Even In Death, The Gimmes Are A Grave Matter

by admin on March 19, 2012

I was reading the obituary section of the newspaper today and came across something I have never seen before. After listing the deceased, his date of birth and passing, his surviving relatives and services, there was the following paragraph (names & places changed):

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Smith family, c/o Jane Smith, 20 Main Street, Any town, USA 12345

The lady who you are supposed to send the contributions to is the mother of the deceased.

Have you ever came across this or something similar? I have often seen where the family would write, “In lieu of flowers, please donate to the XYZ Society”, but never to the actual family.

I wonder if this would be considered a faux pas? I may be over-thinking it, but it seems that the family may be playing on the sympathies of the mourners to round up some cash. It does not state that the family needs help paying for the funeral cost so I wonder why they would request people to send money, to the mother, rather than flowers. Personally, I don’t think an obituary would be the place to ask for donation of any kind, much less to the family of the deceased.

I would appreciate your thoughts and the thoughts of your readers.

Yes, I’ve seen it before.   Expectations that others will fund the milestone events of one’s life is becoming a cradle to grave phenomenon.   Others are expected to financially  help us get married, enjoy a great honeymoon, warm your new house up with goodies,  have babies, host birthday parties, go on missions/volunteer trips, pay for education, and pay for a funeral.   I’m sure I missed a few in there.

The mother of the deceased is soliciting money from the community to mitigate the costs of a funeral and burial.   Granted, embalming, caskets, vaults,funeral director fees, chapel rental,  etc are very costly but there are other alternatives.   Cremation is often a fraction the cost of embalming and burial, usually between $300.00 and $1,000.00.  For those opposed to cremation, the onus is on you to prepare for your eventual death with enough life insurance or savings to cover the funeral costs so that your family is not tempted to humiliate themselves with public begging in order to properly bury you.

Addendum: To those already commenting that life insurance for minor-aged children may not be affordable, please note that Gerberlife.com offers $5,000.00 of life insurance (enough to cover funeral costs) for $3.14 a month.   Similar life insurance companies offer comparable prices.   For a 50-year old non-smoking female, burial life insurance can be as low as $10.00/month and increase each decade of age to $35.00/month at age 80.     Even young adults can acquire $5,000.00 in burial insurance for about $3.50/month.   (Good heavens, I’m beginning to sound like a life insurance commercial.)    So, for the cost of one mocha latte or a Happy Meal or 2 3-liter bottles of soda or a gallon of milk each month, burial insurance is quite affordable.    The problem is that a lack of planning creates the emergency others must bail a person or family out of.   Just like people who intuitively know there are statistically high odds of getting married yet never bother to put money aside into savings to pay for that eventuality and either go into debt or go looking to friends and family to cover the expenses.    Sadly, death is even more certain than a wedding.

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Marna March 19, 2012 at 3:52 am

Yep, the begging is becoming the norm. One gal I used to post with on a message board set up a fund to help pay for treatment of her young adult cousin’s cancer treatment. In and of itself, I might not have a problem with it, BUT when he died before enough money to do much had been raised, it was then announced that fundraising efforts would continue in order to support his parents, sister and her child for the coming year, since none of them had jobs. Las I heard, the fund raising events had come to a screching halt (I suspect due to people realizing they were being milked dry).

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lkb March 19, 2012 at 4:46 am

I’ve seen this before and have no problem with it actually. We do not know the family’s circumstances. A family member may be severely allergic to flowers; the deceased may have left behind young children whose needs must be addressed; (as the contributions are going to the deceased’s mother) she may be elderly and lacking in funds; the death may have been very unexpected (car accident, crime etc). In addition, previous circumstances may have made life insurance unavailable (job loss, illness etc.) In this economy, $300 could be a considerable hardship.

I’m appalled that a someone would think such a notice in an obituary was money-grubbing. (Perhaps in a rare instance, this could be possible, but come on! this is a grieving family. I really doubt it.)

IMHO, the best, most compassionate, course of action in this scenario is to help out where possible.

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Enna March 19, 2012 at 4:52 am

I do agree with admin on this however: if the mother could not afford to have a funeral, if she was so poor she could barely feed herself I think this would be the duty of the family to help out. It’s not right to ask for donations when their purpose is unkown. Surely some churches take into account that some individuals are so poor they can’t afford even $300? Sometimes people can’t get insurance or afford it due to underlying health conditions.

@ OP some people maybe particuallry close to a particular cause or chairty so when they die the family think the money that is spent on flowers would mean more to the deceased as it is going to help others. But you’re right that it doesn’t specify that the money is needed to pay for the funneral.

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josie March 19, 2012 at 5:28 am

For many, in this economy, life insurance is just less bill to pay and we’re all healthy and won’t need it for a long time anyway…right? I heard that rationalization shortly before a person keeled over at a young age and left his wife/kids with no life insurance at all. Some papers will ask for donations to a “final expense fund” and some towards the family, but I pretty much get the idea that they are both going to pay for the funerals. Now, if I thought the family was gonna head to Disney World with the proceeds, that wouldn’t go over well.

