Writing a thank-you, with a side of hurricane sympathy?
November 9, 2012 8:06 AM   Subscribe

I've got a thank-you note to write to a friend of my parents'-- already quite late, since the gift was given early last month. Difficulty: since then, the recipient's house was damaged fairly badly by Hurricane Sandy, and she's been struggling with the aftermath. I feel like her current rough situation warrants some sort of extra gesture or comment beyond the usual thank-you boilerplate, but what might that be?

The giver here is a lifelong friend of my parents', and she's always been very sweet and generous to me. In early October, she sent us via my parents (she lives a couple states over) some very nice furniture she was getting rid of, plus some little gifts for my daughter. I had an unusually busy week, dropped the ball on the prompt thank-you, and since then have been doing the shame/procrastination spiral thing, which I really want to put a stop to by sending the note NOW.

The issue is that she had a very rough time in Hurricane Sandy (not catastrophic damage, but bad enough to be traumatizing, and their power's still out), which I feel means the note should contain not only thanks, but some element of comfort/sympathy. I'm not great at writing these things to begin with, and I have no idea what that sort of hybrid message would look like. ("Hey, meant to write sooner, sorry your house got flooded, but thanks so much for the awesome bookshelf?" Yuck.)

Alternatively, I guess I could just make the note thanks-only, with maybe a sympathy P.S., and send some sort of little tangible sympathy gift along with it. But what would that gift be? We're too far away to do anything actually helpful-- would people in a freezing-cold, generator-powered house appreciate flowers or a pack of homemade cookies?

I know MeFites are a supremely graceful and compassionate bunch, so I'm hoping someone with better social instincts than mine can make some suggestions here. As much specificity as possible (especially about the language I should use) would be especially wonderful, since I think uncertainty about what to write is what touches off the procrastination. And thanks, all, for helping me do the right thing!
posted by Bardolph to Human Relations (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Write a note about her troubles on stationery and enclose it in the thank-you card, which should just address the gift. That way, you have two messages in one.
posted by xingcat at 8:16 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Probably not flowers at this point! Do you know if they are actually receiving postal service at this point? It would be a shame to send them something perishable only to have it arrive three weeks later in an unpleasant state.

If they ARE currently able to receive mail/packages, maybe send a nice hurricane care package? Spare batteries, flashlights, those chemical hand & foot warmer packets, extremely woolly socks, &c - useful, nonperishable things that would likely be sold out of any local shops currently. And yes to the homemade cookies!
posted by elizardbits at 8:16 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dear [Friend] --

Apologies for my late response, but thank you So Much for [the things she sent along], especially for thinking of my daughter as well. We really appreciate the [X] -- it makes our [dining room] look all grown up and may even inspire us to further ambitions! [Daughter] has also much enjoyed the [trinkets] and [bites them/plays with them] all the time.

I'm so sorry to hear that you were caught up in the nightmare of Sandy. It's a blessing that your house was spared and that all of you are well, but I'm sure that the dislocation and destruction were overwhelming. We'll be keeping you in our thoughts over the weeks ahead as you work to get some normality into your life. Please let me know if there's anything concrete I can do to help, but if not, then still my best wishes during the period of recovery.

We're lucky to have such a generous person as part of our extended family, and we hope to have many years in which to continue the many ways in which you enrich our lives and make us feel connected.

Best wishes and thanks again
posted by acm at 8:20 AM on November 9, 2012 [18 favorites]

acm's response is perfect. acm will now be ghost writing all Mefite thank you and condolence letters! For free!
posted by HuronBob at 9:04 AM on November 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Include a gift card to Lowe's or other hardware store along with acm's lovely note.
posted by dchrssyr at 9:25 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

A thank-you note is a separate issue. Write the note, and having written it, you then phone her to find out what her actual needs are.

You can, if you want to be sure you get the right information, and you also feel awkward about the timing of the phone call, call her to tell her how much you appreciated the gift (not mentioning that the note is in the way) and you wanted to find out how she's doing. Engage her in conversation, listen carefully, and figure out from that what you could do to help. A gift card for a suitable store sounds like your best bet.
posted by tel3path at 9:48 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Send acm's amazing note, in a thank you card, with pictures of you and the baby, and a gift card (for however much you can afford) for a hardware store.

Now, you're the bestest ever!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:17 AM on November 9, 2012

Sent acm's beautiful note, with a pack of homemade cookies. Thank you all so much!
posted by Bardolph at 4:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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