Funeral Vultures

by admin on March 31, 2010

This is a short story but one all of my family will always remember. First, some background…  My Aunt Sandy, Grandma’s oldest daughter,  a few years ago wound up rediscovering her first ex-husband. Completely forgetting that there were valid reasons they’d divorced in the first place, and stayed that way for 40 years, they wind up getting remarried. My family didn’t like him the first time around and he’s done nothing to endear himself since.  In fact, he’s gone out of his way to separate my aunt from her family, and treat the rest of us horribly. They wound up moving out of state, oh that’s too bad.

So fast forward to a year after the wedding of the century. Grandma’s time came, and she had a very dignified passing with her family there to say goodbye. There’s tears but we’re all managing. OK. My Aunt Sandy had in fact been in town and was here to say goodbye to her mother. So now we’re all planning the memorial. We managed to all work together and create a lovely sendoff to a very important part of our family, the kind of memorial everyone should have. Where the tacky comes in is after the service.

Sandy’s husband come flying in to town to attend the services. Other than his being married to my Aunt Sandy I can’t think of any reason he should be there – Grandma couldn’t stand him. What he did next is unbelievable. He invited some former neighbors of his and my aunt’s- actually casual acquaintances of his, my aunt barely knew them- to the service. These people didn’t know my Grandmother, had in fact never met her. OK, that’s unbelievable enough. The fact that they actually showed up just floored me. They came to the service and went on to the restaurant where we had the memorial party afterwards. They only knew 2 people there, the deceased NOT being on of them. Even better, my Aunt Sandy and her husband barely spoke to these people.

So I still, to this day, can’t wrap my head around this.

1) Why would you invite someone to a funeral and the luncheon afterwards, if they didn’t even know the deceased? Was he just trying to show off and take them out to dinner and this was a way to do it on somebody else’s tab?

2) As the invitee, why would you accept?

We all wanted to say something but managed, somehow, through the grief to rise above it. We talked about later sending this clod a bill for the meals his friends had, but decided against that too.     0712-08

I can answer Question 2…the guests were funeral vultures.  It’s the same creature that crashes wedding receptions, office potlucks, etc. merely to chow down on some free food.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Mom March 31, 2010 at 6:50 am

I will say that I have often attended the funeral of someone I didn’t know to be supportive of a bereaved relative (the deceased’s daughter, son, or wife, for example) who is a close friend. It’s not unusual. Now, if I really don’t know anyone other than the bereaved, I often skip the post-funeral reception, but I do think it’s important to show support. Several of my son’s friends (still in middle school) have lost parents, and it is comforting for those kids to have their friends there, even if said friends didn’t know the deceased.
I can’t really wrap my head around the concept of attending a funeral for the FOOD – do people really do that? Why, on earth?
It sounds a little bit like Sandy’s husband is simply disliked – and no matter what he does, someone will find fault.

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SammyHammy March 31, 2010 at 6:59 am

I can’t imagine being so desperate for a free meal that I would intrude on the grief of strangers. I honestly don’t know who was tackier; the inviters or the invitees.

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ferretrick March 31, 2010 at 7:13 am

Ok, I agree the inviting strangers to a funeral is bizarre, and even more bizarre that they attended but this sentence reflects just as poorly on you as any of his behavior:

“Sandy’s husband come flying in to town to attend the services. Other than his being married to my Aunt Sandy I can’t think of any reason he should be there – Grandma couldn’t stand him. ”

Really? You can’t think of any reason at all? Like maybe your aunt might need the presence and support of her HUSBAND as she grieves her mother?

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chilly March 31, 2010 at 8:39 am

Ouch. Funeral vultures? Maybe they felt it was rude to not accept? They didn’t know all the back story? If they knew the original poster’s grandmother by sight.

“We all wanted to say something but managed, somehow, through the grief to rise above it.” I’m truly sorry for your loss, but don’t lash out at the unwanted guests. I agree with ferretrick.

