birthday on the 22nd. Then we had the weekend to breathe before we took our first roadtrip without Little Guy on Monday so the man-child could see Stanford. Two days later Thanksgiving piggy backed on Chanukah.

I had all day Tuesday and Wednesday to decorate for Chanukah, so naturally I got started around 3 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, racing the sun to get things set up. When it came down to candle-lighting on that first night, the teens were on board with celebrating. If they want to observe Chanukah, then I will too, I decided. I enjoyed their enjoyment. I had purchased a couple of presents for them on a shopping trip a few weeks ago, so I’m not a total slacker. Watching them open presents, and light their menorahs (Abby has taken it upon herself to be the lighter of Sam’s menorah) gives me pleasure.

I like the brevity of Chanukah. Yes, I know it’s 8 nights, but I mean I like that each night the time dedicated to celebration can be kept quite short. All you need to do is light candles, say prayers, give gifts, and while the candles burn (they are thankfully almost as small as birthday candles, so it takes about 20 minutes)-do no work. We don’t need a big family dinner every night surrounding the candle-lighting, and the whole day does not revolve around Chanukah. So right now, when all I can think of is, “Sam should be here.” “Sam should be lighting his menorah.” “What would Sam have asked for Chanukah this year?” At least the torture is short.

So what are the Holidays like for the bereaved? I can only tell you how it is for me. There’s a lot (can I say shit-ton?) of anticipation. The days before John’s birthday, Chanukah, and Thanksgiving have been almost sadder than the actual days. I cry a lot. It gets to the point where my head hurts. I think about what was, what should’ve been, what might’ve been, and what is. I feel better when I’m walking, but strangely enough yoga brings more tears. I don’t feel like doing anything, but I distract myself with mundane household tasks to get a break from the grief. I spend far too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and email, promoting the cause-sharing events, asking for donations, inviting people to “like” a page in hopes more eyes will see it (increase awareness=raise money=research=FIND A CURE).

People are starting to ask, “What are your plans for going back to work?” What? This IS my work right now. I have to make sure Ben and Abby are OK. My straight A students are each failing one class, and getting C’s and D’s in others. They need me. They need me in the middle of the day still. I get texts that say, “Mommy, I can’t find a place to get away from all the people.” I will not be unavailable to them. The Cause is my work as well. All this Sharing, Inviting, and Tweeting needs to be backed up with organized events and fundraisers for people to Share, Invite, and Tweet about. I can no longer stand by and let my friends do all of the work. It’s time to get cracking.

So I’ve got a couple of job-things to do right now. I’m going to share three things with you that you can help out with by Sharing, Tweeting, and Blogging about-and if you can afford to-donate. Here we go:

1. There’s an online raffle for my Central Coast friends. If you aren’t a local, you can still share and donate. You can get there through Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/596076500441784/ or http://www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/117006. You buy raffle tickets by selecting “Donate,” and noting “raffle” in the comments. Event ends December 18th. All money raised goes to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

2. Through December 31st, my friend, Sheri Murphy, is selling bags and accessories through Mixed Bag Designs. Sheri will not make any money off of these sales, all proceeds are going to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

3. Finally, and this is so exciting, Chris Beland will be contributing to a compilation CD being made by The Ronan Thompson Foundation to benefit childhood cancer research and support. The CD is called Rock for Ronan, and you can get in on this by donating now, here. And if you haven’t already “Liked” Chris on Facebook, please take care of that.

That is all. Now get back to work.

I’m sure this is obvious to most of you, but aside from this period of our lives being unbearably sad at times, I am struck by the number of firsts we are racking up. Each one feels like an elephant on my chest. It seems like it’s too soon that life goes on, but it has.

There was the first time eating out that I wrote about, which only happened a week after Sam died. Since then there have been many firsts that were expected and dreaded, and many I hadn’t considered.

My car buddy

For example, I knew that my children would return to school and that John would return to work, but I didn’t anticipate how the silence of the car after I dropped off the teens would feel. The teens and Sam always
shared their good-byes, and then Sam and I would chatter on the way to his school/my work, or later I would just chatter to Sam as we headed home because he was no longer in school/I was no longer working. I found myself just losing it-crying all the way home because he is no longer in the back seat.

