June 1, 2013

  • Retrospective



    June 1, 2013


    6 Months. I’m really there. In just a few days it will be 6 months since Reno. 6 months since “I’ll see you later.” 6 months since life as I knew it shattered. I guess its some sort of milestone. I thought maybe it would mean something. Or that I’d feel different. I guess even the old grizzled mind I feel like on the inside can have the naivete to think that somehow at 6 months out the “all better” switch gets thrown. But there is no such thing. The switch or the all better. But as a friend pointed out to me the other day, there’s no such thing as a normal life. There’s just life. What do you do with that? You live. But live intensely. Take in the moments. Don’t take a summer breeze or a laugh with a friend for granted. Most of all don’t hide from life.


    I haven’t posted much since I got back from Florida. Truth is I needed a break. Something about that trip shook me loose and I realized I need to work on me. I need to start learning who I am and who Im going to be in life 2.0. That’s no small task. But im doing the work. I also just needed to finish out the school year and get to now. The start of this summer has been on my radar for a while. Maybe that’s why 6 months means so much to me. Winter is over. And it was a long winter. Maybe my winter is ending too. Maybe, despite the challenges of this new life and the knowledge that the road is long and most of it lies ahead, I can begin to hope…maybe. Hope is a funny thing. Hope for tomorrow, for a future, for joy. I can hope that I might just be ok. I am bad at just letting things be. I need to know what is next. Where does life go from here? But that’s the thing. What’s next is now. And before anything, I need to learn to live now. Those cancer years were spent navigating dangerous waters. Where would the iceberg be? The idea that I can just sail now is scary. It seems not possible and it also fills me with guilt. Steph never got to just sail…why should I? This is also the point where she’d tell me to stop thinking like that….what is it getting me? And she’d be right.


    It is more than fitting that this 6 month mark takes me down to Florida with my family and then on to Houston to see friends and of course visit with Dr. B. See my parents kind of know this but Ill say it here. I am eternally grateful to them. Not just for raising me and not screwing that up, but for the vacation they always gave us. See thanks to them for one week each year, I step out of the 24/7 role of life as a band director and my life is basically a Jimmy Buffett song. It’s the ultimate battery recharge. Last summer they did more than they may know. It was Stephanie’s last vacation, although none of us knew that to be fact, though storm clouds were certainly building. But it was the perfect vacation. Everything Steph needed to enjoy the beach in her chemo-fied state was there. She loved it. And the whole family was able to go. We got not only a great picture of every one but it is where it took “the picture”. Many of you have seen it. I took it on a whim trying to get a candid shot. What I got was Steph, sitting in a lounge chair looking more reflective than I had seen in a long time. In the background the sun was setting over the Gulf through the clouds in such a way it looked like the light was exploding through the clouds. It was a beautiful serene moment. It was also a moment where deep inside I started to know what was coming…on some level.  But that picture carried so much peace and calm….it was a picture that said “its all going to be ok.” That trip was a wonderful week. Going back brings some trepidation as the first return to Houston did. Im retracing our footsteps in some ways. I imagine ill have the same reactions. Really though, I’m learning she is always with me. Her footprints are there wherever I am and as I’ve said time and time again, I can’t help but know she’s smiling.

April 11, 2013

  • Second Star to the Right and Straight on Till Morning

    Sunday April 7, 2013

    Somewhere on the road between Georgia and Tennessee


    I’m not entirely sure how to write this one. Fresh off a week of so many feelings its hard to decide where to start. So Ill start like always. Just typing a few words.


    Currently I am sitting on a charter bus on the road back from another trip to Florida with the East Clinton Band. This is the third one Ive done with this group and aside from a little rain it went off without a hitch. Everything went smoothly. Everyone did a great job; we had a great clinic and overall a great time. I got to hit all the favorite rides and food stops and try some new ones. It was a great trip. Just one thing missing.

    See each time before I did a trip like this, Steph would go. She would be there with me every step of the way baby sitting me while I babysat the band. She was always there, every trip and had been looking forward to this one as well. It was a strange feeling pulling out of EC on the bus and she wasn’t there. Going through some parts of the trip were especially emotional. I put on a good poker face so most of my EC crew is probably saying “really?”.

