Last year one of my father's first cousins, Rick, died in
his sleep at the age of 72. After he didn't meet friends for dinner one evening, they
contacted the management of his apartment building, who found him and called the police.
His mother and my grandmother were sisters, they lived next door to each other for years,
and he and my father literally group together. He had never married or had children, his
only brother had died in car accident years before without ever marrying or having
children, and his parents, of course, had passed away years ago. So, his closest surviving
relatives were his aunts and uncles -- his parents' surviving siblings -- who, as you
might imagine, were all quite advanced in years, and then a small army of cousins,
including my father.
My grandmother and one of her sisters, Aunt Alice, were the only two who lived in the
area, and, after a few days of looking, the police contacted Aunt Alice and my
grandmother. They called me and asked me to make the arrangements as neither of them was
up to it (they are 87 and 92, respectively, and not in the best of health). So, I stepped
in and planned the funeral. I personally hadn't known him that well, but I was extremely
fond of his mother and felt that we should give him the kind of funeral his mother would
have wanted, so I organized the whole thing.
Aunt Alice was insistent that Rick have military honors as he had been in the Navy, so
I asked the funeral home what I needed to do to have an honor guard, etc. They told me
that I had to find a Form DD-214 that proved he was honorably discharged. When someone
dies at home as Rick did, the police have the building management change the locks and
then they take possession of the keys. So, I went down to the police station, filled out
enormous amounts of paperwork (first cousin, once removed, doesn't fit the usual
definition of immediate family), and got the keys. I went to his apartment to find this
Form DD-214. It turns out that Rick had never thrown anything away in the 25 years in
which he had lived in the apartment -- there were stacks of paper three feet high on every
surface and a path about 10 inches wide between the stacks. The clutter and the dust was
unimaginable. So, I called Aunt Alice and told him that we were not going to be able to
arrange full military honors because I couldn't find the appropriate forms. The funeral
home put a flag on the casket for us and made it look appropriate. But, I became the
official keeper of the keys to Rick's apartment as a result. Big mistake.
I know that was a lot of set up, so here comes the story. Rick had indicated that he
planned to leave the bulk of his estate to the daughter of a long-time friend of his, a
woman who really looked on him as the father she never had. (In fact, she and her mother
were the friends he hadn't met for dinner one evening who initiated the series of events
that led to finding him deceased in his apartment). He also said that there were token
bequests to me, my sister, and my brother. We never went to visit our grandparents without
going next door to visit Rick's parents and we were all probably just as fond of Rick's
parents as we were of our grandparents.
At the funeral home, before the service, Aunt Alice approached this woman and her
daughter, informed them that they were the beneficiaries of Rick's estate, and gave them a
list of what she wanted from his parents' home (which he had rent semi-furnished since his
mother's death). Aunt Alice has always been the "grabbiest" member of the
family, but this was the most blatant grab I'd ever seen. None of us had ever met this
woman before and I was utterly appalled that this was her first introduction to the
family. My grandmother was too sick to attend the funeral, or I think that watching her
sister might have done her in. I waited about a month before I told her what had happened.
Rick was buried at a cemetery where many family members, including the mother of my
grandmother and Aunt Alice. After the graveside service, Aunt Alice tried to remove all
the flowers from Rick's grave (there weren't many as we'd asked for contributions to the
American Heart Association) to take to her mother's grave since she hadn't visited or
brought flowers in 20 years. I literally had to chase her across the cemetery, after I'd
realized what she was doing, to at least return the flowers that had been sent by Rick's
friend and her daughter to Rick's grave.
But, it got worse in the week after the funeral. I had indicated to my grandmother and
Aunt Alice that it was going to take a long time to find a will in Rick's condo. The
Saturday after the funeral, Aunt Alice sent one of her sons and his wife and a
granddaughter and her husband to help me and my husband starts sorting stuff out. The son
and his wife essentially arrived with a shopping list from Aunt Alice: this
great-granddaughter was starting college and needed bookshelves, dishes, cutlery, sheets,
towels, etc.; this grandson just got married and he and his wife needed a dining room set;
Aunt Alice has set herself up as the family genealogist and all family photos were to be
boxed up and delivered to her immediately. I felt strongly that we should find out what
Rick's intentions were before one item was removed from the apartment and, because the
police had signed the keys out to me, I refused to let her son take anything. Honestly, I
think he knew he shouldn't anyway, but she is so stubborn her children just give in to her
because it's easier for them.
Well, we worked all day and managed to clear all the old magazines, newspapers, and
junk mail from about half the living room. No will turned up. During the week, when I was
at work, I kept getting calls from Aunt Alice about letting this, that, or the other
member of her family pick up the keys to the apartment so that the could go over and
"help." I was concerned about this because she was also asking about where
Rick's mother's jewelry, silver, china, etc. were in the same breath. I refused to release
the keys to the apartment to anyone in her family and I told the tenant in the house not
to let anyone remove anything without my permission.
After a second weekend of work, we still hadn't found a will and Aunt Alice was calling
me every day. She was making my life a living hell and she was being verbally abusive to
my grandmother as well. I finally called the probate clerk at the county courthouse to ask
what to do in a case where a will might not turn up immediately. Rick had always indicated
he'd made a will, so we felt that we just had to find it and turn it over to the executor
and then the executor could field calls from Aunt Alice. The probate clerk suggested that
someone needed to file papers to be appointed as temporary administrator of the estate.
Under Virginia law, the administrator has to be a Virginia resident. This meant that it
ended up being me, because all the rest of the family who still live in metro Washington
live in Maryland (including Aunt Alice and all her children and grandchildren). I knew I
was stepping into a hornet's nest but felt that I had no choice at that point. It would at
least give me legal standing to ban Aunt Alice and her family from picking the apartment
and the house clean.
Well, in order to file papers to be appointed as an administrator in the state of VA, I
had to identify the "heirs at law," meaning who would inherit under VA law if no
will was found. Guess who was an heir at law? You're right -- Aunt Alice. This fact
actually empowered her more -- she felt that as an heir she could now tell me what to do
and I would have to obey her. She then sent her son and his wife to the county courthouse
to find out the assessment on the apartment and house so that she could get an idea of
what her share would be. I kept telling her she wasn't an heir if we found a will, but
that didn't stop her. She figured that, since Rick had five surviving aunts and uncles,
she was going to get 1/5 of the estate and pretty much started spending the money. Boy,
was she surprised that VA law doesn't work that way. In a case like this one, first of
all, the estate is divided into half -- half for paternal aunts and uncles and half for
maternal aunts and uncles. Then, if an aunt or uncle is deceased, his/her share is divided
into equal shares based on the number of children he/she had. If one of those children is
deceased, his/her share is divided into equal shares based on the number of children....
And so on. So, her 1/5 became 1/12 because the one-half of the estate for maternal
aunts/uncles had to be divided into six portions for each of Rick's mother's brothers and
sisters (two of whom are deceased). Those two shares had to be further subdivided. There
are a grand total of 15 heirs on both sides. Aunt Alice was furious with me and felt that
this was somehow all my fault.
