Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my father's death at age 90. Although I miss him, I no longer feel sad every day. My feelings are more fondness and appreciation for him and the man he was.
Two days ago I received a card by U.S. mail from a friend named Cass. She wrote, "Lynn, my thoughts are with you and your family on the anniversary of your father's death." The printed message on the card said simply, "A beautiful soul is never forgotten."
I love this card. It shows thoughtfulness, caring, attention to detail, and follow-through.
When I told Cass how much I appreciated receiving the card, she surprised me by asking, "Do you know where I got the idea to send the card?" I did not know. She responded, "From your book."
I had to laugh when I realized Cass was, of course, correct. In my book Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time there is a chapter titled "Convey Condolences to Connect With Others." Cass was referring to this part of that chapter:
When you send a message of condolence, add the date to your calendar. That way you can remember the anniversary with your colleague who lost the family member or friend, if you choose to. You might send a brief note like one of these:
At this time of year I remember Sam's passing and think of you. I have been thinking about what a generous, funny man he was and how much you must miss him.
Know that I am thinking of you during this time of remembering.
With warm wishes,
Dear Mr. Robson,
With the holidays upon us, I remember that Jeff died over Christmas break last year. I just want you to know I am thinking of you as you remember and grieve the loss of your loving son.
If you are thinking that it is untruthful to add a date to your calendar and then imply that you remembered it, think again. You remembered to add it to your calendar. Then when your calendar reminded you of the anniversary, you remembered the individuals involved.
Some people prefer to remember happy times rather than sad anniversaries. If you happen to know the birthday or wedding anniversary of someone who has died, you can acknowledge that date with the grieving family member or friend.
Sending this kind of message is a perfect way to strengthen a relationship.
And it is more than just a kind gesture. It can be an essential part of keeping in touch with a client, customer, or associate who has lost a loved one. In my book, I tell the story of a violin student whose husband died suddenly. Because of his death, she took a break from her violin lessons. When her teacher never followed up with a note or phone call to find out how the woman was feeling and whether she wanted to resume lessons, the student felt that the teacher did not care about her. She found another teacher. The relationship ended because the teacher did not reach out with a simple message.
How do you feel about the idea of sending follow-up condolence messages long after someone has died?