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QueenofAllThings March 19, 2012 at 6:18 am

The only time I’ve seen it is with the sudden death of a parent of young children. Often times there will be a fund set up for the children – education. etc. – which I have no issue with. Now that I think of it, I’ve never seen that actually printed in the obit.

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admin March 19, 2012 at 7:01 am

A friend of mine died this past autumn leaving three minor-aged children and a widow. Our church coordinated a collection specifically for the college fund of the kids. But the difference is, the money went to the church who will hold it in trust and the idea was initiated by friends.

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Angela March 19, 2012 at 6:40 am

“the onus is on you to prepare for your eventual death with enough life insurance or savings to cover the funeral costs’
I completely agree with the overall idea that soliciting donations to the family is tasteless, but this does seem a little harsh as a blanket statement. Children, young adults starting out in life or adults with disabilities aren’t usually in a position to take care of their own burial expenses.

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Lynda March 19, 2012 at 6:48 am

Under most circumstances I would agree. The qualifier here is the fact that the funds were to be sent to the mother of the deceased. This sort of tells me that the person died before his parent and would not have been in a position to plan ahead for burial responsibilites.
It could be he died suddenly in an accident, from a lingering illness which left the family burdened with medical bills–any number of scenarios.
I’ve lived in small towns and I’ve seen many instances when friends will post a notice about getting together to help the family deal with their loss and expenses.
I don’t think it’s a case of the gimmes at all…And given the state of the economy, the number of people out of work or who have lost their homes (and destroyed their credit), I’m sure there are a lot of people who would be unable to pay funeral expenses. Even cremations cost money…
And while I know about options, I’m sure most people don’t think ahead to choices so when there is a death, they do rely on funeral directors—not all of whom are that compassionate as to pass up a big sale.
The obituary notice had the date of birth and death so the OP should be able to figure out how old the deceased was. That should explain more about the situation.
I’d like the OP to provide more information on this before we castigate the unknown mother and family for asking for help. It could also be that friends had already asked about how to help and providing the mother’s address (which they might not have had) was most easily done through the obituary.
Please take another look at the situation Admin and rethink your response, please.

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Ergala March 19, 2012 at 6:55 am

In some belief systems cremation is against what they follow. So I am kind of against Admin in the regard. I myself do NOT want to be cremated. It gives me the willies even thinking about it. However, I would never expect others to fund my funeral. In fact I don’t even want a chapel/church ceremony. Graveside works just fine with only those who were close to my family and I. My grandparents had the same thing and it was very intimate with good chuckles from those who shared stories we could all relate to. Yes I cried….however I knew that it was what they wanted. At my grandmother’s funeral my mother hired a bagpiper from the local school’s bagpiping clan. He played Amazing Grace at the very end and that is what brought me to tears. So perfect of a send off for my family which is Scottish and Irish.

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Margo March 19, 2012 at 7:04 am

I’ve never seen this (I have often seen requests for donations to a charity which was supported bythe deceased, in lieu of flowers)

I do however think that Admin’s comment is a littl bit harsh – particulraly as in the example given, the person to whom donation as to be sent is the mother of the deceased person.To me, that suggests that the person may have died fairly young (mother is still around, she, rather than a partner or spouse seems to be arranging the funeral) which would make it less likely that they would have started thinking about planning or insuring for the cost of a funeral.

Add to that the fact that someone has had to put together an announcement and a way of wording it at a time when they are dealing with the grief of losing a member of their family, and I’m inclined to be more lenient than if it were a different kind of life-event, such as a wedding.

That isn’t to say that this is ‘proper’, but I can understand a grieving family wanting to give their loved one a suitable funeral and struggling with the cost wanting to get help with that rather than having people spend money on flowers or donations to a charity.

Yes, a simple cremation is less expensive than a burial, but unlike other life events such as weddings, funerals happen with very little warning, and no time to plan. Even $300 can be a huge sum of money to have to find at short notice if you are poor, and planning ahead presupposes that you can squeeze some money ouit of your budget fo that purpose. For younger people, funeral insurance/asvings is likely to come a long way down the list after things such as college funds for children, pensions, rent, home insurance etc. Of course there are quite a lot of people who, for religious or other reasons, are opposed to cremation.

If I were thinking of attending a funeral and saw an announcment like this, I might chose not to make a donation, and I probably would try to discretely find out whether the family were asking to help with the cost of the funeral, but I think to label it as an expectation or to bracket it with ‘gimmee pigs’ expecting others to fund their dream wedding, and to suggest that people are ‘humiliating themselves’ and ‘begging’ is a bit of a stretch.

I thinkthis is a case where compassion trumps etiqeete. Asking in this was is not correct, but critising people over it is not very compassionate.

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Steven March 19, 2012 at 7:12 am

I had a friend who passed away in a house fire and a similar obituary notice was placed in the paper. The funeral was planned by my friend’s brother and the donations were for my friend’s wife and young family to basically start over (they lost their house and all possessions and one of the five children needed extensive medical care due to burns). It may have been an etiquette faux pas but the family were in need of financial help, even with insurance (which took many. many months to be paid).

