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The Smiths Of Butler - An Appreciation

Andrew and Samantha should have had decades together. They can't have that but they packed more into about a decade than most people do in a lifetime.

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LEXINGTON, KY - MARCH 23: Andrew Smith #44 and Rotnei Clarke #15 of the Butler Bulldogs react after a play late in the game against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament
LEXINGTON, KY - MARCH 23: Andrew Smith #44 and Rotnei Clarke #15 of the Butler Bulldogs react after a play late in the game against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Like a lot of Duke fans, we're guessing, we feel a certain bond with Butler after the incredible 2010 title game. That was one of the greatest championships we've ever seen in anything. It was riveting from start to finish, and when it was over, we said - and still say - that we would have had no trouble with Butler winning it. They would have been deserving champions.

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So you'll understand that we've followed the Andrew Smith story for a while now. We knew he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma and later leukemia.

We read recently that his only hope was to become part of a trial, which didn't happen obviously.

It became clear though that he was not just another guy battling cancer, but that he was someone who was incredibly strong and courageous.

And to the list of accolades he's getting today, we'd like to add very fortunate.

Smith met his future wife, Samantha, in high school and from her comments, and some of the various things we've read, it's clear that this was a real love story, that these were two people who truly belonged together.

Her posts about his health and her love for him were both heartbreaking and inspirational.

Despite the fact that he died at just 25 - it feels so wrong just to type those words - he was blessed to have found his soulmate.

She took care of him until his last seconds and when he passed, she held him and told him that she loved him.

Her loss is deep and profound and although all of us can empathize, no one can fully understand just what she lost because, as in any relationship, so much of it was only known to them.

What we can understand is this: Andrew and Samantha Smith had an amazing life together and if he was a remarkably strong man, then she is equally remarkable in her own right. Samantha Smith has taken a journey into pain, despair and loss and turned it into a beautiful gift and inspiration for anyone who cares to listen. She shouldn't have had to go through this so early in life, but that she did with such grace, selflessness and eloquence is something that won't soon be forgotten.