After Scott’s death a lot of things changed drastically, but one of the biggest was friendships. Some friendships disappeared in the days and months afterward — out discomfort with emotion and grief by my best guess, some faded in closeness while others deepened. One of the surprises in my grief journey were the new friendships that developed. One of those new friendships was truly special.
When I look back over time, I see that God laid the groundwork for that friendship over a couple of years time. I first met Samantha when Scott and I left Milton Hershey School and returned to Jonestown and attending the Lebanon Area Evangelical Free Church again. Samantha was the first person to come up and talk to Scott and I and welcome us to the church.
Two years later, in the initial days after Scott died, Samantha sent a card expressing thoughts and prayers. A few months later, when all the initial support and expressions of sympathy had faded, Samantha sent another card, sharing that she was continuing to think of us and pray for us. This effort and caring in particular stuck with me, as it came at a time when most everyone was fading away and I was feeling alone.
A few months later I joined a Connections Class (Sunday School class) at church. I specifically chose that class because Samantha was the teacher - and because of the impact of those two cards. This was the first time that I had actually talked with Samantha since that very first Sunday back at church two and a half years earlier after leaving Milton Hershey. Shortly after joining this class, Samantha invited Jaelyn and I to her house for lunch with her and their girls. I’m not sure if I have ever shared as much about myself or been as open about my life and my struggles as I was in that first time of getting together with Samantha, and over subsequent get-togethers.
Samantha is one of the most genuine people I know — both in her faith and love for God and in her honesty about her life and who she is. Samantha has been one of the very few people in my life that have made a point to ask me how I was doing and how she could pray for me during the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries that she knew would be difficult — and one of the few people that I felt I could be completely honest with and that she would pray for me and love me through it. And through feeling comfortable opening up to her, I began opening up to the other women in our class and began developing close friendships with them as well.
A few weeks ago I learned that God was calling Samantha, her husband (Pastor Steve), and their girls to another church where Steve will be in the head pastor — in Iowa. I, along with a lot of others that their lives have touched, have struggled with the news. I am thrilled for Steve and Samantha and the girls in where God is leading them, but the selfish side of me is grieving. The church in Iowa will be blessed by Pastor Steve and Samantha as our church has been blessed by them over the past ten plus years. And I know that many more lives will be touched and affected by Steve and Samantha on a daily basis.
Tonight was a bittersweet time of honoring Pastor Steve and Samantha for the impact that they have had on the lives of everyone around them and of saying goodbye for now. A lot of people had an opportunity to share the impact that Pastor Steve and Samantha had on them. And yet for every one that shared I know that there were at least 4 or 5 more that could have shared. As much as Steve and Samantha loved those around them, those around them loved them. What a legacy — to be known for your love!
I love you Samantha and you have made such an impact on my life and how I view God and the world. I know that you are going with God’s blessing and that is the most important thing. You and your family will always be in my heart and in my prayers.