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Healing Gifts

Healing Gifts

Last fall when my mum came to visit, she fell in-love with one of my skirts which she ended up wearing almost every day. She wore it above to the Getty Museum, she wore in during our walk through the Venice Canals, she wore it up on our trip to Solvang. She tried to wear it on the plane back home!

I kept it because for the past five or so years it’s been one of my favourites; something to wear when I need a pick me up or want to be really comfortable. I couldn’t part with it. They say those are the things that make the best gifts.

So when my mum had surgery a couple of months ago, I packaged up the skirt and wrote a note. It was called the “Happy Skirt” – something that we’d pass back and forth whenever one of us needed it to feel better. It was her turn. I can’t tell you how happy she was to have this skirt, to think of where she’d been in it before and where she’d go in it when she was better. It was the perfect healing gift for her.

While flowers are a nice thought and often appreciated there are downsides to sending them such as lots of people having the same idea (my mum had dozens of bouquets in her small room), being hard to manage or take home and inducing allergies (a lot of patients have heightened allergies right after surgery and sneezing can be really painful).

The average price of flowers sent to a hospital room is $35 and using that amount as a guideline, here are some flower-alternative get better gifts:

  1. One of the other benefits to giving my mum the skirt was that it was comfortable and easy to put on. Because of the type of surgery she had, pants or tight fitting things would be problematic, a skirt that buttons up entirely in the front isn’t. If you know the person well, clothes can sometimes be a good option if you think about what the problem is. If they’re having any kind of leg surgery, a new skirt is great as is nice, loose yoga pants.
  2. A maid service is another great way to help someone heal, especially if they are told to stay off their feet or not move their body. You can hire a one-time maid service from various companies or you can offer to go over and scrub some floors yourself. It’s especially nice if you can have it done before they come home from the hospital and then have a two week follow-up.
  3. Cooking can be challenging. Some people can’t get out, some people can’t stand and cook and some people have difficulties knowing what they’ll want to eat day to day as they adjust to being post-op. Consider a meal delivery service or coupons for local restaurants that delivery. Also think about doing a grocery run for them, stocking up their fridge with necessities so when they come home they have liquids and easy to digest food.
  4. Nothing makes you feel uglier than surgery; everything that goes into your body is going to affect your skin, your hair and you whole well being. A spa treatment gift certificate is fantastic whether it’s for a massage, a manicure, a pedicure, a hair cut – anything that will help the person get back to normal quicker is always a good thing.
  5. Do a DVD/Magazine/Book run and have all that waiting for them at their house. If they’re into cooking, grab some unique and different cooking magazines. Do they love home? Stock up on all the latest. Pick some DVD’s to go with it and they can lay in bed and read and watch until their hearts content.
  6. If they have pets, consider a dog walking service or doggy day care gift certificate. It’s really hard to be bed ridden or fatigued and have to take Fido out for walks. Or consider donating your time for a couple of weeks to do some dog walking or cat sitting or bird feeding.


  1. March 18, 2009 / 5:58 PM

    Your Mom looks completely beautiful
    in that pretty skirt:)

    This article was timely and thoughtful
    and I am passing it along to my dear friend:)

  2. March 18, 2009 / 11:22 PM

    What lovely ideas and you are spot on when you point out that other gifts can actually be of much more benefit than flowers. I know that when I’ve been ill just the offer of help with grocery shopping was a fantastic bonus.
    Lovely photo by the way. 🙂

  3. March 19, 2009 / 7:40 AM

    what a beautiful idea, alex!
    i remember seeing this photo when you posted it to flickr, and smiling because your mum looked like a little girl twirling around. =)

    love the alternative ideas for gift-giving!

  4. March 19, 2009 / 9:45 AM


    I love your article. These are all fabulous things to help someone who has undergone surgery. Trust me, I know. It’s also nice, if one is capable, just to go and visit the person and sit with them. Sometimes nothing is better than just having a friend nearby.


  5. March 19, 2009 / 11:26 AM

    My husband, who has spent more than his fair share of time in a sick bed, believes that laughter is the best medicine. When dear friends of ours were in a car accident and had to undergo weeks of painful physical therapy, we took them the complete first season of I Love Lucy on DVD (and also home-made cookies!).

  6. ellenNo Gravatar
    March 19, 2009 / 1:10 PM

    What a creative, sweet gesture with the Happy Skirt!

    Great ideas, Alex! 🙂

  7. March 19, 2009 / 7:08 PM

    These are all such thoughtful gestures. You should really publish a small book on this topic with your suggestions. I would buy it! Very good, very kind.

  8. March 19, 2009 / 8:03 PM

    Oh my goodness! Your photograph of your mum is simply priceless…you can totally see why it is the happy skirt!

    When one of my BFFs had her baby last summer and instead of a typical baby shower, we all gave money for dinners at Dinner A Fare (http://www.dinnerafare.com/). She and her husband were able to choose 20 meals with the money, that they stored in their freezer. This was her third, and she said it was the nicest gift she’s ever been given, and it lasted several months.