TO SEND or NOT TO SEND, that is the question

pink lilies

 

 

PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE, a wonderful novel by Jen Violi

PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE, a wonderful novel by Jen Violi.

My blog post last week included information and examples about writing greeting cards and where to submit them. This week’s post is open to discussion about cards that SHOULD be sent…and those that, in my opinion, SHOULD NOT be sent.  Or at least not sent early.

On Monday I received a very nice Hallmark card in the mail. It came from a couple who live several states away. The card artwork was lovely; the calligraphy was elegant. The cover message was about the permanence of a mother’s love, and the inside message stated that my mother would always be with me in spirit. The final line was two words: “With Sympathy.”

My mother suffers from advanced dementia and on most days her clearest memories are those as a child on the farm in Missouri, but she is definitely still alive. The handwritten note on the card said the couple had made a donation in my mother’s name to the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

By the time I reread the card, I had the eerie uneasy feeling that maybe I had dementia…or had slipped into an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”  Even though I was recently with my mom in Kansas, I wondered if the card senders knew something I didn’t. Finally I read the folded, typed paper in the envelope behind the card, explaining that they did not know how much longer my mother might live, but they wanted to send the card early. Then the typed message went on to other details.

Those of you who have tried your hand at writing greeting cards know that, in general, the two most difficult cards to successfully create are 1) humorous cards, and 2) sympathy cards.  And as far as I know, the two types do not usually overlap, although there was one card years ago that got a “bad taste” award. The details vary, but as I remember it, there was a frog on the front of the humorous/sympathy card, and the message was something like We all croak. Sorry.

Does the process of dying and dealing with death really make people so uncomfortable that their default response is to try to brush it aside, lighten it with a joke, or send a card early to get it out of the way?

One of my favorite novels I’ve discovered in the past year is PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE by Jen Violi. It is a poignant, touching, funny and tender novel about a young woman who learns to deal with her father’s death by training to become a makeup expert for a funeral home. Her respectful and genuine desire is to serve, honor and protect the dead and their families…and to honestly face her own fears.  I read aloud several chapters to my mother last winter—especially one of the scenes where the young woman is talking to the lady on her table as she selects fingernail polish to match the lipstick—and my mother smiled and said, “We like fingernail polish…don’t we?”   This novel does not avoid, over simplify, hide from or joke about death. It reveals and embraces the rituals of death that illuminate life. I strongly recommend it. 

We learn as we go, and we do the best we can. Those are the two main lessons I’ve learned during my father’s Alzheimer’s and now my mother’s dementia. I also realize that we’re all at different stages in our journeys, and probably there was no offense or avoidance intended by the Early Sympathy card that arrived on Monday. Therefore, I will set it aside until the time does come to read it…when I will be grateful for genuine words of condolence and expressions of sympathy.

 

Oklahoma City: "The Survivor Tree," the American Elm that survived the explosion.

Oklahoma City: “The Survivor Tree,” the American Elm that survived the explosion.

"Field of Empty Chairs" memorial of the april 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.  168 chairs with names of those killed, 19 smaller chairs for the children.

“Field of Empty Chairs” memorial of the april 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. 168 chairs with names of those killed, 19 smaller chairs for the children.

 

 

 

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88 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Uncategorized, writing

88 responses to “TO SEND or NOT TO SEND, that is the question

  1. I just can’t imagine sending a sympathy card before someone has passed away. A thinking of you card would be appropriate but a sympathy card?
    I do like the nail polish story. My mom, who also has advanced dementia, was delighted when we hired someone to come to the hospital and do her nails. It is the small things that seem to matter.

    • I know Hallmark has a line of “Thinking of You” cards, so I do wonder why they didn’t choose one of those to send. 😦
      I like my mom’s reaction to the nail polish, too, Darlene. She was listening to the words in the book, but she latched on to the only ones that caught her full attention…nail polish. Whatever gives them something to smile about is a very good thing.

