Other Expressions Of Sympathy
While there is no substitute for a personal visit if you are able to do so, there are many other ways to express your sympathy.
E-mail is appropriate from those who are not intimate with the family such as a business associate or a former neighbor. The family will appreciate your message of concern.
Flowers can be a great comfort to the family and may be sent to the funeral home or to the residence. Some people prefer to send flowers to the residence afterwards. If the family asks that donations should be made in lieu of flowers, you should honor that request.
Food For The Family
The most welcome gift at this time is food, as there may be several visitors in the home who need to be fed. During the days immediately following the death, substantial dishes that require little preparation other than reheating are appropriate.
If the deceased was Catholic, some people will send a mass card, instead of, or in addition to, flowers. Catholics and non-Catholics may arrange for a mass to be said for the deceased. It is also appropriate to arrange a mass on the anniversary of the death.
A memorial gift is always appropriate, especially when the family has requested such a gift in lieu of flowers. Usually the family will designate a specific organization or charity. Remember to provide the family's name and address to the charity so they can send proper notification. It is acceptable to mention your gift in a sympathy note without mentioning the amount of the gift.
If you live out-of-town you should telephone as soon as possible to offer your sympathy. Keep the call brief, since others will probably be trying to call as well.