    Magic Kingdom was always a favorite and we stopped there last summer on our family vacation. With so many things being so fresh there she was on my mind all day. We rode her favorite, Splash Mountain and I couldn’t help but feel her laughing as we sat in the front and wettest row in the boat.

    What really hit me though was the Christmas store in Downtown Disney. See that was one place we always stopped at. In fact a stop at a Christmas store was always a must-do on any of our trips. Christmas was always our favorite time of year so naturally combine an out of town trip and a Christmas store and we were there. Each time we stopped at the one at Downtown we’d look at all the ornaments, talk of how much we loved the season and what our plans might be this year. This was true right up until last summer when we went for the last time. We did all those things knowing full well what may lie ahead.

    And so this week I returned. And I did all those things. And I found the ornament that we would have bought; we always bought one when we stopped there. But I couldn’t buy it. Not yet. Maybe this summer if I go back during my family vacation. Maybe. But for now I ride home from a wonderful trip. And there was lots of good for me in this. Disney was a place that we always loved to go together and traveled to with our bands. So in that I was immersed in reminders. And the memories flooding back were all happy. In fact I truly felt Steph with me on this trip to the point where I could hear her laugh on the rides and feel her walking by me. We would always send the students and parents back to the bus after the fireworks at EPCOT and go get the medical forms together. Its oddly appropriate that I did that by myself last night. I walked alone out of the park. And yet I wasn’t alone. She walked and laughed by my side as she always did and always will.

    Second star to the right, and straight on till morning; the directions to Neverland. Why? Because there time stands still. There we never grow old or up. It is a place of childhood. I guess that’s what I did in my mind this week. And I realized the memories never fade and neither does Steph’s presence. She’s checking in on me. I know this and she is smiling.

March 30, 2013

  • Resurrection

    March 30, 2013 From Home


    Easter. When I was a kid it meant eggs and candy and maybe a new toy and a slightly longer church service. When I was in high school it meant an early morning since the youth did the sunrise service. In college it meant extra cash from the palm Sunday and Easter gigs. And yet somehow as I’ve gotten older the true meaning behind the holiday has become closer to my heart. It has become something important to me and that could not be more true now. I wish that it meant Steph could come back to us and stay. But she visits, in whatever way you get to let those who love you know you are ok, she does that. And the true meaning of tomorrow morning, which is very not-lost on me, is that Stephanie is not only free from cancer but dancing eternally, bathed in love and light in an existence the mind cannot comprehend. Too many of us get theologically hung up on “youre not good enough” or “don’t make God mad”. The reality of tomorrow isn’t those things but everlasting love that not even death and suffering could break. Hmmm. Sounds familiar.


    As I grew up in the church I always looked to draw parallels in my life scripture. Ive done it here too. One that dawned on my today was the story laid out in Revelation of 7 years of tribulations. See the 7 years involve all manner of unpleasantries. Yet they are eventually followed (and yes I know technically im skipping some things but roll with it) by all things being made new. There is a new heaven and a new earth. All the old is washed away. Its where we get the famous quote of “and He will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Seven years of tribulations. Really? Again, sounds familiar. Those seven years seemed to try to tear us apart. But it couldn’t. Cancer couldn’t, death couldn’t and me working to live on in Life 2.0, well that won’t either. It goes back to my last post. I may be a wrinkly old grandfather one day, who knows. But if I am I will still never stop loving Stephanie and I will carry an eternal loyalty to her and her legacy. But that doesn’t mean I stop living either. I mean after all it’s Live Give Love, not sit in sorrow in a darkened room and post sad comments to Facebook all day, Give Love right?


