Meaningful Memorial Gifts

Ideas for memorial gifts that are more than flowers or a donation.

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Original Post:

"I'm trying to think of something special beyond flowers or "donate here" to do for a friend who lost her mother. The funeral is in one state and memorial service in another (neither in NY) so planting a tree or buying a bench doesn't really work. Any ideas of things you've been part of or heard of that you could offer up?"




Meal delivery

"I've had meals delivered to the bereaved family...either a single meal or several of them can work. It's nice to be fed/nurtured when you're grieving. You can call a restaurant local to where they live."

"I was just going to suggest something similar.  After my father passed away, it was a real relief to have people take care of the hum drum of everyday life, especially as I had young kids to tend."


Find photos and make a card for a wallet:

"I lost my mom recently too and one thing I noticed was that we had NO pics of her, which is just so sad. Maybe you would do some sleuthing through FB and see if there were any that seemed worthy? If it's a format you like, Moo has the option to print business cards that have 1 static design on one side (maybe with a nice quote?) and unlimited options on the other. That way the person can tuck their favourite card away in a wallet. Artefact Uprising also has calendars this way I think. Hope it helps..."


If you know the deceased, a letter with memories:

"Did you know your friend's mother? If so, a letter with your memories of her mother would be welcome, I think."


Make an album or box for all the cards:

"If you know the people whose lives were touched by this person make an album of their words of how she touched them I really got tired of the "sorry for you loss" cards and loved the anecdotes people sent remembering my mother. Would have been so nice to have it all in one place rather than bits of paper/cards."


Send something in a few months:

"One thing I would mention is that the flowers and gifts that come after a loss like that can be overwhelming and start to run together and then they just stop and it's crickets as everyone gets back to normal life. I don't have a great alternate suggestion for a gift to send now, but maybe put something on your calendar for 3 months from now and send flowers then. A "thinking of you as you find your new normal" sort of thing is really meaningful."


Name something unusual:

"Depends on what your friend is like, but something unusually interesting might be to have a star named after her mother? If she's somewhere where you can actually see the stars at night it might be nice to be able to see it & think of her mother. Though I don't know how hard it is to find a star from the naming services."


Give to the local library:

"I always give a donation in the person’s name to the Brooklyn Public Library-- or you could donate to Library in family's home town."


Give to the local park:

"Friends and family recently donated for a tree to be planted in Prospect Park in my father's memory. It's through the Prospect Park Alliance. Donations are tax deductible."

"You can see the signs on new trees all over the park- planted in honor of something or in memory of someone.
I recently saw a sign of a tree planted in honor of a couple's 20th anniversary and another in honor of the birth of a baby. You work with the parks arborist on location and type of tree."


Follow what the family wishes:

"If you are stuck and can't think of something that feels as meaningful as you want it to be, follow the recommendations of the obituary/family wishes for now, i.e., "In lieu of flowers..." and plan to do something later."


Be a really good friend:

"When my mom died in 1/2012 I was so devastated and numb I don't remember much of the first month after her death.  You could help your friend through this numb period by cooking for her, offering to take her kids for a weekend day or an overnight, maybe do things like pick up dry cleaning, help with kid activities, take her car for oil change, etc...anything mundane that involves leaving the house.  I found myself sitting at work or at home feeling what could only be described as "blank" and not being able to think through/plan the everyday life stuff (or really even get much accomplished at home or work).
Since it is a very confusing and unproductive time after losing a mom, if you want your friend to fully experience/remember/feel better from/appreciate the memorial "gift" then wait a couple of months, or maybe on her mom's next birthday or the first anniversary of her death. That will make a greater impact and give you time to brainstorm and do some recon on what your friend would appreciate most.
We scattered my mom's ashes in the Pacific off of the CA coast about three months after she died--rented a boat and only included a few close relatives (4 people plus my husband), and only one person spoke.  It was so much better to wait because I probably wouldn't have experienced and internalized the process the same way. Watching her ashefall through the water and reflect the sunlight made me feel a sense of closure, peace, and that she had a good resting place.  Very low-key, yet very powerful.  (Let me know if you need more info on how to do this correctly but in a covert way to avoid permits and hassle.)
Now that a few years have passed since my mom died, it's a lot easier. There are a couple of people who still text or Facebook message me on her birthday or anniversary of her death, and this makes me happy because it shows people care and remember her. Hope this helps."


Related reading on Park Slope Parents:

Explaining Death to Children