How do you thank someone for an extraordinary act?
June 11, 2009 7:32 PM   Subscribe

What do you do for someone who has saved your child's life. Literally.

I'm looking for a thoughtful way to thank two complete strangers who saved our teenager's life. I know nothing about them except their names and addresses. They do not live near me. I have already nominated them for a heroism award, which they very much deserve, but I have no idea if they will actually get it.

If you had done such a thing, what would be a meaningful thank you?
posted by clarkstonian to Human Relations (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I think a heartfelt, spoken thanks, followed up by a handwritten note, would be plenty.
posted by jayder at 7:34 PM on June 11, 2009

A note would be lovely.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:36 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know this isn't very specific, but honestly, something that you and your kid made together would be really thoughtful. If it were me I wouldn't just go and buy something.
posted by hipersons at 7:37 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I write irregular letters both to the guy who saved my life and to the guy who found my wallet [different situations] just saying "Thanks"

To the guy who saved my life, I tell him a little more about what I'm up to and how thankful I am that basically I'm not dead.

You might want to write an awesome letter to their local paper, dedicate a book/plaque/chair in their local public library to them, send a note to their folks (if they are young themselves) saying how wonderful their children are or something similar. I think for most do-gooders, knowing they've saved a life is its own reward in many ways and I'd find something that seemed to "reward"-ish might just seem like it didn't convey as much gratitude as you really felt.
posted by jessamyn at 7:38 PM on June 11, 2009 [29 favorites]

Yeah, I think Jessamyn has the key. If you want to do something beyond just a thanks-filled letter, it should be something to honor their heroism, not reward it.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:40 PM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

It might also be nice if you could every now and then going forward still remember them and acknowledge the things they made possible. For example, send a note and a picture when your kids graduate from high school, get married, have kids, etc. and tell them how grateful you are that your kids are around to do these things.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:52 PM on June 11, 2009 [6 favorites]

It's REALLY insightful for you to ask what would be meaningful. I wish I could answer anonymously because I really don't like tooting my own horn, but I've been in a couple of situations like this.

I've had hugs and thanks at the scene and nothing after. I was totally OK with that. My greatest reward was that I was at the right time and place and was able to help. That in itself is a big deal and I hope that it comes back to me when my family ever needs help.

If you really feel the need, send a note or a card. I'm sure that anything as simple as that would be greatly appreciated.
posted by snsranch at 8:04 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would add: since you have already made a nomination for a heroism award, perhaps a further gesture, like those suggested, would be more meaningful some four or five months from now. It would let the heroes know that you are still thinking of them.
posted by yclipse at 8:11 PM on June 11, 2009

It would be neat if there was a book dedicated in their memory at the library. My parents live on a quiet, leafy street with a little foot traffic and a few years ago they bought a little park bench and installed it in their front yard under a pretty little tree, close enough to the street to make it obvious that it was to share with everyone. It is very attractive, and people often sit in the bench in the summers.

You could buy a bench and get a small engraved brass plate, dedicating it to them/heroes/their Mom. But really, a nice letter now and then as Jessamyn suggests and a book is probably great.

Inquiring minds want to know what happened?! I'm also curious to hear Jessamyn's story if either of you would care to share.../derail
posted by arnicae at 8:25 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

arnicae, you may want to look at this earlier post by clarkstonian.

But if you're up to it, clarkstonian, and have a minute, I think many of us have been thinking of your daughter and wondering how she's doing.
posted by palliser at 8:42 PM on June 11, 2009

Response by poster: Palliser, we're 7 weeks into it - 6 weeks to go until the next CT scan and we see how she's healed and find out if the body brace can come off. Still a lot of pain, a lot of tears, not much sleep. She's definitely healing some. Progress is very, very slow, but it's real.We're starting to pick up the pieces. Thanks to Mefi, we now kind of have the insurance taken care of. The advice was very helpful. At a time like this, it's hard to think clearly, or even know what day of the week it is. I appreciate the support.
posted by clarkstonian at 9:17 PM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

My brother saved someone's life and that someone's parents have sent him a Christmas card every year in the decades since. The simple thank you repeated is pretty powerful. In many ways he has forgotten all about that day, but they keep reminding him how much his action meant to someone else.
posted by caddis at 9:30 PM on June 11, 2009 [16 favorites]

Thank you for the update. What a hard, hard road you're on, but I can tell from your posts that you have your eye on the ball: your daughter's health and well-being. So glad to hear she's improving, even if gradually. Any support that can be offered in pixelated form is all yours.
posted by palliser at 9:33 PM on June 11, 2009

I'd say settle in for the periodic cards, seems more powerful. I'd skip the rewards, but a book dedication seems nice.

If any individuals involved are police, fire, park services, EMTs, military, boyscouts, etc., then you might write an "organizational" thank you letter to their hospital, commanding officer, etc., but you've maybe already done this by the award nomination.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:43 AM on June 12, 2009

a friend's father's life was saved by two off-duty trauma nurses who happened to be next to him when he keeled over with a stopped heart. every year, he sends them both flowers.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:01 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

You don't explicitly mention whether the people who did the life saving were doing so as part of their jobs or not (alternatively perhaps using specialist skills that they learnt as part of their job). If that happens to be the case then either thanking or donating to the organisation involved might be the best way to go. My experience has been that most people who save lives professionally like to keen relatively anonymous and attribute credit to the organisations they work forr. Saving the lives is the glamorous bit but there are a lot of other people behind the scenes who make this possible.
posted by rongorongo at 6:30 AM on June 12, 2009

I don't cry much. But Caddis's reply made me tear up. That is just awesome!
posted by nimsey lou at 10:53 AM on June 12, 2009

Oh wow, I just looked at your profile and realized I read your previous two questions about your daughter's condition. My thoughts are with you.
posted by radioamy at 1:11 PM on June 12, 2009

I send pizza to the ER people who took care of me on a regular basis.
posted by melodykramer at 3:43 PM on June 12, 2009

I'm nth-ing the advice given by caddis, jeffburdges, melodykramer, jessamyn, If I only had a penguin, rmd1023, etc. Definitely do the periodic contact over time. Nothing big, nothing too elaborate, but just a continual and casual contact. I send out cards and photos (about three times a year) to the people who helped my baby daughter, just to let them know how grateful I am and how their actions had such a lasting impact on our lives.

I heard back from one of them as to how much she loves seeing the photos of my daughter growing up over the years, and how out of all the families she's helped in her job, I'm the only one to do that. She told me that it really meant a lot to her.

I can't think of a better way to tell these people that helped your daughter that you are indeed eternally grateful to them.
posted by math at 7:47 PM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

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