David Jeremiah wrote, "journalizing, memorializes the blessings of God" in his book, "When Your World Falls Apart, Seeing Past the Pain of the Present." My dear family and myself have recently experienced a terrible tragedy, resulting in the death of my precious daughter, Samantha. This is an unwanted journey, one of the most difficult walks that any parent can experience. It is riddled with extreme grief, profound disorientation, and beautiful graces from God. He holds me close. He has not forsaken me. Even though, my heart is shredded with sadness, I shed buckets of tears, I question my purpose now and I wander astray at times, I know I love God. He is real and present. I know what I know!!! And, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share with you. I have learned that I am at my best when I walk with God, not against Him.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Samantha's Story

My time typing has been dwindled, I must be getting somewhat of a life. I'm not complaining, it feels pretty good to begin to move around a bit, to broaden my safety boundaries a little, to engage in life. What a blessing Samantha's Playground project has been. It wasn't my idea but, I think I like being involved. When in public, it is easier play the part of person with a purpose rather than, the mom in mourning.  I'm not completely comfortable in either skin, however, the first is more flattering. (I still squirm when walking in a room, knowing I'm the mom without my child rather than the old me, with both my children.) So, there has been planning taking place, meetings to attend and a website to work on. My latest task, to complete the website was to write "Samantha's Story". Oh, how I struggled to do this. Procrastination was my enemy. It took me weeks to try to wrap my brain around "who" she was, "where" she went, "what" she liked", "when" she did it", and "how" it all happened. Then, to think about writing what I remember on paper!!  I don't like the idea of Sam existing only on a piece of paper! As the weeks rolled by, I learned within myself that I do not like, don't want to write about Samantha in past tense, it hurts. I realize my writings will be just "memories", not "experiences" that will shape Samantha's future, help her to grow, teach her a lesson, or let her learn about herself. None of those things are necessary anymore. Nonetheless, I needed to do this, it is part of the project!!! So to get started, I told myself, just pick three things to write about, just three, and see where it goes. As my good friend has taught me, "Sometimes you just need to put paint on the wall." So, I pondered on first her soul, then her mind and then her body, knowing how monumental this task would be because Samantha was so much. I figured I could share somethings but, she was so much

So, I wrote Sam's story and published it on the playground website. It was difficult but it was done! I checked the task off of my to-do-list. As always, after I write something I read and reread it to myself, day after day, asking myself, "Did I record it correctly/", "Is that how it really happened?", "Did that really happen, to me?" Eventually, with acceptance and acquiescence, I experience a feeling of peace with what I have written. ( Sometimes, I feel like I'm reading my own book.) This time as I read and reread, I began to remember more, the funny Sam, the silly and serious Samantha, my "sweet", "average", "normal" 12 year old daughter.  That sweet small voice told me, to remember and to write! So, I did!  

What appears below is "Sam's Story" filled with memories:

An entry from Samantha's journal

Samantha was a child of God, born into, not a perfect home but, born into a family trying its very best to uphold and embrace Christian living just as we, her parents, had promised the day of her christening. As a consequence, as she grew in age and experience, seeds of faith were planted in Samantha's heart. Each level of learning giving new knowledge and Godly guidance. I know, her firm foundation and flourishing faith had an impact on who she was becoming during her pre-teen years. Years of such personal growth and self-discovery, often riddled with questions concerning faith, character, and morality.  Just as it was for Sam. Upon her death, Samantha gave me a genuine gift of comfort, her journal. Within the pages of this precious book her personal relationship with her Heavenly Father is revealed. She was seeking His ways, when she asked Him questions like, " God, I would like to know if wearing what I got at the GAP today is okay? I also wonder about bikinis."  As well, when she confessed, " God, I shouldn't focus as much on my cute clothes and good-looking hair. I should work toward a real rewarding and kind-hearted person on the inside. But, is it still OKAY to have cute clothes..... RIGHT?"  Also, when she revealed her confusion and sought answers from Him when she wrote, " "God, often times I do not hold back my anger, I spill it out and scream and fuss at people. I shouldn't do this! Is it O.K. to ever stand-up for yourself?"  As well, she was learning to put her faith into action. During the summer, Samantha loved spending time at the Kreiger household with her good friend, Georgia. With 4 children in the family, there was always plenty of hustle and bustle.  On one occasion, one of Georgia's younger sisters had to be corrected. Samantha was witness to this and stepped in to give support.  She sat down with the child, asked Kadee, Georgia's mother, for a Bible and began to share something with her.  Oh, I wish I knew what she chose to share. Whatever is was, it work. Kadee was overwhelmed, watching Sam share God's word and Anna-Kate's soul was soothed. What a present of peace knowing that the Holy Spirit had secured a sacred spot in Samantha's soul! 

