Thank You

Hi Everybody,

I want to thank all of you for your incredibly kind letters of condolence about my stepmother Kuniko. You touched my heart so much with your kind words. She was such a wonderful gently person, and she is sorely missed.

I’m a great believer in trying to find something hopeful in every situation, but I have to admit, this has been a pretty awful month. I guess it happens that way sometimes, and sad events come at you in a bunch. I am very lucky and blessed to have wonderful children and good friends, work I love, and kind and supportive readers, but there are times for all of us when things look a bit bleak. It’s been that kind of month for us.

It was a great sadness to lose my stepmother, and within days of it, a dear friend lost her 17 year old son, her only child, to cancer. My heart ached for her.

And one can’t say it in the same breath, but one of my daughters loves her little dog Mia and has taken such good car of her. The dog had a back problem recently, and came to stay with me. I was about to take the dog back to her, when time just ran out for her. And the dog died, and I had the sad task of going to Los Angeles to tell my daughter she had lost her dog. If you’re not a dog lover, it will seem silly to you. But for me, the greatest sadness was to see my child so sad, and be the bearer of such sad news. I couldn’t tell her on the phone, when I couldn’t put my arms around her to console her, so I went to see her. It was very sad news for her. But the dog had a good life and lived a long time. It’s hard to lose beloved pets—and infinitely more so to see your child so sad, right on the heels of losing her grandmother.

I came back to San Francisco to begin sorting through my stepmother’s things and put them away, and barely got home when we got devastating news again. As many of you know, I lost a son eleven years ago, at nineteen. He suffered from bi polar disease (manic depression) all his life, and had some great times and some bad ones. He put up a heroic fight to live a good life in spite of it, with all our support, but in spite of that, he committed suicide. (Sorry for this sad tale. I promise to write something much more upbeat next time!!). He had a best friend for his entire life, an absolutely wonderful boy who turned into a great young man. Handsome, talented, brilliant, loving, thoughtful. We have stayed close to him for all these years. He never missed calling me for mother’s day, my birthday, or just to say hello and come to visit. And the bad news we got recently was that with no warning, suffering from depression, he committed suicide. It was the loss of an absolutely extraordinarily wonderful young man. He had just turned 31 five days before. His death hit us like a bomb. It seems like my kids are flying home for a funeral every week these days, or this month anyway.

The funeral, as you can imagine, was brutally hard for everyone. His family is devastated, his friends are equally so, and for me and my family it is the loss of a boy we loved, and a painful déjà vu of the loss of my son. All their classmates were there. He spoke at my son’s funeral, and did it remarkably for one so young. I did the same at a gathering at his parents’ home, and I didn’t do it nearly as well, but my heart was totally in it.

All one can do at times like this is cling to what one believes in, and one’s family and friends. As I said in my speech about him, sometimes the story is shorter than we want. And as excruciatingly painful as it is to lose someone so young, or anyone you love, you just have to know that you’ll get through it. In the end, we grow stronger from the pain, close to those we love, and it reminds us of how infinitely precious life is.

A number of thoughts come to mind about it. Someone said to me once that if we are suffering, rather than thinking of ourselves, we need to help someone else. When I was most miserable after my son’s death, I started both foundations, and went to work on the streets with the homeless. Their problems were much greater than mine. And as a result, over the years, thousands of people have been helped.

Another thing I remembered was that when my son died, our family doctor handed me a dreidel, the little top that children play with a Hanukah. He told me that the Hebrew letters on it say “A great miracle happened here”, he said that I may not think so then (and I sure didn’t having just lost my son), but I would see in time that it was true. And it has been. Big and small miracles have come to us, blessings and opportunities and acts of kindness. And the miracle was his life and having loved him—just as the miracle was the boy who died recently. I said it in my speech about him. A great miracle happened here, and the miracle was having the good fortune to have known him. And our love for people doesn’t end. And if we can do it, they live on in our hearts, and in the good deeds we do in their memory, and in their name. But there is no question, losing someone you love is tough. Very, very, very tough. And it’s a hard way for us to grow.

So it has been a very hard month, and our spirits are pretty much in the dust. But it’s good to remember that we live on, we recover, we take those we have lost with us. Whatever our beliefs, there is something to hang onto and to hope for and to believe. The sun comes out again, we laugh and smile again, no matter how terrible the pain or how great the loss, the pain doesn’t last forever, and the loss becomes something you can live with. There’s just no other choice. We do all we can to honor them, we take them with use in our hearts, and we go on, hopefully to live good lives.

I was interviewed on a radio show the other day, and the interviewer asked me an odd question. He said that since I appear to have been ‘comfortable’ all my life, how could I relate to people and their problems. First of all, I grew up very comfortably materialistically, but that doesn’t guarantee happiness. And I am comfortable again through my own hard work. But between the two there was a time of struggle, I have never sat around eating bonbons. I work very hard, and there was a time when I could barely pay the rent and put food on the table. No one is exempt from the challenges of life, in one way or another. But whatever the circumstances, rich or poor, no one is exempt from real life. Whether you live in a tent or a castle, people get sick, the people we love die, or leave us, and tragedies happen at every social level. Child abuse and domestic violence, alcoholism or substance abuse or physical or mental illness occurs among the rich and the poor. Among the wealthy people, they’re just more hidden. But all people face the same things, and money can’t keep our children alive or safe from harm, or our partners from leaving us, or insulate us from life’s shocks and failures. We all suffer the same problems and fear the same things at every level. No one is exempt in this lifetime. And life is about what happens when you get broadside and how you face the challenge.

