A New Appreciation for Samwise

Heidi and I on Mount Langley, the southern most fourteener peak in California.

If you have followed this blog at all you know that Heidi was a big Lord of the Rings fan, and I am sure it won’t surprise you to know that I am as well. Over the last six months I have been reading the books again when I have had the mental energy to read. One of the passages from the book that really resonated with me this time was a discussion between Frodo and Samwise, his servant and friend as they try to muster up the strength to continue their quest to destroy the one ring and Sauron, it’s creator, and save all of Middle Earth:

‘I don’t like anything here at all,’ said Frodo, ‘step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.’

‘Yes, that’s so,’ said Sam. ‘And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have just landed in them, usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same—like Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?’

The passage also brought back fond memories of discussion and conversations with my circle of friends and community 15 years or so ago. I was fresh out of college, the Lord of the Rings movies were just being released and my friend Rob Loane had written a piece to reflect on the ‘The tale we’ve fallen into‘ at that stage in our lives. This piece and the conversations that it spurred were so invigorating to me, the fresh young college graduate, ready to take on the world and find my adventure. Now that I am further into my ‘tale’ I now know of the weariness Frodo speaks of, I have felt it. There are times I wish I can turn back and just leave the pain I have endured over the recent years.

If you are familiar with the rest of the book you know that Frodo and Sam do complete their quest defeating Sauron, save and rebuild their homeland the Shire (in the book, not the movie), and settle back into their old lives. But things aren’t the same, Frodo is not well. One of his wounds from their quest and being the Ring-bearer have taken their toll on him and, two years after returning to the Shire as heroes, he tells Sam he is leaving. He is going with the elves to the Grey Haven and ultimately pass over the sea to the Western Isle. Sam is shocked and saddened to discover their journey to the Grey Havens will be their last journey together.

I feel like Sam right now, the faithful companion on Heidi’s cancer journey. I did what I could to help and to carry her burden when I was able to, and we too thought we had won the struggle, defeating the cancer two and a half years ago. Except it never really left. When we learned that Heidi’s cancer had metastasized we had no idea what to expect, but as we met other women with stage IV breast cancer we learned that some can live a long time, even 10+ years which gave us hope. Unfortunately it was not to be the case with Heidi. In June we were told the cancer had moved to her brain and spinal cord, her doctor gave her 100 days to live. The past seven months have felt like our own journey to the Grey Havens. I did my best to make every step of that walk as meaningful as possible, but I so longed to find a way to prolong this journey to a painful goodbye. Even while wishing I had more time with her, I am grateful though that we were given four more months than the doctors originally told us back in June.

Later in the above quoted conversation between Sam and Frodo, Sam says:

‘And, why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got—you’ve got
some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to
think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales
never end?’
‘No, they never end as tales, ‘ said Frodo. ‘But the people in them come
and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later—or sooner.’

Those “Great Tales” DON’T end. Although Heidi’s chapter of God’s grand story is completed, we have that hope and promise that it will continue thanks to Jesus entering this same story and changing our ending with his loving sacrifice. So as we grieve now, we have that hope that we will see her again.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17


  1. Mary Walling says:

    Beautifully written & know that others have been praying for you, Heidi and the kids. I pray that God will continue to give you the strength to be an amazing father to your children. I also pray that the sweet memories of Heidi & the love of others will help carry you through this next journey.
    ❤Mary Walling(member of Trinity)

  2. Gypsy says:

    What a wonderful connection to make. Thank you for sharing your reflection on it. Next time I read the book (and there is always a next time) I will be reminded of your journey with Heidi, and mindful of the story I find myself and my loved ones in.

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