  2. I’m trying to be charitable here Marylin because I know the people who sent you the card must be friends of sorts but I can’t help thinking that their gesture was just plain insensitive, to say the least!
    Typical of you though to see the good side and write another thought provoking post.
    I love the Field of Chairs memorial – very moving. It reminded me of our memorial in Hyde Park, London, to the victims of the 7/7 tube and bus bombings – modern and very effective.

    • Thanks, Jenny. Their card also sent up warning flags, reminding me to take my time and carefully choose…or write…the cards or messages I send to someone going through a hard time. To really think about the effects my words might have.
      London, Oklahoma City, and countless neighborhoods, villages, towns and countries: no one is immune to these horrible and heartbreaking losses.

  3. juliabarrett

    Well, now I’ve heard everything. I suspect, if your mother knew, she’d laugh her head off. A pre-emptive sympathy card. There is something new under the sun! I’m guessing it’s discomfort with death that prompts folks to such actions.
    Remembering Oklahoma City… So much evil in our world. And yet there stands the elm tree. Bittersweet, isn’t it.

    • A “pre-emptive” sympathy card. What a great way to tag it, Julia. And you’re right, if my mother could understand this, she would laugh at it…probably again and again, each time she thought of it.
      The American Elm survived the horrors of that day. It is a bittersweet reminder of both the evil and the triumph.

  4. The card wasn’t insensitive it was just plain stupid. sheesh. Anyone sends me an early exit card can expect to be told to F*^’k off in no uncertain terms and I may even swear.

    On a lighter note the cancer seems fine this morning when Jules is right, she’s right, radiotherapy day 3 seems to be having an effect just a pity agonising night through I think, a cracked rib, don’t ask suffice to say bent over the arm off office chair, Sharon 3 floors below at reception heard me scream and then found me fainted half in / out of chair WTF

    Loving you sweets, thinking of you and the family xxxxxxx

    Ps. Part time work now from home but don’t know if that is a good idea or not …….

    • Oh, Tom, your humor and moxie hang tight, and I love it! And if telling someone to F*^’k off doesn’t do it, feel free to also swear. 😉

      Driving back to Colorado from Kansas this month, I stopped and spent extra time in the Cathedral on the Plains, and this time I lit several candles for you…your family… and everyone who is providing your care. Next time I’ll add candles against cracked ribs. Surely some of these flickering candle glows are making their way across the ocean to you.

      I’m glad you’re working park time from home now if that’s helping, Tom. Remember that you’re surrounded by prayers and love.

  5. Thank you for your reference to a novel I hadn’t heard of before by Jen Violi. The cover says it all!

    Following the recent death of my mother, I received dozens of cards, all in good taste which express lovely sentiments. and which “reveal and embrace a ritual of death that illuminates life” as I’ve paraphrased. A few stand out: One from my niece: You’ll always remember your mom’s caring heart. Another from a blog friend with the text: “The beauty of a life well-lived never dies . . . it continues to embrace and inspire us.” And finally a custom-designed card from an artistic cousin with a cameo-style photo of mother at her 95th birthday last year. Though she was elderly, my mother’s death was unexpected. I have written about it in a recent post: http://plainandfancygirl.com/2014/08/15/a-grief-observed-missing-mother/

    The sender of the premature sympathy card was gauche, in my opinion. Good intentions run amok. However, your attitude is probably the best recourse in avoiding feeling resentment and irritation. Great post, as always, Marylin.

    • Oh, Marian, I am so sorry to just now learn of your “grief observed.” I was in Kansas with my mother when your mother died, and I don’t take my laptop with me to her assisted living apartment. What a lovely and faith-filled lady and friend your mother was, and your loss is profound. Please feel the heartfelt hug and shared sympathies I’m sending you.

