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Now is the Time to Appreciate the People Who Have Helped You

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” -James Allen

Recently, my mom told me that my beloved piano teacher had passed on. She had reached a high age and died peacefully in her sleep. This news, delivered to me via Facebook, hit me harder than I could have prepared myself for.

Sitting there in front of my computer, I remembered the circumstances of my meeting her. Originally, it was because my sister wanted to learn how to play piano.

It was by pure chance that I decided to go with her for her first lesson and I instantly fell in love with the teacher. She was the same age as my grandma, which was great because back then younger people terrified me. We hit it off right away.

I must have been around thirteen years old back then and I was in a really dark place of my young life. My eating disorder, which I had developed at the age of about ten, was starting to get more serious.

I lost weight rapidly and my exercising got out of hand. I was a shadow of myself and I was terribly insecure and weary of life.

Spending one hour a week with this unusually large, brilliant lady was like my sanctuary. When I closed the door of her tiny piano room, I knew I was in a safe place.

She listened to me when no one else did. If I showed you my piano skills today, you’d agree with me that we probably talked more than we practiced playing. Being with her was like the counseling I desperately needed.

I treasured each and every moment with her. I was more open to her about my anorexia, about my problems with the family, and my terrifying fear of my brother than I had ever been with somebody else. I trusted her. No matter how caught up I was in my illness, I never skipped a lesson.

Then, I went to the US and our ways separated. Over the years, I would hear frequent updates of how she was doing and I would send her the occasional letter.

When driving by her house, I would make a mental note to schedule some time for a visit sometime in the future. I never did.

My piano teacher had often told me that she had seen the vulnerability in my eyes and my posture when we first met. She saw that I was a broken soul and she knew that she was there to guide me and to help me through some of the hardest years of my life.

She gave me love when I needed it, without me having to ask for it. She wanted to take me under her wings and she did.

During those years, I was too young to understand the capacity of her love for me. But as the years went by, long after I had stopped taking lessons, I began to understand, and yet, I never thanked her in the way she deserved. I always allowed life to get in the way.

Why do we do that?

Why does the urgent so very often overshadow the important?

Why does the brain overrule the heart so many times?

Why do we choose the wrong path just because it seems more convenient at the time?

Is it life itself? Is it that we’re just too busy? Is it because we don’t know any better? Is this just pure selfishness?

Let’s face it; we could all do better, right?

I had so many chances, so many opportunities to see her, but I never made it happen. I mean, I have the best excuse: I was sick, terribly sick. So, it wasn’t really a choice, right?

While that is true, there have been weeks in the past ten years when I was doing okay. Had I made an effort, I would have been able to visit her for an hour or two.

Yet, I thought that there would always be a tomorrow, a better occasion, a day when things were not so stressful and life would be less busy and complicated.

However, as we all know, tomorrow is not guaranteed.

And it is tragic to see that it takes the death of someone you genuinely loved to make you realize the importance of acting today.

There is no excuse for not expressing your feelings to your loved ones today. There is no excuse for not saying thank you today. There is no excuse for not taking ten minutes of your time to call someone who needs you.  There is no excuse not to forgive someone who sincerely apologizes right now.

There is simply no good reason to postpone the important until tomorrow.

Knowing that I never told her how grateful I was for what she had been doing for me breaks my heart. Knowing that she will never hear how important she was in keeping me from going down the deep end is unforgivable.

The impact that she had on my life cannot be underrated. Not only did she save me from drowning many times, she also shared with me the wisdom she had gathered throughout her lifetime.

I remember sitting next to her in front of her piano soaking in every word she shared with me. And I cannot help but think of all the wisdom I missed by never visiting her again.

Maybe this knowledge would have prevented me from making the mistake of putting her out of my mind one too many times?

Maybe, maybe not. One thing I am certain of, however, is that she would have been delighted to see me again. She would have been moved to tears to see my husband for the first time.

She would have loved to see the woman I have come to be. And she would have deserved to know that I am recovering and doing so much better. The sparkle in my eyes should have been reflected in hers.

Appreciate the people who help you, who are there for you, who see that you are vulnerable and who don’t just look away. Appreciate them today and act on it.

This is your opportunity to do it—right now, while there’s time.

Photo by Kissa

Avatar of Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

About Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

Anne - Sophie Reinhardt is a world traveler, an anorexia survivor, podcaster, blogger, digital entrepreneur, speaker, wife, aspiring yogi and social media enthusiast. Her blogs My Intercontinental Life and Fighting Anorexia are focused on everybody who wants to live a purposeful, free, healthy and passionate life.

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  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Dear Lori, 

    thank you for letting me share this important message with your incredible readers. I hope that many will find this article useful and that it will help them appreciate the people who surround them on a deeper level. 

