Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


Main Page/Home

The Faux Pas Archives
Wedding Etiquette

Bridesmaids and Beastmen
Bridal Showers
Bridezillas and Groomonsters
Faux Pas of the Year
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
Guests From Hell
Tacky Invitations
Wedding Rugrats
Just Plain Tacky
Tacky Toasts
Thank You Notes From Hell
Tacky Vendors
Wedding From Hell
Wicked Witches of the Wedding
Perfect Bride
Bridesmaid Dress Incinerator



Everyday Etiquette

Baby Showers
The Dating Game
Ooops! Foot in Mouth Disease
Funeral Etiquette
Gimme Hell
Holiday Hell
Just Plain Tacky
It's all Relatives
Every Day RugRats
Road Rage

Business Etiquette

Bad Business Etiquette
Merchants of Etiquette Hell
Bad Bosses

Faux Pas of the Year




Press Room/Contact


Funeral Etiquette

2001 Archive

2002 Archive

I don't know if this is a faux pas as much as it is ironic but here it is. My beloved mother passed away last fall after a long illness. A close friend of hers offered to submit info for the obituary that would highlight her accomplishments as a classical musician and a teacher of language arts. My mother was very well educated and had a pet peeve for errors in English, whether spoken or in print. Her obituary was published in a major metropolitan newspaper and contained the typo "Bachelor’s Degree" when describing her education. Classy as she was, she probably would have found some humor in that one. Funeral0201-03

My father's mother passed away at a ripe old age after a semi-long illness. My dad had seven siblings, and the resident drama queen of the family was my Aunt Marie, the youngest female of the siblings. Aunt Marie had spent most of her forty-something years at bitter odds with her mother (their public clashes were legendary), but when Grandma died suddenly Aunt Marie became The One That Loved Mom Most. She had screaming hysterics at ALL THREE viewings, but only after Grandma's rather handsome young priest arrived and she could collapse into his arms--in full view of her husband and teenaged son. She threw herself on Grandma's casket repeatedly, once so hard that she actually knocked the casket askew on its stand. When not screaming or throwing herself around, she would make the rounds of visitors, dramatically saying that she was an orphan now, that she was too young to be without a mother. This last one really ticked my father off, as my mother had died unexpectedly less than a year before leaving behind four kids between the ages of twelve and eighteen, and he pointed out that Aunt Marie had had her mother three times longer than we had had our mother and that it was very insensitive of her to say something like that in front of us. Her response? "Oh, kids always get over something like that much easier, they probably won't even remember her five years from now." The fact that twenty-some-odd years have passed and my normally mild-mannered dad STILL goes red in the face when that's brought up ... but I digress.

The morning of the funeral arrived, and everyone was dreading it (except for some of us younger grandchildren, who'd been quite entertained by Aunt Marie's histrionics). Sure enough, Aunt Marie went into full freak-out mode. She screamed and collapsed as she went by the casket one last time at the funeral home. Two of my uncles had to carry her out to the limo. She wailed and cried during the entire funeral, so loudly that the priest was literally shouting the Mass. She attempted to fling herself on the casket as it was wheeled up the aisle past her as the funeral ended, but her husband managed to restrain her. She had to be carried out of the church to the limo, then dragged out of it when it arrived at the cemetery. The graveside service ended, and Aunt Marie decided that one more screaming swan dive onto the casket would be in order. Unfortunately for her, the canvas straps that was holding the casket above the grave must have given way, because the casket collapsed into the grave, taking Aunt Marie with it. There was horrified silence for about ten seconds, then my Aunt Kate (the oldest of the siblings), said, "And who says there isn't a God?" Everyone nearly fell over laughing--including the priest! Aunt Marie was eventually fished out.

Grandma's funeral was actually only one of many incidents where Aunt Marie made a spectacle of herself. She always had to be the center of attention--everyone in my family has a story about how she disrupted other funerals, weddings, baptisms, birthday parties and any other gathering. Many of us would have gladly excluded her if not for two of my other aunts laying guilt trips on us because Aunt Marie was so "delicate and high-strung" (read spoiled, spoiled, spoiled). She died a few years ago, and her long-suffering son, my cousin Gary, finally got his revenge for thirty-some years of torment. After the graveside service, he gravely thanked everyone for coming, then said that Aunt Marie had wanted him to play Elvis' version of "How Great Thou Art" as the "last song," but he felt there was another song that was much more appropriate. With that, he clicked on a boom box, (I swear I'm not joking) "Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead" pealed out, and he gathered up his wife and kids and left without a word. My aunts were horrified, but the rest of us didn't blame him one bit. Funeral0203-03

Many people don't know how to act when it comes to funerals in our culture. When my fiancée died of cancer, I understood that and didn't concern myself with such things as people not being able to express their sympathies or condolences. One woman even told me, "my apologies." I'd been through a lot while my fiancée was dying of cancer. But we both made peace with it, and I was happy to have had her in my life, even for a short time. What I wasn't prepared for was the insanity funerals bring out in people.

My mother and sister offered to come help pick out a dress to bury her in (she rarely wore dresses, usually skirts) and help get makeup together and a picture of her so the undertaker could make her look "natural." They argued with me and were in denial that she never wore much makeup -- foundation and little else.

The power struggle got worse at my place. My cable-modem e-mail carrier had suddenly gone bankrupt, so nobody could reach me for the directions and times I had promised in a mass e-mail I sent the day before. I needed to go out to pick up an AOL disc so I could have new e-mail, but I had to wait until they got back from an errand. Unfortunately, they decided to have a mother-daughter bonding lunch and figured I wasn't in condition to eat myself. It was hours before they got back, and instead of going to a specialty store to get what I asked for (black and purple paper to mount pictures of her on posterboard), they went to an office supply store and decided instead to put together an eyesore that looked like a colorful first grade bulletin board with bright colored construction paper. That was the point that I knew I'd lost control, and the funeral soon became a social event they were planning to impress the rest of the family. They put me to work running errands, not letting me know that they were planning things my fiancée expressly said she didn't want done (such as an open casket). My mother also took the liberty of ordering a large meat and cheese tray for anyone who'd stop by my place -- although she couldn't name anyone who would when I confronted her on it -- and demanded that I pick it up before the wake (no one ate anything). And the wasted time meant I wasn't able to burn some Beatles songs (such as "In My Life," which she sung at others' funerals) to a CD, as she would have liked.

Worse, I also found myself consoling people who'd come to offer sympathies to me. My fiancée’s former co-worker -- an woman in her 50s -- called and while trying to cheer me up had a mental breakdown on the phone. I ended up telling her for about 35 minutes that it's be alright and that my fiancée would have wanted her to go on. Other instances were not as extreme, but I came to appreciate Fran Leibowitz's contention that "Hell is other people." 

Six months after the funeral, I visited an uncle's family for his daughter's high school graduation. Neither he nor any of his family came to the funeral or even sent me an e-mail or called me to express sympathies, although they sent flowers. Apparently to make up for this, my uncle lectured me for a half hour on how I should be feeling and what the stages of grief were. No sympathies were ever conveyed, and I felt as his guest, it would have been wrong to be abrupt with him. After getting away from him, I went into his summer home to get my sketchbook to draw some of the outdoors. Once in there, I had to deal with his sister-in-law, a fat slob who cornered me and proceeded to ask detailed questions about how the cancer wasted my fiancée away and what they cut out of her, to harangue me on how she herself was ill with some minor disease, and to dictate what the best steps would be for me to get my career back on track. All this time, I had the sketchbook and pencils in one hand and the door knob in the other. She finally shut up when dinner was announced.

