Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sarabeth Didn't Make It; My Heart Grieves

Sarabeth was the very essence of a celebration of life; one so unlikely in such a brittle and embattled little body.
We learned from a press conference a few minutes ago of Sarabeth Hammond's death in an automobile accident Wednesday, and it occurs to me that if I don't write this now, I won't be able to write it later.

This 17-year-old had more physical pain, higher mountains to climb and a bigger heart than anybody else I've ever known. Her grandmother, Elise Roberts, introduced her and me a little over a year ago over the months we became real friends, a kind of grandpa/grandgirl that rivals my relationship with my real granddaughter. Like Maddline, she often called me "Pampa."

I am, of course, broken-hearted. I've never lost anybody to death that I cared so much about, admired so thoroughly, whose future I couldn't wait to celebrate.

She loved that kayak and all that went with it.
Sarabeth, who suffered chronic Lyme disease,  was often in the hospital, nearly always being fed meds through a port in her chest. She was sometimes on a walker or in a wheel chair, but she smiled more than just about anybody else I know. She was full to brimming with the kind of physical and intellectual energy that creates artists. She was one of those, too, painting, writing, acting, always imagining.

She was a good enough writer--of a spectacular blog on Lyme disease--that we invited her to take part in a panel discussion at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference January 27-28 at Hollins University. She would have been the youngest teacher at the event in our 10-year-history. She would be teaching middle-aged professional writers about blogging and was she intimidated? I need to show you her smile right now as a response, but the answer is, "hell, no."

Interviewing for the Carilion gig.
During the summer, when she and I went kayaking at one point, she took a photo I liked a lot. I mentioned that to her and the next day she drove to my house and presented me with a painting on canvas based on that photo. It hangs on the wall of my office.

I told my friend Nancy Agee, CEO of Carilion, about Sarabeth in a casual conversation over lunch and Nancy wanted to arrange to have Sarabeth talk to her nurses and physicians about how medical professionals should treat patients. It had not happened yet--the sponsor got really busy--but Sarabeth's ideas and her preparation were superb. The docs would have learned a lot they could use, I am confident.

I haven't cried in a long time, probably since 35 years. I suspect I will find a time and a place to let it out for Sarabeth. She deserves my tears and my love and the preservation of her memory in a splendid place.

Sarabeth's painting of us kayaking.
We will re-name our scholarship at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference in Sarabeth's memory. This scholarship is given to non-traditional students in the Horizon program, concentrating in some form of communications.

It will be a perfect way to honor both Sarabeth and the woman who receives the scholarship in her name. If the recipient can be like Sarabeth even a little bit, she will be a far better human being.

I'm better because I knew her and I will love that kid and her warm memory until I'm gone.

(Those wishing to contribute to the Sarabeth Hammond Memorial Scholarship fund at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference should send checks, with the notation "Sarabeth Hammond Scholarship," to Dan Smith, 2508 Edinburgh Dr., Roanoke VA 24012. Hollins is not able to process the checks, so I will set up a separate account.)

She'll always be the smiling girl in the tree to me.

38 comments:

  1. Dan, is there some way that others can contribute to the scholarship in Sarabeth's memory?

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    1. Elaine: I have written a blog post with an address. Just go to www.fromtheeditr.blogspot.com. It's the first entry.

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  2. I've been refreshing your blog all day hoping for good news.

    I'm so sorry, for your loss, as well as for her family and all those who loved her.

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  3. What a beautiful Tribute Dan... I am sure she felt the exact same about you.

    Teri

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  4. Yes, my wife and I would want to contribute to the scholarship as well. Please, post where funds maybe sent.

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    1. I have written a blog post with an address. Just go to www.fromtheeditr.blogspot.com. It's the first entry.

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  5. Dan, so sorry for your loss and this is a beautiful tribute to her and her fsmily.

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  6. Thank you for sharing that beautiful tribute

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  7. So beautiful. Thank you. What a wonderful soul. We are all heart broken. Prayers for everyone.

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  8. Heaven now has another beautiful angel. RIP Sarabeth.

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  9. Dan, I'm so sorry for the loss of this sweet girl. You were fortunate to be her friend; she was fortunate to have you as a friend. Life is so fragile and often unfair.

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  10. Dan, what a wonderful way to keep alive the memory of this remarkable young lady. No words can express the sadness I feel for you , her family and friends. We had all been praying for the best outcome, but did not get that. It is with tears in my eyes that I send all of you caring thoughts and wish you peace.

