P. O. Box 1115
St. Peters, MO 63376



Thank you for offering me this opportunity to speak at tonight’s candlelight ceremony. My life as I knew it ended in a monumental year- we had been married 25 years, had a child going to his dream college, one of us would turn 50 and our youngest would turn 16 and remain 16 forever.

Sameer was a bundle of energy, a kid with charm and “kala”. Kala is an Indian term and stands for that indefinable description of energy, pep, charm and an exhilarating enjoyment of life. He had a quick repartee and a warming smile, he was the one who skated up a storm, saving his money for a skate board and practicing for hours till he was better at it. He took to heart a gym teacher’s advice on wrestling and jumped into it willingly and with enthusiasm winning the rookie silver in 7th grade. He wanted to be a basketball player and a football player and had dreams of doing well academically and going to a great college. He was an avid follower of the sports  and music - the  drums were his passion. His time capsule letter written in 7th grade said that he would grow to be 6 ft. 2 in. and weigh  180 lb., that he would be bigger at 18 but would remain a child at heart. 

Little did he know that it would be a prophetic term as we would forever remember him as a child or a man-child. He was one who was inches taller than me, needed to shave at times and yet wanted spaghetti and meatballs at 10 pm at night and played the Beatles with abandon at 1 am in the morning. His love of life and his involvement in his activities be it playing the drums, practicing football catches, shooting baskets and pouring out his frustration on a punching bag were an integral part of the child we lost. Sameer means wind- it rages from a soft summer breeze with leaves stirring in the spring to the gusts that herald autumnal storms. He came into this world in a hurry- all of 25 minutes after we left home for the hospital and left this world in a hurry. 

He was a 10th grader and was a bundle of energy and as I had mentioned we were no strangers to awakening at all odd hours to the sound of the piano being played as he tried to figure out how the drum beats would go. The last song he was practicing was one by the band “Cold Play”. These lyrics translate to  “God give me style and give me grace, God put a smile upon my face.” 
I often think that this is a motto for me to live the rest of my life- a life as a Bereaved Parent. As parents we are the backbone of the family with a rigid steel core and a molten rod of steel which carries us through life. It melts when our child cuddles up to us trustingly and yet braces us for the unkindest cut of all. We walk erect and yet bonelessly and shiver in the warmth of summer. The adrenaline that shocked our system into a stupor unable to believe in the loss of a precious bundle of energy eventually makes us take notice of the world around us. We brace ourselves for the iciness of loss and come face to face with a world of sympathy and empathy while remaining somewhat detached from everything around. The molten steel twines itself around each breath giving us the strength to face the world and try and remember our child for all that they stood for. We have to put each foot in front of the other and go forward in a role we never wanted and can never shed for the rest of our lives.  

Sameer was a passenger in a car driven by a 16 year old friend. They were at a sweet sixteen party where the parents retired for the night and the partygoers indulged in Captain Morgan and Beer. At close to curfew they headed out with the driver hurrying to meet his curfew and rushing the talkative Sameer whose last words were to the effect of “What are you doing Dude?” The Ford explorer was thought to have been going 52 miles per hour while still in the driveway, with the revving of the engine waking up neighbors. It rolled before they entered the subdivision street and Sameer was ejected and died at the hospital two hours later. The driver failed his field sobriety test and three hours later tested much higher than the limit for underage drivers in Missouri. Sameer may never have had the time to snap his seatbelt and it only took a handful of seconds to change everyone’s lives.  

Since then I have carried the mental image of this dynamic child who jumped for the stars and keep reminding myself that he would not have wanted me to roll up into a ball of depression and that he would want to me to go ahead. He was the one who picked up the garden snake and helped it to a green patch of grass so that it would not get hurt and he was one with ambition and dreams even if it was to be a rock star. He would want me to go out and spread a message. He was too young to die and yet we open the newspaper daily and read about other teenagers who die in similar circumstances. 

