Samantha's Family

Hannah Ott, Samantha's Cousin

Samantha and I never grew up in the same area. When we were younger, she and Jack were the cousins I barely ever saw. Plus, since we were a good number of years apart, it wasn't like we were super close as kids. I remember the first time I realized how awesome she was; it was either Thanksgiving or Christmas at our Nanny and Pap's.

It was the first time I saw her burst into the kitchen beaming with personality. She wasn't the quiet little girl I knew anymore; she was this awesome ray of light that made me want to get to know her better. As we started growing up and she began text messaging, we would text each other and I'd let her know when I was coming into town.

I remember driving to pick her up from her boyfriend's house and her always being so excited for the million school dances that she was invited to. She borrowed my dress one year which was super exciting because she wanted to wear something I had.

When our cousin Cris had her twin boys, I remember Samantha and I sitting on Nanny's couch holding them. We couldn't remember which one was which so we tried to guess. When the boys got older, we were sitting on the floor taking pictures of them in Nanny's kitchen. We put their bibs on their heads and laughed so hard at the faces they were making. For some reason, the only way I can truly remember her voice now is when I think of her saying Tucker's name in her sweet singsong way.

We both had the love of volleyball in common too. One of my high school volleyball teammates, Kristin, played for Penn State, so she got us tickets to a match. Samantha, I, and my younger brother Justin drove up to Penn State after Thanksgiving to go to the match. We shoved Justin in the back of my truck and headed north. I remember driving down these crazy roads and we thought we were lost, but kept going anyways. We laughed on the way up and talked about everything. When we finally got to the Penn State area, we stopped for dinner where the laughs and conversation continued. I remember feeling like I was out with two friends, and not my younger family members. That moment you realize there aren't "younger cousin/sibling" barriers anymore those relationships just explode, and that is what was happening to us.

We arrived on campus and were lost-again. Driving through campus we passed a directory so I slammed on my brakes and Samantha and I jumped out, leaving Justin stuck in the back of the truck. We were cracking up because we didn't know where we were, we had no idea of the name of the gym that we were looking for, it was dark, and by this point we both had the giggles joking about how someone was going to steal my truck with Justin still in the back. We finally found the gym and eventually got into the game. After the game we found Kristin, and right off she just knew how special Samantha was, and they hit it off real well.

We were heading back down south and Justin fell asleep, so it was just Samantha and I talking. We talked about her parent's divorce, college, and what she wanted to be in the future. We talked about her step-dad, how much she appreciated his help with volleyball, and how much of a great support he was for her and Jack. We talked about how she had difficulties with her mom, but she knew she'd miss her when she went away to college. At this point, she was looking at a school in New York so we were laughing about how she needed to learn the Canadian National Anthem for her volleyball matches. At one point, the only radio station we could get was Christmas music. Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" came on and we belted that out- that woke up Justin.

There was a point in the drive where Samantha fell asleep too. So I was the only one up. I remember looking at her and smiling because we were becoming so close. Visiting my family wasn't the same if I didn't see her, and I was excited for our future of being cousins, but also friends. In that moment I knew she was going to be a huge part of my life.

She is still such an inspiration to me, and I want to live my life the way she did. She was so sure of who she was and loved the Lord-and I'll never forget that. She will now forever be my angel, and my butterfly.

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