Goober

After a few days of that, the dog did something strange. He’s never been a go-for-a-ride kind of mutt. In fact, the first few times he rode in the car after we adopted him I had to pick him up and put him in. If you’ve ever met Chance, I know you’re pretty impressed with me right now-he’s a big boy. So Chance only went for car rides when he absolutely had to-to go to the vet, to get his nails trimmed. When we’d had him about a month we began to do some fun outings (dog park, beach, hiking trails) so that he would get the idea that the car didn’t always mean torture was coming (in the form of the slick floors of the veterinary office or grooming salon, but that’s another of his many quirks and so another post). But still, when I would leave the house he didn’t stand and beg and look at me with those eyes and ask to go.

Around the 4th or so morning back to school, as the teens and I were leaving, Chance got up from his doggie bed to stand in the living room and watch us leave. He cocked his head to the side, and gave me the puppy-dog eyes (you know the look), and whined. So I said, “Oh, OK, boy. You want to go to school?” He left the living room rug so fast it curled up beneath his feet as he raced across it to the front door. He trotted down the sidewalk with us, leapt gracefully into the hatchback, and sat. I’m not alone anymore. Whoever sits in the back seat gets drooled on and snuffled (that’s what I call it when a dog puts its wet nose on you) in the ear. The teens have someone (something?) to say good bye to. And I have a listener for my chatter all the way home. He’s not Sam. I still wish it was Sam who is back there. Sam is irreplaceable. But Chance is comforting. I’ll take what I can get.

Ok. So that turned into a post about Chance the Empathy Dog, instead of a post about firsts. That tells me that Chance has done his job well.

Scarlett

We adopted him this past March. You would think that a family in the midst of dealing with their youngest child’s cancer treatment would not want to take on one more responsibility. We wanted him because we missed having a dog. The Best Dog in the World, AKA Scarlett, died in June 2010, and it wasn’t until about 2 years later that we were ready to take a chance on another dog. I knew our next dog would always be compared to her. She was beautiful, gentle, and smart. She was a tough act to follow. In the Spring of this year we decided that not only were we ready, but that we needed a dog. We needed a little levity, and something positive to pull our focus from our fears about Sam’s future.

We keep a list

Chance is a pretty good mutt. He’s handsome, he’s gentle…that’s all I’ve got. I can’t call him smart. He’s eaten too many non-food items to wear that label. He digs. He won’t walk on wood/tile/linoleum floors. He nudges my forearm with his nose in order to solicit pats regardless of what I’m holding in my hand (nothing, a full and open water bottle, hot coffee). He barks incessantly at visitors and sniffs their crotches. When we walk he must turn and attempt to sniff every butt-human and canine-that passes. OK, not all the canines. He’s frightened of many of them, and tries to hide behind me. You know that lady on the beach with her dog’s leash wrapped around her legs several times because her enormous fraidy-cat of a dog is trying desperately to get away from the miniature poodle that is obviously trying to eat it alive? Yeah, that’s me. But he makes us laugh. He vocalizes like Chewbacca (you can hear him on the Rocketship video), he prances like a miniature pony all by himself in the backyard, he snores, and when he cocks that gigantic head of his to the side, I feel like we could have a conversation.

Back in the good old days when I would hear the UPS truck pull up in front of our house, I couldn’t help but feel a small surge of excited hopefulness. Lately, though the packages have been related to Sam’s death-sympathy gifts, flowers-so I’m less excited. Today I felt that old familiar feeling at the sound of the unwieldy truck outside our home. Not so much excited anymore, but still hopeful for a sign of compassion.

Boy was I wrong.

The package was merely an envelope. The envelope was addressed to John-“Work,” I thought. I squinted at the return address in fine print: Los Osos Valley Mortuary.

Oh.

I pulled back the tab on the envelope a couple of inches and saw the familiar pattern of a county certificate. I didn’t have to open the envelope the rest of the way. I have several county certificates in my possession-a marriage certificate, 3 birth certificates.

