My Most Courageous Husband

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Tomorrow will mark three months. Three months. It seems like such a short, fleeting amount of time, and yet it has proven to be the longest days of my life. How has it already been three months? How have I not seen my sweet husband’s face or heard his laugh or looked into his eyes for three months? How is it possible that Andrew isn’t here? So many questions flood my mind; questions of disbelief in this new reality, questions in anger at this vicious disease, questions of faith at the lack of his healing. I won’t sit here, lie to you,  and tell you that I have consistently, without wavering said, “Ok, God. This is fine. I’m okay with it.” I’m not. I’m not okay with life without my husband. I’m not okay with being a widow at the age of 24. I’m not okay with the daily heartache felt by all of his friends and family because of his absence. I’m not okay with any of this. I’m just not okay at all. And yet, I am reminded of Paul’s words in the book of Thessalonians that say, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” Friends, I am grieving deeply every day, but I do not grieve without certainty and hope in Christ. For as deep and dark as a place that I have found myself in for the past three months, I cannot imagine the depth and pain of those who don’t have the assurance that they will see their loved ones again, basking in the glory of Christ for eternity. I selfishly grieve because it will likely be many years before I see Andrew again, (and trust me, that absolutely destroys me) but because of who Christ is and what He did on the cross, I do not have to grieve in never seeing my husband again. I will. I will see Andrew again and he will be whole, healthy, and complete. I admit, most days, this thought alone is what gets me through to the next day.

Andrew and I were so blessed with being named the United States Basketball Writer’s Association’s Most Courageous Award recipients this year. This was truly an incredible gesture from the USBWA and an honor to accept down in Houston at the Final Four. It is still beyond comprehension to me that anyone in their right mind would say that I am as strong and courageous as Andrew. I assure you I am not; nobody is.

There is this part from one of our favorite movies that says, “You know Pete was never a real fighter. But that’s why he married you. That’s why he loves you. Because you’re the fighter, and you need that. One person in a relationship has got to punch.” Andrew would always, without fail, pause the movie and say to me, “That’s you! You’re our fighter. You’ve got our punch!” and then give me a kiss and press play. What Andrew didn’t seem to realize is that just because I was always the one swinging the punches doesn’t mean he was any less of a fighter because he was the one in my corner teaching me how. Andrew taught me to be brave. He is still teaching me to be brave. I couldn’t have spoken at halftime at Hinkle just days after Andrew passed away without his encouraging voice in my head the whole time. I couldn’t have given an acceptance speech for this Most Courageous Award had he not shown me how to be strong and graceful each and every day. I have had many people ask me for a video of my time down in Houston and their presentation of this award. I don’t have a video, but I had a dear friend find the audio for it which is linked HERE. I do want to insert in my speech in this post; not because it was great, (it was quite muddled through many tears, actually) but because I had the true, great honor in describing just a small handful of ways that Andrew taught me how to be courageous. And as a proud wife, I want the entire world to know how amazing and incredible this man is and how bravely he lived his life…

“Andrew’s impact on me and my life is immeasurable. There aren’t enough pages to fill, blog posts to write, or hours in the day to list off the ways in which he changed me and how I live my life. And from looking around this room and to be standing in front of all of you accepting this award on his behalf, it’s quite clear that I am not the only one who felt his lasting impact. I’m not the only one he taught to be brave.
For Andrew, courage was…

  1. Disregarding the odds and statistics told to us by every doctor. He disregarded them and fought this vicious disease with 100% of himself every single day.
  2. Courage was receiving chemotherapy in the morning, vomiting profusely at lunch time, and returning to work with a smile on his face that afternoon. Most of the time his coworkers had no idea what he had endured just hours before.
  3. Courage was making every nurse and doctor laugh and feel appreciated; even as they simultaneously administered painful procedures and treatments.
  4. Courage was fighting two illnesses- one, his own very public battle with cancer and two, my private battle slipping into depression when we learned of Andrew’s rediagnosis in May. When everything should have been about him and his health, he made mine his top priority.
  5. Courage was sitting and receiving 12 hours of chemo and blood transfusions and then rushing to make it to the final hour a Bone Marrow Registry drive he orchestrated at Butler University to shake the hands and thank those who joined the registry.
  6. Courage was deciding to continue to receive harsh chemotherapy drugs even after being told there was a 95% chance it would prematurely end his life. Courage was a 5% chance being enough to justify suffering for more time with his wife.
  7. Courage was spending his final hours of coherency talking about his love for Jesus Christ, Butler basketball, his marriage, and helping others.

So I challenge you all today to live your life with as much love and purpose as Andrew packed into his 25 short years of existence. There wasn’t a single day in the past 7 years that I didn’t feel loved, appreciated, respected, and adored. Can your loved ones say the same? Do you leave your wife every morning ensuring she knows that she is the woman of your dreams? Does your husband know without a shadow of a doubt that he is the absolute best friend, provider and protector for you and your family? Do your kids know that your entire universe revolves around their happiness? Be present with the ones you love. Love fully, love deeply, love unconditionally. Just like Andrew did. There also wasn’t a single day that went by in the past 7 years that I wasn’t awe-inspired by Andrew’s drive, determination, and passion for life and helping others. That manifested in being a leader for his teams on and off the court, in truly being a husband that selflessly served his wife and taking his responsibilities as the head of our household and marriage seriously, and ultimately raising awareness for the Bone Marrow Registry which is in desperate need for donors. You see, it didn’t sit well with us that people are dying every single day (roughly 264 people, every day) because their match, their cure isn’t on the registry. It didn’t sit well with us that children were losing their parents, that parents were outliving their children, that wives were losing their husbands and we could be doing something about it.