I got the task of calling cousins, who had no recollection of meeting Rick anytime in
the last 20 years, and explaining that I needed to get names, addresses, and SSNs because
they were potential heirs to 1/36 or 1/48 of his estate. Most of them were actually
slightly embarrassed and asked if they had to take the money (since they didn't really
know him) if there was no will and if he'd actually wanted it to go to the daughter of his
friend. The lawyer researched it and told me that if they declined their inheritance, it
would just go back into the pot and increase the amount that would go to anyone who didn't
decline. The only way to get it to the friend's daughter was for them to accept it and
then write her a personal check, which many felt uncomfortable with. I pointed out to them
that there was clearly one family member, without mentioning Aunt Alice by name, who
appeared likely not to renounce her share. So, a bunch of cousins decided up front to give
their shares to charity if no will was located. When I told Aunt Alice, her response was,
"Well, that's just stupid." She also told me that she knew she was being
difficult, but she just wanted to make sure she got her fair share. In view of the fact
that, if Rick had made a will her name would most certainly not have been in it, I told
her that if she ended up inheriting whatever she got, based on the formula in state law,
would be more than fair.
Well, after weeks of sorting through the massive amounts of paper in Rick's apartment,
my husband and I could not locate a will. We literally shook every book and magazine, went
through the pockets of all his clothing, look to see if he hid things in his freezer, and
called every bank in a 50-mile radius trying to locate a safe deposit box. One of his
oldest friends, a lawyer, told me he had begged Rick to make a will, but Rick never got
around to it. I do think he would have given the bulk of his estate to his friend's
daughter if he had -- she was the beneficiary of his IRA and a life insurance policy. I
informed the court that no will could be located, information which was transmitted to the
heirs at law.
Aunt Alice went into full grab mode at this point, and she demanded that I prepare an
inventory of everything in the apartment for her review because, according to her, that
was the law. I finally had the lawyer send a letter to all the heirs saying that , in
cases where there are this many heirs, the normal practice is to just sell everything but
items of obvious sentimental value and then divide the cash. Suddenly, everything that
Rick owned had sentimental value, despite the fact that Aunt Alice had NEVER set foot in
When I pointed out to Aunt Alice that Rick was a lifelong bachelor and that the
furnishings in his apartment were not particularly unique or valuable or even desirable
(he smoked in there for 25 years and didn't appear to be much of a housekeeper), she then
turned her attention to Rick's parents' house and its contents. She started asking for
this, that, and the other thing over there. Now, Rick's mother loved Oriental pottery and
art, but nothing she had was particularly valuable. As I told Aunt Alice, I picked up one
piece and it still had the Pier 1 price tag on it. So, there are no Ming vases hidden in
that house. Furthermore, Rick had sold some of the furniture out of the house after his
mother died. In all the paper in his apartment, I found the list of who bought what. Aunt
Alice was not only asking for furniture that was sold 20 years ago, she was asking for
furniture that her children and grandchildren had bought because she'd insisted at the
time that they get first dibs. If I tell her that something's not there, she calls other
family members and tells them that I've probably taken it for myself or my sister. One of
her granddaughters called to ask where Rick's mother's dining room table was. I looked at
the list of who bought what and said to her, "Can you see your dining room table from
where you're sitting right now?" She said yes. I said, "Well, that's where it
is." Aunt Alice seems to think that everything should be returned to the house so she
can grab it. She demanded that my father return items that Rick's mother had given him
after Rick's brother died in 1971, feeling that they somehow now belong to the estate of
which she is an heir.
But the crowning story came when she asked me if I'd been down in the basement of the
house yet. I said that I hadn't but that the tenants had told me it was full of old junk.
I tried to make a little joke. Rick's mother was a wonderful gardener and the "rock
garden" she had on the side of her house was her pride and joy. Whenever she'd go on
trips, she'd pick up an interesting rock and bring it back to put in her garden among the
plants. None of the rocks were valuable or museum specimens -- they were just rocks Rick's
mom thought had an interesting shape. I told Aunt Alice that the tenants had said to me
that they couldn't figure out why there were so many rocks down in the basement. Aunt
Alice asked me, "Well, who's going to get the rocks?" At this point, I would be
more than happy to box up the rocks and let her have them.
I was a teenager when this happened. My grandfather died and in those days you had a
viewing for 2 evenings and then the funeral the next day. The 2 evenings there were many
people many of who we did not know, but it was my grandfather's second marriage and
everyone assumed they were related to my stepgrandmonther. About 10 of these people fussed
over my grandfather and told many stories that no one had ever heard. These same people
then came to the dinner after the funeral that the church held for the family. After they
left and the 2 families started to talk about the "relatives" we found out that
they were related to neither side and we all had a laugh about it. Then my stepgrandmother
died 3 month later these same "relatives" showed up again. We have had many
laughs over this story as our grandparent's marriage did not last that many years but we
consider ourselves family ( the two step families) and have a reunion every August.
My beloved father, to whom I was very close, recently passed away. These are just a few
of the responses I have gotten from some people about it:
1. When I called the head of the PTA at my daughter's elementary school to inform her I
wouldn't be able to work at the Book Fair that day because my father had died that
morning, she said, "Oh, well, yeah, I know these things happen and you can't do
things you signed up for sometimes. Another lady called me this morning and said she had a
hair appointment she forgot about so she can't come either." Oh--yeah, that's the
2. One person told me that she knew exactly what I was going through because her dog,
whom she had had for 5 years, died last year so she knew how it felt to lose someone you
love. HER DOG!
3.My father had been in failing health for quite some time, but you are never prepared
when they actually die. (He was not on death's door or anything; it was still a shock.) He
passed away in his sleep and my mother found him the next morning; it was very traumatic
for everyone. Anyway, the mother of one of my daughter's friends told me, "Well,
consider yourself lucky he died like that and didn't just drop dead with no warning--at
least you had awhile to get used to the idea that he might be dead when you woke up so
it's not that bad." Yeah, right, it was a piece of cake.
4. One of my neighbors, at the first neighborhood function I went to afterwards (about
a week later; I wasn't doing all that well yet but this was something I couldn't get out
of), was asking about it and expressing her sympathy. I was telling her it was very
difficult for me and that my mother and I were not close at all, my dad was the one I was
close to. PLUS I was in my first trimester of pregnancy with all those hormones, and all
those thoughts of "Daddy will never know this baby", etc. It was the worst time
of my life thus far. (My mother is a very difficult person and she and my father had a
terrible marriage. She treated him pretty badly. She told me herself on several occasions
she hated him, and she wished he would go ahead and die. She didn't even come to the
funeral home for the viewings--she got drunk and sick--which was upsetting enough in its
own right, and stayed home while her sisters doted on her and told her how sorry they
were. My brother is mentally handicapped, so not only did I have to be concerned with him
and his reaction, I basically had to handle the entire thing, be at every minute of both
viewings, sick and pregnant, and speak to every person who came in, all alone--since I was
the only representative from my family.
