This story is regarding my sister-in-law, who on previous occasions I have bean-dipped with confidence after reading your website. Unfortunately the bean dip has only been a momentary distraction and hasn’t seemed to have discouraged her, but I digress.
I had been asked by a good friend (a part-time chef/ caterer) to personally apologize to my SIL. Apparently my friend hadn’t responded to a request for catering SIL was trying to organize as my friend’s daughter had been quite ill and in the hospital. I asked what the catering was for and my friend explained that it was for a wake for my SIL’s grandfather. I was shocked as her grandfather, while sick, had not passed away. I was a little taken aback and thought it could just be some sort of confusion of emotion and responsibility while SIL’s grandfather was not well. However, I then saw that my SIL had posted on Facebook asking for general recommendations for a caterer…. with her Grandfather still ill and very much alive. Making it even worse (perhaps only from my point of view) was the comment from a friend of hers (obviously not knowing what it was for) saying she didn’t have a caterer recommendation but to let her know of the party so she could come along to have some fun!
Sadly her lovely grandfather did pass away about a week later.
There is a lot of etiquette surrounding the passing of a loved one but I have truly never come across this situation before and hope never to again. I never did say anything to my SIL as I thought it incredibly inappropriate considering the circumstances. Not sure if there is any way to deal with it in a sensitive way except to let it go. 0113-12
If serving refreshments at a wake or visitation is part of one’s culture, being prepared is not a faux pas. Death and funerals are so emotionally and physically taxing to the grieving that anything that can be done ahead eases the burden considerably. I saw this firsthand this past summer when a good friend died suddenly and unexpectedly. A close family friend was attempting to organize the food for after the funeral and burial for an expected crowd of 350 mourners. I stepped in to finish the organizing and execution and we ended up serving a good lunch to at least 300 people with just three days to prep. I’m now working with our church to make plans ahead for set menus, amounts based on how mourners expected and how to execute those plans as efficiently as possible.
My father-in-love died just days ago from cancer and during the time we knew he was terminally ill, there was discreet discussion as to how best to plan for the wake. The funeral home is providing the catering for the visitors. Think about it….we can spend months planning a wedding reception for hundreds of people yet with a funeral there is often mere days to plan the events. People who are terminally ill know they are dying and there is nothing gruesome or inappropriate about recognizing this inevitable sorrow and making plans ahead of time that will ease the burdens of those left to grieve.
Your sister-in-law appears to have been discreet as to why she wanted information on caterers in her area. You knew only by accident when your friend asked you to relay a message to your SIL that she could not assist her at this time. Your SIL’s friend who merrily explained of wanting to be invited to whatever catered event SIL was planning obviously had no idea whatsoever that your SIL was referring to a wake reception and she undoubtedly would be mortified if she knew.
More apropos to the discussion of funeral related faux pas are the insensitive things people will say. I’m blessed with considerate friends and family but every once in a while a well-intentioned person asks a question that causes me to wince. And I have concluded that many people either have no idea what to say to a grieving person or know that anything said could result in fresh tears so they say nothing at all. For those you in that category, at least send a card or note of condolence. Saying nothing at all seems like you don’t care.