Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Sam Daniel Holland  ~  August 2004
On Saturday, March 19, 2011, this precious soul left the world.  He left behind my dear friends, his parents, Dale & Lisa, undoubtedly some of the best parents I've ever had the privilege to know.  I was fortunate enough to meet them when Claire was about 18 months old, and this changed my life in a way that is difficult to explain.  The words almost seem to diminish just how important this friendship has been to me over the years -- not to mention how deep our connection is, formed through our children, our struggles, our determination to make our children ALL THEY COULD BE, and most of all, the intense, profound, emotional, beautiful journey of raising children with special needs. 

I have admired Lisa & Dale since the beginning... always in awe of their attitudes, sense of humor, and ability to find the very essence of who Sam was, despite his "disability."  And if you ever met Sam, you'd know that he was FULL of personality, silly, seemed to "get" things on a higher level than most, and he had a unique way of seeing almost to your soul... hard to explain, but he had my heart from day one.
Kisses from Mom!
I can remember our first meeting like it was yesterday.  I remember Lisa & I had just finished a long day of classes to learn a new therapy to help our children.  I remember her getting Sam out of the car, we stood in the parking lot, and she handed him to me.  I MELTED.  He was a lot bigger than Claire, smiled at me, and he had the same crossed legs as she did.  He felt familiar -- like I'd always known him.  He was stiff like Claire, and he too had seizures.  This had become our "norm" as well, and there was just something so COMFORTING about having him in my arms.  He softened into me, it even felt like he was trying to hug me... so open... honest... pure... nothing but LOVE.  I remember I held him for awhile, planted plenty o' kisses on his beautiful cheeks, and I reluctantly gave him back up to Lisa as they were leaving. 

I would have other similar encounters with Sam over the years (though not nearly enough, as we live 10 hours apart), and each time, my old friend and I would reconnect, and LIFE WAS GOOD.  (No really, IT WAS!  Those of you who were blessed enough to know Sam knew that his "uniform" was his mustard yellow "Life is Good" t-shirt ~ SO incredibly fitting for a boy who was the KING of lovin' life.)
Dale & his "Peanut"
Our most recent get-together was in July of 2008 in Chicago.  We may or may not have allowed major bed jumping and mayhem to occur in our hotel room... SHHHHHHHHH!!!!
I am pretty sure Cal was the instigator... and Sam encouraged him with his constant grins. 
My heart was so full that day.
Lisa & Sam  ~  July 2008
Cal & Sam creating a Dwarf Sandwich
My Buddy & I
Suffice it to say that a part of my heart feels like it's missing now. 

Over the years, sadly, I've witnessed many children I loved pass away, and each time I hear the same things over & over... "He is in a better place now" and "At least he's not suffering anymore" and "God just lends us these special children for a short time" and "It happened for a reason" and "God will not give you more than you can handle."  While I know these things are said to help comfort those in need, I have realized that in reality, these trite phrases do nothing to provide comfort whatsoever because until you've walked a mile in Dale & Lisa's shoes -- or anyone else who has lost a child -- you cannot even FATHOM what this loss means.  Even I can't.

You wouldn't understand that Dale & Lisa have used countless therapies to benefit Sam over the years & were always seeking out new things to try with him that might better his life in some way.  You wouldn't understand that they just re-did their entire house to make it Sam-accessible.  You wouldn't understand that they spent hours researching alternative ways to help Sam with various issues that arose.  You wouldn't understand that Lisa & Dale watched their child have a stroke & a GI bleed & overcome it all with strength like I have never before witnessed.  You wouldn't understand what a light Sam was at his school, to his teachers and therapists, and what a role model he was to his peers.  You wouldn't understand how it works to have a child never "grow up" developmentally -- who required total care forever.  You wouldn't understand how you learn to communicate on a level that is SO DEEP, words aren't even necessary.  You wouldn't understand how it feels to invest SO MUCH OF YOURSELF into a child with a very different kind of love given in return.  You wouldn't understand that he was his parents' WORLD, their entire lives.   Peanut was their only child -- their perfect, precious son -- who, though he never spoke a word or walked a step, accomplished more in his 14 years than most do in a lifetime.

I am still trying to make sense of this myself... trying to figure out why these things happen to people who gladly would've cared for their child for the rest of their lives.  Why this seizure was different from any previous seizure... why Sam's journey here ended Saturday... how a parent can possibly move past something so traumatic and life-changing and find joy again. 

