In April 2009 my wife and I lost our 20-month-old son Samuel to leukaemia. Prior to having him in our lives we were both atheists and had been since we were teenagers. Samuel drastically changed our outlook, opening our eyes to the wonderful spiritual universe of which we are a part. Last year we each published books inspired by our experience.
Sam’s Story chronicles Samuel’s sunny and stoic personality and the strange synchronicities prior to and after his life. How to be Human is an easy-read philosophy book aimed at promoting love, compassion, kindness, and empathy. 25% of the profit from Sam’s Story is donated to the Sick Children’s Trust and 25% of the profit from How to be Human is donated to War Child. Both books are available on Amazon by clicking on either book titles and book cover images.
Please find below an extract from How to be Human in which I detail Samuel’s character and the events that led to our spiritual epiphany. We hope that it will be of interest to Spiritual Biz Magazine readers.
Amanda and I were both atheists from teenagers up until our mid thirties. It was at this time, in August 2007, when our beautiful son Samuel was born; the most incredible person we have ever had the privilege to spend time with. At just one month old, family and friends commented that he seemed to be very knowing in his demeanour. ‘Like an adult in a baby’s body’, many would say. We and others noticed wisdom about him, his beautiful, blue eyes emanating warmth and love. Although only a baby, he displayed qualities many do not attain in a lifetime: intelligence, charisma, kindness, emotional intelligence and a tremendous sense of fun. He seemed quite naturally to be beautiful inside and out. We were incredulous that he had learnt this behaviour; it seemed to be innate. He was, at a most fundamental level, angelic in nature.
In September 2008 the unthinkable descended upon us: Samuel was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. Immediately after his diagnosis he was admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, where he underwfent an intensive six months of chemotherapy. Throughout the treatment, his incandescent personality remained intact. He displayed great stoicism and strength, waving at nurses who had just performed horrendous procedures on him, and high-fiving Mummy and Daddy when suppressed fear leaked onto our faces. The consultants told us that the probability of Sam contracting this dreadful illness was around one in ten thousand. How could this happen to Sam? Why did it happen to us?
On 2nd April 2009 at 1:26 a.m., aged just 20 months old, our beautiful son, Samuel James Murray, died in my arms at home. As well as the horrendous sense of loss we felt losing Sam, we also experienced a second loss. During his six months of treatment we grew to convince ourselves that this was all happening for a reason, a spiritual learning exercise for our whole family which would culminate in Samuel’s recovery and us all becoming better people. When he didn’t make it, it felt like the plug was pulled on this idea. Amanda and I had opened ourselves up to the possibility of there being a God but this door, as far as we were concerned, had now slammed firmly shut. We felt absolutely crushed having been through so much as a family. How could this whole business possibly be anything other than a random event? What good could come out of the death of such a beautiful little human being?
Surprisingly, these feelings only lasted for a couple of days up until a series of strange events which began the weekend after Samuel’s passing. My brother and his wife came to stay with us and, taking advantage of the fact that they just happen to both be trained counsellors, we spent the entire weekend talking about Sam and everything that had happened.
On the Sunday, after a considerably late night spent in conversation, we wandered into town. After further lengthy discussion about life and our seemingly godless universe, my brother asked me a question which had the effect of clearing my mind of absolutely every thought: was it possible for me to sum up how I felt about the overall experience? For some reason, his question completely took me aback. I had literally nothing in my mind at all for what seemed like forever until, that is, the word felt began to filter through from my subconscious. I started to become aware in my mind’s eye of a sense of whiteness, fading in somehow from the background to the foreground. In close accompaniment to this whiteness a feeling of love was beginning to emerge. Both whiteness and love grew brighter within me until utterly unmistakable. Suddenly I exclaimed, “I feel a sense of whiteness and love!” in answer to my brother’s question and much to his, and my, surprise.
Shortly after this, we found out that both grandmas had experienced very curious dreams. Amanda’s mum divulged that six months after Amanda fell pregnant she had had a dream in which she was looking after a baby, around a year old, that was listless and would not eat. She said that she was always fearful the dream would come true and even worried about Samuel getting leukaemia after he was born! A few days before his diagnosis, Sam had stayed with her for the night. By this stage, he was exhibiting exactly the behaviour that she had dreamed about. He was just over 13 months old. On telling my mum about this she said that she too had experienced a strange dream, but recently; only around three weeks before Samuel passed away. In her dream my mum said that she saw a small child standing on what seemed to be a swing. The swing gave the appearance of framing the child and the whole image was bathed in bright light. The child, who my mum said seemed neither a boy nor a girl, suddenly said, “I have done what I came here to do!” On waking, my mum was convinced that it was Samuel talking to her and she was fearful that he had passed away. She contacted us early at the hospital to see if everything was okay which, at the time and relatively speaking, it was.
Probably the strangest occurrence of all, though, happened to Amanda and me. From around the age of 10 months, Samuel developed a very funny habit of suddenly taking the dummy out of his mouth and chucking it some distance across the floor (with the distinct sense of an adult removing a jacket after a hard day’s work and slinging it across the room!). Dummy chucking, it could be said, was a registered Samuel trademark.
One day after visiting Sam in the chapel of rest, we realised that he didn’t have a dummy with him. We returned later that evening with his favourite yellow dummy and placed it next to him in the Moses basket. Amanda’s sister and her husband had accompanied us and we were all walking back to the car together when, in the middle of me talking 19 to the dozen, I heard something fall to the ground and presumed that I had dropped something. I stopped and looked down to see what I had dropped. There at my feet was a yellow dummy, exactly the same type and colour as Sam’s. I picked it up and stood staring at it, feeling confused.
Amanda too looked confused. On closer inspection we could see that, although it was exactly the same type and colour of dummy, it was slightly damaged and was not in fact Sam’s, plus we confirmed with one another that we definitely had just left the dummy we had brought with us in Sam’s Moses basket (something we double-checked the next day on visiting the chapel of rest). At this point, we both got the overwhelming feeling Samuel had performed one last dummy chuck, and in so doing was saying, “It’s okay, Mummy and Daddy, I’m all right. This was meant to be!”