Oddly enough, the most consoling incidents were from old grade school teachers. I ran into my kindergarten teacher and the librarian in a store, and they both hugged me and said how bad it was. My second grade teacher was even better. When I saw her and told her about it (30 years after I was her student), she immediately threw her arms around me, pulled me to her bosom and told me how wrong that was and how it shouldn't have happened to me.


It was about 6 years ago, the grandfather (Ron) of my girlfriend (now wife) of 4 years passed away. He had suffered from Alzheimer's for may years and his passing though tragic was not a shock to the family. As I prepared to go to the funeral I was deciding what to wear, I hate neckties and I know Ron did as well so I decided to wear a black collarless dress shirt and high end black slacks, I polished my shoes and made sure that I looked respectful. To me this was the send off for Ron, I needed to make sure that if he was looking down on us he would know that I was going to make good on my promise to take care of Frances. 

At the funeral I was unsure of the place I should take, should I sit with the family (I had planed to ask Frances to marry me the day after Ron died but decided to hold off a while for obvious reasons) or should I sit in the normal section of the chapel with the lesser family and friends. As I walked around trying to get to Frances I ran into Lonnie, Frances' step father, Lonnie the typical Iowa boy he is tall and a bit rough around the edges. He was wearing a pair of old dirty jeans a flannel shirt and dirty boots. This would have bothered me but he was holding a duffel bad that I assumed contained a change of clothes. We exchanged the normal pleasantries and he headed to the bath room. I hooked up with Frances took her hand and I tried to comfort her as much as I could. When the seating started she lead me by the hand and sat me by her in the front. This was a bit of relief to me as it meant I did not have to ask where I should sit. 

After everyone was seated I noticed the Lonnie was nowhere to be found. After the first 5 minutes of the service the doors opened and in came Lonnie, he was still in his original barn clothes walking down the isle to the front. Most people would have quietly opened the door slipped threw them and then quietly closed them behind them and walked down a side isle or taken the first seat possible to avoid disturbing a funeral service. But Lonnie started walking down the middle isle for every one to see in barn clothes. After the service I asked him what was in the duffel bag, his reply: My good boots but I decided I didn't want to wear them. But in the end what makes this story funny is the widow commented after the service on how I should have worn a tie. Funeral0116-03

I am a Counselor for a local Hospice, which provides at home care for the terminally ill. I am regularly paged to attend to families immediately after the death of a patient, and stay until the funeral home arrives to pick up the body. One night I arrived at a home to find approximately 60-80 people stacked inside and outside of the home. People were mourning loudly and I could hardly make it into the home to find the immediate family members I knew. I finally did and was able to sit with a few in a guest bedroom to provide support and counseling. The funeral home finally arrived to pick up the body. Often I ask family if they would like to leave during this time because it can be especially hard or traumatic to witness. Everyone declined. 

While the funeral home was driving away with the dead loved one, people started to wail and run towards them, and one woman grabbed the back of the funeral vehicle screaming loudly and being dragged down the road. The vehicle finally slowed until family could capture her, and then they were able to drive away. Unfortunately, this is only one of a million stories anyone who works for hospice could tell you! Funeral0118-03

This is perhaps the most horrible breach of etiquette I've ever heard. (This is also the third or fourth story I've sent you -- where *do* these dreadful people come from?) My father's coworker, "Patty", had a baby who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when it was just a couple of months old. Shortly after this incident, Patty received an e-mail from another coworker that cited numerous statistics about the incidence and causes of SIDS. This coworker then went on to inform Patty that since she had smoked all before, during, and after her pregnancy, she was directly responsible for her baby's death and deserved to have to deal with the consequences. Needless to say, poor Patty was devastated enough by her baby's death without being accused of causing it. The entire staff was then reprimanded by management for their insensitivity, even though the other employees were all horrified at this coworker's behavior and had had nothing to do with the hateful e-mail. Funeral0206-03

I work at a well known flower shop, and one day a gentleman came in whose Mother had just passed. He ordered a casket spray (flowers on the casket) --a beautiful arrangement of 5 dozen pink roses. I asked him if he'd like a script on it (the ribbon with the lettering) to say something like "Dear Mom" or "Beloved Mother" or something similar to that. He thought for a moment, and then said, "Yeah. Yeah, I do...uh, can you make it say 'First Class B#*@h?'". Everyone in the store stopped what they were doing and looked at him with dropped jaws...after our response he shouted, "Well... I mean it in a good way, What's the problem?" Unbelievable! When we told him that we would suggest putting something like that on a card and absolutely NOT make a script like that, he balked at us and left. Funeral0206-03

Still loving the site, especially with all the new updates! Reading over the Funeral Etiquette section reminded me of my first funeral ever. I was a junior in high school, and was just getting to really know "Jane" who was a senior. Although we had just met at the beginning of that school year, we were getting to be pretty good friends. Sadly, Jane became very ill and died prior to graduation.

The funeral was a very heart-rending event; Jane was an only child, and had died on Mother's Day, so the parents were, of course, extremely grief stricken. Each member of the senior class had brought a yellow rose to lay on the casket (oh, how small and lonely that casket looked in my eyes!) as a final goodbye. The car radio played "Starry, Starry Night" on the drive to the cemetery (a song that made me weepy even prior to hearing it at that time). Plus, I was only 16 and not really "equipped" to handle the loss of a friend.

So with all this, I was understandably pretty distressed by the time I got home. Imagine my shock when my mom asks me, "Did you have a good time?" In stunned amazement I said, "No, it was a funeral!" to which she responded, "Well, some people like funerals." Ouch! Funeral0211-03

I call this "Top that!", as you'll soon see why. A few years ago, I had the misfortune to lose both of my elderly parents in a house fire. They had lived in a different state from all of their children, and the funeral, plus the lawyer, bank, and insurance details kept my siblings and me away from work and home for 2 weeks. With the help of relatives, we were able to postpone some legal things to later or handle them long distance. Naturally, I had left work immediately after that terrible phone call, and only my building's co-workers and supervisors knew what had happened.

My employer has onsite offices in several towns and states, my office being one of those onsite offices. I had frequent phone contact with the main office located some distance away, especially with the lady who served the main office in a capacity similar to mine. I'll call her Trixie. Trixie was a bit brash and rough, but I always got along with her in our communications, and we frequently commiserated with each other about some of the frustrating circumstances of our jobs. After my return to work I called her with work information that I usually phoned in once a week. She wanted to know where I had been for two weeks because my co-worker who'd filled in for me had only told her it was a family emergency. Very briefly, as I still was devastated and became emotional when discussing it, I told her that my parents had died when their home had burned, and I had been dealing with the funeral and other things in another state. Her response? 