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ferretrick March 19, 2012 at 7:39 am

This is NOT begging. It says “in lieu of”-in other words, if you would already have given the money. The floral industry is ridiculously costly for an item that lasts a few days and is then thrown in the trash. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking that, if someone was planning to spend that money anyway, the money be put to some practical use where it can actually do some good, a charity, or if the family is left financially unprepared by an unexpected death, to defraying the costs of the funeral. We don’t know anything about this person or their circumstances other than what’s in that obit. And it is not begging if someone was already planning to give.

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admin March 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm

It is begging if you must cast a wide net via a newspaper article published to the entire world in order to jump start the giving. When my friend died, his coworkers, none of whom belonged to the deceased’s church, were eager to contribute to a college fund for his kids. They had a strong initiative to coordinate their monetary gifts and certainly did not need to be goaded into it. *That* is how compassion should work.

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vanessaga March 19, 2012 at 7:40 am

I think the issue is the manner of the request. If you truly cannot afford a funeral for your loved one for any reason, you will have to swallow your pride and ask for help. But don’t cloak it under “in lieu of flowers” and certainly don’t put it in the newspaper.

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Jay March 19, 2012 at 8:10 am

@Enna: “if the mother could not afford to have a funeral, if she was so poor she could barely feed herself I think this would be the duty of the family to help out”

Sure.. I agree with that. And the family would know that, without a request for money in the newspaper. Push vs. pull, as usual with these things.

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Nicole March 19, 2012 at 8:20 am

In my area, it is quite common to slip a little cash into a condolence card or note for the family, BUT, the family never actively solicits this money. Everyone knows there are so many costs associated with the funeral, so you do what you can to help. But I think it takes on a completely different tone when you are asked by the family to give them money.

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Cassandra March 19, 2012 at 8:42 am

I only saw that in an obit one time and it didn’t sit well with me either. If it had been worded a bit differently, like, in lieu of flowers donations may be made to the family for expenses inccured, etc. I would probably not have thought twice about it! But sadly a lot of people can and will try to get money from people even at such a sad time. A few years back we had a young baby pass away. A few days after her funeral one of her aunts arranged a benefit to raise money for expenses. Only problem was there were no expenses as the child was on medical card which paid for everything medical and the father’s parents paid for the funeral and everything involved with that. Someone was trying to make money off a baby’s death.

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Green123 March 19, 2012 at 9:00 am

In the UK it is very common for people to ask for donations to charity in lieu of flowers, or to ask for ‘family flowers only’. My grandmother died of cancer, and it was her wish that donations were requested to support the hospice which cared for her so wonderfully and was so supportive of us, her family, in her final weeks. My grandfather had been a lifelong member and volunteer with a youth sports organisation, and so on his death we asked for donations to them in lieu of flowers, and so on. But I’ve never seen an example like the OP has told us about – asking for cash to directly to the (adult) family of the deceased seems gimmeish in the extreme. I think if the deceased had left an orphan then perhaps donations to the child for a university fund or trust fund might be appropriate, but only just!

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Wink-n-Smile March 19, 2012 at 9:10 am

I agree that it is the family’s responsibility to help out. However, what to do if there is no family who can help out? Children can’t be expected to help in this case, and other family members might be either non-existent or else too poor. Also, they might simply be unwilling to shoulder the burden, family or not.

While I agree with the rule, I also give people in this situation the benefit of the doubt. Unlike a wedding, where there is time to save up and you can change your plans, and even postpone the event, if necessary, a funeral have very little wiggle room.

For one thing, people can live together without the wedding, but having some sort of burial or cremation is a legal requirement in most places. We don’t just leave the body out for the vultures to clean up. There are legal time constraints, as well. Furthermore, most funeral homes want cash up front, not credit.

It behooves us all to prepare for the future. However, if the future comes sooner than we have planned, we need compassion and forgiveness. This is one faux pas I will forgive, easily.

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jen a. March 19, 2012 at 9:21 am

I feel like we’re making a lot of assumptions without actually knowing why the family (if this indeed comes from the family) is asking for money. The OP doesn’t know the family, and we don’t know for sure that they’re asking for a funeral contribution. There could be any number of reasons, but if I were close enough to the family to think of sending flowers I would probably know the reason for the money request, and could therefore decide whether or not I wanted to send the money in the first place. This is a very general request for money. It could be a gimme, but it’s an easy one to get out of. I’m not saying it’s okay to ask for contributions to the cost of a funeral. I’m saying that in cases like this it’s probably a better idea to know the whole story first. I kind of feel like this is a case of us looking for a reason to be insulted, rather than a legitimate case of a clear-cut etiquette violation.

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AS March 19, 2012 at 9:39 am

@Admin: “Our church coordinated a collection specifically for the college fund of the kids. But the difference is, the money went to the church who will hold it in trust and the idea was initiated by friends.”
With all due respect, not many people are associated with the Church, or for that matter, any religious institution. I consider myself a secular agnostic and not associated with any religious groups. What can people like us do? We have to rely on friends and/or family in case of any emergency.

