Letters to Sam

A Grandfather’s Lessons On Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life
                                                                                                -By Daniel Gottlieb.

This touching book, rather a series of inspiring letters, from a grandfather to a grandson, each of whom has a disability. The two have something in common besides their blood connection; they are both different. Gottlieb is a quadriplegic who has over the years learned a lot about himself and life from his disability. When Sam, his grandson, was 14 months old, he was diagnosed with autism. The relationship between a grandfather and grandson is a mysterious and marvelous one bolstered by unconditional love.

What makes the book so moving is that the writer, a psychotherapist, is able to express himself with such completely open emotional honesty and to tell the hard truths about himself.  He wants to do more than simply share the valuable lessons he has learned while living through his own pain, loss and disability.  He wants his grandson to remember that life is full of potential love and joy and that working through the inevitable challenges he will face will serve to bring him even greater love and joy.

Gottlieb does a fine job teaching Sam how to navigate the feelings that come with being dependent on others. The author believes that the two of them can “help teach people, that no matter what happens to our bodies or minds, our souls remain whole.” Gottlieb’s spiritual advice about handling pain is very illuminating, especially this: “All pain is about longing for yesterday — whatever we had before, whatever we used to be.” He tells Sam that wounds do heal and pain does pass but patience and faith are needed to cope with both.

But there is much more here.  The letters cover hard-won and profound insights into many questions we all ask ourselves about the unrealistic expectations and disappointments we find in life.  Insights about how we interpret and misinterpret events and the actions of others.  Insights about what is valuable and what is distraction. Insights about hope, acceptance and compassion.

Daniel Gottlieb shares his words with his grandson and with us in hopes that we may assimilate his lessons in a much shorter and easier time than it took him.

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