Best Mother's Day gift for someone whose mother has passed on?
April 25, 2010 2:48 AM   Subscribe

What can I get my mother who is grieving over her recently deceased mother for Mother's Day?

My grandmother, my mother's mother, died fairly suddenly over the Christmas holiday. While they weren't the closest of friends (my family is scattered all over the country and my mother and grandmother lived about a thousand miles away from each other and talked once a week), they had been closer in the past fifteen years or so and this came, obviously, as a pretty big blow to my mom. Particularly the suddenness. She's not inconsolable or anything, but she is pretty sad, and she was remarking to me the other day how cruel Mother's Day ads in the stores are for people without mothers, so I know she's kind of dreading the holiday.

I'm going to be visiting her around Mother's Day, in combination with other things I had to do in the area, which is a fairly significant expense, so I can't afford to spend a lot on a gift. I sat down tonight to get some flowers delivered on the actual day (boring, but she likes them), but then realized that it might mean more if I did something "for" her mother, so she would know someone was thinking of her and she's not sad all by herself. (I'll make my brother get the flowers.) What I've come up with so far:

1. Donation to the hospice where my grandmother died. (pro-constructive and needed, con-possibly too big a reminder of the absolute worst Christmas experience my family probably will ever have)

2. Donation to the cemetery association where my grandma was buried. (pro-possibly constructive, con-I'm not actually sure if they need money or not)

3. Paying for a small part of the gravestone, either in lieu of my mom's share, or in addition to. (pro-somewhat needed as she's still trying to get the money together, con-I don't know how she'll feel about it. I don't know if it will feel more like charity because my folks are kind of broke than a "gift"-like gesture.)

4. Donation to something else that my mom cares about, in my grandma's name. (pro-giving money is usually worthwhile, con-my mom doesn't have that many "causes" to give to, feel this might seem weird and disconnected, i.e. "Hey, I just donated $50 to the Humane Society in Grandma's name! Remember how she totally didn't care about them at all?")

5. Sending money to my aunt to put flowers on the grave (pro-nice gesture, con-possibly not the best use of money, especially because I think my aunt has already put some fake ones there.)

I really don't know. I'm trying to empathize, but I haven't ever lost one of my immediate family, so I don't really know what would be the best gesture to let my mom know that my grandmother's still loved and remembered. I'm kind of hoping someone here who's had to go through this chimes in with what they would have wanted/do want done on holidays like Mother's Day/birthday. It's not quite like other holidays, where the worst I can do is get a boring gift - I could very easily make her feel worse, and I don't want to do that.
posted by wending my way to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot to mention - I can't just ask my mom, because she'll probably say not to do anything and to save my money. (She's constantly worried about me running out of money, which is not really an issue.)
posted by wending my way at 2:53 AM on April 25, 2010

Could you get the scattered family members to write up stories about/memories of your grandmother? They could email them to you, or even tell you over the phone and write them down. And then you could collect them all, and make your mom a pretty book out of them. If your mom/the relatives have snapshots of your grandmother they especially love, you could include those too.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:04 AM on April 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

What about planting a flowering tree at your Mom's house in honor of your Grandmother? A Dogwood or flowering Cherry tree that will bloom year after year in the spring can be very symbolic of life's renewal cycle. Do the planting yourself with your Mom and it will make it more personal. Best wishes to you and your Mom.
posted by pamspanda at 3:26 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

If your grandma is buried far from your mom you could pay for "perpetual care" through the cemetary. It insures the grass is cut, leaves are swept off the grave, old flowers cleared away etc.
posted by Iteki at 3:57 AM on April 25, 2010

Do you have any old photos of your grandmother and small mementos--letters, jewelry, a knick knack--that belonged to her? Buy a small shadow box--Bed, Bath, and Beyond has them--and arrange a collage of the objects and photos in the box. Someone did this for me, and it's beautiful.
posted by Elsie at 4:48 AM on April 25, 2010

If you're already aware your mom doesn't want you to spend a lot of money on stuff, possibly anything that costs money is going to make her more uncomfortable than comforted.