That said, maybe printing it in the obituary was not a good idea. And if they do, they should have added the phrase “to offset the cost of funerals”, so that people at least know where the money is going to.

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Wendy March 19, 2012 at 9:40 am

We have this regularly in our obituaries and it never occurred to me to be a faux pas of any kind. It’s normally assumed that the family can’t afford the entire funeral cost even with life insurance. People just don’t always realize the actual costs of a funeral, and they don’t get enough insurance. Even a cheap, cardboard casket can cost a couple hundred, add in the preparation of the corpse (even with cremation there’s a certain amount of this that needs to be done), and an actual funeral (if you have one) and it gets out of hand pretty fast. THEN you have the cost of the burial plot, which can vary from cemetery to cemetery, the cost of opening and closing the grave (yes, they charge for that too!) and the cost of a stone…a small one can cost several hundred dollars again…and the cost of having it engraved. And then there are local laws…my aunt wanted to be cremated. As it turns out, Pennsylvania law states that you cannot be cremated if not all of your surviving children will not sign off on it. Three of her kids said “okay” but the fourth is a transient and no one knows where he is or how to get hold of him. The funeral home contacted their lawyer and explained the situation and the lawyer said we couldn’t have her cremated.

Unfortunately, families and churches should help out, but too many times they don’t.

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many bells down March 19, 2012 at 10:22 am

I can’t get life insurance. Period. I had a congenital heart defect repaired through surgery, and no life insurance has ever been willing to cover me. Even the policy my spouse got through work which said “$10,000 with no physical exam” turned me down.

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--Lia March 19, 2012 at 10:32 am

My question is about the future of the relationship after one has declined to contribute. If I choose to bring a small gift for the new baby and decline the “invitation” to donate cash, does my relationship continue as it was? If I give a wedding gift instead of buying square footage in the new house, are we still friends? If I send flowers in lieu of cash for the electric bill instead of the other way around, am I on the s*** list? That’s not to say it makes that big a difference to me. I’m still not writing checks. I just wonder how it works in their minds. Maybe I’m all the gladder if people decide they can’t be friends with people who can’t afford to support them.

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Ponytail March 19, 2012 at 10:49 am

I dread to think how much a normal funeral must cost. My mum’s cremation cost £2,800 and we went as close to the lowest price as possible (she’d have hated a big fuss). I don’t think a ‘proper’ funeral would have been much cheaper, although we don’t really do embalming and viewing here, so maybe that adds on the costs.

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TurtleIScream March 19, 2012 at 10:49 am

I have many times seen requests for funds to offset medical/funeral costs for the recently deceased, especially in cases of a young person. However, I have never seen this request come directly from the family, nor for the funds to go directly to the family; in every instance, friends have arranged for a trust type fund to be set up (through a church, a company, a bank), and a trustee was appointed to disburse collected funds as needed.

A family member publicly soliciting funds on her own behalf? Weird and, in my opinion, a major etiquette breach.

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Bint March 19, 2012 at 11:02 am

I wouldn’t even know where to start if being expected to give people money after a death as if it were a wedding invitation. How much? What if you don’t give much? Does it look as if you don’t care?

The idea that someone is genuinely that much in need but without anyone to rally round without being asked is so sad, but it doesn’t make it ok to beg for money in a newspaper – which is what this is. It just sounds oddly impersonal, as if it’s put out to people who don’t know them, rather than to their friends and family, who probably wouldn’t need to be told.

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Kitty Lizard March 19, 2012 at 11:05 am

I live in a very small community where everyone knows everyone else’s business. This last winter, one family’s younger daughter (in her early twenties) got a flu shot, wound up with a horrendous case of the flu, which turned into pneumonia. She died 72 hours later. The family, actually the whole community, was horrified. She had neither medical insurance nor life insurance. The family was not well
off. A childhood friend of hers wrote her obituary and added a line at the end which read: in lieu of flowers, contributions to defray funeral expenses would be appreciated. No one in town seemed to think
it was tacky or out of line, considering the circumstances or the depth of the tragedy of that lovely young
woman’s death. No one plans for death at the age of 22.

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Devil's Advocate October 28, 2014 at 3:11 pm

@ I don’t see what getting a flu shot has to do with this story? The flu shot does not give someone the flu.

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Cat Whisperer March 19, 2012 at 11:12 am

Arghhhh. This touches me on a tender spot, because of recent deaths in my family and in the family of my best friend.

First, I want to make a cautionary comment: One of the greatest gifts you can give to your loved ones is to make sure that at all times, you have your affairs in order. That means that you have a valid, up-to-date will that designates how you want your estate disposed of and have an executor appointed to see to it that your wishes are carried out. And that as many people in your family as possible know where to find the official, legal copy of your will!

Make sure that the beneficiaries on your insurance policies and bank and investment accounts are up-to-date and correct. A friend whose father just passed away was shocked to find that one of his insurance policies had not been updated and the major beneficiary was a woman who he had not seen in 20 years. When my dad died, he hadn’t updated his insurance policies after my mom died, and she was the beneficiary. This complicated the claims process.

