The greeting card industry has a good track record of predicting and capitalizing on trends before the rest of us even notice them. Remember, this is the industry that made doggie sympathy cards seem totally normal. (For a wonderful look back at the history of greeting cards, check out this video tour of Hallmark’s archives.) The industry knows how to target specific audiences. Hallmark offers, for instance, a “Mohagany” line for people of color and a “Tree of Life” line for Jewish customers. Sometimes the industry creates throwaway occasions that seem, at best, unnecessary. “Sweetest Day” cards, for example, were introduced…well, why were they introduced? Because Valentine’s Day isn’t enough of an ordeal?

The latest greeting card category to catch on is known variously as end-of-life, hospice, or farewell cards. Instead of an inappropriate “Get well soon” or “Wishing you a speedy recovery” message, these cards simply say “Thank you” or “I’ll miss you” while there’s still time to say it. A greeting card may be the perfect vehicle to express a sentiment that’s just too hard to put into words or too heartbreaking to say out loud. In hindsight, targeting cards to the end-of-life market makes perfect sense, since “Heard you’re under the weather” doesn’t quite capture it. (Image courtesy Historic American Sheet Music Collection, Duke University Library.)