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The Sympathy Gift that goes beyond flowers
What kind of sympathy gift is fitting when the worst has come to worst?
What can you possibly say when the unthinkable has happened?
It recently happened to one of my closest friends and prayer partners.
Just a few days before her birthday, she got a call that her oldest son was inexplicably ill – and that the family should get to the hospital to be at his bedside. They were in Bolivia serving as missionaries with Ripe for the Harvest at the time, but their son was living stateside.
Praise the Lord, they made it to to him in time.
And praise the Lord, he did not pass away on his mother’s birthday.
But unfortunately, he did not survive long afterwards. One of my closest friends had to bury a child.
This is real.
And it’s terrifying.
As bystanders, there was little anyone could do in the face of such grief. Someone set up a gofundme.
Some other close friends cancelled their own vacation to be with them and help them plan the funeral.
But what could I do? I had prayed. Cried. Messaged. Tried to encourage. It’s a helpless feeling knowing people you love are in the midst of a parent’s worst nightmare. So along with her other prayer partners we considered what we could do to help from so far away.
We got together privately during the time of his funeral to pray for their strength and peace. It was right for us to pour out our hearts before God on behalf of our battered and broken sister.
(At least it helped us.)
But we still wanted to DO something. Wanted to send something. We needed a sympathy gift that went beyond flowers. That’s when I remembered a company I had been meaning to work with a few years back. It’s called The California Wine Club and they can ship wine within days anywhere in the continental United States.
In full disclosure, I didn’t know if my friend or her husband even drank wine. (In fact, I still don’t know.) But I knew that for the next few weeks, they would be in a rental house surrounded by friends and relatives with a lot of people coming and going. I started thinking maybe a case of wine with a variety of the best domestic California wines might be a sympathy gift that would come in handy.
I was out of my office when all of this happened, so I could only contact a work colleague to ask if he could somehow help me figure out how to ship a case of wines out to my friend. Pronto.
- I didn’t know which ones to pick.
- Had no idea which ones would be good.
- All I knew was the address they needed to be shipped to – and I knew that my friend was truly, seriously hurting and grieving.
I also contacted Kohler Chocolates and had them ship out their utterly exquisite chocolate candy. These happen to be my all-time favorite chocolates ever. (Fair warning, they are crazy-expensive.) In fact, I’ve only had them twice in my life. But they are the only chocolates I know of that would be good enough to pair with The California Wine Club wines and would create the perfect sympathy gift for people who truly deserved something over-the-top and great.
This was me giving them my very best.
This was one of those times to send a sympathy gift that would be helpful, practical – it was simultaneously the least and the most we could do.
So pooling our money together, the ladies in our prayer group sent (as a unique, different, and memorable sympathy gift) two big boxes of chocolates and a case containing 12-bottles of different wines. They arrived directly at her doorstep within a few days of our order. (Someone over 21 had to sign for the wine.) So yes, in case you’re wondering, a group of middle-aged, Christian ladies actually sent their friend the sympathy gift of copious amounts of wine along with two great, big boxes of the world’s greatest chocolates. It was a gift aimed at offering simple, short-term comfort during a time of extreme sorrow and grief. The truth is, nothing else seemed as fitting for the days weeks after laying someone to rest who was so precious.
To be completely candid, I wasn’t 100% positive whether a wine sympathy gift would be appropriate during bereavement. But it turns out, sometimes there just are no words…and sometimes there are no “politically correct” sympathy gifts that will suffice. There are times when all you can do is cry, pray, and then send wine and chocolate.
Thankfully, my friend loved the gifts. Both she and her husband genuinely appreciated the thought behind it. And as a bonus, when our great, big case of wine arrived, it actually made them laugh. In the end, it was best summed up by her 9-year-old daughter:
Daughter: “Did your prayer partners REALLY send you all this wine and chocolate?”
My friend: “Yes, they did.”
(She said it complete with the hashtag-hand gesture too.) Their family had a good laugh at the absurdity and the appropriateness of our unique sympathy gift. And they recognized and appreciated us pulling out all stops to bring comfort into a situation where there was little comfort to be found.
In closing, I must confess that I wish I had not learned through experience that there are times when words of comfort, a wreath, a card nor even money go far enough to show how much you care. Make no mistake about it, faith, prayers, tears, scripture and fellowship are still the right and primary foundation for comforting the bereaved. Please recognize that. The Bible tells us to “…weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) Yet even Jesus’s first public miracle was turning water into wine at gathering in Cana. (John 2:1-11) There are times when tears and wine are appropriate. So if you long to do something tangible in the face of grief, especially if you’re doing it from afar, nothing beats a sympathy gift of The California Wine Club wine and maybe some chocolate too.
Lastly, If you found this article because you’re looking for a bereavement gift, please accept my sympathy and condolences on your loss. I sincerely hope my recommendations help you and your loved ones as you grieve.