lucy steyn

Lucy's story - warts and all

Written posthumously by her Dad and expanded sporadically from time to time

Lucy pulling a face. With her Charne Warland, soul buddy.

In a way Lucy grew up as an orphan. There have been a few people in her life who deserve special deep words of thanks for acting as "guardians" over her before she came into my life. So many thanks to them.


Lucy had a hard life, ran away from the homes of her guardians, for a while used drugs, was abused and fought a hard battle to come to grips with herself. But she overcame all this, and was looking forward to a great life. She wanted to set an example for abused kids that all those bad things could be overcome. She was very open about her past, and even planned her first music show to reflect all the bad things she had done or had been exposed to, the pain and suffering, and how she overcame and conquered. She was making this her life's mission.

When I relate her story warts and all, that is what she would have wanted. That is what she had planned for her music, her photography and her writing. So there is no disrespect for her memory to relate this. In fact, I have huge respect for her as human being for being able to overcome so many obstacles - and so quickly too. Some people can never shake off their dark pasts, so Lucy was special.

She overcame her emotional and psychological damage. It is unfortunate that the physical damage lead to her untimely death.

This is the story of Lucy and me - a father-daughter story - but more about Lucy. There are many other people who could relate their own stories about Lucy, and as you can see from the Facebook messages after her death, she touched many people.

First contact

In late 2009 I received a FaceBook message from a young girl, I assumed to be just another student who wanted to become an FB friend, and ignored it -- too many such requests. A while later I received another such request, which I read. It said something to this effect: "There are some missing links in the chain of my life I want to find" which was not quite a typical message and intriguing. She asked whether she could contact me. That was on a Friday. On the Monday, wondering throughout the weekend what this could possibly be about, I phoned this girl. She said she was wondering whether I might be her father. She did not want anything from me, but just certainty about that knowledge. I was a bit flabbergasted. I did recall my youthful indiscretion, recognizing her mother's name. She said she knew my name, had a small photo of me, and had been searching for me for more than two years.

The photo Lucy had of me and that she used to trace me using the internet:

Lucy gave me the contact details of her school headmaster and school psychologist (Louise Coetzee), and I made contact with them. Lucy attended the George Hofmeyer School for Girls for two years from 2008 to 2009, when she completed her matric.

When she found me, Lucy was in the final year of high school. Without her knowing -- for fear of upsetting her examinations -- the staff and I made arrangements to meet with her on the day of her last examinations. I drove through from Johannesburg to Standerton, and first met with the head master and then psychologist, who informed me of Lucy's turmoiled past.

She left home at the age of 13 fleeing from sexual abuse, and had quite a bit of a stormy life, growing up in many different homes. She took to the road as no action was taken when she reported the abuse. She eventually ended up in the care of several different homes, and finally under the guardianship of Johnnie and Vanessa Mol, wonderful people who had looked after her for the last couple of years of high school. In matric she was badly raped by two men. The molestation and rape left her with permanent injuries that eventually lead to her death.

How we met

After finishing her last examination, Louise, the school psychologist, asked Lucy if she wanted to meet me. Yes, she did, but first wanted to get out of her school clothes.... women! :)

When she walked in the door, I immediately recognized our family quirks -- from the way she moved, to the way she spoke ... She certainly must have been my child. I found it astounding that someone who did not have any social contact with me could be so similar to me - which shed quite a bit of light on the 2500 year old nature versus nurture philosophical debate (for the nerds: my position is not either/or, but inclusive - balance between both).

We first all met with the staff, and then Lucy and I retreated to the psychologist's office to have a chat. Her main question was why I left her and her mother. The story she was told was that it was for the sake of music. From my side: I did not know she was my child, and certainly did not have a proper relationship with her mother, who at the time of our indiscretion was engaged.

Lucy showed me some of her art work, and told me a bit about herself - and was very frank about it all.

I then spent a Sunday with her at Johnnie and Vanessa Mol's home, during which time she told her life's story in more detail.

In December a DNA test was done, confirming 99.8% probability that Lucy was my daughter!