  6. It’s as well you’re such a nice person Marylin or the couple who sent the ‘early’ card might have got a piece of your mind. Did they not consider the effect it might have on you ( or someone with a heart condition) as a person who suddenly thought their parent might have died and they didn’t know? It could have been devastating.I’m glad nothing has happened and you still have time for more reminiscing.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

    • Thank you, David, I appreciate your support. It’s a long story, but I don’t think that they (she, actually) considered much of anything other than her own agenda: she had a card, wanted to send it, and did. Actually, I shouldn’t have been so surprised by it.
      And now I’ve put it away where it can’t bother me. What’s the British expression–“Keep Calm And Carry On”–that will be the theme now, right?
      Hugs Galore to you, too!

  7. The card was extraordinarily crass and insensitive. I’d have preferred the frog. Whatever were they thinking? You are working through a challenging time and I admire they way you have tried to deal with this bizarre intervention.

    • Actually, Andrew, now that I think about it, I agree with you: I’d have preferred the frog card. Absolutely! It would have still caught me off guard, but it would have made me laugh out loud, and laughter is good medicine, right?

      • Sometimes it is the only medicine, Marylin.

      • Thank you for the reminder, Andrew. I’m going to put that on a stick’em note on my mirror to remind myself that laughter really is the best–and sometimes only–medicine. Amen.
        p.s. I may also put a picture of a dead frog with the note. Visuals make good reminders…

  8. Timing is everything. I’ll need to be getting that book to see how we are portrayed, even if it is not about funeral service. I’ll report back

    • I think you’ll appreciate PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE. The young woman gets all kinds of interesting advice about death rituals and understanding their importance. As her skills improve and she physically connects with the dead she is preparing, she has a subtle but very real transformation of her own.
      Let me know what you think of the novel, please.
      P.S. Your post on puppies as the ultimate antidepressants made my day!

  9. And then there’s the occasional obituary that is published in the mistaken belief that someone has died! I would have been gobsmacked to receive an early sympathy card but it does show how anxious we become about death, what to say, when to say it etc. And that applies to dementia, too, I would imagine. Sending you lots of blessings to you and yours for this day. 🙂

    • “Gobsmacked” is a great description, Gallivanta! I’ll have to use that in a conversation soon…I love it.
      We do become so anxious about death, and there is a direct parallel about our anxiety about dementia and Alzheimer’s, too. Each is a retreat, a pulling away from us, and we’re not exactly sure what is happening.

      • Another blogger has been talking to me about the ebbing tide of time. I hadn’t thought about this much but I sense this here, as well, in your words “pulling away”. As I write, I am listening to a radio report on a recent dementia survey; two thirds of New Zealanders know of, or have a close connection to someone with dementia. Yet our current Government doesn’t want to raise the wage for caregivers, and, in Australia, where the situation with dementia is much the same, the Government is to withdraw the extra support payment for those with dementia. Our politicians need to get real, or perhaps we should have a new criteria for entering Parliament; ie must have spent at least one year as a primary caregiver of a person with dementia.

      • Those with the power to do something might not feel the need to do it…until Alzheimer’s or dementia affects them personally, Gallivanta. Caregivers have a difficult, sometime exhausting job, and a good caregiver is a blessing to the person and the family.
        The retreat, the pulling away, is part of all end-of-life stages, including dementia and Alzheimer’s, and causes us all a lot of anxiety. I relate to your expression about the ebbing tide of time.

  10. Gwen Stephens

    That has to be one of the oddest things I’ve heard, Marilyn. Sending a sympathy card in advance? I’m sure the couple were well-meaning, and obviously thoughtful and generous in making the charitable donation in your mother’s name, but nonetheless I find it in bad taste. Sending a birthday or graduation card in advance seems reasonable. But a sympathy card? No. Not in my opinion. I think you’ve handled it well; read it again when you need its comfort.

    • Thanks, Gwen. My favorite out-of-sequence card was when I turned 60. A friend sent a card weeks later, saying that of course she didn’t send it on time because I didn’t look like I was anywhere close to being 60, so it was my own fault for looking so young. Now, THAT kind of out-of-sequence card I welcome!
      An early sympathy card? Not so much.

