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Letters to Sam: A Grandfather's Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life

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Dear Sam, As your only living grandfather, I want to welcome you into this world. Always remember that ... life is a gift and a blessing. In the tradition of such bestsellers as Tuesdays with Morrie and Riding the Bus with My Sister, this emotionally powerful collection of letters from grandfather to grandson will touch readers right down to their core. Award-winning radio Dear Sam, As your only living grandfather, I want to welcome you into this world. Always remember that ... life is a gift and a blessing. In the tradition of such bestsellers as Tuesdays with Morrie and Riding the Bus with My Sister, this emotionally powerful collection of letters from grandfather to grandson will touch readers right down to their core. Award-winning radio host, newspaper columnist, and psychologist Daniel Gottlieb has created a truly inspirational work. When his grandson was born, Daniel Gottlieb began to write a series of heartfelt letters that he hoped Sam would read later in life. He planned to cover all the important topics -- dealing with your parents, handling bullies, falling in love, coping with death -- and what motivated him was the fear that he might not live long enough to see Sam reach adulthood. You see, Daniel Gottlieb is a quadriplegic -- the result of a near-fatal automobile accident that occurred two decades ago -- and he knows enough not to take anything for granted. Then, when Sam was only fourteen months old, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disability, a form of autism, and suddenly everything changed. Now the grandfather and grandson were bound by something more: a disability -- and Daniel Gottlieb's special understanding of what that means became invaluable. A lovingly written, emotionally gripping book that offers unique -- and universal -- insights into what it means to be human. In addition to his thriving psychotherapy practice, Daniel Gottlieb serves as the host of Voices in the Family, an award-winning mental health call-in show on Philadelphia's much-respected public radio station, WHYY. He also writes a bimonthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled "On Healing," and is the author of two books. He lectures locally and nationally on a variety of topics affecting the well-being of people, families, and the larger community.


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Dear Sam, As your only living grandfather, I want to welcome you into this world. Always remember that ... life is a gift and a blessing. In the tradition of such bestsellers as Tuesdays with Morrie and Riding the Bus with My Sister, this emotionally powerful collection of letters from grandfather to grandson will touch readers right down to their core. Award-winning radio Dear Sam, As your only living grandfather, I want to welcome you into this world. Always remember that ... life is a gift and a blessing. In the tradition of such bestsellers as Tuesdays with Morrie and Riding the Bus with My Sister, this emotionally powerful collection of letters from grandfather to grandson will touch readers right down to their core. Award-winning radio host, newspaper columnist, and psychologist Daniel Gottlieb has created a truly inspirational work. When his grandson was born, Daniel Gottlieb began to write a series of heartfelt letters that he hoped Sam would read later in life. He planned to cover all the important topics -- dealing with your parents, handling bullies, falling in love, coping with death -- and what motivated him was the fear that he might not live long enough to see Sam reach adulthood. You see, Daniel Gottlieb is a quadriplegic -- the result of a near-fatal automobile accident that occurred two decades ago -- and he knows enough not to take anything for granted. Then, when Sam was only fourteen months old, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disability, a form of autism, and suddenly everything changed. Now the grandfather and grandson were bound by something more: a disability -- and Daniel Gottlieb's special understanding of what that means became invaluable. A lovingly written, emotionally gripping book that offers unique -- and universal -- insights into what it means to be human. In addition to his thriving psychotherapy practice, Daniel Gottlieb serves as the host of Voices in the Family, an award-winning mental health call-in show on Philadelphia's much-respected public radio station, WHYY. He also writes a bimonthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled "On Healing," and is the author of two books. He lectures locally and nationally on a variety of topics affecting the well-being of people, families, and the larger community.

30 review for Letters to Sam: A Grandfather's Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maria Carmo

    A wonderful legacy of a Grandpa to his Grandson. A love letter between generations. A Declaration of LIFE. A book of deep Psychological perception and profound Humane stature. Inspiring, touching, and yet informative and deeply interesting from a human-clinical point of view. Definitely a Good-read! I recommend it to all: Parents, Children(with some maturity) and even Health Professionals. Loved it! Maria Carmo, Lisbon, 2nd. August 2013.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tabitha