6 December 2009 written at 19:00 - my poem to Lucy

ek wens....
ek wens ek kon jou pyn uitvee
ek wens ek kon jou vrede gee
sou ek net kon weet jy's myne
was jou wêreld een sonder diep pyne
en snye wat jou siel opvreet
sou ons maar net toe kon weet

jy juweel
geen geld geen roem geen kitare
sou jou kon wegneem van my hartsnare
want ek bly naak, so breekbaar
sonder jy juweel, my kosbaar


I wish....
I wish I could rub out your pain
I wish I could give you peace
could I have known you were mine
your world one without deep pain
and cuts eating your soul
if we only knew then

you jewel
no money no fame no guitar
would have taken you away from the strings of my heart
cause I remain naked, so fragile
without you, my treasure

Getting to know one another

After finishing school, Lucy worked for a while at the photographic shop of her guardian mother, Vanessa Mol. In February 2010 Lucy visited me over a weekend, to get to know me, and soon afterwards moved into our home. She complained that she did not really know who she was or wanted to be, as she had to compromise herself at each new home she lived, following the wishes of her hosts. She had to be whoever her caretakers wanted her to be. She also was not sure what to do with her life. I invited her to take 2010 as a gap year, finding herself, and developing her wide range of creative talents. She had heaps of creative talents, and I was willing to assist her to develop these -- such as art or music lessons.

Lucy, however, admitted that she had loads of issues and wanted to take the year to sort them out and find herself. Half-way through the year she decided she should have an income, and started a job in Pretoria. This workplace was unfortunately a sham, so she learned an expensive lesson - she wanted to be independent and when I wanted to see the contract when she was offered the job thought I was trying to control her and did not show it to me.

Right from the start, in fact, when we first met, it was clear that she had a passion for the abused, and wanted to devote her life to that cause. The exact route was a bit unclear. She considered art therapy as an option, but I could not find any such university courses in South Africa.

Lucy had a really hard life, and gained more life experience by the time she left school than most people I know. Yet, she was very wise. As for me, from the start her past was not as important as her future, and I told her so. I also told her it is not that I am disintereted in her past, but that is not as important as her being, her character, and that we should rather look forward to a glorious future than to dwell on the pains of the past.

The first two years (2010 and 2011) were certainly no sunshine years. As so many people let her down in her short lifetime, she assumed that some or other time I would let her down too, or reject her. It was only by 2012 that she completely trusted me. It was only by then that we had a great, no, fantastic relationship, one I think any parent could only dream of. She confided in me - some things she says she had never told anyone else before. We laughed a lot, having the same weird (warped?) sense of humour, and she never had a mood again. I am so glad she died then, and not earlier, otherwise my memory of her would not have been so intensely admiringly. I had a lot of respect for her, having overcome so many difficulties in life, and nevertheless turned out to be a warm person with integrity, and not a troubled, negative person. Perhaps a bit of a dreamer, but she was very positive about the future; in my view too forgiving, but could sometimes really put her foot down very firmly. I am so glad her last few months were, apart from the pain, positive, that she was content, and that at last she found herself.

When in 2012 she moved back to our house, we celebrated with sushi at home - her favorite. I reminded her of the religious story when a father slaughtered a sheep when his lost son came back. Well, this is 2012 and times have changed. So I did sushi.

Lucy's wandering uncertainty and mind at last found rest. She said she always felt alone as no-one seemed to understand her or get her - until she met me, and realised that she was not the only one seeing the world differently. At last there was someone as weird as she was, and who could understand her take on life and such matters. As for me, I found it intriguing to have such a genetic replica of myself in her. This goes even for values. We are not judgemental, forgive far too easily, despise lies and try to live as honestly as we possibly can. The list of similarities is too long to report here.


The consequences of being abused permeates one's life, and sometimes the haunting stays with one permanently. Some victims can never overcome the hurt and scars. When Lucy and I met she was still somewhat bewildered, with many conflicting emotions and anxieties about life. Anger, deep hurt, rejection, uncertainty and a whole range of emotions reigned. Having at last found a safe haven, a nest, in the security of our own home, it took about two years for her to work through her issues. Although she received a lot of love from the homes where she found refuge, it seems that only once she found her biological roots could her restless mind begin to settle. During the last year of her life she found peace of mind, and an understanding of her strengths and weaknesses.

We can't do anything about our past. But we can do something about our future. All of us have baggage, but we should not let that baggage interfere in our relationships with others. This is the outlook Lucy and I share.

For some reading material when she recovered after her last operation, I bought her the life story I have a life - of Alison Botha (, whose story touched Lucy as Alison was another victim of abuse who overcame much through many struggles. Lucy badly wanted to meet Alison, and we made plans -- which of course did not happen.


Hannes Botha was Lucy's boyfriend at the time of her death. He gave her much peace and joy. Thanks Hannes!

This photo was taken less than a month before her death.

