The Art of the Condolence Note

The New York Times published an article, “The Art of Condolence,” about the importance of handwritten sympathy notes in the digital age. Our Creative Director Leo Mascotte offers some of his insight into how to properly craft a thoughtful sympathy note.

There are few pieces of correspondence one wants to write less than those sent to express sympathy, though notes of condolence are likely to be saved and cherished by the recipient. As an essential tool of communication, they allow the sender and recipient simultaneous access and remove, crucial during difficult and often demanding times.

1) Your starting point should be informed by how well you knew the deceased and how well you know the person to whom you write.  Let the note’s opening express your emotional reaction to the news of your recipient’s loss.  This may take many forms, from the shock of reacting to unexpected events, to a sort of relief-tinged sorrow that may accompany the loss that follows a prolonged illness.

2) It is important to offer a description of your own feelings, as they will often mirror those felt by your reader.  Avoid blanket phrases and resist the urge to detach.  Offering a window into your own feelings will help to validate the flood of emotions confronting the grieving.

3) When addressing someone not well known to you, include a line indicating your connection to the deceased.  A note of this type can be thoughtfully composed with your introduction at its core.

4) Writing to those most dear can prove especially difficult.   Write an anecdote about or memory of the deceased into the heart of your note.   Ideally, your story would be new to your addressee.  The most memorable notes are often the most offhand, narratives that draw energy from the everyday and bestow ease with a voice that is familiar.  Perhaps you might recall a favor bestowed, or laughter shared.  Describe a party at which you were a guest, or retell sport, either shared or observed.   Sensory references are especially enriching.  Commend the dapper, highlight a distinctive gait, savor the pleasures of grill or garden.  Allow your telling to become a description of the way you will remember.

Etiquette requires acknowledgement of the receipt of a condolence note by the recipient.  This may take the form of boxed cards or notes, though bespoke options are also available.  Stationery printed to meet these needs traditionally uses white or ecru stock and black ink paired with classic typestyles.

Our 2016 John Derian Collections

We have ushered in autumn with the exciting launch of our second collaboration with Designer John Derian. Our five new collections pair classic Dempsey & Carroll motifs with decoupage prints from Derian’s extensive archives. Some of our Dempsey & Carroll team members have offered insight into which lines are their favorites, though it is difficult to choose just one. We invite you to explore our 2016 John Derian collections so that you can discover your favorites as well!

Carolyn: “My favorite is the Fly Fisher. I love the color story, but most of all, I love how it can resonate with a consumer. For me, it reminds me of going fly fishing with my family inhp4-091216-derian-web Colorado and I’m sure it rings true for many other people all over the world!”

 

 

 

Lauren: “My favorite is Earth & Sky.  I love the colors and the round globe motif paired with the round map of the sky. There is a lovely balance between the latitude and longitude lines in the engraved globe and the colorful envelope liner– I love it! I am planning to order a set of 50 personalized.”

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Leo: “Earth & Sky is my pick. The celestial map envelope liner reminds me of a group of vintage prints that I have been collecting for years.  Astronomical maps seem to transcend time; at once modern and vintage.  The globe engraving is wonderfully detailed, a Dempsey & Carroll classic from the archive, and the gray engraving on white paper sets off a fresh mix and match with the envelope liner.”

Megan: “My favorite collection from the new John Derian collaboration is definitely Earth & Sky.  The stunning starry night liner coupled with the beautifully detailed engraved globe motif is a stellar combination to be used for any occasion.  I am already planning on having some on hand while I am traveling this Fall!”

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Evon: “I am most attracted to the John Derian Grand Tour Collection. The liner prints all display an excellent use of typography and color. Additionally, the crops of the liners are dynamic, providing just enough insight into these historic hotels, but yet still leaving much to the imagination.”

 

Ariel: “I really love all of the new John Derian products, but my personal favorite is Blue Coral. I have always loved spending time in Florida at the hp1-090116-derian-webbeach, and the stunning coral artwork brings back amazing memories from my family vacations”

 

 

 

Emma:” It is difficult to choose a favorite, but I am definitely favoring Tea Salon at the moment. I love how it pairs our classic tea cup motif with John Derian’s vintage Frehp1-091216-derian-webnch architecture-inspired patterns for the envelope lining. This collection brings back memories of living abroad in France, where afternoons were often spent studying in baroque-style salons de thé.”

 

 

 

 

National Letter Writing Month

“How wonderful it is to be able to write someone a letter! To feel like conveying your thoughts to a person, to sit at your desk and pick up a pen, to put your thoughts into words like this is truly marvelous.”  – Haruki Murakami

letters insta

The Dempsey & Carroll Team has accepted the challenge of writing one letter per day for the month of April in celebration of National Card and Letter Writing Month. We always celebrate the art of the handwritten note throughout the year, but we are taking this challenge as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family in the age of technology. It is always refreshing to see that people appreciate when time is taken to send a beautifully crafted note.

AJK stationery

We would love to see who else has taken up this challenge as well! Be sure to tag our Instagram handle @dempseycarroll and the #writeon and #dempseycarroll hashtags for the opportunity to be featured on our feed. Happy Writing!

