Unique sympathy gifts that last a lifetime


A teapot memory lamp from Reflections

By Valerie Franchi

For decades, flowers have been considered the best way to show sympathy for a family member or friend who has experienced the death of a loved one. However, in recent years, other trends have developed giving people other ways to offer condolences – ways that will last much longer than the life of a typical bouquet.

The memory lamp has been popular in western Mass. for nearly a decade, said MaryAnn Fitzgerald, owner of Reflections – The Memory Lamp Store of Sudbury, but is “semi-new” in the rest of Massachusetts.

The lamps are Tiffany-style lamps with special designs to reflect the person who has passed, as well as hand-written personalized cards.

“We write personal notes based on what the customer tells me about their relationship,” Fitzgerald said.
She said that her company will deliver lamps or wrap and ship them all over the U.S. for about the same price as a flower arrangement.

“Someone will spend the same on flowers that will be thrown away,” she said. “Lamps last forever. The beauty is in the fact that they are lasting and stay with the family for generations. They become an heirloom and the verses make them treasured.”

Reflections has more than 100 lamps to choose from, ranging in price from $40 to $500.

Fitzgerald said she received one herself when her own mother passed away at age 99. The lamp’s teapot design, she noted, reminds her of all the times they shared a cup of tea over the years.

Reflections by Claudia of East Longmeadow has been selling memory lamps since 1999. The store has expanded to offer birdbaths, music boxes, wind chimes, personalized frames, stepping stones, nightlights and clocks among other items specifically to offer sympathy and honor those who have passed.

Owner Cathy Belleville agreed that memory lamps are not well-known outside of western Mass.

“When people learn about it, they realize it’s a great way to show their sympathy,” she said. “I always hated sending flowers. They were gone the next day. I started sending lamps 11 years ago and was hooked.”

If you look online, there are even more unique ideas to express sympathy. The Comfort Company, based out of Illinois, was founded in 2000 when owner Renee Wood couldn’t find a suitable gift for her sister-in-law’s father.
According to its website, “the mission of The Comfort Company is to simplify the difficult process of expressing sympathy by offering a meaningful selection of non-traditional gifts designed to acknowledge loss rather than to minimize it.”

One of the outlet’s unique gifts is the tear bottle.

“Tear bottles were prevalent in ancient Rome and Egypt, when mourners would collect their tears and bury them with loved ones to show honor and devotion,” noted the website. They “reappeared during the 19th-century Victorian era, when tears were collected in bottles with special stoppers; the tears evaporated and, once gone, the mourning period ended, but the bottle remained as a token of eternal devotion.”

The small glass bottles, in traditional, Victorian and contemporary styles, range in price from $40-$60.

A memorial gift tree is another way to memorialize a loved one who has passed. The Comfort Company’s boxed gift trees are especially comforting when sent as a gift to honor a life. Also, for the garden are benches, stone memorials and stepping stones.

For those who want a keepsake they can keep with them all the time, there is remembrance jewelry. In addition to numerous other types, The Comfort Company has cremation ash jewelry that holds a small portion of cremated remains, a lock of hair or dried flowers. The necklaces, pendants and bracelets come in a variety of styles ranging from around $80 up to $300 and beyond.

Those who want to design their own memorial jewelry can try Heart and Stone Jewelry of Northborough. The company most commonly makes jewelry for happy occasions such as weddings, engagements, birthdays and other memorable events. Heart and Stone even holds classes in jewelry making and hosts parties for groups and bridal parties.

However, the personal nature of the jewelry owner Julie Booras makes it a perfect memorial piece to remember a loved one. Each piece – whether it is a charm, necklace, bracelet, ring, key chain or cuff links – is custom made in silver, gold or mixed metals, shaped and engraved according to the customer’s wishes.

“We can really customize it so it captures what the customer wants to say,” Booras said.
She recalled a couple of examples.

“One customer lost his dad,” she said. “They used to hunt together so he wanted a deer head.”
Another gave all the grandchildren in the family a charm that said “Learn something new every day” to remember their grandfather.

Booras said they can also engrave Bible verses, almost any image or copy the signature of the person who has passed away.

With all the choices available, it is easy to find the perfect gift to offer sympathy and comfort to those who have lost a loved one.

Websites for the companies listed above:
Reflections – The Memory Lamp Store, www.reflectionsofmarlborough.com
Reflections by Claudia, www.reflectionsbyclaudia.com
The Comfort Company, www.thecomfortcompany.net
Heart and Stone Jewelry, www.heartandstonejewelry.com
Custom Monument Designs, www.custommonumentdesigns.com


A tear bottle from The Comfort Company
A tear bottle from The Comfort Company
Memorial jewelry by Heart and Stone of Northborough Photo/Submitted
Memorial jewelry by Heart and Stone of Northborough
Memorial jewelry by Heart and Stone of Northborough Photo/Submitted
Memorial jewelry by Heart and Stone of Northborough