    So here I sit on the eve of Resurrection day out of our own 7 years of tribulations carrying in my heart a love that not even death and suffering could break. Am I cursed or blessed? Blessed. One of the final lines of Les Miserables is “to love another person is to see the face of God.” If that is true, then I have to admit to being blessed. Im not sugar coating and acting like Im not angry she’s gone. I am. Every day, every hour. And please let me be clear; I live right now in the aftermath. I am surrounded by the trappings of what was supposed to be our “happily ever after.” So please don’t assume that I don’t feel it. Stephanie never made a public spectacle of her pain; she brought out her spark and light. Who am I as the caretaker of that legacy if I don’t do the same? Its what she taught me to do. You simply cannot celebrate a beautiful joyful light like her by parading despair. But as I have said over and over again: I HAVE A CHOICE! And I have to rejoice for Stephanie being in my life. And tomorrow I will rejoice for my faith telling me that even though I cannot see her, she lives. My childhood pastor told a sermon once on Easter and I never forgot it. He spoke of a small boy who was made fun of during a Sunday school Easter scavenger hunt for bringing back and empty egg to represent the real meaning of Easter. After much taunting he screams “I did to do it right, the egg is empty! The tomb was empty!” Tomorrow during the service on Easter Morning, I will be there to celebrate a beautiful person…the strongest I have ever known who is now in a place where she is free. I will rejoice that I was blessed to spend so much time with her and that I carry her with me forever until we meet again. Forget the cynicism and dark musings of this world. Happiness faith and joy aren’t too cliché for me. I choose life and light. I choose to live like Steph; to live give and love like she did. Oh, and John, if you are reading this, yes I will have an empty egg with me tomorrow morning.


    Peace to you all


March 23, 2013

  • The End of the Century


    Saturday March 23, 2013


    100 days. Might as well be 100 years. Or 100 minutes. But 100 days since “I’ll see you later.” I posted to Facebook that if I were President, expectations for my term would be set based on my first 100 days. So how would I poll? Id like to think Id do well. But really I don’t care about how I poll save with one person. If I could ask one thing Id ask her if she’s proud of me. I want to know she knows Im doing ok and that she thinks Im doing a good job. But I often write of messages in a bottle and how I feel Steph communicate with me in that way through others. And everyone tells me Im doing great and she’d be proud. I’ll take that as a big yes then.


    So here at the end of the first one hundred days I’ve learned many things. One of the biggest things I’ve learned was that how I viewed life after a loss like this before it happened was totally off. See if you haven’t been through this you may view it as something chronologically neat a tidy. For a while you are sad, maybe months, maybe years but for a while you are sad; you are “bereaved”. Then “time heals all wounds” and you are happy again. Well…..



    Here’s the real deal. Both happen concurrently. There are many times I have been happy in the last 100 days. With friends, family, playing concerts, traveling, teaching, all kinds of things. I have also felt moments of great loss. There have been times where the sorrow seems unbearable or the loss to great to face or the unfairness so stark that the only way to right the ship and achieve cosmic justice is for the universe to reverse course and re-big-bang its self into a clean slate. But again; wrong. Those are the moments where I hear

    Steph: “Sammy, what does that kind of thinking get you?”

    Me: “Nothing”

    Steph: “Ok, so why would you keep doing that to yourself?”

    Me: “Cause its sad”

    Steph: “Ok so youre just going to stay sad all the time? Really? I don’t want that for you. For heaven’s sake go do something fun….GOOOOO.”


    See Steph always got it in a way that so many of us don’t. And that is the biggest point of this first 100 days. I will always be sad that Stephanie isn’t physically here with me. I will grieve that until the day I see her again. But I can be happy and find joy and rebuild my life at the same time. See you don’t stop grieving the loss it just becomes something you do in new ways. Its always there but you learn to live with the emotional scar tissue. I suspect Ill hear her voice and wonder what she would say or do for the rest of my life. I truly would be completely unsurprised if 50 years from now as an old man I am watching grandchildren play on Christmas morning and still pause and think “….yeah…Steph…” And that is ok to do. It is good to do.


    But what is not ok to do is to sit and stay in it. Some may wonder why I try to write of optimism and hope and not of my sorrow. I choose not to parade it. Everyone knows how much I miss Stephanie. I don’t need to remind them. My support from the people I care about who surround me is the antidote to those bad days. They have Spidey-Senses as to when I need them. But I won’t sit in it. “What does that get you Sammy?” Then her tag line to every hospital visit for 7 years: “Ok, so whats the plan?”

