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5 Meaningful Gifts for $100 or Less

This post was created in partnership with NFDA.

Giving gifts to help friends remember loved ones is especially thoughtful. Far from being an unwelcome reminder of loss (during the holidays it’s likely to be top of mind anyway), offering presents that acknowledges their grief demonstrates incredible kindness and compassion. It shows you recognize the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can be especially difficult.

So what kinds of gifts are most meaningful? Here are five ideas, all $100 or less:

1. Create a Memory Garden

Help your friend start a Memory Garden in honor of their loved one. First, buy packets of seeds. Flowers, plants, and herbs all work. Second, place the envelopes inside a wicker basket, adding several “Love Rocks” to make the presentation even more special.

“Love Rocks” are easy and inexpensive to make. All you have to do is take a piece of fabric and cut it into the shape of a heart. Next, glue the fabric heart onto a smooth stone with craft adhesive. If the stones are likely to be used outdoors, make sure to use acrylic sealer. Make the entire project even more poignant by using cloth that once belonged to their loved one – strips of fabric taken from a favorite shirt, pair of jeans, even a necktie. For more ideas on using flowers to strengthen memories of loved ones, please read these posts. I also write about the concept in, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive.

2. Preserve Their Handwriting 

Forget Me Not 31

Locate a handwritten recipe or letter written by your friend’s loved one. Get it framed or transfer the image onto a piece of pottery. You can find lovely options at Prairie Hills Pottery. The accompanying photograph is the plate Prairie Hills made for me by using my grandmother’s “famous” coffee cake recipe. I adore it!

Preserving handwriting is a nod to a loved one’s enduring legacy. The additional upside of designing a decorative piece is that it doubles as a great conversation starter. Whenever company visits, your friend will have the opportunity to talk about his or her loved one and say their name out loud.

3. Embrace the Present

We honor loved ones by talking about them. We also pay tribute by celebrating the loving relationships that remain.

One great way to embrace family and friends after a significant loss is to use the National Funeral Directors Association and Funeral and Memorial Information Council’s Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards. There are 50 cards to a deck and each one is printed with a different question. Questions like: Who has been the most influential person in your life? For what are you most grateful? The cards facilitate meaningful discussions and create unrivaled opportunities for sharing stories.

The best part?! Thanks to the Funeral Service Foundation, the Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards are FREE. The deck makes a perfect stocking stuffer or small holiday gift. Request your free deck of cards here.

4. Preserve & Share Memories

Loss can be overwhelming… so is deciding what to do with all those VHS tapes, slides, film reels, scrapbooks, and photo albums. Help your friend remember and celebrate their loved one by preserving and sharing their memories.

Legacy Republic has created several Memory Makeover Kits to make digitizing media as simple as possible. The “Shoebox Kit” is $100 and holds up to four items, including videotapes, film reels, slides, photos, and negatives. All your friend has to do is put the items in one of Legacy Republic’s packing boxes and ship it off to one of its Memory Factories. In just a few weeks, your friend will be able to access their memories on a secure online account and order beautiful, decorative keepsakes for their home.

For more on Legacy Republic and how photographs fuel happiness and healing, read these blogs.

5. Make Sculptures from Meaningful Objects

If your friend’s loved one adored painting, gardening, or cooking, take one of their old paintbrushes, gardening tools, or kitchen gadgets and transform it into a permanent sculpture. The design process is straightforward: an artist drills a hole into the bottom of the object and then a steel rod with an attached base is screwed into place. One sculpture works well. A cluster makes a statement.

Create a custom gift by visiting 106 Vintage Co. on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/106vintageco.

Make gift-giving this holiday season an opportunity to support friends and family members who are grieving. Acknowledge their losses. Invite them to share their memories. They will feel loved, understood, and validated. And of all the gifts you can give them, that may be the greatest one of all.

Making and Sharing Halloween Memories

Yup, that’s me. A little devil. This photo brings back joyful memories of Halloweens past. I’ve tried to make October 31 equally special for my kids. Part of this effort was taking them to a jaw-dropping event when they were small (they’re teenagers now and generally prep themselves for the big day). Recently, my best friend from high school visited me with her two young sons. Their stay was the perfect excuse to revisit this enormous, one-of-a-kind Halloween extravaganza.

