My beloved uncle passed away in his 50s,
four years into his first marriage. I sincerely hope he found some
happiness with the woman, but when he died she somehow saw fit to:
1. Falsely use my mother's name to get a
family emergency-bereavement discount on an airline ticket for a friend of
hers. (We found out about it when the airline called my mother to confirm
2. Omit from the obit all of his blood
relatives' names, including that of my mother, who raised him, and several
surviving brothers. However, she listed as direct descendants all of her
grown children from her previous three or four marriages.
3. Videotape the funeral, including
sweeping views of the open casket and all of the mourners. I half expected
to be interviewed before it was over.
No one in the family has laid eyes on her
in ten years now, thank goodness.
Recently my sister's FIL died of cancer. He
came from a family that was not religious at all. The funeral was held at
a funeral chapel, and there was no clergy person; a cousin of his
conducted the service. It was a very nice service for the most part. After
giving the eulogy, the cousin asked if anyone else wanted to say a few
words. Several people got up and spoke, and it was a nice mixture of
respect and humor which the deceased would have appreciated. Then his
brother got up. He is the one member of the family who is religious, and
belongs to an extreme fundamentalist denomination. Not that there is
anything wrong with this, but he constantly tries to push it on other
people, which means that most of his relatives avoid him.
This man proceeded to tell us how evil a
life his brother had led, because he had divorced his first wife (who was
an abusive alcoholic) and lived "in sin" for 33 years with
another woman. And we shouldn't blame the daughter of this relationship
for the circumstances in which she was born, and he considered her to be
his niece just as much as his brother's children from his (legal)
marriage. Gee, how generous of you, Uncle.
Then he shared with us that just hours
before his death, his brother had repented of his sins and taken Christ as
his savior. "Although he left it till quite late in life, it's
fortunate that he did it, because at least we KNOW WHERE HE IS."
Everyone just sat there with their mouth hanging open. But we couldn't
understand how he could have repented. In the last weeks the cancer had
spread to his brain, and he was incoherent and unaware of what was going
Please understand, I am not disrespecting
anyone's religious beliefs here. I just don't think that this was the time
or place for talk like this.
My ex-boyfriend (we'll call him Alex) told
me about his uncle attending the funeral of somebody who had died in his
family. Now, Alex's uncle was a practical joker and decided to do the
unthinkable - something you would only see on MTV's "Jackass"
series. He put a remote-controlled whoopee cushion inside the dead guy's
casket and kept making it "deflate" throughout the funeral! To
top it all off, the guy's wife was crying in front of the casket, but did
it matter? No. He just kept on going. Unbelievable!
I have wanted to contribute this story to
your site for the longest time!!!.....
My former boyfriend Oliver's mother,
Bertha, passed away at age 42 after a lifetime of addiction to
prescription drugs and other unhealthy habits (dietary, physical,
"recreational," etc.) that had caused her appearance to change
dramatically throughout the years till finally even in life she resembled
a walking corpse-- thin, frail, very scary looking. Bertha's death was
expected and to be honest, her doctors and all who knew her were surprised
she even lived that long. I sincerely hope she found peace, despite having
caused a lot of pain to her family, including myself and my then-boyfriend
during her time on Earth. (Bertha had a penchant for lying, manipulating
and stealing and thinking only of herself. There are many examples of
this, but perhaps the best is one I was told about how she sent my
ex-boyfriend Oliver out to buy her cigarettes when he was 10 years old. He
got hit by a car and not only did she not take him to the hospital, she
continued calmly getting ready for a date she had that evening, ready to
leave him home alone, scared and suffering on the couch. It was this
incident that propelled his grandparents into formally adopting him.)
However, even someone who was not really a nice person in THIS life did
not deserve the kind of send-off she received.
At the time, Oliver and I lived 250 miles
away. I received the call telling me Bertha died on a Monday afternoon. I
promptly drove to tell Oliver the news at his place of employment. He
decided to wrap up as much of his work as possible before coming home to
get ready for the grueling 5 hour trip, since he did not know how many
days we would be away. I decided to go home and pack, thinking we would
leave first thing in the morning, if it got too late to drive (even though
our initial instinct was to get there as soon as we were able, it was
winter and we had gotten a ton of snow that year)
At first I thought that Oliver's family was
insisting we come out there immediately because they wanted us all to be
together, support and comfort each other, plan the funeral arrangements as
a family, etc. But then I was told the body was already ready for viewing
so we absolutely had to get there right away or we would miss it. I did
not understand that because only a couple hours had gone by since Bertha
passed. How could she be ready already and what was the rush?
Then I was told there would only be a
private viewing for the immediate family (about 10 people) and that would
take place 8 am the following day (Tuesday) which meant we would be
driving overnight as we had dreaded and that there would be no funeral. I
understood the need for a private viewing since Bertha's
"friends" were quite a cast of unsavory characters. I could also
understand not having a funeral since Bertha had said before dying that
she did not care if she had one or not (though trying to be the good
"almost" daughter-in-law, I offered my help in arranging a short
service if Bertha's Mom and stepfather wanted to hold one and were not up
to making the arrangements themselves.)
But it was then that I received my first
shock: In an effort to save money, Bertha's family decided not to get her
body embalmed, explaining that "After all, we were the only ones who
were going to see it and it was going to get burned up right after
that." First of all, Bertha's family could well afford to have her
embalmed-- her stepfather was the Sergeant of the town's police department
who was said to still have in his possession the first dollar he ever
made. Secondly, I knew Bertha well enough to know that not being embalmed
was not a personal wish and if she knew she was not going to be embalmed,
she would not have wanted to be viewed by anyone. Thirdly, I never heard
of this practice (of NOT embalming) before and I have been to many
viewings. I mean, I am sure there are people who are not embalmed per
their wishes and instead buried or cremated right away without a viewing
but to not be embalmed and then viewed even if was only by a small group
of people???? Since we were to view Bertha 18 hours after she passed, I
found this to be not just offensive and upsetting, but wondered about the
sanitary aspect of such a practice. Hello! Is this up to legal
standards??? Aren't there requirements for undertaking?? But again, this
was only the first of the series of creepy and disturbing incidences
related to Bertha's passing. Just wait till I tell you about the actual
Scrambling to get ready for the drive, pack
appropriate clothing, etc. took longer than we thought. Exhausted, I began
the drive at 11 pm and we arrived bleary-eyed at 4:30 am. After 2 hours of
awful sleep made worse by having had to ingest so much caffeine to stay
awake while driving (I literally had the shakes) we rose to get ready for
the viewing. First, I learned that Oliver's father, Oliver Sr., (who had
been abusive to Oliver and Bertha and had abandoned them when Oliver was a
baby) had read the obituary and was trying to reach Oliver (despite having
not seen or spoken to him in 25 years.) This upset was made uglier by the
fact that there was a warrant out for the estranged Oliver, Sr. for petty
thievery--something about stealing rolls of coins-- and the only way to
keep him from crashing the wake was to warn him that Bertha's stepfather
(the cheap police Sergeant) was going to set up a sting outside the
funeral home to arrest Oliver Sr. and any other wanted criminals who
showed up (which would have amounted to quite a lot if the viewing was
open to the public seeing as Bertha's "friends" all had records
that were miles long.)
