Funerals are the only social gathering I can think of in which people get together to mourn and share stories instead of celebrating with reckless abandon. The mood is reverent and somber with people speaking in muted tones instead of laughing and shrieking in glee. While many people will bring sympathy cards or flowers to a funeral, close friends and relatives may choose to send a different type of gift instead. Having gone to more funerals than I care to in my life, here is my list of 5 gift ideas that the surviving family will appreciate.
Money: Miss Manners says that requesting “money in lieu of a gift” is tacky, tacky, tacky and the well bred person would never come outright and ask for cash. Thus said, for families who are impoverished, are faced with a mountain of funeral debts and had neither life insurance nor burial insurance to draw from, a donation of money is a welcome gift. The monetary gifts our family received this past year were used to buy a headstone for our parents, something that otherwise we would not have been able to purchase for several years. If you are not sure that the family would accept money, call and ask if they can use a little bit of help paying for the funeral, floral casket arrangements, or some other small item.
Casseroles and meals for the family: Losing a loved way has a way of knocking out an appetite, and takes away one’s desire to cook. Bringing a couple of freezable casseroles over (plus desert!) for the family is a wonderful gift that will be very much appreciated. Do avoid the temptation to bring over a Super Mega Sized Costco meal unless the family is a large one.
Contributing to a Memorial: After our loved ones have been buried, some of us worry that perhaps they’ll be forgotten over time. Contributing to a permanent memorial such as a tree, park bench, or a bronze plaque is a wonderful way to honor the deceased.
Donate to a favorite charity: If the family themselves do not need money to help pay for the funeral expenses, ask if you can contribute to the deceased’s favorite charity instead.
Your attendance at the funeral: When I was much younger, I tended to avoid funerals, rationalizing to myself that “there would be too many people, I don’t have anything to wear, and no one will even know I’m there anyway.” While it’s true that the bereaved family might be a little dazed and grief stricken at the time, long after the funeral is over and the family can finally bring themselves to read the guest book, they’ll know right then and there who couldn’t be bothered to show up for the funeral. Funeral services exist to support the family, to bring closure to a loved one’s life, and to ensure that the deceased will be loved and remembered by his friends and family. If all you can afford to do is attend the funeral and pay your respects to the family, keep in mind that taking the time to say, “I’m sorry for your loss” and meaning it, is the best gift there is.