8/18/14, Real Life

Hi Everyone,

Serious Moment. It happens sometimes. And life lessons.

On a foggy Saturday morning in San Francisco recently, after a long night of writing, just back from Paris, my phone and computer came alive at 6 am. Emails, messages, texts, calls, with the totally unbelievable news that a close friend in Paris had died, the husband of one of my very close women friends. The first thing I saw was an email that gave his first name and said he had died. I only know one person by that name, but immediately rejected that possibility….it couldn’t be him….too young….I saw him only a few weeks ago….we’re all having dinner in a few weeks….not him…I tried to figure out who else I knew by that name. I opened the email and saw his wife’s name, and I felt as though an entire mountain had come crashing down on me. It was indeed the close friend which my mind flatly refused to believe could have died.

I’ve mentioned before that incredibly I have been to many funerals of young people in the last several years. I know too many young people who have died in their late teens and early twenties, car accidents, sports accidents, a young friend of my daughters who was texting on the freeway, lost control of her car and was killed at 27, a terrible cancer at 18, my own son committed suicide at 19, and horrifyingly, of his intimate circle of friends, of interesting, lively, sane young people with good jobs, good lives, and families that loved them, only one is still alive at 30. Only One. That is a terrifying statistic, and three were suicides. But I have never lost an adult friend, one of my peers. So while I have been too far too many funerals for young people, I haven’t lost any adult friends. With better health care, people live longer, but I’m also not at the age yet when people commonly die. Or maybe I’ve been lucky with my friends. The man who died, my friend/friend’s husband was 60. How was it possible? He wasn’t sick. I felt disoriented, shocked, instantly bereft. He was truly, truly one of the nicest people I’ve ever known, funny, jolly, kind, with a great sense of humor, elegant of spirit, nice to everyone, I never heard him say a mean word about anyone, ever. He did little thoughtful gestures of kindness and friendship constantly. He had a beautiful wife whom he adored, and she adored him. One of the really great marriages I know, and always nice to be with them because of it, crazy about each other after 30+ years of marriage (and that’s pretty rare today). They walked into a room and glowed, they were enjoying life and each other. 2 Lovely children. Strong family values, fun to be with, good company, people you can count on. The list of virtues is long. And in an instant it was over.  Literally, every single man I know in Paris has a scooter, like a Vespa, not a big motorcycle, but a motor scooter. Men of all ages that I know have them, poor friends, rich friends. They always seem dangerous to me, but all the men complain that traffic is heavy, moves slowly, it’s hard to get through it, pollution is an issue, and a scooter is easy to park. So they have them. And lately, ‘Moto Taxis’ have become popular in Paris, where you hop on, sit on the back, put your arms around the driver and off you go. I have men and women friends who use them in order to buzz around. Scooters are common in France, Italy and a lot of Europe. Even men in their 60’s and 70’s use them, and I see women on them, and my friends often ride them behind their husbands. My friend was riding his scooter, made a turn, there was gravel, the scooter slid out of control, his helmet flew off, he hit his head on a rock, and that was it.   For 3 days my friends called me, we called each other, several times. No one could believe it had happened, that this lovely man was gone, his wife heartbroken, their family shattered. It was a brutal reminder that everything can change in an instant. In a single second, your life can be over or forever changed. We all know that, in theory, but when faced with it in reality, with a friend who was here one minute, laughing and funny and loving to all, and then in that single second, the light goes out forever, and he is gone. Because of the suddenness, because he was too young, and because we all loved him and his wife, we are all struggling with this terrible, shocking reality that our friend is gone. For days, men in our circle of friends called me crying, and all the women friends of the wife. And I cried a lot. This sad news has hung over me, and a whole group of friends like a pall. And the woman who I always saw laughing and happy, and so happy with him, is now brutally and suddenly alone. I am profoundly saddened and shocked. Her life will never be the same again, in a major way, or even ours.    The lessons to be derived from it are that life really can change forever, and even end, in a single second, and the other lesson is one we know too, to cherish our friends, those we love, our partners, our children, cherish every single moment we have with them, because life is so totally unpredictable. You really never know if you will see that person again. Spend time with them, enjoy them, tell them you love them, don’t let opportunities pass you by because you really never know what life has in store.

It was a bad week. Still sad over this shocking news, and probably for a long time, on the day of my friend’s funeral, we all had more shocking news. Robin Williams committed suicide that day. The whole world was shocked and felt bereft. Also too young, before his time. And I was actually fortunate to know him. A brilliant entertainer, as we all know. A really lovely person, a wonderful father. I counted back and realized that I knew him for 25 years. We weren’t close friends, but knew each other, and chatted when we saw each other at parties. He helped me with my son’s foundation. One of my daughters dated his son for 4 years, a really lovely boy. He has 3 lovely kids. And suicide and all the public attention that go with it in the case of a celebrity are so brutally hard for the family left behind. A suicide is heart shattering for any family, famous or not. But in a few days, 2 fine men were dead, one by his own hand, and the other by a terrible stroke of bad luck, and a little bit of light had gone out of the world for all of us. I am so very very very sorry for Robin Williams’ family and the terrible sadness they are living through now. The world mourns him, and his family is heartbroken.

It’s a wake up call of sorts to us all…..I will miss my lost friend so much, no gathering of friends will be as much fun without him. It will be shocking to see his beautiful wife alone, and no longer radiating joy without him……I hope that we all remember to cherish our loved ones, to tell those we care about what they mean to us, every day. Don’t put it off. Say it, live it, because that terrible single unexpected instant can happen and change everything for any of us in a flash. For Robin, for my friend Robert, let us love each other a little bit more and remember how incredibly precious and important every single moment of life is. May they both rest in peace with our love and prayers, and in great sadness, I send you so very, very much love.