  11. You write with such grace, Marylin. And I love the fact that you can over look someone’s insensitivity to time and emotions by putting the card aside and saving it for the day when you might need to read it. All my best to you my friend. Robyn

    • Thank you, Robyn. I put it away out of necessity, believe me.
      Your black and white photography is so effective and moving; I’ve been meaning to ask if you’ve heard of a resurgence in some parts of the country of taking posed pictures of the dead before burying them. Supposedly photographers captured these “last images” in the past, especially the late 1800s and into the 1900s. As a photographer, have you heard of this revival of final, posed pictures with the deceased sitting at a table or out in a garden…or with living relatives posed around them?

  12. At first I thought maybe they had been given some false information about your mother, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. That is very odd, Marylin.
    I’m not sure I would have handled receiving such a card with as much grace as you.

    • I didn’t handle it with grace, Jill. I’m not going to answer the early message or respond at all now.
      When my mother does die–whenever that is–then I will send an official family card thanking them for their donation to Alzheimer’s research, but nothing until then. Sometimes there are no words, so it’s better to say nothing, right?

      • By not having a knee-jerk reaction to this card, you allow yourself the appropriate time and space to properly assess the situation…to me, that’s grace. I would have probably picked up the phone and let the sender know how inappropriate this card is.

      • And I do know the woman well enough to realize that if I did call or email and comment, the outcome would be awful…and unending.
        At other times when she’s done things to get attention, Jill, it has been to elicit a response and then it becomes very tiring and time consuming. I hate the attempted manipulation, especially this time when it has to do with my mother’s situation.

  13. I’m speechless.

    And quite aware that only God can judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Thank you for showing, once again, that it’s always wisest to extend grace.

    • Thanks, Tracy. I have to admit I was stunned and very irritated when the card first arrived. But that’s passed, and I’m glad I didn’t grab the phone or log on to email and say something stupid.
      Also, as I get older, I realize that patience is a virtue… and taking a deep breath and waiting before responding is a lifesaver. Mine especially. 😉

      • I’ve been thinking about this off and on all day. I have a feeling;

        Our attempts to reach out to people in difficult situations are always fraught with the danger that we will be misunderstood. I thing your friends had the best intentions in reaching out. I’m sure they meant well.

      • I hope you’re right, Tracy, I really do. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and not respond this time. It will certainly take less time and energy on my part, and right now that’s a legitimate consideration. I think I would be more generous about believing they meant well if they hadn’t also included the typed letter in the same envelope with the sympathy card. The letter alone would have been sufficient; I don’t understand why the Sympathy card was included. But I’ll listen to your feeling–you have very good instincts–and hope that they did have the best intentions.

  14. I have heard of people lacking empathy before, but this instance takes the cake! Surely, with the vast array of cards for all eventualities, they could have found something more appropriate? Bless you for your response. As for putting make-up on corpses, I hate it. I have yet to see a made-up dead face that doesn’t look like a shop mannequin. Why can’t the face be left as it is, cold and white and dead?

    • That was my general feeling, too, until I read this novel. It’s really a good story, very real and respectful…and enlightening about heartfelt communications between the living and the dead. I think you might like this book.

  15. Marilyn … I admire your gracious response. I’m not sure how I’d react. Best wishes to you and your mother. You have a wonderfully, strong, loving bond.

    To me, condolences should come after … not before … someone dies. It is hard to find the right words in such a situation. Mine are sparing: “I’m sorry for your loss. My condolences.”

    • Judy, I always used to think that the standard police reply–“We’re sorry for your loss”–was awkward and perfunctory. Now that I have a son-on-law police officer, I understand why the cordial sympathy with distance is important.
      I would have much preferred that reply as part of a “Thinking of You” card, since losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s or dementia is a difficult, grueling loss long before the person actually dies. But we don’t get to choose, and I am grateful for their donation to Alzheimer’s research, so I try to focus on that.

