Three years ago on this day, I posted about how it feels to be celebrating Samantha's birthday four years after she had left us. You can read it here. That post did a lot of healing for me. It may have taken a long time to write, but it released a lot of emotion and anger for me, and the responses I got back were comforting and encouraging.
Every year on Samantha's birthday I get very blue. This year is no different, but it also may be a little harder. When Samantha got sick she gave a bracelet to the people she was close to. The Lance Armstrong "Live Strong" fad was still happening back in 2008, and the bracelets she gave were a similar design. Someone had them made for her. They were Teal, Green and Purple - her favorite colors, but instead of "Live Strong" it said "Live Inspired - Sam Power". We wore them to show our support for her during her battle. After she died, the bracelet became a comfort, a security blanket in a way. Something I could look at and remember my best friend - how brave and powerful she was; Something I could take with me everywhere I went, therefore, in a way, Sam could come with me. Everywhere I went, wearing it gave me the chance to tell her story. I have never taken the bracelet off since the day she gave it to me. Even when I removed it for the weddings that I participated in, The bracelet was hidden inside my dress, always with me in some way.
A couple of weeks ago, I looked down at my wrist and discovered that it was gone. I have no memory of the last time I saw it and I don't know how long it had been gone from my wrist before I discovered it was missing. All of a sudden my whole arm felt naked and weightless- still does. How could I not notice that this small, yet incredibly important bracelet, that has been a part of my body for eight years, was gone? That thought may haunt me for weeks to come.
It seems so silly to cry over a bracelet, but with Samantha's birthday coming up, I'm a pot of emotions boiling over. I knew that someday I would take off the bracelet. But I wasn't ready, and it feels even worse to lose it. It's kind of like how it felt to lose Sam. I feel like she should still be here, but I know she's not. Just like I expect my bracelet to be in the same place it always has been, but I'm acutely aware that it is missing from my wrist.
But this post isn't about a bracelet. It's about a friend. When I lost my bracelet, there was only one person in the entire world who would understand.
I've known Leslie as long as I've known Sam, maybe even longer. We were friends in middle and high school, but neither of us were as close with each other as we were with Sam. Both of us would have considered Sam our best friend in high school. We all worked at Midtown Cafe together the summer before college and a few holiday seasons and summers later. We all went to different schools for college, but Samantha came to stay and visit Leslie at App, and me at ECU. And when Sam got sick, Leslie and I dropped what we were doing to be with her when she needed us.
You see, I can write a novel over how it felt to lose Samantha. I'm not the only one that lost her, but no one knows the road I walked like Leslie does, because we walked it together.
Leslie and I were good friends when Sam got sick, but we understandably grew closer as her illness continued and especially so in the aftermath of her death. There have been times over the last seven years that I didn't have to say anything to Leslie - she just knew how I was feeling because she felt it too. So I knew when I lost the bracelet that Leslie would get it. She didn't have to find right words to make me feel better. She just understood. That was what I needed. Leslie can text me that she misses Samantha - and although I have no way to really comfort her, I at least know how she's feeling better than anyone. There are times that Leslie can bring me comfort that no one can. It's an unexplainable, incredible bond that we have and nothing can break it. It goes to show how much you need friends when you are going thru any kind of grief- and the best ones to lean on are the ones that are going thru the same thing.
Since being on the same journey of losing Samantha, our lives have taken different paths. I moved to New York, Leslie met a great guy, bought a house and is getting married. We have incredibly different lives now, but I am so unbelievably proud of her. And our bond is unchanged. No matter where life will take us, I know that I can rely on Leslie, for more than just the day to day grief over Sam. She moved in with me for a week to help me move out of my apartment in Kentucky. Hell, she's the only friend that even came to visit me in Kentucky- twice. Whenever I'm home, I love seeing her. Leslie knows how much I hate driving, so she will drive 20 minutes to pick me up so we can go to a restaurant closer to where she lives. And she is by far the funniest person I know.
I don't know how I would have survived the last seven years without her and I don't know who I would be if I didn't have her in my life. She's my Leserlie.
I can't really speak for Leslie, but the journey of living our lives without Samantha, even seven years later, isn't over. We've moved on in some ways, but sometimes the pain is still just has strong and fresh as ever before. But sometimes, most times, its easier because we have each other. And we still have Samantha looking out for us.
I don't have a bracelet anymore. But I have something better. I have Leslie.
Something else Samantha gave me.
Happy Birthday, Samantha!