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9 Comments so far
  1. Sharon Smith August 19, 2014 8:10 am

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. Sounds like you have so many fond memories. With all the good memories of both of him and Robin Williams they will be remembered. My thoughts and prayers goes out to both families.

  2. Lori Kizior August 20, 2014 2:36 pm

    I can feel your sadness and heartbreak. I am so very sorry for you, Robert’s family and all of your friends whose lives were touched by this beautiful man.
    Sending prayers to all of you for peace and strength.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Kerri Jansson August 20, 2014 4:43 pm

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend Robert, and as for Robin Williams, I think I speak for everyone here in saying that his death was an absolute tragedy and no one should have to live through that. I grew up watching his TV shows and movies, and all I derived from watching him on the screen was pure, unadultered joy simply because he was a ball of zany energy. Now we must live in a world that has been darkened by Robin’s death.

    I hope that their respective families are touched by memories of their loved one, and find peace and grace in their grief.

  4. Keyla Marques August 22, 2014 5:48 am

    I’m very sorry about your friend, may him rest in peace. I’m 26 and when I was 19, one of my closest friends died on a car accident, she was traveling during Christmas with her boyfriend’s family. me and her were talking about seeing each other as soon as she got back from the travel. But she and her boyfriend were sleeping in the back seat of the car during the car trip and…they both died. I miss her everyday, I can remember everything about her. Her voice, her laugh, the way she sat with a straight back…but, I know she is in a good place.

    About Robin Williams, I’m still shocked but now it’s easier to see that he had a “sad smile”, I keep thinking: “how can someone brings us so much joy, but suffer so much in the inside?”.
    Him, your friend, my friend, nick and all those who are dear to us, are..somehow…here with us. And their light will guides us throught the hard times.


  5. Regina Morgan August 23, 2014 3:30 pm

    I am sorry for your loss. You have such great memories he will always be with you. Fr him to die a sudden is even more difficult to understand as wonder if there was something that could have been done to prevent the tragedy. My prayers go out to his family and yours.
    The loss of Robin Williams is one the world will mourn for a long time. Him making us laugh was what kept his mind of from his own demons inside. Depression is an everyday struggle. Hopefully one day the world will understand it a little better.

  6. Dolores F. Curry August 24, 2014 8:33 am

    I am elated that my friends and I are all sharing Danielle Steel’s books. I start reading them and I don’t want to put the book down until I am finished.
    Yes, the shock go Robin Williams is great. I felt as if I knew him after watching all his movies.
    I enjoyed reading what Danielle wrote about her children. I have five children so I can relate to her thoughts on being a mother. Thank you, for sharing so much of yourself. I love looking at your beautiful homes. I am envious but I appreciate my home.

  7. Mary August 28, 2014 6:46 pm

    We get swept up in our everyday lives, then suddenly there it is,,,reality of just how fragile life can be. Your loved one is there one day then in an instant gone forever and you are left in the wake of their absence. The hole thats left in your heart hurts but makes us pause and realize how love is so important,,, to be loved and the privilege of loving another. We feel just how much we truly loved them.
    Even if we did not know a person but enjoyed what they brought into our world a certain sadness envelops us knowing what they gave us will have to live on in only a memory or the work they accomplished.
    Everyday if we become aware just how it can happen to anyone of us and to honor the people we lost by the way you live your life without them and be a kinder more loving being to everyone maybe we can help ease the pain of missing who we have lost and quite possibly save another soul from suicide.
    Sadly accidents happen to so many and the tradgedy of their death seems senseless but if their death brings their surviviors the good of all the hearts they knew and that helps us to remember not only them but our potential to love others more fully then their lives and death are not in vain.
    When you remember them let them be the smile on your face and the joy that stays in your heart and carry their memory forward in the way you live on without them.

  8. Tina September 6, 2014 3:12 pm

    Death is many things. Sad, relived, tragic and so on. I am young, and I have exprinced many deaths in my time (maybe too many). Not children at all, and not too many “old” people, but young and middleage…

    Some of the ones as I have exprinced have been relived, one have been very tragic because it was my aunt leaving her 6 year old daughter behind, and with her being a single mom, then there was noone to take take of her daugther, but one of her brothers got her. And she was to a wedding when she died. A real tragic. But in common for all these, the sadness have been there.

    So I do know how you have been feeling.

    I also was letting back in my mind to my own dads and older brothers and my aunts deaths.

  9. Marie Abanga September 7, 2014 11:50 pm

    Hi Danielle,

    I don’t know why l chose this post of your today on my maiden visit to your blog. Am a Cameroonian living in Brussels. Have hit rock bottom several times, attempted suicide once. Could be your daughter Beatie bc l lost my baby brother last aug 2 to 18 damn yrs of bi-polar. Am also mentally challenged though no diagnosis yet. Just started seeing a psy and therapy. Finished reading Nick at 1am, started on Saturday and was always sad, mad etc to put it down. I know it’s been 17 damn yrs and some days. I know it never goes for though young 35, l have lost 2 daughters. Maybe the only l wld ve had? the pain of a miscarriage at 5 months or a burial a day after the birth, though not compared to 19 or 33 yrs of journey with your deranged but wonderful son, teaches similar lessons l think. I too have just finished writing a book titled My Brother’s Journey from Genius to Simpelton, his mum is setting up his foundation. He was her best friend and only son. I fought real fights for him. Gosh, if you ever read this and will like a copy of his book, em kindle version, send me an email.
    Hope all your one big, huge, lovely family are thriving -sure Nick would have loved that. Sorry for all your loses, thanks for all your work (u were one of the few foreign authors l was privileged to read in my teens and l loved ur novel)
    Kind regards, Marie