Keeping Memories Alive For The Ages
Memorial gifts can take on a variety of forms and styles, and they can come at just about any time, whether it be just after a death or years later (and, in come cases, as we shall soon see, they are arranged well in advance of a death). Here are some fairly well known stories related to some of the more interesting memorial gifts of days gone by.
The tradition of memorial gifts dates back to times that were even ancient for the Ancient Greeks. The legendary poet Homer, for example, tells of us the elaborate memorial gifts bestowed upon the family of the adventurer Odysseus after his ship was delayed in returning home from war and it was long assumed that he was lost at sea. Odysseus does indeed return home, however, and discovers that his family has been afforded plenty of riches – perhaps the first memorial gifts in history – in his absence.
If we flash forward to the 20th century, we see that memorial gifts are still a noteworthy tradition in Western culture. It is common, for example, to see coffins adorned with heaps of flowers presented by grieving loved ones, and post-memorial service parties are often attended by gift bearing friends of the deceased. The gifts are usually intended to capture the spirit of the lost loved-one in an attempt to comfort grieving family members. Quite common today are published requests for gifts to be made in the form of contributions to a favorite charity of the deceased. The American Diabetes Association and other similar charities sometimes in fact, present reminders of their projects to customers at funeral homes in hopes that families will, perhaps, ask friends and relatives for memorial gift donations.
One particularly interesting request for memorial gifts donations came in 2006 when the obituary for a woman in Wisconsin ask for memorial gift donations to be made to “any group or cause working for the removal of President George W. Bush.” Investigation into this request revealed that it came from the woman’s children, not the woman herself, but, all of the children were certain that their mother would agree with it whole heartedly. Because of its political nature, the woman’s obituary caught the attention of media outlets across the nation for several weeks. It remains unclear, however, whether it translated into a more donations than usual for political groups opposed to President Bush.
A much more romantic and less controversial memorial gift came posthumously from the late comedian Jack Benny. In what appears to many of his fans to have been a somewhat ironic idea for his often bitingly sarcastic personality, Benny arranged several years before his death that a florist would deliver his wife one red rose each day after his own death. This touching memorial gift has been the subject of numerous articles, essays and even poems, and it is apparent that it came as a complete surprise to Benny’s wife. As instructed, the florist did not deliver the first years worth of roses until the first anniversary of Benny’s death, but the flow continued unabated from that point forward.