Sense of humour

Lucy (perhaps unfortunately) inherited my zany, weird (wacky?) sense of humour, which some people do not understand. We would play word games and pranks on one another, which people who did not understand us found shocking upon hearing us for the first time. The first time Hannes Botha (Lucy's last love) overheard us, he was shocked that Lucy could speak to me like that -- but he quickly caught onto our game, and eventually also participated in the puns and word games.

Here is an example.... Lucy, Charne and I went to a garden restaurant near home. What follows are some pics she put on Facebook, and the conversations we posted.

Lucy Steyn: I still don't get why you guys won't take me anywhere.....?
Jacques Steyn: see what happens when we let you out of your cage? foam coming out of you.... Get back in your cage!
Lucy Steyn: Like I said dad, Fort Nox wouldn't even be enough to keep me bound... whaha

[When she forgot to lock the doors and I complained to her about her negligence, she would mumble that we live in Fort Knox :) ]

And she added some text to a photo Charne took of us:

Since she lived with me again in 2012, we laughed a lot; and had a lot of fun!

Lucy's photography

Lucy's guardians Johnnie and Vanessa Mol own and run a photographic shop, and Lucy learned the basics of photography from them. In 2010, after her gap year, and on her journey finding herself, she began using my camera, and took a series of photos of herself, using the timer. She'd set up the camera, run to the spot and pose. Using Photoshop she'd make some minor changes, and play around with colours, as you can see from the selection in the 2010 portfolio.

In 2012, when she became seriously interested in photography, she was going to meet with my friend Coert Wiechers (, a great digital artist, to learn more secrets. On at least two occassions we agreed to meet, but something prevented them form meeting. She died before they finally could meet, so all the Photoshopping is self-taught and obtained through experimenting.

Having had a bit of a love affair with photography myself, and having tried to shoot myself with a timer, and never really got the framing for close-ups going properly. I always wanted to ask Lucy how she did it -- I have her entire stock of photos, and less than a handful are not usable by being somewhat outside the frame. I don't know how she did it...

Marlyn Monroe's sensuality had great appeal for Lucy - as can be seen by so many photos imitating tout lips.


In addition to wanting to take on a music career, Lucy wanted to develop her visual art into a business. She and her soulmate Charne Warland began working on their own photographic business (Dahlagraphy) and had great plans for it. In fact, the Tuesday night before Lucy died, Charne visited and they made plans for a shoot the following week. The focus of their photography was to take sensual portfolios, although more "common" themes would also be followed. Lucy's first (and last) project was wedding photos for Susan Potgieter.

She worked on a couple of themes - her James Dean look was one project. Another on Marilyn Monroe was forthcoming, and Radar Love was also completed. She was still editing photos and uploading on 24 November 2012.

Lucy's art

I will need to digitize some of her work to be able to show it here. That wil take some time.

Lucy's poetry

Lucy painted with words, and writing was one of her favorite methods of expression. She often wrote me little letters, and posted on social media sites. Here is just a small selection.

Lucy's music

Lucy recently fell in love with Lana Delrey's music and for her own music she wanted to have a pop rock feel, without being pop rock, and also to play with different genres but orchestrated rather in the simplistic style of Delrey. She also liked the feel of the 1920s and 1930s genres, but the more modern contemporary variations of that music.

We worked on a few songs of hers - that is, she had the melody in her mind, and I had to assist with the more technical work, such as working out the chords and harmony. We never had the time to do the orchestration for any, although she gave some indications some times of what she wanted. I plan to one day compile her songs, produce them properly and release them.

The first song we worked on is in Afrikaans: Wit Lakens (White Sheets), which has a catchy tune. Her ideas for music videos were visually quite different, and she thought that most music videos for Afrikaans music are boring.

One song she wanted to do in her show is the hard rock Radar Love (Golden Ear Ring), which she said was our song... because we found one another against all odds, like through radar.

The first show

The first show of course never happened, as she got too sick. It was going to be her life story, the abuse, and overcoming abuse, conquer the hurt and have a good, positive life.

One song in particular was conflating several fairytale stories (Snowwhite, Little Red Riding Hood and others), starting off with innocence, but ending each fairly ugly as innocence is lost, and towards the end of the song change the mood and end up with hope to overcome the loss of innocence. She was going to approach some organization, such as Women Against Abuse and donate the song as part of her own campaign against this evil.

Being her life story, the show would have been a mixture of her own compositions and some others. For example, "Lucille" sung by Little Richard, but her version would be somewhat more laidback.

