After the death of a loved one or friend, individuals often want to offer a memorial gift to acknowledge their sympathy to the surviving family members and to honor the memory of the deceased. There are many different ways to provide a memorial gift. How do you choose an appropriate gift?

Some individuals have a custom of sending flowers. Sometimes the surviving family will request that gifts be given to a certain charity or church. Usually such a request will accompany the obituary column in the local paper or in a church bulletin. If the family does not publicize a request, you should feel free to share a memorial gift that you feel is appropriate based on your acquaintance with the deceased or the family of the deceased.

What are some possible memorial gifts?

Flowers have been the traditional memorial gift in many communities. Beautiful arrangements of cut flowers are formed into wreaths or sprays and displayed at the memorial service and the graveside. Living plants—either houseplants or outdoor plants such as azaleas or mums—also make good memorial offerings. A gift of flowers is both beautiful and consoling.

Some families request gifts to specific service organizations or non-profit agencies. The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, local hospice organizations, home health-care providers, retirement centers and other such groups are often designated as recipients.

There are occasions when it is appropriate to provide a gift for the family. Circumstances such as an untimely death, a lack of protection benefits, or a lengthy catastrophic illness leave the surviving family members without adequate financial resources for burial expenses, medical bills or the ongoing care for children. In such circumstances, the community may be invited to contribute to a charitable fund established for the family through a local financial institution, or you may have an opportunity to quietly provide a gift directly to the family.

Memorial gifts may also be designated to churches, ministry organizations or mission boards. Most churches and church-related groups have special funds or projects that may benefit greatly from your memorial gift. Building funds, capital improvement campaigns, food and clothing ministries and church schools are examples of such funds. Gifts designated to the general fund of the church may be invested in a comprehensive program of mission and ministry.

You may also consider making a memorial contribution to a scholarship fund or an institution of higher learning. Your contribution may be designated to an existing fund, or you may wish to establish a namesake fund in memory of the deceased. Both private liberal arts colleges and state universities are equipped to receive your gifts, and they are usually courteous and prompt in responding to your special requests.

Other religious organizations are also worthy of your consideration. Gideons International, the American Bible Society, World Vision and the Mission for Biblical Literacy are only a few of the reputable missional agencies and organizations which will gladly receive and acknowledge your memorial gifts.

There are many ways to honor the memory of friends and loved ones. Every memorial gift is significant and appreciated by the family and the beneficiary.

Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.

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