Butler University has partnered with Be the Match (which is the National Bone Marrow Registry) and continued on Andrew’s impactful legacy and fight by creating Project44. The goal? To save 44 lives in honor of Andrew. For every 430 new registry members, 1 will be called to save a life. In honor of my husband who proudly wore #44 for the Butler Bulldogs, we want to save 44 lives by recruiting a minimum of 18, 920 registry members. To join the registry, you swab your cheek. To actually donate, it’s typically as simple of a process as giving blood. So if you or anyone you know between the ages of 18-44 have any questions or would like to join the registry, please contact me. Or simply text “Andrew” to 38470 or visit: join.BeTheMatch.org/Andrew1.

Again, I humbly thank you for this award. This is truly one of the most significant moments in my life. I know Andrew is up in Heaven smiling down on us today and begging me to stop making everything all about him! So from the both of us, thank you.”

“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (CS Lewis)

11 thoughts on “My Most Courageous Husband

  1. So beautifully written and spoken before a world of hurting people who need to know Jesus makes all the difference! Thanks for sharing your story! Our love and prayers are with you and the Smith family. Marcia Jones

    Sent from my iPhone Marcia

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  2. Samantha, I’m so deeply sorry for your pain and loss. I pray for you daily and I know as a Christian that when he puts someone on your heart it’s because they are so precious to him and want to offer comfort to them ! I know that in prayer his assurance is that “she will be ok” and I read your blog knowing that because somehow you get up, you breathe and you keep going and encourage all of us in life by doing so! I know your grief probably was going ok during his illness and now loss but in prayer I know you have so many they admire you for your faith and sometimes struggle. Thank you for sharing this, I hope and pray for brighter days and peaceful moments
    Love in Christ
    Michele

  3. Samantha, you truly are a fighter. You’re fighting through endless waves of grief each and every day, I’m sure, to ensure Andrew’s legacy is fulfilled. As much as Andrew fought through his illness, you are matching him, punch-for-punch, right now. I’ve always been a fiercely proud Butler alum, and now with the partnership between Butler and Be the Match, my pride has swelled to new heights. I followed your blog closely, and continue to do so. With each blog entry you posted, recounting the days of Andrew’s illness, the strength and faith shown by both you and Andrew have made me really think and evaluate my own walk with God. I know it’s had a powerful impact on me, as well as countless others. Please know I continue to keep you in good thoughts and prayers each day.

  4. I so admire your courage and your way of making us feel we were a part of Andrew’s fight and his will to accomplish. Many readers never met either of you, but you made us feel that we did, and do, know you and know your hearts. Many if us are so inspired that you were that person God put into Andrew’s life. He knew that that Andrew would need YOU to make Andrew feel totally immersed in love; that YOU would bring him honesty, encouragement, strength, and the ability to carry forward a legacy for him. YOU would encourage more people to become bone marrow registrants in the wake of his passing, to help fulfill his dream for others in similar situations. I salute you and praise you for your strength every day to carry Andrew forward, push his dreams forward, and be such Christian role models of what love between a man and a woman should look like, how their life together should portray [to others] the love, trust, devotion and commitment to one another that God commands to us in His written word. Thank you, may God always bless you for your goodness and compassion, and may life ahead bring joy to your heart many times over, once again.

  5. Unable to sleep and wide awake since 3:30am, your post was the first I chose to read. You continue to lift me, and those around you, up; your honest and very human relationship with your grieve and profound expressed love for Andrew serves to encourage all of us to take stock of the substance of our lives and the people within whom we love. Your faith will see you through, Sam. Thank you for sharing.

    As my dear husband said, ” Life is difficult, Donna, and people are suffering in more ways than we , as people, can find answers to….life is about the journey and search for meaning and, above all else, it’s all about perspective and strength of character.” You have all of the above in place to make this hard but ever so precious journey through life . XXOO

  6. Your words have inspired me today to live a more meaningful life. The strength of your faith, your love for Andrew and your courage to forge ahead without him is admirable. Thank you for all you are and all you do. Forge ahead and continue to touch many people with your thoughts and your words and actions. You move people and lives!

  7. Thinking of you today,your family and Andrew’s are always on my heart and in my prayers for precious memories and bright days of smiles!
    My post yesterday was typed with tears so forgive my typos! I know you grieve but I know The Lord loves you and will forever be with you on this journey, thank you for allowing us to help you and others in this process!
    Love in Christ
    Michele

  8. Just wanted to leave a note to say I’m praying for you and I’m so sorry for your loss. I know there is nothing anyone can say right now to make this better. One book that helped me (I didn’t lose my husband, my mom died and then my brother needed a heart transplant, it’s grief, but I know it’s not the same) is “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl. It’s short and about Frankl’s time in Auschwitz during the Holocaust and his ultimate ability to find meaning in the most miserable circumstances. It helped me though my grief. I don’t personally know you or your husband but you seem like wonderful people and I’m so sorry this is your story.

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