Make a point of checking your insurance policies and investment accounts every year to make sure the beneficiaries list is up-to-date.

For people who are in a relationship with someone but not married, you better take a long hard look at what the laws are about who gets to make choices for you if you become incapacitated and if you pass away. The law is the law: if you’re in the hospital incapacitated from an illness or accident and the legal next of kin is not the person you are in a relationship with, the hospital is not going to allow them to make decisions for you. They are going to go with the legal next of kin. That may mean that the person you care about most, who you have been living with for years, has no say in decisions about your care and what happens after your decease. If you aren’t married to your SO and don’t want to be married, there are legal ways you can give that person the right to make decisions for you and about you– but you have to have a lawyer draw up the documents and make sure they’re legal, and make sure that everyone knows about them.

This last point is one I can’t emphasize enough: TALK TO YOUR FAMILY ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO DO ABOUT YOUR FUNERAL. If you haven’t made your wishes known, unless you come from a family of saints, there will be problems. It seems like family members often pull in different directions, and this can cause resentments that last for years. I’ve seen this happen to many of my friends and it’s happened in my own family. A death in the family, and nobody is sure what the deceased wanted. One family member pushes for arrangements that are least expensive. Another family member wants something more expensive. There are disagreements over who pays the costs if things haven’t been paid for in advance. And so the bad feelings start.

If you love your family, get your affairs in order, keep things up-to-date, and make sure everyone knows what you want. You can spare your loved ones a lot of pain by taking these steps.

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Amp2140 March 19, 2012 at 11:13 am

“Your inability to plan is not my emergency”

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Devil's Advocate October 28, 2014 at 3:16 pm

What an unkind, unfeeling, and non-empathetic comment. This reply is useful in some areas of etiquette where a polite spine is needed, but it is certainly not correct for this situation.

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Denise miller March 19, 2012 at 11:13 am

5 years ago this October our son passed away unexpectedly from SIDS. He was 10 weeks old. I spent 10 weeks of my pregnancy on hospital bed rest resulting in the loss of my job and income. Our son spent 26 days in the NICU. During his time at home he was rehospitalized once for a fever. We also had a 2.5 year old at home. Infant life insurance was the least of our concerns and nevere crossed our mind. We were fortunate to have family members offer to help during our darkest hour of shock and pain. We never requested donations from the community, but I do not hold it against anyone that does. Especially when young children are involved. And quite honestly, I prefer to know if a family needs financial help over flowers that will die (and can cause more pain for families). I see nothing at all wrong with a family listing a preference one their time of grief and mourning.

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Calli Arcale March 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

I’ve never seen this in an obit; however, things that may shed a bit of light on it include:

1) Who wrote the obit? It may not have been the mother of the deceased; for all we know, she’s as horrified as anyone, or would be if she weren’t too grief-stricken to look at the thing.
2) How old is the deceased? If funds are being solicited to the mother, there is a very real chance that the deceased is a minor.
3) How did the deceased perish? Life insurance will help pay for a lot of things, but it does have its limits. A $5,000 policy on a child will certainly cover funeral expenses — but it’s very unlikely it can cover expenses paid in a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to save the person’s life. If the family lacks medical insurance, they may be in a very serious pickle at this point.

I’m divided on this one. On the one hand, it is a good rule of thumb that soliciting strangers for money is inappropriate. On the other hand, I’ve been in a situation many times where I’ve heard of someone’s death, not been close enough to have any way of asking the family directly, and wondered how I could help out. Usually, this is only in cases of enormous tragedy. A few people I know have suffered the death of a child. No solicitation for funds was placed into the obituary, but newspaper articles about the horrific accidents did mention the banks one could visit to make a donation. That seems an appropriate avenue, except it’s only available if the person’s death is considered newsworthy. Most deaths aren’t. So I’m not sure what to do here. In general, though, I will excuse a lot of etiquette faux pas if the person is grieving, especially grieving the loss of a child.

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DGS March 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Seeing as how this was posted in the obituary, I would hesitate to jump to conclusions that the relatives of the deceased are a bunch of gimme pigs. One never knows what other people’s circumstances might be, and while all people “should” have life insurance and “should” make provisions for their demise, I am likely to spare a bit more compassion for a family dealing with death, particularly, a sudden death. Would my family members or I have chosen to solicit money in an obituary? Absolutely not. However, that does not mean that there may not be a myriad reasons why someone else may be compelled to do so. I would hesitate to jump to judgment.

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Dizzy March 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I have seen this before and it’s crass yes families don’t plan for funerals but something to consider is that in our area a local paper notice is 10 dollars a line it’s an expensive way to be a gimme pig

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Barb March 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm

“well, well, well… what have we here? A saucer-burial setup I see…”

From Porgy & Bess. Basically, a funeral/wake with a saucer to collect donations.

