Monday, December 23, 2013

In Solly's Head

Solly, in the bathtub: Mommy! Let's play "dead" like Sammy!

He's 3 years old.

"Dead" means Mufasa, who falls to the ground and doesn't wake up but reappears in the sky later in the movie.

"Dead" means your character in Jetpack Joyride crashes and burns and then reappears for the next round. 

"Dead" means an iPad out of charge that works after you've plug it in. 

And "dead" means Sammy. 

Processing my own grief is hard enough.
What do you mean he's never coming back? I keep counting heads. 

But for Solly? Unfathomable. 

He's never really known life without a hospital as part of it. He was only 15 months old when Sam was first diagnosed. He's never known life "before" cancer. Those few short months of remission from last November til March? Even I have trouble remembering them. How can I expect him to do so?

But I don't want Sammy's words to become true:

Solly's not going to remember me. 

So when he says Sammy's name, when he wants to look at pictures, when he talks about his brothers...I encourage him. I keep the conversation going. I ask questions and I don't shush him. 

I think I just want to talk about him too. 

And P.S., so much of Solly is just like Sammy. I hear his voice...and the names of the dinosaurs that just trip off his little tongue...
Solly, with the gifts that Sammy selected for him for his birthday...right before he died. The gifts arrived after Sammy died.
Sammy, August 2007, in the bathtub
February 2012 - Sammy and Solly sharing a smoothie


  1. With your help, Michael, David, Yael and a million other people Solly won't possibly be able to forget his awesome big brother Sammy. His memory lives on in your stories that you share with him.

  2. What a beautiful boy Solly is.

    And someday, when he is old enough, the stories in this blog will help him understand his brother z"l in ways he never otherwise would have.

  3. I have a feeling that lots of people will be opening gifts from Sammy long into the future!

  4. My 3 year old us obsessed with death, encouraging me to play dead and talking about dying. He started that about one week before your Sam passed away, and all I could think of was "I sure hope Solly isn't anything like Owen, because damn, would that be hard to explain." I can't imagine how hard it is to answer him.

  5. I have two brothers and two little boys. I'm familiar with brotherly love. The rough and tumble play, the squabbles, the love. It's a love that even death cannot break. No doubt, Sammy will live on through Solly. I love the dinosaur and the enormous smile it brought. A gift that will be cherished forever and ever. Our love, thoughts and prayers continue for your beautiful family. Much love. Always. XO

  6. There are many things in history we were not present for...and yet stories make those memories alive for us as if we is our task to help Solly "Remember" Sam... XOXO

    Bradley Egel and the whole Egel Nest

  7. thinking of you here in Massachusetts.

  8. Sending so much love to you all. <3.

  9. Sissy Spacek, in her recent memoir, wrote of her brother Robby's death from leukemia when he was 19. She writes that decades later, one of nephews told her that he felt like he knew his Uncle Robby, even though he died long before the nephew was born. Spacek, who with the rest of her family often talked about Robby through the years, told her nephew "You did."

  10. Sending love from Columbus, Ohio

  11. Keep Sammy in your conversations and Solly will remember him. I remember my mother's parents. My grandmother died before my 3rd birthday, and I hardly ever saw her. My grandfather died a few months later and I have very strong memories, since he stayed with us for a bit. And in my case nobody talked about them. Just keep the pictures up and Sammy's name alive for all of you, not just Solly.

  12. Oh, these sweet and loving comments! I have nothing to add, except to hope that Sammy will speak to Solly as surely as Mufasa, through your love.

  13. Solly is processing Sam's death in exactly the way his three year old self needs to. When 4 year old Maya Hirsch died, my 4 and 2 year old daughters played "dead sister" for months. Young children learn through play, and Solly is doing his best to understand what dead is and what that has to do with Sammy no longer being around. And you are helping him by supporting his play. I only hope that processing Sam with Solly will also bring you some comfort. Max Handelman

  14. What innocence...such a statement. The pictures are precious.

    Prayers and love. Big Hugs to you.

  15. Dear Phyllis,
    I've never met you, nor heard of you or Sammy before I came across your blog one day this week. I've read every word you wrote and cried like I've never cried in my life. Your words seriously bring Sammy to life. I feel like I almost knew him. This blog vividly memorialized Sammy. May God comfort you and your family among the mourners of Zion. May we merit to see moshiach very soon and then you will be reunited with your son.

  16. Dear sommer family. I am so heartbroken. I jut read through most of your experience. Up till now I had only read the end. Sammy was an exceptional boy. I haven't been able to stop thinking about him. I am so so sorry for what you all have gone through. I will do everything I can to advocate for more research into childhood cancer because no child/family should have to go through that. I am crying and crying. I have not been able to stop thinking about Sammy. What am angel. I hope your family can find a way to heal.
    Elana katyal, Palo Alto