My dad grew up in this community and was very well thought of--as is my mother; people
don't know how she really is--so there were a jillion people there. Everyone asked where
my mother was, and when I said, "she's not feeling well, she just couldn't make
it" of course everyone was all awash in sympathy for her. Not knowing that she tied
one on and was at home puking! I realize she probably has some guilt issues but with all
the water under the bridge, I don't have a lot of sympathy for her. Thank God for my sweet
husband or I would've totally lost it! I am not trying to say, "poor me", but it
was hard. Can you tell I'm still kinda pissed at my mom? Lots of issues here. You get my
drift, I am just trying to explain the next exchange.) I said that it was much harder on
me than my mother, because I was much closer to him than she was and loved him much more.
Another bitchy neighbor of mine was listening and said (she was not even involved in the
conversation and knows nothing about me or the situation--I wasn't talking at all about my
mom being drunk for the wake or how she treated my dad), "You should be ashamed of
yourself, saying that. You know it has to be much worse on your mom, that was her husband.
That is the most selfish thing I have ever heard!"
By this time I had had it, and I myself committed a breach of etiquette--I told her to
shut her damn mouth, I wasn't talking to her. But that's the only time I publicly snapped
through the whole ordeal so I wasn't too hard on myself for that. I did learn something
from all this, though--I learned that the only thing that will ever teach people like that
is when they lose a loved one, and realize what asses they were when they said crap like
that. And for you people who don't know what to say? Just say you're sorry. Don't say
"they're in a better place", "it was their turn to go", or "be
happy he's with the Lord now". While all that may be true, at that point you don't
care. You're a little selfish and wish they were still here with you!
My mother died in a car accident three years ago, unfortunately her picture from the
accident scene was printed in the local paper. I did not receive any support from my
mother in law for an entire year after her passing. Not a call or a card or a welcome to
visit,nothing. Anyway, we received an e-mail from her stating that she wanted to sue the
paper. She was upset because the people in the small college town she lives in were aware
of the accident and it was too emotionally upsetting to her. Needless to say we do not
have a relationship anymore. Sad but true
My father's uncle, "Ted," was estranged from his family several decades ago
because he was homosexual and his family was very conservative. At any rate, he moved away
from their small town and, sadly, he eventually contracted HIV and later died. As he had
no significant other, he was to be buried in his hometown. The casket was open despite the
fact that he had died of AIDS. None of his extended family had seen him in years but most
of his brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews came to the wake and/or funeral. My family
went to the funeral, and one of my aunts (I'll call her Faye) arrived late to the
graveside service. After it was over, Faye asked us if we had gotten to see Ted at the
funeral home; we hadn't so she began to ask others if they had. She then asked the funeral
director to open the casket so she could "get a look at him." Bear in mind, this
was in the cemetery, in the Midwest in December...of course the funeral director declined,
so Faye began recruiting other family members to either describe what Ted had looked like
or, if they had not seen him, to try to persuade the funeral director to let them get a
peek. He did not oblige...
Thanks for your site! Some of the stories are truly bizarre!
I love your page. I am writing this in hopes that if you post it, you can enlighten
some people out there who may not be quite up on the proper etiquette to display when an
My husband's father was killed in a motorcycle accident this summer. Although my
husband's parents divorced when he was very young and he had never really lived with his
father, they were still close and my husband took his father's death very hard.
Unfortunately, that seemed to be lost on several people, who seemed to think that since my
husband was an adult and since "Jim" (my father-in-law) wasn't my husband's
custodial parent that it was okay to behave however they wished after "Jim's"
As unexpected as the death was, the rudeness and general disregard for our feelings was
even more unexpected. Here are a few of the more egregious things we had to deal with: *
"Jim's" friends, who called within mere hours of his death and asked to be let
into the house to get "their" things they had supposedly left at the house. We
lived 400 miles away from where Jim lived and were in the process of packing, arranging
for our house to be taken care of in our absence etc. when these calls started coming in.
People seemed taken aback that we would not make arrangements for a neighbor to let them
in the house unsupervised to take whatever they could get their hands on.
More of Jim's friends who called about money Jim owed them. Jim did not leave a will,
so his entire estate had to go into probate. This didn't seem to matter to Jim's friends,
who seemed to expect my husband to pay them out of our pockets for whatever Jim owed them.
* Jim's ex-girlfriend -- one of several ex-girlfriends, lovers and ex-wives Jim left
behind -- who insisted that we could not hold a family service without including her and
demanded to be included in the ash-scattering ceremony so she could "get
closure." This woman had broken up with Jim five years prior and had gotten married
to another man in the interim. She called three times a day for a week before we finally
had to be rude to her and explain that there was no way she would be invited to these very
personal ceremonies. She eventually organized her own memorial service for Jim, to which
we were not invited.
My boss, who was very resentful of the fact that I would have to take off work for a
week and allow someone else to finish two large projects due to the death. She didn't
understand why I couldn't just go out for a couple of days "for the funeral" and
allow my husband, who was of course very distraught, to handle the other arrangements
himself -- "After all, he is an adult." * One of Jim's neighbors, who called the
state livestock board and reported that Jim's horses were "abandoned" and needed
to be picked up to be auctioned off. We had arranged for one of the other neighbors to
care for the horses while we were sorting out things with the estate and had actually,
with her assistance, found permanent homes for the horses the same week this other
neighbor called the livestock board. He didn't bother to call us or check in with the
other neighbor before he reported the horses abandoned, and the friendly neighbor thought
it was because he was hoping to go to the auction and buy the horses at a rock-bottom
The worst, however, was when Jim's boss decided of his own volition to write an
obituary and send it into the paper without our knowledge or consent. Although Jim's boss
made a lengthy listing of Jim's professional accomplishments in the obituary, he omitted
both myself as Jim's daughter-in-law and Jim's stepmother, who Jim was very close with and
who had been married to Jim's father (my husband's grandfather) for over 10 years!
Needless to say, all of this did not help with my husband's grief over his father's death.
We had experienced the loss of several friends prior to losing Jim and we had always gone
out of our way to be helpful and supportive to the family of the deceased. I realize that
losing Jim was hard on his friends, but they should have thought about the effect of
losing Jim would be on his son before they acted so thoughtlessly. Thanks!
I really like your website, but never had anything to contribute until now. During my
brother in law's funeral, his ex-wife showed up drunk as a skunk. You could smell the
liquor on her breath. It took three people to carry her to a car so she would not cause a
scene at the burial site.
My father died about twenty years ago, when I was 22 years old and in my senior year in
college. When he died he was estranged from just about everyone in his family, including
his children - the only family member he had any real contact with was his mother. The
memorial service was arranged by members of a lodge that he had belonged to, and was held
at the lodge. I attended with one of my brothers (the other was attending college in
another state and couldn't make it home), my mother, and my cousin.
