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The Caring Basket, a Sympathy Gift That Changed Lives

Harriet Hodgson

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I have read about grief, written about grief, and learned grief terms, such as multiple losses. Reading about multiple losses and experiencing them are two different things. Only now, after four loved ones died within nine months, do I understand multiple losses and the grief that comes with them.

On Feb. 23, 2007 my older daughter, the mother of my twin grandchildren, died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Two days later, on Feb. 25, 2007 my father-in-law succumbed to pneumonia. I sobbed when I saw his obituary and my daughter's obituary on the same page of the newspaper.

I have belonged to the Minnesota Medical Association Alliance (MMAA) for years and have friends around the state. These friends rallied to help me as soon as they heard of my losses. We received hundreds of cards, dozens of bouquets, and many food baskets. These expressions of sympathy were comforting.

Five months later my brother died of cancer. Friends sent more sympathy cards and flowers. I was recovering pretty well until my former son-in-law and the father of my twin grandchildren, died from the injuries he received in a car crash on Nov. 19, 2007.

"I've never seen so much tragedy, " one friend said. “It's unbelievable. "

"I have trouble believing it myself, " I replied.

Friends wanted to help, but they didn't know what to do. After phone and e-mail consultations they came up with the idea of a Caring Basket. Two friends delivered the basket personally. It was wrapped in cellophane, tied with silver and blue ribbons, and packed with goodies. The basket was so beautifully wrapped my grandchildren were reluctant to open it.

Finally, they tore off the cellophane. Inside they found cookies, candy, and gift cards for book stores, chain restaurants, ethnic restaurants, grocery stores, sporting goods stores, bowling allies, bakeries, mall merchants, specialty shops, and more. There was even a small file folder for the gift cards. A sympathy card, listing the names of the contributors, was also tucked inside.

My family was overwhelmed by such generosity. Six months have passed since the Caring Basket was delivered. Most of the cards were used by my grandchildren. They hosted movie parties, bowling parties, and took friends out to lunch and dinner. With the clarity of hindsight, I realize that the Caring Basket contained two surprise gifts, the gift of listening and the gift of restored control.

Often we are afraid to talk with the bereaved for fear of causing them pain. But people who are grieving need to talk about their deceased loved ones. Minnesota Medical Association Alliance friends made it a point to ask how I was doing and listened to my story. My grand children's story is a bit different. One by one, as they redeemed the gift cards, they regained control over lives that were out of control.

The Caring Basket changed our lives. Has your friend lost a loved one? Send them a Caring Basket to lift their spirits now and in the days ahead. I am blessed to have caring and steadfast MMA Alliance friends. Thanks to them, life feels good again.

Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance nonfiction writer for 30 years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, " written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from

Centering Corporation in Omaha, NE, North America's oldest and largest grief resource center, is publishing her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss & Grief to a New Life. " Please log onto Harriet's Web site and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.


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