I love you, Samantha Morris, and Everything Matters
I feel like I lost a sister. It matters. Everything matters. Our friendship wasn’t easy-breezy because neither one of us is easy-breezy. But we were always there for each other. You were a staple in my life and now you’re gone. Our shimmering beginning. Our devastating end. It matters. Everything matters. I met you when I was 23. You were about to turn 30. Like me now. I had just moved back to LA from New York. I had never been an adult in LA. I used to call you for driving directions when I was lost (which was often). You knew the city so well. You’d say, “Hmm I think you should take Sunset, it goes all the way through.” We met in Mike Leffingwell’s 301. I couldn’t believe you wanted to be friends with me. It felt like such a huge compliment. You were so funny and smart. You had your shit together. You were this impressive woman with a cool haircut and you used to work at a record store (!) — you were a total dream girl and you thought I was funny. Out of our class, you thought four boys were funny. I was like, you’re so right, tell me more. You said these four boys (out of thirteen) are funny and THE ONLY three girls — us, and Courtney Davis, were verrry funny. The three of us started going to shows together all the time. One of the first things you invited me to was a bowling night at Shatto Lanes with a bunch of cool, friendly women I didn’t know. Again, I thought, “Oh my god, how was I invited to this??” I ate taquitos at the bowling alley — adorable — I drank a vodka cranberry and laughed with you and all of your cool friends. Now I sit with you at the hospital and you drink cranberry juice. You prefer it to the apple juice which is too sweet. I say, “I’m glad you got the cranberry juice today.” You say, “Me too. It’s a little tart. Kinda refreshing.” It matters. Everything matters.
Back to the shimmering beginning. You, Courtney and I took the next logical, magical step in any worthwhile UCB comedy relationship — we signed up for Julie Brister’s 401. You even knew Julie already. I mean I was impressed. On the first day of class when Julie was taking attendance she said something like, “Sam, it’s noon, have you already run a 5K or something? Samantha is a morning person who runs marathons, everybody.” I mean, good god, could this get any better? The cool teacher thinks you’re cool. You’re my friend. This is going really well. You said something like, “Didn’t run today, did eat waffles.” This 401 was a good one, LOTS of funny people — two standouts were twins. These cute twin boys from New Hampshire — Josh and Travis Wyman. They were ALREADY on a Harold team. What?? We asked them if they wanted to start a practice group. They thought we were funny too and what really sealed the deal for them was get this — you reached out to MEL COWAN about possibly coaching us, and not only did he say we’d be “a super fun group to work with” he also said we could practice in his and Katie’s GARAGE in SILVERLAKE. And all we have to do is pay him a little money. Can you even believe it?? We called ourselves Nichelbach (that’s Nickelback in German) and practiced every week in Mel’s garage for the next year. We played squirrels and bees and told personal stories and did emotional exercises and played characters and committed and made each other and Mel laugh so hard. “If Nichelbach was a genre, a specific style, a film director, what would that be?”, Mel asked. I said, “Well, we’re whimsical. We’re kinda magical. We’d be Michael Gondry.” Mel quickly agreed and casually pronounced Michel Gondry’s name correctly without making fun of 24-year-old me. Nichelbach took potentially the best indie improv team photos ever taken at the beautiful duplex on Beachwood you rented at that time. I brought a bunch of my mom’s costumes and actual wardrobe from the 80’s and 90’s, we put on different combinations, you’d set the timer on your camera and we’d pose in front of the gorgeous 1920’s Spanish-style fireplace. It matters. Everything matters.
Nichelbach was now part of the scene. We had shows. We sometimes destroyed and sometimes bombed. But even the bombing was fun for me because we were together. I still feel that way. I kind of love bombing as an ensemble if I think what we’re doing is funny. I adore staring into the eyes of someone who I love and think is so deeply funny, someone who I can’t believe feels the same way about me. Our ship is sinking, isn’t this something? Isn’t this funny? Don’t worry about the audience. Don’t worry about them, our ship is great. They just don’t get it. Our ship is the best. They just missed the boat. Haha. We’ll laugh about it later. I thought about that with you at the hospital. Staring into the eyes of someone who I think is so smart and complicated and hilarious and stunning and powerful and loving and strong. Your ship was sinking and I couldn’t be on it. I wanted to. I kept thinking don’t listen to this hospital, don’t listen to that doctor, those drugs, this cancer bullshit. They just don’t get it. Our ship is great. Our ship matters. Everything matters.
