I didn’t know the little boy, only of him, through his grandma and pictures on Facebook. He was the most photogenic child I swear I’d ever seen and that’s going some, coming from a mother as captivated by the beauty of her own children as I’ve always been, though I know I’m quiet about it……..
Sam Lee’s grandmother was my mother’s first cousin. Mom’s favorite on her mother’s side. Marlys, Sam’s great-grandma, actually, was one of the happiest, kindest women I ever knew. One of the strong women who’ve touched my life. She was unfailingly glad to see us when she visited, as if we were something special, and to her, we were simply a very blessed, happy fact of life. I suppose it’s no wonder, then, that her great-grandson would inherit her amazing outlook and carry it further.
Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma or DIPG is an aggressive, terminal form of brain cancer and before we go any further I’m going to tell you that Sam Lee died from it.
I thought I might lose a few of you right there.
But those of you who stayed must know I have a moral of the story, so thanks.
It’s brave of you.
Honestly, in my own life I’ve had way too many of those, “I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to me,” scenarios actually happen to me or someone in my immediate family. Therefore, reading about the heartbreak of letting go of and losing a small child would be hard to bear. I wasn’t going to. I “liked” one post about him on Facebook and offered up prayers and love for his family and intended to move on.
But – there was Marlys. She just kept smiling and going on with her life in faith and in love – with her daughter, her granddaughter and her Sam.
I was kind of captivated.
So I stayed connected a little by liking the page We Love Sam Lee. On the page I learned about Sam’s mom, Erin, his dad, Michael and his twin sisters, Mae and Ada. About their journey.
Erin writes their story beautifully so I won’t paraphrase. I’m going to copy and paste:
On July 26, 2013, our two-year old son, Sam was diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). It didn’t take long for us to learn that funding for the research and treatment of childhood cancers is bad. Really bad. For every dollar raised by the American Cancer Society, only a penny goes toward battling childhood cancer. Pharmaceutical companies fund about 60% of new drugs to treat adult cancers, but they rarely fund drugs for childhood cancers because they are not profitable. The lack of funding means there are few drugs being developed or approved for children. In the last 20 years, only one drug has been approved by the FDA to treat childhood cancer.
The best medical treatment doctors could offer would only give us a short amount of time with Sam: typically 9-12 months. We decided to spend it making memories with him and his twin sisters, Ada and Mae.
The turning point
Soon after the diagnosis, a friend started an online fundraising campaign to help our family take some special trips with Sam. The average gift was about $25, but these small acts of kindness added up in a big way. Through the generosity of family, friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers we were able to take 16 priceless trips with Sam and our girls, traveling more than 30,000 miles together.
We were so grateful and inspired to see this outpouring of support. And we were even more surprised to see the big impact even small donations could make. So we decided to use this discovery to make our mark in the fight against childhood cancer by creating With Purpose.”
Just to be clear, I am not stumping for funding for childhood cancer or anything else at this time. I simply wanted to give you a snapshot of a family who decided to say yes to Life and truly live and enjoy and be happy in the moment. This little boy, from the age of two, travelled with his parents and his baby sisters, on trips of a lifetime.
They went on 16 trips and inspired countless people to give not just of their time and money but their hearts and souls as well. Their strength and joy was always – and still is – evident in the photos and stories posted on Facebook. Their pain and sorrow I didn’t know because I was a spectator and allowed to keep a distance.
Sam died earlier this year. He was five.
I did cry then because I am a mom and a grandmother and weeping and praying were all I could do to begin my own healing process and send love to Sam’s parents and sisters.
Erin shared a moment – one of the last she had with her little boy – in which she asked him what she could do, right then and there, to make him happy. He looked at her, “surprised (she) had asked and said, ‘I am happy, Mom.’”
Which is, of course, that Moral Of The Story I was talking about.
It’s what I aspire to. What I wish for all of us.
To live in the moment, loving ourselves and those around us. This is how Sam (and Erin and Michael and Marlys and Ada and Mae) inspired me.
So, yes. I say yes. I am.
#I am happy. Sam Lee
I am happy.
If you are so inspired, I invite you to check out the With Purpose Facebook page.