Sunday, December 22, 2013


Back in July of 2012, we were just getting used to Sam's treatment.
He spent almost all of June in the hospital, came home at the end of his first round of chemo for almost two weeks, and then went back into the hospital.

Back then I wrote this:
You know, six weeks ago we came to the hospital for the first time. Six weeks ago, this was a totally foreign place. Everything was new and uncomfortable. Our walls were bare. We had no idea what to expect. We didn't know how to handle things. We didn't know what to do. Sam was a wreck. He hated every minute of it. He hated his pole. He hated walking around. He hated every nurse and doctor and whatever-medical-professional who walked in the door.
And so did I.
Six weeks ago, walking into the synagogue felt like walking into home. When I went there on felt odd. Strange. Foreign.
Obviously, Sam's funeral was held at the synagogue, and we observed three nights of shiva there as well. It's not like we haven't been there throughout all of this nightmare.

But on Friday night we went to Shabbat services.

And it was so very very hard.

It felt, to quote myself, odd…strange…foreign.

Perhaps it was because I'm relatively unused to being a "Jew in the pew"…and perhaps it was because our  Shabbat has been so home-based in the last few months (my kids are definitely out of practice in the attending-services department). It wasn't because the service is different (not that much), it wasn't because the sanctuary has changed (it hasn't) or the people were unusual (a lovely crowd who gave me hugs and love)…

Oh, and perhaps it's because I just miss Sam.

I felt uncomfortable, displaced, and out of sorts…like I no longer belong in my own skin.

And uncomfortable, displaced, and out of sorts are pretty common feelings for me right now. For all of us, I think. We are feeling our way through this new sense of our family. Who are we? Where do we all fit into this new order of things? How do we work around the hole in our family and how do we pick our way through whatever minefields we might stumble upon? We are used to putting Sammy's needs at the top of our list, we are used to timing and scheduling around clinic visits and medicine doses. We are used to choosing our meals based on his palate, which grew more and more limited. And now....?

I will admit, I'm nervous to go out. Staying home feels quiet and safe. The world feels harsh and bright and full of a cheerfulness that I'm not ready to muster.  But I can't stay here forever and I've already told Solly that I would take him to the dinosaur outing that will most certainly be full of Sam-ness. 

It's only been one week since we last saw him, touched him, talked with him…
I never wrote the story of our photo shoot the day before we left for Israel. We used the synagogue as a space, since the weather was iffy. I never imagined photos in the sanctuary, though, just a use of the nice bright rooms and courtyard. Sam had other ideas and insisted on photos on the bima. My fearsome foursome…(with thanks to Martha Abelson for this picture)
September 2011 -- all dressed up for Rosh HaShanah -- he called these his "handsome clothes"


  1. Oh, my heart aches for you all. May you find comfort in your happy memories of your beautiful boy.

  2. I have been reading your blog but never commented. Your courage is inspiring. There are many people like me who are aching along with you and the family.

  3. Dear Phyllis,
    I've been reading your blog, along with everyone else. I am also an HUC grad (School of Jewish Communal Service) and a bereaved parent. Ours journeys up to this point have been much different. My nine month old died suddenly and unexpectedly while taking a nap at daycare. In my experience how ever, I know that your journey from this point forward will be similar to mine in many ways. I recognize your words. The world was scary for a long time after Maxie died and people were way too cheerful. I his for at least a year. Two and a half years later, I still find myself hiding from time to time - but not as often. Connecting to others in our awful position has helped. If you ever want to talk or need someone to listen who understands, please know I am here too. with love, Abby (teddyabby at gmail)

  4. What beautiful pictures of your beautiful children. I love the four of them on the bima. And oh, Sam in his "handsome clothes" --!

    I am holding you in my heart as you continue to navigate this unfamiliar and painful new world.

  5. Your family hasn't left my mind/heart. May each new day become a little easier for you and your family. Sending much comfort, love and chizuk!

  6. I lost my brother 8 years ago. No where near the heartbreak of losing a child and also watching that child die. All I can offer is to be kind to yourselves, take your time and do not mourn according to anyone's expectations. It is a process like any other. You don't get over, you begin again and learn to live without a precious person physically with you any longer. Please know that you and your family will be in my prayers. Take care.

