The guide to giving a thoughtful condolence gift

My phone vibrated and even before I looked at the screen, I had a bad feeling. I  took a deep breath and answered. It was my uncle letting me know that the matriarch of our family, his bride of 60+ years had died. He sounded defeated, small.  I was standing in the produce aisle holding an avocado as the tears rolled down my cheeks. I asked if he was with his kids and he said yes, he was good.  It was agonizing to learn that the funeral was the next day. It would be impossible to fly to Pennsylvania from Seattle in time for the service. I sent my love and reluctantly, sadly hung up. I checked out, drove home and sat at my desk with L, going over flights. There was no way I could make it home to the east coast in time.

The next morning I said a prayer for Aunt J and her family and I wondered how I could best express my sorrow/gratitude for having had such a remarkable woman in our family. While I would typically make a meal or bring flowers over to a bereaved friend, this instance left me befuddled. At 90, my uncle didn't need flowers. A mass card would be for Aunt J's soul, not for my uncle. What could I send that would extend our condolences? I decided to ask my friends.

God bless them. Here are their suggestions:

  • A memory lamp
  • Gift cards to a local favorite restaurant
  • Photos of us (Aunt J, Uncle R and I) that I could frame along with a note of a favorite memory
  • A glassybaby in a color to remember the deceased or in a color called Remember
  • A month's worth of notes mailed each day for 30 days
  • A story or poem about their love for each other
  • A memory tree
I loved all of these ideas. I especially liked the restaurant gift card idea. As my friend Carin said "Eating alone stinks and this way, even if he's alone, he may bump into someone he knows." I remember when my grandfather died, the last thing my grandmother wanted to do was cook. Even if the bereaved isn't up to actually dining out alone yet, he or she can still order take out and have a warm meal. 

The most important thing is to do something, even a simple card.  If you don't know the deceased well, in a case where you may only know the bereaved, a card sent to their home a week or so after their loss can mean the world. If you don't know what to say, here are some sentiments that can help get your support across. 

"Wherever you are you will always be in my heart." - Gandhi

"May God comfort your grieving heart."

"Hold onto the love, not the loss."

If it is the loss of a baby, this phrase is beautiful. (It provided immense comfort to me when I lost my baby.)

"How very quietly you tiptoed into our world, silently, only a moment you stayed. But oh, what an imprint your footprints have left upon our hearts."

And for the loss of a pet: 

"Grieve not. nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk of me as if I were still beside you. I loved you so. . .
Twas heaven here with you."

Grief is a terrible thing. The only thing that helps alleviate it, even for a moment, is knowing that you have support around you. As I wrote this, I think of Uncle R and how his life has become something he doesn't know. I pray that he is surrounded with people who love him and who can make him laugh with the stories of Aunt J. That is what matters, isn't it? The memory of the love that stays until we embrace again.

inspiration # 732: temptation

This morning, my mind knew that I was starting a new healthy eating program but still I opened the fridge and reached for the fake coconut creamer, the kind that is all full of fat, sugar and oil. It is my downfall. It is my weakness. I know that if I start the day with this favorite creamer in my coffee, that I'm then set up for failure. The sugar/fat combo hits my system and I just crave more of it throughout the day. The creamer leads to a muffin which leads to mac & cheese which leads to a hit to my self-confidence and my health.  From the success I've had in the past, I know that if I resist this temptation, I can resist almost every other temptation during the day and each time I resist, I feel stronger which helps me to resist other tempting things. 

It's 10:09am and so far, I feel good about the day. I poured the fake creamer and all its delicious fakeness down the drain. I resisted temptation #1 and I feel strong and committed about the rest of the day. 

I hope that whatever your temptation is (a cigarette, texting in the car, an ex, a donut. . .) that with every instance of rejecting that temptation, that you build on that self-confidence knowing that you are becoming the best possible you.

I believe in you!

positive messages every day

I was having breakfast with one of my best friends last week. She couldn't decide what she wanted to order. Her brow was furrowed as she stared at the menu. I asked her what was wrong. She said "I have my period. I hate myself. I feel ugly. I want to order everything on this menu but I feel like people would judge me." I laughed because she was right. It would be lovely if when you have your period, someone would deliver your favorite comfort foods with a note attached saying "You can do this! You're pretty! You're strong! Here, have some potato chips slathered in chocolate!"

Later as I was driving home, I thought "What if a little comfort was yours every time you opened a feminine product?" Right there on the pad or tampon, in big letters were words of encouragement. I love that idea.

If this is your special time of the month / aunt Flo is visiting / your bill came due, may you know just how strong and beautiful and kind you are. And order the blueberry pancakes. They work magic.

happy things: ten scents you miss from your childhood summers

Yesterday when I was ironing a shirt, I had the faintest whiff of that hot t-shirt shop smell. I was taken back to that scent that oozed out of boardwalk t-shirt shops when I was a kid. I loved that  cloying, almost burnt scent when the cute teen boy a couple of years older than you, wearing a Locals Do It Best t-shirt would hold down the handle of the t-shirt press and you knew that in just two minutes, your new pink cap-sleeved t-shirt featuring a glittery rainbow over a beach would be yours to treasure forever.  I would inhale that hot fresh chemical decal-on-a-t-shirt smell and be ridiculously happy. That scent is part of my history, and it must be important to me because even the faintest hint of it makes me smile.

I thought of how powerful our scent memory is and researched why exactly certain smells elicit such strong responses. Scientists at Brown University discovered a strong tie between autobiographical memory and smell at the neural level. In short, specific smells create vivid emotional memories. For example, smelling the perfume your mother wore when you were little elicits a much different response than simply saying the name, Jean Nate.  (Learn more here.)

What scents make you happy? What reminds you of those summer when you were carefree and ran around with as little clothes as possible? Here are my top ten scents that bring me right back to childhood and those lazy, wonderful, innocent days of happy.

Monday's happy video

When I start to feel myself getting in a bad mood, one thing to get me out of the funk is to watch a happy video. This one, of news anchors laughing, is one of my favorites. The Today Show anchor at 23 seconds in is my favorite. His reaction to Grumpy Cat is everything.

Happy Monday!