My family and I are broadsided now by the death of this wonderful young man whom we have known all his life. We are very sad. But we are also grateful to have known him.

There is a sweet saying I found among Kuniko’s things “in each loss there is a gain. As in every gain there is a loss. And with each ending comes a new beginning.” Let’s hold each other tight and wait for the new beginning. It will come, just as spring comes after winter. And as Alexandre Dumas said, “Wait and Hope”. Even in the dark of winter, I still believe in life, love, and hope, and I know that spring will come again. I send you all my love, and I promise you happier news soon.

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13 Comments so far
  1. Linda St.Cyr June 18, 2009 6:05 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about all of the tragedies in your life recently. My thoughts are with you and yours in this time of grief and I hope that it is overshadowed by love and balanced out by new beginnings and rebirths.

  2. Annie Anderson June 18, 2009 7:07 pm


    What a beautiful and yet heart wrenching post! I’m so sorry for all of the blows you and your family has received this month.

    And I think the saying you found in your step mother’s things is absolutely right – “in each loss there is a gain. As in every gain there is a loss. And with each ending comes a new beginning.”

    Hold on to that.

    My thoughts are with you.


  3. kimmi June 19, 2009 11:35 am

    I’m so sorry for you, your family and other’s loss. Hope, indeed, the guiding beacon that shines bright.

  4. Simone June 19, 2009 4:42 pm

    I find it comforting to read about your problems,not that I take any pleasure from it at all.I would feel so much better knowing that everyone in the world was happy at all times and not going through any of the difficult challenges that life presents but that is not the way it is.

    I find solace in knowing that I am not alone in grief at times when it feels too much to bare,your writing-both your novels and your blogs give me hope because you have been through so much and you have survived,this is evident in your writing.

    Your book about Nick is by far my favourite book that you’ve written,everytime I read it tears come to my eyes…..losing someone you love and the inevitability of death is very daunting.

    Hope the following weeks will be better for you.You have given me an idea on what to write on my next blog.I hope you get through this time.

    Love and light and most of all much hope xxx

  5. Kathryn Magendie June 21, 2009 9:08 am

    You know – that is so true – no one knows what we have been through as humans. People would look at my life now and think how lucky I am: I live in a beatiful cove in the smoky mountains of North Carolina, I write full time and no longer have to schlep it to an office daily, my life is calm and I am doing what I love the most….but no one knows the “BEFORES” – the befores I do not talk about.

    I can’t imagine losing a child. I have one son and he is almost 30 – for so long I worried about him, and finally, I feel as if he will be okay.

    a hug to you….

  6. Gabriela June 21, 2009 7:27 pm

    Again, I send you & your family my condolences. This is a reminder to us, that life is short. We have to say more “I love you”, and not take our loved ones for granted, we never know when it will be the last time we see them. Ms. Steel, you and your family are in my prayers.

  7. Jocelyn June 21, 2009 8:21 pm


    Thank you for this beautiful post.

    XO Jocelyn

  8. Inna Ligum June 28, 2009 9:36 am

    Dear Danelle,

    i´m so sorry for you. My deep condolences to you and your family. Sometimes it´s not easy to understand… My mama deied in december 2008, i still can not really live, i´m learning to live again, without her.

  9. Harleen Kaur July 8, 2009 5:34 am

    Dear Danielle

    I am a 26 year old Indian girl and a huge fan of you novels for at least last 10 years, if not more. You induce some kind of a positivity even while you expressing even the most of negative of situations. It has always been true for all your novels I’ve read so far, and it is equally true in this blog of yours too.

    I’m yet to see a finer writer on earth. I want to thank you for the amazing power you have the ability to transfer to people as they read you.

    My sympathies for the past occurrences and prayers for a finer and shinier future.

    Keep writing to spread positivity and happiness!

    Love always!

  10. Caria July 12, 2009 7:51 pm

    My heart gous to you and his family. We all have the day and time to go. Is not easy losing someone. But they in a better. I wanted to say, your an amazing writer, I cry reading your books, your books make me happy. I love writing poems. I have love for writing, my dream is to have at leat one book poblish. You give me hope.

  11. Stacy Snavely July 17, 2009 8:13 pm

    Danielle, I just finished reading the book about your son, Nick, titled “His Bright Light”. I have to say that it totally took my breath away. I am 31yrs old and I have a 13yr old son that was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, ADHD, ODD, and PTSS. I see alot of the things in my son that you described in your book of your son. I honestly have to tell you that I understand how you felt when he was younger with the sleepless nights, aggresive behavior, and feeling like you are going mad. If you could give me any helpful tips on living with a child with this disease I would appreciate it. Nobody in my town understands the disease, including the schools. Thanks a million.

  12. Carl Wayne Bryant July 31, 2009 11:26 am

    I hurt with you. It is impossible to hurt for you. I lost my dad, my grandmother and 2 brothers all within weeks of each other, so I know just a little about the inner feelings you must be suffereing. I read your bio and I know you are not a quitter. Perserverance may be your best asset. Take care, Wayne.

  13. Claire Kennedy August 23, 2009 9:33 am

    First of all, I want to acknowledge you for the extraordinary gift you have, the ability to reach into people’s lives and make a difference through the novels you write. From the moment I read the definition of the character in Matters of the Heart, I knew I was about to read my story. I will be grateful to you for the rest of my life because you answered a question I have had for more than 40 years. As the story unfolded, so did the events of my early adult life. Even after years of therapy, seminars and self-introspection, I always had unresolved issues and questions. I never understood the dynamics of that particular relationship; I understand them now after reading your book. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.