  • Bubblybryony

    Hey, it seems to me she gave unconditionally, she did not require gratitude or thanks, she just wantd to help ease the pain of your journey (damn eating disorders, difficult journeys indeed) and I am sure she knows she did that. I am not saying that thanks are bad – thanks, gratitude, is brilliant, and we all need ot learn to express thanks whenever we can, especially for those who truly touch our hearts.. What I am saying is that beating yourself up over not explicitly thanking her is counter active to what she did for you and not what she would want. She would have known she was needed, and that she was helping, that would have been sufficient.  It might be beneficial to write her a letter that expresses what a wonderful impact she had on your life even if you just burn it.  Good luck with everything. 

  • http://toliveinspired.wordpress.com/ Heather

    Beautifully put, thank you for the reminder. I found helpful to write a letter to the person,ther person who passed and express my heart. Believing it would reach them on some level

  • Nancy

    Great message!  About two years ago, one of my favorite aunts passed away.  During my crazy and traumatic childhood, she had been a constant in my life and tried very hard to include me in many of her family traditions and attempt to fill the gaps in some of the areas where I so greatly lacked.  She was my mother’s sister and although she was always extremely supportive of my mother, I know she completely understood my pain.  Approximately six months before her passing, it was heavy on my heart that I needed to let my aunt know how grateful I was to her and thank her for all she had done for me.  I even sat down to write her on a few occasions, but allowed myself to get distracted and life to get in the way.  Needless to say, I was so sad when she passed that I had let this awareness of something I needed to do go by without taking action.  Of course, it is things like this that we cannot change, but rather learn from them and use that knowledge to better our lives and the lives of others.  I decided to write that letter anyway and sent it on to my cousin, her eldest daughter.  I explained to her that I wanted someone close to my aunt to know how I really felt about her and how grateful I was to her.  Needless to say, my cousin was touched and very happy to receive that note.  It was a valuable lesson for me and that is what life is all about…learning, growing and sharing!  :-) 

  • Tratz59

    Hi If you believe… I’m sure she knows,  and she is always going to be watching over you, she sounds like an angel on earth, and that does not change when we die. We are blessed to have them come into our lives ! You were blessed  

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    This was so heartfelt and honest that it made me teary.  I completely understand your regret about not visiting your piano teacher to formally thank her, but I agree with other commenters here who said that she already knew.  I do think we can all take your story to heart, though, and make an extra effort to thank the people who mean so much to us – it can never heart to make sure they know while we have the chance to tell them.

    So touching to read about this wonderful person and how deeply she touched you.  You have come through a lot of adversity with strength and openness – thank you for sharing this here and best wishes to you!

  • Bubblybryony

    was thinking about this earlier. I think gratitude, primarily, is about the person feeling it. That is, the reason why it is such a positive emotion that needs expression is because of what it opens up in the person expressing it. So to learn to give gratitude is far more about self growth than anything else. So the reason why we must all practice gratitude whenever we can is so that we can grow as people. To the perosn on the receiving end gratitude is lovely, but it does not have the same, almost spiritual, component that the person expressing it may feel. That is probably why so many religions say grace etc – it is not really about the universal spirit/god whatever- god does not require gratitude, if he exists he loves unconditionally and always – it is because to express gratitude is so good for ones own soul. So let go of the regret and take this as just one more helping hand from your lovely piano teacher, and express gratitude whenever you can ;)

  • Bubblybryony

    gratitude opens us up to all the universe has to offer. Regret does the exact opposite. 

  • Connie

    I wanted to make sure I responded to your post today. With all the running around today, I’m finally settled and able to respond.

    To me, your teacher came as a teacher and an angel in human form to help guide you. People are sent to you when you need them for whatever circumstance. She helped guide you until you could literally fly on your own. The lessons she taught you also made you into the woman you are today. There have been people in my life who have been there for me and at times when life was beyond unbearable, they lifted and supported me, they literally appeared as if being sent.

    Try not to let the guilt consume you because that will not be beneficial. I really do believe she knows how much she meant to you and that you are forever grateful. I also believe she sees how your life has unfolded and is proud.

    I try my best to thank people when I can and send Thank You cards to let them know I’m thankful for their kindness.

  • http://www.madlabonline.blogspot.com TheMadlabPost

    Your message reminds me of a mentor of mine who passed away before I could get an opportunity to study under him again and the sad thing is only then did I realize how many opportunities I already had to meet with him and I never did because much like with your piano teacher, I always thought there would be another day and another time to reach out and show appreciation….it is hard when realizing that it’s too late, due to the death of someone.

