Talking with my Dead Daughter

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops her image in campfire flames along with photos from an exhibit of wildlife-up-close by Fingerlakes PhotographersI admit it – I talk to my dead daughter. It’s a lot easier to say this now that I’ve found I am not the only person talking to a dead loved one.
Moreover, she talks back.
“Get this one,” Marika said two months ago, when I was paging through a Garnet Hill mail order catalog to buy my birthday gift “from her.” It was a flame red dress with a floral design. Not exactly my style, but it was red. She had always bought me something red for my birthday, a red sweater, scarlet capris, red woolen socks.
“That dress is on back order,” the sales operator said when I called. “It won’t arrive until late June.” That seemed like a long time to wait. I ordered it anyway because it was the one Marika chose.

The package came earlier than predicted. The red dress was in my mailbox on the day of the campfire celebrating my friend’s husband’s life. I considered wearing it for the campfire. Whenever Marika had new clothes, she’d put them on immediately.
“No, it’ll be too buggy and cold tonight,” I told her as I tried the dress on. It fit, and felt perfect.

I wore the dress the next evening at the Hospicare and Palliative Care Services Luminaria Lighting where I volunteered as a “goodnighter,” seeing guests off as the sun set and the white paper bags with lit candles lined the walkways.
“Mom, can we take my bag home?” she asked after the ceremony.
“How will I find yours? There are hundreds of luminarias.”
It was dark. I walked alone.  The hem of my dress swept the path when I bent to read the labeled bags. I found it.

I wore the dress the evening after, at the Fingerlakes Photographers’ opening for the exhibit, A Closer Look: Independaent Visions of the Natural World, at Damiani Wine Cellars. It was my first time exhibiting three of my photos in a show. In my flame red dress I found Marika’s courage, and faced the crowd, proud of my new endeavors.

“Thanks, Mareek. What do you think?” I said before and after each event as I twirled around in the dress before Marika’s life-size portrait, my inherited dog dancing at my side. Talking to her is one way I keep my daughter in my present time. I will not allow Marika to be merely a part of my past.


How do you keep the ones you love, and thought you lost, in your current life?

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12 thoughts on “Talking with my Dead Daughter

  1. SusanB

    I like your conversations with your girl. Maybe it’s been too long since I last heard my son’s voice – 15 years and my imagination stalls because tears get in the way. But I can see him as he was before he got sick and I remember how we couldn’t imagine that he wouldn’t live to be an old man. I still shake my head and can hardly believe he died, even after 15 years; 3 years longer than he was alive. “I’m so sorry,” I say to his image, the one where he is smiling without showing his teeth because he has braces and thought he looked dorky. “I can hardly wait to see you again.” He once took my face into his hands after he’d done something. He was preparing to tell me but asked me first if I could please not be mad. Now, he does the same with a little boy hand on each cheek and I hear him say, “Mom. Don’t be sad.”

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Susan, I’m so glad you can still see Nicholas’ face from before he got sick. This is something I cannot do with my daughter. Someone told me I’d forget the sick, tired, pale images of my daughter’s face and remember her the way she was before. Okay, it’s been only 4 years as compared to your 15, but that hasn’t happened yet. It sounds like Nicholas was a really sweet guy. I love that message, “Mom, don’t be sad.” Marika’s message to me is, and has always been, “Mom, get a life.” Sometimes, no matter how impossible it seems, we both need to heed our children’s messages.
      Interesting how you just reminded me of when I talk to my daughter’s life-size photo, I put a hand on each cheek on the photo. I guess it’s a universal way of getting someone to listen. Hugs.

  2. Elaine Mansfield

    Beautiful, Robin. I love watching you dance with Marika.
    I’m sorry I missed you in that dress. Congratulations on the exhibit. I wasn’t feeling well opening night but plan to go down and see your photographs.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thanks, Elaine. The opening was well attended. It was definitely fun. But every time I go to Damiani’s I think of that beautiful evening of your book launch, and meeting Vic’s mother, and watching you shine. I got 3 photos accepted to the TC library show. It’s a lot farther from you but it starts June 19th and will be there all summer long. So next time you visit the library …

  3. Lynne Taetzsch

    Robin, I love the way Marika is still part of your life, and understand it completely. I also love the way photography has blossomed for you. Congratulations on being in the Damiani exhibit.

    Adrian is still here with me in many ways, especially in my dreams at night. It’s a comfort.


    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh Lynne, you are so lucky to have Adrian in your dreams. There was some (Shakespearean?) thing about sleeping with wildflowers under your pillow to dream about your loved one’s face. I wish there was something I could do to be able to dream about my daughter more often. I can talk to her and hear her voice and even feel her presence at times. But I cannot summon her to my dreams.
      Thank you, thank you.

  4. Kimberly ryan

    Love this piece Robin, thank you. I love what you say about not allowing Marika to become a part of your past, that is so affirming. I vow to do the same for our Matthew.

  5. Carole LaTour

    I do the same Robin. Talk to my son. I love the gifts he picks out for me. I even listen to his advice. We also tell each other we love you. Every day. He is in my present, he moves forward with me, into our future.

    Keep on writing Robin. You inspire, you validate, you know….

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      It is so great to hear this, Carole. Not too many years ago, no one would admit to this. I love how we can now be open about keeping ALL our loved ones close. Thank YOU for inspiring and validating me.


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