Lately I’ve been reflecting on the magnitude of our experiences these past few years. I think I need to learn a lesson….it’s worth it to dream big. It was Sam’s nature to dream. In fact, when he was young, like 7, 8, 9 years old, he used to tell us he was going to go daydream. Daydreaming was an intentional activity for him and he didn’t want to be interrupted. Only he didn’t call it daydreaming, he called it ‘going deep in thought’.
“I’m going deep in thought!" he would announce, "Don’t disturb me.”
It was a leisure activity reserved for slow afternoons or long car rides.
Once in a while, when he was especially quiet in his room I’d ask Natalie what Sam was doing and she’d say (without sarcasm), “He’s deep in thought. He doesn’t want to be disturbed.” That was normal in our family.
The time he spent daydreaming ranged in content from placing himself in the center of a Star Wars saga, to scheming up big ideas like creating a better economy or starting the world’s largest silly string fight. One time he wanted to create a gym made of magnets. People would come in and rent magnet shoes with an opposing charge on the sole, so they could enter the gym and walk on air.
Sometimes parenting a kid with big ideas and strong negotiation skills was challenging. Like the time he wanted to raise money to support disabled orphans in Vietnam by having a car wash. He wanted this car wash to be done by his second grade class using super soakers and squirt guns. No adults. No hoses or sponges. I’m all for philanthropic investments, but this was a bit tricky. I tried to work with him by suggesting that we practice washing a car with super soakers and squirt guns and a handful of second graders, but he was not up for that. It was all or nothing for Sam and that dream never materialized.
When he was first diagnosed with cancer, he really had no idea how difficult the road ahead of him was, but the scans, blood draws and doctor appointments quickly got scary. One day we were headed out the door to get to another appointment and Sam started to cry. He said to me,
"You know what the worst thing about all this cancer stuff is? Ever since it started I haven’t been able to go deep in thought.”
It was such a profound moment; a glaring new threat to his spirit. We had to determine how to exist while this tragic life circumstance threatened to take away his ability to dream.
I don’t know when it happened, but Sam regained his ability to go deep in thought and thankfully, he never quit being a dreamer with big ideas. Even when he realized he was dying, he dreamed of having a Viking funeral where they send his body out to sea and shoot flaming arrows at it while the sun goes down.
As I reflect on all the stories and the remarkable things that have happened over the past six years, I realize I need to learn a lesson from Sam. It’s worth it to dream big.
Four years ago, I wanted to help raise money for Ewing’s Sarcoma research. I thought maybe $50,000 was realistic. Since then, about $450,000 has been raised in Sam’s name for sarcoma research and patients are now accessing a targeted drug that we helped fund.
Three years ago, Sam went surfing with the Challenged Athletes Foundation. He loved it so much that he inspired the first International Adaptive Surf competition and the creation of the Jr. Seau Surf Camp. These things only happen when people dream big.
He’s hung out with NBA Basketball players, national news correspondents, and Paralympic athletes. He's flown a WWII T-6 Texan, given speeches to large groups of people, been on more news stories than I can remember and I can’t count how many times we’ve had an experience and thought...
Did that just happen? Really?
I miss Sam and his big dreams so much. Life is not nearly as fun without him. But he taught me to keep dreaming. It can be scary sometimes. It’s kind of like hope that way. It’s risky because some dreams come crashing down and it seems like the universe is being abusive, saying no to the simplest desires.
Even though I’ve experienced deep pain and the loss of my most precious dreams,
I still want to keep dreaming because sometimes beautiful dreams come true.