The Power of Words

A couple of years ago, an amazing young boy in my community was struck with a horrible illness. He was just six years old at the time, and his diagnosis of leukemia worried us all. His parents and siblings, who are loved by so many (including me!) seemed to be enveloped by the words and love and strength of not just the community but by the whole world.

The parents wrote a regular blog through which they shared updates, hopes and fears. They wrote, and we all absorbed every word. Sometimes we laughed and became hopeful. Other times, we cried and became scared. But, we felt united. We felt connected. We felt maybe there was something we could do. And, there was something we could do: Through our words, we were able to make the parents feel they were not alone. Through our words, we were able to remind them that they were loved and would always be in our thoughts and in our prayers. Through our words, we hoped to provide comfort and strength.

Now, that brave boy who had an unbelievable spirit and contagious smile is gone. His parents continue to weep, and they continue to share their struggle with their readers … with their friends. There were so many amazing people who were willing to step up and make a meal, drive a carpool or just do anything to let the family know that they were there to help them through this horrible time. Besides words, people gave so generously to organizations fighting to find a cure. Whether people shared words or meals or money, they did what they could do throughout the illness and then throughout the family’s mourning period.

But, what is a “mourning period?” Of course, when we lose someone we love, there is that time in which we are bombarded with letters and phone calls, meals and friendship, words of support and, maybe most importantly, memories of the loved one we lost. For me, that always has been the most treasured part — the words, the stories, the memories. I lost my dad 21 years ago, and still today, I am filled with such warmth and gratitude when someone tells a story about him or simply says his name.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a frame shop where I remembered my dad had shopped whenever he needed artwork framed for his home or office. After being in the store for nearly 20 minutes with my own framing project, I told the owner how my dad used to shop there so many years ago. He asked his name, and I said, “I’m sure you won’t remember, it’s been more than 20 years since he passed.” Then, I told him and he immediately remembered my dad. Better yet, he shared some nice memories he had of my dad, of his office and even of his Irish Wolfhounds.

Walking out of that store, I had a feeling of warmth that I have a hard time articulating. It’s almost as if a connection to my dad was re-ignited for that brief time in the store. He was remembered. I was reminded. And, simply put, I smiled. I could not convey to the man in the store how meaningful our brief conversation really had been. I could not share this comforting, odd-sounding feeling … the feeling that for a brief moment, I felt my dad’s presence. As his name was spoken, as memories were shared, he was alive again. Just for a moment. Just for a beautiful, cherished moment.

Now, it may seem as if I digressed in sharing that story about my father. However, I am very much still right here, thinking about that brave boy. And, I’m right here telling you all to always remember. Share your stories. Say his name. Give his parents and his siblings and all those who loved him that priceless gift of feeling like he is alive again, even if just for one brief moment.

It’s hard to know what to do and what to say when someone loses someone they love. I’m here to remind you not to hesitate to share your memories and your stories. I just had my next children’s book published, and it is the book about which I am the most proud. I am not just proud of the book’s words and design; I am proud that it is dedicated to that brave boy. I am proud that his name and spirit and energy are on all of the pages that will hopefully grace the bookshelves of homes all over the world. My book about cancer was written to comfort kids who have a friend, classmate, neighbor or loved one with a serious illness. And, I’m so hopeful that it will do exactly that.

Yet, I now have a more specific goal: I hope that my book gives the parents that wonderfully rare gift like the one I experienced in the frame shop: the gift of feeling connected once again. When they see their son’s name in the book, I hope they are comforted by feeling his presence, by knowing that we are here — telling stories, lifting one another, caring, loving and remembering always.


If you are interested in learning more about my book, “Cancer, Cancer Go Away,” please go to my website:

and consider sending a copy as a gift to a school or hospital. You can donate a copy in memory of someone, which, as stated above, I believe to be one of the greatest gifts of all … remembering.

(A portion of all book sales will go to The Sam Sommer Fund.)

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