    You see that is the enduring impact of Stephanie’s legacy. She would not want a festival of sorrow. She would want a celebration of her impact. The night she passed I wrote three words: Live Give Love. Words to sum up her life and legacy and who and what she became; even beyond that I see what happened when those words took off. It was like the Phoenix rising. Stephanie left our sight but at the same time was freed from the bonds of her illness and became something greater; something more beyond the limitations of human life. I followed the three words up with the phrase “Live for Steph”. Id amend it: Live LIKE Steph. See if we, if I can live life like she lived her illness then in that we find her strength, her light and her spark. There you find the way to live each day with the urgency of knowing that in this life tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us; what do you do with the time you have? How much life can you pack into today? And if you miss that for the entrapments of pity and despair, then my friends, you have missed the greatest lesson from the greatest teacher I have ever known. Dark days will come but the skies clear. The snow melts and the grass turns green and flowers bloom again. We are not bound by illness, sorrow, sadness and were surely aren’t bound by fear. We are empowered to face each day with the urgency to live so fully that at the end of the day as we lay down to sleep we are amazed at how much we truly lived. Each day is a lifetime. What will you do?

    Tomorrow is palm Sunday and begins holy week. Now I am not here to preach. I have dear friends who share my faith and dear friends who do not. I love them all. But with the start of this holy week I am reminded of the new life that I believe in and the new life that we can all see as the world blooms again. Find joy in every moment. Every day is a choice. What choices will you make? LIVE GIVE LOVE…if we live LIKE Stephanie we live for her and for ourselves.


    Peace and Love to you all,


March 20, 2013


    Ok so here’s two posts that I just never got uploaded. Big one coming this weekend, so this can be the opening act!


    Separation Anxiety


    February 23, 2013 From Home.


    Its been an interesting week to say the least. First and foremost my trip to Houston was wonderful. It was a bit of a cleansing breath as I hoped. From time with dear friends, to meeting up with the team at MD Anderson and just visiting the places we always went to (mostly restaraunts if you can believe that); it was just a good positive healing experience.

    Now I am home. I have to admit I felt more home in Houston. Some people don’t like to hear that because they think it means I am going to move there tomorrow or something. I wont lie, I love it there and Steph and I talked of it often as her battle wore on, but that’s not something you really do on the fly. Others see it as a sad thing that Houston feels like home. Kind of like “Oh you have so many memories there…it must be so sad for that to feel like home when your home is here.” Actually I have a lot of good memories there. Tough ones too. But see here’s the kicker: our battle brought us closer and so it created many happy memories there. We had great dinners out, trips to the beach, time with friends, even some of our time at the hospital is happy memories. Also it is just a place I like to be. Its warm, there is lots to do and it makes me happy to be in that city.

    So now life back in Ohio continues. Ive been sad to be away from my friends in Texas and from the place that became a second home. If I could go again tomorrow for a trip I would. But summer and time to travel in June will be here before I know it. In the mean time there is lots to do here and friends and family to spend time with. And those are good things.

    The last couple of days a sadness has hit me. Out of the blue. Just tears from nowhere. I couldn’t figure it out. I knew it was better around people but worse when I was alone. This morning I figured it out. My family and friends can fill the void left by Stephanie’s physical presence. People experience loss and move on with there lives and those that are still here can fill a physical presence. I can watch a movie with another person, I can drink coffee with another person or sit by another person in church or take a road trip with another person. And I have so many wonderful people in my life to do those things with. But nothing fills the void of WHO Stephanie was because no other person is her. I watched a show I like on HBO this morning. And I teared up. See I started to think about when she and I had watched it and the coversations we would have. I could watch that show with 1000 different people and have 1000 different conversations. None would be the same. None would be her. People go forward with life. People forge new relationships and many who are widowed re-marry in time. But no two people are the same and that is the greatest challenge. You don’t replace people. Tv’s, shower nozzles, cars; you replace those. Not people. And that is now the greatest challenge of Life 2.0. How to you fix the unfixable solution? Time. Love. Friends. Family. Faith. I think those might be some of the ingredients. Just go forward and learn to integrate Stephanie into this new life so that her joy comes through. Nothing will ever make her absence not-painful on an emotional level. It just can’t be done. But the people I hold close in my life bring their own gifts and ability to sustain me and I can hopefully do the same for them.




    Friday March 8, 2013


    Its been a few months since a posting hiatus this long. Its been an incredibly busy time and I feel the end of the school year coming on like a truck. At the same time I can see the long warm days of summer in the distance and they are coming too and with them a continued rebirth in Life 2.0.


