Beyond Flowers
April 28, 2014 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I work with a woman whose adult son passed away a little over a year ago. My mom also passed away 2.5 years ago, and we really connected over our losses. Last year for Mother's Day I sent my co-worker some standard flowers. This year I'd like to do something different, but need ideas.

I'm not opposed to ordering flowers again, but I thought it would be nice to give her something more original this year. It's her second Mother's Day without her son and my third Mother's Day without my mom, but I find that "having" to shop for a gift really brings me joy. I'm willing to spend about $75. I don't know a ton about my co-worker, but I do know that she lives alone, has 2 small dogs, and enjoys the beach. She also really likes astronomy, and she recently showed me an app on her phone that shows you what constellations are present depending on where in the sky you're looking. She said she had once given her son a similar toy when he was small, so the app reminded her of a good memory of him. Maybe something to do with astronomy, then?

Does anyone have any suggestions on a meaningful Mother's Day gift, or do you think I should just stick with flowers?
posted by thank you silence to Human Relations (17 answers total)
Are you friends outside of work? If not, it may be crossing a barrier. Last year, it made sense, it was her first year without her son. Unless you want to step in and be her surrogate child, and I really don't think that's such a hot idea, let it go.

Perhaps offer to take her for lunch the Friday before. Or bake her some cookies, or a little something.

I know you want to do this for her because you miss your Mom, but's too much.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:20 AM on April 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

I agree with Ruthless Bunny. Maybe just go out with your co-worker for drinks, but a $75 gift is unnecessary.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:26 AM on April 28, 2014

Response by poster: Not to threadsit, but I wouldn't say we're really close friends. We're kind of bonded through grief, if that makes sense. I actually don't work with her anymore as I left that job around 2 months ago, but I visit my old office occasionally and just saw her the other day, where she told me about the app I mentioned in my OP and how it reminded her of her son, who was her only child. I know last year she was really thankful for the flowers. It really didn't occur to me that getting her a gift two years in a row was over the top, actually...
posted by thank you silence at 8:27 AM on April 28, 2014

Response by poster: Also, I'm not saying I want to spend $75, that's just the most I would spend.
posted by thank you silence at 8:28 AM on April 28, 2014

If she likes the beach, you could get her some sort of little decoration and flowers. I think this is a good idea. Everyone likes to be thought of. I wouldn't make it a big thing.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:34 AM on April 28, 2014

Would you feel comfortable taking her out to brunch? That's a Mother's Day tradition you could both enjoy and might bring you some joy and companionship on a day you might both be sad. You could spend your time researching a nice place to bring her.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:04 AM on April 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Brunch or, weather permitting, a nice picnic together sounds like a good plan.
posted by Fister Roboto at 9:25 AM on April 28, 2014

Disagree with bluedaisy and Fister Roboto. Taking her out is a completely different level of relationship.

Get her a little bouquet of flowers. That's what many mothers get every single Mother's Day, no need to vary the gift.
posted by DMelanogaster at 9:32 AM on April 28, 2014

This might sound kind of crass, but…did she give you a present? Do you think she will this year? That's one metric I might use to decide whether giving a second present would be over-the-top or not. I say this as someone who is really, really into giving gifts (as an expression of care and love), and has to be mindful about when it's the socially appropriate thing to do and when the other person might actually be made uncomfortable by it.

I like the brunch idea, but DMelanogaster is right that it signals a different level of relationship. I think you should do it if you want to have a closer friendship, and if you think she'd like it too.
posted by honey wheat at 10:16 AM on April 28, 2014

As the diversity of opinions here shows I am not sure there's a "right" answer to this one. Personally in your place I think I'd go for the flowers again along with a sincere handwritten note. It doesn't have to be a novel - there's a reason correspondence cards are usually ~4x6" - but just a few words of shared support conveys the emotion without being too much.

I also don't think a friendly brunch invitation is a bad idea, with the caveat that if she has other surviving family they might already have plans for something like that.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:24 AM on April 28, 2014

As you can see from this thread, there are a lot of Mefites who think you should never do anything nice for anyone else because there is a slight chance they could think you're an awkward creep. Always hedging your bets and never doing anything nice for anyone just in case they think you're an awkward creep is an ok way to go through life, but it's not neccessarily for everyone.

One of the things that comes up over and over again with people who have survived a loved one is the frustration that comes with people expecting you to move on/forget, when you never ever will. I just heard someone I know the other day say "people stop asking you how you are, people stop talking about the person you lost," with a note of sadness. I think this is a really kind gesture and one that will be appreciated; it's not like she's only going to remember/miss her son on the first Mother's Day after his passing.

A little gift basket for her dogs might be fun to put together; a couple dog t-shirts, some of those fancy scented wipes for between baths or breath mints, some small toys and treats. Put it all in a basket with the receipt included (it's hard to estimate sizes, some dogs have sensitive tummies, etc, but worst case scenario she returns it all and buys dog food for the month).
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:04 AM on April 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

While an official Mother's Day brunch might be too much in the "surrogate child camp", you could see if she wants to meet you for lunch Mother's Day at the beach. Maybe see if you could find a really casual place with outdoor seating where her dogs would be welcome? Do you know any mutual former coworkers who might be interested in joining?

I lost my mom 3 years ago (and have no children of my own) and I know the pain of all the Mother's Day hype and advertising this coming month. I can't imagine how hard it would be having to be bombarded by it having lost your only child. You're being a nice friend.
posted by cecic at 11:15 AM on April 28, 2014

I think this is very nice.

Do you know her son's birthday? She may appreciate a small pendant with the constellation that would be most visible nearest his birthday. And I mean the pattern of the stars, not the interpretation of the shape seen in astrology signs.
posted by zizzle at 11:20 AM on April 28, 2014

Since she is bringing up her son in conversation with you, I would do something for her. That fact she's bringing him up, makes me think she's probably not someone who closes herself off at reminders of her son.

How about a subscription to Astronomy magazine for a gift?
posted by parakeetdog at 11:25 AM on April 28, 2014

Edible arrangements/chocolate dipped fruit are a nice coworker-friendly gift but maybe a little too generic for the occasion.

Mostly just wanted to say I'm glad you're doing this, I think it's sweet and if I were in either of your situations I would appreciate it :)
posted by ghostbikes at 11:26 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

As someone whose mother died near Mother's Day, I definitely find it a really shitty time of year, and when people remember that about me in a low-key way, I really appreciate it.

What I would find most helpful/meaningful would be a card, with a nice image on the front (nothing to do with grief/sympathy/Mother's Day) and a note inside that the sender is thinking of me, and should get in touch if I want to get together and do something distracting.

Personally, and of course this would vary, I would find it a bit presumtuous to be invited out or given presents, though I would definitely appreciate the intent. People grieve in all kinds of ways, and as a private person, I would find a lot of the suggestions above would make me feel really self-conscious and put on the spot.
posted by ITheCosmos at 11:26 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't have to be original or spend anything like $75. A card, with or without flowers, is actually very nice to receive. Let me weigh in and say I'd like to put in a strong vote for doing the kind and thoughtful thing whenever possible, such as reaching out to say to this woman in word or deed, "I was thinking about you." Just that. Don't let any silly nonsense about presumption or lack of propriety or self-protective fear stop you from being a warm, decent human being. Just make a gentle, graceful gift of thinking of her. She will understand and it really does matter.
posted by Anitanola at 1:25 AM on April 29, 2014

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