God gave Dave and Robbi one son. That’s all. Just one. One child to raise, one child to love. One perfect Sam.
Well, nobody is perfect but some come pretty darn close – count Sammy in that group.
Dave and Robbi are friends of ours. Dave and my husband go back to high school days, we’re all in our sixties now so that’s a long time ago. We got married young and had kids right away. Dave and Robbi met a good few years after we did and the good Lord took awhile to create a baby for Dave and Robbi.
Sam was worth waiting for.
Because of the ten years + age difference between our kids we never hung out as families. Mostly it was a guys friendship with occasional couple dates. That’s why I never really got to know Sammy until his Bar Mitzvah when he turned thirteen.
Sam was confident and read beautifully from the Torah. He led the prayer service like a pro. However, when it came time for him to read his Bar Mitzvah speech – he broke down and cried.
We all watched with a hundred hearts silently urging him on. Believe me, we were in a House of Prayer and every single one of us in that sanctuary was praying for Sam to regain his composure.
But Sam surprised us. When he didn’t stop crying after the first excruciating sixty seconds it became obvious that were not witnessing a breakdown rather, we were watching his breakthrough.
He was overwhelmed by joy. That’s the only way I can describe it. He was taking in the sacred and reacting to the power of his faith and its traditions.
How could a young teenager be that self-aware? His sensitivity was on display for all to see and it left an indelible mark. I have been to many Bnai Mitzvahs since. Not a single one has even come close to replicating the spiritual lesson I learned from Sam.
Our God is an awesome God.
Sam grew up and his light never dimmed. People gathered around him, loving him, laughing with him, feeling supported by him.
I think it was a Tuesday when my husband got a call from Dave.
“Sam is in the hospital.”
It was very serious and it came on without warning. Acute pancreatitis – for no reason whatsoever. The only symptom was a stomach ache.
It’s five months since that day and Robbi is still agonizing over the stomach ache. “I should have done something sooner. I told him it was nothing.”
Sam died after a few helpless days in ICU. The doctors couldn’t do a thing. God gave Sam only twenty-nine years to do what he needed to do here on Earth. He made the most of it. He got the job done.
It was sixteen years from the last time Sam shared a sacred moment with a crowd of people who loved him, and he was still doling out a spiritual message. This time not through his own tears but from the tears of every single person sitting in the chapel attending his funeral.
A celebration of life – to be sure.
His parents wanted us to remember Sam as he lived not as he died. His close friends and family who spoke that day did so in spectacular fashion.
We learned from his best friend that Sam left this Earth on top of the world. He recently started a new job, one with good pay, benefits and a career path. He enjoyed his work and he was good at it. He immediately became a favorite among his bosses and coworkers.
Stories were shared about Sam’s compassion, his kindness, and of course his sweet sensitivity.
We heard a spoken word poem Sam had written and learned about a prison theater group for young inmates he supported.
We heard how Sam met Evie – his soulmate, the women he loved who loved him back. They moved in together, traveled together and they were planning a future together.
Instead, on a beautiful summer’s day, Evie was sitting in the front row with Dave and Robbi as they laid Sam to rest.
Just the other night Dave and Robbi came over for dinner. It’s hard to keep up “the celebration of life” thing when you are sad and lonely and missing your little boy. It makes for a great funeral, but when the mourning period is ended, it’s just Mom and Dad saying “What happened. Why? God, why?”
Robbi kept in touch with Evie. They both loved the same man – there is a common bond. She found a memento on Etsy that perfectly expressed what she was feeling, a necklace of two joined circles. It came with a card:
We both love the same man. I love a man who as a little boy asked me to kiss his boo-boos, fix his breakfast and tuck him in bed at night. I cried at his struggles and rejoiced at his triumphs. I spent many sleepless nights wondering if I did everything I could to raise him to be a loyal husband, a provider, and a gentleman. I wondered if any mother ever loved a child more. You are the woman who found my little boy. He was the man you wanted to marry. The man whose life you wanted to share throughout eternity. For all the prayers I ever prayed you are the answer. For you love the man who is my son. For that and for so much more, I will forever love you.
Robbi ordered the necklace. She made a date with Evie to join her and Dave for dinner. They met at the restaurant and slid into the booth. Small talk first. Then Robbi gave the hand-wrapped jewelry box to Evie who tore the paper carefully and opened the cover.
“Read the card.” Robbi said with excitement and a few tears.
Evie read the card in the restaurant’s dim light and said “Thank you.” She gave Robbi a kiss and then Dave. “Thank you.”
Robbi was beaming and then Evie spoke again.
“Now is the perfect time to tell you.”
Robbi and Dave waited to hear.
“I’m seeing someone.”
Now is not the perfect time to tell us Robbi screamed, not at all the perfect time. It’s the worst time ever.
Did I say that out loud? She thought.
She looked at Dave. He wasn’t horrified and Evie was still smiling.
She did say this. “That’s nice.”
The rest of the dinner was spent in uncomfortable silence.
Evie had moved on, but a mother and father can never move on.
They can cherish their memories. They can laugh with their friends. They can go to work every day and they can take a vacation once in a while.
But they can’t move on.
Life isn’t the same with their son gone and it’s not likely to get any better than the twenty-nine years they had with Sam.
Yet, God wakes them up every morning and their purpose is clear. To live as Sam lived; in kindness and compassion, sensitive to the moment and in awe of life.
I think of Sam when I cry happy tears, you should too. Take in your surroundings the next time you are in a holy space. Marvel at God’s presence, and let your tears flow.