    My students performed wonderfully at district contest. I have to mention them here. It is a privilege to work with this group of young people. Many of them and their parents know the challenges from my early days at EC along with Stephanie’s story. The day of her passing was the day of our concert and they performed that night. I continue to be moved by the images from the concert that night and the support I have been shown. If you do or have ever believed that teenagers are not capable of great maturity, love, compassion and accomplishment, well its my pleasure to tell you that you are wrong. On my darkest day they told me to lean on them. And they haven’t let up since. They played beautifully last week.


    That aside it has been a week of looking at life through continual new lenses. March has come in like a wintry lion and yet as we move toward the thaw coming this weekend, I can see spring on the horizon. I feel in my mind the coming of warming temperatures, the trees and grass being green once again and life taking in a breath of fresh air. I think that was a part of why my trip to Houston felt so refreshing. It is never really winter there the way it is here. 50 degrees is cold. Frost on the car is a true annoyance instead of just what happens. I need the spring and summer sun and the outdoor breeze and the changes that a summer in Life 2.0 is sure to bring along with time on the bike, vacation with the family and eventually the start of marching band – now one of my favorite parts of my job.


    Its ironic: the farther I get out from Stephanie’s passing the more I seem to think about her and hear her voice in my daily life. I have often talked about feeling like I am getting messages in a bottle in a way. I will have a question on my mind that I wonder about Stephanie or about some way I am feeling. And someone just answers it. That would be perfectly not-spooky if it weren’t for one small detail: I never actually ask them the question. It just gets answered. A friend says that’s her way of communicating with me now. Ill buy that. It brings comfort. Sometimes it simply comes in the form of a song that comes across the radio. But it is there. I can hear her voice and feel her encouraging me every day. I think she’d be proud. At least I hope she would. Everyone tells me she would so maybe that’s the message in the bottle I should pay the closest attention to.

February 15, 2013

February 5, 2013

  • Pretty Broken Things

    Posted by Sammy

    February 5, 2012


    Look around you. What do you see? Do you see people? Ok but what do you SEE? Do you see them or just notice them and do you notice who and what they are? As I sit here two months since life as I know it ended and Stephanie’s battle came to a close I have come to a realization: I am not alone. Now before you say “duh” let me elaborate. I mean I am not the only one who has had life turned on its ear. So many of us have had things happen that would stop others in their tracks. I hear of friends fighting cancer even now, of childhood traumas, of loved ones lost and more. And yet what I have also realized is that while the pain is in the trauma there is beauty in the healing. The healing and rebuilding of a person’s spirit is a beautiful and joyful thing.  Because it means that grace and love are at work.

    Now whether you share my faith or not I do think we can agree that love is powerful and so is joy. That is what spoke to me on Sunday with these words:

    “Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” It is why I have said over and over again I choose joy. You see it is a commitment to do so and it can be a challenge. I used to feel guilty for taking my turn to leave the hospital and go back to the apartment for a shower while Steph’s mom took over. Imagine how I feel being alive and she isn’t. Or that looking back for 7 years she had cancer and I didn’t. And then I picture just how hard of a smack I’d get if she heard me say that. She knew what a toll it took on both of us. And she understood that guilt but she also knew how to live with joy in the face of increasingly scary odds. And she did just that. So now its my turn.

    Every day the breaks heal just a little. And some days, the wounds sting just a bit more than others. Some days I shed an extra tear for what might have been. But as I’ve said so many times I get to celebrate what was. Was there suffering? Of course. Was there sadness and times where it all seemed like too much? What do you think? But there was love and there was grace and there was joy. So while the final day will be on my mind as I go through this day two months later I will also think to the days of joy. To one final trip to Disney were we got to go to the front of every line. Ill think of our last trip to Las Vegas and finally getting to eat at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. (food nerds we were!) There were the nights where we couldn’t sleep so we’d watch and laugh at the same movies over and over again and vandalize the white board in the hospital room. Even better was the Great Road Adventure of 2009 where we couldn’t find a hotel room driving through a pitch black stretch of highway in Alabama. So much more of our life brings me joy than sorrow. Some gets shared here. Some is just for me.

