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It is with extreme pride that I introduce this week’s Fab Female to all of you. Please meet the incredibly inspiring Samantha, who is truly one of the strongest and most impressive people I have ever encountered. She is an amputee, a widow, and a mom of one extraordinary little boy. Her amazing story will no doubt move and uplift you, and I am so honored that she let me share it with you.
Can you briefly describe what happened during the bus accident that resulted in you losing your right arm when you were ten years old?
We were on the freeway when the driver lost control of the bus, overcorrecting to the left, then back to the right. On that last time he overcorrected to the right, the bus flipped on its side. And since there were no seatbelts on buses at that time, my upper body went out the window just as the bus was landing on its side. I was then trapped, half of me was still in the bus, while the other half was stuck underneath the bus. Once they were able to lift the bus enough to pull me out, my arm had been damaged too badly for repair.
What went through your mind when you realized you’d lost your arm?
It was a few days after the accident when I actually realized my arm was gone. At that time, I didn’t know the news of my amputation was going to affect me so greatly, but it did. I remember feeling embarrassed and ugly. I wasn’t scared of the pain, I wasn’t worried about how I’d learn to tie my shoes again, I just felt ugly. And different. Those negative and torturous thoughts stayed with me for many, many years. Every time I looked in the mirror or saw a photo of myself, all I saw was my missing arm.
What was life like after you left the hospital?
Life after the accident was indifferent to me as a child; nothing “bad” happened, but the accident made me grow up so fast. I lost the innocent joy most children have. I only took in what my ten year old little mind could handle, which wasn’t a lot at all. There were so many doctor appointments that my mom and I went to. For years and years, we went to many appointments, for everything it seemed like. I didn’t have a childhood like the other kids. I was never care-free. I never played without worry I’d hurt myself. I never met new kids without the worry they’d stare at me. I lived in my own cautious, safety bubble, which was okay with me at the time. And I think it was my coping mechanism at the time. I couldn’t mentally handle or process anything out of the ordinary, so I stayed in my lane. I went from being a normal 10 year old, to instantly having the maturity level of a 45 year old.
What finally allowed you to let go of the pain and the anger you felt as a result of your accident?
I actually didn’t know I had so much pain and anger still left from losing my arm. All through high school and college, I would have told you I was “okay with my one arm.” Again, it was my subconscious way of coping until I was ready to face it. It wasn’t until I started writing my blog (twenty years later) that I realized I had so much buried, so much hurt to admit. I sat down and wrote every detail I remembered from that day, and the flood gates just opened. All the emotions surfaced, and having the control of how much I let out at a time, I was better able to deal. I wrote a little at a time, and when I reached a point where I felt the emotions were too much, I took my time to work through them before I continued with my story. It was the first time I had ever said it out loud, that I thought I was ugly. A big part of me healed though, when I became a mother. For the first time since my accident, I felt like I had a new title; a new purpose. I didn’t have to just be “the girl with one arm” anymore, I was now someone’s mother and THAT also healed a huge part of my heart.
How did you cope with your husband’s suicide while trying to remain strong for your son?
As most suicides, my husband’s death came as a huge shock. There was very little warning, very few signs. One day he was here, the next day he wasn’t. I had just turned thirty, four days prior, and my son had also just had a birthday; he was only two. Suicide isn’t like any other death, just as I’m sure neither is losing someone to a long illness that had them suffering for months or even years. I like to describe suicide as a foreign beast who grabs you by the guts and takes you on a rollercoaster like you’ve never experienced. The guilt combined with anger isn’t a fun place to live in. Once the fog of that rises a bit, you’re hit with the sadness and disbelief that someone you loved so dearly thought ending their life was the best choice. I coped at first by taking hour by hour. Then eventually day by day. I cried in the shower, a lot. I asked publicly for prayers, a lot. And I just had faith that God would carry me. I knew he’d see me through one day, just as he had with my accident. Because of that rollercoaster-y fog, I don’t know that I can sit here and tell you I chose to be strong for my son on purpose. It was more like the presence of him, the undeniable fact that there’s a two year old living with me and not only does he not understand death yet, but he can’t do anything for himself, gave me no other choice BUT to be strong for him and be physically present. Now that I’m almost in my sixth year of being a widow, I can look back with a clearer mind and see that the fact God gave me such a young child at that time, one that needed so much “tending to”, was actually a blessing. If I had had no children, or one that was grown, living away, I would have had no reason to get out of bed every day. I would’ve had no reason to smile, or to dry my tears, or to have play dates, or to have Friday night dance parties for no reason at all. I wish I could say I made the choice to be strong for him then, but really, my sweet little boy gave me no other option.
How did you explain your husband’s death to your son?
