Generosity helps father live another year (video)

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Nov. 27, 2013 at 5:27 a.m.

Maria Lane, comforts her husband, Samuel Lane Jr., as he struggles to breathe.

Maria Lane, comforts her husband, Samuel Lane Jr., as he struggles to breathe.

In the front window of the Lane family's home on East Red River Street, a glistening faux Christmas tree with oversized golden ornaments twinkles in the window.

Maria Lane sits next to her husband, Samuel Lane Jr., on his twin-sized hospital bed in the living room. A cross pendant hangs from the arm support bar above his bed.

From his view on the bed, the phrase, "The best things in life aren't things" is on a decal above the door frame.

"We put the tree up early this year," said Maria, 39. "It's officially the holidays, and we're having everyone over this year for Thanksgiving."

A year ago, Samuel Lane, 57, spent Thanksgiving at DeTar Hospital Navarro. His congestive heart failure and diabetes, which contributed to Lane's double leg amputation, led doctors to put him on hospice care. His prognosis was grim. They gave him six months to live.

He wasn't supposed to survive through Christmas. And worse, the family was too poor to pay for the funeral - or Christmas for their children.

But a year later, Samuel is still on hospice, and his spirits are higher than they've ever been.

"We have no idea how he's lived this long. He's a miracle," Maria said. "He still has bad days, but he's lived past what any of the doctors have said."

This year, Maria and her daughters - Maekayla, 15; Marlanea, 14; Leslie, 13; and Monica, 11 - know if Samuel dies before Christmas, they don't need to worry. The funeral bills are taken care of, and God will provide the rest.

"We had so many people donate to us last year that we don't have to worry about anything this year. And it's not just the funeral. Someone donated all the flowers and the plot, too," Maria said. "The entire funeral is paid for."

A few weeks before Christmas last year, Maria told her family they needed to be prepared for a tough season.

Not only was their father dying, but the family's financial situation was also dire.

Maria and Samuel weren't working, and they were behind on their rent. They were facing a possible eviction from their home. They were borrowing whenever they could to pay the utility bills.

Christmas trees and gifts were not going to happen.

So the girls wrote a poem to be published in The Advocate, asking the community to spare a few dollars to defray the $8,032 funeral expenses at Grace Funeral Home.

They said they didn't want presents or a Christmas tree; they needed money to bury their father.

When the poem published, families throughout the Crossroads donated to the family. Their Christmas wish was granted beyond their expectations.

"If the community didn't do what they did for my family, I don't know where we'd be right now," Samuel said. "We had so many people caring for us; it gave me the will to fight for life again."

An outpouring of financial donations poured in to the Lane family. People offered to pay their rent and utility bills; they gave food; donated Christmas trees, ornaments and lights for the home; gave hospice care and pest control services; wrapped Christmas gifts for the entire family; and donated clothing, gift cards and other offers to attend local shows and events. Donations even came in for free family photography sessions, so they could have photos taken of them during their last Christmas together.

Maria said the family's rent was paid through March, and they were still getting financial gifts until February.

"We got cards and letters from all over the country," Maria said. "People said they were praying for us and the girls. They would write a check for $20 and tell me to spend it on the girls."

After all the donations ended, Maria said they likely received about $15,000 in contributions.

"I wish I could pay them back somehow for what they did for my family," Samuel said. "I wish I could shake each of their hands."

The energy in the living room a few days before Thanksgiving is markedly different than it was last year.

Leslie Lane said they cried and worried so much last year for their father, but they've seen how God has taken care of them through a difficult time. They don't worry anymore.

"Last year was really scary, but it's not scary anymore," she said.

Her sister, Maekayla, agreed.

"Dad is a fighter. I knew he was going to make it. He fights for what he loves," she said.

Maria knows the time will come when her husband dies, but the family's newly restored faith in the Lord has allowed them to understand they don't need to worry.

They said they realize now that God is in control of their lives and will take care of them when they need it.

In June, after months of realizing that his faith was growing stronger, Samuel was baptized while he was hospitalized by the Revs. Bobby and Dawn Rivera of Covenant Church.

A few days later, Maria and Samuel finally made their common law marriage official, and the Riveras wed the couple at their home on Samuel's birthday.

"I was so afraid to marry him because I thought he was going to die on our wedding day and the memory of our wedding would be a sad one," Maria said, who has lived with Samuel for more than two decades.

"But when I heard him get up the next morning and make my coffee, I knew it was OK, and he wasn't going to die that day. I finally had my wedding memory with him, and it turned out to be a great one."

Samuel said he knows this Christmas is not going to be full of expensive presents like it was last year, but that's OK.

He put aside a little money to buy his girls a few gifts that will come from him.

"It will be a poor little Christmas, but they will know that their presents will be from my heart. Nobody will help me out this time," he said, smiling. "It really will be the thought that counts."

Maria said the week of Thanksgiving will be a busy one.

She plans to cook her husband's favorite tamales and prepare a big meal for the entire family to enjoy.

And Samuel said he's prepared to die any day, but until that day, he's choosing to live.

"They are my love," he said. "And it took the community giving like they did to show me I have to fight. I have to keep fighting."



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