"Well, guess what, my husband's mother and father both died in their house fire when he was only 17; they didn't know he was outside and safe, so they went back in to rescue him and were killed! What do you think of that!?" (Read that in a challenging, "top that" voice, and you'll have it exactly.) After a few seconds of stunned silence, I told her I was sorry to hear it and changed the subject.

I didn't know we were in a contest! I'm assuming that in her view, I lost. Funeral0212-03

My mother passed away on December 7, 1997, less than three weeks before Christmas and so, needless to say we were getting sympathy cards from a lot of the same people we were getting Christmas cards from. One cousin of mine, however, managed to outdo herself. Inside her sympathy card she had written a short note, and at the end she added – by the way, Merry Christmas. I still laugh thinking about this one.

In a separate incident, the county voter registration bureau sent my mother a card four months after her death asking her to please notify them of her new address. Funeral0212-03

From the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader online: Posted on Mon, Feb. 10, 2003 Shooting leaves bullet holes in funeral home Bullet holes near the back door of Hampton Funeral Home tell part of the bizarre tale of the shooting of a Corbin woman as she made funeral arrangements for her grandmother.

Two bullets hit the wall and back door while Brenda France was shot six times, allegedly by her uncle, Beve Stewart, Kentucky State Police said. With bullet wounds to her face, leg, hands and abdomen, France made her way down a hallway and into one of the chapels, where she hid and waited for help to come, state police detective K.Y. Fuson told the Corbin Times-Tribune.

Before being taken to Knox County Hospital, France identified Stewart, her uncle, as the shooter, Fuson said. Stewart was arrested about two hours after the shooting, he said.

France was later taken to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where she was listed in stable condition Monday. Funeral0213-03

After my grandfather died, my grandmother married a lovely man I'll call Matthew. Matthew had made good money during his working life, but had given it all to his two sons. When Matthew and my grandmother married, Matthew moved into my grandmother's house, and she paid all of their bills with the money her first husband had left her. Matthew owned only some bedroom furniture, as the sons already had everything else. Matthew wanted to contribute something to the household, so my grandmother gave away her bedroom furniture and they used his. My grandmother nursed Matthew through years of Alzheimer's Disease, during which the sons only got in touch to ask for money. At Matthew's funeral, one of the sons approached my grandmother. He didn't want to offer his condolences. He wanted to demand that Matthew's bed - Matthew and my grandmother's marital bed -be returned to him immediately. Even for lawyers, the sons were pretty nasty and grasping. Oh, and they later sued my 85 year old grandmother on spurious grounds. Funeral0217-03

My older brother was killed in a car accident at the age of 23. Needless to say, this was a horrid shock to all of us.

So, there we all are standing there at his wake and the stupidity opens up. First this lady walks up to me and says isn't it horrid about <my sister>'s brother? I looked at her and politely said, I am his sister as well. Then it gets worse. This moron walks up to my brother's girlfriend and starts to hit on her then before he leaves says "have fun tonight. Funeral0218-03

I don't know what category this would go in, so please feel free to direct it wherever you'd like. My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for almost 2 1/2 years. In July I discovered that I was finally pregnant. To say that we were excited is an understatement. Within about 24 hours, everyone knew that we were expecting. My husband is from a very small town (about 450 people) and his family is very well liked there, so everyone found out very quickly 'back home.'

About 10 days after my positive pregnancy test, I miscarried. Of course we were devastated, as anyone would be. Understandably, this news didn't make the rounds quite as quickly. About a month after my miscarriage, one of my husband's high school friends lost his dad to cancer. We went to the funeral, naturally.

After the funeral, several people from his hometown were standing on the lawn of the church visiting. More than one person came over to congratulate us on the pregnancy, and I told them "thank you, but we lost the baby." I wasn't upset by this, because this is a very rural area and I understood that the bad news wouldn't have traveled as quickly. A close friend of my MIL, "Anne" came over to give us both a big hug and tell us how sorry she was for our loss. I talked to her for a few minutes as she offered her sympathy. 

During this conversation, the girlfriend of another of DH's high school friends was standing no more than three feet away, and I can't imagine how she could have not overheard the conversation. Two minutes later, over walks Ms. Bubblehead, offering her congratulations. My husband has told me that this woman is an idiot, MIL has told me she's an idiot, and I've seen (on the 2 occasions that I've been around her) that she's an idiot. I politely explained that we had lost the baby, wondering how she could have not heard us discussing it a few minutes earlier. Her reaction was a shocker. "Well, at least you didn't carry it to term. And heck, trying's the fun part anyhow, right?" I was too surprised to say anything, as was my husband. I told my MIL about it that evening, and the next day she happened to see Ms. Bubblehead. My wonderful MIL was nice enough to give the woman a piece of her mind about what an awful thing that was to say. Good thing, too because the woman could use all the pieces she can get. For those who may ever be in the situation of being told that someone has miscarried, here's a tip: All you're expected to say is, "I'm so sorry." That's it - don't tell them how it was probably for the best, they can try again, etc. Nobody wants to hear that BS, any more than they want to hear it when a loved one dies. Funeral0220-03

My grandfather became ill and was diagnosed with lung cancer. He lost his battle within a few months. My grandfather led a successful business in my city and knew a great many people, the temple was packed. Some of these people were "characters." I was seated in the front row between my oldest brother and my uncle. My grandfather was an avid golfer (so much so that his wishes were for his ashes to be scattered at his favorite hole on his country club's golf course) so when the rabbi read an awful poem that likened the game of golf to life, my brother and I tried hard to keep the corners of our mouths as straight as possible. I noticed my uncle turn his hearing aid down to prevent any giggle from him. 

The rabbi had known my grandfather for decades and spoke about his first wife (my grandmother) and related stories of dinners at their home and funny things that happened. This struck me as odd because the terms of my grandparents' divorce were not exactly amicable. Many of their friends felt that they had to "choose sides" and only remain friends with one of them, even though through the years my grandparents maintained a friendly relationship, if just for the sake of our rather large, and close-knit family. My grandmother had decided it was best to not attend the funeral seeing as how many of the friends that had sided with her (20 years ago) hadn't spoken to or seen my grandfather since, and respectively, those that remained friends with my grandfather hadn't had much contact with my grandmother through the years. 

The rabbi then began speaking about *Rose* my step-grandmother and various encounters with them, at which point the husband of an older couple seated directly behind my uncle and I started a running commentary that included "Yeah, if it wasn't for Rose he would have died years ago!" "That Rose, she's something else! The way she got him to stop drinking!" Needless to say I was shocked that this was a couple I knew, who my uncle knew and so he must have known he was making these utterances in our presence. My brother also heard these comments and kept throwing glances over his shoulder at the man, who finally acknowledged the glances by saying "Oh Teddy* (my uncle's name, not my brother's) I'm so sorry for your loss" All of this in the middle of the service. Thankfully, we are a family that tries to find the light side during difficult times, and the second the roar of people rising from their seats and moving toward the food began, the three of us collapsed with laughter. Funeral0221-03

My grandmother had two strokes, a year and a day apart. She was living with my mother and the burden of her care fell on her. I had two jobs and was lucky to be able to take time off of one and switch the other to night shifts, so I could care for my grandma during the day and my mom could work. With her first stroke, she had almost 100% recovery and no longer needed me all day. The second stroke was massive. Not only did it take away all of her mobility, (she fell and broke her hip) it took away her speech and most of my loving gram's mental capacity. The doctors put her in "home hospice care" meaning her organs were shutting down one by one and they didn't give her much time to live. We were supposed to make her as comfortable as possible until it was all over.

