For Sam: How to Let Go - A Lesson in Grief

I have never had to let someone go. I've been very lucky. This is the first good friend I've lost. 

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I've lost friends who I knew on the surface level, but the deeper you go with someone, the more you have to lose when they pass on. This is the first soul that I really knew well that left this world. 

I want to say, before I go on about Samantha, I am so sorry to all of you who have lost someone dear and close to you. Those of you who have lost parents, children, siblings, best friends...I am sorry you must walk through that pain, but I can tell you that you are not alone. We are all connected. We are together in this sadness.

I want all the strength, peace and compassion in the world to be with you. May it aid you in accepting the pain as it is, letting it through to pressure you into a diamond of a human being. 

To honor Sami:

I'm always nervous when assigned a random roommate during a workshop, training, or whatever. But for my second teacher training, I would be set up with someone in Bali for almost a month so I was extra nervous. Plus, I was newly pregnant and at yoga teacher training. 

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I arrived after everyone else. When I got there, she was already set up. We introduced ourselves and I went about my business of unpacking. As I unpacked, we asked each other questions trying to get our bearings of what the next few weeks held: I learned she was from New York, that she was 2 years younger than I, that she had brothers and that she was Jewish. I ADORED the way she talked. And she loved the way I did (Mississippi). 

Then she started spraying OFF! like it was the end of the world in a swamp. 

I said, "Look. I'm just going to go ahead and tell you that I'm pregnant. Pregnant people have a very strong sense of smell. Also because of this factor, they throw up when smelling strong smells." I raised an eyebrow at her, and she got the hint. 

I loved her because she stopped. I loved her because although she had never been pregnant, she stopped. I loved her because from that moment on, she sprayed herself on our porch. I was thankful to her because that could have made the whole experience hell for me. 

She laughed. I loved her laugh. I loved her for laughing with me and making it humorous, rather than having a power struggle moment.

(And although I want to be the type of person that just loves people always and abundantly - I have to admit that I loved her because she was the kind of person you just love).

In a situation like yoga teacher training, wherein you are in a foreign country for a month and know nobody else in the program, you get close to people fast. Because we are human and always long for community on some level, we snuggle up to someone and talk about everything. 

I call this the Summer Camp Effect. Made to live with complete strangers for a long amount of time, and in the midst of some challenges and learning that call you out of yourself and force you out of your comfort zone, you grow to know each other quickly.

This is because you are going through an uncomfortable challenge with these people. In normal life, it would have taken about 10 years to get to know Sam. But due to the Summer Camp Effect, we got to know each other really well in 3 weeks. 

We learned that we were only to eat vegetarian foods the first day of training. It was, actually, mostly vegan foods. Even though I follow a loose vegetarian diet normally, I was just 11 weeks pregnant so I needed more than tempeh and rice. And wanted cheese and chocolate, to be frank.

So most days, I went back to our little apartment for lunch and dinner. She would be there, and we would order our lunches and dinners by room service. Pizza, grilled cheeses and coconut water every day. I loved her.

When my belly got too big for my dresses to wear around town, I plopped down distraught on my bed. "Let's go to town and find you a dress," she said. We walked through Ubud, looking at every damn ladies' store until I found a long green skirt that would cover belly. 

Sam was on a mission for a woman she had only just met. An angel to me already in a lot of ways. She found a long, flowing black dress with spaghetti straps for me. I loved her. I wear that dress, to this day, more than any other dress in the summer. It is a go-to that is now a permanent piece in my closet and on my body (because of her). I think of her every time I put it on. Now I know I always will. I loved her.

Because we were averse to the healthy foods at the training, we did a lot of walking into town to check out the restaurants. We loved several in particular that were new-agey, holistically healthy and met all kinds of people. We talked about travel, about friends, about men, about family. I learned so much about her life, and she learned about mine. 

One time, we met a man who had taken a vow of silence. We saw him there again one week later. He was glowing and had just finished his month of not speaking one word. He raved about it. "Let's take a vow of silence," we decided. But we couldn't even stop talking on the way to practice every morning -- whispering and laughing to each other as we walked the path between rice fields. As the pink sun rose around us. And the rules of the training were that you couldn't even talk until hours later, after meditation, after yoga, after breakfast. No, a vow of silence would not be in our future. 

