I try to keep things fun and light-hearted and not get too sad, but I felt compelled to share my story with you, in hopes that it might help someone one day. 

What would you describe as your best and worst day ever? If I were asked, I can sum that question up in one day. September 27, 2006, changed my life forever. Now, it may have been twelve years ago, but I still remember that day as if it were yesterday. Let me start by telling you how that was the worst day of my life. Thirteen years ago today, my best friend passed away in a car accident. Matt was more than my best friend, he was my brother. The guy that I always could talk to, rely on, and trust more than anyone. Along with our other friend, Matt Hatcher, we were inseparable.

A month shy of seventeen, his life taken way too soon. He had so much talent, so many dreams. All cut short. Matt and I always dreamed about being a part of country music. He loved to entertain people, and that dude could sing! Check out this video of him singing Josh Turner's "Your Man". At only sixteen, he was really good.


His laugh was infectious. It didn't matter if he said or did something funny or not. When he laughed, you laughed. He had such potential and promise to do great things in life. He just never had the chance to.


I could go into details of his passing and how it effected me, but that's a long story. To sum it up, after his passing, I wasn't the same happy and funny Travis. There were so many emotions going on in my head: sadness, loneliness, anger, fear, and all of that knowing that I would never have the chance to tell him goodbye or how much he truly meant to me. Maybe you have lost someone close to you, and you can relate to how his passing made me feel.  It can put you in a very dark place that you think you may never get out of. But there's a light at the end of that tunnel. Which brings me to how that may have been the best day of my life.

It took quite some time to get over his loss. As you may know, it's something that you never really get over, but a thing that just gets better over time. There was a lot of growing up that I did at an age where most people went out, had fun, and didn't have a care in the world. I, on the other hand, began to start thinking about life in a different way. His passing made me realize what was important in life and that life was too short to sit around and mope all of the time. It was then that I knew I had to learn from this tragedy and somehow turn it into a positive. When something like that happens to you, you have two options. You can let that hold you back in life, or you can let it be motivation. I chose the latter.

There's a line from Clay Walker's song called "Just a Few Questions" that says "it seems unfair to me, some get the chance to chase their dreams, and some don't." That line of the song really hit home with me. Matt had dreams of entertaining people and being a part of country music just like I did. If I could live out that dream for the both of us, why would I let that chance slip by? That became my motivation to achieve a dream that he and I both shared. It's one thing to dream about it, but dreaming about something or sitting around on the couch talking about it, isn't going to change anything. Get off of the couch and DO IT! For me, it wasn't easy. It was a long road to get to whre I wanted to be, but I am PROUD to say that I am in a position now where I am doing things that he and I only ever sat around on the couch talking about.

From graduating high school and college, to standing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, meeting some of our favorite artists, and even our other best friend named Matt also getting married, I have thought of Matt Russell every day, every step of the way living out a life that we dreamed of.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of him or want to tell him what I did that day, but I think he already knows. I don't know if you believe in fate or guardian angels, but after his death, I sure do. I can be driving down the road listening to a song that we used to sing together and I get chills like he's there next to me singing along. The strangest thing was this: the first time that I was ever put on air for my own show happened to be September 27, 2014. Eight years to the day that he passed away. It gets stranger. The first song that was scheduled for me to play was his favorite song before he passed, "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts.

Oh, and then there's this: Matt loved to be the center of attention, and somehow, even after his passing, he got to be the center of attention. When you download the WKDQ app, he's the first thing you see, right next to his favorite group...

Travis Sams
Travis Sams

I know within my heart that he is looking down smiling...or jealous that he isn't here. Often times, I wonder what life would be like if he were still here, I can't even imagine. All I know is that everything happens for a reason. Matt helped to make me the man that I am today before and after his passing. I just hope that I am making him proud. He's the reason why I do what I do and why I am able to do so many things that we only dreamed about.

Maybe you are struggling with something similar. Just know that it does get better, let that be your motivation to make your life as great as it possibly can be. Don't let certain challenges or struggles hold you back in life. You're never guaranteed tomorrow, so make the best out of today. So tonight, when you get home, take the time to give a long lost friend or family member a call to catch up, cherish that time with your loved ones, and never take someone's presence for granted.

Let me leave you with this. There was a song that Matt loved by a gospel group that he grew up with. The song is called "Through the Fire" by The Crabb Family. Any time that life had me down or had me questioning things, I listened to this song and for some reason, it always made things better. I hope that it can do the same for you.


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