Samantha was also gifted with a quick wit and honesty, this lessened filter often got her labeled as feisty by her friends; adults adored her! I remember sitting in an auditorium, while on a family cruise, waiting to leave for an excursion, we were all required to have identification before departing the ship. Samantha was 7 years old and scrutinizing her Aunt Jeanette's driver's license when she boisterously commented, "Aunt Jeanette, you got an "F" in sex?"  Everybody heard it and everybody laughed, Samantha was just speaking about what she saw!  In truth, she was candid, gregarious, entertaining and extremely social, easy to make new friends and openly expressing her fondness for them, constantly asking questions and very animated with answers. I will never forget a specific piano lesson. Arriving for pick-up, Samantha's teacher, Robert, said to me with some concern, "Well, we didn't get to cover any new material because Samantha asked too many questions concerning the keys!" I smiled, happy she got the answers that that calmed her curiosity and increased her understanding. The only teacher conference I ever had to attend was because Samantha was under the impression that a particular teacher did not like her because she asked too many questions. I was hesitant to attend the conference, knowing that I had to share and straighten out this misconception. I knew Samantha was somehow getting the wrong impression and I also knew she was asking a lot of questions. This wonderful teacher and I talked and devised a plan to entertain Samantha's love of learning. A few days later, Samantha received a special letter, in the mail, from the teacher complimenting her constant quest for knowledge. 
David and Sam in their chair.

Sam was created with other characteristics. She loved to dance and did so for many years. She was filled with joy and laughter when she attended classes at Northshore Academy of Dance. She was silly and showed it ! She loved watching TV with David, often sitting in the same chair. A chair that was purchased for this particular purpose, so they both could fit.
Babies and pre-school children stole a piece of Samantha's heart, which in turn unfolded her future dreams of being a teacher or a pediatrician. She had such admiration for Ms. Edmundson, her math teacher. Often, she would come home from school, bragging non-stop what a wonderful mother and teacher Ms. Edmundson was. Stating, " She really wants us to learn, Mom. She is such a good mother, she loves her children so much! I can tell, Mom!"  Ms. Stephanie had just recruited her to help teach a 3-year old Sunday School class, in the Fall of 2012. She had tremendous admiration for her older sister; at times to her own detriment. Recently, Brooke revealed to me that Sam would sometimes say, " Brooke, you are so much better than me." To hear that kinda hurt but, Brooke played it down, relegating it to just, "sister stuff." In my eyes, Brooke had achieved many goals, Sam was just getting started. Recalling a particular summer evening, Brooke swam a "sectional" time and Samantha shard the starring role in a play and showed her true colors. David raced in between Mandeville and Baton Rouge, to witness both rewards. Motherhood doesn't come with a paycheck but,  the "mom" inside of my felt like I had earned a bonus that evening. They both performed to the best of their given abilities! I was proud.  However, in Brooke's eyes the tables were turned when I uttered a comment that she will never let me live down. One day, I commented to Samantha, "You know when I look at you, you twinkle, there is something about you that kinda sparkles. You know what I mean, you twinkle!" Brooke heard this and asked, "Well, what about me?" I honestly replied, " You remind me of a horse, a thoroughbred horse! " When I said this, I was thinking about the adjectives used to describe a thoroughbred, the qualities that reminded me of Brooke, steadfast, strong, dependable, tremendous work ethic, "fine" through and through. All she heard was the description, "HORSE."  To this day, Brooke holds me accountable for this one word description of her.    