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DogLover March 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I think the issue lies in who places the obituary. As far as I know, this is usually the family of the deceased. So for the family to solicit donations to the family is basically asking for money for themselves. If there is a legitimate need (such as a widow with young children, house fire, etc) then it is up to the community (friends, church members, co-workers) to organize a benefit for the family – IF they choose to do so. It is still not okay for the family to ask for money for themselves. I think in most states there are ways for people with no funds to be buried (country burial or pauper’s grave). If someone wants more than that or special arrangements, it is their responsibility to either plan ahead (insurance or pre-paid funeral) or make sure they leave money and their wishes with next of kin.

As a small child, maybe 7 or 8, I recall going with my grandmother to the funeral home to pick out her casket, the flowers and music selection and to plan and pre-pay for her funeral and burial. She would have been about 77 or 78 at the time. She passed away when she was 96 (and I was 26) and it was a wonderful gift to the family that there was nothing to pay for and nothing to plan. She also got it at the prices of 20 years earlier.

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marno March 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I am agreeing with Nicole here. I have heard before of mourners giving “practical” memorial gifts to the family. It might be food for the wake/gathering, casseroles for the difficult weeks after, housecleaning and yardwork, and even money in a card. The money is thought to help to defray the various funeral and death-related costs or to help the family cope if the deceased was a wage-earner in the family. It is NOT correct, however to solicit any of this aid — money or otherwise. It is like any other gift — voluntary and spontaneous and without strings.

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Missy March 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I think Vanessega has it. I don’t think requests to help with the funeral and other expenses are tacky, but the newspaper seems like it’s casting the net too wide to be polite – and well even useful! How many people are going to donate if they only knew him from a newspaper obituary.

One of my good friends was very suddenly widowed at the age of 29 with two pre-school children. Their housing was provided by his workplace (in a foreign country) so she was given 30 days to move out and she was not approved to work in that country. She got the final medical bills for some last-chance surgeries and they topped six figures. Even though she and the husband had been careful financially the costs of moving back to the states, shipping his body, etc. the costs were going to overwhelm their savings and life insurance easily.

The parents of the deceased let the situation be known and inquired very tactfully and gathered a fairly decent-sized donation for the widow. It wasn’t going to allow her to pay off her debts or live high – but it was going to make her burden a little easier and give her time to find a job.

I would say that didn’t belong in etiquette hell – well except for the fact that the parents kept the money and doled it out among immediate family members to pay for the last-minute plane tickets/hotel that they incurred when he discovered that his health was in jeopardy. If they had asked for help for them it would be one thing, but they specifically told people that it would be given to the widow. Oh, and they planned the funeral (including requesting that his body be returned) and stuck her with the bill. She would have stuck a little urn in the overhead bin if she had only been warned!

Oh, and she discovered that his parents had also been keeping the money that was supposed to pay for their storage unit (the foreign job was supposed to last a couple of years) so her furniture and household items had been disposed of. She had to start from scratch. It took her ten years to pay off the debt. She is definitely not lazy or entitled – she paid every penny of it even while struggling financially. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have said no to a little extra to help her along.

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Stacey Frith-Smith March 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm

It’s very sad to think that someone would inadvertently alienate the very community whose social and general support they will need long term by making such a request in an obituary. I can understand that duress creates all sorts of situations where one might have to swallow one’s pride and beg, but the fact that the announcement was public, was combined with a notice of death, and was general, as opposed to a quiet approach to very intimate persons and organizations whose relationship would presumably be proximate enough to know these needs and their surrounding causes, mitigating factors etc, is off putting. What might be really horrific is if the mother has no knowledge of this plea and has been misrepresented by a well meaning family member who thought that bending the rules, just a bit, would be okay… the results of which might be avoidance of the widow in her time of need for company, for little favors to assist in the following months, or even for guidance in managing, if needed, on new financial terms. People don’t always bother to check in with the person on whose behalf they organize such a solicitation. And some haven’t the grace to take “no” for an answer. I hope this family’s associates just overlook the announcement and offer the kindness of their friendship and affectionate support.

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Shoegal March 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm

The thing is – I do agree that asking for $$ in the paper is generally frowned upon – and those closest to the family should already know the situation but – if this info doesn’t get around fast enough – 20 people could send out 20 expensive baskets of flowers – when the money would have put to way better use. The flowers will die – and would have helped no one. That money would have solved one Mother’s financial hardship so she has one less thing to trouble her.

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Serenity March 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Regardless of whether it’s proper or not to ask for cash in lieu of flowers for a funeral, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to have someone who suffered a loss of a loved one to be cast as a “gimme” pig. It seems unnecessarily harsh, and I really don’t equate it with the wedding, birthday, etc.etc. gimmes that are a cause for contention on this site. 2 thumbs down for lack of compassion.

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admin March 23, 2012 at 9:30 am

Serenity, It may leave a bad taste in your mouth to read that some people suffering a loss can be cast as “gimme pigs” but based on the stories submitted to this site and my own personal observations over the years, there are definitely “primary grievers” who will exploit a death in the family and take greed to unbelievable depths of depravity, including embezzlement, financial exploitation and stealing.

