I saw this on Facebook. This statement on the surface is so true….and often it is all the way true….
BUT…occasionally it is not.
With all our family went through with my husband’s cancer and passing away this year, we’ve had experience with people who stick and people who don’t. We have had all sorts of people come out of the woodwork. There are some people we thought would likely be helpful like the fire department and first responders here in town. We knew our neighbors two houses down and across the street would be kind. Some people, we just knew would. We were so blessed when those neighbors plowed the snow…or brought us food. What a blessing!
There were lots of people we had no clue would be so awesome. There were blog readers who sent money. That was so good for Kramer. He was worried about how we would do without his income. The money that came in helped him not worry.
There were friends and family who sent gift cards. Not to long ago I found out from Kalissa that her and the kids put together a gift card shower for us via Facebook…we had no clue. She went on Facebook and made a private group. She invited our family and friends to the group then asked them to send us a gift card. We had no idea. Kramer never knew. This was the sweetest thing ever. Although the Fire Department guys asked again and again if they could put on a benefit for Kramer, he said no. This gift card benefit was so perfect, he never knew, yet we were so helped.
We had friends of our children bring things…food, presents. I can’t begin to name all the things that came our way.
We had people offer to drive Kramer to radiation. It was so sweet that they did. I’ll be honest, that was a big blessing for us both. It was one day I could feel normal and not have to make that four hour trek. I could forget for a moment that he had cancer. I could imagine him being at work and I just had a normal day of childcare. It was a gift for me and for Kramer.
There were a few people though that surprised me. People I thought we were close to and didn’t come. I didn’t dwell on it…but I did notice it.
At Kramer’s memorial service someone who didn’t come when Kramer was sick came to me and….
they sincerely apologized. What they said was so heartfelt. They said that they were so afraid to come when Kramer was sick. They were so afraid to say the wrong thing. They were so afraid to be in the way. Mostly, they were afraid to be so close to Kramer’s illness that they would realize that this too could happen to their family.
I immediately told the person it was all okay and that I totally understand. I’ve been that afraid person before. I’ve done the exact same thing this person did. I stayed away because of my own personal fear.
I’m not that person anymore. Trust me, I’m still afraid but I refuse to let those fears dictate my actions. I’ve seen up front and in person what the kindnesses mean. They mean the world…so I’ll work through my fear and be there for others.
So…in light of the friend and I both feeling afraid, I’m making the assumption that others of you have also been paralyzed by the same fears. You’ve stayed away because you didn’t know what to say, because you didn’t want to intrude, because you were afraid to get to close to see how you too could end up in a situation like we did.
I thought I would make a list of some of the kindnesses that were done for us so you might have an idea of something that you can do, should someone you know be in a crisis.
1-If they live a distance away from doctors-Gas gift cards
2-gift cards for quick stop food
for #1 and #2 research what places might be along the way the travel.
3-Wal-mart or big box store gift cards
4-Grocery gift cards
6-Amazon gift cards
7-books or magazines on topics of interest to the person
8-Local pizza place gift cards-we had people visit and nothing to feed them
9-freezer friendly food. Cookies, bars, tator tot hotdish, lasagna, etc.
10-shovel their sidewalk
11-offer to help with a pet
12-pay for a hotel stay near the hospital
13-mow their lawn
14-pay for a TV channel that might interest them
15-if there crafty, buy something related to the craft-several of you did that for me and that was so sweet.
You can send a card in the mail and it is helpful. You don’t even need to talk to the person face to face. It might seem like a cop out, but it’s an okay one to do. The person will know you are thinking of them.
In the case of a funeral
1-offer to watch their house
2-If bringing food bring freezer friendly food in pans that don’t need to be returned
3-bring a ham. They freeze awesomely. The family can use them whenever.
4-Bring paper products-paper plates, cups, toilet paper, napkins, paper towels
5-bring beverages, drink boxes if there are kids, beer, pop
6-Get a gift card for somewhere local to eat
7-offer to bring food to the funeral home if that is applicable
8-offer to watch young children of the family
9-veggie and fruit trays are awesome..meat and cheese too.
10-get a gift card to a local caterer
For us, someone went to the local bar and grill and put $100 down on a tab for our family. How cool was that?
…and here’s a few suggestion on something PERFECT to say if you’re coming to the house in person.
-“I was thinking of you and wanted to help”
That’s it. You don’t need to say more. If the person wants to talk, t hey will talk. If they don’t then say…
-“I know you are busy so I’ll just sneak out. Do know, I am thinking of you”.
-“I have a few other errands so I’m going to go. I will see you at the funeral”.
Seriously, that’s enough.
One more note while I am on the topic. One of the best ways to give a memorial is by sending the money to the place you want the memorial to go to yourself. Then in the card write “a $10 memorial was given in ___’s name to our local fire department”. That way the family knows and doesn’t have the task of finding the address and information on where you would like the memorial to go. Several people did this when Kramer passed away and it was helpful.
As tempting as it is when buying a memorial gift, note that so many people will give angels and items inscripted with “funeral/death appropriate” wording. It’s an item that is very appropriate at the time…but the items don’t always grow with the people left behind. I love Kramer dearly, but I don’t forever what to look at a ceramic statue of an angel’s outstretched arms….I don’t want to think of him as dead. I want to remember the vibrant living self he was. I don’t want to remember him sick. For me, the statue is not a long term item. It would not bring the happy memories five years from now.
One of the most treasured things that was done for us, was this: A family sent a card a week or so after Kramer’s passing. In the card were pictures of Kramer. This one I treasure.
This is Kramer, living and vibrant. This is how I want to remember him. I am so thankful that the family sent this picture. This is one I’m having framed. I had never seen it before. Also in the card, each family member wrote a little “I remember when Kramer….” note. It was so personal and touching.
I hope this blog entry gives you some ideas on how to support a family in crisis. I hope it also lets you know that if, in the past, you weren’t a friend who stuck around, there is still time to remedy that. Send a note. Say something simple….”I will forever feel bad about myself for not being there when you needed help. I hope you can forgive me”. Seriously…that’s all you need to do. Most everyone who has been through this will understand.
I was so impressed by our friend who talked to me at Kramer’s memorial service. Saying what she said that took a lot of courage, and I applaud her for that. She had a special spot in her heart for Kramer and I know, seeing him hurting would have been hard for her. I completely understand that it would have been hard for her to come.
So the saying on Facebook is true…True most of the time…but there are a few exceptions. Sometime people are paralyzed by their own fear and just can’t stick. I hope some of these ideas might help you to know what to do for a family in crisis…
…and one more thing. EVERYONE says, “let me know if you need something”. Seriously, I was so deeply entrenched in it all that I had no clue what I needed. None of us did. If I did, I was too proud to ask. So-my best advice…just pick something on the list and do it.