After that, my boyfriend Oliver realized he
forgot to pack the tie that went with his suit. His grandfather did not
have anything suitable he could borrow, so we had to stop at a store on
the way to the funeral home. What was upsetting about this is that
Bertha's mother, his grandmother, insisted it would be OK for him to not
wear a tie and suggested he even (gasp!) just wear casual clothes (jeans)
instead of a suit. Hello! Oliver's mother was being laid out and even if
it wasn't his mother, Oliver always followed the social decorum of wearing
proper attire to anything funeral-related out of respect for the deceased
and the occasion....
It was then that Oliver's 17 year old
half-sister showed up. In Winnie-the-Pooh denim overalls. Claiming she was
so upset she "just didn't feel like putting on dress clothes,"
she informed us all that this is what she would be wearing all day. (She
is notorious for dressing and behaving inappropriately at ALL times;
believe me, this is the very tip of the iceberg.) I took her aside and
gently asked her if I could give her any help she needed to get ready, and
wouldn't she like to dress up in honor of her mom? Nope. So I butted out
giving her the benefit of the doubt, because after all maybe she really
WAS that upset and seeing as it was only a private family viewing, what
harm could her improper dress code cause?
But the absolute kicker happened when we
arrived at the funeral home. I actually audibly gasped and then had to
cover it up and pretend I had hiccups. We walked into the room where
Bertha was laid out and not only was she lying in a cardboardish/pine
looking box, obviously the cheapest "casket" the funeral home
sold, but she was dressed in one of her nightgowns!!! It was positively
ghoulish. It reminded me of a scene from Night of the Living Dead. It was
of the long variety, with lacy ruffled neck and sleeves in a cheery bright
red and white floral pattern. Add the nightgown to the fact that she had
not been embalmed (you could actually see rigor mortis setting in, I
swear!) nor had proper makeup been applied to her face and you can imagine
what a horror show this was. (Remember, as I mentioned, this was a
middle-aged woman whose drug and alcohol abuse and particular lifestyle
had made her look corpse-like even when she was still alive.) Although I
knew it was because Bertha's family, who could well afford to have bought
her an inexpensive dress or suit, was too cheap and tacky to do so, I was
told the reason she was laid out in a nightgown was because, "after
all, that's how she spent her final couple years when her health problems
made her housebound. That's how we were all accustomed to seeing
her." I have never seen or heard this in my life. In my experience
with wakes, even people who die in nursing homes or hospice are always
dressed in something nice if they are laid out. This was like saying a
person who died after a long hospital stay should be laid out in their
hospital gown. I was completely revolted and embarrassed and hurting for
Oliver. I could see how upset Oliver was about this and later on, we both
discussed how if either of us had known, we would have happily paid for a
decent suit or dress. Not just out of respect for Bertha, after all, good
or bad, she was the only mother he will ever have, but to contribute in at
least making her send-off from this life remotely nice and somewhat
No one -- as in a clergyman, the funeral
director or any relative-- said anything at the viewing that would
remotely qualify as a service or prayer or verbal goodbye as a means to
well, make the viewing seem "official," i.e., provide any
closure to the social aspect of having congregated to pay our last
respects. It was downright eerie --- as if we had all gotten together and
there just happened to be a dead body in the room. In addition, there were
absolutely no flowers at all. I had wanted to at least purchase flowers
from myself and Oliver, especially seeing as every time we visited Bertha
when she was alive, we brought her flowers she seemed to greatly enjoy
receiving. But I had been ordered "not to waste my money" by
The viewing lasted approximately an hour
and gratefully, there was no sign of uninvited guests. Bertha was
immediately cremated and divided into two urns so Oliver and his sister
could each have a part of her. So half of Bertha would be in one state and
half in another state. I had never heard of this practice either. Perhaps
it is regional (?) but I don't think so. Where I come from splitting up
the ashes is considered a desecration.
Immediately following the viewing, Oliver
and I were dispatched to clean out Bertha's house. We had planned to stay
in town a few days and had thought we would start this somber task the day
after the funeral to give us a chance to rest and visit with the family.
But, no, we were put to work after barely having a chance to change out of
our dress clothes. When we first arrived at Bertha's house, which had
clearly already been ransacked by the 17 year-old stepsister, we couldn't
get over how filthy it was. Now, granted Bertha was not known for her
housekeeping skills, but just thinking anyone had to die surrounded by
such filth and disarray made me terribly sad. SOMEONE who lived nearby (or
her 17 year old daughter who lived with her) could have made an effort to
keep the place clean. Our only goal in cleaning was to get everything out
(it was a rental) and for Oliver to take a few mementos by which to
remember his mom. Bertha's mother immediately started divvying up even the
most incidental things (i.e. a stack of washcloths Bertha had bought but
never used) at the get-go and demanded Oliver and his half sister decide
who got what as each item was unearthed, based on who visibly wanted it
more. After a while, it felt like a deranged kind of auction with the
person who openly displayed the most angst or emotion about being the new
owner of a candle, photo, Christmas ornament or other tchotchke, winning
the item. The only good part about getting the house cleaned and emptied
so quickly, was that we got to go home sooner than we had planned. I hope
I am never a witness to such a completely disgraceful event ever again.
My dad passed away unexpectedly in
September, 2002. I live 150 miles from my hometown and got the call that
Saturday afternoon, making the trip with my then eight-year-old son. Dad
died that night. I stayed in town the following week for the funeral, of
course, and to help my mother deal with the grief and some financial
aspects with which she was in no shape to deal.
