A friend's husband passed away - weird to send money?
May 18, 2020 7:06 PM   Subscribe

An online friend (let's call her J) posted last week that her husband (W) passed away. I've known J for more than 20 years through various online platforms and met up with her once for coffee when she was moving cross country and passing through my town. I messaged her my condolences and am sending a card tomorrow. Would be it weird/awkward to send money? Or to ask if there's a college fund for her son I could contribute to?

We're not super close but have both worked to stay in touch over the years and if we lived in the same town, I'd absolute go to the funeral. J and W have a son around my son's age and I keep thinking about the potential financial hardship (among the grief and pain and everything else) for them.

J kept mostly private about her relationship with W, but I'm reasonably certain that this was due to a long-term illness (and not Covid-19), so hopefully there's insurance or a pension.

She hasn't posted an obituary and I can't look him up online because they had different last names. She's several thousand miles from me so I can't pop over with a casserole and sending flowers seems strange. We have no friends in common and I don't know her family, so there's not anyone that knows her that I can ask.

Please help me be kind and not a weirdo.
posted by Twicketface to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think money might be weird right now, but over time there might be an opening. When my mom died, some local-to-me friends sent a huge basket of snacks to her house that I was staying in. It was a combination of useful for me, who could barely feed myself at the time, and to offer to friends who came by. You might want to think about something like that for now and then over time there may be a way that you can contribute to her son's fund or something similar. Doesn't all have to happen at once but you're sweet to want to help.
posted by jessamyn at 7:30 PM on May 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

Money’s never weird, sometimes recipients are.

Your idea of suggesting a college fund for their son has a nice ring. I’ve sent this in quasi-similar situations: Know I hold you in my heart now. Not sure what to do from such a distance, but I want to send some loving green energy, from friend to friend.
posted by lometogo at 7:49 PM on May 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

When my mother passed, one set of coworkers stuck a $20 in a card (I suspect my chair did it), and as I was an underpaid lecturer, I did not complain - death means you spend unexpected money in places - more gas money, too much eating out because you're making arrangements, whatever. Another set of coworkers gave me a rather large gift card to the campus coffee shop, which I enjoyed all summer and was a little reminder when I needed it that I was loved. Both gifts were much appreciated it. If they have need at all and you have means at all, I'm sure whatever you do would be appreciated.
posted by joycehealy at 8:12 PM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Funeral expenses really rack up. Maybe a note with a little anecdote like “when my — passed, we were shocked at the financial impact and grateful to some friends who were able to help us out. As a result I try to pay that kindness forward. Your husband was (nice brief description of how he added to your life) and it would be my honour to contribute at this time, I hope you will accept this gift to (use however you see fit) or (help cover expenses) or (put towards junior’s education) or (whatever).”
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:52 PM on May 18, 2020 [23 favorites]

There is also the option that the survivor might make your gift into a donation to the organization that fights whatever killed the decedent.
posted by Cranberry at 12:19 AM on May 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

What about sending a gift card? fancy grocery store, food delivery service, or amazon can all be used generally enough that they are just as useful as money, but feel a little more gift-y, especially if you send it with a note like "treat yourself to something nice on me"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:54 AM on May 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

When my father passed away, my mother received over $2,000 in cash and checks sent in condolence cards. So I guess, depending on circumstances, it might be considered appropriate.

It was actually very helpful. Since my father passed away quite suddenly, we had limited access to get funds for my mom until we figured out passwords and organized his finances. That money helped cover those first few days of paying everything out in cash.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 4:33 AM on May 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

In lieu of a casserole, I’ve sent an e-gift-card for food delivery for the family. I remember when my father-in-law died, it was really hard to remember to acquire food and eat. A faraway family member sent us delivery one evening, and it was such a huge relief. So I’ve done the same for others in turn.

You can send a gift card through one of the third-party delivery services like GrubHub, or if you know some restaurants they like, call direct and ask to buy a gift card for a friend.
posted by snowmentality at 4:50 AM on May 19, 2020

Seconding food delivery or restaurant/grocery gift card... not having to worry about cooking, etc for a little while helps, and if you have a gift card, you're not concerned about spending the money to do so.

We have done this many times.

The donation to a college fund is also a nice idea.
posted by rich at 6:26 AM on May 19, 2020

There are definitely cultural differences around this. It would never have occurred to my mother to send money with a condolence card, but my partner (who had lost both of his parents the year before we started dating, so had a lot of experience with receiving cards) found it absolutely unremarkable. I think his way is better.

In any time of difficulty, a little extra money is helpful for most people. Even if there are not, say, funeral or travel expenses, people who generally cook at home might find themselves wanting to buy convenience foods, indulgences, or takeout, for instance. I'd go hard in the direction of cash or a check—you don't know how she would want or need to use the money, and gift cards for specific places are very limiting and also essentially add a to-do to her list: use this card before it expires.
posted by Orlop at 7:52 AM on May 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Search the name + obituary, if there's an obit or funeral home, and if they have chosen a memorial fund, it will say. You could just send the money, cash, or check made to friend, saying, I wasn't sure if you had chosen a Memorial Fund; please use this to cover expenses, flowers, or as a donation to the Memorial of your choice. along with the rest of your condolences. it's very kind of you.
posted by theora55 at 9:47 AM on May 19, 2020

I think it's traditional to donate to whatever charity/organization is mentioned in the obituary or send flowers to the funeral home. If you're nearby, bring over a casserole or banana bread or whatever. Putting cash in a sympathy card seems gauche to me? But a gift certificate for food delivery in lieu of stopping by with a casserole seems nice.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:21 PM on May 22, 2020

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