  16. Unbelievable! The senders for their incredible thoughtlessness and the receiver for the grace to accept the card.
    I don’t like all the euphemisms used in place of death, died, dying. I much preferred someone to acknowledge the pain of my father’s or mother’s death than being told they were sorry my parents had ‘passed on’.
    I am of two minds about the use of makeup for funerals.
    Glad your mother could relate to the nail polish. And so glad she would have seen the humorous side of the early retirement card 🙂

    • “Early retirement” card is a great euphemism, Rod!!!
      I feel kind of itchy when I hear phrases like “passed on” or “final sleep” or “gone with angels” or “passing over.” My mother was never upset or uncomfortable with the word “death”–anymore than she was upset by the word “life,” so I took my cues from her.

  17. I really can’t believe what they were thinking – or thinking at all! I’d have been perplexed to receive it, I’d have been wondering if they’d heard incorrectly that your mother had passed away – but the message obviously showed otherwise. I have noticed that greetings cards companies are branching out, obviously to try to get us to buy more and more cards – for example, ‘thank you teacher’ cards and gifts seem to have appeared in the last couple of years. Once, I’m sure, giving a little gift to thank your child’s teacher was a nice thought, but now I wonder if it’s just become another ‘duty’. I have also notice more and more people now that are no longer sending Christmas cards – usually making a donation to charity instead. I think this is just a sign that sending cards often becomes dutiful rather than a sign of affection that it probably once was, so some people are trying to find another way of holding on to the original meaning of sending a greeting.

    • I think you’re right, Andrea.
      And your comment about Christmas cards made me think of something else about this couple. The wife is an absolute stickler for long, perfectly presented and detailed Christmas letters that are mailed out each year at precisely the appropriate time. Maybe she thought she’d found the perfect sympathy card and went ahead and wrote the precise sentiment on the inside…and then she waited, thinking it would surely be soon.
      That’s the problem with death–it’s not always cooperative!–so maybe she typed up a separate page, put them together and mailed them, just to have them done.

  18. Marilyn … I just listened to an NPR program – “This American Life” – that aired Friday. It contains a story about ‘Magic Words’ that you might find interesting. It’s in Part Two: “Rainy Days and Mondys” (yes, that’s the correct spelling). The couple talks about how they use improve to talk to her mother who has dementia. From what you’ve written, I bet you’ve done something similar in chatting with your Mom. If you give it a listen, let me know what you think: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/532/magic-words?act=0#play

    • Judy, this episode on Magic Words is very interesting!
      Without realizing it, I do think that I’ve used some similar techniques while chatting with my mom, but this is specific and helpful. Thanks for sharing the link.

  19. Claudia

    Thank you for the writing ops. Life has intervened and I have not been able to repsond. I hope to look again later. This week’s post is a shocker. Death has surrounded me so much lately and it also waits in the wings with many of our people fading away. My friend’s mother with Alzhiemer’s died this week. I will have to think on your post today…but thanks for being courageous enough to share such a personal experience for our own pondering.

    • Thanks for sharing about your friend’s mother, Claudia. When someone with Alzheimer’s or severe dementia dies, the grieving process takes on additional steps. While there’s a relief that the confusion and pain has ended, there’s also a new level of loss that appears. When my dad died after a very hard time with Alzheimer’s, I already felt I had lost him years earlier. But during the next year as I remembered things about him before the Alzheimer’s, each time I mourned for the dad who was all those things and not the disease. You friend is fortunate to have you there to listen and help her.

    • Claudia, there’s another glitch, and I can’t connect to your blog. Help!

  20. Karen Keim

    Marylin, the person who sent the card might have been confused or depressed. I always try to figure out how I can make sense of another person’s actions, even if they hurt. I would not want to be the person who sent that card to you, and if that person has thought about it since, she might have be totally alarmed at her action and not know what to do about it. Indeed, sometimes we just lose perspective due to impulsivity, obsessive-compulsivity, social isolation, or depression. We also tend to categorize people as important or unimportant to us, or as representing something we have to respond to or change in some way in order to make ourselves more comfortable. Whatever the reason for that card, you have great material for a short story!