The first breach of etiquette came bright
and early on Monday morning, the morning of the wake. It was a creditor. I
explained that Dad had passed away over the weekend. The response:
"Well, we need to speak to someone about this account." I
committed my own breach of etiquette and then let this person know that we
would call them after we took care of our own crisis.
After that call, I phoned my son's school
to let them know that my son's grandfather had passed away and that he
would be absent from school that week. The only reply was, "Thanks
for calling." The message was never passed along and the school
reached me by cell phone two days later inquiring about my son. Once
again, I informed them and asked that they please make note of it this
time. Upon his return to school, I got a form letter informing me that my
son had missed "X" number of days and that if he had ten
"unexcused" absences, he would be held back. This time I paid a
visit to the school.
I took the following Monday for myself
before returning to work. When I came in, my co-workers were very
sympathetic and helpful - except for one. We will call her Lewanda.
Lewanda approached my desk with an attempt at sympathy, failing to
remember, "Was it your dad?" After I confirmed this, she asked
what had happened. "A heart attack." She then launched into this
story about how her uncle, whom the whole family despised because he was a
mean old drunk, once sustained a massive heart attack and actually lost
part of his heart and is still living. Gee thanks, Lewanda, just what I
needed to hear today
This happened years ago but I still chuckle
about it. In high school I had a good friend Robin whose dad was a
mortician. They lived in an apartment over a funeral home. One time my
friend Diane and I were out and about and we happened to be driving past
Robin's house (also the funeral parlor) when we saw her boyfriend Dave
(also a friend) leaving. Diane honked her horn loud and long and started
yelling out the window at him (we were hyperactive teenagers). He looked
over at us funny and didn't do anything and for just a second we wondered
why he had not acknowledged us and then Diane goes "Oh shoot, there's
a funeral." Sure enough, there were all kinds of well dressed people
milling about, looking at us. It looked like we were honking and cheering
on the deceased, like it was a party or something. We felt terrible, but
it was totally unintentional!
Here is my funeral hell story. About 11
years ago, I began the process of divorcing my first husband. To allow him
to continue to present himself as a decent person and not the completely
disgusting white trash crustacean that he is, I'll call him Alvin.
About 6 weeks after setting the wheels
of divorce in motion, my beloved daughter, my firstborn child was killed
in an auto accident. On top of having to deal with the tragedy of her
death and the trauma of what was shaping up to be a very nasty divorce, I
had to cope with this loss.
I was too distraught to deal with who
came to the funeral and who did not, and many people from all walks of
life came to pay their respects to my daughter. I was very comforted to
see how many people’s lives she had touched. Even other people who had
been involved in the accident came to the services. Unfortunately her
father’s (my soon to be ex’s) brother came. He had always been an ass,
and compared to "Bernard" my ex was a class act.
I'll skip over all the less
objectionable things these two said and did before and after the service
to the worst of it.
After the graveside service, my soon to
be ex, who had bragged loudly to everyone within earshot that any (insert
ethnic minority here) would have to borrow jumper cables 'cause all their
POS's would have dead batteries. I am not a racist person and was very
embarrassed that the many people of color who had come to pay respect and
give condolences to our family had to hear that.
Then at a small family and very close
friends "remembrance of her life," Alvin and his brother stood
outside the front door and made extremely crude and graphic sexual remarks
about every woman that stepped up on the porch and went through the front
door, loudly and in earshot of everyone. The remarks included graphic
Now my wonderful and talented youngest
daughter is to marry a wonderful young man next year. And guess who she
plans to invite to the happy event? That paragon of class and
decorum....... her dad and his brother. I get sick to my stomach at the
thought of having to see these two, but what can I do? She was too young
to remember or be aware of the performance and can't bear to hear that her
dear ol' Dad could do such a thing. I don't want to be there but what can
I do? I'm the mother of the Bride!!!!!
I want to start off by saying that I really
love your site! Thank you for all the hard work and effort that you put
I have a story about my grandfather's
funeral which took place a few years ago. One of his daughters, my aunt,
has a very generous, giving spirit. Unfortunately, she also tends to do
and say things without thinking. At the viewing of the body she had one of
my cousins photograph everything. The banners with blessings written on
them and the flowers surrounding the casket, various pictures and posters
made by the grandchildren, the body in the open casket (fortunately, no
A few months later, my grandmother moved to
a new and smaller apartment. We were helping her decorate her new place
and deciding on what pictures and paintings to put on the walls and
shelves, when my aunt had a brilliant idea! She told grandma that she
should frame the pictures taken at grandpa's viewing and put those all
around the apartment "so she could be reminded of him". Um...
Wouldn't pictures of grandpa when he was *living* be a happier reminder?
Needless to say, Grandma was very upset by
this suggestion. The rest of us comforted Grandma as best we could, and
let the comment pass by constantly repeating to ourselves, "she means
well, she really does mean well."
I was extremely close to my maternal
grandmother. She was a feisty woman, in excellent health, very active and
independent. One Saturday night I received a hysterical phone call from my
mother: She had been trying to get hold of Grandma for a week, to no
avail. She was understandably worried, and was almost in tears (and you
know it's bad when my mother is crying). I jumped in my car and drove over
an hour to her house. Together, my mother, my brother and I went over to
my grandmother's house. We knocked...but no answer. After debating for
over an hour, we called the police. They broke down the door. My
grandmother was dead, and had been for about a week. May we all die so
peacefully. She fell asleep in her chair, watching TV and just never woke
Naturally, I was devastated, as well as my
mother. My mother felt an incredible amount of guilt for not discovering
her mother earlier. Several family members came to the funeral, including
my uncle. He had been married to my mother's sister (her only sibling, who
had died of cancer several years previous.) and was not well-liked. He's
an egomaniac who can never admit he's wrong, or resist a chance to make a
sarcastic remark to either my mother or her children (including me).
We were sitting in the foyer of the funeral parlor, discussing my
grandmother. I don't even remember what was said, but I do remember my
uncle's parting remark..."And may we all be found sooner." We're
at a family member's funeral, and he just can't resist the urge to jab at
my mother, knowing full well how she felt. I thought about telling him
where I'd like to find HIM upon his death, but I'm too much of a lady.
At least he waited until after the funeral
to tell my mother she should forward what would have been her sister's
share of the estate to him. The joke is on him though....there was NO
estate. Too bad, so sad.