Lack of compassion comes into play when friends and family *KNOW* the family is in dire need of money yet withholds it thus tempting the needy to go public with their begging. Compassionate people are discreet about giving money, compassionate people are mortified at the thought of their friends or family being brought to an undignified position of looking like paupers. Yet if those closest to the family are not coming forth with cash gifts to mitigate the funeral expenses, maybe it is because they know something the general public may not, i.e. the deceased’s family really doesn’t need it and the public solicitations for money are merely a way to avoid the obligation of paying for a funeral.

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bloo March 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm

It is surprising to see that request in an announcement. When a man we greatly respected passed away suddenly, we gave a cash gift to the widow in a condolence card. We knew (and loving friends mentioned) that they didn’t have much money anyway. It would be much better if people close to the grieving could discreetly put the word out, so that the family doesn’t have to ‘beg’.

The following link is a batch of letters about the simple act of giving cash to the grieving to help with expenses. It caused a bit of flurry on the old MSN message board for Miss Manners (that is, last time I checked, no longer in existence) as some were horrified by the idea of giving financial gifts to the grieving.

http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby/?uc_full_date=20010703

The following is the original letter to Dear Abby. It’s the 2nd letter in the column.

http://www.uexpress.com/printable/print.html?uc_full_date=20010429&uc_comic=da

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admin March 23, 2012 at 9:11 am

Bloo,

In all of those letters to Dear Abby, there is a consistent theme of people taking the initiative to GIVE money as a gift. In no way was there any indication that they did so after being solicited for cash by the family of the deceased. And the money that was given was done so very discreetly so as to preserve the dignity of the recipient. Ehell is all about PUSHING money/gifts to others at your own instigation. It is not about PULLING money from others.

If a person knows a family needs extra cash to get through the early bereavement period or to offset funeral expenses, shame and double shame on them if they fail to take that initiative to assist them and thereby tempt people into humiliating themselves with public begging and fundraising. There is a miserable, dark, dank corner of Ehell reserved for people who will only open their wallets after people degrade themselves with outright begging.

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Kay March 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm

When my grandfather died, we were trying to set up a scholarship fund at the university where he had taught for 50+ years. Somewhere in the confusion, the university did not confirm this with the obit writer — and so ‘donations may be made to the family’ appeared in the paper. Most people got the message by the time of the funeral, and the money that was donated to us was put in the scholarship fund and the donors were notified of this in the thank-you notes. But still, it was embarrassing.

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Maureen March 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm

All of the comments have been lovely and I completely agree, but I feel I must address the suggestion of ‘help from family’. This is not concerning funeral arrangements, but pertains to family helping out with costs.

In my case I am watching my 94 year-old father rapidly declining. He needs 24 hour care and I can either warehouse him in a hospital awaiting a nursing home placement, or I can get private care which will cost (after insurance) $8000/mo. out of pocket. This does not include $600/mo in medication or food costs.

For the former the care is not acceptable. He needs help to be fed and the staff are over worked as it is. He has been left in his own waste for too long. I cannot quit my job to dedicate myself to his care or I would be in ruin myself financially.

For the latter I can keep him at home and delve into his nest egg for the short period of time until the money runs out hoping he passes before that happens.

Bottom line – I AM THE FAMILY. Me. Nobody else. I am the last of my line.

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Cat March 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm

You don’t need to worry about the cost of being buried. The county will see that you are buried. Do you think people who die while homeless are just left lying around? What people want is a particular kind of funeral: casket, headstone, etc.
My Mother (aged 57 years) died three years ahead of Dad (who died aged 62 years) and he simply left her in an unmarked grave. No headstone, nothing. Then he put my brother’s name on all his bank accounts so “Rob” could pay for his funeral.
Only problem was-“Rob” decided to keep all Dad’s money to buy himselt a nice new house. I paid for Dad’s funeral, Mom’s headstone since Dad’s was provided by the government as he was a WW II veteran, and the flowers from the “family”-me ,though I put my brother’s name on the casket spray.
I had only been teaching for two years and had spent all my extra income on paying off my student loans since my brother had stolen the money my parents had set aside for my college education. It took every penny I had to pay all the bills for Dad’s debts and for his funeral.
Did I ask for a penny from anyone because I was female, in my early twenties and alone in the world? Family, friends, etc. ? Not in a million years. He was my father and I paid for everything.
We used to belive in words like duty, responsibility, honor, rugged individualism…now we are a nation with our hands out like beggars in the certain belief that other people owe us for what we want.In the words of Charles Dicken’s novel, “If you’re an eel, say so. If you’re a man, control your limbs!” Put your hand back in your pocket and pay your own way in life.
Young Widows and orphaned minor children should be helped. The rest of us should decide we are responsible for our families.

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Angela March 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Denise Miller, that is so sad. I am so sorry.
I am going to reiterate Denise’s point: there are times when you are overwhelmed and “the right way” just isn’t clear to you. Sure, this wasn’t the way it should have worked and sure, it would have been way preferable for the family to have prepared, but I’d be inclined to let it go. After all, I don’t think many people welcome their newborn baby with the idea that I might have to bury this thing, better buy insurance, even if the first month of life is a little riskier than the rest.