Samantha, I thought I could write you a beautiful tribute but it’s not working. I can’t fit everything in. I feel like you’d say, “Try. Just try. It matters. Everything matters.” Okay I will try, here are some things. The scene I saw you do with Casey Feigh in your last show ever was one of the most beautiful, next-level performances I’ve ever seen. It stole the show. You both beamed light. We painted a Bob Ross painting together at Courtney and Bill’s party. You fixed all my mistakes and made it lovely. I wish I had this painting, I don’t know what happened to it.
I drink coffee out of the mug you gave me for my 24th birthday every morning. You said you saw it and thought it was very me. It is. In 2010 or 2011, you played me a live recording of Maria Bamford’s comedy in your car — “Manifested!” we laughed, it is one of my favorite memories. I also fell in love with The Zombies because you played them for me. The bartender at Birds told you you had the best haircut in Los Angeles and he was right. You loved the science of baking. You were great at baking sweet things and eating sweet things.
One time a guy broke up with you as you were bringing him a pie that you baked for him. I hope he goes to hell. After he broke up with you, you said we couldn’t listen to music in your car because it reminded you of him. I said, “All music?” “Yes.” And now I get it. You understood loss. You helped me understand it. When we were first getting to know each other, you told me your dad died in a car accident when you were 15. I was almost too embarrassed to tell you that my parents’ split happened when I was 15 and it was really hard for me — but nothing like losing a parent! And you said, “No, that’s a great loss. It matters. Everything matters.” When my dad died and Lily and I started writing about it, you were so supportive. So understanding. You shared our essays, you let us know that they mattered. That everything matters.
The way I relate to you, Samantha, is early shimmering magic and laughter and excitement and then this devastating loss at the end. My dad dying. Your diagnosis. My divorce. Your death. My grief — my endless grief. I wish you were here to help me lose you. You would be able to help me because you would understand. We said goodbye to each other for the last time on the two year anniversary of my wedding. My wedding to a beautiful person. A wedding you attended, Samantha, looking sexy as hell. I saw you there in your black dress and tights and said “Samantha, you look straight-up sexy.” Not long before that we were in Marfa, Texas at Courtney’s wedding. We saw the magic lights. We took an old school bus to get there. When we were all leaving Marfa, there was a bathroom that had squirrel wallpaper. You knew I loved squirrels and texted me this from the bathroom:
“Oh! Thank you for this! You know I loved that wallpaper and I didn’t have my phone!” You wrote back, “I got you gurl.”
Courtney’s wedding and my wedding. They were from a different time. A different world. A world I prefer but cannot have back. I spent my anniversary with you and I won’t regret or forget it. How at that point I needed Erin to come in with me. To help me face the monster that was taking you. How Erin had to be my translator for the first few seconds. How she lovingly guided me and gently called to you, “Sam, Fiona’s here.” And Samantha I will never forget what happened next because you lifted yourself up onto your elbow like you were pushing the sky away. The sky that was crumbling on top of you. I have never really seen a stronger person. You pushed this impossible sky away to hold me on your deathbed. To hold me, not the reverse. You reached out to hold me. We loved each other. It matters. Everything matters. You stroked my hair. Maybe I’m your grown-up daughter from a future that will never happen. I always thought you’d be a mother. An exceptional mother. The kind of mother that is almost too good. So good that her son grows up and can’t fall in love because he can’t find the kind of love that poured out of her eyes. That’s the kind of love you have in your eyes. You also would’ve been an incredible step-mother. And that’s hard to pull off. But you won’t be. You will die a warrior on flimsy, pink sheets. Battling a monster. It matters. Everything matters.
Remember the book you loved in Book Club? It’s called Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr. Your eyes lit up when you talked about it. You understood it. You got it. You spoke about it so passionately. How the hero knows when and how the world will end. He knows that when he’s 36, a comet will hit earth and that’ll be it. Nobody knows this except for him. And his dilemma, understandably, is well then does anything matter? Do any of his actions matter if it’s all going to end soon anyway? He has a choice. He eventually decides that it matters. Everything matters. So he loves and lives fiercely and fully, despite the nearness of the apocalypse. You did it, Samantha. I saw you do it. Your life, your love, your everything. It matters. Everything matters.