Face your fears. You may be hesitant to contact the family for fear of opening fresh wounds. The hurt never goes away and you remembering the loved one, even if tears are shed, will aid in the healing process.
Waylay the guilt. You may try to assuage your guilt with the excuse, “But they may not remember.” You do and you matter. Whether they ever thought about your lack of social etiquette or not, they will be blessed by your current act of love. It is never too late to remember and pass it on.
Some is better than none. Do not be concerned over the smallness of the attempt; little things mean a lot. A few belated words are better than continued silence. A small gesture of remembrance is better than grand plans unperformed. A simple belated mention of the loved one’s name can bless the family and alleviate your guilt.
Choose your words. Think about what you will say and practice it before knocking on the door. The manager and I visited the widow with a beautiful potted plant and a card signed by all board members. With no mention of the time lapse, we spoke of how the man’s influence continued to bless the individuals who knew him personally and the community at large.
Call ahead of time. Make an appointment rather than just dropping by. This sets the stage for your intentions and gives the loved one time to look forward to your visit.
A loved one’s name is music to the ears. In future encounters, do not hesitate to make mention of the loved one’s value to family and friends. Share stories of heroics and misadventures. Laugh and cry together.
Receive the thanks. Graciously receive expressions of gratitude and do not discount your efforts because you acted out of guilt.
Make a tribute in his/her honor. The board made a plaque to hang in the corporate office expressing thanks to the community leader and his family. Plant a tree in the person’s name. Make a donation to a charity in her memory. Send flowers to the hospital as a remembrance. Make an ordinary Sunday special with altar flowers in honor of a life departed. A friend of mine keeps a picture of her neighbor’s son on her piano as a silent memorial.
The past cannot be relieved but the present is always available. And expressions of caring is never out of place. Do it with regards, not regrets.
If I would paint a rainbow every time I think of you,
My world would soon become a lovely, golden hue.
But if I never tell you, then how are you to know,
How much your life has touched me, and helped me oft to grow.
So may this tiny gesture wing its flight your way
To cheer you up on sunless days when your skies are gray.
© Mona Dunkin, 1997