In my career as a funeral director, I have experienced many unique questions and conundrums. However, I was most surprised to find out how much worry and stress a memorial gift can illicit. I even had a woman call the funeral home in the middle of the night to ask how much money to put into a mass card.
The thing that must be stressed with regard to a memorial gift or contribution is that the intention behind the gesture is what matters most, and your presence in the days, weeks, months, and years are what truly help a family move through their grief journey.
That said, if you still wish to send something, here are some ideas and guidelines.
Flowers – Sending flowers is a common tradition. You’ll need to decide between cut flowers, a plant, or a dried arrangement. The type of arrangement you select depends on what you want the family to do with your flowers after the funeral. If you want something more permanent, a living plant or a dried design may work best. If you prefer live flowers, baskets of cut flowers are always useful for the family to press and dry out or to use as potpourri. Flower arrangements can follow a theme or address a passion the deceased had.
Food – Whether you are an expert cook or a stranger to the kitchen, you can still offer food as a gift to a family. Many people choose to make a comfort food style dish and drop it off in person at the family home or funeral home. If you don’t cook, determine when the family will be at the funeral home and supply something for them to snack on throughout the day. Checking with the family is always good idea. Beinhauer’s has a cafe and community room, and we always welcome food and drink to allow for a more comfortable stay for the family.
Monetary gift – A donation is another touching way to show the family you care. On the Beinhauer website, we offer a link to allow for an online donation to be placed in memory of the person who has died. A good benchmark when deciding how much to give is what you would give at a wedding for this person’s family. If you are very close, this could mean several hundred dollars, but if you are not so close, something under $100 is appropriate.
Help – Most families are overwhelmed in the days following a death. If you are unable to use any of the suggestions mentioned above, consider doing a specific task for the family. Don’t just say, “Call me if you need anything!” A good example is offering to tidy-up the home where the majority of the family is staying during the funeral, or caring for pets, cutting the grass, or washing the car. Another good idea is assisting with recording all the donations and flower cards and other gifts so that the family has less work to do when writing the thank you cards.
No matter which avenue you choose, the family will undoubtedly be thankful that you are thinking of them at such a difficult time. As the old adage goes, ‘It’s the thought that counts.’