Paul and Samantha after her surgery.
Alas, she was far from perfect. Sam was born with a club foot and after the appropriate operation she had two different size feet. This was going to be a life long situation and was beginning to steal some of Samantha's peace. Nearly always, we purchased two pairs of shoes for Samantha, trying to fit both feet. She would often apologize to David about the added expense. David always provided confident comfort, telling her that the expense was his responsibility and not hers and encouraged her to chose the pair she wanted. When she would succomb to awareness of the physical difference and voice her concern, I would often tell her, "God gave you dimples so nobody will ever notice your feet."  She liked that!  However, she hated putting away her clean clothes.  There was a particular corner in her room where she would piled them up, folded and neat. It was putting them in the drawers that she would dismiss. Eventually, after motherly chiding she would relent, in a huff, and put them away, referring to this chore as her "penance."  She disliked doing it, each and every time. Samantha had other struggles, imperfect vision, severe constipation and she was suffering under the shadows of pre-teen girl drama. Some of this her own doing. Like I wrote, she was far from perfect. My motherly intuition told me this was a normal passing phase, I had walked through this age with Brooke. I remembered!  Sweet girls ..... just growing up; all still learning right from wrong.  However, it was a very "real" situation in her life, near the time of her death. Six weeks before her accident, while sitting outside on the swings in our backyard, she actually cried out to me, "I don't want to live. I don't want to live this life!"  Boy, that is a red flag, I thought!  It was so out of character for Samantha to say this! I was stunned! Immediately, "I" knew nothing was going to happen to Sam because "I" would not allow it to happen."I" thought to myself, You are young enough that "I" will not let you out of my sight until "I" have this figured out."

At this very moment, as I write this, I realize how wrong I was to think I was in control of that situation. I was not, in my human mind I thought I could prevent anything "bad" from happening!!!! I have so much to learn and I have learned so much! 

I called David and told him what happened. He was shocked, sick to his stomach and actually swerved the car while driving. A select few knew of this unnerving comment. It was crushing to hear at the time. On purpose, we kept it within a limited numbers of persons, trying to give Sam time to unwind and relax. We sought professional help; Samantha met with several counselors. As the new school year approach she was still struggling with the situation. David and I knew this! We were "on task!", trying to fix, trying to control!    

Now, I think about the tiny bits of glass and the stained glass window. Up close they don't make sense but as we step back and the picture comes into focus bit by bit, and knowing God is sovereign in all things, I believe this to be divine preparation for David and myself.  I now realize I could try to control Sam and her environment but, there is no controlling what God knows is already going to happen. I can connect another dot, Hauck, the police officer in Shell Beach told me, repeated to me, over and over, "Elizabeth, this is not a surprise to God, he knows Elizabeth, He knows!" Psalms 139:16 teaches me, "Your eyes saw my formed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  

What a revelation as I write! 
I'm an "in the box" person; there was a time when I thrived on order, control and predictability.  I didn't like loose ends! (In the near future, it has been placed on my heart to write a blog entitiled, "Learning to Like the Loose Ends." I'm being created anew, learning to embrace the uncertainties and trust and positively anticipate how God will finish His work.) When my kids were young, I dressed them in cute clothes and matching bows. Sam went along with this but, on hindsight there was always a part of her that I couldn't contain, the part that I couldn't completely corral into my corner. Visually, I see a box, with all of my life inside the box. Sam was inside of my box but, always kept one leg hanging out! At times, I couldn't keep up with her life. I mean I did, but I knew "her" life went beyond "my" life. She moved quickly, ignoring boundaries and creating her own space, not needing me to pave the way. Today, I chuckle on the inside, realizing for the first time that for the most part I walked behind Sam, not in front of her.  She was something else and she was so much!!

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