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When A Primary Mourner Goes Unnoticed

I have just returned from an uncle’s funeral, and I am seething. My husband and I rode to the funeral with my parents, which took place an hour away from the town where we all live. On the way, we managed to hit multiple traffic snafus. We left early to have plenty of time, but still hit more snarls than could have been expected. Still, we managed to get to the church by 9:55 for the 10:00 funeral. By the time we parked across the street, got out of the car, and walked into the church, it was barely 10:00, but the casket was already being carried in, and we were forced to enter through the side door and sit in the back and side of the church. All of my mother’s multiple other siblings were seated in the front pews.

What makes me so angry is that, out of my mother’s nine surviving siblings, all their spouses, and the widow, not one person thought to say, “Sandra (my mother) isn’t here yet, shouldn’t we wait a few minutes?” We were hardly late, not late at all really, and we all have cell phones. Wouldn’t it be courteous for someone to at least call and see if we would be long? My mother did more for my uncle during his long illness than anybody else; even more than his wife. She and her siblings are all pretty close; it’s not as though she is a black sheep in the family. Yet, she was forced to sit off in the corner at her own brother’s funeral, and wasn’t even able to walk down with the casket afterwards or join the receiving line properly. Am I right to be angry? Or should they have started without her? 0903-14

Do you have a right to be angry?   No, you don’t because the offense is against your mother, not you and etiquette doesn’t give grace to those who take up the offenses of others.   I would want to know if your mother was offended and even if she was, it was her offense to own, not yours.   You will live a much happier life if you do not take up the offenses of other people.

As for the start of the funeral, the funeral directors from the funeral home are in complete control of coordinating and directing the funeral and if there is another funeral scheduled later that day, I can very well see them starting your uncle’s funeral on time.  Because a funeral is not something most of us coordinate or direct on a routine basis, it appears to me that people do as they are directed to do without questioning it.  My observation about this is rather fresh since just two weeks ago I sat in a church foyer and watched this entire scenario prior to a friend’s funeral.   Your mother might not have been noticed missing until the line up of the family just before the pallbearers brought the casket in and by then, it’s too late to stop the proceedings.

As for why family  members did not call to see where your family was,  that’s a lot of people who could have easily assumed someone else in the large group was tasked with doing that.  Grief narrows one’s focus like blinkers on a cart horse’s bridle and you see only what is directly in front of you.   I’d cut your relatives a lot of slack unless you are intent on creating intentional family divisiveness when none was apparent before.

You appear to believe that kindness to the dying should be recognized and rewarded with appropriate standing at the funeral as the more “legitimate” mourner and I am telling you that your perspective is skewed.    The service your mother gave her brother while he was dying is the important contribution to the relationship, not whether she is properly recognized as a primary mourner during the funeral.   Anyone who has read my blog knows I believe it to be an honor and privilege to be with the dying as they make that eternal transition.   Getting angsty about which pew ones sits at during the funeral just pales in comparison.   Let the others jostle to be first in the family pews while one sits in quiet appreciation and satisfaction of the truth.   Because God knows and your uncle knows and that is all that matters.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous September 10, 2014, 6:57 pm

    Maybe the OP should have called (assuming this was feasible–cell phone service isn’t always 100%, and people can forget to charge their phones, forget them altogether, or simply not have them in the first place), but the OP and her mother weren’t late–they arrived five minutes early. So, if the ceremony started before they got there, five minutes before the appointed time, then they technically didn’t do anything wrong, and shouldn’t have been treated as if they were late, when they weren’t.

    • the OP September 11, 2014, 5:24 am

      This is exactly what happened. Thank you.

  • Karen T September 11, 2014, 6:06 am

    You know that old saying “offence is taken not given”? Seems that is appropriate in this situation. OP it actually wasn’t about you or your mother. Stop acting like it was something personal and move on.

  • JP September 11, 2014, 7:39 am

    It’s natural, or it should be, to be upset if a loved one is offended or disrespected. It may not be the OPs fight, but if one cares about somebody one should care how others treat them. That is the essence of love. That being said, I don’t think there was any overt offense here. I’ve never seen the start of a funeral held up for any reason, and I imagine it’s like any other event. I wouldn’t expect a wedding to be held up because the mother of the bride or groom wasn’t there yet, I would expect the event to go on as scheduled. (maybe I’m wrong on that, I haven’t gone to many weddings)