    "In the intimacy that exposure brings, there's an amazing opportunity: a chance of being loved for who you really are." "What changed was what I did with my mind. . . Sometimes what we do with our minds turns those facts into pain, and sometimes we can just treat them as facts, acknowledging them but not feel them. But the more you feel your different-ness, the more lonely you will feel." "Sometimes situations call for us to act strong and brave even when we don't feel that way. But those are few "In the intimacy that exposure brings, there's an amazing opportunity: a chance of being loved for who you really are." "What changed was what I did with my mind. . . Sometimes what we do with our minds turns those facts into pain, and sometimes we can just treat them as facts, acknowledging them but not feel them. But the more you feel your different-ness, the more lonely you will feel." "Sometimes situations call for us to act strong and brave even when we don't feel that way. But those are few and far between. More often, the payoff is better if you don't pretend you feel strong when you feel week or pretend that you are brave when you're scared. I really believe the world might be a safer place if everyone who felt vulnerable wore flashers that said, "I have a problem and I am doing the best I can."" "Maybe it isn't so bad to hit the wall. Maybe the wall is there to teach us a lesson." "Inevitable, all pain is about longing for yesterday--whatever we had before, whatever used to be. But when pain doesn't go away fast enough, we criticize ourselves for not getting over it, for not being strong enough, or even for being vulnerable in the first place." "All of this mind talk just interferes with the natural healing process. When you feel deeply hurt, you have everything you need in yourself to repair the damage. You want compassion, understanding, and nurturing in order to heal. But most of all, you need time. When I am in a dark tunnel, I want to be with people who love me enough to sit in the darkness with me and not stand outside telling me how to get out." "Every time we have a thought, we act like a dog when the doorbell rings. We jump up as though it's some important visitor. But it almost never is." "Take with you the wisdom you have acquired from your parents, your grandparents, and your teachers. But remember, their wisdom is not necessarily your truth." "I have always said that when parent'y don't do their own work-when they don't fix their own problems, fulfill their own desires, live out their own lives-they're really mortgaging their souls. And when they mortgage their souls, their children wind up paying the interest." ". . . I felt different from my family. Yet I was never confident in my own perceptions, because my family always told me that my views were wrong." "Today I have faith that I can tolerate my painful emotions. I have faith that if and when my depression comes back, it will be temporary. And I'll be able to live with it." ". . . when I lived in the present moment with you, noticing what was happening in that moment, I felt great joy. When my mind went to the past and what I had lost, I felt pain. When my mind went to the future and what I longed for, I felt pain then too. So many grown-ups suffer because we are trying to live the life we once had or the life we wish for. You reminded me that day that life is much sweeter when we live the life we have."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    This is one of those books that I have bought over and over again to gift to friends and I have read it at least once a year. It touched my heart and moves me with every reading. What a gift this grandfather passed on.

  4. 4 out of 5

    J

    Sometimes,actually most of the time we are scared of being judged for what we are feeling and thinking. We have many questions and we don't know whom to turn to. This book will not only answer your questions but it will make you realize that it's okay to be different, it's okay to be comfortable in your own skin. it opened my eyes to a whole new world. Sam is quite lucky to have someone like his Pop to guide him , not everyone is so encouraging and supportive! Sometimes,actually most of the time we are scared of being judged for what we are feeling and thinking. We have many questions and we don't know whom to turn to. This book will not only answer your questions but it will make you realize that it's okay to be different, it's okay to be comfortable in your own skin. it opened my eyes to a whole new world. Sam is quite lucky to have someone like his Pop to guide him , not everyone is so encouraging and supportive!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Moon Rose

    This "little book", you can read in one sitting yet the value it contains is bigger than life. Written by a grandpa to his autistic grandchild, as a memento of his life's journey and its lessons, rekindles by own remembrance of my own maternal grandpa. Little memories I retain of my grandpa since he died when I was still very young, what I remember the most was his stale room, where he stayed almost the whole day in confinement by choice. I used to go there alone, when all of my cousins were to This "little book", you can read in one sitting yet the value it contains is bigger than life. Written by a grandpa to his autistic grandchild, as a memento of his life's journey and its lessons, rekindles by own remembrance of my own maternal grandpa. Little memories I retain of my grandpa since he died when I was still very young, what I remember the most was his stale room, where he stayed almost the whole day in confinement by choice. I used to go there alone, when all of my cousins were too tired to play and I remember my grandpa perched on his chair, slouching on the desk, writing something, I never knew what he was writing until much later but I remember vividly that he used to collect empty cigarette packs which he kept in a huge box and used this as his paper for writing. I remember, I used to ask him to give me some for plaything, as I used the silvery paper as decoration to my carton-made crown. I would stay on sometimes and watched him write, and I remember that often when I was there, he would stop just for a moment to look at me and smile, his brightened face turned to me, he would pick me up and placed me on his lap and tell me stories of my mom and the past....I consider this my quality time with my grandpa before he succumbed to cancer a few years after. Eventually in my adulthood, I would often think what would be like to if he were alive and it will bring me back to those endearing moments with him from my childhood past... A personal book like this one, is so inspiring for it brings you back to what is truly essential in life---LOVE.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mam Yanisa

