My time at Connecting4Community was powerful in the sense that it allowed me to shed my layers and connect with people instantly at a deep level. We were all there for the same reason, to create community. It also helped that I didn’t have to explain what I did or why I did it – everyone got it right away. It was a powerful three days, and while it was a rollercoaster of emotions, it was a safe place for my gentle soul to weep.

On Friday morning I received news that my dear friend Samantha lost her battle with cancer. Sam entered my life years ago when I was working on Uganda Rising and UNICEF’s Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS. I connected with Sam’s story instantly because she lived from a place of authenticity. Everything about Sam was pure and real. She was running a successful agency in Montreal when she was first diagnosed with cancer at the age of 31. She initially beat the cancer and decided to follow her heart and her passion by becoming a photographer, or as I called her a Visual Storyteller.

Sam had a gift for seeing people. She saw me, and for that I will forever be grateful. Sam and I reconnected a few years ago when I ventured into the entrepreneurial world as a fellow storyteller. She was so supportive of me chasing after my dreams, and I looked to her for wisdom and support. Together with our friend Gabby, we would walk along the beach or in the forest every chance we could. On the walks, we shared our stories, our hopes and fears, our questions and our answers. Those walks kept me afloat in times of turmoil, and nourished my soul in times of gratitude. I am so grateful for those precious moments with my dear friend.

When I found out Sammy had passed, a flood of emotions swept over me. I was far away from home, and yet I was with a community that embraced me. I shared my loss with a few people and was amazed at how deep my new connections travelled. Sam’s story was now impacting their lives too. I left the conference and found myself wandering aimlessly through the streets of Cincinnati, searching for quiet to reflect and remember. I found my way into a church, one of the last places I expected to go, and as I was sitting alone in the beautiful cathedral, I cried. There is something powerful about a shared space that holds the stories of people, the memories of loss and joy. I felt connected to Sam by the simple fact that she instilled in me a passion for stillness.

I miss my friend dearly, and I am reminded that her life will continue to impact mine in every thing that I do. She gave me the gift of friendship, and in return I promise to hold that friendship close as I travel along my own path fueled by the passion, courage and peace that Sam so beautifully embodied.

Sam’s favorite poem is holding my heart today, and everyday:

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,

and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

-Wendell Berry