How to Send a Thoughtful Thank You

LCR-Monogram copyA sincere and eloquent note of thanks will be remembered forever.  Thank-you notes allow us to acknowledge deeds large and small, in a thoughtful and considered way.  Here are a few of Dempsey & Carroll’s tips to perfecting this skill.

1)  Set aside adequate time to think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.  If your note is rushed, it may come off as perfunctory or insincere.

2)  Make sure your handwriting is as good as it can be.  Warm up by drawing loops on scratch paper or by writing a draft of your note.  If your handwriting is difficult to read, it’s fine to print.

3)  Make a list of the things you want to mention or include.  If you received a gift, what do you like about it?  If you were treated to dinner, what was especially delicious?  Was there an anecdote or funny story you want to reference?

4)  Express your gratitude in heartfelt words.  Good thank-you notes make the recipient feel special when you clearly mean all those nice things you write.

5)  If possible, avoid leading with “Thank you for…” – your note will sound fresher and less formulaic if you start off with anything else.  Try “Dinner was delicious!” or “Did you know red is my favorite color?”

6)  Finish with a strong line, such as “I really appreciate your thoughtfulness” or “We hope to see you and Ted again very soon.”

perfect-thankyou

Write Away Right Now

The annual rite of passage for college freshman is well underway. I would argue 99.9% of freshman are happily immersed in their new surroundings, and for many, they are enjoying the first taste of a (somewhat) sovereign life.  I would also argue with equal confidence that the parents of these happy and newly-freed baby birds are experiencing hints of sadness knowing that their children are growing up—and fast. I imagine that this is a similar sentiment to what I felt when I put my little kindergartner on the bus for the first day of school last week.

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I was not surprised when a conversation took place between some new empty-nesters this weekend regarding the emotional roller coaster they’ve experienced over the past several weeks. They offered advice to each other squarely focused on writing letters to their kids. It was incredible – a group of ladies in their forties waxing poetic about writing handwritten notes to their kids. Each woman had a smart phone in hand – obviously, they are equipped with the latest and greatest technology. With her device in hand – “My daughter loves little surprises in the mail.” “The letters are cathartic for me,” said another. “I get to tell him how proud I am without embarrassing him or getting shift-deleted. He loves my letters.”

 

$.49 does not buy much today. It does buy these moms peace of mind, smiles, and the assurance that they are remembered for a moment. My bet is every one of those letters makes its home in a little box where they can be read again and again. I don’t think there are any emails, tweets or IMs in those boxes. It’s fitting they call them Forever Stamps, don’t you think?

 

Jennifer-Pool

Why do we save letters?

I often question why I save letters. I have little notes my husband wrote to me when we first started dating, cards my father sent to me while I was in boarding school (my favorite one says “I picked this one just for you” with a little girl picking her nose on the cover), letters from camp, and letters from my grandfather tucked away in the cookbooks he left to me when he passed. Little did he know I’d grow up to be incapable of making tuna fish. I digress – after reading Vanessa Manko’s piece in New York Times Magazine titled “Forgotten Postcards From Mexico City,” I remembered why. The letters and notes are threads from the past to the future – like breadcrumbs on a website. You cannot get lost if you look back from whence you came every now and then.

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An excerpt from “Forgotten Postcards from Mexico City”:

 

“…The letters from my grandfather give voice to the man I’d long imagined; they reveal a man haunted by memories of his family…”

Jennifer-Pool

Remembering the Monarchs: A Look at Rachel Carson’s Correspondence

This week, we celebrate Rachel Carson as one of the most influential advocates for environmental conservation. Her groundbreaking work Silent Spring, published on September 27, 1962, eventually led to the American government’s ban on DDT for agricultural use and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Throughout her life, Carson exchanged letters with her friend and confidante, Dorothy Freeman. In these letters, Carson and Freeman describe their love and wonder of the natural world– the way it constantly surprises us with its patterns and workings and how mankind’s hubris acts as constant threat to the world’s delicate ecosystems. It is through their letters that Carson went on to write Silent Spring and ultimately expose the dangers of pesticide use for wildlife and humans alike.

On February 1, 1958, Dorothy received a letter from Rachel that reveals her inner most thoughts and ideas for what was to become Silent Spring:

Excerpt:

“About the book. It was comforting to suppose that the stream of life would flow on through time in whatever course that God had appointed for it. Without interference by one of the drops of the stream, man, and to suppose that, however the physical environment might mold life, that life would never assume the power to change drastically or even destroy the physical world. These beliefs have almost been part of me for as long as I have thought about such things. To have them even vaguely threatened was so shocking that as I have said, I shut my mind, refused to acknowledge what I couldn’t help seeing. But that does no good, and I have now opened my eyes and my mind. I may not like what I see, but it does no good to ignore it. And it’s worse than useless to go on repeating the old eternal verities that are no more eternal than the hells of the poets. So it seems time someone wrote of life in the light of the truth as it now appears to us, and I think that may be the book I am to write. Oh, a brief one, darling, suggesting the new ideas, not treating them exhaustively. Probably no one could; certainly I couldn’t.”

signed book Signed title page in Silent Spring. Image courtesy of: www.ehistorybuff.com

Signed title page in Silent Spring. Image courtesy of: http://www.ehistorybuff.com

 

 

Madeleine Garone,

Signed title page of Silent Spring. Image  courtesy of: www.ehistorybuff.com.