Since the day I wrote about my accident on my blog, I knew that writing was a therapeutic outlet for me. There was something about sharing my rawest emotions “on paper” that made me feel lighter. I would get a sense of healing after I clicked publish. So, one week after Charles died, I started writing again. Publicly. I shared with my followers that he had died suddenly and that I wasn’t sure what life was going to look like. I continued to write about my feelings, and my struggles of being a single, grieving mom. On the one year anniversary of his death, I opened up completely and shared that he had committed suicide. I had reached a point where I wasn’t ashamed anymore and I wanted people to know. However, my son had only been told that “daddy was sick and went to be with Jesus”. I knew at some point I’d need to tell him the truth because the truth was on the internet for everyone to see. I prayed about when the time would be right. I prayed that no one would tell him before I could. This past year, right before he turned seven, he experienced some anxiety that forced me to put him in counseling. The counselor and I decided it was time he knew about suicide and that he better understood what type of “sick” his daddy was. I prayed that God would show me when Kaleb was ready to accept the news and one night at story time, he looked up at me and said, “my dad killed himself, didn’t he?” Be careful when you ask God to send you a clear sign, because He will. And it’ll punch you square in the gut. His statement took me by surprise, but I had also been preparing for it with my own counselor. It was a tough night for both of us. A lot of tears. A lot of “whys”. Since then though, I know I feel better that he was able to find out in a situation that I could control. I earned a whole new level of his trust by showing him I’ll always be a source of truth and love for him. That will never change.
What made your son come to the decision that he wants an “earth dad”?
Oh that “Earth Dad”. He’s a popular topic of conversation these days. About two years ago, we were leaving the cemetery after visiting “Heaven daddy” on his birthday, when my son expressed (with tears) that he wished he had a dad here on earth that he could see every day. Of course his wish broke my heart. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and cry until the end of time. But, I didn’t. We talked about how one day Jesus would send us an “earth dad” when the time was right, and we just had to keep praying. Here we are, two years later, and crickets. Earth Dad is nowhere in sight, and Kaleb wants to know what’s taking him so long. Haha! We’re still praying for him “to find us” and as the days pass, Kaleb talks about him more and more. I’m glad he’s open to the idea and by him speaking of “Earth Dad” like he’s already kind of here, is healthy for him. I believe he’s mentally preparing himself for when someone new does come into our life. It’s just been he and I for six years. That’s essentially his whole life, so for him, a new male in the house, possibly with step brothers or sisters, is going to be a huge change for us to adjust to. So Earth Dad, wherever you are, get ready because Kaleb has a whole list of things y’all are going to do. Camping is first on his list.
In what ways has your own father’s health journey inspired you?
My dad was in a severe farming accident eighteen months ago. His injuries included twenty-three broken bones, an amputated foot, and a mangled leg that required many skin grafts. He was in the hospital for exactly one hundred days. As a family who has been through some things by now, we remained pretty strong, but it was a long, hard road indeed. We went through periods in the beginning where we weren’t sure if he was going to live, and then for a very long time, we were unsure if they were going to be able to save his other leg and right arm. His recovery was like nothing I’d ever seen. He lost ninety percent of all his muscle from having to be in bed so long; at age 65, he had to learn to walk all over again. Honestly, I kept expecting for him to give up. He had so many setbacks and bumps in the road, I just fully anticipated for him to throw in the towel. Not once did he do that. He always pushed through but pushed through in a way that made us all so proud. When he was being released, his physical therapy team highly suggested he continue his rehabilitation by joining a gym. He asked me if I would join with him…how could I say no? We joined together just four days after his release. For the first month or so, he was still using a walker to help get around, then eventually just a cane, and now he can walk all on his own. I’ll never forget looking over at him one day in the gym, as he was attempting the treadmill, and thinking, life is too short for excuses. He definitely inspired me to push through, stay motivated, be determined and overall, be the better version of myself.
What is the one thing you hope to teach your son?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that we are all going to be handed hard or unfair journeys. We will all be faced with different trials and tribulations and we will all have the choice of how to handle them. I could have let the title of ‘amputee’ determine the rest of my life. I could have let it take control in a way I felt sorry for myself. I could have also let the title of ‘widow’ determine my adulthood. I could have let the anger from the suicide drive me to unhealthy addictions or behaviors. I could be walking around today saying I’m nothing but a widowed amputee. But I’m not. I made a promise to myself long ago that I would never let the past DEFINE me, only let it shape me into the woman I am today. The ability to have that strength and that outlook comes from God alone. I know He didn’t put this journey in my lap so I could sit in bed all day and cry, He put it here so I could share it; so I could use it to help and inspire others. My one wish for my son is that I can show him what it truly means to have faith and strength in your heart, provided by Jesus. His life will flourish, even through the hard journeys, if he has that.
Please be sure to check out Samantha’s blog & be on the lookout for her book in the near future!
And if you’d like to make a donation to the children’s hospital that changed Samantha’s life and so many other kids’ lives for the better, you can do so here:
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children
If you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please please please reach out and call 1-800-273-8255. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!
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