We arrived to find that the seats reserved for the family of the deceased had been
taken by my grandmother and my two uncles and their wives. We sat elsewhere, which was
fine by me. At the end of the service, as people were leaving, I was standing talking to
my cousin when I was approached by a woman I'd never seen before. She introduced herself
as "Shelly" and then proceeded to inform me that she was my dad's girlfriend and
that she had recently giving him an electric razor as a gift, and that she wanted the
razor back. My cousin and I just stood there with our jaws gaping open.
Finally I collected enough of my wits to say that if I found the razor among his
belongings I would certainly give her a call. (I never did find one and I certainly never
called her). After the memorial my two uncles and their wives took it upon themselves to
drive to my father's house and let themselves in with my grandmother's key. My brother and
I went over the next day to find them still there, going through his possessions and
picking out everything they wanted to keep for themselves. I had just had a telephone
conversation with my father's attorney in which I was informed that he had named me his
executor, which had come as a huge, and very unwelcome, surprise, considering that he had
not spoken to me for more than two years before he died. My uncles and aunts were not very
pleased about this when I told them. I told them that they needed to vacate the house that
day (they were showing every indication that they intended to stay there for a while)
because I was going to put all of my father's belongings in storage and put the house up
for rent until it could be sold, and that I only had a couple of days to get this done
before I had to go back to college. They were extremely put out by this, and my aunt
"Matilda" pitched a fit and proceeded to give me a lecture about what a
terrible, ungrateful daughter I was, etc. She then announced her intention to take certain
items of furniture with her when she left because they had originally belonged to my
grandmother and "they needed to stay in the family" (I guess my brother and I
were chopped liver or something). Included in this list was a rocking chair that my
grandmother had given to my parents when I was born with specific instructions that it was
to be given to me when I came of age. When my aunt made this pronouncement I looked at my
grandmother (who was standing right there) and said "Is this what you want?" She
looked at the floor and mumbled "Whatever Matilda thinks is best", to which I
said, "Fine. Take it and get out." They all left in a huff and we never spoke to
each other again.
A couple of years later Matilda and my uncle lost everything they owned, including the
rocking chair and the other items they took from my father's house, when the moving van
that was taking it all to their new home caught fire. What goes around comes around.
I must live in the Faux Pas capital of the world - this is my third 'entry' ! My family
loves this little Chinese Buffet in a strip mall. Once after a massive pig-out, we took a
walk to window shop the other stores in the strip. And we saw this horrible thing in a
florist's window. It was a large funeral arrangement, in the often-seen 'book' format,
it's usually a Bible. But not this one. This arrangement was made of bright yellow mums
with black petals pushed in among the rows that looked like tiny text printing. Attached
to the top was a neon pink toy telephone with the receiver off the hook, and the
unforgettable legend, "Jesus Called" in green wire !! The 'book' was
representing Yellow Pages ! Have you ever heard of anything so tacky ? Feel free to edit
as necessary. Hope I described this awful thing well enough for you to imagine it. Thanks
for reading this !
My friend (let's call him Bob) got married. It was a lovely wedding, except for
his friend (let's call him drunken buffoon). Drunken buffoon became, well, a drunken
buffoon and tried to make out with the bride. This certainly didn't go over well. The
groom tried to kick him out, which ended up in a fistfight between him and the groom. They
finally succeeded in kicking him out, after ruining the groom's tux.
A year later, Bob's father died. Drunken Buffoon heard about it from somebody, and he
arrived, you guessed it, drunk. He was wearing entirely unzipped pants, and no shirt. He
was horribly, horribly, drunk. During the minister's speech, he got dizzy, and fell into
the grave. To top it off, he wet himself on top of the coffin. After retrieving him from
the grave, he began calling Bob and Bob's father horrible names, and then he said Bob's
father is burning in Hell. Well now Drunken Buffoon is burning in Etiquette Hell.
While my brother-in-law's Grandfather lay dying in the hospital, not once did his wife
call to check on him or stop by or anything. And when he died, both bro-in-law and wife
didn't call or send flowers; neither did they offer to help with the funeral or pay
tribute in any way, shape or form to Grandfather. On the day of the funeral, bro-in-law
calls his mother and says, "Where do I have to be at 3?" At approximately 3:20
p.m., in the middle of Amazing Grace, he walks in with wife and they take their seats at
the very front of the family section like nothing happened. At the wake thereafter, they
show up almost 2 hours late. They never apologize for any of their behavior and simply
state that it's not their fault that they are late. I know that's not a doozee, but it's
just one link in an endless chain of etiquette hell and arrogance from this couple. Thank
There has always been a bit of "stress" between my husband's side of the
family and us due to differences in our religious beliefs. My husband, Frank, is an only
child;and when his father passed away recently, he was left to make arrangements for a
We thought it would be wise to inform the priest, Fr. Marcel, that we were
non-Catholics in order to avoid any discomfort for either of us.
The wake calling hours were from 4 - 8 p.m.; but our funeral director assured us that
Fr. Marcel would be in to discuss arrangements at about 3:30. When it was 7:40 p.m. and we
still had not seen Fr. Marcel, I had the funeral director call to remind him that we were
waiting to speak to him. He arrived shortly thereafter - looking as if he had been
awakened from a nap! Before even speaking to us, he said some hasty prayers, admitted that
he didn't really know my father-in-law (we could tell this by the fact that he had to look
at his "cheat sheet" to fill in the blank when he prayed for the repose of the
deceased), and then Fr. Marcel proceeded to regale us with brief comments about
hopelessness in the world, recent suicides and murders in the area, and what he perceived
as "Catholic bashing" in recent media coverage of the pedophilia problem in the
After this he greeted us(not sure of just how we were related to the deceased).
Fr. Marcel was sarcastic in his remarks regarding our having called to see if he had
forgotten to come to the wake. When we told him that we were not Roman Catholics he was
really offensive. He bombarded us with questions regarding "why?", and regarding
what my husband's late father and mother thought of this. He also made reference to our
ethnicity - presumably that all Italians must be Catholics. (If he had only bothered to be
at the wake earlier, he would have met many "ethnic" people - Italians, Irish,
Polish, French - who are traditionally thought of as Catholic; but who are part of our
VERY Reformed Church). Finally, with a laugh, he told us that we shouldn't be ashamed and
that maybe he could convert us!
The funeral was not much better. Fr. Marcel said nothing personal about my
father-in-law or the life he had lived. (How could he? He had never asked us). His sermon
was about those who had converted to Catholicism. At the "passing of the peace"
he came over to Frank and me in the first pew (where he had "smoked us out" with
incense which he had left the top off of) and stated "Smile, you don't have to worry
just because you're not Catholic". I can't imagine why this man would have thought we
were in the mood to smile when we were at our relative's funeral!
It is an unbelievable thing that those whose job it is to comfort and support in times
of need - sometimes are those who are the least sensitive.
This is the story in a nutshell. I am a funeral director in the Midwest and just when I
think that I've seen it all, someone ups the ante.
