A cheer up gift for the dying. Ideas?

I need ideas for a cheering up gift for my grandparents. I probably need to give a bit of background on why they need one…

My grandma is dying of cancer. They stopped active treatment about a month ago and are now only giving paliative care. She found out yesterday that her leg is probably going to be amputated very high up because she has so many painful ulcers that they’re going to join up and make life unbearable. In the meantime, she’s on mild chemo. My two uncles who live overseas have both left in the previous weeks, having rushed to see her while she was still well enough, and so I think, although they’re very relieved to have time to themselves, the house feels very empty.

They live in another state - an hour by plane - I’m visiting in a few weeks time, but when I spoke to them the other day, they sounded really, really flat.

Now I know it’s all to be expected, and I know that it’s not a happy, cheery time, but if I can just do something to give them just a moment where something good has happened, then I want to do that.

Anything that takes them out of the house is out (so no dinner’s out or movie/theatre tickets), and my grandmother really isn’t enjoying food (so a nice gourmet hamper is out) she can’t bear to be touched (so a massage or facial or even skin cream is out too).

So does anyone have any brilliant suggestions? I have to either be able to order it remotely or send it in the post, remember…

It may be a bit cliche-d, but in this case, a really beautiful flower arrangement might be nice. Not a bouquet that they will have to deal with themselves, but something that can be placed directly by your grandmothers bed.

And a handwritten cheerful letter from you with photos of you, your SO and your kids if you have any. Just ramble for two pages about what you are doing this week, the weather, and your plans to visit them. I am sure they will be touched.

And I’m sorry to hear that your family is going through this miserable time… You have my sympathy.

A newsy letter with photos would be lovely. Is she a reader or TV/ Movie watcher? Books, DVDs, or books on tape or CD would be nice, if she is. You say your grandma isn’t eating much or interested in food, but what about your grandfather? Some treats for him might be a good idea. Is money a problem for them? If so, a phone card or stamps would come in handy. But the best thing would be a long letter – with reminders that you’ll be coming to visit soon.

My condolances, BTW. What a difficult time for your whole family. And kudos to you for being such an attentive grandchild.

When my grandmother had to give up her home and go into the hospital (which was followed by a stints at my Aunt’s house, a nursing home, my aunt’s again, and now back to the nursing home) for cancer and related problems, she had to give all her stuff away. She even gave people back pictures they had sent over the years.

So I bought a scrap-book and made color copies and enlargements of pictures from all through her life and assembled them. I also added the lyrics to some hymns and some Bible verses (she attended church all her life and always had her Bible on hand). It was very simple, but it was something she could have in the hospital or nursing home and was a way she could keep those memories.

It was also nice for me to see her history through those pictures and to spend the time finding verses and lyrics that suited her.

SeGate’s idea was very good. Maybe you could elaborate on it. Is there some way you could reinforce the difference she made in your family’s lives? Newspaper clippings of accomplishments from family members. Maybe a collection of letters from family members recapping specific memories or expressing their admiration for her. Moments that they made special or that others made special to them.

It’s so hard to know what to…there are just no words. You are so sweet to try to make her final months easier.

Is your grandmother still alert?

If she is then you could buy her a journal. Make it pretty and include a nice pen. She probably has a lot of things she wants to say to her loved ones. She can write letters to her husband, children, grandchildren and friends. She can give advice, express love or voice her regrets.

A journal will both give her something to do with her time and give her a chance to make her peace.

Letters from you. Maybe even a few a week.

I second this. It seems that now-a-days, no one ever sends mail anymore. I love to send friends letters or notes. I always get favorable responses such as “You made my day!”. You don’t have to write anything long - sometimes just “thinking of you!” will suffice. Buy holiday cards that nobody really sends cards for (Happy Arbor day!) just for an added smile
I think the best gift you can give is the gift of your time.

Would she be the type to appreciate a lot of mail? I bet if you posted a thread, you’d get a lot of dopers to send her postcards from around the world :slight_smile:

My last suggestion is to take a tape recorder and ‘interview’ her, if that doesn’t seem too much like “you’re dying so let’s record you”. I bet your family will treasure that.

your time!

You might want to set up a video camera or a tape recorder and just get her to talk about her life and times. She’ll enjoy it and you’ll have a lasting bit of your family history.

I second the Doper postcard idea.

Also, if you or your grandma wouldn’t find it too weird, you could buy her some nice, comfortable nightgowns. If she will be spending a lot of time in bed, it might be nice for her.

Thanks for all the great ideas. It seems the consensus is letters, which we do anyway, I’m more looking for something special - over and above the ordinary.

Some more information: She’s completley mentally there, but she’s not a big TV/movie fan - except ‘The Bill’ every week. She’s also not a big music listener. She’s still at home, and still ‘gets up’ every day - she gets out of bed and sits in a chair in the lounge for most of the day. So she’s surrounded by family photos. She’s also on email, and I email her frequently.

We’ve already got her life’s history on tape, and when my mum visited with all her siblings, they just left a video camera on in the corner of the room in the evenings, so we have video of them just being together.

One of the best things I ever did was for her 70th birthday, I made her a quilt, where I sent squares to all sorts of people from her life - spanning at least 7 countries and got them to decorate it with the theme “why is Jean special” - I got about 70 back, and made them into a quilt.

But that was then, this is now.

Anyway, I’m still keen to hear your suggestions…

How about a copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? It isn’t actually relevant, but the title might make her laugh…

Perhaps a little aroma therapy. If she’s fond of lilacs yet might not be around this year to smell them for herself, buy a vial of lilac oil at a nutrition store or perfumerie. Dab just a drop on light bulb and it will gently waft about the room. Scents are strongly linked to certain memories. This might bring up some happy times she’s forgotten about.

Has she always wanted to go a foriegn country but never got the chance? Or maybe she did way back in her youth? If you go to a travel agent and explain why you want them, you may be able to brochures, posters and maybe some stand-up displays. Put them up in her room with whatever else you can find to set the mood of, say, a Paris street. Perhaps you can get some family members or friends to put on a sketch having to do with the destination of her dreams. And even if she can’t eat much, maybe a few tiny treats of the area would entice her taste buds. With everyone pitching in, this could be a fun and happy time.


Do you think she might like doper postcards?
It might be fun if you get her a map (or globe) to mark out the countries from which the cards came.

I think the postcards are a great idea, but I think she might feel a bit uncomfortable about getting them from total strangers, plus I don’t think she’d be entirely comforable wtih all the attention.

An obvious one is to make a video or DVD of your family to send to her. Maybe not the special something you are looking for but I’m sure she would love it nonetheless.