My husband was less than supportive about the whole thing. He never visited my gram, either time. But as long as I was "still bringing home a paycheck" it was okay. We, my husband & I, had a vacation planned - the river w/ his friends. (He went to the river at least once or twice a month during the summer and dirt bike ridding as much during the winter.) The vacation part was that I was invited this time.
I got to my mom's early that Thursday AM so I could leave for our trip as soon as possible that night. Upon arrival, my mom said that it had been a hard night. The doctor had already been there and he was predicting that Gram would not make it through the day. So I called my husband and told him that I was not going on the trip. I needed to stay with my family.

His exact words were, "I've already paid for this trip! What do you expect me to do about it?!" I was upset and told him that I didn't care what he did. I was going to be with my family. I probably shouldn't have been surprised. This coming from the man that invited both of our families over for Thanksgiving and spent the entire day upstairs playing Nintendo games! He is also the man that when he first got pepper spray went to the park and sprayed the ducks to test it out! And then came home laughing and trying to imitate the horrible noises the poor ducks were making as they wiped their faces on the wet grass trying to get that crap out of their eyes. He never noticed that I was not laughing. (That was not the first time I had feelings of hate towards him)

So, what would your man do? Would he stand by you and your family in a time of need, or would he go to the river? My man went to the river! (I'm using the term "man" lightly) He promised that he would only go for a day and come home early. That was Thursday night.

My Gram held on until Friday morning. My mom, sister and I all took two-hour turns sitting up with her all night so that she wouldn't be alone. We all prayed for the pain to stop and for her to find peace. When it was all over, I left a message for my husband at the hotel that she had pasted and for him to call me.

Guess what his idea of coming home early was. He played w/ his jet skis all day Friday and all day Saturday. His idea of coming home early was not skiing on Sunday. He was hung over, burnt out, and useless. We live in So. Cal. My Gram wanted to be buried in No. Cal w/ my grandfather. Her funeral was on Tuesday. My husband had seniority at work and had weekends (FRI, SAT & SUN) off in his schedule. I asked him if he could switch shifts w/ someone and come w/ me to her funeral. My thinking was that, 1) there were other family men he worked with that might want a weekend off and would happily trade some shifts, and 2) that he would WANT to be with me.

Again, his exact words were, "I don't want to owe anybody any favors." He didn't even ask! He never told his boss who would have GIVEN him the time off! A short time after that, after I had picked up shifts at a third job to catch up and pay my HALF of our house payment and bills, (yikes! But when your husband is a total ass who really cares if you're home much, right?) I thought I was having a heart attack at 26 years old. I took an ambulance ride from job #1 to the hospital because they couldn't get my heartbeat under control. Turns out that I had a total anxiety attack. They put me on heavy medication and told me to sit on the couch for two weeks!

One day towards the end of the two weeks mandatory vacation, my husband mentioned that he had made my car payment and "Could pay him back when I got a chance?"

Needless to say, I am divorced! I feel like I never had a husband! I definitely never had a partner. We had separate checking accounts, and no joined credit cards. This was his choice because he didn't want me to know what he did with HIS money. The only thing that we had together was a huge house. One that he needed me (my money and my credit) to get in the first place! I gave up the house and ran like my butt was on fire and have never looked back! I only wish that I could arm those little ducks at the park with pepper spray of their own. I would actually pay money to see them get revenge against this huge POS! funeral0226-03

My Nanna, my Mum's mother, passed away some time ago. The kicker in this one is the actions of my Uncle's (mum's older brother) Wife. This Aunt is known in the family as Auntie Kodak for the amount of film she will go through at absolutely any occasion. Before the funeral she has all of us cousins lined up to take a family photo. She continues to take photographs throughout the memorial service and the interment. We can cope with that, but between the interment and the wake she drops the films in at a 1 hour photo place and actually leaves the wake to pick up the photographs so that she can bring them back and show them around.

Also, my Nanna never owned a lot of real jewelry, just her engagement and wedding rings. Having two daughters, my Mum and her older sister, it was decided that Mum and Auntie J would get one each. Mum and Auntie J agreed upon who would get which ring, but Auntie Kodak was overheard to say later "Oh, I would have liked to get Nanna's engagement ring". Danielle funeral0304-03

We used to live next door to Bob and Kay. We didn't hang out with them but were friendly in a neighborly way. Three months after the birth of our twins our baby daughter died of SIDS. We were at the hospital doing what you do when these things happen and word was getting out to relatives and friends. I called our neighbor and told Kay what had happened and asked her if she would please go over to our house to answer the phone to friends and relatives until we got home. Her exact words "Oh, I'd do it in a second but Bob's colleagues daughter (that I since found out they'd never met) is getting married and we're invited to the reception downtown." She had me apologizing to her --"oh, don't worry about I'll find someone else, etc. just so that she wouldn't feel bad. On the day of our daughter's funeral someone "helpfully" mentioned that houses often get robbed while people are at funerals and pressured me into finding someone to come over while we were at the funeral. You'd have thought I'd learned my lesson but I called good old trusty Kay. Her exact words: "Oh, I'd do it in a second but I'm showing a house at that time." Kay was a local real estate agent.

Years later I still shake my head at how insensitive and tacky someone could be. Glad I had somewhere to get these off my chest. They've bugged me for years. Funeral0325-03

With all due respect, I don't think Kay is deserving of Etiquette Hell as the storyteller submits.  She is honoring her prior commitments despite being asked to cancel her plans for someone who admits that the relationship is not close but merely courteous and neighborly.  Apparently Kay is not good enough to "hang out with" but her services as receptionist and housesitter would be good enough and Kay graciously and deftly declines to accept these job assignments.  For future reference, it is never prudent to expect more from acquaintances than the relationship can support.   If you aren't willing to "hang out" (in other words, socialize with them) with someone, think twice and then a third time before asking them for favors.     

Not exactly regarding a specific funeral but more of how NOT to notify the family. My father, who is estranged from me, was at the time, the only connection I had to my family on his side. Well, I called him one day and after discussing pleasantries he shocked the hell out of me by suddenly saying in an oh so casual voice, "Did I tell you your grandmother (his mother) passed away?" When I told him no, he said, "Oh yeah, happened about a month ago".

And as shocking as that is considering how close I was to my grandmother in my youth, it turns out he didn't even have the time to call me to tell me later on that my grandfather (his father) passed away or that my favorite uncle (his brother) had committed suicide not long after. It took Diana, a cousin I don't even know calling me and informing me of this to get the story. Needless to say I've renewed my relationship with my aunt on his side to get all the family information.

AND if that wasn't bad enough, according to my aunt, when she last spoke with my father, his words upon hearing of Darrell (my uncle) and Raymond (my grandfather)'s funeral, he had the nerve to ask "So there's no money left is there?". Funeral0327-03

My Mother was diagnosed in 1991 with Early onset Alzheimer's. This is a pernicious disease, it takes over far more quickly than the regular kind. My Father is an only child and a dentist My Uncle, (my mothers brother, younger than her by 7 years is a cardiologist)

My uncle was always our family doctor, and the person that we turned to when we were having trouble getting appropriate care in hospitals and the like. This was always the case, even before my mother's diagnosis. After my mother was diagnosed, he simply cut all ties with our family. he became very involved in the things that he though made him look good and was a typical self centered jerk.