We haven't heard from him since.
My story begins when my beloved grandmother
passed. She had been sick for a while, and had lived a long, exciting
life, and so it was not a surprise. She was being cared for at home by my
mother, father, aunt, and sister; I went home to help out as I could. I
was living in my first apartment with Joe, my (then) fiancé, and I worked
full time and could not afford to take any time off.
I had come home from work, and was the only
one there. As I opened the door, the phone was ringing. I rushed to it and
my father told me that his mother had passed. This was the first time
someone had died when I was old enough to understand it, and as I was very
close to my grandmother, I was devastated. Joe was not due home for
another few hours, and so I had my father pick me up to take me home,
after dashing off a note as to where I was going.
I stayed with my family and grandmother as
the hospice people came, who were a godsend to us. After the ambulance
came, I asked to be taken home. I got home to find Joe sitting around with
many of his friends. I then remembered that his sister had come to stay
for the weekend, and his 4 buddies and one of his buddy’s wives had all
made plans to hang out. I, of course, was a bit emotionally drained and
asked if we could keep Joe’s sister there but send his friends home? Joe
flatly refused, saying I didn’t have to hang out with everyone if I didn’t
feel like it, but that he’d invited everyone over weeks before and
couldn’t just send them on their way. (As we were 19 at the time, we
were the only ones in the group with their own place. Even the married
friends were living with parents after he had just gotten out of the
I was too tired to argue, and so I said I
was taking a bath. While in the bathroom it hit me that my grandmother was
really gone, and I began to cry. Joe knocked at the door, and I told him
to come in, as I thought he was going to hug me or console me or
something. Wrong! He told me I was upsetting his guests, and would I mind
not crying?! Still in a bit of emotional shock, I went to bed and cried
some more, into the pillow, hoping that and the closed door would muffle
me. I shouldn’t have worried, as I fell asleep to their drunken
Fast forward to the funeral, which is one
state away and where grandma’s husband and parents lay. My family is
paying for the flight, but does Joe come with me to offer moral support?
No! "We can’t afford it" turned into "I can’t miss
work" after I told him my parents were paying for the flight and
rooms, and I just dropped it.
Five years before, Grandma had moved to a
small beach town 150 miles from us. We held a memorial in town for her
there. Joe came this time, as well as two of my other close friends. Well,
Joe and my two friends hatched up a plan that they would get my sister
(over 21) to buy them some alcohol and they could get drunk that night.
This, even though they all knew my sister is a recovering alcoholic and if
someone is drinking around her, she can’t stop herself. They told her
before they told me, and as I was the only one objecting, I lost bad. So I
had to sit there and watch everyone get pissed on the night of my
grandmother’s memorial, which of course led to arguments, drunken
shouting, and angry feelings all around.
Grandma died between Thanksgiving and
Christmas, so for Christmas that year, my aunt found all the presents
grandma had intended to give everyone. Grandma was a big fan of shopping
on a budget, and found the most perfect, inexpensive gifts that she
collected all year round. That way, she could give a ton of presents, and
you always knew she was thinking of you. She always bought something big
and nice and expensive right before Christmas. So this year, we got all of
our cute, inexpensive little things- earmuffs for my dad, cooking knives
and recipe cards for me, so on. Joe, who had been raised a hippy, had
longer hair then me, and wore very colorful clothes, was given one of
those rainbow Dr. Seuss hats that were popular a few years ago.
Fortunately he smiled and acted gracious to the family, but later he
complained to me that this was a silly, stupid gift and he wasn’t the
kind of person to wear this sort of thing and on and on and on. I just
told him that she was from an older generation and she probably thought he
would love it. He accepted that, thankfully, and dropped it.
My relationship with Joe is full of similar
stories. Fortunately, I did NOT marry him!
I attended a funeral for a friend's baby
who was murdered by her father. It was a sensational media thing as the
baby was missing for a few weeks before the father confessed and led
police to the baby's body. When the day of the funeral came, hundreds of
onlookers showed up. Many crowded around the tent, keeping real family and
friends standing in the hot sun and straining to hear the service. As I
stood near the rear, I heard clicking near me. Turning my head, I saw a
woman with a camera taking photos of the funeral. Then, I noticed another
and another. Strangers, all photographing the family and friends at this
funeral. Horrified was all I can think of to describe it.
I have been to lots of funerals but this
one really takes the cake. A dear friend of mine called me late one night
to tell me her father (Mr. Smith) had been killed in an accident. I
consoled her and she called back a few days later to tell me the funeral
arrangements. My husband and I traveled to the funeral and found our spots
in the packed church. Now Mr. Smith was apparently not a very faithful
husband and his wife knew this. We had noticed a woman wailing outside the
church and were told by several people that she was the mistress of the
deceased. The wife wouldn't allow her inside (ya think!!) Mr. Smith also
wasn't a churchgoing man. The minister decided to use that in his sermon
by building his eulogy up in a fury of hellfire and damnation which at one
point exploded with "Mr. Smith is not in that casket, he is burning
in hell right now!!" The family screamed and one of them fainted. My
husband nearly fell out of the pew in shock and my jaw just dropped. As
the stunned family was led down the aisle behind the casket and the very
pleased-with-himself minister, I leaned over and asked my husband if he
was up to going to the graveside service. He declined.
I have mixed feelings on this.
Just as I believe people should not marry in a place of faith if they are
not of that religion and no intention of joining the church/temple, having
a funeral ceremony in a church the deceased did not attend and would not
attend seems to be equally hypocritical. You would think people
would choose a church which reflects their doctrine of the afterlife,
particularly if the deceased's lifestyle was demonstratively out of sync
with that religion's standards and beliefs. But having chosen a
specific church, isn't a faux pas to presume the officiating pastor will
alter his doctrine just to give the survivors some comfort? Some
would say this is a betrayal to the truth they hold dear and presents a
false hope to the family. It certainly puts the clergyperson in a
difficult position of either sticking to their doctrinal beliefs or
fudging it for the sake of the family. I'm sure others will have
comments on this story so join us at the Etiquette Hell discussion forum
My husband was a widower when I met him. He
was deeply in love with his first wife, and when she died without warning,
he truly thought he would never feel love again. When we met, seven years
later, he told me that I was the first woman who understood that he would
always love his first wife, and that because he had loved her, it meant
that he was truly able to love.