    You see in a way I find myself feeling a little like Orpheus when he descends into the underworld to find Euridice. See he passes all the trials but one. He must trust that she is always there for if he ever looks back she will be lost to him forever. At the last minute, just as they are emerging, he looks back only to see her pulled away. How is that like me? Well unlike Orpheus I am allowed to look back, but I need to look back with joy. Sad days will happen but I cannot look back in sadness for very long otherwise it will be not Stephanie pulled away but my joy; OUR joy. See the attitude and joyfulness that I walk forward with is not mine it is OURS. She and I forged it together through 7 years that when you look back, should have broken us both; even pulled us apart. And yet we endured it all together and as I look back I feel like if nothing else I got one thing right in life in that. While I did feel broken two months ago, holding her hand and looking in her eyes for the last time, my breaks are slowly healing. It is in our brokenness that we find a healing love from all those around us and the joy to live. I am learning to live again.  As much as I wish the road was a sprint, it is a marathon. So two months in to yet another test of endurance I say thank you to all who have carried me up the hills. One of the happy things we always enjoyed was the Tour de France. Each day we would get up and start watching the race, have coffee and just enjoy the time together. We didn’t watch every stage but made it a point to always watch them race in the mountains. There is a mountain in the French Alps that is a legendary brutal climb. It has over 20 switchbacks where the road cuts back the opposite direction you are riding. It is so high that depending on weather the clouds cover the summit…sometimes with snow…in summer. One rider was so exhausted once at the top he said he saw the snow turn black. It is called Alpe d’Huez.

     File:Lacets AlpedHuez.jpg

    People ride bikes up this…that yellow line is the route. Im on my own personal Alpe d’Huez right now. It is a long brutal climb toward healing and even when I reach the top I won’t be the same as when I started. And yet like all trials the beauty is in the healing that is and will take place. That is what Stephanie wants us to see I believe. I known she’s with me always no matter the path my life takes and I know she won’t let me stay broken for very long. The cracks are mending. This year is still new and so many possibilities lie in front of us all. What will you do?

    Live. Give. Love


January 29, 2013

  • Life 2.0: Update from the Front


    So Ive done several posts on thoughts but not much on real life. Steph and I always used to do updates on just what was happening with us. They weren’t the most exciting but they kept everyone in the loop. I have in mind a serious post to come and also some more light hearted material. But for tonight, Id just like to update everyone like we always used to.


    School is going wonderfully. The students at EC have been truly wonderful and supportive. So has the staff and administration. I am not saying this just because they all read this. I am saying because it is true. I am so lucky to be able to do what I do every day. Not every day is easy but the reward is worth it. Some of the most incredible support over the last few months has come because of where I teach. The bands are coming along well and some exciting things are on the horizon.


    Ive been spending time with friends and family and that has been my emergency flotation device. My family and a handful of people are such key components of how well I am doing. Im also lucky to get to help my mom with her Show Choir. Like my band students they are a great group of students and a blast to work with. Its also a chance to do things with my family that are also in the music world I love.


    Big things coming up in the next few months:

    -East Clinton will be putting on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on March 1 and 2. Over the years I have come to truly look forward to the musical production. It’s a really unique atmosphere of so many people working together on such a big thing. Very much looking forward to that.

    -Our band will be headed to district contest in March

    -I am doing a Florida trip with the band over spring break. This is one of my favorite parts of my job. Traveling to Disney with a busload of parents and students its like a little family on wheels and I am very much looking forward to it.


    The nearest thing however is a trip to Houston. I haven’t seen Dr. B and the folks at Anderson since late summer. Im planning to head down and bring some closure to that end of things. I want to just say hi, maybe talk a little and just see those people who were so important to us over the years. I also want to thank them for always working to find new ways to fight. I know our battle would have lasted 7 months and not 7 years if not for those doctors and nurses and that hospital. That’s a fact.