    • Interesting possibilities, Karen. You might be right. I’ll give it some thought. While the card actually is in line with some of the extreme things she’s done in the past–and isn’t actually as extreme as some of her other responses in the past–it’s at least worth considering. And you’re right: it’s also great material for a short story! 😉 Thanks for the comments.

  21. Great topic Marylin …I Don`t know the reason why putting a make up to dead people well this post give me some inspiration to my new post today my friend http://wp.me/p1Dwwo-VK .

  22. I would have cried if I were you and had received a card and note like that — for the hurt it would have caused me as well as for the person who sent it. There’s a hole in that person’s heart.

    • Oh, Darla, I think you got it! Really. As soon as I read your comment about there being a hole in the heart of the person who sent the card, I knew you were right. For many years I’ve suspected something was missing, something was contrived and not genuine, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong.
      A hole in her heart–not literally, of course–but emotionally and also, I think, spiritually, too, and she treats it by staying busy with travels and redecorating, searching for ways to fill it…which included things like sending cards like these and trying to control communications.
      It’s a long story, but I do believe you’re very right. Thank you so much, Darla. And actually, this makes me less critical and suspicious of her, as I think this hole in her heart causes her more pain than anyone else.

  23. Marylin, when I read the paragraph about the family sending you the card, (out loud) I said “Oh my God”. Truly, there are those in the world that I guess, walk to the beat of a different drummer.
    Blessings to you for your forgiveness towards them.
    I may just look up the book you recommend – sounds interesting. 🙂
    xo Joanne

    • Thank you, Joanne. This post–and many others, too, plus all the helpful perspectives shared in the comments–reminds me of the wonderful wealth of insights of my blog friends.
      The card made me feel awful; your responses remind me that no, I really can’t focus on this or take it seriously. Thank you.

  24. Oh, this was such a wrong approach!! I am appalled at this couple’s choice of a card. It is a blessing to still have a mother, whether forgetful, as mine is, or suffering from dementia or Alzheimers. I would move on, like Joanne mentioned, she is so right, forgiving them for their unfortunate faux paus!
    By the way, I loved “My Girl” and “My Girl, 2” due to the fact that the girl’s father, played by Dan Aykroyd, was a funeral director and he falls in love with a woman who puts make-up on corpses, for their final viewings. Smiles, Robin

    • I agree that still having our mothers, regardless of their health or memories, is a blessing, and I would also like to think that–without the dementia–my mom would laugh at this “early” card. She might find it strange, but I think she would laugh, whether it was a faux pas or something more hurtful. Then she would forget about it. So I’ll follow her lead and laugh…and then forget about it.

      PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE has its fun and funny moments, Robin, but like with the MY GIRL movies, it’s never at the expense of the dead or their families and friends who grieve for them. The novel is a touching reminder about life’s lessons we “learn on the job” even when the “job” is something dreadful that happened and requires us to work through it.

  25. Hi Marylin, I’ve been away from your blog for quite some time now so when I read that you received a sympathy card I felt terribly guilty for not keeping up with your posts. Then when I realized that it was “sympathy in advance”, my eyes popped and emotions bubbled up in me and I said out loud, “no, that person did not do that, no way”. I wish the person had sent you a blank card with a simple thinking of you greeting. Life is full of dual experiences; we just have to embrace them all.

    I wish for you a blessed week and sending you and your mom happy thoughts.

    • Thank you so much, Elaine, and it’s good to have you back.
      Your reaction is so very much like mine was–“No way could she have done this!”–and I do wish a simple, thoughtful “thinking of you” card had been sent instead. Wishing you a blessed week and happy thoughts, too.

  26. I think sending a preemptive sympathy card is highly insensitive. I can’t imagine why someone would do that. It just goes to show the importance of WHAT we write, HOW we write it and WHEN we send it.