The other day we are set up for visitation in the reception area of a church shortly
before the funeral services are to begin when in walks an attractive young lady (17-21y.o.
I'm guessing) with a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a pint of milk. During the visitation
she proceeds to snack on her chips and milk. This was bad but it gets WORSE. When it is
time for the friends and family to pay their final respects before the service begins, she
goes up to the casket (with chips and milk in hand) and gazes at the recently departed and
actually starts to eat! One chip. Two chips. I am mortified but say nothing.
To make a long story short we get everyone seated in church and bring the casket in and
the service starts. The minister has a few opening prayers and then a grandson steps up to
say a few words about his grandmother. This is fairly common but mentioning the decedents
flatulence is NOT!' I couldn't believe it! He started by mentioning the "gas" at
grandma's house and I remember thinking "where is he going with this" when he
clarified this for everyone by describing grandma's flatulence in detail. Keep in mind he
saying this in a church...from the pulpit! The rest of the eulogy and funeral service was
very nice but I will always remember "Grandma's Flatulence."
My cousin and his wife tend to be very self-centered people, but his wife,
"Irene", really out-did herself in on this particular occasion. My mother passed
suddenly only six months after my father. Neither of my parents had wanted a formal
funeral, and as my sister had hosted the wake (more a celebration of his life) for my
father at her home, it was my turn to host my mother's.
Never mind arriving early to help set up, my cousin and his wife showed up after the
scheduled time. Understandably grief stricken, my sister and I had decided to have the
wake catered simply - sandwiches, cheese/cracker trays, etc. My cousin, "Gord",
and Irene treated the entire occasion as nothing more than a family get-together. They
were typically loud and rude, talking more about themselves than about my mother, as the
situation warranted. They remained two hours after all the other attendees had gone home,
even though my sister and I were clearly drained physically and emotionally. Finally, in
an effort to hint to them that it was time they took their leave, my sister and I
proceeded to pack away what was left of the food (I had deliberately ordered extra food so
that my sister and I would not have to worry about feeding our families the next day) and
tidy up. Not only did Irene not lend a hand in the work, she stood in the middle of our
activity, clearly waiting for a "doggy-bag". It was not until my sister
presented her with a small foil-wrapped package that she and my cousin decided that it was
time for them to leave.
Close to a year ago, my sister died and I had to fly back east to attend the funeral.
While she and I were close, we didn't spend much time together because she lived on the
East coast and I on the West. Because of this, few of her friends knew who I was except
through her talking about me and photos. So, in a way I can sort of understand their
confusion at seeing a new face who seems to be very close to their friend's parents and
not knowing who the person is.
However, due to the stress of dealing with the emotions of loosing my sister, dealing
with grieving relatives, getting plane tickets at a moments notice, and trying to cope
with a daughter who was very upset, I didn't exactly have time to introduce myself to
everyone who attended. I realize this may have been a faux pas on my part, hopefully it's
The day before the funeral and burial was the "viewing" at the funeral
home...I guess that's what it's called (I'd never been to a funeral before). There were 2
scheduled times with dinner in between for close friends and family. The first part of the
day went well, all things considered. A few people that didn't know me were upset by the
fact that I'd brought my daughter, but my immediate family felt it necessary and fair to
allow her closure. Dinner also went well and spirits were actually higher as we told each
other funny memories we had of the person we loved. It was the second viewing that things
started to go bad, right away.
My husband and I were late getting back to the funeral home because our daughter had
been slow eating and we didn't want to rush her. When we arrived, there was a patrol car
and it turned out that my father had collapsed and was being taken to the hospital. I
rushed to the hospital where my step mother is waiting. To cut a long night short, we
decided that she should go back to the funeral home to deal with guests because I didn't
know many of them beyond family and that I would stay with dad at the hospital. We'd come
to the conclusion that night that dad wouldn't be going to the funeral.
Next day at the hospital, I was at least dressed in a nice black shirt, my
"good" jeans, a black leather jacket and had my hair pulled back. Basically, I
was dressed to keep dad company and all I'd brought with me were good clothes. What I
didn't know was that dad had called my step mom and had told her he wanted to leave the
hospital. When I arrived I found my Aunt and Uncle there as well to help spring him. I'd
brought him clean clothes and once we finished up the paperwork we were off to the church
for the funeral service. This was where the faux pas occurred. The church was packed with
family and friends because my sister had touched a lot of lives. Many of those friends had
not been to the viewing at the funeral home. I was with family at the entrance, greeting
people as they came in, still dressed in jeans, black blouse and black leather, looking
worse for wear (I'd gotten maybe 8 hours sleep in a 48 hour period) and trying to maintain
some sort of composure. One group of my sister's friends came through, dressed
appropriately for a funeral, and after they met us, one of them rather loudly announced,
"Who does she think she is dressed like that? How dare she show up wearing
jeans!" I started crying, and my grandmother, bless her heart and experience, kindly
informed the young woman of exactly who I was and told her that I could come dressed in a
potato sack if I wanted to. Shortly after my grandmother's very polite tirade, the girls
left in a huff, still commenting about how poorly dressed I was.
My 66-year-old mother died in September 1999. My father, who had been happily married
to this wonderful woman for 38 years, was able to overcome his grief in a relatively short
period of time with the help of "Katie," a "family friend." Now don't
get me wrong--I wanted my father to be happy and I was happy that he had someone in his
life but there's only so much a daughter can take. And since I managed to keep my mouth
shut for the most part, I am rewarding myself by letting the bitterness flow here. Five
months after losing my mother, Katie and Dad were dating. She lived in another state but
they managed to see each other quite frequently and by the time Thanksgiving rolled
around, she came to visit and never went home.
On Christmas Day, I heard her ooh-ing and aah-ing as she opened a small box my father
had given her. I peeked over her shoulder to see what wonderful treasure awaited her and
there it was--my mother's favorite necklace. The last time I had seen it was in the
hospital when my father removed it from his pocket and fastened it around my mother's neck
as she lay there unconscious and dying. Well, okay I reasoned...the necklace had also
meant a lot to him and he wanted to share it with someone he loved. Not great but I didn't
say a word and eventually got over it. In fact, Katie approached me later that same day
and made an effort to reach out to me--she asked me if I wanted my mother's necklace
because, as Katie put it, it really should go to my mother's daughters (there's two of
us). My father, who usually can't hear a damn thing, overheard Katie's offer and
emphatically stated that no, he wanted Katie to have it. So...Katie has it.
That January, to no one's surprise, Katie and my father announced their engagement.
What did surprise me, however, was that my father handed over my mother's diamond
engagement ring to Katie. And the kicker was that it was going to be taken out of its
original setting and put into a mounting more to Katie's liking which essentially meant
that my mother's much-treasured ring was now just another diamond...and one that would be
inherited by one of Katie's nieces upon her death. I tried to reason with my Dad, to
explain to him how much having my mother's ring would mean to me, I even offered to buy it
from him. Finally, I left a letter taped to his door practically begging him to reconsider
and suggested, in part, that if my mother had picked who she wanted her ring to go to
after her death, I sincerely doubted she would have said "give it to your next
wife." I hated doing that but the thought of losing this part of my mother was
unbearable. He relented--I have the ring now. I wanted him to understand but he
didn't...he just gave in.
