Expression of sympathy – in lieu of flowers

"memorial stone, memory stone""engraved wind chime, personalized chimes, custom wind chimes""memorial angel, angel memorial, memory angel"One of the first things callers often mention is that they are looking for a meaningful and enduring sympathy gift, in addition to or more often in lieu of flowers. Sometimes they feel the need to have their expression of sympathy delivered to the funeral home, but most often they intend to send their bereavement gift straight to the family’s home, since that is where it will ultimately be used or displayed.

With funeral mores and traditions rapidly changing in the US, sympathy flowers are no longer de rigueur; today a whole host of thoughtful and enduring gift alternatives to flowers exist. While many memory gifts can be personalized, others are perfectly appropriate to send just as they are. Big Hug offers a wide array of comforting sympathy gifts and memorial gifts. Some of our more popular sympathy gifts include our line of Woodstock Amazing Grace wind chimes which can be personalized, our custom engraved garden memorial stones (as well as our “Memories of You” stone manufactured by one of the premier stone artists in the country), and our memorial angels that are appropriate for indoor or outdoor use.

Please know that it’s ok if a few days (or weeks) have passed; the most important thing is to acknowledge the loss with a card or a call as soon as you can. In fact, many people say that it’s the weeks and months that follow a loss that are the most difficult.

And remember, a hug is the perfect gift…one size fits all.

Epitaphs and headstone inscriptions

"epitaphs, headstone inscriptions, grave markers epitaphs"Did you know that decades ago it was fashionable for people to prepare their own headstone inscriptions or grave markers epitaphs? For those who weren’t clever at writing, a professional “monument poet” could be hired. Throughout history, tombstone inscriptions have existed because every life is worth remembering…and many loving, and even curious epitaphs go well beyond the dates of birth and death. A few years ago, award-winning author Douglas Keister published a book called Stories in Stone – a Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. Of course, the topic is a complicated one. Did you know that it’s quite rare to see a sunflower on a tombstone? (That surprises me, since the sunflower is one of our most requested icons on our memorial windchimes.) Or that the human foot symbolizes humility and service since it consistently touched the earth. Stories in Stone provides this history and unlocks the language of a wide variety of common and not so common cemetery symbols. Keister’s photography is top-notch, earning him the title, America’s most noted photographer of historic architecture.

While funeral traditions are changing, I think most of us still find that cemeteries are peaceful and spiritual places.

A bronze plaque outside Mission South Funeral Home-San Antonio, TX, reads: A Cemetery Is where lives are commemorated, deaths are recorded, families are reunited, memories are made tangible, and love is undisguised; This is a cemetery. Communities accord respect, families bestow reverence, historians seek information and our heritage is thereby enriched. Testimonies of devotion, pride and remembrance are cast in bronze to pay warm tribute to accomplishments and life, not the death of a loved one. The cemetery is homeland for memorials that are a sustaining source of comfort to the living. A cemetery is a history of people, a perpetual record of yesterday and a sanctuary of peace and quiet today. A cemetery exists because every life is worth loving and remembering – always.

This large headstone quoted below appeared to cover three plots in a cemetery in TX; Wade was only 17 yrs. old when he died and Catherine (beloved of Wade) died 1 yr. later at 19 years old.

When you are told that I am dead, do not believe it.
Walk among the trees and I will speak to you.
In the soft, mystery song of the wind;
Touch a leaf sprinkled with sunshine and you will be touching me.
Pick up a smooth, worn stone and throw it into the sea,
That will help you to understand that I am not dead;
Whether I am in your hand or in the sea,
I am a child of the changing earth, changed and free.

I thought this particular headstone inscription was amazing, given Wade’s short time on earth. It also occurred to me that this would make a beautiful poem card to accompany our line of Amazing Grace memorial wind chimes.

Personalized Wind Chimes – Amazing Grace

Personalized Wind Chimes. Many people contact us in their search for personalized wind chimes. Our line of Woodstock Amazing Grace chimes is used for all occasions, but they are regarded as an especially meaningful and enduring sympathy gift. We are often asked to create personalized wind chimes that will be used for memorial purposes, a gift alternative to flowers which are beautiful but fleeting. Any phrase can be combined with any symbol to create a meaningful memorial gift…one that truly “sings.”