  • Flexprogress

    Thank you for sharing this moving story it has certainly given me the wake up call i need to put the urgent things on hold while i take care of the important things im sure your teacher would have understood that sometimes life gets in the way of living

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1128236262 Travis James Holasek

    Thank you for sharing. I am like you and always think, “hey, I need to get back and thank that person for what they did for me”, but something always comes up. I’ve made it a habit that when one of these thoughts arise, I quickly make a voice note (thanks to current technology it reminds me until I complete it and erase it from the notes) I think it is important to share our gratitude for those who touched us while on our journey. Thank you again for reminding me to do this. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Hi! I am still on the fence of whether I believe or not, but I agree with you that she was an angel on this earth and she was such an amazing influence and I will forever hold her in my memory. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Being the incredible person she is, she would have understood, but sometimes we need to do what’s right and, like you said, stopped doing what’s urgent and start doing what’s important. I am glad you took this message to heart, even though it is so difficult at times to simply stop and think about a better way to spend your time. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Hi, this is a really interesting perspective and something I honestly had not thought of it that way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Nancy, I love that you took the proactive approach and despite having missed the chance to tell your aunt how grateful you where, you sent it to your daughter. I am certain that your cousin will never forget this action and it will show her another aspect of her mom. Really love it. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    I love the idea of putting your thought down before something more urgent comes up. This gives you the chance to get back to it later when you have more time. I have started the habit of writing myself emails. I do not like my inbox to be too full, so I know that I will eventually get to that task just to delete the mail. :)

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    I agree, it is hard, but I believe it is a learning moment and we can take that wisdom and make some changes in order to not make the same mistakes again. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Hi Heather, 

    I love this idea. I will be sure to set some time aside in the next days in order to write that letter. Even just writing this post has helped me a lot in expressing how I feel and how my heart ticks. Writing is a powerful act, isn’t it?

  • http://droppingtheact.blogspot.com/ Taryn

    This post comes at the perfect time. I was just thinking about how I wanted to show my gratitude to the people that are most important in my life (past and present) and this post has now given me the push I need to follow through.

    I’m sorry to hear that your piano teachers passed away before you got a chance to really thank her. But now this post will help me to thank the people I want to thank before it’s too late.

    Thanks for sharing your lesson! :)

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Hi Taryn, 

    I am so excited to hear this gave you a push to show your gratitude. Sometimes we just need a little reminder, right? 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Hi Connie, 

    thanks so much for your comment. Yes, I too believe that people are sent to us whenever we need them and cannot cope alone anymore. I am so glad to hear you have had such people in your life. Sometimes we just need to lean on others to make it through. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Alannah, 

    thanks for this wonderful comment. Yes, that is what I wanted to do with this message: to open our eyes and make us be aware of giving gratitude and thanking people sooner rather than later. You never know when your last chance will be, right?

  • http://www.motivationmy.com/ Syaf | motivationmy.com

    This story reminds me of my Literature teacher when I was in High School around a decade ago. Been years since I emailed me (plus, we live in two different countries) but luckily we are connected on Facebook. Went thru his Facebook and he is still the same (I think he is around his 80s now). Just said Hi to him and it felt great. It’s definitely good to keep in touch with people who have shaped the person that you are to do. Expressing gratitude is highly recommended! :D

  • Kismet12

    this is the first time i got a post from little buddha,,i really enjoyed reading it,,it made me think,,it teaches me the meaning of life and what,s really important,,!!,thank you,,

  • http://nochnoch.com/ Noch Noch | be me. be natural.

    thanks Anne Sophie
    Great to read your intelligence again :)Thanks for reminding us to show appreciation
    Noch Noch

  • http://www.vitalcollective.com/ Jesse

    I appreciate the encouragement to act in gratitude with those I love and regard. I have a close family member dealing with what might be a life-ending illness and I struggle with how best to share and assert my feelings, wishes, hopes, and empathy. Thanks for sharing yours.

  • BeachBum

    It seems the piano teacher is continuing to bless you with the chance to learn & move forward wisely. I hope you will be able to forgive yourself one day. Sharing your experience is a wonderful way to help others and to honor her memory.

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Thank you so much. Yes, she is definitely still blessing me and I am working on the forgiving part. This is experience has definitely helped me not to wait anymore to express my gratitude and to take the time for all the important things in life. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Hi Jesse, 
    I am sorry to hear about your family member. I think that simply stating your feelings in any way is best. When you like to write, maybe writing a heartfelt letter will help. When you rather talk, then have an earnest conversation. Whatever it is you feel comfortable with is the best way to do it. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Awe, thank you, Noch Noch. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    Hi Syaf, 

    that is awesome! Being proactive about it and just doing the little acts of gratitude is great. Yes, keeping in touch with those you have helped you along the way is amazing and goes a long way. 

  • Cr8tiveStarlight

    Hi, I can relate to this post. I have a similar story where I had a grand aunt who took care of my when I was little. As life gets in the way, I didn’t get the chance to express my appreciation for all the life lessons she taught me as I was growing up. The day it hit me was when I heard she went to hospital, so I went to visit her. I discovered when I got there that she also had dimentia.. As I approached her, I asked if she recognised me, expecting a glimmer of hope she would. She looked at me blankly confused – my heart broke. So I agree that you should thank those who have helped you in life no matter how big or small they did.

  • Repay Someday

    A great way let someone know they are appreciated is to make a pledge for them at http://www.RepaySomeday.com It will a wonderful way to let someone know they are a great person, have positively impacted someone and are very much appreciated.