That May (Memorial Day weekend), my father and Katie were married in the state where my
parents maintained a summer home. My mother loved it there, so did my father, and that's
where Katie was from. I was having so many problems coming to terms with my mother's death
that I didn't want to go but I went for my father. Like I said before, he was entitled to
be happy and I wanted that for him so I was prepared to just deal with it. They were
holding the wedding at my mother's favorite lodge (???) and guests would be coming from
everywhere and would stay the weekend. I stayed at this lodge also, having flown in the
night before the nuptials because I didn't want to do the nine hour drive. As I was making
my way to my accommodations, Katie and I crossed paths and we said our hellos etc. then
both of us kept going in opposite directions. Next thing I knew, I heard her calling my
name. She had forgotten to ask me something...I backtracked a little, as did she, and from
fifty feet away, she called out and asked if I would walk my father down the aisle.
Apparently, the way she had it planned, my sister and I would be on either side of him.
Well, nice of her to wait so long to bring this up...I said I'd rather not and she said
okay, she understood. Again, I don't mean to sound like a selfish brat but this was so
incredibly hard for me just being there. I had yet to overcome this habit I had developed
of bursting into tears at the drop of a hat and I really didn't want to be doing that in
front of them or their wedding guests. More than anything, I just wanted to be a guest at
this wedding, not a participant.
Well, the following afternoon, it's time for the wedding. I find out at the very last
minute that we have assigned seating (???) for what is an outdoor wedding and naturally, I
get to be in the front row. I am armed with Kleenex, knowing that watching my father marry
another woman is not going to be an easy thing but I steel myself and await the start of
the wedding. To the right of me is some woman I'd never seen before who apparently is
going to be performing part of the ceremony and she informs me that I'm supposed to be off
in the back with the wedding party, preparing to walk my father down the aisle. Now, mind
you, I don't know this woman and I would have been more than happy to just let it go so as
not to embarrass either myself or her but no...She proceeds to unfurl her copy of the
wedding program, opens it up, and sticks it in my face, pointing out where it says in
print that I am walking my father down the aisle (thanks Katie!). I quietly try to explain
that no, I'm not going to be doing that and my father knows and understands why but this
b**** just doesn't give up and keeps shaking that stupid program at me. I wanted to tell
her to shove it only instead, I burst into tears, got up and left. Boy, I sure showed her,
I just couldn't get my act together and stop crying so I ended up watching the wedding
from inside the lodge. Couldn't hear a damn thing which turned out to be a godsend because
this very same woman who insisted I walk my father down the aisle announced to everyone
during her part in the ceremony that when my father and Katie met twenty-something years
ago, they became a kindred spirit...and now they are together. How romantic, yes? Only my
mother and father were happily married back then, ditto for Katie and her first husband.
People were horrified at what this idiot was suggesting with her fictionalized account of
how things came to be and I still find it amazing that people like this are allowed to
take up space on this planet. I survived the wedding, the sit-down dinner which followed
and the next morning's brunch, comforted in part by the knowledge that it wouldn't be long
before I'd be back in my crappy rental car to make the three-hour drive to the airport
where I would board a plane that would take me back to my safe little world. Friends of my
parents who lived in the same town as I did made things a little easier for me by offering
to take my overstuffed suitcase home with them in their car. Wasn't that nice of them? Got
to the airport with an hour to spare, turned in the rental car, headed for the passenger
waiting area and took a seat near that big sign that said "Flight Cancelled."
Yup, perfect ending to a perfect weekend. Have you guessed what could be even more
perfect...? Having to stay overnight in a hotel at my own expense with no clothes. The
6-minute, $22.00 phone call I made from the room didn't help matters either...
Just as a note: Even Victorian
etiquette allowed for remarriage a year and one day after the death of a spouse.
Giving the deceased's favorite jewelry and engagement ring to a new love is the height of
bad gift recycling.
My father died 4 years ago after a long illness. Anyone who has ever lost a parent can
understand how devastating it is. After the funeral ceremony, we all stood up and
proceeded to go to our cars for the procession. My heart was aching so much, I can't even
describe the pain I felt at that moment. Right then, my (now-estranged) cousin approached
me out of the blue and started badgering me about returning a video tape she had loaned to
me a week earlier. With utter disbelief I asked her "Do we have to talk about this
right here and now?" and she proceeded to ramble about how she needed it that day,
how busy her schedule was, etc. I thought to myself "Could we at least finish burying
my dad before we go fetch your stupid tape!!"
Later on, she approached my mother, who was standing beside the gravesite sobbing, and
started venting to my mom about her husband wanted a divorce. (Go figure) My mom was
appalled. I confronted my cousin about it a few days later. At first she denied doing any
of it (she probably didn't remember because she was wasted at the time.) Then she
proceeded to blame me, saying I was being "Too Sensitive". The nerve of her! She
and I have not spoken since then, and she is now on her 4th or 5th marriage (I can't keep
track anymore) I did return the tape, though I have never forgiven her for her total
selfishness and insensitivity.
I have never seen this before, and I hope to Higher Powers I never do again: At the
funeral of my husband's grandmother, his uncle (her son) took pictures! Not outside, or
afterwards, of family he'd not seen in a while, which *might* be acceptable, but of her
body in the open casket; of the casket, flowers, and headstone at the gravesite; but most
appallingly, of Grandpa in his private last moments with her. With flash. He didn't attend
our wedding, and maybe now I'm glad.
Taking pictures of other people
grieving IS definitely an invasion of their privacy.
My father died about eight years ago. He lived in a border town and many of the friends
of the family and relatives live in the United States. Like most funerals we asked that in
lieu of flowers that donations be made to a specific charity. The guests that made
donations paid mostly in cash. The American guests gave American money and the Canadian
Guests gave Canadian Money. The exchange rate on the Canadian dollar is roughly $.63. That
means that 1 Canadian dollar is worth $.63 American. The day after the funeral my mother
and my sister took the responsibility to collect the money from the funeral home. What
they did was that they opened the envelopes and if there was American money, they replaced
with the same amount of Canadian money. If there was $10.00 U.S. bill, they would replace
it with a $10.00 Canadian bill; given the exchange rate, they pocketed about $3.70 per
swap. My sisters justification; everybody does it.
Earlier this year the father of a friend of mine passed away. So I decided to go to the
funeral to be there for my friend.
After the service, as everyone was filing past the open casket to pay last respects and
console the family, my friend's aunt (the deceased's sister) was offering to take a
picture of each person in front of the casket. I politely declined because I had only met
the man a couple times, and I didn't really want our only photo together to be like that.
Not to mention I thought it was kind of creepy.
Well the aunt decided that my refusal was the height of poor taste and started making a
scene. First she started yelling, then crying, and finally screaming foul things at me.