He never came to visit my mother or to help us with her care while she was still at home, even though before the diagnosis, holidays were always a time for family (though not nec. enjoyable) so we him, his wife and children often. In the past, while my uncle was paying off enormous medical school loans and the like my parents had lent him money. This was the nature of the relationship.

We were all surprised and quite taken aback when he did not appear at all not even once to see her at home, or in the long term care facility where we eventually had to put her

We did call and let him know, giving the address and our phone number so that he could make arrangements to see her if he wanted to. We even put him on the approved visitors list of the home, even though we hadn't seen him in four years. (he lived about 15 minutes away from our house and 20 minutes away from the it's not as if he would have to travel) Then we actually needed him. We could not get a straight answer out of the doctors, they were giving us the runaround about her care, and we were concerned she was being mistreated. Although I, My brother, and my father, all called asking to enlist his help in getting through the red tape to get answers, there was never any reply.

We wrote him off...maybe we should have done it sooner [shrug] Through all of this my father visited my mother at least every other day, my brother and I tried to visit her at least twice a week, and it was obvious to anyone that knew him that this was unbearably difficult for my father.

When my mother became truly ill the she was hospitalized and we were told we would need to put her in a nursing home, as the long term care facility would no longer be able to give her the care she needed.

We did this, and again made a call to my uncle, her brother, and only living close relative (their parents were dead) letting him know where she was. A few days later we were told that they were going to put her in hospice care, and since she wasn't' eating and we were not putting her on a respirator she would die within days.

We were distraught but we called to let him know "your sister is dying...if you want to say goodbye, this would be the time" we then all sat in the room while my mother started the process of dying. HE SHOWED UP!

he walked in, and accepted the gracious coffee and muffins that the hospice workers provided. He sat with us through the death watch, not ONCE alluding to the fact that we hadn't seen him in years or that he came once she was no longer conscious. Here's the fun part...this isn't the worst thing that he did.

When she finally passed away, we called again, to let him know where the funeral was etc. We are Jewish, so certain traditions had to be followed. He and his wife sat on the family row to accept condolences as thus this were some sort of actual loss for him... wait it gets better.

He came to the Shiva...which means that everyone comes back to our house and our house is open for the next 7 days for condolence callers to lend their support etc.

The first night...the night of my mother, his sisters funeral, he sat across from me at dinner and said "you know I had to cancel front row hockey tickets for this" His tone was not resentful, it was more as though I should thank him, or be grateful or impressed. I simply looked at him and said. "my mom just died...your sister just died. you don't get credit for doing what you're supposed to" he looked at me blankly. the real hell came the next day. he came to the Shiva again, and cornered me upstairs to say...and this is a direct quote. "you know, no one expected your father to stay with your mother through all of this he's always seemed, (and he was smiling at this point) how could I put this, selfish."

I just looked at him, and then said. "well...he LOVED her" I thought about throwing him down the stairs but out of respect for my father and because I loved my mother, I didn't. no one I have ever told this story to has been able to believe anyone would say that to me, or anyone at their mothers funeral. Funeral0328-03

My uncle was my father's oldest brother, and was 20 years old when my father was born. Their father (my grandpa) died when I was only three months old, so Uncle Bill was more like a grandpa to me and my two younger sisters. Uncle Bill passed away when I was in my early 30's. He became ill with lung cancer, and things moved along very quickly.

My father called the local Catholic church--his whole family is Catholic--but the pastor there told my dad that Uncle Bill hadn't "paid in" enough toward the local congregation--he sent money to all kinds of charities, from the Catholic children's homes to the Indian schools, and from Boy's Town to the Salvation Army--he was a member of the Knights of Columbus--but the pastor wouldn't arrange for any priest from that church to perform the service.

The funeral director said that he had a Catholic priest who took care of services at the funeral home all the time--no problem! Relieved, my grieving father left the arrangements to him.

My sisters and I--an emotional trio, at any time--were quite teary-eyed at the funeral. We sat there, listening to this man "supposing" about my Uncle Bill's life--"Suppose he was like this? Well, suppose he was like that...?" A few simple questions to the family could have supplied him with a load of information!

But, the real topper was yet to come. After the suppositions came the COMMERCIAL! Yes--this priest stood there and announced, "Let me take a minute to tell you about the Catholic Prison Ministries." (You may infer, from this, that my uncle had spent time in prison. Not true. Nor was it true of any of our family...) "Catholic Prison Ministries brings the gospel to those behind bars, the forgotten, the felon..." My sisters and I nearly fell off our chairs!! It was like the Mary Tyler Moore episode, where Mary can't stop laughing at Chuckles the Clown's funeral, and then bursts into tears--Well, we were already teary, but the "commercial," and imagining what Uncle Bill would have thought of it, brought in a note of hysteria! We certainly didn't want to laugh, so we huddled over our laps, shoulders shaking, with tears running down our faces...

To this day, our relatives think we were weeping inconsolably! Funeral0401-03

My incredibly tactless Auntie suggested that my grandmother's favorite dress was too good a dress to be burned during the cremation. She suggested that it should be removed after the funeral, and before the cremation and that one of the family should get it. funeral0407-03

To make a long story short, my father passed away last year after a long illness.  Since he was cremated, it was decided that at the viewing there would be pictures depicting him with the family. He had 4 children 11 grandchildren and one grandchild, me being his oldest child.

My sister took it upon herself to be "in charge" of the pictorial display. For days she complained how enormous the task at hand was for her. I offered to help several times and was greeted by yelling and obscenities. So I just hung back and let her put together the photos.

The day of the funeral she arrives smiling and excited to show off her framed collage of photos to me. What was obvious to not only myself, but everyone at the viewing was that she omitted pictures of me from the photo displays. Out of 50 pictures used, she included friends, even pets, but I was not seen once in the entire arrangement. When asked about it, she merely smiled at me and said there was no room. It was a hurtful thing to do, especially coming from a 40 year old woman. My father and I were close. But it makes me realize that when people act like that, they only hurt themselves. That incident helped me realize that if I would not chose her as a friend, I do not have to be abused by her because she is family.. Whoa! here we go.. empowerment! Funeral0409-03

Not a story just a comment to Funeral12006-02 story. My dad died after many years of illness. After the funeral I mentioned to my mother that maybe it was sick on my part but I wished I'd had a picture of dad in his casket. He looked wonderful, the sunken eyes, the agonizing look on his face I had become used to were replaced with this wonderful peaceful person whose struggle was done. My mother, with tears welling up, said she would have given anything to have a picture of him like that. We both agree you could have taken our picture while we grieved because in all our sadness we realized our loved one was finally at peace. We have no problem recording the beginning of life, maybe its time we accept the recording of the end of life. (I would of course exclude anyone who was uncomfortable with being photographed from this) funeral0427-03

I have no issue with individuals taking discreet photos of the deceased in the casket.  Death is as much a part of life as birth and such photos can assist primary grievers in closure.  What should never be done is photos of those grieving since it violates their privacy.  Nor should funeral photography become a "photojournalistic event" with an intrusive camera.