He and C had been married for 2 1/2 years,
and were both over 40 at the time. He has shared unbelievable stories
about how insensitive people have been regarding their marriage and her
death. Comments like, "oh well, you were only married 2 years"
and "what did you do to her?" etc. His wife succumbed to a
congenital heart ailment, and he was so distressed at her passing that he
really didn't feel like discussing her entire medical history with curious
gawkers. When he finally did start dating, over six years later, his lady
friends would either react with jealousy or callous disregard to the fact
that they had a real marriage, and that YES, he could still be grieving
after six years. The worst part of the story for him, was notifying
friends, family, and the correspondence with the general public about her
death. After about 2 years after her death, he would still receive things
for her in the mail.
One item was a jury summons. He marked the
postcard "deceased" and mailed it back to the county juror
agency. A few months later, he received a telephone call from the
"sheriff" who announced that he had a warrant for C's arrest,
since she had not appeared for jury duty. My husband, who was extremely
frustrated at the time, replied that she didn't live there anymore. When
asked for her forwarding address, he replied something like, "1224
Maple Avenue, #25463". He has long imagined the surprise of the
sheriff who arrived at the Holy Cross Cemetery on Maple Avenue. My husband
told me that he just wondered if the sheriff had actually gotten out of
the car to find her, since "#25463" was her burial plot.
A note to those who do not think before
they speak. When someone is lucky enough to find someone to love, it does
not matter how long they love, but rather how deeply. We all grieve in our
own time. It is possible to love again, but sometimes it is necessary to
make room for new love. You can accept new love into your heart and your
life--you don't have to give up the old love or memories.
Sign me, Grateful that I found the Love of
Firstly, the perpetrator of this funeral
faux pas is none other than ME! Yes, I confess, I was an idiot -- my only
defense is that medication left me addled and, well, QUITE STUPID. When I
was 22, I was shocked to read about the sudden death of the father of a
dear high school friend of mine (he'd died VERY unexpectedly from a
massive heart attack at the age of 56). We'd lost touch since we'd gone
off to college -- e-mail hadn't quite become so widespread. Immediately, I
called a florist I knew and asked for something small and elegant to be
sent to the funeral home (and it was indeed lovely). I had no current
contact information for my friend, because her family was no longer local.
But since her father had been distinguished in the community, his funeral
and burial service was to be held here. Her family had to gather from
across all of North America. With so much chaos going on with her family,
I decided to wait until the viewing before trying to speak with my friend
to offer condolences.
So the evening before the viewing, I kept a
previously scheduled engagement. This was my undoing! The engagement was a
sporting event. I collided with a teammate and broke several of my teeth.
An emergency room dentist patched me up just enough to be able to manage
until the earliest possible time for my regular dentist to repair the
damage on Monday. Mind-numbed by painkillers and anesthetic, I didn't even
think that it was the same day as the funeral, until I got home. No
worries, I had enough painkillers to make it bearable for an extra day; I
just needed to call my dentist first thing on Monday morning to postpone.
The funeral was much more important. Sunday, the day of the viewing,
bleary-eyed and woozy from the drugs, I donned a respectful outfit and
made my way to the viewing. I checked in the mirror before I left; I
wanted to be sure that there was no bruising and that I didn't look stoned
from the painkillers. I looked okay, didn't feel THAT oogy, so off I went.
Little did I know that a side-effect of those marvelous painkillers was
"profound half-wittedness." I was dumb as an ox. In retrospect,
it would have been more prudent to stay home.
I got to the viewing, and my dear friend
was thoroughly touched to see me. She'd been moved to tears that I'd sent
flowers, since we hadn't been in touch for so long. "Are you coming
to the funeral?" she asked. In my foggy, medicated haze I answered
without any class or tact at all "uh... Monday?... I'm going to the
dentist on Monday..." and then I toddled off like a big, dumb child!
I was such a clod! I offered not a word of comfort, not a word of
encouragement! And no explanation of "please excuse me; I'm under the
influence of dental drugs!" The big, anesthetized moron that I was, I
just said "Monday? I'm going to the dentist on Monday!" and
wandered off. Gah! I was such a boob! I never heard from my friend again;
I certainly don't blame her at all. I was such a classless idiot! I was
too mortified by my idiocy to show my face at the funeral. *sigh* Without
proper contact information, I was never able to send a card apologizing
either, though I've been remorseful. (Note, I recently found the mailing
address for her sister, and have considered sending a card of apology --
some 10 years later! Though now I'm afraid of rubbing salt in an old
It happened more than twenty-three years
ago, but I still remember clearly the day I came home from high school to
see the cars parked in front of the house. No one told me what was going
on and I didn't think of asking what happened until I walked in the front
door to be greeted by my mother's news that my father had been killed in
an auto accident. I was shocked to say the least.
At that point, my mother's best friend did
not comfort me or offer any words of solace; she ordered me to walk the
family dog, which I did. Mother's friend never comforted me or offered any
words of sympathy during the ordeal; she immediately assumed that she was
taking over the household.
Mother was suffering from leukemia at the
time, and mother's friend did not commit the last faux pas right after the
time my father was killed. Less than two years later, mother's friend was
urging me to wear blue jeans, which I had refused to do because my
mother's friend was ordering me to wear them. I had gone out and bought
them with the help of other friends of mine that my mother's friend did
not like. Needless to say, when my mother's friend saw me wearing them,
she yelled at me because she was not there when I bought the jeans.
A few years ago, while at Uni, my friend
Jane's father died suddenly of a heart attack. As her family lived some
distance away, our friend Sally offered to drive her down for the funeral.
Jane's flat mate Paul and his girlfriend Nicola offered to come to provide
support. While many of Jane's friends would have liked to have gone with
her to support her during her grief, we did not want to impose upon her
family during a troubled time. Three friends seemed like more than enough.
However, Paul and Nicola decided to
spend the whole trip down, the funeral, and the wake, kissing! Jane spent
most of her father's funeral apologizing for them. How's that for
supporting a friend during a difficult time!
My father committed suicide in August of
2000. My Dad's family never visited, even when my mother begged them to
and even offered to go out on the ponds (she was an oxygen checker on a
catfish farm). We decided to have the memorial service in the town we are
originally from and where most of the family lives. We went to the funeral
home and planned everything. My mom came up $20 short and asked if someone
could help out. Ricky, the funeral director, said something and my Dad's
brother finally offered it. That night I stayed with my Dad's sister and
her kids, while my mother stayed in a motel and the next day went back to
the city where funeral was being held. The only ones of my family that
showed were the ones who drove or rode with us to the church. The rest of
the family was a couple blocks away. They knew when the memorial service
started and my Mom's family was the main ones there. We waited for at
least two hours. We kept calling and they said they were on their way.
