For Sam

Today we celebrated Samuel’s life, dedicating our cherry tree. Below is a transcript of the service. Thank you so much Robin White!

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Good afternoon. On behalf of Scott, Sandi and Sebastien, I thank you for your presence here today as they remember Samuel; for your willingness to share in their grief, their quiet stillness, their intention for growth. In this beautiful setting, we contemplate a tree and reflect upon both the joys and sorrows of life. In the shadow of these trees, we recognize that life is difficult. We acknowledge the fact that pain and suffering, loneliness and death can be overwhelming. And yet, we know that darkness naturally belongs to life. Without the contrast, we would not recognize the light. When we reflect on nature, we see that it requires a relationship between joy and despair; they do not remain hidden or divided from one another. These are the feelings, which must cross-pollinate and inform each other in order that the soul is enlivened and strong.

We contemplate the tree. It sends roots beneath the surface, seeking nourishment in the dark, rich soil: the “broken down” matter of life. As the roots reach down into the darkness, searching, they hold the tree firmly to the earth. As the tree is held steadfast, nourished, it grows upward into the light, bathing in sun and air, expressing its truth by way of its branches, blossoms, foliage and fruit. Life bustles all around it. Singing birds and chanting insects are housed in its embrace.

The tree changes and grows: torn by wind, scarred by lightening, tattooed by frost and fire. Some branches die and fall re-entering the soil, new branches emerge. Still it grows, roots reaching down into the darkness, into the depths, branches flowing with sap; reach upward and outward into the world.

We contemplate the tree and reflect on the joys and sorrows of life.

Janet Owenby writes this Haiku of the Cherry Tree:

Weeping Cherry Tree
Hiding tears with fragrant shroud
Bending with the pain.

This is Sam’s tree. We gather around it with contrasting emotions. Tremendous grief at his passing, amazing joy and gratitude for the lessons learned from him, and for the incredible love surrounding him. Samuel; in Hebrew means, “Heard by God,” and in some translations, “God’s name” or “God’s Heart.” Samuel, “heard by God,” “God’s heart;” a winter miracle and a spring blessing for all who came in contact with him. His strength and tenacity are unmatched. His tiny body could barely contain his gigantic soul – and in the end, he chose to leave his frail and exhausted body behind. But, God’s heart remains. That beautiful spirit, fighting daily for his life, and yet still finding ways to share love and life lessons, is not gone. His spirit lingers, nourishing the spirits of Scott and Sandi, and most certainly Sebastien. Samuel, “Heard by God,” will be heard in every beautiful sound – the melodies of the birds, the giggles of Sebastien, spirit-filled music, soulful stories told with love. Samuel, “Heart of God” will be seen in the blossoms of this tree, in the faces shining with joy, in every act of love. Samuel: “Heart of God” will be felt in the hand holding, the gentle breezes, in a soft, summer s and in every embrace. Samuel, “Heart of God,” still beating. Samuel’s body could not contain his gigantic soul, but hearts filled with love can and will.

One of the readings Sandi sent to me is from
“The Little Prince” by Saint Exupery: 

In one of the stars I shall be living.
In one of them I shall be laughing.
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing,
When you look at the sky at night.

And when our sorrow is comforted (time
soothes all sorrows), you will be content
That you have known me.

You will always be my mother
You will always be my friend
You will want to laugh with me…..

The Cherry Tree reminds us of the frailty of life. The blossoms, though short lived, are beautiful to behold with a fragrance that is unrivaled. From a Buddhist’s perspective, however, the cheery tree is a deity and each petal of cherry blossom is a person who sacrifices himself for a certain mission or ideal. It is as simple as the flower will wither, the warrior will die, but the world will not fade away.

Let us pray:
Creator of the landscapes, sower of all seeds, lover of all souls, we offer our gratitude for this gathering of family and friends; for the bestowal of caring support, for the healing energy generated, for loves vibration. As we dedicate this tree in memory of Sam, we recognized the relationship between our joy and sorrow and ask that these feelings create in us, a strength and gentleness, offering us greater capacity to love and to create and make meaning of our lives.

We thank you for the gift of Sam, for all in him that was good and kind and loving. We are grateful for the gifts he offered and ask that we continue to learn from his love lessons.

As this tree changes and grows, may we remember Sam’s tender force and his presence in this world, as a warrior of love. Amen

Here stands Samuel’s tree. The roots of the past dive deep into the earth while hopes for the future stretch toward the sky. This tree will stand in Sam’s place, watching over Sebastien as he plays in these woods, watching over Scott and Sandi as they nurture their son and each other.

You are invited to place a flower at the base of the tree, taking a moment to contemplate a tree, a life lived, a love that seems lost, but is only changing. Remembering that we do not need to protect ourselves from change, for our very nature is change.

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Samuel’s Memorial Service

Samuel Bradford’s memorial service will be August 27, 2011 at 1 PM.

For Samuel’s ceremony we will plant a tree, with his ashes, surrounded by a garden. His tree will be planted at our home, the home we built, the home where we married, the home where we will raise his brother Sebastien. After the ceremony we will have a gathering at the house to socialize over drinks and snacks, a positive ending to a somber occasion.

As the tree lives, grows, and thrives it will represent Sam’s still present spirit in this world.

For Sam, we’re planting a Yoshino cherry tree. The symbolism fits his short life:

The cherry blossom holds much symbolism within Japan. According to the Buddhist tradition, the breathtaking but brief beauty of the blossoms symbolizes the transient nature of life (with a short blooming time and fragile flower). The flowers last for at most a few weeks, but during that time, both the mountains and the cities are full of the delicate pink flowers, be the trees wild or cultivated. The fallen blossoms are also tied with the samurai culture, representing the fleeting nature of the samurai’s life, a warrior killed early in life.

Samuel was a warrior taken too soon. Sam’s life meant something special to us, to the people who had the opportunity to know him and to the people who only ever saw his pictures or read about him. His body may be gone, but his spirit still lives.

As time goes on the tree will provide an environment of symbolic beauty and shade while the garden will provide a place to sit and reflect.

We previously mentioned creating a Paypal account, a way for people to donate to Sam’s service. Any funds collected will be used for his tree, his granite marker; any extra funds will be donated to the March of Dimes in his memory.

Any flowers for the service should be delivered by August 26. For address and directions, please contact us directly. Thank you.