Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lessons from Sam

Today marks the 9th anniversary of the passing of my dear older brother, Sam. After a valient, year long battle with Lymphoma, Sam left us, but not forever. I look at pictures of him today, and I still see the brother I came to love, respect, and admire so very much. I REMEMBER him, so very well, even after nine years. Today I decided to jot down a few lessons he taught me (mind you, these are just a few - he taught me more than he could ever know).

1. "Put on those Afterburners!"
- Sam and I, as well as the rest of the Hess clan, shared an intense love for sports, which included playing and watching them. When I was 10 or so, Sam would go out in the backyard with me and play catch with the football. He was the QB, and he would trace routes on his hand for me to execute with exactness. I would diligently follow them as outlined. If, however, I missed the catch due to the ball being thrown too deep, Sam would yell, "Put on those afterburners!" as I returned to the huddle. Mentally, I kicked myself. I would put on those afterburners! Despite the fact that the throw was clearly too far (making it Sam's fault), I felt that I needed to work harder.

What on earth could I learn from this? I learned very quickly that Sam did not put up with my excuses, and neither would life in general. I learned not to become the victim, but to take responsibility for all my actions. I learned that if you want things in life, you have to get out and GET them. Mostly, however, I learned what it was like to have a brother who cared enough for me to play catch with me. Such a simple thing, but Sam was always going out of his way to spend time with me, especially when I was sick in the hospital. I remember being overjoyed whenever Sam would come to visit me, because I knew his visits would be fun. I saw in Sam an older brother who was willing to take me under his wing, so to speak, and teach me important life principles. All starting with the ol' Afterburners.

2. "Shake up Hell, baby!"
- Sam's catch phrase from his mission soon found its way into my mission labors, as I quickly learned what he meant. I can't tell you the number of times this phrase motivated me to work a little harder, a little smarter, then I would have without it. Sam had a firm testimony of Jesus that he never allowed to go hidden or unnoticed, and I now strive for the same goal. The restored gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith meant everything to him, as it means so much to me and my family.

3. "Don't look into the camera!"
- Anyone who knew Sam understood the importance of cinematography in his life. Sam loved movies, music, and productions of all sorts, including directing simple, sometimes violent, neighborhood films. I LOVED to take part in them. Sam made me feel so important and wanted, as I tried desperately to avoid looking into the camera during filming (probably his biggest complaint with me and all of my siblings, especially Julia). I learned how to be passionate about something, as I tried to emulate my older brother. I made movies of my own. I started my love affair (that is still ongoing) with movie soundtracks. I tried to find uplifting, GOOD music that wasn't just loud banging (although, I admit, I had my phase in high school where banging = GOOD). Indeed, so much of what I'm passionate about I HAVE to attribute to Sam's influence. Star Wars, the Utah Jazz, MJ, the Ben Folds, John Williams, fantasy novels (most notably Shannara), and many other things I am passionate about can all be traced back to Sam. I feel like it could even be considered a heritage of sorts, a mantle I am proud to carry.

4. "We don't have time for that."
- The day I found out Sam was to be put on hospice, I remember crying on my bed, trying to figure out how I was going to cope with this. In the midst of my weeping, I remember Sam coming into my room and putting his arm around me and consoling me (which seems so backwards! But that's how good he was). He said, "hey, we don't have time for that," and asked me if I would boot up the playstation so we could play some FIFA soccer. I remember being bewildered by his optimism - I couldn't imagine handling news like that so well. Sam taught me at that moment what it meant to cherish life to its fullness. I can scarcely remember seeing Sam waste time, even when the end was near. He really cared about life, and he enjoyed it. He fulfilled Lehi's words in the Book of Mormon: "men are that they might have JOY." Even in the midst of terrible pain and affliction, worse than even I could imagine, Sam kept a smile on his face and the love of God (bright with the testimony of Christ) in his heart. I have never doubted where he is today.

In summary, there are so many reasons why I love Sam. These are just a few. When I read the Alchemist recently, I saw a quote in the book that reminded me immediately of him:

"That's what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too."

To me, Sam was quite the Alchemist. And I will love him forever for it.


  1. Great tribute to your brother. It's amazing how much influence one good person can have on your life. And props for quoting the Alchemist, I love that book, although it's been probably 10 years since I last read it.

  2. i followed your link from facebook...i hope you don't mind. this was beautiful dan! i can't believe it has been 9 years already. loved the quote from the alchemist, i think it is something that could be said about your whole family not just sam!

  3. I didn't know you had a blog! Good thing I stalk your facebook.

    Hospice is a scary word that is usually accompanied with tears. You're resilient. Thanks for sharing this. Really. You're a beautiful writer, Dan.

  4. I can't wait to meet him ;) He's proud of you and the awesome friend, student, and example you've become. Good man Mole. It's so great that you REMEMBER him so well. I love how one of the main themes in the BofM is to REMEMBER, and to "sufficiently retain in your remembrance" those who have gone before us. Thanks amigo