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  11. What a beautiful tribute to Sarabeth. She was a remarkable young lady that truly loved life. I will miss her and love her always. My heart is broken now.

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  13. Dan I am so sorry for your loss. I am sorry she didn't make it and that when she was here she had to battle so. She sounds like an amazing "granddaughter" and I am glad you had her for awhile in your life.

    I run the Lyme memorial and wondered if you would like to write up a little tribute to her for it? <3

    Lisa Hilton

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    1. Lisa: What exactly would you like from me. You may use this blog entry if you'd like and I can send you photos. E-mail me at pampadansmith@gmail.com

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  14. I am so sorry to hear this. We are heartbroken at her loss. Please let us know how to contribute to the scholarship in her name. Sounds like she was an angel here on earth for a brief spell. I pray that God will comfort all in their grief.

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    1. I have written a blog post with an address. Just go to www.fromtheeditr.blogspot.com. It's the first entry.

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  15. Dan, what beautiful memories on such a tragic day. Your love, support, and friendship with her is evident. As others have said Allen and I would like to donate as well to the scholarship fund.

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    1. I have written a blog post with an address. Just go to www.fromtheeditr.blogspot.com. It's the first entry.

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  16. I was hoping she will make it, but maybe she still can make this world a little better,just by reading your words, it makes me feel that I need to be better. Thank you for sharing with us your feelings

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  17. I didn't know Sarabeth or her family. However, just by the smile and her beautiful eyes that looks as she lights up all her pictures! I have been praying so hard that she be found safe and sound. My heart hurts for you, her mother, her family and friends. I don't know her but in a sense I felt as I did. As I found out that they found her car and her body I couldn't stop crying. It has hurt me so bad to find out this news. As I am writing this now tears fall. I know she is in heavenly peace now watching over us.

    I feel she felt the same way about you. She seems as if she was in the best spirits in all her pictures. The Scholarship for writers is so amazing to have a tribute in Sarabeth name.

    My love and prayers go out to you and her mother, family and friends.

    God Bless!

    Sarabeth is now our talented angel in heaven ❤

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    1. Thank you, Blair. That was a truly sweet and thoughtful note.

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  18. Your words brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful memorial to Sarabeth. May God comfort you and Sarabeth's family as you all grieve for the loss of this young life.

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  19. Please tell us how we can make a donation to the Sarabeth Rose Hammond Scholarship. So many people want to do something.....and a contribution to a scholarship in her name is a perfect way to honor her.

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    1. I have written a blog post with an address. Just go to www.fromtheeditr.blogspot.com. It's the first entry.

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    2. Hollins can't process the checks for the Sarabeth fund, I'm told, so I will accept them made out to me (Dan Smith) with the notation "Sarabeth Hammond Memorial Scholarship". I will open an account to that end and write the check from the account.

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  20. Dan, What a beautiful piece. I was deeply saddened when I saw her car on my way home. Your Beautiful words bring her into my heart and tears to my eyes.I feel I knew her and now wish I had. My heart is sad and my prayers are with you and all who grieve for her today.
    Sean Kelley

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  22. Did she die from Lyme or a car accident? My daughter has chronic Lyme and it's important for me to know that. Thank you. Carolean Devine

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    1. Lyne's Disease had nothing to do with her death, Carolean.

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    2. That's a relief. I read the entire article thinking she had died from her Lyme Disease. The author should have disclosed at the start that she died from a car accident and was actually recovering from the Lyme. My daughter is seriously ill from chronic Lyme and is afraid she is going to die. Thank you for your response. The article was misleading.

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    3. Carolean, Dan shared the cause of her passing in the first sentence of this blog.

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    4. Actually, Carolean was right: I didn't mention the auto accident until she asked. I added it.

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  23. Acvording to the Roanoke Times, Jan 1 edition, Sarabeth Rose Hammond's car was found over the side of a steep slope with a young woman, who they presume to be Sarabeth, lying deceased near it.

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  24. As a fellow sufferer, I have to say that I think you have done a beautiful job on the article. I think Sarabeth will be proud, and is looking down, painfree and running around doing things she once was able to do. You said such beautiful things about her, I wish I knew her in the Lyme Community! God Bless

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  25. What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful young lady...I'm in tears ...

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