Today would have been one of my guardian angels’ 28th birthday. This one is for her, for all she did for me, and the impact she continues to make on my life. Happy birthday Samantha Jane. Thank you for always believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.
August 27, 1990, a true light of my life was born. Her name was Samantha Jane, and she was one of the most influential people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. Her time on this earth was unfortunately cut short & God called her home on October 2, 2009, at just 19 years old.
This year will mark 9 years since she went up to Heaven, and not a day goes by that I don’t channel in Sam. Her smile and laughter were the most contagious I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across. She could light up a room just by walking in. She always had a positive word to share or a solid piece of advice to follow. Sam taught me how to truly be myself. I was just an insecure and very shy 13 year old when we first met. But even then, Sam always guided me to be a better leader, and to ultimately become a better version of myself.
I know, it seems a bit crazy that someone who I only knew for 3 years could have such an immense impact on me, but that’s just the kind of person Samantha was. She was that bright smile that could warm even the coldest hearts. She had a loud laugh that could cheer you right up. But for me especially, she always had advice. You see, at the young, tender age of 14, I was pushed around a lot. I let others’ opinions affect me, hurt me, and turn me into a dark, introverted version of myself. I hated it, I hated school, and I spent a lot of time hiding from all the feelings I couldn’t really comprehend. And then Sam came into my life, swooping in & took me right under her wing.
At the time, Sam was our drum major, and it was my first year in marching band. In those moments, I thought it was pretty crazy how this person who is basically in charge of the whole band even had the time to worry about me. And I definitely didn’t feel like I deserved it. I often felt like a lost cause, like I was never gonna fit in anywhere. But Sam made sure I always felt loved and welcomed. And man, she always had the best bear hugs to greet me. Sometimes, I can still hear her laugh and feel those hugs. It’s how I know she’s still near me.
Though the time in which I knew Sam was short, she made an impact on me unlike no other. She encouraged me to get myself into extra curricular activities outside of band. She pushed me to make my voice heard, and to be unafraid of what anyone had to say about me. I often credit her for helping get me out of my shell & pushing me to get involved. It’s because of her voice that I was able to find my own. I found confidence in an unlikely place, and it is because of that confidence that she radiated that I was able to find a niche in helping others. That confidence led me to become a leader in both high school in college, it helped me find my home in public service, and even helped me start this blog.
Samantha was unafraid. She spoke with such confidence and pride. Even after she graduated in 2008, she always kept in touch. She’d come visit us “bandies” and always had positive advice to share. She often reminded me how proud she was of me. It’s something I will always care with me. I consider myself so incredibly lucky and blessed to have come across her in my lifetime. She saved me in a way that no one else ever could. Her sudden death impacted me in a way I have never really been able to explain. I went through so many emotions after she passed, but I knew she would have wanted me to be strong. And so, that’s exactly what I did.
I have spent many evenings standing by Samantha’s graveside, just talking, sharing experiences and just feeling close to Sam, even if only for a moment. On almost ever trip to visit, I take sunflowers to her also. You see, in my darkness, Samantha was my light. She brought a breath of fresh air into my life when I felt like I couldn’t go on anymore. I will always be thankful for the short, yet impactful time I was able to have with her. It is why she’s memorialized in not just one, but two of my tattoos. I carry her with me always, and I know that even in death, she still has a way of leading me on through the darkest days. She truly is my sunflower, reminding me to keep my head held high.
Samantha, as well as her friend Amy, were taken too soon from their families and friends. While we still mourn, we still advocate and fight for justice to be served. The circumstances that surround her death are appalling and a sheer sign that our justice system is indeed flawed. Samantha’s parents have set up a website in which they have detailed the gross misconduct of officials who instead of serving and protecting, have completely ignored justice. It’s a slap in the face to those of us who seek justice for these beautiful young lives. You can also see more information and videos regarding Samantha & Amy on the companion Facebook page. Just a heads up, the videos can be graphic and it is suggested you proceed with caution. These videos are not intended for those under 18. The pictures below are of a van that Sam’s parents are using to showcase some of the injustices surrounding this case. Please educate yourself on this and continue to pray that justice is served. Until then, we continue to fight.
Lastly, I’d like to take this time to thank Troy & Rebecca Rainwater, Sam’s parents, for allowing me permission to take pictures of this van & for always being so kind and loving to me. I will always advocate with you & use my own voice to make sure others are aware of the injustice that is out there! I love you both so much & am always praying for you!
Happy Birthday in Heaven, Samantha ❤️