Monday, September 14, 2009


Hm. Why did I call this post "candles"? Dunno. Maybe it will come to me by the time I'm finished writing.... I feel like rambling.

So, I have a playlist on my iPod that I named after my friend's playlist on her blog-- my friend Susan, whom I have never met, lost her son four short (long, eternal, minuscule, gigantic, torturous, horrendous, heartbreaking) days after we lost Ben. His name was Will and it still kind of blows my mind how similar our lives are. Susan is an English teacher on the other side of our metropolis. She teaches 9th grade and has the heart of a poet, which you'll know if you read her blog. She finished her MAT program at Emory (alas, her only fault :)) in the last few years. And her heart is broken. I have no idea how we found each other in the fog of those early weeks, but I feel that she is a friend of my heart, though I've never seen her face and we've only connected through our written words. Survivor friendships.

Anyway, I loved the songs she had on her blog and I went and found all of them on iTunes and I named the playlist "Will's Playlist." I don't know if I've told her that.

And it's one of my favorite playlists to listen to. I've added some of my own songs to it, and I listen to it often.

Today, I asked a student to "go to Will's playlist" on my iPod and it occurred to me that I am keeping that boy's memory alive, though I never met him, just by calling out his name. I wanted my student to ask who Will was. I wanted to say, "A friend of my son's." They reached heaven around the same time-- surely God hooked them up, just like He did their mothers.

I gave my kids a writing prompt today that said, basically, "If you could change one thing, what would it be?" They listed all kinds of things. In fact, I'm still at school right now because I had to read all of them-- I had to-- and I had to comment on almost all of them (partly because they'll notice if they didn't get comments, even if they act like they don't care) because they were amazing.

Some kids said that they would change their pasts (at 14? Ah, life...). Some would change their parents' divorces. A couple of girls wrote that they would change what they had worn today :).

One boy wrote, in pencil, at the bottom of his paper,

"Mrs. Swaney, I would change that your baby died."

Oh, my heart.

I called his mom after school. We cried together for a second about how precious that was, and then my phone died and I was saved the trauma of trying to figure out how to end such an intimate phone call with a woman I do not know but whose son blessed me more deeply than he could have even known.

Sometimes freshmen drive me crazy. Other times, they make my heart all gushy and melty and I am so grateful that God created me to be a teacher.

I miss my son.

I've been thinking of all different ways that I can imagine this wreck that happened in the spring that was supposed to be full of dogwoods and roses and pollen and I think of

rose petals
crushed, they release their aroma...

beaten, chiseled and scraped, it releases the shape hidden in the rock...

lit on fire, disintegrating under the heat, melting away, disappearing, only the flame survives all the way down to the bottom of the jar... releasing its fragrance until every thing is consumed.

Oh God, consume us in this fire. It's such a small fire compared to the infernos I have witnessed in the lives of others. But come and burn away the dross here in the light of this fire. Burn up the flesh and the bitterness and the fear. Keep doing miracles that I seem to only be able to see by lamplight. Kindle this fire and keep it stoked. Burn, burn, burn....


wendymhall said...

OK, your sweet student made me cry too.

Susan Boone said...

I didn't know, sweet Sam. But thank you for this. Thank you for investing so much of your heart in this strange and beautiful friendship.
Thank you for remembering Will. I think about Ben so often...I need to send you the bible verse I found for him last week--it was extraordinary how fitting it was for him.
I guess I never mentioned that I used your description of your back yard this summer as an example of exemplary descriptive writing three weeks ago. My kids loved it...LOVED it!

Susan Boone said...

'And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.'
Deuteronomy 33:12
I know you've read this, but I just happened upon it, and it made me think of your Ben...and it gave me such a sense of peace.

Bobbie Lee said...

Sam, my cousin sent me a link to your blog. First of all, I am so very sorry that you have had to endure the loss of your Ben. I, too, lost my Jill in almost the same exact way, during labor, and not expecting anything but a beautiful baby girl to take home with me. I so appreciate your 'Labor Day' blog. You have a gift for putting into words exactly how I felt all those years ago. It is hard for people who have not experienced such pain to understand what our soul feels. It feels like a black hole; I could sometimes even visualize myself in it, as I know you have as well. Keep digging in God's word and keep praying. Help does come. He is good to those who have lost. I will tell you this. Exactly a year to the date (my birthday/the day I found out I was pregnant with Jill), I found out my nephew had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. Having suffered through Jill's death and trying to get pregnant again, there was a very selfish pain in my heart. I eventually got pregnant the next month. My nephew was supposed to have a boy, as well as I. Exactly a year to the date of Jill's birth and death, a beautiful baby girl came into our lives; her name was Meagan (my nephew's daughter). She was supposed to be a boy, but God sent us a girl. Not a replacement, but a message that I interpreted as His way of saying how sorry He was for our family's loss. I had a little boy eight days later, Matthew (Gift from God). There is still not a time when I do not miss my precious Jill or wonder what would have been. It has been 20 years. Even though that raw pain subsides, there is that place in my soul that still longs for her, but thank God we will be able to see her one day, as you will Ben. Take care and again, I do appreciate your words.

Samantha said...

Susan... wow. Oh wow, that moves me. Thank you so much for that verse. You're right-- it has such different meaning to me now... thank you for that...

wendy-- for real! so sweet.

bobbie lee-- thank you so much for your words of encouragement and for sharing your story... i can't really express how comforting it is to hear from someone who has walked this path ahead of me... and i love hearing the "rest of the story" :) bless you, bless you, and thank you so much for sharing your heart on this walk...

Bobbie Lee said...

Sam, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me. I just remember I had to validate my thoughts sometimes and was appreciative to those whom I could ask questions. Peace be with you and your husband and may God shine His countenance upon you!

Jenn said...

Sam, I teach with Susan and I have been trying to be there for her. Your words have been so helpful in understanding just a small bit of what she may be thinking. Thank you so much for your honesty and your beautiful writing.

Samantha said...

Bobbie Lee-- I just saw this comment and I will do just that-- thank you for reaching out!!

Jenn, thank you for your kind words! Any friend of Susan's is a friend of mine. She's amazing. Good to "meet" you :)