Loving, strong-willed, confident, impulsive, a prankster
If you had only a single word to describe Samantha, it would be passionate. She was a young woman of many hobbies and much love. Baking pineapple upside-down cakes, reading, indulging in her favorite reality TV shows, camping, and going on adventures–if Samantha loved something, she devoted herself to it. This was best seen in her passion for dance and performance. Her mother Teressa shared, “Samantha put her heart and soul into dancing. Her presence on stage was captivating. She was glamorous and gorgeous! She danced with great energy and passion.”
Another one of her lifelong hobbies and exceptional talents was making people laugh. She was an unstoppable prankster, with a wild sense of humor and a radiant smile. When her family would get together for cookouts during the summer, Samantha was the life of the party. She kept everyone entertained with swimming races, handstand contests, and burping contests. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to make you laugh–even if it was slipping some fart powder into your tea.
Samantha’s sense of humor never turned mean; she loved and cared for her friends, family, and coworkers fiercely. She was strong-willed, sassy, and thoughtful all at once. On the way to school every morning, she taught her mother song lyrics to their favorite Sean Paul song. At her work, her coworkers knew her as a dependable and dedicated employee. When Samantha’s daughter Aurora was born, Teressa could see her overwhelming sense of love and affection, the promise to care for and protect Aurora. “Samantha loved her child with all her heart and wanted so badly to be a good mom, but addiction stole that from her.”
When Samantha began struggling with substance use disorder, she became easily agitated and argumentative. She didn’t care about her appearance and lost a drastic amount of weight. Tensions arose in her family over stealing, lying, and disagreements over what was best for Aurora.
Beneath these changes, though, the same compassionate, beautiful Samantha persisted. She helped others in ways she couldn’t help herself. Six years following Samantha’s passing, a friend who was also fighting against addiction recalled how Samantha had saved her life:
“How dare I not be grateful for another chance to live? You were the one that called my probation officer. You sacrificed our friendship to save my life. That call led to six years of freedom and trying to give back what you freely gave to me. I am forever grateful for God giving me you! I couldn’t believe I was putting that poison back into my body after watching you die. This disease is patient. I died for nineteen minutes and I swear I heard your voice. Starting over, today at seven days clean, I want you to know that I promise never to forget the sacrifice you made that day. I love you, my best friend.”
Samantha struggled against her addiction for five years. Her loss has forever changed the lives of her family, friends, and all whose lives she touched.
“I miss her beautiful smile and contagious laugh,” Teressa said. “I miss hanging out in the living room while she watched her reality TV shows. She would tell me to stop staring at her, and I would say, You are so beautiful, I can’t. Now I can only stare at her pictures.”
Samantha’s mother, Teressa Payne, provided the information for this narrative.
September 14, 1990-August 14, 2016–Age 25
Portrait Artist: Theresa Clower
Narrative Writer: Angela Day