    And I am doing ok. I am healing slowly. It is hard not to look over my shoulder. Sometimes emotions overwhelm me but I can look forward to the coming months and years with an optimism and I have things to look forward to. And theres the full circle. I have things to look forward to because of my family, my friends and my job that is less a job than a passion that I am blessed to be able to live. Another strong feeling I have is a need to kick start making a difference. But I need help. I’d like to see an event happen this year to raise funds for the Sarcoma Foundation grant in Stephanie’s name. Can you help? I am basically asking for volunteers to help create this and feedback on what we can get rolling. For those my area I can facilitate a place to meet. I am also working on getting some online discussion started…if you haven’t already, head over the Sarcoma Foundation of America Ohio Chapter page on Facebook and like it! If you would like to be a part of creating and organizing an event in 2013 please contact me on Facebook or via email: sammminge@gmail.com


    Looking forward to seeing how we can all Live Give Love together!




January 21, 2013

  • 40 Days and 40 Nights

    January 21, 2013           


    Posted from Home.


    Day 40 in Life 2.0 If you follow me on Facebook you know I have been posting with a day count. Its something I’m doing for me as part of my own healing. It is a count of days since Stephanie’s funeral, but for me it is not a “days since”. I am not looking over my shoulder in that regard. It is a count of days forward and of days achieved. It is a healing count; a tally of accomplishment I am doing for me. And I don’t work the days in from her passing to the services. That was a time of limbo for me. Those days might as well not count in the final total of my life, save for some things that I wrote and posted that were not only healing for me but, it would seem, for many of you as well. I consider the day after the funeral the start of Life 2.0 and here I am 40 days in.


    I was thinking of what to write on this weekend. I had a great Friday at school, enjoyed a long but rewarding day with my mom and dad on the road with show choir and woke to a beautiful sunrise yesterday. I enjoyed church, more family time and have been surrounded with the best friends and family a person could wish for. But last night it hit me. Like a sack of bricks. I was on my way home early in the evening and then to the gym. And somewhere in between my parent’s and home it was like a nasty wave washed over me. It was almost a physical pain. As I’ve said, being home alone isn’t weird. It wasn’t her absence from the house it was her absence in general. Like a vast hole. And I couldn’t shake it. I went to the gym. Couldn’t shake it. Came home, changed, couldn’t shake it. Finally, after a night by the fire watching a favorite movie and once again having wonderful friends who constantly talk me down from the ledge a phone call away, I began to feel like I was balancing out again. Im not sure what brought it on but I think it may have simultaneously been a rough night and a night of healing. I sit here now feeling much better. I am once again looking forward and ready for a thousand tomorrows. The sun is coming through the windows, snow occasionally falling and a cold wind blowing. More frozen days are ahead but the sun peeking through the clouds and the green of the plants in my living room remind me that spring and warm days outside are ahead. I couldn’t be more ready. I feel a summer of LIVING coming on and the warmth of the summer sun in my mind warms my heart too.


    40 day periods turn up frequently in the Bible. The Hebrews wandered the desert for 40 years. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness leaving us with 40 days of Lent. And Noah and his floating petting zoo were on a sea cruise after 40 days of rain. So here I am after my own 40 days. While obviously the pain and sadness are not gone, I am winning the battle. I think Im winning by a long shot. The sadness has its times. Sometimes I just need to let it out…sort of an emotional dialysis. It is inevitable that there will be days where I am drawn back to the final month…and there is a sadness that will come with that. But more and more I am drawn to happier times. To the smile, to the spark, to the Stephanie who was beautiful inside and out. I am drawn to the master teacher who’s greatest lesson was the one she taught us all for 7 years: That dark days and fear will come. They occur in this world. But we are not bound by them nor do we need to be broken by them. LIFE IS A CHOICE! You can choose sorrow, pity and solitude. Or you can choose joy, thankfulness, giving of yourself and openness. I know she wanted to know that I would be ok if she wasn’t here. I think she can be at ease. I woke this morning and had a sense of  “I’m going to be OK.” That was what she wanted when she was here. She told me as much.


    My count will continue to the one year mark. Not for any reason other than I want it to. I want to mark it as accomplishments in living. There will be another anniversary. December 5 of this year will come. And on that day we will glance up in reflection at a physical presence no longer with us. But more than that I want to invite you to look to that day with me as a day to celebrate a life lived fully and abundantly so much so that a nearly tangible inspiration still lives within us, even as she dances in the light. I’d like to see a coming together that day. We can make it happen. We can make a day where we all Live Give and Love together. Share this. Pass it on. Tell the story. On a day when we celebrate a man who preached love over hate, lets share the legacy of a woman who lived a life of grace, hope and love over fear and bitterness.



