You can give hope with small gestures

I’ll never forget the soul-piercing sound of the ambulance that morning as it screamed and wailed, making its way with incredible speed to a bedroom of no hope.
Just the afternoon before, we’d gone out to coffee and talked about things that mattered. We’d laughed and reminisced and dreamed about the future, and then we stopped by the grocery store for a piece of lamb and mint jelly for her supper.
Oh, I knew things weren’t quite right, but still I meant to enjoy every minute of life that was left. And I imagined she would live to have fun another day.
Now in one conclusive moment, it had all ended.
All the good times were gone. All the giggling and laughing. All the talking on the phone and planting flowers together. All the mornings of picking strawberries and the afternoons of shopping.
My mother was gone. Now there would be only memories. And at eight o’clock that Sunday morning, it seemed incredibly unbearable.
But in the hours and days that followed, I understood for the first time in my life just how much we can help each other in our time of grief.
Fortunately, we lived in a small town and in the next few hours that made all the difference. We knew the ambulance crew and after she was pronounced dead, they sat down in the living room and talked with us.
In her last moments, we called a neighbour who was a doctor who confirmed our certain knowledge that there was no hope. And when the hearse came, the funeral director, too, was a friend.
All that possibly could have helped in that incredible morning was people who cared. And they were there when we needed them.
But what I remember most of all was a single casserole dish that our friend Ilene brought after church. The timing was so perfect. I didn’t care about the relatives who would be arriving from the east and what they would eat.
At that moment, only the present mattered. Getting through this one meal, this one hour. And that delicious casserole dish made it possible.
I found later that Ilene had brought her own family’s dinner to us.
That whole Sunday was incredible, as was the week that followed. Friends dropped in and we cried together. Most brought food.
There were special notes about my mother’s friendliness that I still treasure 20 years later.
There was a note from the camera shop where she took her camera to load and unload her film. Mary talked about “her zest for life,” and Mary Esther mentioned “her remarkable memory and interest in people.”
Monica said “she was such a friendly, cheerful person” and attached a copy of her obituary.
And Ada Mae wrote, “Emily Dickinson was right when she said the world is never quite the same when one loses one’s mother.”
There were notes from people I didn’t know who had met her in her gift shop. And months later, when I met Harley at the post office and Lena in the grocery store, they mentioned how much they missed her.
All those wonderful people helped to heal my grief. So, when your friends are grieving, always remember you can give hope with small gestures.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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