How do I hold my friend's hand from across the country
August 16, 2011 7:20 AM   Subscribe

One half of a couple I consider good friends (I was in a band with both of them and deeply fond of them) passed away unexpectedly and tragically this past weekend. I'm on the opposite coast of the US so I can't be there in person. I want to send something to his now-widowed wife, but flowers seems so useless - any care package ideas?

If I was on the west coast I'd bring her lots of freezeable food and come by just to hug her and hold her hand, but I can't do that. I know that food is a big, important thing to get for people in this situation - also I am thinking I can easily put something in my calendar to send her something later, down the line, when all of the kerfuffle has died down. But what? Gift certificates to take-out places in her area? I can't think of much else. I turn to you, the gentle and wise mefites, to help me think of some ideas.
posted by pazazygeek to Human Relations (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Since you were such good friends, I'd say a personal, hand-written note would mean far more than any care package you could toss-together.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:23 AM on August 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Peapod grocery delivery?

Maybe order a bunch of frozen meals that she can just toss into the microwave. Not homemade, but quick, easy, and requiring little thought on her part. And practical.

Definitely couple this with something personal. And definitely send her something down the line.
posted by zizzle at 7:25 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Flowers aren't completely useless, because they can be a proxy for your presence at the funeral.

On top of that, having some (very good quality) pre-cooked meals delivered will probably help her a lot. There's a reason why it's traditional to inundate the chief mourners with food gifts - it's a way of making sure they keep their strength up.
posted by tel3path at 7:29 AM on August 16, 2011

Best answer: today, write all the big dates for them that you know on your calender (their birthdays, anniversary, his death day, etc). contact her in some way for the next couple of years on these dates - a simple note saying you're thinking of her, for instance. there's a lot of support the month after someone dies and there is very little the years after.

do you guys have mutual friends who are there? maybe you can call them and ask what's needed. it might be that her freezer is stuffed to overflowing already and that the friend knows she'd like a tree donated in his name or that they're all taking up a collection to help with the funeral costs, or whatever.
posted by nadawi at 7:30 AM on August 16, 2011 [13 favorites]

Best answer: How about making arrangements with a meal assembly/delivery place such as Let's Dish to fill her freezer, just like you would if you were visiting in person? I've done this for friends who are ill or new parents, and it's always well received.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:34 AM on August 16, 2011

Best answer: Photos with memories written out. Yes, they'll make her cry, but they are precious, precious, precious.
posted by Ys at 7:37 AM on August 16, 2011 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Arrange for a laundry service in a few days?
posted by vitabellosi at 7:46 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Flowers aren't so useless -- they are a symbol. Flowers with a thoughtful note from you, maybe followed up w/food delivery, would be my route. Whatever you do will be appreciated. I'm so sorry for your friend's loss.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:20 AM on August 16, 2011

Gift certificate for a masseuse that comes to her home? Or at a nearby spa?
Gift certificate for a couple visits by a household cleaning service, so she doesn't need to worry about that (for much the same reason that people bring/send food)?
When the chaos of funerals and wakes/shivas dies down, make an appointment to hang out on skype (or whatever) and order a pizza to be delivered to both her house and your house, and just hang out and eat pizza and drink a glass of wine together?
posted by Kololo at 8:24 AM on August 16, 2011

while it certainly sounds relaxing, be careful with ideas about things like a masseuse. i think if i lost my husband, the very last thing in the world i would want is for anyone to touch me, especially in a way that i'd associate with him.

i love the skype date idea. a good friend of mine and i do that watch silly tv shows. there's no grieving, but it helps us feel connected.
posted by nadawi at 8:58 AM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My mother just died, and a friend sent us this package which is a kit for a memorial tree planting. I thought it was an awesome idea, and my kids loved it. It is longer lasting than the flowers we received and the food, although both were truly appreciated. Seeds of Life
posted by maxg94 at 9:03 AM on August 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When I've been in this situation, I've split my funds to send flowers to the funeral -- it's an important symbol -- and to send food of some sort. I often send a bagel breakfast basket, but other food suggestions here are good too. There are often a lot of people around the house who may need to be fed. Bagels are a good any time of day food.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:27 AM on August 16, 2011

Best answer: When focusing on what to do, pay attention to the answers coming from people who have been on the receiving end of the suggested gift. I often think that the sympathy gift givers are extremely off target when coming up with things. For me, it's the personal things like notes and calls that have meant the most. I don't recall many of the physical gifts as being meaningful at all, especially when they aren't accompanied by something personal.
posted by thorny at 10:47 AM on August 16, 2011

Seconding photos. I'm remembering the little postcard-flyers our singer made for our gigs a decade ago, and how comforted I might feel to receive them in your friend's situation if I had someone thoughtful like you to send them to me. Any kind of memento. The more it means to you, and the harder it might be to give up, the better you'll both probably feel.
posted by troywestfield at 6:18 AM on August 17, 2011

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