Fortunately, one of the family was able to distract the aunt long enough for me to make an
exit - along with anyone else in line not up for a photo shoot with a cadaver.
My cousin, Tommy,was killed in an accident last summer. He was in his late twenties and
it was truly sad. He had quite a few friends come to the service he knew from the
nightclub he spent a lot of time at and I was pleased these people wanted to pay their
Tommy had a tough life. His parents were divorced and his mother kept him away from his
father for a number of years so he only had her unbelievable awful upbringing. Needless to
say, Tommy had a lot of problems in his adult life, though he had started to iron them
out. Unfortunately, these "friends" who came to his service proved the type of
element he had been associated with. They all came and stood around staring at the family.
A few people even mentioned they wondered if his mother was going to show up because they
wanted to see her in person. (His mother is in prison for killing his father twenty years
after they were divorced because he had been too good to his new wife and her kids.)
None of these "friends" ever came up to his aunts and uncles, anyone, who was
clearly family and offer their condolences. A few of them had put some things in the
casket, which I thought was nice. One of them had even placed his cowboy hat in the casket
because Tommy had always mentioned how much he liked it and had borrowed it on occasion.
After the service, he ASKED FOR THE HAT BACK from the funeral director. One girl did ask
the funeral director if she could have liked the flag from the casket since she had always
wanted to sleep with him and she never got to. She wanted something to remember him by.
She did say this loud enough so everyone could hear her. Tommy was buried in a cemetery an
hour away from the funeral. Not ONE of these "friends" came to see him be buried
with military honors for being a Gulf War veteran. And as for a card or a donation to the
memorial. Nothing. About seventy-five "friends" and not one dollar to pay for
the funeral. It was a sad day. I, however, have the flag from the casket and treasure it.
I don't know if this is really a breech of etiquette but it was certainly a funeral
oops. Tragically a friend of mine died this summer at the tender age of 23. The funeral
was lovely, though it was sad to see so many young people in mourning. My friend,
"Ron" was a big fan of the band Queen so a Queen CD was playing during the
receiving line. It was a lovely touch that made us all smile.
At the end of the service the song "We are the Champions" was played. Ron
would have loved it. The CD was supposed to stop after that song though. Imagine if you
will a chapel full of mourners weeping as the last strains of the song ends...and the CD
keeps playing. Dum Dum Dum..Another one bites the dust.. Yes. That was the next song on
the CD. Another One Bites the Dust. A fine song but wholly inappropriate. They song played
almost the whole way through before someone turned it off. What do you do after that? Most
of us just sat with our heads in hands. The odd part is Ron would have thought that was
the best part of the funeral.
In 1996, my husband died of colon cancer. I had thought that the hell I when through
during his illness was bad, but it was nothing compared to the funeral and making the
arrangements. His mother (the evil insane hillbilly witch), brother, and sister went with
me to the funeral home. Unfortunately, my parents had gone back home the day before he
died to check on a few things, thinking that he was going to linger a few more days. They
couldn't get back in time to come with me.
Like most young couples, we had lots of debts that would need to be paid, as well as
the funeral expenses. I could survive on my salary alone if the debts were paid off, but
he didn't have much life insurance, only $5K through my work and a $25K policy. He was
covered for a year's salary, plus all his retirement contributions at work (around $50K).
We had always thought all 3 together were enough for me to pay off everything if something
happened. However, I now know that he had signed over half of that $50K to his mother. So,
I knew that after the hospital bills, funeral, and paying off enough debts so I could get
by alone, I didn't have nearly enough.
Going in to pick the casket and such was a horror. Although his family is in general
quite poor, they seem to think they should be buried like a Rockefeller. They all wanted
the $50K stainless steel casket and the $25K stainless steel vault. I put my foot down and
said, "No way he would want all that money wasted," and picked out a more
reasonable set-up that would come to around $5K total. I did offer to let them pay the
difference if they really wanted the fancy stuff, and the silence was resounding. I can
still hear his brother feeling the padding in the bottom of the casket and saying it was
too hard. "That's a mighty poor final resting place," was his comment. Like he
cares now that he is dead?!? His mother did provide the burial plot since she owns about
12 of them for some weird reason. She put him next to his uncle, who also died of cancer.
No room for me, but by that point, I didn't care anymore.
It is hard to say which was worse, the viewing or the actual funeral service. At the
viewing, I was not allowed to stay up by the casket, like I should. Instead, I was ordered
to the back of the room to sit in a chair in the corner, while she stood by the casket
acting like queen for a day - greeting everyone. Most people who weren't his relatives
(plus a couple of those too!) realized that what she was doing was wrong, and came back to
see me. I think I cried the entire 2 hours solid. At the service, there is a special
family room where they can see the service, but not be seen by the rest of the mourners.
There were 2 banks of pews, and my parents and I sat on one side, alone, while his mother
and all his relatives sat on the other. The only exception was his father, who was as much
as outcast as me, since they had been divorced for many years.
Because my husband had gone into the hospital from his mother's house, his watch and
wedding ring were there, along with his wallet and other personal effects (remember this
as it comes up later). He had specifically requested that he be buried with his watch and
ring on. She wouldn't give them to the funeral director until 1-minute prior to the
service. I guess she really didn't want him to have his wedding ring on through eternity.
But, she finally couldn't defy his dying request. I never talked to her about it. But, I
had talked to the funeral director, who understood the situation, and he handled it for
me. I never stopped crying the whole time, and much of the service (which she set up
completely - I was too tired of it all to even try fighting over that) is a blur.
After the service, two of the aunts (father's sisters) came and told me she was
planning to come back to the gravesite and take away all the flowers and potted plants
immediately. If I wanted any, I'd better go soon. Well, we did go (since we were in a
hotel not far from there - nobody would even offer us a place to stay). Sure enough, she
was there with a pick-up truck, loading it up! I took about 4 potted plants, and the
arrangement sent by my workplace, and let her do what she wanted with the rest. He had
enough flowers for about 5 funerals anyway (his family is big on the flowers), and he
wasn't going to care, as long as she left enough so it didn't look bad.
In the south, the tradition is that after the funeral, the whole family comes over to
eat, and food is provided by the church and family friends. She had that at her house, and
my parents and I were not invited. Those same two aunts felt so badly about it that they
took us out to dinner at Shoney's. The next day, I went back to the funeral home and got
the cards from the flowers and the guest book so that I could do the thank yous. The
director told me he had already had to fend her off that morning, as she was trying to get
them for herself. I headed back home and breathed a sigh of relief that the ordeal was
over. None of them have so much as sent me a Christmas card since, and I really don't
care. The only thing that has bothered me is that I never got to tell her off. So, I guess
posting this is my way of doing that. As for his wallet, check book, credit cards, etc.
that had been left at his mother's house when he went to the hospital that last time, well
she kept them and refused to return anything to me. So I got to spend part of the day
after the funeral calling and reporting his cards as stolen and getting my checking
account changed. Nice lady, eh?
