My great-grandma Lingen used to send me letters at college and enclose $1 "for a treat." We both knew that what she really meant was "for M&Ms." They were her favorite. She was not always an easy person to be around, but you could almost always jolly her up if you brought her M&Ms: partly because she liked them, and partly because you had paid attention and remembered what she liked. In her last year or two, she was diabetic and couldn't have more than one or two, but she wanted to make sure I had some to enjoy anyway.
My Gran (Grandpa's mother) kept a covered dish of M&Ms on the desk in her dining room. She had M&Ms, mixed nuts, and old-fashioned gumdrops every time we got there. Sometimes also chocolate-covered peanuts, but always the basic three, and I don't like gumdrops. I remember that when they came out with red M&Ms, it was startling to see them at Gran's, because it was a change in one of the changeless things in life.
We aren't grave people, my family. From the time I was tiny, I knew that if something happened to me or my parents or my grandparents, we would be cremated and the ashes would be scattered (although my grandpa had a standing joke about large urns as "family burial plots"). Last year when markgritter's grandmother died, she was cremated. I believe the family planted a tree for her on the grounds of the school she loved. When we remember her, we do it with purple flowers around the house, with contributions to research the disease that took her from us.
What do you do in memory of people in your life? When do you do it?
ETA: I didn't mean in the immediate aftermath of their deaths, although if you want to tell me that, that's fine, too; funerary customs are interesting. What I meant is in your life in the months and years after your loved ones die.