It's hard to believe that Sam Shepard passed from this world just over a week ago. The actor and playwright was and will remain such a towering force in his craft that the tributes to honor him in spirit and truth keep flowing like a tide. Part of the reason his loss is felt so deeply stems from his determination to face his final struggles with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in solitude, surrounded by only close family, forcing the farewells to come after the fact.

The ripples that run from every human life have the power to shape more futures than any of us can know.

Sam Shepard would be proud of the memories shared of quiet, giving, and boisterous moments made alongside so many in his life’s path. He would also celebrate the music that spoke most to his spirit and made the soundtrack to his rich and real years.

Like a country song

There was no crisp diction in Sam Shepard’s eloquent words. Whether from a script provided or through his own deep and tumbling dialogue, his drawl came naturally and augmented his authenticity. Director Matthew Warchus recalled the Shepard dialect as one of his deepest memories as the two exchanged conversation over “True West” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright's affection for all things English.

Warchus further elaborated that meeting Sam Shepard was “like meeting a cowboy,” and it's no wonder that Shepard’s delivery in countless films has been compared to a lyric from Merle Haggard or the contemporary, Chris Stapleton.

Sam Shepard praised the art of country music as being the only form that truly captures “the true relationship between the American male and the American female… Terrible and impossible.” In a 1986 Rolling Stone interview, Shepard offered Billie Joe Royal, Ricky Skaggs, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lou Ann Barton and the Blasters as being his favorites.

Sam Shepard stood out in Dolly Parton's memory. Parton touchingly remembered Shepard as “a nice man and a great actor,” in a statement. Neither the country legend or Shepard sang in their roles as Spud and Truvy Jones in “Steel Magnolias ” from 1989. Nonetheless, Shepard embodied the hard-working Southern presence of devotion when he offers his wife the dream of her second salon.

“I’m a chain!” echoes the familiar approval.

Sam Shepard served as a more than adequate banjo player on Patti Smith's cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and always felt a connection to “Texas bands.”

Lifetime moments and little memories

Actor, director, and producer, Ed Harris had one of the longest personal and professional relationships with Sam Shepard. The two met just after Shepard won the Pulitzer Prize for “Buried Child,” but the effect of being star-struck melted over beers and billiards.

The cowboy connection abides for Harris, too, as he reflects on his run as the rodeo cowboy, Eddie, in “Fool for Love” as being the most fun. “There's a lot going on inside that guy,” Harris insists, remarking that Sam Shepard plays are usually autobiographical in telling some aspects of their author’s “internal maelstrom.

Harris revealed that during his rehearsals for “Buried Child,” Sam Shepard received his diagnosis of ALS. The friend who had always been private about his personal life became more open and accessible. “A kindness crept into him” in Harris’ words, and the vulnerability allowed Harris to feel “the nature of our friendship” that he sensed as mutual. “I loved the guy, and I'll miss him big time,” says the star with no doubt about the depth of their feelings.

Playwright Lynn Nottage was stirred by the settings of Sam Shepard's work. She points out that while others in his era were writing plays set in living rooms and gardens, his action took place in backyards and motels. Nottage never will forget her encounter with Shepard in Utah, on an occasion when she had decided to perform some of her own words.

Her delivery was to a mostly drunk audience, and she doubted if anyone got her message in the recollection of being called the N-word, but still powered through the performance. When she went to the bar for a drink afterward, it was Sam Shepard who came up from behind, bought her a drink, and talked with her until 3 AM.

Shepard gave Nottage his own choice words about confidence. “F@*k these people. This is your writing. Next time you do it, you have to live every single moment and own all of your words,” the 10-time Obie winner reminded. He told Lynn to never be intimidated, and his words have never left her.

Sam Shepard owned and lived his words, in many ways, and let them speak life to many souls.