By Ed Rubenstein, Ph.D.
Sam Sutker was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in October 2018. He passed away 13 months later. Sam was my very dear friend who I had known for 40 years. He was my “brother from another mother” who traveled alongside me through my spiritual journey in this life. He was a spiritual uncle to my two sons and a founding Board Member of Heart Based Institute.
Sam had close relationships with people from many countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Guatemala, Ireland, the UK, and Germany. It was so very special that Sam didn’t just pass through life, but deeply touched and transformed the hearts of so many along the way. He helped them and naturally enriched their lives through his heart-centered presence, his authentic genuine caring, and his welcoming acceptance – others just feel at home with Sam. There’s a saying that what people remember most about you is how they feel when they’re around you. People clearly remember the warmth, comfort and compassion they felt when they were with Sam.
There are also so many people in Western North Carolina who have been deeply touched by their relationship with Sam. This includes his family, the local community and over 800 people who Sam trained to be Peer Support Specialists through VAYA Health where he was employed. Sam was passionate about training Peer Support Specialists. He was so inspired by how people, who have been through huge traumas in their life, were able to find a path of healing and recovery, often through their hearts’ connection to the True Source of Unconditional Love. Through their relationship with their Creator or Higher Power, these Peer Support Specialists were able to heal, forgive and turn their challenges into opportunities to be of service to others who are facing traumatic challenges in their lives. I am very grateful for all the ways Sam helped me to develop the Heart Based Support Specialist Certification Program that was conducted for many Peers he knew.
The Lotus is considered to be a symbol of love in that it can grow in a stinky pond, yet blooms beautifully and gives off a sweet fragrance regardless of its surroundings. For us to be a lotus in the world is to be peaceful, joyful, grateful and loving as our predominant state of being. It is one thing for us to be able to remain a lotus when everything is going well in our lives or when our challenges are not major. Yet it is something very special when we are able to remain a lotus, like Sam, in the face of a debilitating disease such as ALS. My wife Paramjit and I, along with all those who visited Sam over the last year, were inspired by Sam’s grace and beautiful attitude; he never complained, and he remained with a radiant heart along with compassion for others. His spirit was joyous and continued to shine up until his last breath on earth.
Sam was a great teacher for me in so many ways, demonstrating how to enjoy a well-lived life and remain a lotus, no matter how difficult our circumstances. I am so grateful to True Source, the Source of Unconditional Love, for all the ways that Sam and I had a chance to interact, enjoy life, and grow personally and spiritually. After knowing that Sam’s time would be limited, I asked him if he would allow me to do some spontaneous interviews with him, and he agreed.
Over the weeks to come, we will offer some short blogs associated with the following videos that will be available for your viewing:
- Sam’s Story: The Keys to Life beyond ALS
- Gracefully Living with ALS
- Peer Support: Sam’s Key Insights
- Sam’s Audio Interview (Pt. 1): Living an Authentic Life
- Sam’s Audio Interview (Pt. 2): On Forgiveness
- Sam’s Celebration of Life Ceremony
On behalf of Heart Based Institute, we trust that viewing these video interviews, even if you didn’t know Sam, will provide meaning and insight, and that his sharing will be inspiring to your heart.
Continue reading Part 2 of this special series…