One time we got a cab out to a fire dance. We had a plan we would go to one of the restaurants we loved, eat a bagel and a healthy smoothie (milkshake) and then head out to the temple. Everyone else had had the foresight to have a plan to get back. 

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We quickly realized that cabs didn't come out to the temple, and everyone else had gotten drivers. The cars were all full too. And the other students were pissed: "Why didn't you have a plan?" We laughed nervously and ran around from car to car, gripping each other's hands. 

(Side note about me for a second: Whenever I am traveling and get myself into a situation, the person I am with is always endeared to me, for the rest of my life. I am still best friends with the person whom I got kicked out of 2 hotels in Italy with.)

We were freaking out. All the cars seemed to be peeling out of the parking lot, I swear. We waved one down at the last second, forced ourselves in and sat in the damn floorboard because it was full. But they couldn't leave us out there in the middle of nowhere, could they? We laughed together there on the floorboard. I loved her.

I'll never forget her laugh. Her voice. Her sense of humor. Her smile. We never said an unkind word to each other. We were only there to build each other up. We talked about it. How we could rise up. I could feel that she only wanted the best for me. I only wanted the best for her. I loved her. 

She was a great support during the early months of pregnancy in a foreign place. We had a joke that she was like my substitute husband. Because she was so good to me. I loved her. 

We decided we would go to Tel-Aviv together. I would come to New York and do Landmark forum with her. So many plans. 

We went to see a palm reader. He said she would not have children. He compared her palm to mine. We were both a little troubled by that. I wonder now what he did not say. 

In all that I learned about her, I learned that doctors had discovered a tumor in her cervical spine back in 2010. They had to replace her neck with titanium. She bravely did inversions anyway. She had a limited range of movement but felt that in learning to teach yoga, she could help people who had special circumstances like hers. I loved her. 

It was hard to say goodbye to her, and I missed her energy for a long time after we parted. 

In 2014, I had my first baby. She posted a picture of my baby on her Facebook page because she was so proud of me. I loved her. 

That same year, they found out that the tumor had grown back. Another surgery.

We talked a few times throughout the years, but life was busy. I got pregnant again. My life started moving faster and faster. And in 2017, I found out that Sam's tumor was back again, and that the plate in her neck was hurting her--that things were worse, much worse. There was a new tumor too, this one more aggressive.

She lost her ability to speak.

More surgeries, rounds of chemo. Until there was nothing left to do but pray for her. And her family. Her family I learned so much about--the family she adored. 

Sam passed away three weeks ago. She was loved by so many. I loved her. 

This leaves me thinking and pondering in my sadness. I am grieving for lost phone conversations and trips. I am grieving the trip back to Bali we would take. I am grieving seeing her again. I am grieving her smile, her voice and her laugh. Her beautiful personality. 

All I know is that there is a greater plan that we can't see. All I know is that I was blessed by her presence in my life, as short as it was. All I know is what I can learn. All I know is that she feels more present with me right here and now than she has in the past 3 years.

All I know is that she is not suffering, that she is free and with the One who loves her. All I know is that I will never forget her. All I know is that her soul lives on. All I know is that she will inspire me for the rest of my life. All I know is that she is probably a real angel to her family and friends now. 

All I know is that I love her. And though her body has died, I still love her. I love her soul wherever it is. All I know is that she lives on because she still loves all who she loved on this earth, and we all love her. 

And we can continue to love her and learn from her. So, to me, from a spiritual standpoint, because there is still learning and giving and loving and always will be, she lives on. If the love is in the present moment, then the spirits are in the present moment. 

Energy never dies, it only changes form. Ice into water into vapor. Fire into smoke. 

Sami set her timer for 8 every night to go over what she was grateful for. She teaches me gratitude. For every breath, every swallow, every word I get to say. 

I let her go because she was obviously always meant for bigger things. She is a big soul and just can't fit into this realm anymore. She experienced what she came here for, she fulfilled her contracts, and now she flies. Freedom for Sami. Gratitude for her life. 

And I love her.

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Related: How to Say I Trust You and Take It 

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