If you're already going to be with her around Mother's Day, it sounds like your presence alone is what's going to console her the most. Things like making her breakfast or going for a long walk somewhere can go a long way. She may even want a break from talking or thinking about her mother, which was the case with me when my mother died. You can always do the gifting ideas later, when it's not so close to your grandmother's death. Sorry for yours and her loss.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:29 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe make this mother's day more about her? Then use some of the other ideas later?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:47 AM on April 25, 2010

I'm not a mother, but I've lost my mother. So, take my advise with a grain of salt.

Death makes you think of things like, the passage of time, the comfort of shared memories, the strength of families, the things that are truly important. Your mother might be thinking of the ways her mother shaped her life, the wonderful things she did, the sacrifices she made. Your grandmother contributed much to making your mother who she is -- and your mother, in turn, contributed much to making you who you are. These things flow through generations.

Think for a few minutes what those things are. What personality traits shine through, from grandmother to mother to you? What sacrifices were made by your grandmother, and by your mother, that have put you in a good position in adulthood? What memories do you cherish?

Was there a favorite meal of yours, that your mother did not particularly like but always fixed for you because you liked it... and thus you learned to be thoughtful of others? Did your mother teach you life lessons like, save money and do well in school, which has put you in a better situation than previous generations? Was there a time when the world seemed to crash down, and your mother did something that gave you strength and perspective, and which taught you that you do have a core of strength inside you, which you can always rely on?

Write those memories down as little stories, each within its own paragraph. Then at the top, write "Dear Mom," and at the bottom write, "Love, wending my way". Put it in an envelope, and deliver it on Mother's Day, and spend that day with her.
posted by Houstonian at 7:35 AM on April 25, 2010

My late grandmother liked Snoopy and always sent my mom (and pretty much everyone else) Snoopy cards for holidays. Since she died, on Mother's Day I always seek out a Snoopy card for my mom so that tradition continues at least a little. Was there something like that that your grandma always did for your mom, or a special thing they had together, or an inside joke?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:45 AM on April 25, 2010

I think I would steer away from making your mother's Mother's Day about her mother. I would do what you usually do, just in a bit more low-key way. Meaning, still get your mom the flowers, have the visit, etc., but if you want to do something to honor your grandmother's memory & your mom's relationship with her, save it for another time. Certainly, be mindful that it's bound to be on your mom's mind, and maybe ask her sometime during that weekend if she feels like talking about your grandmother and sharing some stories about the good times they had. If she doesn't, just let her know the willingness to listen is always there, and then move on to something else.

People grieve in very different ways, and even then, their approach can shift from day to day, heck, even moment to moment. Your mom may want to focus on her mom on this occasion, or she may want to focus on anything but. Neither one of you will really know until it's actually Mother's Day, but be flexible, go with the flow, and give your mtom the opportunity to express what she wants and needs and hen, do that. You're a good daughter to be concerned, and seeing that compassion and love in & of itself will be a huge gift to your mom.

Oh, and unfortunately, I do have experience with this. My dad died when I was twelve. I've definitely had my moments of hating all the Father's Day promotions and reminders. I've also had years when it hasn't made a whit of difference. It's unpredictable and irrational, but that's grief. When you're mourning, what matters the most is that the people you love realize it may or may not be a difficult time, and are willing to follow your lead without making it a huge deal, if that makes sense.
posted by katemcd at 3:07 PM on April 25, 2010

Did your grandmother have a favorite flower? My best friend's mother died just a few days before mother's day. Her favorite flower was lilacs, so for my BF's baby shower that next May I put a centerpiece of lilacs in the middle of the table -- sort of a way for her mom to be there. She knew exactly why I did it and was very touched. This year I plan to give her a lilac bush -- she just moved into a new house. It may seem morbid to some, but since my BF is very flower/garden oriented, as was her mom, it is a nice way to keep her mom in mind with something living and growing.
posted by mdiskin at 6:13 PM on April 25, 2010

Planting a tree or a flowering perennial - something your grandmother liked? Shortly after my grandma passed, I gifted my mom with a framed picture of my grandma (the gooooofiest picture ever, that we all just loved because it was so 'her') for her, and she cried but she loved it - YMMV (your mom may vary).
posted by ersatzkat at 4:39 AM on April 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I talked to my mom last night, and I think it might be too soon for most reminders. I'm going to wait until later to see what I can get together as far as quirky stories and pictures, maybe for next year, and just try to cheer her up this year with coffee and clothes shopping and the like.
posted by wending my way at 4:05 PM on April 26, 2010

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