They never showed. When my Mom and my brother and I went back home we
discovered that some of the dresses we carried down there (in case some of
the girls/women didn't have anything to wear) were missing. I got to
church with my Dad's aunt and uncle and have been going there for over 2
years, to this day they have acknowledged my brother and me maybe once. To
this day, they still blame mother.
This story involves a woman with whom I
worked and her attendance at my father’s visitation after he passed
away. "Amy" was a thrice-divorced woman in her mid-50s, about
4"11", with little tiny feet and a big body. Now Amy could be as
sweet as could be, but she could also be confrontational, bitchy, loud,
and chatty. But most of all, she was certifiably crazy.
My father had been in poor health, but
his death was rather unexpected. The visitation was on a Wednesday evening
and the funeral was on Thursday morning. Co-workers and friends came to
the funeral home for the visitation which was held from 4-6pm, then again
from 8-10pm. During the first session, in comes Amy, offering her
condolences. I leave my mother’s side and go into the hallway to sit
with her on a couch and make small talk. During our conversation, my aunt
and uncle arrive and so I excuse myself to greet them. Naturally their
arrival prompts me to escort them to where my mother is. I continue to
greet friends who pay their respects then leave.
About 15 minutes later I notice that Amy
is still there and she is chatting with one of my sisters-in-law, who is
listening politely to Amy, whose head is bobbling around as she relates
whatever story she is telling. I continue meeting and greeting. About a
half hour after that, Amy is still there; this time, she has cornered my
other sister-in-law who is also politely listening to her story. After
their conversation, Amy has been there for nearly an hour and she’s
looking a little lonely. Realizing I have neglected my "guest,"
I introduce her to my sister (who is also fairly crazy herself). I thought
that (other than the two of them being crazy), they might have some things
in common and be able to chat a bit.
At about 5:50 pm, people are clearing
out and the immediate family members are getting ready to leave to have
dinner together. Amy says goodbye to me rather reluctantly and we leave
for the restaurant. While waiting for our food to arrive, the first
sister-in-law asked me who the woman was, and I told her she was a
co-worker. My sister piped in, "YEAH… who was she? She was f**king
CRAZY!!" She and the sisters-in-law then began telling me about their
conversations – that Amy had been regaling them with stories about her
being psychic and the ghosts she had seen... she had also been on
Mulholland Drive when Sharon Tate was murdered and had heard the screams…
she had seen pennies fall from the ceiling as a message from God, had seen
angels, and her son had received his IQ from aliens. Despite the fact that
my father had passed away, we all had a big laugh about the fact that Amy
had lingered at a visitation for a casual acquaintance’s relative, and
had cornered people she didn’t even know to tell her unbelievable
This might not fit under
"funerals" but we lost my dear mother in June of 2000 after a
short battle with cancer. We were faced with the daunting task of planning
two services, one for relatives and her friends in our home state and a
full mass for her family and friends in the state where she grew up.
After the local memorial service, a
12-hour drive to my mother’s hometown, the wake and funeral and another
12-hour return trip, we were a bit dazed when we finally got home. My
sisters and I started helping my father return correspondence to the many
people who had expressed their sympathy with flowers or cards.
My exhausted sister was writing
thank-you notes when we received a phone call from a neighbor down the
block. She was a kind woman who had only known my mother briefly and
learned of her passing from another neighbor. She expressed her sympathy
for our loss and said she’d baked us an apple pie. "But I baked it
a few days ago, and I didn’t know you were going out of town, so I
already ate it," she said.
My sister stammered, "Oh—um,
thank you. We appreciate the thought," and barely hung up the phone
before she fell out of her chair with laughter. She told me what had
happened, and we both laughed until we cried. She re-enacted the story for
our father and other sister and they also joined in the laughter.
It was just what we needed after a
painful, exhausting week and when you consider that my mother had the
world’s best sense of humor. It was probably her way of letting us know
she was OK. We still giggle about our neighbor and that tempting pie to
I lost my husband very suddenly in November
2001. He was only 40 years old and it was such a shock to me and everyone
that knew him. He was much respected, and everyone loved him. I thought
that people would try to be understanding of my grief and treat me kindly
at least for a few months while I tried to recover from such a tragic
loss. Most people were very understanding and I thank them. It is hard to
know what to do when such a horrible thing like this happens and I
understand when people get confused and don't always say or do the right
thing. But just doing the wrong thing without any thought or conscience
should be unthinkable.
Well, here are the unthinkables:
1) My stepson's fiancée called me and
asked me if I was sure that my stepson didn't inherit a large sum of
money. (She always hated me) I was sure and told her so biting my tongue.
2) At the funeral a soon-to-be-divorced
friend of my husband told me that if I needed a sexual release or anything
to just call, and he would be there for me.
3) Months later, a friend of my husband
divorced his wife. He called me crying on my shoulder (as if I didn't have
enough to worry about) and I suggested we talk about it over lunch. He
immediately shouted at me over the phone saying, "I don't sleep with
my friends’ wives"! (Who mentioned sex)?
4) My mother in-law whom I always spent
Christmas with told me I could still come over there if I wanted. (Gee,
thanks) She never spoke to me again after that.
5) When I started to date, the question of
what happened to my husband always came up. Everyone assumed I was
divorced. When I told them the truth I would either have them hang up the
phone on me or say something like f*%k you and walk away.
6) A week after my husband died, his best
friend told me to get over it.
7) I worked for my husband’s company at
home. When he died, they canceled my health insurance that day and came
and got all the office equipment 3 days later and basically fired me.
8) A couple weeks after my husband died,
neighbors that always hated me came over to the house and asked me to join
their weird church. (No thanks) Now they hate me even more.
There was more nonsense but I have chosen
to just forget it. I changed my phone #, remarried and started a new life
and put the past in the past.
My father was in the hospital for a routine
hip replacement and consequently died due to "complications from
surgery." As he was in the hospital for almost 6 weeks, my mother's
house had gotten quite dusty and cobwebby because she literally spent
every minute either at the hospital or at a motel next to the hospital set
up for patients' families.