I have just returned from the funeral of my husband's grandfather. The behavior of the
deceased's daughter (my MIL) was something that I still cannot believe.
My husband and I arrived at the funeral home a few minutes before the time scheduled
for the wake. We were met in the lobby by my husband's Aunt Karen and Uncle Greg- who live
1000 miles away- and an older couple we did not know. The rest of the family had yet to
arrive. We were introduced to the older couple, who turned out to be grandpa's sister Jean
& her husband. Both seemed quite upset, but I assumed the loss of her brother was the
cause .My MIL arrived soon after this. She wore a short black cotton skirt (looked to be
in the style usually worn by children) and a navy blue T-shirt (not even tucked in). She
wore casual white sandals with no hose and had her hair in a ponytail. It was an outfit
that had to be seen to be believed. I should mention that a few years ago this same woman
spent the better part of the day berating her daughter (a 16 yr old) about her wardrobe
for a baptism party held at a pizza place. I noticed that Jean and her husband ignored my
MIL, but didn't think much about it at the time.
After paying our respects to grandpa, Aunt Karen took me aside and explained the reason
for Jean's agitation. Apparently, Jean lives about 3 blocks from my MIL, and has regularly
been talking with her about the disposition of another relative's estate. Grandpa died on
Wednesday evening. When did Jean learn of her brother's passing? Not on Wednesday or
Thursday, but on Friday when she read about it in the Obits. My MIL had no bothered to
call her father's sister or any of his relatives to tell them of his passing. Jean was fit
to be tied & would have caused quite a scene at the wake if Aunt Karen & Uncle
Greg had not headed her off and apologized profusely for my MIL's behavior. Meanwhile, MIL
walked around saying that Jean & her husband wouldn't talk to her and she had no idea
why. She told anyone who would listen that it must have been because she (my MIL)
inherited 2 porcelain dolls from another relative and Jean was angry about it.
The next morning my MIL dressed for her father's funeral (a roman catholic
"high" mass with Knights of Columbus as honor guards) in black short shorts and
a black T-shirt, casual sandals, no hose and another ponytail in her hair. It looked like
she was dressed to go on a picnic, or to an amusement park, not a funeral. Some people
just have no class I guess.
Love the site, and had some experiences recently that definitely belong on your
'funeral etiquette' page! There are two major players in this scenario - my brother-in-law
'Bob' (the deceased) and my husband's ex-wife 'Sue' (still in our lives because of my
stepdaughter). This all took place about a few weeks ago, slightly after 'Bob' passed
away. He was only in his mid-twenties, but he had been doing some drugs and probably died
from an overdose.
Anyway, I notified 'Sue' so she would know what was coming down the pike - I'd imagine
it's a real challenge helping your six-year-old daughter deal with the fact that her uncle
is gone! I received a note of 'sympathy' back from her, saying how she had always felt
that 'Bob' was a good kid who just got caught in a downward spiral and his parents didn't
do much to help him. Nice! Even though he's a grown man leading his own life and making
his own decisions, it's Mom's fault. Fast forward to the day of the funeral. I'm standing
in the reception line shaking the hands of complete strangers and frequently hugging them.
I see 'Sue' making her way up the line, and I'm dreading whatever loopy thing she'll
choose to say to 'Bob's' mother - 'Sue's' not exactly known for her tact or decorum.
She got to my mother-in-law, and although she was speaking softly, I could hear her say
something like, 'I know 'Bob' thought I was turning <my stepdaughter> against him,
but it just wasn't true. There was, like, three years where I liked him way better than
<my husband>.' How very sweet, to console the deceased's mother by insulting the son
she has left! Though the reception line was still going strong, I decided to leave and
start to set up the reception at my mother-in-law's as it was getting close to the time
she had told people to come. I wanted to bring my stepdaughter with me, since she had
already been stuck in the funeral home for over an hour - which meant bringing 'Sue', too.
Gathered the two of them up and headed for the house.
Anyone who has been through the loss of a close family member knows what a pain the
funeral reception can be - people are asking, 'should we heat the bread or just serve
it?,' 'is there any butter?,' 'don't you think you're making the coffee too strong?' and
they're just trying to help, but they're stressing you out unbelievably because someone
close to you JUST DIED and all you want to do is curl up and forget about things. But I
ran around like a madwoman, putting out everything and answering each question with a
smile no matter how much I wanted to SCREAM, and simultaneously kept 'Sue' out of
everyone's hair - no small feat, except that for some reason she really likes me so I
don't have to actively follow her around to do it.
Two of my friends arrive, just popping by to the reception for a moment to give hugs
and sympathy. 'Sue' takes the opportunity to express her sexual orientation to all three
of us - it was news to me, but apparently when looking for a new partner, she's less picky
about women than men! Imagine that. My friends leave and my mother-in-law arrives, having
finally escaped the funeral home. 'Sue' tells her what a pain everyone was to me during
the setup, and how she watched me running around the kitchen and thought to herself, 'Wow,
I sure am glad I'm not in the daughter-in-law role anymore!' I hear one of my husband's
cousins mutter under his breath, 'That makes a bunch of us!' I knew I liked him!
So now the main hostess has arrived and I can semi-retire, although I still have the
self-imposed task of keeping 'Sue' out of trouble. Sure, she's the ex-wife and a funeral
reception is really not a great place for a six-year-old girl to stay long-term, but that
doesn't stop her from hanging around for HOURS AND HOURS stuffing herself with the food
people brought for her ex-family. We finally end up seated on the back porch, relatively
separated from most guests, where she tells me about the time she went on a riverboat
cruise recently and strip teased for an entire boatload of people. Apparently she liked it
so much, she decided to try amateur night at a local strip club. Claaaaassy. Eventually I
realize that I'm exhausted, so I ask my husband to take me home (we're a one-car
But the next day, I hear another story from my mother-in-law about a call she got later
in the evening from 'Sue'. My brother-in-law was a real homeboy, as much as a white man
could be, and would perform a lot of hardcore rap, although he listened to a lot of rock
for the most part and really, really hated the mainstream pop/rap scene. Well, 'Sue' had
been struck by the fact that for the past week, although she usually couldn't stand the
stuff, currently she couldn't seem to stop listening to rap music! She listed a particular
song by Missy Elliot, which she said she heard on the local pop station. The night of the
funeral, she was dancing around to this song 'like a hoochie mama' (her words), when she
got a sudden cold chill. She felt it was 'Bob's' soul passing through her. Now, remember
what I said about 'Bob's' feelings on pop music. Then consider the fact that, even before
she cheated on my husband and then took him for all he was worth, 'Bob' really, really
hated 'Sue'. Why, he hated her from the moment he met her! It just seems that 'Sue' can't
let a single event go by - not even the funeral of another person - without making it
somehow about her. Well, I'll tell you something, 'Bob' didn't lead the life of a saint -
but I can't imagine anything he did in this life being so bad it's punishable by being
sent to that woman's apartment!!! Funeral1112-02
Page Last Updated May 15, 2007