Before Mike Samson of Tawatinaw, Alta., died, he dreamed of building a house for his wife Lisa. Mike had terminal brain cancer. The doctors told him he’d have another six months or so to live. Determined to build until he died, he dreamed of sitting on the veranda with Lisa.
Mike was doing some work for Brett Seatter, a friend from the nearby community of Dapp. Knowing Mike wouldn’t be able to finish the house, Brett decided to help. Mike and his wife Lisa had started coming to Cedar Creek Community Fellowship church. Brett approached the church board and they voted to support the building of the house, organizing labour and equipment.
On June 28, 2010 Mike passed away suddenly after a major seizure. The foundations weren’t even poured yet. It would have been an easy and understandable decision to abandon the project at this time. But those involved decided they would go ahead for Lisa’s sake, and to honour Mike’s wish.
The building of this house has become so much more than a house for Lisa. It’s the story of how a community comes together in the face of tragedy. The volunteer help has come from boundaries far beyond that of the church or immediate community. The stories of business and individuals offering their help are deeply moving.
There’s Dave McElhinney: Dave runs a construction company in Medicine Hat. Organizing a framing crew from the Dapp area, he came up the 650 kilometres from Medicine Hat and spent a week putting up the walls and roof of Lisa’s house. For Dave it was “pay it forward” time. Dave spends much of his time and money on water-drilling projects in the dry desert areas of northern Kenya. To show his support, a business friend decided to help Dave build a new house, something Dave had only dreamed of. This was Dave’s way of honouring that friend.
Businesses gave equipment for free – TPH rentals from Westlock asked no money for the tamper, Polak Farms donated a tractor, and Feitsma Farms a skidsteer. I’m sure there were many more. Family and friends made hot meals for the working crews.
Men and women, young and old could be found working and laughing together at the site. The project is making a profound impact on Mike and Lisa’s immediate family and community – “Why would total strangers come and help us?” It’s also affecting those taking part. The youth nailing down shingles and carrying timber are learning to understand the value of taking time to help other people – one of life’s most important lessons.
If you’d like to follow the story of the “house that’s built on love,” you can check it out on Facebook – Mike & Lisa’s House. Anyone can access the page.
The world is still a good place to live in.
What a great story, I wished I would have found it sooner. I know working on the house was definitely a great opportunity to see community in action. I myself was impacted by all those I was able to meet and work with, but most of all by the strength Lisa showed in what I can only imagine to be the most difficult time of her life. I am looking forward to seeing the house complete and sitting down with everyone involved just to have a beer!