Saying goodbye too soon

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A storyteller by trade, sometimes life presents something that causes words to fail. Such as this past week since learning of the death of my young friend, Sam Mann.Like hundreds of people who knew Sam personally and/or professionally in his career as a personal fitness trainer I've alternated between being really angry at him and in tears with a broken heart. That's the to-be-expected result of a suicide, the emotional debris field that's left in the wake of a decision made from the depths of despair that's hard to comprehend.

But as Sam's uncles, grandmother, grandfather, brother, cousin and parents so graciously and courageously spoke at his memorial service on Tuesday, one desperate act in Sam's 29 years of encouraging others does not define his life. I met Sam in January 2006 when I walked into Precision Fitness, desperate myself to feel better and get healthy. With a million watt smile and no shortage of charm, he signed me on and we began our journey together, becoming fast friends in the process. When I had a coronary event that put me out of commission for a month, Sam phoned every few days to see how I was doing. Upon my return to training I was impressed that he'd done research into how best to rehab people with cardiac issues.

We shared a lot of laughs in what I referred to as the torture chamber of gym equipment. He'd stand by my side while I struggled, challenging, "don't you quit on me, Kerri!" Oh, how I wish I could have said his own words back to him in recent weeks. His parents, Ronnie and Chris, displayed strength, grace and unquestioning faith as they encouraged the hundreds of mourners paying respects to their son to honor Sam by lifting others up ... to share a kind word and a smile, the simplicity of paying it forward.

It's not for me to understand or make sense of Sam's choice, but even with a broken heart I'll celebrate the fact that my life is richer for having known him. Samuel Joseph Mann mattered.***

Kate Bennett is today's birthday girl, and celebrating tomorrow are Midge Smock, Mark Michalak and Vicki Gehring. The always motivational Pat McGaughey will be as old as me on Friday, sharing the date with Bev Finney, Dale Bennett, Josh Hissong and Suzanne DeTar. Randy Wells, John Rook, Kathy Epstein and Ron Deering celebrate birthdays on Saturday. Connie Peterman, Marlea Car, Mike Way, Mollie Sommers and Sue Bennett are blowing out candles on 10/10/10 this year. Monday birthdays belong to Genie Riegert, Greg Worley, Warren Anglin. McCade Brown is Tuesday's birthday boy!

***THERE'S MORE: More Main Street is the enhanced online version of this column. It includes info on suicide prevention resources, the ALS Walk on Saturday, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's visit and interview on KVNI, Scarywood sneak peek and more. There's a link to add your special day to the Main Street Birthday Club, too.

***Kerri Rankin Thoreson is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the former publisher of the Post Falls Tribune. Main Street appears every Wednesday in The Press. More Main Street blog is at http://moremainstreet.blogspot.com. Kerri can be reached at mainstreet@cdapress.com

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