Expressing Thanks

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops color and texture onto an old photo of herself and her mother for a post about expressing thanks and appreciation.In the last seconds of my father’s life I told him, “Thank you.” Throughout our time together, I’d always thanked him for gifts and meals in fancy restaurants. And as the plug was pulled on his life support, I wanted the last words he heard to be, “Thank you, Dad.” In a desperate final instant I added, “for making my life—richer,” not able to find the right words to thank him for who he’d been or what he meant to me. Ever since, I’ve been haunted, wondering what on earth he could make of those words, if he even heard them, lying there unconscious and on his way out of this world.

My mother taught her daughters well, to say those two words. Thank you. And in similar fashion, although maybe not with the same consistent results, I taught my own children to acknowledge peoples’ kindnesses. But expressing the deepest, most sincere thankfulness—beyond the simple etiquette of responding to someone’s generosity—is different. That does not come easily for many of us. It’s kind of like exposing yourself, your vulnerability. It often involves trying to tiptoe around some unresolved issues that stand in the way. It sometimes involves fear. Conveying your appreciation might lead to a long awkward silence. It might turn you inside out. Or turn the one you’re thanking inside out. To communicate a genuine acknowledgment of sheer gratitude is to face all the ups and downs in the history of that relationship. And if the relationship is a complicated one, any response you get might send you racing from the room to hide in the nearest closet.

Here it is days away from Thanksgiving, the time we typically express our thanks. And not only should I NOT need this holiday to come forth with my gratitude, I should NOT be waiting until the ends of people’s lives to let them know they are appreciated.

So how do I do this? How do I deliver my heartfelt thanks to those who have treated me to-the-sky-and-back caringly, to the ones who might not be around when I finally figure out what I want to say, and find the courage to share it?

This post was originally going to be a note of gratitude to my mother. But writing about gratefulness, I got distracted and flew off on a tangent. Because my mother lives far away, and cannot hear me over the phone, and is not responding to emails, I wanted to briefly thank her here, as she’s my greatest fan. She gave me life. She carried me around, seeing to my welfare until I could take care (more or less) of myself.  And my mother is the one who not only taught me to say ‘thank you,’ she taught me to write letters when words were hard to find, or impossible to utter.


Happy Thanksgiving!


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6 thoughts on “Expressing Thanks

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Thank you, Robin. Another post from the heart. It still hurts that I didn’t know how to say goodbye to my dad–even though I was barely 14, even though no one held my hand or helped me get through the last time I saw him at the hospital. He was conscious and told me he loved me. I hope I said I love you, too, but I was in the Underworld of Grief somewhere, flailing around and drowning in tears. But I did tell him I loved him often before that no matter what I said that last hour and thanked my parents along the way (thank you mom for teaching manners). I still struggle with my neediness (that mother who can’t hear well on the phone is now me although I respond to emails and phone calls and texts). Have a peaceful weekend.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hey, Elaine. Thanks for allowing me to see my mother’s situation in a different light. Yes, that mother not able to hear phone conversations could be several more of my friends. It could be me one day in the not-too-distant future.
      I think your telling your dad you loved him often before his last breath is what counts. I wish I’d been able to do the same. My family just didn’t use those words. And as for the thanking, well, there was always a lot my parents gave me. There just wasn’t much affection – verbally, emotionally, physically. Sigh. Trying to deal with all that now as I realize my mom is not going to last forever. It doesn’t make it any easier that she doesn’t like talking about her dying or death in general. So I’m practicing now on a friend whose lifetime is limited. I can do this. Just not with my family, it seems. How very strange.
      Thank you for being out there, Elaine, and for being here for me.

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    Your posts have meant a lot to me over the years. I applaud the fact that you are still writing them. There is always something else to say.

    I think this year I will thank my two sisters. I know of too many families where sisters are not so close and cannot overcome the hurts of their pasts. Sisters are amazing. My daughter, who was not provided with a sister by me, has found that close-sister-bond in her sister-in-law, best friends since 1st grade. I am very happy for her.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yow, Lynne, What a neat story about your daughter. A best friend since 1st grade becomes a sister-in-law. Happy. And I thank YOU, Lynne. You have been a loyal reader and responder, and I really appreciate that. Somehow there’s always something to say, although I do often struggle to figure out a topic. I’ll take requests if you ever have any. Hard to believe I’ve been doing this since July 2012 and have never missed a Monday.

  3. Lucy Bergström

    Definitely thank a parent. Thank a teacher. Thank the minister or rabbi who held a moving speech for our dear departed. Thank the plumber/electrician/carpenter who fixes things (when they do finally show up) to keep our homes running. Thank the person who gives us a compliment, hard as that may be. Thank the person canvassing for the Red Cross or another charity. It takes such an effort to raise a child or to teach them in school, or any of the other things we do for each other. Thanksgiving is the signal to remember to be grateful, even if we take the kind and competent efforts of others for granted in our unwitting grace, granted by all these kindnesses. We would only feel it if it were missing from our lives. Imagine being at the bottom of the barrel, with no one to thank for kindnesses. That would be a heartless state!

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh, please, Lucy, don’t get me started about being at the bottom of whatever and not having anyone to thank. That is too terribly sad.
      I was mortified one time, as an adult, for forgetting to say thank you to someone for something very obviously needing to be recognized. After that, I made it a point to thank anyone and everyone – there was always something to thank someone for. Almost every time I say goodbye now I express my thanks. Automatically then, I come up with whatever I should not be forgetting. I’m aware of how great it feels to be appreciated, and I love being able to do such a simple small recognition that will make someone else feel great. On that note, thank you for spending time with me during your recent trip to Ithaca. And thanks for reading my blogs and responding. Love ya.


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