On the same cold, grey December day on which my own family buried my 11-day-old nephew, the Sommer family buried their 8-year-old boy Samuel Sommer who succumbed to the refractory acute myeloid leukemia he had been diagnosed with a year-and-a-half prior. By some bizarre coincidence not only did Rabbi Phyllis Sommer and Rabbi Michael Sommer bury their son on that same day, but also at the same Jewish cemetery that my family had said goodbye to my nephew Rylan Foster Gelb only hours earlier. Superman Sam’s fight to survive and beat the leukemia was journaled beautifully on the blog Rabbi Phyllis maintained during their challenging journey. And now, 30 days have passed since Superman Sam was laid to rest and the blog continues to inspire so many.
This past Friday, another Sam succumbed to a disease. Sam Berns, the Jewish teen who lived with Progeria passed away after so many learned his story from the HBO documentary “Life According to Sam.” I watched this documentary last night, and knowing that Sam had just died, I was overcome with tears. Sam’s parents Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns worked tirelessly throughout Sam’s much too short life committed to curing this disease. Progeria is the same disease that my teacher Rabbi Harold Kushner’s son died from and was the impetus for his book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. As is evidenced by the film, Sam’s parents weren’t only passionate about finding a cure for Progeria for their own son’s sake, but for all of the children throughout the world who age too quickly and end up dying as they reach their teenage years.