The stepdaughter of a former co-worker passed away recently and I had the opportunity to sign a card from all his former co-workers. A number of people had signed the card before it got to me so as I was trying to figure out what to say it occurred to me that this is probably the reason many people do not think to write a personal note... they can't think of something "off the top of their head".
It is a shame that most people give up at this point since a handwritten note conveys a much deeper feeling than a preprinted card with a simple signature.
What is the answer? Well, I have a couple suggestions.
First, think about the person you are sending the card to and see if any memories come up. They don't have to be "perfect", they just have to give you the feeling of connection to the person. Once you have this "connection", use it to express your feelings both about the person as well as how it makes you feel at the moment. For example:
"I will always remember how he helped me get decide on a college. His advice and listening were just what I needed and I will miss him. My deepest sympathy for you loss."
This works well for someone you know, but as I said, the card was for someone else's loss so I had to try a different approach. What I decided to do was use the combined mental capabilities of the complete world to come up with some appropriate words .... in other words, I searched the web for three words: sympathy, loss and quote. This led me to a site called quotegarden, (see link below):
I was able to read through the quotes, find one that expressed something similar to what I wanted to say and re-wrote it slightly to meet my situation. The re-writing was such that I did not have to present it as a direct quote. I used, "An old saying goes ..." and then added my condolences at the end. Simple, yet it should also make them feel at least a little bit better at this difficult time in their life.
A handwritten note is not that hard to write. Make the effort and I think you will find it is worth it !
Write On !