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OP March 19, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Hi, I’m the OP for this submission. I appreciate all your thoughts and comments. I had never seen a request for donations to be sent directly to the family in a obituary before and thought it unusual.
BTW- the young man was 24. I sympathize with the family and hope they did have enough to cover the funeral costs.

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Cat Whisperer March 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Admin says “…They had a strong initiative to coordinate their monetary gifts and certainly did not need to be goaded into it. *That* is how compassion should work.”

I’ll go along with that, if Admin will also allow that compassion requires that people who are grieving the loss of a loved family member get a “pass” on being judged harshly for etiquette faux pas that occur in the process of dealing with the issues arising from the death.

When someone you care about dies, especially if the death was sudden and unexpected, and most definitely if that someone had never given anyone in the family instructions for a funeral and disposal of their body, you frequently get a whole bunch of shocked and unprepared people thrown together on short notice, trying to deal with very tough decisions very quickly. Emotions are likely running high and I’ve never yet known a funeral situation where nobody in the family had previous emotional baggage. This is a situation tailor-made for things getting screwed up.

I believe that compassion requires that where death is involved, people be forgiven for even what would seem to be huge etiquette boo-boos. In this specific instance of what was put in the obituary, we do not know what the circumstances were. Did a well-intentioned family member who was delegated the task of writing and publishing the obituary phrase something clumsily or take it upon themselves to ask for financial help without thinking how they were going to come across to people? Could be. Did someone who knew the specifics of the family’s financial circumstances believe they were doing something helpful? Probably. Were there members of the family who saw the obituary and were aghast or embarrassed or appalled? Almost certainly.

Is it helpful to a family in grief to chastize them for an etiquette faux pas and scold them for being “gimme pigs”? Boy, that takes more chutzpah than I have. In the absence of specific proof that active, malign greed was involved, I’d prefer to give the family the benefit of the doubt and not pass judgement on them. If we pass judgement without benefit of compassion on others, then when our turn comes, we may expect to receive judgement without compassion.

Lastly, let’s not overlook the possibility that the newspaper somehow screwed things up. Some years back I was reading an obituary in the LA Times, and one of the obituaries noted in bold type in the heading that the deceased has “passed away.”

…Except that they left the “p” off of “passed.” I don’t know how that one got past the proof-reader, but I bet there were some red faces in the obituary editorial staff over that one.

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admin March 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Cat Whisperer,

Within the past 20 months I have lost a sister-in-law, my father, a family friend and very recently my father-in-law. Somehow no one connected with the deceased succumbed to the temptation of blatant appeals for money via the newspaper obituaries. One thing I have realized is that it is death, not weddings, that is the fabulous crucible that reveals the character of those left. Death of a family member can strip every facade and pretense and expose people for what they really are. Altruistic people rise to the best of selflessness whereas people who have lived their lives expecting that others owe them descend into the depravity of presumptions and greed.

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Vanessa March 19, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Yep, I’ve seen that in the local newspaper. Essentially, it was “our stepmother has died. She was a good stepmother. Send money to The Gimme Pigs at the following address.”
Note: I don’t have a problem with ‘in lieu of flowers’. If it helps the family to get through their grief to know that some good has come out of the death of a relative or friend, then great!
To me, this is like presents for a wedding or a birthday. The honoree(s) don’t mention cash or presents on the invitation. Friends/coworkers/relatives discreetly ask a family member what the honoree(s) would like. The family then says – X or Y would be good, but the honoree(s) could really use some cash. It’s then up to the guest to decide – buy a present or put some cash in an envelope.
Ditto for the obituary. You don’t solicit funds in an obit. If someone is concerned enough, they (once again) discreetly ask someone in the know such as a close friend, etc. At that point, the close friend could mention that the family is in need of money.
Broadcasting to the world in an obit is definitely beyond the pale.
Oh, I seem to recall that someone asked Miss Manners a while back about this same issue. She essentially agreed with the what the E-hell moderator said.

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gramma dishes March 19, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Wendy ~~ I am so surprised to know that your state doesn’t allow cremation even if the newly deceased has stated that s/he wanted it! What’s the point in making plans of your own if the law then steps in and says “Nope! Can’t do it your way! Try again!”?

I do want to be cremated and I have documented that wish and made everyone in my family well aware of it. It would really tick me off if my family couldn’t do that just because they couldn’t reach some family member or another whose wishes the state decided were more important than my own.

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Angela March 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Admin, I don’t think anyone is saying that it is really OK to ask for money via the obituary. Far from it. I can’t imagine that I would do it. It’s more of giving an etiquette pass to a grieving family who lost a younger person.

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Noodle March 20, 2012 at 12:43 am

I never understood the “Life Insurance to Cover a Funeral” thing. When my parents died, the life insurance didn’t pay out until death certificates were sent in. In my mother’s case, she died in August and I didn’t have the death certificate until November. Both times, the life insurance didn’t pay out until the funeral was long over with.

The best thing, I found, was the fact that my mom pre-paid her funeral so all I had to do was go to the funeral home. Everything was already arranged and I just had to set a date. Now that I have a son I am looking into doing the same thing.

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