A few years ago, my brother's son was assaulted on the street and murdered at the age of 15. Needless to say, we were all devastated. The viewing was particularly hard to deal with. It was long and many, many people were deeply moved by the whole process. One young girl spent most of the time hanging over the casket wailing and sobbing loudly. Family members were prevented from approaching him due to her hysterics. I asked who she was and was told it was his girlfriend. So, I'm thinking they must have been pretty close for her to completely monopolize all the attention like that. Toward the end of the day, I asked my brother how long this girl knew my nephew. TWO WEEKS! I found it unbelievable that she made herself the center of attention after only knowing the boy for two weeks, when there were dozens of family members there who knew and loved him all his life. Funeral0429-03

A close friend literally had her newborn baby die in her arms, it was later discovered that a birth defect was the cause. Because it was unexpected it was quite a shock to everyone. For days afterwards all her friends and family were in severe grief and the trauma was unbearable. After the funeral we were all gathered at a friend's home for food and refreshments. Imagine how shocked we were when one guest plopped herself down on the couch beside the grieving mother and started showing pictures of her new baby!!! Amazingly the grieving mom seemed too numb to even comprehend what was happening, and just looked through the photos of the other woman's infant child. This was one of the most insensitive things I have ever seen, and made me realize there are really some stupid people out there. Funeral0508-03

I had just started working at my new job when the boss sent out an e-mail saying a co-worker's mother had died, and he was taking up a collection and passing around a sympathy card for the co-worker. Since I was the last person to get the card, I signed it, added my money to the envelope and returned it to my boss. Since this particular co-worker was well liked and respected in the department, a sizable amount of money had been collected.

I inquired of my boss whether he was going to buy a flower arrangement or make a contribution to a charity in the deceased person's name and he said "I was just figuring on putting the money in the envelope and giving it to him."

I don't know what to think about this. I don't know what I would have done if I were opening up sympathy cards from my mother's funeral and one had money in it. However, I when I relayed this story, several people told me it's not unheard of in the Northeast to give cash at funerals, as it started long ago to help poorer families defray the cost of funeral expenses, which can be considerable.

Any thoughts?

PS - Later that day, I saw my boss leaving the office on the way to the viewing, he had the envelope with him, which was bulging with the cash we had all collected, he hadn't even bothered to exchange it with larger bills that would fit more discreetly in the envelope! Funeral0513-03

A close friend of mine once told me about her white trash cousin's baby's funeral, and to this day it grosses me out. The baby girl had been stillborn, and for the funeral they picked out a nice frilly dress and fixed her up like a beautiful doll. At some point during the viewing, some of the redneck relatives (the mother included) decided the baby was so cute, they just had to pass her around and then posed with the baby for pictures like it was some party!! They were so proud of the pictures they carried them around and tried to show them to everyone, myself included. I managed to avoid seeing them and now avoid the entire creepy family. Funeral0512-03

Ugh, once embalmed and laid out, picking up the corpse like it was a doll is just disrespectful and gruesome.  

My 15 year old son died of complications from epilepsy. Of course, this was a personal disaster. He was my best friend, and an irreplaceable part of my life.

He died on Christmas, so the funeral was held during the holiday week, and many , many people were able to attend. The visitation was the night before the funeral, and there was a line out the door of the parlor. I noticed, coming through the line, was a neighborhood boy my son's age that hadn't gotten along too well with my son. His mother was with him. When they came to greet my wife and me, the boy's mother was visibly shaken by the event, but then said something I'll never forget. "Wow, this really hit close to home."

I was too stunned to answer. Funeral0602-03

My husband's grandfather passed away last year and I had to share this story with you. It's been a year and I am still appalled by my mother in law's bad behavior. My grandfather in law had been sick for a while but his passing was a surprise to the family. He lived out of state in Nevada. The family is split in half, half in Nevada and half in California. We got the call from mother in law that grandpa had passed and that she was driving to Nevada that day to assist with the arrangements. I asked if she needed us to do anything to help her but she said that her brothers and sisters (that live in Nevada) were going to assist her. I asked when the services were as we would be required to travel and I needed to take time off work and make travel arrangements. She didn't know but assured me she would call. Several days pass and although I have left her several messages at her hotel, I get no return call. Finally she calls me back to let me know that she was back in town and that the services had been the day BEFORE!!!! She said (and this is a QUOTE) "I forgot to call "Jim" and tell him about the services." She forgot to call her son and tell him when his grandfather's funeral was going to be??? Now I understand that this was her Dad and she was very upset but "she forgot"???? Her mother is still alive, the whole family was there and not one person asked her where we were? My husband was devastated that he didn't have an opportunity to pay his respects to his grandfather as they were very close. As if that was not bad enough, she had a few drinks at Christmas and proceeds to scream at my husband that he is a complete disappointment to her and that he embarrassed her at the funeral by not attending. Excuse me? We would have been there if you had called and told us about the arrangements! Can you believe the nerve of this woman? Funeral0610-03

My mother is the oldest of five children (four girls and one boy). My aunt Michelle, was the second oldest, followed by my aunt Terri, then my aunt Toni, and finally my uncle Bryant. My aunt Michelle died in 1992 in her home very suddenly. We started the funeral arrangements. No one really had the money to bury her, so we had to go the Trustees office to have the state pay for the funeral. Of course the state only pays for the basics, which was fine for us.

My aunt Terri used to date a gentleman who's family owned on of the largest funeral homes in the city. She gave him a call to see if he could help the family. This gallant gentleman stepped in and really outdid himself with the funeral arrangements. The state pays for a basic gray casket, this gentleman had upgraded the casket to a beautiful pink casket, at no cost to the family. 

We went for a private viewing of the body a day before the funeral and wake. All of us were very impressed with how Michelle looked, she was beautiful, her hair and makeup were flawless. She always liked to look her best and the funeral home did not let us down. 

Aunt Michelle had three children, ages 21, 19 and 17. As we were viewing Michelle, Toni starts poking at Michelle's face saying "Why isn't she smiling?" We were floored that she would disrespect the body like that. My mother stated to Toni "Who wants to stare into a casket, and have someone grinning up at you? Stop poking her!!!" Toni kept on and finally my cousins had enough of her poking at their dead mother and had to leave the room. Everyone soon followed and left Toni in there. We're standing around talking to the funeral director and complimenting him on his work and expressing our gratitude for a job well done. Toni finally comes out from the back and states to the director "Why is there paper under her clothes?" Our jaws hit the floor. Even the director had to chastise her on her disrespect. When we went to look at Michelle again, her clothing was askew. We were just devastated. This poor man had to go back and redo her clothing again. We apologized for Toni's behavior. 