    I think the story about the nail polish is beautiful xxxx

    • That’s it in a sentence, Dianne: we have to pay attention to what we write, how we write it, and when we send it. It could be a writing lesson on a bumper sticker!
      The nail polish is a much better part of the post for me to think about. Thanks so much for your comments.

  27. I’m sorry but I don’t get where it would benefit anyone by receiving a sympathy card before someone has passed – except for the sender so perhaps they don’t forget to send it? Your relationship with your Mother is one of love, compassion and deep respect that we as your blogging community have had the honor to enter and appreciate. Marylin you are something to behold – all my best.

    • Thank you, Mary. I appreciate this comment very much, plus your support as well as the support of other bloggers. Getting this “pre-emptive” sympathy card will have me scratching my head for a long time, but as another blogger said, it’ll make a good story idea sometime. 😉

  28. Kana Tyler

    Good grief, were they is SUCH a hurry to check that particular communication off their to-do list? Every time I think I’ve heard the most-ridiculous-behavior-ever, someone new manages to surprise me. 😉 Kudos to you for having the grace & humor to deal with a bizarre situation.

    • I agree, Kana. This one takes the cake for most-ridiculous-behavior-ever, or it at least scores in the Top Ten I’ve ever heard. I once read a news account about a future mother-in-law who bought her son and daughter-in-law matching plush bath robes. She had her son’s initials put on his robe, but she left the future daughter-in-law’s robe blank…just in case. If the marriage didn’t last, then she could have the initials of the “right woman for him” put on the robe.
      At the time, I thought this was off-the-charts unbelievable behavior; now I see it as merely tied with the “early” sympathy card. People really are unpredictable… 😉

  29. Oh Marylin, I truly was shocked to read this but not half as shocked as you were when you got the card. I would have been livid. I just don’t understand that kind of thinking at all. I will shut up because I don’t know your friends and I don’t want to cause offence but I’m your friend and as your friend…well…okay. Shutting up now…but I am so proud of you and how you handled it and then shared it here with us in such a graceful and beautifully written way. But then I wouldn’t expect anything less from you…

    I can’t get over that frog sympathy card either! Goodness…

    Thank you for the write up about the book. You will be interested to know that Aspie D wanted to do this very job at one time but the Job Centre advisor thought she was crazy to consider it, being a ‘young girl’ and all… She isn’t freaked out about dead bodies and with her creativity and great make up skills, she felt she would enjoy being able to help people in this way while keeping away from an office full of people alone with her job and away from the stress of life on the outside. I’m sure you understand what I mean, knowing my daughter as you do. I’m definitely going to get this book Marylin (my birthday is coming up and very strong hints for a Kindle Paperwhite have been going out for some time!!).
    Dear friend…I want to give you a great big hug right now…I hope you are feeling it, ‘cos I’m sending it… ❤

    • I DO feel it, Sherri! Thank you.
      You can get PUTTING MAKEUP ON DEAD PEOPLE on your Kindle, and I think both your and your daughter will be glad if you read this book. With her talents, she’ll especially some of the main character’s obstacles and solutions.
      She might recommend the book to her Job Centre advisor; I would think an advisor would be impressed with a talented young woman wanting to help people in this way!

  30. Jane Thorne

    Words are so powerful, as are thoughts and prayers…Marylin, some folks desire to live in a tidy world, causes pain to others. Wrapping you all in loving thoughts. xXx ❤

    • Thank you, Jane. I’m very glad the distance between us and this couple is several states, because I still don’t “get” it, sending this card early.
      I went by the Hallmark “Satruday” cards yesterday, and I still don’t see any pictures of women riding on tractors and back-hoes. I think they’re waiting for you, Jane! 😉

      • Jane Thorne

        Marylin Hello….I went onto Hallmark and they are saying that the competition is closed. I tried a while back and then again yesterday…am I getting it wrong? I had all my by-lines written out too…:-) I also tried the essay competition and it is only open to US residents…so I took the hint and am going to write my book instead!! ❤ xX

      • OH-NO, Jane!!!
        I edited three card submissions for a local writer, and she submitted two of them (with pictures) to Hallmark Saturdays on August 19. It was open then, and she got a computer reply, saying it had come through. I can’t believe that in the space of another week, it closed. 😦
        Hang on to yours, Jane. We’ll keep looking. Plus (I just checked the site and it is closed) it does say that they might open it again. When it happens, we WILL BE READY!!!

