One would truly be hard pressed to find a better candidate for being a bitter man than Samuel O’Neal. This native of Brooklyn New York’s rough “Brownsville” area was named after the late great soul singer “Sam Cook”. O’Neal had no idea his young life would be filled with the of hardship Cook’s heart wrenching song “Change is gonna come”. This song masterfully and tearfully articulated the agony Blacks endured during the civil rights era.
Sam’s story includes death and suffering as well but in a different form. He recalls his Auntie Ora Lee saying, “Honey pain is pain no matter how it’s afflicted”. Being one of eight kids growing up the only relatable example of success Sam could identify with were Mike Tyson and LL Cool J. Although rap dominated the streets and airwaves Sam’s Moms home was inundated with the sounds of gospel’s finest.
At age 14 life challenges took over when he fell down an elevator shaft suffering a traumatic brain injury leading to an addiction to pain killers. Shortly after, Sam was shot in an apparent robbery requiring months of therapy. After recovering he found work at a nearby hospital giving him new hope when in 1994 his younger brother Isaac drowned virtually footsteps from him when he slipped from a rock in the ocean, he was just 22. In 2000 Sam’s 31 year old wife Tuwan suddenly died, forcing him to become a single father with 3 small children. In 2000 he lost his big sister Hadassa whom he called his rock, she was 40.
It’s now 2006 and Sam gets the news everyone dreads, he’s diagnosed with cancer and is devastated. As he contemplates weather to just end it all, he’s reminded of his kids and how lost they’d be without him, so he pushes on. Working at the hospital becomes his therapy along with song writing. One day while at work feeling down thinking of the hand life’s dealt him; he witnesses a number of his neighborhood friends arriving on stretches after being involved in a deadly gang fight. Sam starts reminiscing about those he’s lost over the years not to mention his own current state of illness. One would expect the obvious but instead of sadness he became jubilant with the thought of seeing all his love ones again. It was then and there that he penned the heartwarming song “See you again”. It would be over a decade later that he would gain the courage to retrieve the little white napkin he wrote it on. As he pulled it from his dresser drawer it was still in perfect condition. Using a little of his life’s saving and help from family and friends, Sam’s special dream came true. He produced his song and dedicates it to all people who have lost love ones but have never lost faith that they will one day see them again. There is certainly no better messenger to encourage hope to all then Samuel O’Neal.