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AS March 31, 2010 at 9:58 am

I totally agree with ferretrick. A stranger being at the post-funeral reception is quite bad. But I don’t see any reason to bash your uncle for flying in to support the woman he has married (despite the fact that he knew that no one in the family liked him). In fact, it would have been a bigger faux pas on his part not to have come.
Are you sure your uncle called the old acquaintances? Or maybe he just called them for the services as no one in the family liked him and probably he and even your aunt needed some support which he/they can only draw from friends. You said that your uncle and aunt were separated from the family. Are you even sure that the friends are not just casual acquaintances anymore?

From your small story, we see only one side of the whole thing. In that, the only thing clear is that you accused Sandy’s husband though he did a very good thing by flying in to be with his wife when her mother died, in spite of knowing that none of her family members liked him. Lot of me would not visit their in-laws if they hate him, even if the MIL just passed away! We can’t see why he called the friends – I am not supporting strangers being there for the sole purpose of free meal if that was the true. But there might be other good reason for it. You did not tell us if your aunt Sandy and he husband were sharing the cost of the funeral. If so, then he has the right to call some friends for support.
I am just speculating, but it seems there is way more to the story. Probably your family just disliked him for some unnecessary reason and your aunt had divorced him the first time falling prey to family disliking. After 40 years, the wiser Aunt Sandy probably found that he was actually a very nice man, and her family had been unreasonable to him. This is just a speculation – but I know this happens in families (have seen it in my own family where some people did not like one lady maybe because she was very chirpy and extremely intelligent – my parents and I thought she was a very nice lady).

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Nicole March 31, 2010 at 10:00 am

We have a well known “funeral vulture” in our small town and she is a member of the town council! She shows up a the funeral reception (rarely at calling hours or the service), says she is there to represent the town and then heaps a plate full of food. She will talk to the bereaved family members if pressed, but usually does not, then leaves (with a large plate of “leftovers” if she can get away with it).

One family, wise to her tricks, actually asked a friend to stop her at the door. They later asked the town council if it was their policy to send a member to represent them at funerals and were given a resounding NO. The whole story made the papers and I think she is now staying away unless she personally knows the deceased.

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kingsrings March 31, 2010 at 10:05 am

I can totally understand him being there to support his wife. As for his friends, the writer didn’t say what their relationship to his wife was. Were they good friends with her as well? If so, I can see them also being there to lend support to her.

Something similar happened at my grandfather’s funeral. It was held at the family church in the small, Midwest town where he had raised his family. There were quite a few people there who didn’t seem to know Grandpa or any of us family members. He and his kids hadn’t lived there for years. I believe they were there because one, they wanted some of the free cookies and appetizers that were served afterwards and even more so, it was something to do and a place to go that day. Not much to do in that small town, after all, heh. And it was at the church they belonged to, so technically, they could attend for that reason as well.

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Lorie March 31, 2010 at 10:54 am

At my Dad’s funeral lunch, I was fortunate that I didn’t have any freeloaders. I guess the winter weather kept them home. I was talking to the ladies who put on the funeral luncheons at the church and they told me some stories that just made me cringe. The best one I heard was of a trio of ladies who come to almost every funeral at the church, no matter who it is, and one of them says that they are a cousin to the deceased. With a total of over 5,000 parishoners of all nationalities at that parish, that’s highly doubtful. After the mass, the three always help themselves to the food while the family is at the cemetary for the graveside service. They are usually gone before the family arrives back for the meal. Some people…UGH!

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Me March 31, 2010 at 1:25 pm

ferretrick, that’s what she meant when she said “Other than his being married to my Aunt Sandy I can’t think of any reason he should be there – Grandma couldn’t stand him.” The only reason he was there was because of his wife, and not Grandma.