And I think it's because Sam's life was nothing BUT joy.  He dealt with things on a daily basis that most could never even fathom, yet he still smiled, still loved each day, and still changed lives despite any limitations.  I want to be like Sam when I grow up.
"Grieve not... nor speak of me with tears... but laugh and talk of me... as though I were beside you.  I loved you so... 'twas Heaven here with you."  ~ Isla Paschal Richardson

Dale & Lisa, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss.  I loved your Sam.  The world will never, ever be the same again without him.  I am here for you always and forever.
Rest in peace, Peanut.  You are SO LOVED.


Anonymous said...

=( so sorry to hear this and for their pain and loss. we almost lost our little girl josie a couple of weeks ago from a seizure. devastating...

Joyfullygrateful said...

Thank you Gwen. Again your pure honest expressions of love invade my heart and dwell with unknown, unimaginable wonder. I am so blessed to have been on this earth during the past 14 years of Sam's sunshine life permeating my space. I love you Gwen ~ your compassion is great, your knowingness phenomenal.

Janene said...

Thank you for sharing about his life. My prayers are with all of you.

helicopter Mum of 6 ♡ said...

Wow - Sam is beautiful. Adorable. You can tell so much by his pictures. My heart breaks for his parents. How does one move on without their most beloved? How would we go on without ours? Seems unfathomable. I'm sure the strength Sam's parents have relied on all these years will surely continue to come into play. Sam is still there with them, and I pray they will always sense and feel that - especially during the darkest moments, yet also during their brightest moments.

Jennifer Lloyd said...

Gwen, what a beautiful and appropriate tribute to such a beautiful soul and two amazing parents. Your words rang so true to me as I was privileged with also knowing the Hollands on that same level...their dedication never wavering...I hope and pray when the grief subsides some they will KNOW in their hearts they did an amazing job..."well done." - In the end that's all we can all hope for that we have done a good job with the life we are given, that we find joy in all the gifts of this life. And as you so eloquently pointed out Sam was VERY Happy, always smiling. All we can all really want for our kids is to be Happy. Thank you Dale and Lisa for being a shining example of what it means to be great parents - I really look up to you, always have!

Skylar said...

I can't imagine that pain. I never knew Sam, but please send our love to his family, and hugs to all of you.

ALexandra King said...

Thank you for this Gwen. I always feel that no matter what I say at a time like this, that it would be the wrong thing. You write so beautifully. Miss you on FYM.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this tribute to Peanut. I "met" him only through knowing Lisa online but felt his love shine this way.

Mary said...

BEAUTIFULLY written, G! I have been in tears all week for Lisa and Dale's loss. Thanks for sharing with us your friendship with them. Sam truly does exude love and joy. I always smile seeing his picture! Love you too!

Unknown said...

Oh, Gwen - such a sweet, painful, perfect tribute to Sam and Lisa & Dale. No answers here either. Just sad. I was thinking how JOY is the greatest commodity of heaven and Sam had an abundance of it here on earth, a rare gift. And now that little peanut is passing out the hugs in heaven. Sheesh, but I wish he was still here for his mom and dad. Bless you big, girl. Love you much.

Unknown said...

Beautiful, Gwen! I have had them on my heart all week, and appreciate your tribute. Thank you for writing.

Selene Kumin Vega, Ph.D. said...

So beautifully said, Gwen. Thank you so much for writing this, and for sharing the snapshots of Sam's life. Yes, love and joy, clearly there was - is - so much of that surrounding Sam! Now sadness is added to that, but the love and joy are still real.

Whimsey said...

Peanut was a big boy, cute, full of smiles and OBVIOUSLY full of joy. So thankful for the joy he brought to Dale & Lisa's lives but also for all the other lives he touched along his journey.

Great tribute to a great kiddo and family - well done Gwen!

Carolyn said...

Gwen, this is beautiful. I am so sorry for Sam's parents and the pain they are feeling. You managed to put into words what's really important about a life well lived.

ANewKindOfPerfect said...

The photos ring out with the love that was showered on Sam from his family. I cannot even imagine their heartache. I am terrified that each big seizure Emily has will be "the one".

Thank you for sharing your dear friend Peanut with us.

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