    Very lovely and warm-hearted. It's a book that gives you a break from the world and makes you think of your own heart and feelings. It is filled with love, kindness and hope. Very lovely and warm-hearted. It's a book that gives you a break from the world and makes you think of your own heart and feelings. It is filled with love, kindness and hope.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laie

    Excerpts from Daniel Gottlieb’s “Letters to Sam” Altruistic love means giving to another simply out of compassion. Not because you think you should. Not because you feel responsible for the other person, or you wonder what someone else can do for you in the future, or because your charity will help reduce your taxable income. Altruistic love is simply for the sake of the other. Giving to others is most precious when it is done quietly and selflessly. Righteous indignation is like candy when you’re Excerpts from Daniel Gottlieb’s “Letters to Sam” Altruistic love means giving to another simply out of compassion. Not because you think you should. Not because you feel responsible for the other person, or you wonder what someone else can do for you in the future, or because your charity will help reduce your taxable income. Altruistic love is simply for the sake of the other. Giving to others is most precious when it is done quietly and selflessly. Righteous indignation is like candy when you’re starving. It feels good, but it doesn’t sustain you very long. Missing feels like a sad spot in my heart. It feels so much better than when I was angry with her, or worse, when I didn’t let myself feel anything about her. Missing means I love her. And I have discovered that when people are kind and helpful, it makes them happy. But only when you stop pretending you’re brave or strong do you allow people to show the kindness that’s in them. Continue reading here.. >> http://melaidoodles.wordpress.com/200...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I had many connections with this book...my son is autistic (PDD-NOS) and also has had learning disabilities since birth. I can also relate a lot of Daniel's personal experiences within my own. An excerpt from his book sums it up..."Every chapter in this book is a letter to Sam (Daniel's grandson). Some are stories about my life. Most are stories about what I've learned. All are stories about what it means to be human." A fantastic read for anyone having a child, grandchild, neice, nephew etc., fun I had many connections with this book...my son is autistic (PDD-NOS) and also has had learning disabilities since birth. I can also relate a lot of Daniel's personal experiences within my own. An excerpt from his book sums it up..."Every chapter in this book is a letter to Sam (Daniel's grandson). Some are stories about my life. Most are stories about what I've learned. All are stories about what it means to be human." A fantastic read for anyone having a child, grandchild, neice, nephew etc., fun for all to share in the lesson on love, loss, and the gifts of life!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Becky Cheung

    I loved Letters to Sam for several reasons -- It has an emotional drive that psychologists commonly fail to develop in their books that makes it a great read. Letters to Sam is so deeply felt and courageously personal. It teaches us all how to find appreciation and meaning in life no matter what the situation.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    A touching book of letters from a grandfather who knows his time on Earth may be short to a grandson whose autism may prevent him from ever being able to comprehend the advice within them. Daniel Gottlieb was left a quadriplegic after an accident when his two daughters were young, and has learned to live with his new limitations, and the health scares, many serious, that come with them for the past 25 years. When his daughter gives birth to Sam, he is Gottleib's first grandchild, and fearing tha A touching book of letters from a grandfather who knows his time on Earth may be short to a grandson whose autism may prevent him from ever being able to comprehend the advice within them. Daniel Gottlieb was left a quadriplegic after an accident when his two daughters were young, and has learned to live with his new limitations, and the health scares, many serious, that come with them for the past 25 years. When his daughter gives birth to Sam, he is Gottleib's first grandchild, and fearing that one of these health issues will take Dan from the world before he has a chance to impart his wisdom to the boy, Gottleib begins composing letters of this advice. Somewhere along the line, it was realized that more than Sam could benefit from these letters, and thus the book was born. Gottleib references the past and present events in the family's history as he looks towards Sam's future. Sam's diagnosis with autism puts Gottleib in the unique position of being able to tell what it's like to be 'a little different' from the rest of the world to a child who will someday realize he too is 'a little different', even though their differences are themselves different from each other. He speaks of family members Sam will never get a chance to meet, from Gottleib's own father and grandfather, to his ex-wife from whom he was long estranged but still wonders how excited she would be to play with Sam and see the lovely women her daughters have become. Through these letters, there are many life lessons, such as the uselessness in harboring unproductive feelings (such as personal anger at the wheel manufacturer whose product crashed into his car and caused his injury) and instead converting them into useful emotions (channeling the personal outrage into activism and suing said company to unearth that they knowingly sent a faulty product to market, resulting in the wheels being recalled and preventing others from being injured). He also sees hope in Sam's future, that the world for differently abled people is better now than it was at the time of his injury, and that the progress Sam has made in less than a decade means his autism may not limit him in the ways the world believes it will, although he also turns wistful, wondering if he will be present to see this growth in his grandson. Overall an enjoyable read, and I am curious to learn more about Gottleib's work, as it has been a decade since the book was published, and he is still living and imparting his knowledge, although in semi-retirement, to listeners of the local public broadcasting station here in Eastern PA.

