As we head into the gift giving season full steam ahead, I’ve been paying particular attention to the “gifts” that are suggested in obituaries – the donations made to honor a person’s memory their favorite charity or their life’s work.

For years I have sent checks to whatever followed the phrase “in lieu of flowers,” but it seems now that, like everything else connected with dying these days (memorial services, do-it-yourself obituaries, funeral attire, parting gifts, etc.), there is a lot more creativity in what is suggested in place of plants.

The obituary for John E. “Jack” Jones, 64, who died earlier this month in Glenside, Penn. is a timely example.

Jack enjoyed cars and Indy car racing and was a great movie trivia buff… In lieu of flowers, and in his honor, go see the new James Bond movie.

Skyfall has been extremely successful at the box office and probably didn’t need Jack’s help, but it’s a good example of how to tailor the cause to the particular, or even peculiar, tastes of the deceased.

It appears that President Obama, like Skyfall, didn’t need the help of one recently deceased woman who urged contributions to his campaign:

In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made in Jean’s name to the Obama 2012 re-election fund…


Even though another person was eager to support his defeat:

“The family respectfully asked that donations be sent to … the campaign of whoever is running against President Barack Obama in 2012. 


The more common suggestions often target the disease that caused the death: heart, cancer, diabetes, ALS and more. There are donations to animal groups, churches, schools, foundations and libraries. Money is even suggested to fight suicide, drugs or depression:

Donations will be contributed to an anti-drug education program in his memory…


Here are some others that offer creative but still meaningful alternatives, the first one especially important during the holiday period when blood banks run low:

In lieu of flowers, please give the gift of life by donating blood and platelets to your local blood bank…


In lieu of flowers, which she always hated, she would love if people donated to her favorite charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.


…gifts to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and The Blue Ocean Institute would serve her intentions appropriately…

Donations will be used to plant trees and park benches, honoring his love for life.


Please consider an adoption from your local “life” animal shelter…


This one leaves the creativity entirely up to the reader or friend:

His children ask that you make a donation to the charity of your choice.


And, finally, the ultimate reminder that life is fleeting and that no expression of love should go untold lest it be too late:

In lieu of flowers, please hug a loved one and take a moment to express the value they bring to your life.



Susan Soper is the founder and author of ObitKit™, A Guide to Celebrating Your Life. A lifelong journalist, she was formerly the Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she launched a series called "Living with Grief" shortly after her father died. Susan lives in Atlanta with her husband.


Image courtesy of MGM


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