The background and history of “Amazing Grace” is a moving one, and one that is readily discussed by poets, theologists, scholars and clergy.

In short, “Amazing Grace” is a universal, spiritual Christian hymn written by English poet and clergyman, John Newton. It brings with it the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of the sins people commit, and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God. It is a song that inspires hope in the wake of tragedy…a “spiritual national anthem.”

Author Gilbert Chase writes that “Amazing Grace” is “without a doubt the most famous of all the folk hymns,” and Jonathan Aitken, a Newton biographer estimates that it is performed about 10 million times annually.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.


Sympathy Poems – a celebration of life

"sympathy poems"Many people call us looking for a unique, personalized sympathy gift; a gift that will be meaningful and enduring. They are searching for a gift alternative to flowers which are beautiful, but fleeting. Our personalized Woodstock Amazing Grace wind chimes are often used for memorial purposes. Today, we give the option of including beautiful sympathy poems with our chimes. The bereavement poem below, attributed to Mary Frye (circa 1932), was given to a friend of mine when her father passed away, and it brought her great comfort. I love it as well and I think it adds something really special to our chimes. Sympathy poems are suitable to tuck into a sympathy card, to incorporate into a funeral program, to put on a headstone, or to send along with a sympathy gift if you so choose. Here are four of my favorite memorial poems:

In Remembrance
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am a diamond glint on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain
When you awake in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight
I am the soft stars that shine on night
Do not stand by my grave and cry
I am not there I did not die

Mary Frye – 1932


Live, Laugh, Love
He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women,
the respect of intelligent men and the love
of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation
of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it:
Who has left the world better than he found it,
whether an improved poppy,
a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others
and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.

Bessie Anderson Stanley, 1904


Gone from my Sight
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side
spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and
starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of
beauty and strength. I stand watch her at length until
she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the
sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says:
“There, she is gone!”
“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in
mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my
side and she is just as able to bear her load of living
freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just
at the moment when someone at my side says:

“There, she is gone!”

There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:

“Here she comes!”

And, that is dying.

Adapted from the poetry of Henry Van Dyke


The Rose Still Grows Beyond the Wall
Near a shady wall a rose once grew,
budded and blossomed in God’s free light,
Watered and fed by morning dew,
shedding its sweetness day and night.
As it grew and blossomed fair and tall,
slowly rising to loftier height,
It came to a crevice in the wall,
through which there shone a beam of light.
Onward it crept with added strength,
with never a thought of fear or pride.
It followed the light through the crevice’s length,
and unfolded itself on the other side.
The light, the dew, the broadening view
were found the same as thy were before:
And it lost itself in beauties new,
breathing its fragrance more and more.
Shall claim of death cause us to grieve,
and make our courage faint or fail?
Nay! Let us faith and hope receive:
the rose still grows beyond the wall.
Scattering fragrance far and wide,
just as it did in days of yore,
Just as it did on the other side,
Just as it will for evermore.

The poetry of A.L. Frink


Personalized wind chimes – a sympathy gift alternative to flowers

"personalized wind chime""custom wind chime""engraved wind chime"Every day I receive phone calls from friends and family of the bereaved looking for a meaningful and enduring sympathy gift alternative to sympathy flowers. Many choose personalized wind chimes, a gift that is universally appreciated. Recently I spoke with a very kind woman who lost her adult son and wanted to create something very special in his memory, for herself and also to give to his brother and sister. I could tell they were a very close knit and religious family. Without revealing her intentions she asked her two children to provide her with scripture that would be especially meaningful to them, in memory of their brother. She placed their special scripture on these wind sails, and also added symbols that had personal meanings within the family. On the second side, she added her son’s name, and other meaningful symbols. For her chimes she chose Woodstock Amazing Grace chimes, which are often used for memorial purposes. She presented her children with their wind chimes a few weeks ago, on Easter day. I felt honored to have met Dorene and her daughter in person, and to have played a small role in the creation of her chimes — which we all agreed were a beautiful and lasting tribute to her son.