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Thank You Notes Dilemma

My mom passed away a year ago. My dad, sister and half brother died many years ago. So Mom was all I had left. My half-brother was the son of my dad's first wife and I didn't know he even existed until I was a teen (I am 65 now). I mention this because my "sister-in-law" is the reason I am contacting you. There were many cards with gifts of cash to our family that my sister-in-law opened (immediately after the funeral). I was still in a state of shock and disbelief and oblivious to what was happening at that time so I have no idea as to who sent what or even how much. When I asked my sister-in-law she wouldn't give me a direct answer. She told me she gave the money to the church and then promptly flew back to her home in GA. Mom lived in IL and I'm in Texas. The point is that I want to thank people for their gifts and kindness, but I have no idea who those people are. As I said, I was still in shock so I'm not sure who was even at the funeral. What, if anything can I do about thanking people? - DG, Texas 

Aunt Dandelion replies: 

I have thought deeply about your question. I can suggest some wording for a note that would cover your situation as gracefully as possible, but without knowing to whom to send the notes, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do. You might ask anyone whom you can remember being at the funeral if they can tell you who else was there. Often there is a guest book at funerals, and perhaps you can locate that. You might be able to acquire a few names at least.

The fact that a year has passed means that most people won’t be expecting to hear from you anymore. I do think it’s still worth sending notes to as many people as you can, apologizing for the delay in writing to them, and explaining simply that your emotional state at the time was one of overwhelm. Most people will understand that and forgive you. Please do not place blame within these letters -- that can remain between you and God. 

Since you don’t know who sent cards or money and where the money really went, you might try some wording such as the following:

“Many kind friends offered condolences, support, and gifts when my mother passed, and I’d like to thank you for all you did for my family at that time.”

This is less good than being able to thank people for their specific gift, but at this remove of time, and given the circumstances, it is better than nothing.

Good luck, and perhaps steer clear of the sister-in-law in future.

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