Two years into marriage, Sam lost her husband, Butler basketball star Andrew Smith, to cancer. Her journey of healing from the pain of grief to learning how to embrace living a full life again is nothing short of inspiring.
“It’s not going to be natural to choose joy — that’s got to be intentional. And then eventually it does become natural,” Samantha shares.
Samantha Smith: You’re in a loop, and you’re reliving the absolute worst days of your life. Until you decide you have to get out of bed and flip the script.
In 2014, Samantha married her high school sweetheart. Andrew was seven-foot center at Butler University. He lost his two-year battle to leukemia in 2016.
Samantha: Every part of my identity was removed. I was left with, well now what do I do?
With support from friends, Samantha got out of Indianapolis.
Samantha: So I backpacked through Utah, and it was a true, shovel-your-poop sort-of trip. There were times when I was so focused on this 90-pound pack on my back that my head would be down at all times. And I remember thinking, Sam, if you don’t look up, you’re going to miss it.
It’s not going to be natural to learn to live again. It’s not going to be natural to feel like you have to choose joy. That’s going to have to be intentional. And eventually it does become natural, and it does become habit. But you’ve got to choose it first.
Honestly, one of the most beautiful parts about life is that you are ever evolving, that you’re totally changing every day. And yes, there’s growing pains. I’m feeling bitterness, and I’m feeling anger, but how am I going to positively impact my life and other people’s lives with that?
I get joy out of public speaking. Just this, I think, almost this tangible way of feeling like you’re giving back.
You know that there is nobody in the world like you.
It’s not like I can sit up here and say I’m this old wise woman, but I’ve lived a lot of life. So I think there’s so much joy in loving on people and that you’re really just trying to help them live their absolute best life.
So my husband, Andrew, in his cancer journey had to have a bone marrow transplant. That was kind of the natural way that we started to champion the bone marrow registry and be the match.
Project 44 was created, and its initial goal was to save 44 lives.
For every 430 people that join the registry, one has the chance to save a life.
Samantha: But it has certainly grown to fostering this mainstream sense of moral obligation to do what’s right, to join the registry, and just to raise awareness about what that means, and that that process isn’t as scary as what most people think. It’s been a great way to honor Andrew, but it’s been a healing way for me to feel like I’m doing something to make sure there is one less widow out there.
Our prayer was always to be used. Lord, use us. Let us be your hands. Let us be your feet. And while everything about my life has changed, my prayer has not.