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Annie March 31, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Grandma may not have liked him but at least he turned up to show support for her daughter his wife. There are no examples of the bad things this man has done but sometimes people just don’t get along. It is weird that these people who didn’t know the decesased came but since neither the Aunty or husband spoke to them maybe they just invited themselves?

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Snewt March 31, 2010 at 8:38 pm

1.) I agree with everyone that said that the Uncle was perfectly right to come to support his WIFE! Maybe the family didn’t even know the whole story of the relationship between Uncle and Grandma… it is entirely possible that they reconciled sometime before she passed away. And maybe he wanted to say goodbye to his MIL… even if they didn’t have the best relationship they still had one.

2.) We had a few people at my Grandma’s memorial lunch who didn’t know Grandma. However, they were there at the request of one of my aunts, and we were happy that Aunt had a few support people there with her that day. Honestly, a funeral wouldn’t be my choice of things to crash.

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Jesse March 31, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Funerals are for the living. Consider for a moment that they were there as support to the grieving and living family members, possibly unaware of all the family drama. The only part of this that gives me the slightest of concern is the mention that they were casual acquaintances, but possibly the only support system within 100 miles. I am sure your Aunt and Uncle are quite aware of how unwelcome they are at any family function. Regardless, if I were asked to come to a funeral for somebody’s mother by that somebody, I would be there.

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MariaE April 1, 2010 at 3:01 am

We had a funeral vulture at my maternal grandmother’s funeral. Nobody had invited him, he’d just seen the notice in the local newspaper and turned up. I was furious! It seemed completely disrespectful. It ended up for the best though, he had a car and offered to drive several people to the graveyard who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to join us there, so for that reason, my mother forgave him. I still wasn’t able to though.

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Nobody April 4, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Please correct me if I am wrong here, but I was always under the impression that if a funeral notice is part of the public obituary, this means that anyone who wishes to pay respects to the deceased is welcome, and if the funeral is “by invitation only”, the details of the funeral will not be made public. The obituary will say something about a private ceremony, if anything.

So, while it might have been a little odd for the “vultures” in the OP to come like they did, I don’t think it was in any way rude. Same thing for the “vulture” in reply 13. The funeral was public. Anyone could come. And, for whatever reason, he came. And it doesn’t seem like he caused any disruptions, and even provided some needed help, so what is the difference?

Maybe this is just a regional thing, though, and obituary details mean different things in different areas.

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crella April 7, 2010 at 6:47 am

My husband and I have each lost a parent within the past few years. One thing that we noticed after DHs father’s passing, and again after mine, is that although they were our parents, we didn’t know everything about them, as close as we were with them. As we talked of the memories we had, I told my husband about some talks I’d had with his Dad, and some of the nice things I had seen him do for neighbors, and these things were new to him. It was the same for my father. I met people at his wake that told me things about him I never knew…things from his college years etc. When people see a funeral notice and come, the deceased or other family members must mean something to them, and we may not always know. You’ll know by their comportment if they are vultures or not.

It is my understanding too, if the notice is public anyone can attend.

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Katy April 18, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I don’t know how common it is but a little while ago I saw a journalist on a TV chat show who managed to get numerous attendees for a completely fake funeral. She invented an elderly family member (having researched the name to make sure no one under that name lived in the area) and put announcements out via the web and local papers/churches that there would be a funeral followed by dinner at a relatives house for anyone who wanted to attend. In spite of the fact that this man had never existed almost 100 people responsed with stories of how well they’d known him and how much they wanted to pay their respects. When confronted many of them admitted they wanted a free meal and funerals were an easy target because most people are unwilling to confront funeral guests and question why they’re there.

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Late Poster May 5, 2010 at 7:14 pm

You might call me naive, but I have an alternate answer to #2 – if these so-called “vulture” mistakenly believed that the man was close to the OP’s grandmother and wanted them there for support, they might go. I’m unsure as to whether that would be considered a faux pas or not, but even if it were, it would be one with their hearts in the right place.

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