So far most of what I’ve written to you about has been focused on the emotional and psychological...
Apparently Google thinks I’m searching for the perfect “gift for that person who has everything”. If only it were that easy.
Gift giving is a whole lot more challenging when you are searching for the perfect thing to give someone for whom this might be their last gift-receiving event.
I remember how hard this is. Or at least, how hard I made it by thinking and overthinking.
If you’re just looking for gift ideas, skip over the next couple of paragraphs because they won’t serve you in your mission.
But, if you could use some validation that thinking about this is complicated and convoluted, bordering on exhaustion, then read on. Because, here is just a sample of how my brain would respond to seeing events marked in red on the calendar...Dad’s birthday, my birthday, Father’s Day, Christmas….
- How do you mark an event and give it the gravity deserving of “the last” without knowing for certain it is?
- Without feeling guilty that by thinking it is I’m in some way a harbinger of it?
- By commemorating it as such am I not reminding the recipient of something they don’t need another reminder of?
- By not recognizing it for what it most likely is, do I miss out on making the most of it?
- And in the end, how can anyone just enjoy the occasion without the additional weight of all this?
Overwhelmed? Me, too. Unfortunately I can’t offer anything other than my experience that all these thoughts are normal and thinking them won’t change anything.
If it helps, here are a few “gift” suggestions based on things I did that I felt turned out well. There were a few, like that weekend getaway to a favorite place that I gifted but we never took because my Dad felt too sick; or the family photo idea that failed because even those who like to have their photos taken don’t really want to be remembered when they are at their oldest and sickest.
Back to the better ideas...
Their Favorite Book - yes...they probably already have a copy of their favorite book. Why would it make sense to give them another? Odds are they haven’t read it in years. I’d also bet they’d love to either read it again or listen to it. The magic here is really for you, the gift giver. Shortly after my Dad was diagnosed with cancer I decided to read his favorite book How Green Was My Valley with the purpose of trying to understand why it was so meaningful to him. Being able to talk to him about the book is one of the more poignant memories I associate with being a care partner.
Their Favorite Music - admittedly, I am of the generation of the Mixed-Tape. Nothing says love like a mixed tape. We all know the power of music and its ability not only to evoke feeling and emotion, but also to transport you, or your loved one, back to another time. One of Caregiven’s early supporters shared with me one of her favorite memories of caring for her mother - singing Andrews Sisters songs so loud and joyfully that others in the care community were inspired to sing along.
Depending on their era, another fun idea is to listen together to the radio shows that they followed when they were younger. A cursory search of “The Shadow”, a radio show from the 1930’s resulted in a number of different ways that the episodes could be replayed, from podcasts to MP3 downloads.
A Photo Album - but not the monumental task kind. Or at least, not the way I did it. When my grandmother passed away my Dad brought home all her loose photos and photo albums in a huge box. I took that box and sent it off to Scan-Cafe who not only scanned every photo, including the ones in the photo albums, they restored many, and only charged me for those I wanted to keep. My grandmother loved cats, a good 40% of her lifetime photos were of cats my Dad or I never met. I certainly didn’t need photos of them. Scan-Cafe then returned all the originals back to me and I went on to Shutterfly and “recreated” the photo albums in one of their book formats. This is a super easy way to get all family members a copy of the family photo album, avoiding any conflict that may arise and your loved one will enjoy flipping through the pages of the book.
Birthday Newspaper Book - is a collection of the front page of a chosen newspaper for every year of your loved one’s life. In truth I enjoyed the book more than my Dad, but the sentiment was there and it did provide the opportunity to talk about historic events that he lived through. Now that he’s gone my children have found it fascinating to flip through (even though they can’t quite wrap their heads around what a newspaper is).
Then there are a number of really creative ideas out there on Pinterest, Instagram, Etsy and so on.
They just take some modifications. Think “baby’s first” type activities….just...well...you get it.
My Dad and kids loved making handprint art. For me, it’s incredibly moving to see how the generations line up and remember how big my Dad’s hands were, and how small my daughters’ (his namesake) the year he died. There are do-it-yourself kits online that make this project easy even during the pandemic.
As I’ve been writing I continue to reflect on the challenge of finding the perfect gift, rethinking some suggestions and definitely remembering the emotional rollercoaster of anticipating the weight of it being my Dad’s “last…” whatever. The reality that the gift wasn’t what mattered but the time spent together was, and the regret following that if only I’d given every previous Father’s Day, Birthday, Christmas, etc... the same focus that I did this, I’d have a lifetime of memories to last me the rest of my life.
It just doesn’t work that way. Or rather, it didn’t for me. I’d love to know if you have a different approach, a different perspective, or even different suggestions of what makes a meaningful gift for the person who has...only one last Christmas, birthday...special day.
We're in this together...