January 12, 2013

  • Super Glue

    January 12, 2013

    11am from Home


    Its exactly one month in for Life 2.0 as I type this. One month ago we all gathered at the church. We cried, laughed and held each other as we celebrated Stephanie’s life. Its dates like this where the reality hits me. Most days, honestly seem like any other day. I’ve talked of an empty feeling but during a busy week even that can take a back burner. I was asked this week if I was living in the house. I jokingly replied “well of course; it would be weird if I started living in my neighbor’s house.” But the reality is living in the house, just me and the cat…its not weird. It became normal. In fact normal for 7 years often looked like this:

    Me and the cat by ourselves in the house for a week or two.

    Then either A) go to texas for a few days, or B) Steph comes home for a few days/weeks.

    Finish Cancer treatment/Steph come home

    Adjust to living like actual people again

    Cancer comes back

    Repeat from beginning.

    So being here and living by myself; its not that odd. In a way its helped the last month along. The absence of Steph’s physical presence is something I had to become used to in January  2006 when I came home from Texas the first time. Its days like today where I am reminded it is more. It hits when I leave school each day. That was when I always called her. I push the call button in the car and almost tell it to dial her daily. Things happen at school or out and about that I think “oh wait till I tell Steph”. That’s the odd part. Because can’t.  Im sure, as I’ve been told by friends wiser in this process than me, that the 5th of every month will hit me all the way until December. I don’t doubt it. Each time I visit the cemetery it is surreal. It doesn’t seem possible that Im actually standing there and that the memorial wreath actually has her name on it. But it is real.


    And yet, as I have said so often, hope is also real. Love is also real and a joyful life in the aftermath of this is real.


    Those things are the glue that is putting me back together. People tell me about strength I display. Friends, this strength is reciprocal. I don’t think I am creating it. It is being given to me. By you, by God and yes, I think by Steph. A friend told me I show the same tenacity and spirit she did, almost like I inherited it. Ill buy that and I am honored to do that. I will live this like we lived cancer, as I’ve said. Take the phone issue. Is it sad when I want to call her and can’t? Duh. Of course it is. And it also makes me laugh. Let’s be for real, if I could tell her face to face about that, we’d make some horrible joke about it and turn it into a game. If the door to the next life swung both ways and we got a once a month chat, there would absolutely be a running bet as to who almost dialed the other more that month. And we’d laugh about it and the one who kept trying to dial the phone the most wouldn’t live it down. Little moments like that are why I choose joy over despair. Just like we both did for 7 years. Its ok to smile. Its ok to cry. But it is not ok to stay in neutral. There’s work to do and a life to live. And there is the love of family and friends to sustain all of us and for us to share.


    Do you notice we throw the word hate around far more than the word love? Why as people are we so drawn to the negative? We gravitate to sorrow, pain and conflict. But what is that getting us? Count today how many times you say or you hear someone say “I hate that/him/her” versus “I love you/him/her/that”. Hate and sadness are easy. They don’t take any effort. You don’t have to give to hate. You take. Love is a challenge. I lived with a very simplistic view of love for much of my life. Saying I loved my friends seemed hokey. Do you ever tell a friend you love them? Do you mean it? Steph did. I learned that from her. She had always been like that. My sister said one time “Steph was cool BEFORE cancer too.” Its true. It redefined us and how we viewed things but she’s always been that dynamic loving person. Our trials though, really clarified everything and allowed us to see the bigger picture.


    So today, one month after “Ill see you later”, Im throwing down a challenge to all of us, myself included.


    Replace negativity and bitterness and despair with love. I felt shattered and broken after she passed. Like a glass doll dropped from a building. My family and friends were then like a great toymaker with an endless supply of love to use as super glue.


    “Tests come to all believers. The Christian’s overcoming faith is shown in not indulging in self-pity and fear. The Christian is called to act on faith, to wait in joyous trust. God is going to reveal Himself in a new way in this trial, and some enduring blessing will result from it.”


    That is from Stephs Facebook in November. I leave you with that to hold close and to find your path to joy.

    Get your super glue. We have a life ahead to Live Give Love!