Ripples on the Water

Ripples on the Water

Dear Sammy,

I once told you that you had the power to change the world.  You didn’t believe me, so we went outside and dropped a tiny pebble in the birdbath.  As we both watched the ripples, I said: “There do you see that?  That tiny pebble caused waves that went all the way over to the other side.”  You said “Wow” and I looked at you and told you that you’re just like that pebble.  What you say and what you do; how you treat people and how you make them feel, really matters.  If you say nice things and do great deeds and treat people well and make them feel special, you will change the world.  Because those things spread out like ripples on the water.

Little did I know Sammy, that you would in fact change the world.  Your smile.  Your laugh.  Your kindness.  Your personality.  Your humor.  All those things and more spread out like ripples on the water.  And the ripples touched a lot of people and they were felt far and wide.

Three years ago this month our world changed forever.  We were told that you had cancer.  “A lump growing in your head.”  Your first question to Dr. Young was “Well, is it life-threatening?”  Dr. Young said lots of things can be life threatening, but there are things we can do to stop it.  And you said “Okay” and you believed him.

When you needed your first blood draw at Children’s Hospital of LA, when the phlebotomist came in you said: “So, I understand you’ve been doing this for a long time, is that right?”  And the nurse said “Yes”, that was true, and smiled and laughed.

The first time you ever woke up from a surgery, as other children all around you were crying and vomiting, you opened your eyes, looked at me and mom and just smiled.  Oh, what an adorable smile you had.

The first time you needed to get accessed through your port for getting chemo you said to the nurse: “Okay, I’m going to just let you do it the way you feel most comfortable, and if I say “Ow” that means it hurts and so you might have to stop for a minute and try it again.”  But you rarely said “Ow” and all your nurses loved you.

The first time you went to Cottage Hospital for treatment, you cracked a joke with Nurse Julie and you and her laughed and laughed.  Dr. Green came into your room just to see what on earth could be so funny, and he ended up laughing right along with you.  That laugh of yours was incredible.  It came right from your soul, and everyone who heard it melted.  It was infectious.

The first time you were asked to swallow multiple pills, bigger than you had ever seen before, you said: “Okay, I’m just going to count to five and then I’ll be able to do it.”  And you did it.

The first time your little hand began to shake uncontrollably you found ways to deal with it.  When it got so bad that you could no longer play on the computer or other games you started doing other things that you could do.  You read.  You cooked.  You watched Giada De Laurentiis.

The first time you had a massive, two hour seizure, when you finally came out of it, still postictal, you simply asked for Cow and when you saw him you smiled.  I said “Hey Kid” in that outrageous Jersey accent, and we played a bit and everything seemed right in the world again, at least for that moment.

The first time you were put on steroids and started to eat uncontrollably and started putting on weight, you wrote up a “Sam’s Special Dietary Plan—New” and asked all of us to please help you follow it because you “wanted to be healthy”.

The first time you were told that the tumors had gotten much bigger you shared with Dr. Brown your eternal optimism: “Wow, that’s surprising, because we were thinking that last round of chemo had really worked and that the tumors were going to be this small (holding out your precious little hand and making a really small circle).”  And Dr. Brown had to hold back his own tears and could only say, “Well, Sam, everything is relative.”

The first time you started having trouble walking and you were offered a wheel chair you were so excited and happy.  You loved going on walks and being pushed and then saying “Can I get up and walk for a while?”  And you did.

The first time you realized you could no longer speak, you whispered and nodded and used sign language.  And you hugged.  Oh, how you hugged.

The first time you had trouble swallowing and eventually eating, you asked for soup and milkshakes and you enjoyed them as much as you possibly could.

And through it all, we came to realize how a precious little boy could change the world.  Though cancer was ravaging your body and stealing from you everything it could physically, you never lost your hope, your courage, or your love for life.  You brought out the best in your family, your friends, and your community.  You made us all realize what really matters in life.

You inspired us to try a little harder, be a little kinder, and do a little more to make a difference.  You taught us that life isn’t always fair, and there isn’t always a fairy tale ending, but that little things matter.  In your struggle you showed us grace, dignity, innocence and optimism that inspired all of us.  You taught us to love and be loved and to be content and at peace with the world.

Sam, we will never forget you and how you made us all better people.  In honor of you and in the spirit of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, like ripples on the water we want to spread the word about kids like you and send love and hope to children with cancer and a message to the world that we all need to do more for our children who are now or might someday be battling cancer.

Support efforts to end Childhood Cancer forever and spread the word like ripples on the water.

  • Andy Smith
    Posted at 22:20h, 01 September

    ripples have spread throughout the world… live well Sam, for all of us!

  • mscharrenberg
    Posted at 10:08h, 02 September

    Amazingly beautiful tribute to Sammy. I don't get choked up by what I read any more. I guess it's because there's so much that's heartbreaking. You reached through the shell and touched my heart. Thank-you for that. Thank-you for sharing Sammy with us.

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