Last week, the world lost a beautiful soul. She was loving, kind, and she radiated beauty inside and out. Her name was Sam, but I called her Mama Sam.

I've known her daughter, Stacy, since middle school. But it wasn't until high school that we became good friends. We spent a lot of time at her house hanging out with her family. Our favorite gathering spot was around their island in the kitchen. We had lots of great talks at that island, her and I. She became a second mom to me, shelling out good advice and a hand to hold when I needed it. Their door was always open and so were their hearts. 

There was a period of time when life took Stacy and I in different directions. She went to college, and Jon and I married young. I started my family while Stacy started her career. Hair and photographs brought us close again. During this time, Sam battled breast cancer and won. But sadly, the cancer returned in her skin and bones not too long after. We knew it was bad, but chose to remain positive. She was strong, courageous, and ready to fight for her life once again. Last June, in the very beginning of her treatment, Stacy asked me to do a family shoot. I came over on a Saturday morning to take photos in their lovely backyard. I remember laughing with them (and crying too), recognizing how precious time was with her. I remember watching Stacy hold her mom as they both cried, uncertain of what the future would hold. Tears filled my eyes as I tried to focus on capturing the raw emotion in front of me. After they wiped their tears, Sam told me to jump in the photo too. So I handed over my camera to Marques and he started snapping away. I can't tell you how precious these images are to me now that she's gone, and I know her family is so grateful for them too. When I visited the family just a few days after she passed, I stood in the living room and looked up at the wall in front of me. There, below Sam and Pat's wedding photo, was a picture of her and I. I had no idea she framed it and I was instantly brought to tears. Seeing that photo meant everything to me and I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss her smiling face. 

Watching Sam fight cancer for the second time was heartbreaking, yet inspiring altogether. She was ALWAYS positive. Every time I'd pop in to say hi and ask how she was, she'd smile and say, "I'm ok!", even though she dealt with intense pain almost daily. She always put on a brave face for her family though, knowing it would kill them to see her suffer. I remember talking to her specifically one day as she shared with me her concern for Stacy having to watch her battle cancer. But she never once mentioned concern for her own health or well being. But that was Mom. She was one of the most selfless people I've ever met. When she was healthy and well, she was the cook, housekeeper, laundry doer, and grocery shopper. She was super mom, always putting her family before herself. Even when treatment knocked her down and she couldn't do the things she wanted to, it was still evident that her family came first. She inspires me to live for others and to give my whole heart to them. I hope that if I ever have to look illness in the face, that I could be half as brave and strong as she was.


Dear Sam,

Thank you for allowing me and my family into your life. Thank you for treating me like your own daughter all these years and for being my girl's "Grandma Sam". I will hold on to every single precious memory I have of you. All the talks, advice you gave, and endless hugs... oh how I'm going to miss those hugs. I will miss seeing your sweet face when I walk in the door. Try not to worry about Pat, Megan, Stacy, Ryan, Kaya and Haylee. They are surrounded by the BEST family and friends anyone could ask for and I know they will always keep your memory alive. Cancer may have taken your life, but it didn't take your legacy. You will forever be in our hearts.

I love you. Until we meet again, Mama Sam.


Below is the photo I mentioned hanging in her living room.