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Make This Thanksgiving the Best, Most Meaningful Yet

This post was created in partnership with NFDA.

A funeral director once told me the number one regret he hears at memorial services. It wasn’t, as I expected, that individuals wished they’d spent more time with loved ones – having one more birthday dinner or going to one last baseball game. The leading cause of remorse was all the questions they never asked, the conversations they pushed off because they believed there’d always be time.

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Father’s Day Musings: Thoughts On Remembering Dads Gone Too Soon and One Exceptional Idea for Celebrating Fathers Still With Us

This post was created in partnership with NFDA.

Ten years ago on The Huffington Post, I shared the eulogy I gave at my father’s funeral. The speech was unusual – a Top 10 List of our most unusual father-daughter relationship quirks. I was moved to share my reflections because I hoped they’d stir future conversations with my children. When my dad died, just three days after September 11, my son was 18-months-old. My daughter wasn’t born.

In my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, I reveal 85 ideas for remembering and celebrating the family and friends we never want to forget. Writing stories down (and making sure to share them, too) is just one powerful tool. My son and daughter, now teenagers, have read my reflections and have a better sense of their grandfather as a result. Other strategies include Building a Refuge and Turning My Father’s Ties Into a Quilt.

With Father’s Day upon us, here are a few more creative and uplifting opportunities for remembering and honoring our dads.

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Preparing Your Best Holiday Playlist Ever, and a Secret About My Family

Now is the perfect time to create your best holiday playlist ever, songs to accompany all your upcoming dinners and celebrations. “Music is one of the strongest tethers we have to the past,” Kenneth Bilby, a former director at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago in Chicago, tells me. “It’s a critically important carrier of memory.” It’s with this notion in mind that I’m revealing a story about my family I’ve never shared. I hope you find it helpful as you plan your holiday playlist.

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Making Meaningful Halloween Decorations

After my grandfather died, my grandmother took a ceramics class.  She got out of it exactly what she needed — distraction, friendship, and a sense that she could be happy and engaged once again.  Grandma made more than a dozen pieces, and not too long ago, I did something I thought I’d never do:  I gave them a creepy Halloween makeover.

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Surprising Fall Opportunity

One of the most uplifting gifts I’ve ever heard of giving someone in a time of loss is a wicker basket full of daffodil bulbs. The idea is for the recipient to plant one bulb for every year the loved one lived. Daffodils are the perfect flower for such a happiness-inducing project: as perennials, they’ll come back spring after spring—and they’re virtually indestructible. And, the best time of year to plant daffodils is the fall!

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Tips for Repurposing Tablecloths, Linen Napkins, and Other Atypical Fabrics

My dad always wore neckties to work, so after he passed away, I hired The Gazebo to turn them into a quilt. The quilt brings back lots of happy memories, recollections I can now share with my children who never got to know their grandfather. You can see a picture of this beautiful quilt here. But discovering opportunities for upcycling other types of fabric is often more challenging. What to do with table linens, kitchen towels, aprons, and placemats?

In my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, Forget Me Not #10 reveals several ways to repurpose fabric not usual considered for memorial projects. Nancy Roy, owner of Totes with Tales (www.toteswithtales.com), uses virtually any kind of fabric to create one-of-a-kind bags customers can use every day.

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Share Your Love Story and Tell Theirs

Love is in the air, and everyone loves a love story. In the movie industry, that quirky moment when the two main love interests are introduced to one another is called a “meet cute.” They might be rather predictable in film, but real life often has more intrigue and romance. After all, when you meet a new couple, don’t you often ask, “How did you meet?” I find the same question one that helps us share the love stories of our loved ones who have passed away.

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Make This the Year to Remember Intentionally

The clock struck midnight a week ago and just like that we got 365 new days full of promise. I’m a resolution person. I’m grateful for new beginnings. This year, I’ve decided to double down on my efforts to celebrate and honor loved ones intentionally.  I’m on a mission. Join me!

Whether it was last year or decades ago that you lost someone close to your heart, make this the year to do something that is a purposeful act remembrance.  On April 12, 2016 I’ll launch my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, which is full of eighty-five ideas to commemorate those we never want to forget. I call these strategies Forget Me Nots. I’ve shared a few in my previous blogs and on Facebook, which I’ll continue.

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