Written by Erica Wilkinson
Sam and Erica
Did you know that there are Angels among us? I know my son, Samuel, my firstborn, was one of them. How lucky am I that God choose me to be his mommy?
Let me share with you why.
Samuel Austin came into this world June 12th, 1996. I experienced a typical and healthy pregnancy, so I was completely unprepared for what this little boy had in store for me.
Sam was far from typical. He was diagnosed with global developmental delays, seizure disorder, cerebral palsy and broad form autism. He was non-ambulatory and non-verbal. WHAT? Our family didn’t plan for this! What do we do? What, as his mom, do I do for him? I needed help! With outside resources and some support, we were able to get my Sam connected to therapies that included; occupational, physical, speech, and hippo therapy (specialized horseback riding).
During all of my caring, all of the times we spent at Children’s Hospital as Sam fought off another illness, all the times I nursed his weak and tired body back to health, I had no idea Sam was teaching me, training my heart to be more open towards others and their needs. He was training me to become an honorable servant in God’s eyes.
Although non-verbal, Sam had his own language and I learned it, quickly. I became his voice and his advocate. It was a few years after he died before I realized that I needed to use what he taught me to be of service to others who are vulnerable. Clearly, in the few years that passed after Sam’s death, God knew I wasn’t properly prepared for the honor of caring for those in the special needs community. I made some horrible choices and made some poor decisions. The shame was still there, so I first had to forgive and be forgiven. But, then the day came…
Walking in the hall of my children’s school, a former caregiver of Sam stopped me, and abruptly asked me, “Why are you not teaching as a paraeducator? We could use you, you have life experience.” You’d better believe I did! Twelve plus years of hands on experience and more medical knowledge than any mother should know about without a nursing degree.
Okay! There was my sign and my acceptance from Sam. I could feel him say, “Mom, you are ready, do what it takes.”
I now work as a substitute paraeducator for the Edmonds School District (I actually have schools request me to help in their classrooms). I am also an in home caregiver to a beautiful young woman with special needs. Mom is doing my best to make you proud, my angel Sam.
It was also God’s incredible timing that I became pregnant with my youngest, Nathan, during Sam’s final months with us. This was truly a miracle because my (now) husband Dave and I thought were unable to have children of our own. Nathan may not have physically known his brother, but he knows Sam, and we speak of him often. Nathan’s middle name is Samuel. The meaning of Nathan is: Gift from God. The meaning of Samuel is: Asked of God; heard by God. That is no happenstance, that is providence.
Out of such despair and deep sadness over the loss of Sam, I have witnessed goodness and light breathed into others souls. Especially, in my middle son, Jackson. Throughout Sam’s life, Jackson took a back seat. Most of my energy was on Sam and stabilizing his health. This did not make Jackson bitter nor did it deter him from assisting in Sam’s care whenever he could. This brought about compassion and empathy in Jackson at a very early age. Even though each grief experience is unique, I make sure to keep an open door of communication with Jackson about Sam. We reminisce and remember Sam every day. Jackson is even writing his own story of loss and healing about his brother.
Sam didn’t have a choice in his future and he fought his illness to the very end. He is my true hero, therefore it is my mission to carry out his legacy to teach and care for others with special needs about God’s love. By doing this, it is the continuation of my grieving and healing process. My angel Sam may have had ‘no voice’ but, he impacted many hearts with his unconditional love.
My beautiful family…I am grateful…
(left to right) Nathan, Koda, and Jackson
(top to bottom) Dave and Nathan
What follows is a letter Erica Wilkinson wrote on behalf of her late son Samuel.
THIS I KNOW…
TO MY MOM:
THANK YOU FOR NURTURING ME. THANK YOU FOR ALL THOSE TIMES YOU STAYED BY MY SIDE, SINGING, TALKING TO AND COMFORTING ME.
I WAS LISTENING!
TO MY DADDY:
THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING MY MOMMY. THANK YOU FOR WRAPPING HER IN YOUR STRONG ARMS AS SHE WEPT FOR ME. THANK YOU FOR LOVING HER. ALWAYS LOVE AND CARE FOR OF EACH OTHER.
I’LL BE WATCHING!
TO MY BROTHER:
THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING OUR MOM IN HELPING TAKE CARE OF ME. YOU SHOWED ME COMPASSION AND LOVE THAT ONLY A PRECIOUS BROTHER LIKE YOU COULD GIVE.
TO MY GRANDPARENTS:
THANK YOU FOR THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE YOU GAVE ME. THANK YOU FOR TAKING ME ON WALKS, PLAYING GAMES WITH ME, AND FOR FEEDING ME COOKIES AND YOGURT.
I FELT LOVED!
TO MY AUNTIES, UNCLES, AND COUSINS:
THANK YOU FOR INCLUDING ME, EVEN WHEN IT SEEMED THAT I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR IDEAS AND ASKING ME HOW I FELT OR WHAT I THOUGHT.
I FELT ACCEPTED!
TO MY PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING TEACHERS:
THANK YOU FOR SHOWING ME NEW EXPERIENCES AND TAKING ME ON FIELD TRIPS. THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME EAT CAKE WITH MY HANDS. THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME EXPERIENCE THE USE OF MY LEGS IN THE BOUNCY BUNGEE – THIS MADE ME GIGGLE AND VERY HAPPY!
I WAS LEARNING!
FOR ALL OF YOU WHO WONDERED WHAT I WAS THINKING, FEELING, AND SEEING:
NOW YOU KNOW…