It was time to clean my desk, so I emptied all the cubbyholes and dumped everything on the table. I sorted through old baby announcements, wedding invitations, endearing birthday cards and sweet thank you notes. I started a pile to keep and a stack to shred and then, to my surprise, I found two condolence messages tucked into eulogies from my mother’s funeral.

I wondered, “Why did I save these?” When my mother died 13 years ago, I received dozens of condolence notes and I read them over and over again in the months following her death. While the notes brought me solace, there came a time when I felt I no longer needed them and threw them away. I did not remember saving any so I re-read these two.

Both condolence messages had much in common. For starters, they were emails. Each was long and descriptive; most interestingly, they were directed not just to me but to all of my siblings.

The messages made an immediate connection, acknowledging how they shared our sadness. “It is with great sorrow that I learned of you dear mother’s passing,” her friend stated. “Words cannot tell you how much I will miss her and how much she affected my life.” My cousin wrote, “We are all so sad she is gone and know that our grief is only a small portion of what you all must be feeling.”

What struck me was how each message detailed my mom’s unique qualities and shared facets of her life that as her children, we may not have seen. “She was a strong personality and would hardly ever let you see her vulnerability,” her friend shared. “She appreciated the littlest kindnesses and would match it by doing so much more in return.”

My cousin “Was so honored that she came to both our children’s b’nai mitzvahs – the occasions would not have been the same without her. Everyone who met her was charmed and our friend, the chiropractor, who treated her after she put her back out doing the Y-M-C-A, still asks about her regularly.”

The stories went on and on and I smiled as I read, realizing just why I had saved them; they reminded me once again how lucky I was to have had such a great mom. Isn’t that what a memorable sympathy note should do?

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.

Image via printable sympathy cards by Jenna

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