A friend I hold dear posted on Facebook on Friday that her beloved 28 year old son Sam died that day – at work. He passed out and couldn’t be revived.  In the middle of my newsfeed, full of people’s dogs and breakfasts, time stood still for a moment.  And then the screen was rolling again, condolences pouring in. I scrambled to say something, anything, as I felt everything in my friend’s world give way.

We’re afraid of our kids dying when they’re small and vulnerable. We worry about aging parents and loved ones who are ill. We subconsciously prepare for terrorism at huge public events, we pray for no shootings at schools, we hunker down for natural disasters.  But how many of us worry about losing a loved one in his prime? On top of the South Korean ferry tragedy (200 high school students are missing), it is simply too much to bear. How many of us think to be afraid when our teenager goes on a school trip?  If we did, how could we ever let them go?

I once asked the spiritual leader Radhanath Swami how he handles fear of pain and fear of death (for ourselves and those we love) and he replied “Whether we fear pain and suffering or not pain and suffering will come to everyone. Why not keep our minds focused on where we want to go?”  All the worry in the world cannot prepare a mother for losing her child.  Our fear doesn’t ward off tragedy. It doesn’t protect those we love. Ultimately, we are powerless and pain and death will come anyway.

And so the question: can we live anyway? Can we go on?  My friend wrote to me that Sam “was the sweetest most gentle young man, a loving and supportive son and brother. He loved animals and had a beautiful singing voice.” Can  we remember the sweetness, even in heartbreak? Can we pray even if it won’t bring sons, daughters, brothers and sisters back to this life? Can we carry light and music into the darkest of days? Please, for my friend, let’s try.

Sam Buczek

Sam Buczek 1985 – 2014

Audio of a high school choral concert Sam sang in – his solo is in the second verse – here. The chorus goes “Light the candle everything is all right.”

Sam’s mother is Meryl Buczek, the lovely social worker I met on a flight to Costa Rica who I wrote about here.  She is the kindest of souls.  Please lift her, Sam’s father Frank, and his brother Ben up in your thoughts and prayers too.


  1. So terribly, terribly sad. Our children are always our children, no matter how old they are. I grieve for the untimely passing of this young man and for the family mourning his loss.

  2. That was the most beautiful tribute. Meryl is blessed to have u as her friend
    The lord will give the family the strength to survive. Sam will always be in their hearts

  3. Dearest Meryl,
    What a beautiful boy Sam was! I had never seen a picture of him before. I do not know why G-d took him, but I do know
    your friend is right–You, Meryl, are such a lovely person–
    such a wonderful, compassionate, loving friend, mother, woman.
    And you have suffered greatly in your life. I DO KNOW, I believe, that when G-d takes a loved one–when we say Kaddish
    for a loved one (in Judiasim) that the soul of the departed
    LIVES ON with us–Sam’s beautiful soul will forever be tied
    to and alive within you–and within all of the friends that
    loved him AND THAT LOVE YOU. As I said before, my heart is
    broken for you–for your loss–I do not know if there is any
    comfort for you. But Sam’s beautiful soul will live on in you
    and Skip and Ben and all of those who truly love you.
    We cannot know why G-d called Sam, or when He will call any of
    us–but that beautiful boy is ALIVE in Heaven–and whatever sorrow or pain he was in, he is now in G-d’s hands. And G-d
    will take very good care of your boy, we know and pray.
    I love you, Sima

  4. so very much in my prayers. thank you for this beautiful, difficult bridge from heart to heart.

  5. That was a beautiful tribute Patty. Meryl and her family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  6. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your beautiful comments and support. I appreciate all of your prayers and kind words.

  7. This is a beautiful tribute to Meryl and Sam. Patty, you got lucky sitting next to Meryl on that flight, and your words have captured her perfectly. I have known Meryl since probably the mid-80’s and she is a tried and true friend. I can’t take it that she has to suffer this loss……I would say or do anything to make this better for her, Ben and Skip, but of course, there is nothing that can be said or done to change it.

  8. What a beautiful son. My heart is broken for your friend and I am sending as much positive energy and good thoughts as I can must to try to help her through this.

  9. I am so very, very sorry.

  10. I am saying a prayer for their family and for Sam, rest in peace Sam.

  11. Such a handsome young man. I hope your friend allows her beautiful memories of her boy to wrap her in love.
    Praying for this family and the family’s of the ferry disaster.

  12. Patty, you have spoken the words that we are all aching to say but cannot find. I have been Meryl’s close friend my entire life..going from Barbies to Boys ..carefree and happy, planning our future to raise our families together and keep the party going.
    Losing a child was not part of this plan. It is a life shattering change of course, unfathomably unfair and still unbelievable.
    Tributes like yours and the outpouring of love from so many friends will help lift Meryl from this terribly painful abyss.
    Thank-you for sharing your story and for honoring my dear dear friend.

  13. Patty I needed to read this today. Thank you for your gorgeous words and reminders that if given the choice to focus on pain and sadness or joy, we should chose joy. My heartfelt prayers go out to Sam’s family and friends. I will keep his mother in my thoughts and prayers as well. xo

  14. Words fail when we have to face such a tragedy. The loss of a child, the hole this leaves in the heart, can never really be healed. My heart goes out to Sam’s parents and all others who loved and appreciated him.

  15. Thought and prayers for this family and may Sam Rest In Peace!

  16. Dearest Meryl and Family, May the love of God,family and friends keep you comforted on the lost of your beloved son Sam. Love You.