We had several family members coming from
out of town for the funeral, so we had an extra day to call a cleaning
company in to take care of the cleaning so we could attend to all the
other funeral details and such. When I called to make arrangements for
them to come, I explained to the owner what had happened with my father.
While I really did not expect her to feel exactly what I felt after losing
a parent, I was very upset to hear her say, "Oh honey, I'm so sorry.
I know just how you feel. My dog died over the weekend."
I just keep telling myself that in her
mind, she was expressing her grief as best as she could...
Recently I went to a funeral where all
the guests had to take turns posing with the surviving members of the
immediate family for a photo...with the deceased in the picture. We had to
smile and everything. It was awful.
A longtime friend of mine from elementary
school died in our senior year of high school, in a car wreck with his
girlfriend. Because, I suppose, of the tragic nature of the event, it
became a very hot news item. Of course, one cannot expect manners from the
media, but I think there should still be certain lines which aren't
crossed, but nonetheless were. The most egregious of these incidents was
when the local Telemundo affiliate tried to take a television camera into
the church during the funeral!
Sadly, where there is media, there will be
people who just want to be on television. TV and newspaper stories were
both packed with people who had barely known either person beating their
breasts and talking about how close they had been to one or the other,
while none of us who really *were* close to the couple were in any mood to
The most insulting thing, however, happened
the day after the funeral. Because the couple had been incredibly popular,
the school decided that going to the funeral would be an excused absence,
and was kind enough to provide school busses for transport to the funeral
and cemetery (probably tacky, but kindly meant). Apparently this
involvement was a bit much for my Economics teacher, because the day after
the funeral he asked the class how we'd enjoyed the previous day's field
This is the story of a charter member of
Etiquette Hell, my BIL. One of the first instances was at our lovely
beachfront wedding reception which upon majority agreement (nine children
in my family, three in his) that the children would have a children's
reception at my sister's beautiful home (wedding cake replica included)
before the grownup evening reception. The 12 kids were ages 3mos to
8years. My BIL came solo to the reception. His wife (another charter
member) chose to stay with the 3mo old even though there was a concierge
at the hotel for the kids. The man had the audacity to tell one of my
sisters that he was dismayed because his family couldn't come to the
But that's just the beginning. Last
Christmas season my FIL was terminally ill. My husband and his other
brother tended to his every need during the last month of his life (very
stressful to both families....the evil BIL lives a couple hours
away...never came to help...) My FIL essentially did not raise his three
sons as he was divorced from their mother when they were very young. He
was more like an uncle. My evil BIL harbored much resentment toward him
although my FIL had helped this son out financially many times through the
years. The other two never asked for a penny. And they were the ones who
through many years helped their father move twice, complete home projects
and give emotional support.
Well, back to the story. Christmas tree
trimming party (my FIL's last since he died Christmas Day). My FIL came
with his healthcare helper to the good BIL's home. Presents exchanged. I
was not paying attention to all the gift giving but was helping pick up.
On the table were two envelopes. One had my husband's name, the other the
good BIL's. I took the envelope but checked inside to be sure that I
didn't throw a note or card away. Lo and behold a check to my husband for
$10,000 from his father. His brother also got one. But not the evil BIL.
His father left the party and then the fun began. BIL had a tantrum.
"I deserve money, too. He was a terrible father..." On and on in
front all the children, sisters-in-laws, thank goodness no other guests.
It was an embarrassment. He even screamed and ranted to his wife who felt
just as deserving.
My husband (executor of his father's
estate) did compensate this fool by awarding him his dad's car after he
passed. And then he had the nerve to say to him "I'm not a car
salesman!" Now he just calls to find out when the estate will be
settled. So he can be compensated more for his unhappy childhood. Get over
My mom is from Europe, and I have many
relatives there. A few years ago, my parents were visiting my
grandparents, as my mom's mother was not doing well. Grandma passed away
shortly after they got there.
I was able to get a flight to Europe on
very short notice. (Living near a major airport helps.) One of my brothers
is in the military, and is stationed a few hours drive away, so he was
able to come with his wife and kids. My other brother and my sister were
unable to join us.
My mom's brother was unable to come, as
he lived out of the country and he and his wife were expecting, very soon.
So of the immediate family of the deceased, it was my grandpa, my mom, and
During my infrequent visits to this side
of the family, there are certain things I've gotten used to. One is most
of the conversation going over my head, as I speak very little German, and
most of the family there speak little English, or choose not to. Another
is being ignored entirely. But this takes the cake.
Before the funeral, my dad told my
brother and me what protocol to expect. (My brother's wife stayed at the
hotel with the kids, as they were very young at the time.) Seating in the
cemetery chapel would be based on how closely one was related to the
deceased. Our mom and aunt would be with grandpa up front; then the family
of the oldest child, us; the next oldest there, my aunt's husband and
kids; and so on. The procession out of the chapel to the grave site would
follow the same lineup. Or so we thought.
Once we walked into the chapel, I was
very surprised to see my cousins, my aunt's family, sitting in the very
front (a big family, they took up the whole row), right down to someone's
boyfriend. To be fair, he was one row behind them, but still! My aunt was
always one of the first to quote proper protocol, chapter and verse. What
We took seats one row behind, near the
boyfriend. After freezing during the service (it was winter, and the
chapel was not heated), it was time for the walk to the grave. Everyone
stood up, and started filing out. The boyfriend didn't move, thus blocking
us. He was properly waiting for family to leave first, yet my cousin
neglected to tell him that more family was waiting for him to move!
(Remember the language barrier.)
In the procession, we ended up about middle
to near-back, behind second cousins and friends. I had an urge to move
myself to the front. I didn't for two reasons: 1) it would be bad manners
on my part, and 2) I could feel my dad's eyes on me, and would never hear
the end of it from him if I did. Once at the grave, we were able to mosey
up near the front.
Afterwards my mom asked them about
everyone's place at the funeral. All she got was excuses. The family that
says it’s so big on etiquette and protocol didn't follow said etiquette
and protocol, and made excuses. A lot of it sounded like it had to do with
us living so far away. I vented to my dad, saying, "Why? Do they
think we're stupid Americans who don't know any better?" He just
sighed and shook his head.
