Grief and healing are complicated…completely individual, with no time stamp or expiration date. Those left behind chart their own courses forward. Ever so gradually, painful and lingering memories of the death fade into happier memories of the life lived.
Snoqualmie resident and 2013 Mount Si High School graduate Sam Saimo died 10 months ago, leaving behind a loving family and countless friends. He was my friend’s son and my daughter’s friend. He was an artist. Passionate about photography. An outdoor enthusiast. An adventurer. A cliff jumper splashing into the Snoqualmie River. He had a way of connecting with everyone. Listening. Funny. Making those around him feel comfortable.
Sam’s loss was surprising and traumatic, but gradually, the light of his too short, 21 year life has come out from behind the clouds, as those who still miss him, remember him with more smiles and less tears. Remembering how he lived. What he loved. Memories that slowly replace the grief of his death.
Today, June 22nd, would have been Sam’s 22nd birthday. As his family moves forward – and in honor of Sam Saimo and the robust life he packed into his 21 years – they created a scholarship to be given to two Mount Si graduates who are pursuing the arts.
His parents, Dan and Jeannie, recently awarded the first annual Sam Saimo Art Scholarship – each $500 – to Jason Smith and Sierra Morin, both from Sam’s graduating class of 2013 and both recent college grads.
Jason graduated from Pepperdine University in December. He said he isn’t exactly sure what he will do with the scholarship funds yet, possibly pursuing photography (Sam’s passion) or use it to benefit someone else, maybe sponsoring an African child through the Compassion platform.
Jason said he and Sam shared a similar love and respect for the outdoors and adventure. A favorite adventure he took with Sam was during the summer of 2015 when they hiked Kendall Katwalk and ate lunch at the top of Kendall peak, discussing faith. Later they headed to County Line for some 40 foot cliff jumping. The outdoors was their shared passion – and they regularly texted when heading out on a hike.
Unfortunately, their biggest hiking adventure never happened. They had planned a backpacking trip to Yosemite for September 2016. Sam was to fly to LA, meet Jason at Pepperdine and then drive north and spend a couple of nights ‘in the wild.’ The trip was scheduled the month following Sam’s death.
But instead of scrapping the trip, Jason invited one of Sam’s closest friends to make the trip in his honor. The two friends spent three days surrounded by some of the most incredible landscape Jason said he’d ever seen – and while the emotions and grief were still raw, the two friends were able to talk, share stories and comfort one another.
Sierra graduated this month from the University of Washington with a degree in Architectural Design – and one day hopes to have a career that combines design and building. She will use the scholarship funds for woodworking classes at Seattle Central Community College, as furniture making is something she is also considering. Eventually she hopes to get her masters and become a licensed architect.
Sierra said one of her favorite ‘Sam memories’ is from last summer, the summer of their 21st birthdays, which fall five days apart. She said being the youngest of their friends, they were both “very eager” to join the rest of their friends “in the ownership of a Washington State ‘horizontal drivers license’.” She said Sam was bummed that she couldn’t join in on his 21st birth celebration as her birthday wasn’t until five days after his.
As it turns out, Sam’s party ended up being in a dive karaoke bar about a mile from where she was living at the time – and in a ‘fit of impulse and poor judgement,’ a friend snuck her in a service entrance to surprise Sam. He was so excited to see her, he picked her up, gave her the biggest bear hug she’s ever received… and then went on stage and performed the absolute worst karaoke Sierra said she’d ever seen.
Flash forward five days to Sierra’s long awaited 21st birthday. She went to another Seattle dive bar with a friend to buy her first legal beer – and even though she and Sam were planning to go out the following night, when he found out she was going home at 9PM on her 21st birthday, he got out of bed in Snoqualmie and drove to Seattle to celebrate with her – and be the designated driver.
The night ended on a Lake Union dock where the close friends talked for hours and then impulsively jumped into the water. Sierra said Sam was “one of the only people who could match my impulsivity and spontaneity, for better or for worse.”
Good luck to both Jason and Sierra as they carry a little bit of Sam with them into their futures.
To learn more about suicide prevention visit http://www.sprc.org/
If you’re feeling distressed or in crisis right now, reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a free, 24/7 confidential service that can provide people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, or those around them, with support, information, and local resources.