  11. 4 out of 5

    K

    I received this audiobook as a gift from a friend, and I want to heartily endorse both the book and giving it as a gift to someone. I realized as I listened to Letters to Sam: a Grandfather's lessons on love, loss, and the gifts of life by Daniel Gottlieb that I couldn't remember ever hearing a single story from either of my grandfathers. Both had died already when I was a very young person. This book makes me realize what I missed. If you are a grandparent, this book will inspire you to think ab I received this audiobook as a gift from a friend, and I want to heartily endorse both the book and giving it as a gift to someone. I realized as I listened to Letters to Sam: a Grandfather's lessons on love, loss, and the gifts of life by Daniel Gottlieb that I couldn't remember ever hearing a single story from either of my grandfathers. Both had died already when I was a very young person. This book makes me realize what I missed. If you are a grandparent, this book will inspire you to think about what life lessons you want to pass on to your youngest family members. Daniel Gottlieb, the author, has faced challenges most of us would wince at; he shares with his on-the-spectrum autistic grandson lessons from him own life that have special application to his grandson's Sam's life. This is a wonderful book full of terrific storytelling. You can listen to the whole thing in less than four hours.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    This is a hard book for me to rate. It’s probably a 2.5 star for me. At its heart it purports to be a series of letters to a beloved grandson who had been diagnosed with symptoms of autism. So to start out with in some ways I felt like a voyeur. However there were universal nuggets of wisdom that I appreciated — but too often it felt overly didactic and a bit labored. But, then I would remind myself, this is for a grandson, who might read them when? So, I guess I’m saying the flaws with wonderin This is a hard book for me to rate. It’s probably a 2.5 star for me. At its heart it purports to be a series of letters to a beloved grandson who had been diagnosed with symptoms of autism. So to start out with in some ways I felt like a voyeur. However there were universal nuggets of wisdom that I appreciated — but too often it felt overly didactic and a bit labored. But, then I would remind myself, this is for a grandson, who might read them when? So, I guess I’m saying the flaws with wondering who is this for and why have I been invited to read it are forgivable but still a bit disruptive for me. That said the tenderness and compassion of the author for his grandson and many of the other people who he brings to life in these pages is real.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    My Review: I was expecting a lot from this book, a lot of wisdom, some emotion and sentimentality. Unfortunately, it didn't deliver for me. I lacked any bit of connection to either the writer of the letters or the recipient. Instead of these letters being able to be applied to anyone's life or being able to hear your own grandfather giving advise, they were very specific between the two of them and their specific situations, life and families. I honestly skimmed the second half of the book and s My Review: I was expecting a lot from this book, a lot of wisdom, some emotion and sentimentality. Unfortunately, it didn't deliver for me. I lacked any bit of connection to either the writer of the letters or the recipient. Instead of these letters being able to be applied to anyone's life or being able to hear your own grandfather giving advise, they were very specific between the two of them and their specific situations, life and families. I honestly skimmed the second half of the book and speed read it because of the lack of connection for me. Like I said I had every specific expectations from this book and it wasn't at all what I was looking for at the time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nichola

