One minute Samantha Light-Gallagher was kissing her husband, Mike, goodbye, and the next she became a widow at age 30.
Not until a year later did Samantha realize that, no matter what she did in the future, sheíd always be a widow. She would always grieve the loss of the man she loved most. She would never forget him.
By then Samantha, who grew up in Lisbon, Iowa and is now 32, had been jotting down her thoughts as a personal therapy. She took some of those personal musings to a writing class. And her instructor encouraged her to follow a dream, to write a book with a generous use of personal experiences that could help other young widows cope with the greatest loss of their lives.
"It was kind of scary to do that," Samantha says by phone from her home in Casa Grande. Ariz. "But thatís the only way I can really connect with people and let them know how I feel."
"Crazy Courage, A Young Widowís Survival Guide" was self-published through Authorhouse ($14.95) in self-help form. It encourages widows to take control of their lives, to laugh, to live. It addresses the need to nurture young children ó her sons Quincy and Rhyan are now 10 and 4. (Rhyanís birthday is Friday.) It emphasizes the use of "Crazy Courage," the ability to overcome fears with a self-imposed confidence.
"When you add the crazy to the courage you are adding an intense enthusiasm that will show others that you have a mission to complete, even if that mission is to get out of bed," she writes early in her book.
Samantha, of course, had no clue what her life would become as she grew up in Lisbon, delivering The Gazette and playing right field and pitching for the softball team. She graduated in 1998, married young, had Quincy, divorced. At 24 she left Lisbon for Tacoma, Wash., to live with her sister, Megan. That sister introduced her to co-worker Mike Gallagher.
Samantha and Mike dated, fell in love, married in Las Vegas. When the Army wanted to transfer them to Germany, Mike decided not to re-up. In 2008 he become a U.S. Border Patrol guard in Arizona.
"Itís a great job," Samantha says. "He was still serving his country. Thatís what he wanted to do."
Of course, when your husband works in law enforcement, you always worry. She knew Mike didnít tell her everything about his job, the drug busts and apprehension of illegal immigrants. But he would call regularly, especially when he worked through the night, to let her know he was fine.
On Sept. 2, 2010, Samantha didnít get that morning call. Instead, agents came to her door. They informed her that Mike had been killed near the end of his shift when a drunken driver failed to stop at an intersection and ran into the driverís side of his truck. About 500 people attended his funeral.
"There are a lot of tears when you write," says Samantha, now a personal trainer at a fitness center. "My blog is also therapeutic."
"My goal," she adds, "is to reach out to widows and let them know they arenít alone. Itís not about how many books I sell, itís how many hands they get into."