  31. Getting a sympathy early is very bad taste. You deserve a pat on your shoulder for dealing with it in a graceful manner . Our society has pushed the end of life in a dark corner full of fears and anxiety . I will read the book you recommended. Thank you for another thoughtful post.
    My mother did a similar thing you describe in your response to Kana. She bought me a set of cutlery with my maiden name initials engraved onto them. I wanted my new name but she insisted and wouldn’t you know it after my divorce I was really glad and now 46 years later I still use my knives and forks .

    • Oh, Gerlinde, this makes me laugh! Thank you!
      What seemed like a mistake by your mother actually turned to be right. Mother DID Know Best! 🙂
      And to still be using the knives and forks 46 years later is great. I love it.

  32. I’m flabbergasted that someone would send a sympathy card in advance, and I think you’ve handled it in the best way possible. Certainly, a “thinking of you” card and note would be far more appropriate. But I’m not sure what thought process was involved here!

    • And if all else failed, even a blank art-type card with a Thinking of You message inside would have been very nice. I still don’t get it, but if this is the worst thing that happens, I can handle it. 🙂

  33. The woman who sent the ‘Sympathy’ card seems to be lacking empathy. And, she sounds a little arrogant. Maybe she has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
    In any case, your composure in handling the situation is remarkable Marylin.
    I hope Mary disappoints the insensitive ‘Sympathy’ card sender and lives many more happy years!

    • I think Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a valid possibility in this case, Theresa. And I’m still smiling at your hope that my mom with disappoint her by living many happy years. 🙂
      To be honest, though, I wasn’t all that composed. I was really irritated… and tempted to compose a zinger response that would snap her to attention. But I didn’t.
      It isn’t worth the energy…plus, it wouldn’t change her, so it would be wasted time.

  34. Sympathy messages are some of the more difficult letters or cards to write. The standard phrases (i.e., I’m so sorry for your loss) feel empty to me. Surely, we can take the time and come up with something more personal and creative. As far as that “pre-emptive” sympathy card is concerned – that’s a bit creepy and tasteless.

    • I agree, totally. Fortunately, as I grow older I’m learning that it’s better to ignore than to confront. So that’s what I’ve decided to do–ignore it–even though it is creepy and offensive.

  35. Molly

    Well, since I know who this crazy person is, and I know of all the other crazy things she has done, I will just go ahead and pipe in.

    Thankfully you know this lady and have known her longer that I have been alive, so you know that this is just about par for her recent (in the last 12-14 years) shenanigans. I can’t imagine if it was from someone completely different, or if she does this kind of kooky things to people who don’t know her so well.

    The fun part of it all, was when you and I were trying to figure out her reason or rationale for this card. We sure cam up with some great scenarios. And the cool thing is we can live in our world of her reason – and will never have to deal with it again.

    I think that this would be a great story idea – “Mrs., Scarlett, the Pre-emptive debutant.” It could be all about a true “lady’ who is always trying to do the socially acceptable things, but in order to make sure she gets everything done, she often does them so far in advance.

    Anyway, we will just continue to thank God for not making us a kooky as this lady was!

    Love you,

    Molly

    • We’re going to make a story writer out of you yet, Molly! If only Grandma could realize this, she’d be so excited that now the three of us could go to writing conferences and workshops together!
      Just wait; some day Grace will be joining us, too! How much fun will that be! Love you, Mookie!

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