This may seem piddly to some, but it's a
very big deal in Europe. After the stress of my grandma passing away, a
transatlantic flight, almost no sleep (I have a hard time sleeping on an
airplane, and adjusting to a 6-hour time change), and being treated like
dirt, I was ready to bite someone's head off. There were other incidents,
but this is the one that really sticks out.
Later, I was telling this to the brother
who didn't come. He told me he chose not to, because he expected something
like this would happen "They follow protocol when it suits
My grandpa passed away later that same
year. Sad to say, I didn't go to the funeral.
My mom recently died unexpectedly, and a
friend (?) of mine emailed me to let me know that she was coming to the
funeral. What gets me is that she actually ASKED ME if I could give her a
ride FROM and BACK TO the airport, which is over 2 hours drive one-way and
over a mountain pass!! Quite frankly if I was attending a funeral, I would
NOT be asking a grieving family member for a ride anywhere! Take the
I was driving by an intersection near a
large church and attached religious primary school and observed what
appeared to be the funeral of a young classmate. The children were all
dressed neatly in white shirts and ties for the boys, and uniforms. I was
thinking how sad and tragic for a young person to die when I noticed one
of the young pallbearers walking the casket to the hearse. He had one hand
on the coffin handle while talking on a cell phone!
My father committed suicide in 2001. I live
halfway across the country from my parents, and when mom called, she only
said that dad had died and not how he died. I flew out as soon as
possible, and my mom told me about how dad died just before we walked into
the house (which had about 10-15 people there to express condolences). So,
we walk into the house, and start talking with people. One person that had
known my dad for years and years wanted specifics from me about where dad
was when he committed suicide and how he did it. I was stunned. I managed
to say, "I just found out myself and I’m trying to process it – I
just can’t talk about it."
Another fun one is the person who had not
gotten in touch with dad for years and then called my mom quite a bit
after his death, hinting at wanting to buy a used guitar and that he knew
dad had a couple of guitars and what he would offer for them. Mom finally
came right out and told him that if he couldn’t afford a guitar at his
stated price, there was no way he’d have enough money to buy either of
dad’s guitars. One of the coveted guitars was bought right after my dad
recovered from colon cancer surgery and follow-up radiation and chemo.
There’s no price tag on the pleasure dad got from that instrument.
People are something, huh?
Only a few people at my work knew the
specifics of my father’s death, and most folks are understanding and
caring. But there was the one woman who said, "My father died last
year, I know EXACTLY how you feel." It took all of my strength to
smile and say thank you rather than scream "how can you know how I
feel? You didn’t have to deal with folks wanting to find the bullet
hole, the 600+ people in line at the funeral home, and the shock of it
all!" Death is hard and the grief experience is different for us all.
No one knows exactly how someone else feels. No one.
When my mother was diagnosed with multiple
sclerosis 11 years ago, she told old friends in Ohio whom she hadn't seen
in several years. The wife's comment on the return letter, "That’s
awful. I can think of a dozen people who I'd rather see get MS." My
mom was a little hurt...only a dozen?!
When my maternal grandmother died 7 years
ago after a long illness, we mourned in a very casual way. She died during
the Jewish high holidays, so it was a scramble to get the funeral together
in 3 days - as proscribed by Jewish law. So by the time we went to talk to
the funeral home and give the dress she had picked out to the worker
there, my mother, aunt and I were a little punchy. So we giggled at her
choice of dress (a quilted housedress) and were touched at how like her it
was. I guess between that moment of levity and the fact that at the
viewing - which had only family - we were laughing and swapping stories,
the funeral director thought we were a fun bunch. It should be noted that
I have several female cousins and he was kind of eyeing one. We stopped
laughing when the funeral director told us about losing his wife to cancer
and going on a date 10 days later. I mean, everyone mourns differently,
and what he chooses to do is his call, but to tell us. In the counseling
business, we call that WAY too much self-disclosure.
A couple years ago, my father died after
having had a severe stroke after a prolonged illness. When they decided to
put my dad on Hospice, I decided to take an intermittent family leave to
help out my mom do what I could. My father was not a very pleasant man and
we didn't have an enjoyable relationship to say the least.
The first of my troubles began when trying
to arrange my leave time off with my manager at work. She kept asking me
questions like, "Are you sure he's on Hospice? Is he really that ill?
Why do you need time off?" Basically harassing me. I work for a
hospital and so we all know the severity of illnesses and how Hospice
works. I certainly had a legal right and all the paperwork necessary for
this leave as well as plenty of vacation time and there was plenty of
coverage in the department during my absence. My father was only on
Hospice for about 1-1/2 weeks before he passed away, so I really didn't
need more than two weeks off total. When I returned from my leave, my
manager was terrible to me, mean and petty, no sympathy at all.....while I
wasn't extremely close with my father, I lost a parent nonetheless and
grieved for that. My manager incorrectly told me that my leave ended the
minute my father passed away and after the 3 days of funeral leave I had
return to work or take vacation time.
My second problem was my mother's sister.
She happened to work in the same department as I did and managed to ruin
just about everything I had to work for to get time off to help my mom. My
aunt would tell my supervisor things that weren't true and therefore I
found out many weeks later that what my aunt had been saying cut short my
leave and forced me to come back to work much sooner than normal. The
other thing this same aunt did was totally dumbfounding. The night before
my dad's memorial service, my aunt went to dinner with my mom and brother
and proceeded to tell them horrible, nasty things about my boyfriend of a
year and a half (and whom I'm still with). She relayed all kinds of
gossipy things that extremely upset my mom, and my mom and I had the first
argument we've had in decades. My mom and dad had been married for 40+
years and this aunt had no respect for my mom, her feelings, or the
family. She passed this gossip on to the other aunts and uncles, who all
proceeded to be mean and nasty to my boyfriend through the rest of the
time we were there. My boyfriend and I left my mom's early because neither
one of us could handle their nastiness. Less than a year later, my aunts
ganged up on my mom, their own sister, telling her she had grieved enough
and had to clean out her house and get rid of everything of my dad’s.
The kicker was, my mom's youngest sister and her husband would move onto
the property to "help" my mom out since mom's children weren't
helping her at all...what they really wanted was my mom to take care of
them, financially and what other way she could. All of these people were
well over 50 and some into their 60's. My brother and I had to step in and
throw them all out. I finally had the opportunity to confront this aunt
and speak my mind.
I know you can't choose your family, but I
certainly can choose to stay away from them.
Page Last Updated May 15, 2007