  7. Handsome clothes indeed! Beautiful child. I can't tell you how much I wish I could do or say something (anything) that might alleviate your pain. I think of Sam and the rest of your family often. We've never met, but I am local and I believe we know people in common. I do hope our paths will cross one day, because I believe you are exceptional people. I wish you peace.

  8. Handsome child in his handsome clothes. I love that photo and the one on the bima with the kids cuddling up. Thinking of Sammy all through the day, and of all of you, wishing I could help soothe your grief. Much love.

  9. These photos are so beautiful. I love the four of them on the bima, I love the handsome clothes - and he does indeed look so so handsome.

    I know all too well how sad and strange everything feels. I lived in the hospital with my son for over a month before he died, and we were at the hospital for much of the previous month. To suddenly leave the hospital-home, and leave my son behind... to come back to the neighborhood and to home... was so so so jarring and strange. uncomfortable, displaced, odd, strange, foreign - yes, yes, yes.

    I am so sorry you are going through this. Sending you love and strength and prayers... knowing that it's not enough, and that the only thing that would make you feel truly better is something no human can do. <3.

    ps - if you find yourself wanting to talk with another mom who has lost a child to cancer, I am here. We have a mutual fb friend, Raizy, so I am easy to find. <3.

  10. I have been thinking if you constantly. There is hole in your being and it will never be whole again. But you have a right to miss him, a right to talk to him in your dreams, even as the weeks go by, he will be with you constantly. Welcome him in and your memories will be a comfort to all of you. I miss my mother every day. There is always something I forgot to tell her or want her opinion on. But I welcome these minutes and have learned to relax and enjoy the memory.

  11. I remember after Brian's dad died just feeling totally at a loss about what to do. For so long, we'd focused on his needs, comfort and then on the funeral and wake. And we were so busy! Afterward, it was all just so empty and uncomfortable. I can't even imagine how much harder those feelings are when you're a parent whose child died. My advice is just put one foot in front of the other. You all will forge a new normal and find comfort in new, unexpected places and in old places, all in the timing that works for you and your family. Thinking of and praying for you.

  12. So handsome! Thinking of you all, Sammy's memory has already blessed so many.

  13. What a handsome boy. I'm thinking of Sam daily. I said an extra prayer for him on Shabbat after lighting candles.

  14. Continuing to hold your family in my heart, and petition God for your peace as you navigate this new, uncharted territory.

    Love from Kansas City,


  15. I've noticed the comments might have started to drop off. Just wanted to make sure you knew that you, your family, and Superman Sam are still in all of our hearts and minds continually. I can't begin to imagine what you're going through, and even though we've never met, I'm sending love, virtual hugs, and support. I like to imagine that all of my favorite people in heaven have welcomed Sam with open arms and are taking good care of him.

  16. thank you for continuing to share your writtings with us. It takes great courage to do so. I have learned so much about inner strenghth and love from your family. sam looks so sweet in his suit. and the family picture by the bima is lovely. may the memories of sam be sweet and loving.

  17. I am sure that you have been told this many times......but last week at the Biennial the Superman Sam ribbons were everywhere! The power of love and kindness filled those hearts and linked all of us to you and your family. On Shabbat morning I happened upon Steve Einstein before services. He shared with me his daughter's profoundly beautiful words and we both wept.....
    I echo the comments of Rabbi Silverman (above) about welcoming arms in heaven. I know that my mother-in-law and her friends a matter of fact, there was probably a long line of people waiting to take care of Sam! Sam's Omaha Fan Club continues to send our healing prayers to all the Sommer family.

  18. Displaced, but not misplaced. Everywhere you are, is just right, as strange as it may feel. Sam changed your world--our world, if I may be so bold--and it's still changing. Only a week, why would we let him "go"?

  19. And how in the world can everyone's life go on just the same? Doesn't everyone realize you have experienced the most profound loss? How can grocery shopping continue? Bill paying? Errand running? How do those mundane activities keep on when your precious precious Sam has departed??? You are thought of everyday and sent love continously.