Two dear friends lost their fathers this past week – COVID ending their beautiful lives – and ripping them from their families. My heart breaks for my friends. Having lost my own Dad three years ago, I know that this pain runs deep… and lasts. When my Dad died he didn’t want a wake, only a church service, a cremation and then, being half Irish, a party. We did all that. It was beautiful. It was sad. We got our hugs from those nearest and dearest. Friends and family drove in from New Jersey (and brought my daughter from school) and Connecticut and Washington. Now we have COVID and limits at funerals and sometimes no funerals – not even visits to the dying at hospitals. My friends’ Dads died and I have no wake to attend, no church to sit in and show my support whilst they have a funeral. I had to do something – to show my love – and I did – and it got me thinking about ways that you can show the people that you love how you feel about their loss – how you can hug them – virtually. Read on for some thoughts on showing your love…
1. Food, Glorious Food
I’m 1/4 Irish, and even though the Irish have a great way with a story, they often are a people of few words when it comes to emotional topics like love and loss. I learned early on from my Irish relatives that when there are no words, there’s always food. You’re sick… soup. You’ve had a new baby… a casserole. So when it comes to profound loss, well… food. In COVID, the people experiencing the loss of a loved one probably aren’t having a large number of people over to console them, like pre-COVID times, but heck, they’ve got to eat, and they very well may not feel like cooking. So express your love for them by making a family dinner (maybe even one that they can freeze, if you are not alone in this bringing of food)? Or maybe make them a basket of staples like milk, bread, 1/2 and 1/2, coffee, cereal, fruit, lunch meat, cheese, peanut butter, etc. that they may not feel like shopping for? Or if you’re pressed for time or worried about the close contact of delivery, have a food basket delivered. There are great items out there like breakfast-themed baskets (tea, coffee, jam, cream cheese, bagels and muffins), ethnic-food-themed baskets or traditional fruit baskets. Saying it with food is a COVID-friendly way to tell them you love them and that you are sorry for their loss.
2. A Light In The East
I still feel a great sadness thinking about the loss of my beautiful, 18 month old great niece a few years ago. It is still, by far, the saddest funeral I have ever attended. I had absolutely no idea what to do to honor this beautiful child and to let her parents know how heartbroken I was (and am) for them. Then, out of the blue, it came to me. I chalk it up to divine inspiration – I gave them a star. Yup. You read that right. I gave them a star, named for their cherished little girl. Their loving reaction was beyond anything I could have expected. And they knew how much I cared. If you think this might be right for someone you know who has lost someone, there are a few websites to choose from. I used Star Name Registry.org, but there are several reputable services out there including Cosmonova.org and The International Star Registry. On most of these websites you can choose a visible star, give it a name of your choosing and associate a date of your choosing with its naming. It’s not based in science, but it is definitely based in loving feelings.
3. Charity Begins at Home
So many obituaries list an “in lieu of flowers” charity as a way to honor a person who has passed. When my Dad died, we chose the Jonnycake Center for Hope in Peace Dale, Rhode Island, for donations in my Dad’s name. In COVID this charitable giving is more needed than ever and even more appropriate and “COVID-friendly.” Even if the family does not chose a charity for your donation, you can choose one of your favorites, or perhaps research one that may have meant something to the person who has passed or to their family (whether this is to fund research for the disease that impacted the person or for something that meant something to them during their lifetime): for the diabetic, The American Diabetes Association or Joslin Clinic; for the gardener maybe the American Horticultural Society; for the antique-lover, maybe The Antiques Roadshow on PBS. You get the idea. Now just show the love.
4. Technically Speaking
Everybody (except maybe my Mom) has a cell phone these days. And cell phones actually give you a way to honor those who have passed on because they have video cameras built right in. You can easily make a testimonial video about the person who is gone; you can tell a funny story about them or share a fond remembrance . Tape yourself, or have someone tape you, speaking of the person and then (after checking it) send it to their family. You can also use your laptop to share audio of songs they favored, pictures of places they loved to visit, clips from sports teams that they couldn’t get enough of. Again, you get where I’m going with this. The gift is the time it takes you to think about and compile this technological gift and in the process you have created something that keeps the person alive, just a little bit.