Sam Berns and his parents.
“All in all I don’t waste energy feeling bad for myself, I surround myself with people that I want to be with, and I keep moving forward.” ~Sam Berns
I wasn’t even one minute into the HBO documentary, Life According to Sam, when my eyes teared up. I wasn’t sure if I could stand to watch it.
Sam was a teenager who has that premature aging disease, progeria. Kids age so quickly that they die in their early teens from the same diseases that strike the elderly. These kids? They’re brave.
There is no cure.
As I expected, the film was heartbreaking, even as it was inspirational.
Sam, the ostensible subject of the film, was born to two doctors. One began a research foundation that developed the very first treatment for progeria–and quite quickly.
But not fast enough for Sam. He died in January 2014 at the age of 17.
The film shows us that Sam was bright and precocious. He loved Legos. And playing drums. He wanted to go to MIT. He planned to be a geneticist.
Like other teens, he was concerned with music and sports. But death was also a subject he was familiar with, as he watched other kids with progeria die, one by one. His friends. All mature beyond their years. All charming and beautiful.
The camera doesn’t stint –it shows us the pain and the love of these beautiful parents. To watch the faces of the parents of kids with progeria is to see the face of God–the love is palpable.
I sobbed throughout the film and that was ok with me.
Like any other muscle, the heart muscle gets strong when it’s exercised, and in this case, I don’t mean through cardio. I mean through watching and experiencing, really experiencing things that touch us. Allowing ourselves to feel them.
A look at my social media feeds (and yours, probably) reveals how little compassion there is in some circles. There’s so much judgment, a rush to judgment and far less willingness to seek understanding than I wish I saw. Too many people make nasty comments about things they don’t understand. It saddens me to see this among my social media crowd and in the world. Yes, it’s easier to tar people with a broad brush than to dig deep and seek compassion.
But a well-lived life requires compassion, in my opinion.
It’s by flexing our compassion muscle that we strengthen our hearts enough to last our entire lives. Because our hearts will be broken over and over and we will be required to get up and walk on.
I believe that to fully live, we must feel, we must cry, we must experience our compassion.
Sam did that for me the other night.
And I’ll be making a donation to the foundation.
Feel like it’s time to flex your compassion muscle?
You can find information about the film, Life According to Sam, HERE.
Read about Sam’s death HERE.
Learn more about progeria and donate HERE.
This post is dedicated to my mother, who died in 1999 but would have been 90 years old today. Pretty much everyone who knew her remarked on her kindness and consideration. She set the bar high and I fall short many times. But I think of her and try again. Thank you, Mom, for the gift of compassion. I miss you big-time.