Sam’s death certificate has arrived. It stays in the envelope. I don’t need to see it. I don’t need it.

Please go to the Sam’s blog and show that family some love. Superman Sam’s AML is back. It’s not good. Another family is at the end of the road. I am so sad. http://supermansamuel.blogspot.com/2013/11/520-days-later.html

The last few days have been so heavy. I should have seen it coming, what with Halloween and people participating in Celebrate Sammy today.

So Halloween, when your only child of dressing up and trick-or-treating age is dead, is not fun. Yes, it was lovely to see all of the children, especially former students. And I was touched that so many friends who do not live in my neighborhood stopped by to make sure things weren’t too quiet here.

I anticipate that no matter how many costumed children ring the bell, no matter how cute they are, and how kind and sympathetic their parents are, it will never be enough to fill the void that Sammy left when he died far too young and our Halloweens came abruptly to a stop. I’ve always thought unkindly of those people whose lights were out on Halloween. Unless you have a religious edict that prevents you from celebrating, why would you not do it for the children? I’m afraid our house may be one of those dark houses next year. We may have to build a new Jeffers’ Family Halloween tradition. I polled the Jeffers on what they might like to do next year, but no one had an answer. They were silent.

The days following Halloween were rough too. First there are the scores of Facebook postings of adorable, complete sibling groups in costume, and then there was the, necessary for our purposes, scouting through every photo from 2005 until almost 2 weeks ago for pictures of Sammy.

My belly, bursting with Sammy, with Ben and Abby lovingly leaning. Newborn Sammy, so small for weeks he had only one outfit that fit him-a preemie outfit. Baby Sammy, chubby, gorgeous, kissable and moist. Toddler Sammy, tugging on Jigsy or Scarlett’s fur (all gone now). Preschool Sammy, with that purposefully, squinty-eyed grin, or falling asleep in the strangest places and positions. School-aged Sammy, smiling, smiling, smiling. Sick Sammy.

There were many happy memories in those photos. In fact, at times I laughed out loud and called John over to the computer, “Look at this one!” Every few minutes reality would interrupt to remind me that there would be no more photos, but I still had a job to do-find photos of Sam. Reality offered one closing sucker punch to the gut when the last folder was searched, the final photo was copied, and the concluding disc was burned. I was done. I finished looking at all the photos of Sam I will ever have. There will be no more.

I feel sad, exhausted, and distracted, and I’ve been crying so much not only have I stopped wearing make-up, but I’ve stopped wearing moisturizer too. It just gets in my eyes and stings. So not only do I look sad and tired, but I probably look a good bit older too thanks to the wrinkles not getting all plumped out with skin cream. When I want to feel better I read your messages, walk with friends who don’t mind me talking about Sammy, and I read the writings of other mothers who have lost children. It helps me to feel less alone.In particular I am comforted by the writings of Angela Miller who you can find on Still Standing Magazine, and Facebook. She is coming out with a book soon, if she can raise the funds. Guess what? You can help. You can buy a book before it comes out to help in the publishing, or you can give a single dollar, or if you really want to be a hero, you can give even more. Please check out her book out on and Pubslush. Please and thank you.

The photos we have will be used in a slideshow at Sam’s memorial. All who knew Sam, all who know his family, all who prayed and hoped and wished for better for Sam are welcome at his memorial. The focus will be on remembering a sweet and joyful boy who loved the color sky blue, all things camo, art, animals, and imagination. If you have sky blue, camo or gold clothing to wear, do so-it will help to keep the mood sweet and joyful, like he was.

Celebrate Sammy, Again
Sunday, November 10th at 3pm
Congregation Beth David
10180 Los Osos Valley Rd.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805)544-0760

This Friday you have an opportunity to make a difference. Help us raise money for research by eating BBQ at Best Lovin’ BBQ in Arroyo Grande from 3 to 9. Follow this link for details. I still believe we can change the future. Do it for kids like my Sammy (our Sammy), and do it for kids like Sammy Sommer (who by the way is doing well. Check it out for yourself here.)