This past January, deep in the mountains of central Maine, a dear friend of mine suddenly passed away. I am not telling you this to make you sad, I am telling you this because I need you to understand her amazingness. She was like a slice of blue ribbon sour cherry pie—magical and tangy and bold and not fussy at all—and there was never enough of her to go around. She left behind friends, parents, siblings, a sweet husband, a small baby girl, and a school full of eager preschool children.
I met Sam in the fall of 1996. There were roughly a dozen of us working and living together as teachers. I was lucky enough to be chosen as her roommate. Our small wood cabin had twin beds inside separated by a night table, and a guitar in one corner. It was surrounded by woods and ponds and spirited packs of school kids during the day, and stars and owls at night. Sam was possibly the youngest of our bunch, but she quickly established herself as a capable leader and all around rabble-rouser. She oversaw all sorts of social events—extensive scavenger hunts, costumed skits, fireside sing-a-longs—among all of us there were massive week-long games of deception in which personal items were publicly kidnapped and then peculiarly discovered high upon inaccessible rooftops or deep within damp commercial dishwashers. We had fun. We stayed up late. We sang. We laughed. Sam was a natural teacher. She memorized all the lines of The Lorax, collected microscopic critters from pond muck, led wild night hikes in search of Barred owls, and soulfully sang Teach Your Children Well at the week’s end to tearful kids.
Sam loved all that the Earth offered, in every season—spring birdsong, summer rain, fall colors, crisp winter air—its stillness and silence. She approached the world as scientist, teacher, and friend. She celebrated wildness, and she was eager to share her wild love. Sam traveled through the world thoughtfully and intentionally. She moved with all of herself. She put her heart into everything she did. She served as a compass for many.
This past January, a few days after Sam was gone, we started a public page as a tribute to her—Spread Some SamShine—a deep-rooted circle of support to put some Light back into the world. The page swiftly grew from a few close friends to several thousand people doing random acts of kindness for others worldwide—an enthusiastic smile, a compliment, a shared snack, a potted plant—as a celebration of Sam’s life. In the midst of it all, some friends bought handfuls of my books and placed them in good hands—libraries, schools and families—in Sam’s name. With each simple random act of kindness like this, Sam’s extraordinary story was shared. And now it is spring. And here we are. Still helping each other move through these days with love.
Death is a mystery. It is horribly heartbreaking, filled with sleepless nights and unanswerable questions. But death it is also refreshingly truthful. It makes you think about your place in the world.
And that is where I am right now.
And so, what if each one of us celebrates Sam’s life, or someone else’s life, in a powerful way like this? What if we create a precious Shine in which we can see a reflection of ourselves, and also a person we’ve lost? What if each of us travels through the world thoughtfully and intentionally—in appreciation, connection and joy—and spreads some SamShine along the way?
I hope you will take a moment on this fine spring day to love deeply and to quietly spread some SamShine. Leave a note below to let me know. It can be as simple as a hug or a kind word or a lunchbox note. Really anything will do.