    A author known for reflection, Gottlieb writes letters to his grandson about life as he sees it from his perspective as a writer and professor with quadriplegia. As time goes on, the focus of the essays changes with the knowledge that the child has autism, and he as and parents have struggles, and as the grandfather sees there may need to be different ways to approach teaching him about the world. Many topics are covered, mostly around their personal family history, and relationships with others A author known for reflection, Gottlieb writes letters to his grandson about life as he sees it from his perspective as a writer and professor with quadriplegia. As time goes on, the focus of the essays changes with the knowledge that the child has autism, and he as and parents have struggles, and as the grandfather sees there may need to be different ways to approach teaching him about the world. Many topics are covered, mostly around their personal family history, and relationships with others. Although it seems like an advice book, I felt in the end he was writing more to himself.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Divya

    I tumbled up on this book while I was picking books for my kids in the library and it turned out to be a gem! Dan's writing style is beautiful and he imparts his wisdom in a way which can be understood and appreciated by any one. Not once, we feel sorry for him as he boldly tells he is not defined by his condition. he does not hide his vulnerabilities and fears. This is definitely not a self help book, but this will help you to explore and accept who you are and teach you to be empathetic toward I tumbled up on this book while I was picking books for my kids in the library and it turned out to be a gem! Dan's writing style is beautiful and he imparts his wisdom in a way which can be understood and appreciated by any one. Not once, we feel sorry for him as he boldly tells he is not defined by his condition. he does not hide his vulnerabilities and fears. This is definitely not a self help book, but this will help you to explore and accept who you are and teach you to be empathetic towards every living soul. A beautiful read!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tammy Grimm

    What an excellent, thought-provoking, and exceptionally personal book about life, family, loss, and love! The book is told through thirty-two letters written by a grandfather to his grandson, Sam, who has been diagnosed with autism. Dan, the grandfather, imports wisdom about life and challenges in these letters, hoping Sam will one day be able to get his message- and possibly read the letters.

  17. 4 out of 5

    SIRINDHORN

    It is a beautiful book...IT IS! How beautiful the ways that grandfather who is disabled psychologist teaches autistic grandson by his story, his grief, sadness, joy, love, anguish, passion and serenity to people surrounding pass letters or this book, just wish his grandson could live his life... Even I have not had experiences with disabled people in my life, but this book teaches me indirect how to share life. Everybody have right to live even through how we are.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek Singh

    "All pain is about longing for yesterday — whatever we had before, whatever we used to be." Only we need some hope and a lot of patience. Heart-touching and well-written book describing the depth of what we call "humanity". Yes, sometimes we need to understand and respect the inner human echoing the morals and unconditional love which often we ignore. Short, yet inspiring read. "All pain is about longing for yesterday — whatever we had before, whatever we used to be." Only we need some hope and a lot of patience. Heart-touching and well-written book describing the depth of what we call "humanity". Yes, sometimes we need to understand and respect the inner human echoing the morals and unconditional love which often we ignore. Short, yet inspiring read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Farid Azih

    I loved the book. Despite the writing was based on Gotlieb’s personal life events that may not be relevant to every reader, it generally inspires his readers to have a positive perspectives through challenging and unfortunate events. However, its definitely a perfect self-help book for families who face tests in raising autistic children.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mohammad Chabarek

    “There is nothing wrong if you are different. But FEELING different is.” “So many of us suffer because we are trying to live the life we once had or the life we wish for. Life is much sweeter when we live the life we have”

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Poignant, personal conversation between a grandfather and his grandson. One with quadriplegia, the other with autism. Much tender, heart-felt advice. Fitting to be reading it right now just after my stroke. Life will go on.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kizzylu

    Heartwrechingly beautiful book that truly teaches you a lot about life. You also get to know the writer and his family, which makes everything sink in that much deeper, painfully and yet you still remain amazed and happy at reading it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anurag Shrivastava

    One of those books which I would want my child to read... It's like a sweet box of wisdom... And its written with so much love and care it's palpable... One of those books which I would want my child to read... It's like a sweet box of wisdom... And its written with so much love and care it's palpable...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis Wright

    Touching, naked truth about what he saw during his life and passed on to his grandson....and to others.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erin Reid

    Amazing read

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maryann

    Newspaper writer psychologist writes letters to his autistic grandson author is a paraplegic Gave to Meg to read

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    What a brilliant idea to leave for our grandchildren, ideas, thoughts, words of wisdom to guide them through their life's journey. Loved it! What a brilliant idea to leave for our grandchildren, ideas, thoughts, words of wisdom to guide them through their life's journey. Loved it!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tess McGill

    Wonderful and touching book!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leah K

    A very sweet, quick read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    Delightful ❤️

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