On June 5, 1990 my daughter died during her tremendously complicated birth due to medical negligence. Her name was Samantha Mariah Hornig & she was the most exquisite baby girl I had every laid my eyes upon. I share this with you not for sympathy or attention. I share because exploring the true depths of my gratitude I discovered the concept of Collateral Beauty which took me places within my heart that I’ve never been before. I want to finally give myself permission to take the final bit of darkness connected to this story into the light.
At the time of Samantha’s death I was a 21 year old kid so removed from knowing much about life. What I did know was the nine months leading up to her birth I poured every ounce of my being into preparing to be the best and most responsible father I could ever be. Over the course of 26 hours of her birth I watched as her life slipped away. At first the self loathing and self hate was deafening. I blamed myself for many many years. If I only protested more or stood up to the staff when I knew something was wrong. If only this, if only that!! Truth be told, there remains a flicker of internal finger pointing I still wrestle with. Hours after she died, I didn’t even have the courage to face her mom because I was riddled with shame. How could I possibly look her in the eyes to say our baby girl is gone and it was my fault for not saving her? I was a punk, a fraud, and a coward. All I could do over the next several days was try to make things right. I knew I loved her mom, so I asked her to marry me and she said yes. Soon after the funeral we began wedding planning and a little over a year later we were planning the birth of our baby boy.
As the years passed, I questioned with rage against God as to why he took Samantha from us. We were good people who came from good families. There was no reason she had to die. It became somewhat of an unconscious mission to find the answer. The past 30 years have given way to an incredibly profound journey of healing for me. Even though I was never given a definitive answer, I learned how to find peace in my heart and soul when it came to the story of my baby girl.
Fast forward to yesterday’s deep dive into my soul. I sat in awe of the story that was unfolding before me. The concept of Collateral Beauty hit me like a ton of bricks. Something in my mind/spirit was transformed. I can’t even fully understand or even explain. All I know is I needed to put my story into words and let it out. Samantha’s death changed the fundamental core of who I am right down to my DNA. The most striking honored outcome of her passing gave way to the unmistakably greatest gift in this lifetime, the birth of my son. In addition, even though her mom and I eventually did not stay together, our paths remained connected. As difficult as it has been over our 36 year relationship, I am honored to see the person she has become and the mother she continues to work hard at being.
As for me, I can absolutely say Samantha is a part of everything I do. This is rarely a conscious thing. Over 30 years I have shared her story at different points with those who I believed would benefit. However, the very fabric of my being is a direct result of my experience. She is in every sunset my eyes are gifted with. She is in every door I hold for a stranger. She is in every tear I shed as I offer support to another. She is in the deepest belly laugh with the most sacred of friendships. She is in every coin I toss making a wish in a fountain. She is in every star I gaze on a clear evening. She is in every reflection in the mirror when I say I love you. She is in every dish I cook. She’s in every dream, goal, and hope I have. She’s in every hug, kiss on the cheek, and smile I offer. She is in my heart, my mind, and my soul. Her death has magnified all the goodness in me. My life, my very existence is Collateral Beauty.
As I sit here writing, my breath has escaped at times as the tears spill however, they are filled with immensely profound healing. I continue to practice self forgiveness. I also continue to honor every moment this life has gifted me with.
I offer these words to whomever is reading them as a promise to myself and God to continue to show up each and every day with the honest truth that I want to make a difference. I want my life and how I live it to co-create a ripple effect that will leave this place in better shape than it was before I got here. Samantha may no longer be here in the physical, but her life shall forever live on in me and all those who cross my path whether they know it or not.
With gratitude ~Johnathan