Too bad the story doesn't end there. Toni actually wanted to do Michelle's eulogy. We finally talked her out of it, but she insisted on saying a few words, and we were fine with this. Her final invasion of rudeness was at the start of the funeral. The ministers were huddled up front having a quick meeting on how long each was to speak and when. Here comes Toni, marching up the aisle to join the meeting of Ministers, explaining that she was giving a speech. I was so happy when one of them turned to her and told her to take a seat. I think she FINALLY got embarrassed and settled down the rest of the funeral. My mother made me promise her that when she dies, to bury her first and then inform Toni. Funeral0710-03

My brother passed away suddenly October of 1992. He had not been ill but, had accidentally taken a lethal combination of a pain-killer and an anti-depressant. My husband and I received the phone call early in the morning. Being as I live 1000 miles from where the rest of the family lives I had to make flight arrangements. I called my boss who happened to be flying into town later that day and let her know that I had to leave on the flight she was arriving on. We met up at the airport and I was naturally completely distraught. She came over, gave me a hug, looked me right in the eye and said "Well, you needed some time off anyway". I could not believe what I was hearing. 

Upon arriving at my Father's the next day he informed me that when he called my brother's first wife to let her know about the death that the first words out of her mouth were, " ****** had a one hundred thousand dollar insurance policy and it's for me." No thought to her nine year old son at all. Funeral0711-03

When my great grandmother died at the age of 99, many people were saddened, because she had always been a family and community favorite. She was still of sound mind, and still lived in her own home and did the cooking for her and her middle-aged granddaughter (my mother's cousin). She and I were very close, and we would frequently write letters to each other. I still have all of her letters, and when I was in college, other people in my dorm used to ask me to read the letters aloud at meals because she was so inspiring and encouraging. It's safe to say that she was my favorite relative on both sides of my family, and the glue that held our extended family together.

One evening, I came home and my younger brother (my roommate) told me that our great grandma had died. I barely slept all night, and early the next day I called my mother long distance before we both left for work to find out more details. "Well, she had been sick a long time," my mother said. Very confused, I asked what mom meant. Apparently, my great grandma had been in the hospital for the last six weeks! I was immediately angry at my mom for not letting me know six weeks ago, because I would have certainly sent a card or letter or made a trip to see my great grandma one last time. 

My mother then told me that she had spoken on the phone to my brother three times in that time period to update him on my great grandma's condition. She was shocked that he had not been passing on the information to me, as she had assumed that he would. My brother had told me that my mom called on those days, and even some of the other things that they had talked about, but had never mentioned my great grandma being hospitalized. I confronted my brother, and he had no explanation as to why he had forgotten three times to let me knew my great grandma was in the hospital except to say, "I remembered to tell you that she died!". (Thank heaven for small mercies!) He still thinks that I am unreasonable to have been so angry at him for forgetting (or not bothering).

Immediately, a debate started within our family about the funeral plans, or lack of funeral plans, for my great grandma. Some people, such as my great aunt (by marriage), her husband, and their children, were adamant that my great grandmother had not wanted any funeral at all. My grandmother and her two sisters believed that by "no funeral" their mother had meant that she had not wanted a large, ostentatious, expensive funeral, but that it would be completely appropriate to have a small, family only, memorial service for her. They also thought that she had only said that to avoid being a burden on the family (sort of along the lines of, "You don't need to get me anything for my birthday"). My grandmother and her older sister each had a stroke in the years before their mother had died, so their views were easily discredited by their sister-in-law. Their younger sister was easily won over by their brother and sister-in-law, and although my mother and her two brothers tried to fight for some sort of memorial, they were over-ruled by their aunt and uncle.

My great grandmother was cremated and her son and daughter in law said they would bury her themselves in the cemetery at the small town where she had first homesteaded when they came to Canada in 1907. This town was half an hour from where my grandmother was living, but her brother planned to bury their mother without her there, even though they had the option of driving through my Grandma's town to get to the cemetery! Many family members, such as my mother, myself, and my uncles expressed an interest in attending the burial, but my great uncle's wife insisted that my great grandma "wouldn't have wanted that".

Finally, my mother's brother managed to figure out the day that his uncle and aunt and their daughter (the granddaughter that had lived with my great grandmother) would be making the burial trip. He and his wife dressed for a funeral and drove nearly 300 miles and waited outside the cemetery gates until my great uncle, great aunt, and their daughter arrived, dressed in jeans and T-shirts (my grandmother had decided at the last minute not to come, and my uncle later said he was glad that she didn't have to witness my great grandmother's unceremonious burial). They dug a shallow hole in the plot of my other great uncle who had died and been cremated about five years earlier (he had taken Great Grandma's plot, so they decided that, instead of buying a new plot, the two of them could just share one - they also engraved the headstone with both of their names, because up to this point, his grave had been unmarked, because they were waiting for her to die, too). They had brought my great grandma's ashes to be buried in a shoe box. 

Once the grave was dug, my mother's cousin literally dropped the shoe box into it from a standing position. At this point, my uncle could no longer contain his shock and disgust, and knelt down in the dirt to try to place the box squarely into the grave, because it had fallen crooked and some of the ashes had spilled out. I've seen goldfish who have had a more distinguished burial!

To top it all off, this same great aunt recently sent my mother an e-mail that alluded to the fact that she thinks it's unfair that relations between her and my grandmother have been strained since this incident occurred five years ago. My mother and I were appalled that she might think for one minute that we would be on her side in this situation, after the disrespect that she showed to the memory and the remains of my poor great grandmother! She wrote, "I have always tried my best to do right by your grandmother and your mother, but some people in this family won't be happy until I lie down in the street and offer myself up as a human sacrifice". I told my mother that I was tempted to write back and tell my great aunt that if she were to lie down in the street and be run over by a car, it would indeed make me very happy, and that I would be glad to arrange a nice "burial at sea" for her in my bathroom! Funeral0712-03

This is a story about a funeral and the sister-in-law-from-hell. Five years ago my widowed father-in-law died unexpectedly. My husband’s sister called and relayed this sad news by playing a bizarre version of Twenty Questions -- requiring me to "Guess Who Died?" Stunned, we packed our bags and then, just as we were leaving for the airport for the trip to New Jersey, the sister's husband called and bellowed, "The first thing we’re gonna do is sell that house!" Not only was this not his decision to make, it was far from the uppermost thought in our minds.

After a 1500-mile journey we arrived at the home of my husband’s aunt, where we would be staying. "Trish" and her husband had arrived earlier in the day (they lived in another state) and she had already decided "who, what, when, where and why". We tried to take part in the arrangements but she belligerently countered any and all suggestions we made: "I already KNOW what I WANT!" She even insisted that we have only flower arrangements of her choosing! In some demented way she felt that, like her wedding, this was "her" special day and she intended to make the most of it. I don’t have room to relate everything she said and did but it went on for ten long days. At the funeral home she sashayed around like a haughty prima donna as she inspected caskets and made all the other decisions involved in a funeral.

Over our objections and the objection of the funeral director (who told her it was most unusual) she decided that there would be only one limo and that only the "real" family would ride in it to the cemetery. (The "real family" apparently being comprised of "Trish", my husband and her father’s 4 siblings. She eliminated all spouses, some of whom had been in the family for more than 50 years and certainly never realized they weren't "real" family.) After she had forced this issue she sidled over to me, smirking, leaned down and whispered that she bet I felt like smoking a cigarette about now! I could not believe what I was hearing.