Visually her shows would have a tint of boudoir and burlesque. She was annoyed that women are sex objects, and that sensuality was replaced by brutal sex. She wanted to emphasise the difference - that feminity and sensuality could still be sexy, but without animal-like sex.

Health and accidental death

The two operations Lucy had in 2011 and 2012 were attempts to repair major structural damage due to sexual abuse. She had a collapsed pelvic floor, and she suffered from both anal and vaginal prolapse, as well as tissue damage. The first operation in 2011 took about 7 and a half hours - a Laparoscopy procedure. This involved stapling a net onto her backbone to support and hold the intestines in a firm position. The problems recurred, and in 2012 another procedure was followed. The net was removed, and 30cm of Lucy's large intestine was also removed. This was a major operation, and the only thing that could still be done structurally after this operation was to remove the entire large intestine - something we did not want to have done now. After the operation, the surgeon wryly remarked: "You were pretty much fucked up inside, but we repaired you as far as we could." The repairs did not solve the problem though, although the extent of the structural problems was somewhat reduced.

Lucy now had a long cut across the middle of her stomach, and complained she could now no longer wear a bikini. I told her to turn the scar into a feature. When she does her live shows, one could turn it into a temporary tatoo or something. we eventually came up with a host of weird and wonderful ideas how to take advantage of the scar.

The structural problems could be overcome. We discussed this many times - that Lucy would probably accept that she would have to live with the structural problems. That would of course have a huge impact on her quality of life, and she would not have a normal life. This we agreed on - that although it would be uncomfortable, and even embarrassing, one could still live a life.

However, the pain progressively became worse over the past two years. These pains were most likely due to tissue damage. Pain pills did not really work, and to get some relief, Lucy would take numerous warm baths every day to soothe the pain - not that the water took the pain away. And she continuously tied a hot water bottle around her waste with a blanket to get some comfort, no matter how small. Long after the operation pains had gone, the tissue pain just became worse and worse. The last possible solution for this was that a neurosurgeon was going to implant a gadget that targets specific neural sensors and reduce the pain that way. Unfortuntely the waiting list for this surgeon was more than 3 months, but we managed to get in earlier for the first exploratory consultation due to a cancellation. Yet, we would have had to wait for the tests possibly until earliest Janurary 2013. The waiting was horrible.

A few times over the past few years Lucy and I discussed suicide. She has had a few attempts in her life, trying to flee her emotional pains. In fact, just a short while after she had moved in with me she had a half-hearted attempt - in the bath, but she fell asleep.... but then never again.

In 2012, when the pain became unbearable, we did discuss the matter of suicide again. She wanted to know if I would loose respect for her if she committed suicide, whether I thought weaklings follow that route. Being a believer in euthenasia, my view was (and still is) that an individual must take responsibility for his/her own life, that no-one else could decide what one does with his/her life, and that should a point come in one's life where life becomes unbearable, I don't see the point in trying to stay alive. But I also said that there is much to live for, and one should focus on the positive, not getting bogged down with the negative. I would understand why some people choose that way out, but one should rather focus on the joy of life.

The neurosurgeon prescribed a new set of pain killers which she used for 13 days with no real effect. On Sunday 18 November she took more than the prescribed dosage. When she staggered through the house, I confronted her, and we spoke about this in length. I was upset that she took too many pills, and advised her that she might cause herself long-term damage, and that we should manage the pain differently. She just looked at me and said: "Dad, I don't have pain", repeating it a couple of times during our conversation. How could I rebuke her when I knew how much pain she had? Her pain drove me mad, and surely was worse for her. Monday and Tuesday she took the rest of the pills. As the prescription was for 30 days, it means pills for 17 days were left, which she took over a period of 3 days. That means 5 times the daily dosage. She did not finish all the pills for 17 days in one go, which she would have done had she wanted to commit suicide. She just drank more than the prescribed number to kill the pain... To me this does not mean suicide. Five more pills in one go does not mean overdose... But five times for a couple of days certainly poisened her system. She eventually died 29 November, Thursday morning early.

She was still editing photos and uploading to their Dahlagraphy pages onto Facebook on 24 and Sunday 25 November. Moreover, on Tuesday evening (that is after she started overdosing) Lucy and Charne made plans for photo shoots the following week, and Lucy asked me if she could borrow my camera again. The week after that she wanted to go to Middelburg to do another photoshoot.