The teen fatality rate is much higher than for experienced drivers and inexperience and peer pressure often result in a chain of events culminating in tragedy. I have met legislators who have felt that personal freedom, the ability to date and socialize are more important than restrictions placed on teen drivers. We made a Promise to Sameer and vowed to spread the word for safe driving practices and the assessment of destructive decisions. I have spoken about safe driving cultures at a drivers program we started through a local hospital, and addressed teens at summer driving camps and pre-prom MADD sponsored events. Even a single passenger in a car driven by a new driver more than doubles the accident rate with fatalities occurring at the witching hour after midnight. Some States have restricted teens to no passengers for the first 6 months and only one till age 18 and yet others restrict new drivers to daylight hours and school events. A primary seat belt law has saved innumerable laws in other states and Missouri and Missourians have resisted this measure.  

Teenagers believe that they are invincible and yet many more die every year in car accidents, a number exceeding yearly deaths in Iraq and they continue to die and get injured in alarming numbers.

I have discussed facts such as the use of a cell phone to talk and to text while driving, this has been shown to be more detrimental than being under the influence and yet hundreds of teens continue to do so, because, laws which mandate seat belts and no texting for minors only serve to raise the need to rebel as the teens are aware that there is no bite to these restrictions. Personal freedom is a word much touted by many who feel that the need to protect oneself and others should not been mandated by others. As a mother I think that a primary seat belt stop law and a generalized cell phone usage ban would save a generation that will one day be productive members of society and our future parents and grandparents. This is the normal cycle of life and we need to work harder at preserving the gossamer thread which can snap in seconds.  

It only takes a second to change someone’s life for the better or the worse and I shudder with each new broadcast about fatalities related to speeding, drivers being ejected from their cars and those that injure or maim others while under the influence of.  Why is it that alcohol and drug related ailments are still rampant and why does society turn a blind eye to this? 

I propose that each of us call upon our inner reserves and spread the word for careful living where everyone lives well, buckles up, does not drink and drive and remembers that drugs leach life out of the best of us. Look each other in the eye and reinforce the need to proceed in a calculated manner with willpower and faith guiding ones steps.  Ultimately we control our lives and in doing so hold the lives of our near and dear in the cupped palms of our love and support. Let us all go forward and remind everyone that we should compose each day as we would like the rest of our lives to proceed and remember that we are all eminently capable of being stronger than the strongest and braver than the bravest. 

Hindu philosophy states that there are two fixed points in our lives and the day we were born and the day we died are etched in stone. The quality of our lives and our daily acts will define our lives and Hinduism propagates living each day with a goodness of heart and mind in order to attain salvation. We all hold the happiness of others in the palm our hands and each contact and each interaction weaves itself into the fabric of our lives. As bereaved parents we have a missing piece of the puzzle and need to reweave the fabric of our lives. We each have the capacity to reach out to others with our stories and our message may trigger a reaction which could save a life and we would never know. 

We are bereaved parents who have faced the hardest and cruelest cut of all. Let us all garner this strength of molten steel and fashion it into a message that safe and healthy living, both mental and physical, will be the blueprint for the future. We no longer can change the events which have formed us but can ensure that another child or parent heeds our message and we may never know if our efforts bear fruit. Events which never occur will be the rewards of our labor and hard work. 

The events of March 16, 2006 have left a driver who will remember his actions in the death of his best friend, others who will regret their role in the event and yet others will remember their rationale of  “Adults leaving restaurants or parties do this every day.” Logical it is not and many tomorrows are wasted by regretting the actions of the past.  My message to every one and especially the teenagers is simple. It asks for every seat belt to be on before we turn on cars and for us to not speed and not drink and drive. That was my Promise to Sameer.

Sameer was lost because of teenage attitudes to reckless behavior and driving under the influence of  alcohol. I am certain that many of you here tonight can relate to that. However, I know that others here lost their children due to many other causes. My message to you is this: Find a cause, a reason, or a way to make something good come from your own tragedy. Help someone else through their grief or do something to help prevent another parent from knowing our pain. Whatever you do, do it in honor of your child. Do it because that is what your child would have wanted from you.
I would end with this quotation and remind all of us to tap into our inner strengths to make this a better place to live and to remember our children for the joy, love and laughter that they symbolize.  

“Where do we go nobody knows  
Don’t ever say you’re on your way down, when  
God gave you style and gave you grace  
And put a smile upon your face, oh yeah”




St. Louis Chapter of the Bereaved Parents of the USA
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