Since we weren’t aware of anything we had done that might have set her off, we thought she was simply derailed by grief and asked her husband to please try to reason with her but he said there wasn't anything he could do about it ­ he said that she NEVER compromised; she simply did not care what anyone else wanted and she would make everyone even more miserable until she got her way. He then told us that she had been this way from the day they married; she could not get along with anyone, and that he was in the process of trying to divorce her!! He said that she was in the midst of menopause, refused to consider any type of hormonal treatment and was seeing a psychiatrist who had recommended she take Prozac.

We had seen the sister only a few times during our twenty year marriage but we knew that for many years she had been taking "self help" courses of various types. Obviously she thought she had learned something new and we were now playing by two different sets of rules. When we attempted to ferret out what the real problem was she began another game -- "Guess Why I’m Mad!" At one point, she actually put her fingers in her ears and told my husband that it didn’t matter what he said, she would not listen to him and would not agree with anything he said. (This woman was over fifty years old!)

We realized that we had only two choices. We could argue with her and join in this insane, childish behavior or we could just acquiesce and get away as soon as possible. Obviously, we opted to get away as soon as we could. We were there for a funeral ­ definitely not a time for inflamed egos, hatefulness and argument.

When any other family member was around she adopted a façade of "the good sister" but when we were alone together she insulted me with snide remarks about my hair (I was dressed and ready to leave for the services when she asked if I would like her to "do something about that hair") my clothing (inferring that I looked "old" and "dowdy") even the state in which we live (You’re not in Kansas now). And I didn’t even KNOW this woman. She considered the funeral her last opportunity for "payback" of all the accumulated grudges she had nurtured over the years. After the fiasco of the limo episode, she hatefully refused a cousin's offer to arrange the dinner following the funeral because this cousin had "insulted her" twenty years earlier and had to be paid back. (The cousin’s insult consisted of mention of the fact that "Trish" never kept in touch unless she needed something.) Naturally, she did not consult us and we were extremely embarrassed when we found out about it. Then that evening, at the wake, she insisted at the last minute that my husband make the dinner arrangements.

We were closeted in a tiny room, frantically making phone calls for more than an hour trying to arrange the meal, unable to visit with friends and relatives who had come to pay their respects. When we told her how we felt about this, she giggled (yes, she really did!) and chucked my husband under the chin!! She said that she, however, felt like she was "the Belle of the Ball". Her husband told crude racial jokes, which the sister found hilarious, and they both made rude, insulting comments to us about all members of both their families ­ aunts, grandmothers, cousins -- nobody was exempt!

My husband wanted to rent the house out for a brief time while we decided what to do with the furnishings etc. She absolutely refused to consider this and said she would force us to sell. When the time came to divide the household she was amazing in her greed! She laughed and said that prior to her father’s death she had already "taken what she wanted" of the china, glassware etc. She then swooped down like a vulture on everything else of value. (This wasn’t that surprising because a few months earlier she had coerced her father into putting her name on his checking account.) We had decided that the best way to divide things was to put things into categories and then the two siblings would take turns choosing what they wanted. She went around the house and picked out what she wanted and ‘reserved’ it for herself before the choosing even began!

One incident did bring some enlightenment. There were about a dozen unopened bottles of liquor in the liquor cabinet and we wanted to leave them with one of the nearby aunts. This sent the brother-in-law into a real hissy fit -- he had them earmarked for one of his buddies so they could throw a party before they left for home!! That’s when we discovered that he had fallen off the A.A. wagon (a 20 year member) and had been drinking for the past 5 years. We also learned that he had stashed brandy in a closet and had been drinking since they had arrived for the funeral! According to him the sister (who pretended to be a tee-totaler) joined him in this tippling, which might explain at least part of what was going on.

Each day "Trish" and her husband spent hours visiting with friends on the telephone and driving around to see various people while my husband and I did all the yard work ­ mowing, trimming shrubs, etc., and all the house cleaning. We had arranged a day for a moving van to come and that morning we were packed and ready to leave. We had told Trish several days in advance when we would be leaving but after the movers left she sat in the middle of the living room floor, surrounded by her unpacked items and whining that we were "running out on her". We didn’t even bother to point out that she might have better spent her time packing instead of visiting.

We left and drove to the aunt’s house to say our good-byes and while we were there "Trish" called and put her husband on the line. He told my husband that he would "deal with him" after the estate was settled. This was their parting shot. For ten days they had made our lives a living hell; they had been crude, boorish, selfish, greedy and barely human and now they were threatening my husband, who had just buried his father! We both breathed a deep sigh of relief when we crossed the New Jersey border on our way back home. Upon arriving home we found a message on the voice mail: "Trish" wanted to argue with my husband because he was executor of the estate and she wanted to do this. She also said she hoped that her relationship with my husband wouldn’t be harmed by HER HUSBAND’S actions at the funeral!!

Like a couple of idiots, still hoping to avoid a permanent rift in the family, we wrote to her explaining how we felt about everything that had happened. When she received our letter she called, offered no apology, told my husband that she knew I would never speak to her again, but that she didn’t intend to discuss it. She said that "it’s just the way it is and you’ll have to live with it." Incredibly, after all this she then tried to play upon my husband’s sympathies, saying that he was all she had left now that both their parents were dead and her husband was divorcing her!! We haven’t spoken to her for five years. Funeral0723-03

I'm not sure if this is family hell or funeral hell here, but I'll post it in funeral. My mom passed away in May, after being in a coma-like state for about a week. The coma was due to complication from surgery, which resulted from her being a diabetic for the past 20 years. During this week, my sister and I had both taken time off work to be with our mom. Many of our friends and family had also come to help us out during this time, bringing us lunch, checking our mail, just doing little things to help us out. And we were grateful to have the help, don't get me wrong. But after a few days, you get a little squirrelly after seeing so much of your family.

Fast forward to the night of Mom's funeral. It's about 10:00 or so when Mom's funeral ends, and all my sister, dad, and I want to do is go home and go to sleep. We needed it because Mom's burial was to be the next morning. I get to my home and I find about half a dozen of my aunts, uncles, and cousins waiting on me when I get there. By that point, I had had it. I was tired, I was cranky, and basically didn't want to deal with them. Could they not have had any respect for me, to just let me go home and sleep? I mean, come on, I had just got home from my mom's funeral. I didn't want to deal with my extended family. Lovely people that they were, I guess they thought they were helping.

I let them all in and announced, "I'm tired and I'm going to bed. You all can stay as long as you wish. I only ask that you clean up whatever mess you make and lock the door when you leave." I went to my room, shut the door, changed clothes, and was asleep in 15 minutes. Funeral0729-03

I used to work in a busy flower shop and we often had to press the high school and college kids we hired as sales help to other duties. One of these duties was writing out the cards that were to go with the arrangements. One day I received two very irate phone calls, one from a customer whose wedding arrangement was accompanied by a card that said "In deepest sympathy" and the other from a widow whose funeral arrangement came with a card saying "Congratulations and enjoy your new life." Oops!

The other funeral flowers from hell was an embarrassingly large, showy arrangement that was to bear a red ribbon with gold letters, "From Sarkasian Grocery Company, your neighborhood discount food store". The customer was missing no opportunity to drum up some business! Funeral0730-03

Page Last Updated May 15, 2007