Yes, I am her father, and perhaps I am biased. I have no moral objections to suicide, and do not regard such a step as a social shame. Lucy and I spoke frankly about suicide. Objectively, without being in denial, although suicide (not emotional suicide, but rational to flee the physical pain) was on her mind from time to time, it seems to me that this particular event of her death was a matter of unintended overdose. It felt so good to not have pain, Lucy just continued to overdose.

My parents visited for a couple of days, and left Tuesday 27 November. My Mom said she and Lucy had a chat in the kitchen Sunday evening when Lucy came to make coffee. My Mom says she will never forget the pain she could see in Lucy's eyes.

The pain was unbearable, and for me, as her dad, being helpless was excrutiating for me too. That helpnessless was certainly the worst time of my life - seeing your child suffer and there is nothing one could do. And in the sense that the pain stopped, her death was a relief. In the course of my own introspection, I concluded that it would have been selfish of me to expect Lucy to continue to struggle with life in pain just because I would miss her if she died.

I do not believe in a life after this one - Lucy did. She is now dust, and forever gone. That is heartbreaking, and the pain of the loss is torture. Yet, the pain she had was worse. Yet, even though I am in pain now, I am relieved that she did not continue to suffer.

When things go wrong, they really go wrong

We have had quite a few mishaps over the past few months. The worse was that when we were supposed to go for the follow-up with the surgeon after the operation, he himself landed in hospital. From then on, after his recovery, it was a struggle just to get an appointment. More mundane mishaps too: the bakkie Lucy used began giving trouble, and a stone cracked its windshield; the washing machine broke and had to be replaced; I wrote off two tyres through potholes; the geyser burst, and either the electricians or plumbers then burgled our house two days later (they disconnected the signal to the security firm, so although the house alarm was triggered, the system did not alert them), stealing almost all her clothes. We joked that in our lives it does not rain, neither pour, but storms - and that it surely could not get worse. Well, it did...

The end...

Due to the pain she did not keep a schedule, but slept when the pain was less, and would wake up anytime of day or night with pain, made herself something to drink, and sat on our verandah staring over the little valley in front of our home. I have seen her there at any hour in the 24-hour cycle. And she would sleep any time of the day. So I was not particulalry worried when she went to bed early Wednesday. I went to the gym, and her door was slightly open. When I got back around 19:00, her door was closed. The next morning around 10:00 I noticed she had not woken up to make something to drink during the night -- no empty coffee mugs. So I knocked and peeped in. She was lying on her back, sound asleep, I thought. I called out to her. Usually she would answer sleepily. As I approached her I noticed her skin was more white than usual. I also noticed no breathing, and took her pulse. She had gone. When the medics came, they said slight rigour mortis had set in, so they guessed she must have passed away 3-4 hours earlier - thus in the early hours of the morning. She looked so peaceful, and must have just slipped away while sleeping...

Lucy's last letter

Lucy had a great knack with words - painting with words - and often wrote me letters. Here is a bit from the last letter she wrote me, shortly before her death.

Eerstens, dankie vir jou liefde, wat nog altyd onvoorwaardelik was.
Dankie vir jou bystand en geduld.
Dankie dat jy my die dag aanvaar het as jou dogter, toe ek as vreemdeling jou genader het.
Dankie vir die great memories en dat jy my kon verstaan soos niemand nog ooit het nie. Dankie vir die musiek.
My hart is gelukkig. Maar my lyf is moeg. If you get what I'm saying.
Ek het Pa lief met 'n ewige liefde - daai wat nie kan op- of uitdroog nie.


Firstly, thank you for your love, which was always unconditional.
Thank you for your help and patience.
Thank you that you accepted me as your daughter when as stranger I approached you.
Thank you for the great memories and that you could understand me as no one ever could.
Thank you for the music.
My heart is happy. But my body is tired. If you get what I'm saying.
I love Dad with an eternal love - that one that cannot dry out.

I will miss my princess...




People who cared for Lucy

In a way Lucy grew up as an orphan. There have been a few people in her life who deserve special deep words of thanks for acting as "guardians" over her before she came into my life. So many thanks to them.

Ma San (Susan Potgieter)

Ma San was mother and role model for Lucy from age 4 to 8, and they had intimate contact right to the end. Lucy's half-sister still lives with Ma San. Even at that young age Lucy wanted to know where and who her dad was.

Louise Coetzee

Louise Coetzee (school psychologist) - confidente and friend in Lucy's later teenage years

Johnnie and Vanessa Mol

Johnnie and Vanessa Mol looked after Lucy from around 2006 to 2009

If it were not for these folks, I am not sure what would have happened to Lucy. Many more touched her life in some or other way -- thank you very much to all!