Patty Chang Anker

Some Nerve

A Parent's Worst Fear

Searching for meaning after unexpected tragedy

Posted Apr 30, 2014


A friend I hold dear posted on Facebook recently that her beloved 28 year old son Sam had 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 (over 200 high school students did not come home), 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 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, a 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.