Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Hello:   I was delighted to discover that you had published my submission Funeral0201-03, however, I need to bring another bit of irony to your attention.  The typo in my mother's obituary read Bacelor's Degree, sans the letter "h".  I'm assuming that you ran a spell correction to read as Bachelor's so the point of the story got a little obscured.  Just thought I would bring it to your attention.  Perhaps you could "incorrect" it again?  Thanks.    


A few years ago a friend died in a car accident in the fog. “Mary” was an absolutely delightful soul, a genuinely kind and excellent person. Her funeral was standing room only, as many had loved her. One of her parents was a minister, but for obvious reasons this parent was not presiding over the funeral. For some reason they selected a minister who didn't appear to have actually known Mary. He kept calling her by a form of her name she never used. Anyway, he went on at some length and brought up those she left behind, and used this as an introduction to go into a 15-minute plug for the “Left Behind” novels. I excused myself for a few minutes and when I came back he had segued into using the fog as a metaphor for being lost in sin, disconnected from God, and so on. I'm not a big fan of railing about sin and hell at funerals but tastes vary. 

So he continued with his fog-wandering metaphor and then said “So when Mary SMASHED INTO THAT TREE IN THE FOG it was like…” raised voice and hand gesture included. The entire congregation did that shift-and-mutter an audience does when it's uncomfortable. Everyone was horrified. He actually said this at least two more times (SMASHED into that tree in the fog…) before I got up and left for the remainder of his sermon. I had to haul my best friend out, as she was about to become hysterical.

We were in good company outside. At least 50 other people had fled with us.

This minister was guilty of bad taste to the point of cruelty. Mary deserved better.

On the way to the interment, we were rear-ended by a person who was riding with brakes she knew didn’t work. Just to top off a horrible experience.


I recently saw an obituary which read, in part:   "In lieu of flowers, monetary donations can be made to the deceased's grandchildren."   Then it listed their names.   What were these people thinking?!?!!   Perhaps it was something like:   Gramps died and left the grandkids out of his will.  Send money.



I have a story for the funeral etiquette section. My mom's family is not the most well-mannered family you'd ever come across, but the way they behaved during my grandmother's illness and, ultimately, funeral, beats all I have ever seen. My grandmother had many health problems in the last few years, multiple hospital stays, etc. Finally, she had a stroke and was in the hospital in a coma on life support. 

Now, my grandmother had made her wishes very clear to EVERYONE that she did not wish to be left on life support. Unfortunately, she didn't have any legal document to that effect (I believe they're called living wills?) so her 4 daughters (my mom and 3 aunts) had the final say on that decision. My mom and one aunt wanted to take her off, but the other two didn't, so she stayed on life support against her will. Now, I understand those are tough times for family members, and they just wanted to keep her with them (even against her wishes), but it gets worse. These two are finally convinced after a while to take her off the support, and she eventually passes. 

Well, while she was in the hospital (for over two weeks), my three aunts live at the hospital, leaving only to bathe once a day. My mom, however, just got a new job and couldn't get that much time off (one of my aunts doesn't work and the other two had their jobs for years, so got extended leave). Plus, I have a (then) 13-year-old sister who couldn't be left alone (my youngest cousin was 15 with a driver's license). Therefore, she came to the hospital after work and left in the evening to go home. My aunts blatantly told my mom she was wrong for not living at the hospital. They also didn't like the fact that I left after a week to go back to college (in my major, I would have had to sit out for a year if I dropped out that semester, like one of my cousins did in order to stay there). 

SO, at the funeral, we're walking up the aisle in the church to sit down, and my COUSIN is sitting in my mom's seat on the front row! Drive to the cemetery, said cousin gets there first, and again takes my mom's seat! My mom confronted this cousin's mother (her sister) about this and my aunt actually defended her daughter's actions, saying that she felt that since she had been at the hospital (and my mom hadn't) that she felt she deserved to sit on the front row. They also insinuated that because of my mother's past actions (she had done some pretty bad things) that my cousin deserved to be there more than her. Now, I believe that it doesn't matter what my mother had done in the past, the funeral was about my GRANDMOTHER, not my mother, and my grandmother would have wanted all her daughters on the front row. It's been around 10 months since the funeral, and they still don't think they've done anything wrong. Everyone I have told this story to has been horrified, and I still believe they were wrong.


This story still shocks me. A dear aunt of mine died after dealing with health problems for many years. I was unable to attend her funeral, but in a way it was fortunate because I was spared the boorish, insensitive behavior of some of those that did attend and whose only reason for coming, it seems, was to loot.   According to my mother, certain people immediately went about ransacking through her belongings without permission or regard for her surviving husband's or family's wishes.   

They took family pictures (one of which was the only known copy of her and her husband together taken many years ago). They also helped themselves to several items of great sentimental value, such as gifts that had been given to my aunt by her brothers and sisters throughout the years. One item in particular was an antique fruit bowl that my aunt had specifically wanted to go a sister, who had given it as a gift to her years ago. It disappeared.     

My mother was appalled, but was unable to stop the vultures because she was too involved in dealing with the rest of her distraught family. She suspects, based on the character and reputations of some of these people, that many of the items were actually resold for a profit at antique sales!     

Instead of allowing the immediate family and my uncle to have any say if and how my aunt's possessions were to be distributed, these people (including distant in-laws) simply helped themselves without any shame.   As if this behavior wasn't despicable enough, my mother later discovered that even my aunt's garden hadn't escaped unscathed. These ghouls actually had the gall to dig up my aunt's prized flowering bushes and take them as well, leaving my uncle with a garden full of holes!   Some people have no shame or decency.


Story # 1: Funeral Etiquette

My fiancé's beloved grandfather had died, and family and friends were gathered for the funeral mass. During one of the prayers, I heard a cell phone go off in the row behind me. I instinctively glanced behind me to see who the offending phone belonged to. I didn’t recognize the lady taking her good sweet time to dig the phone out of her purse, but there were a lot of people there I didn’t recognize. After 5 rings or so, she finally managed to get the phone turned off. (At least she didn’t answer it, right?) I didn’t think much of it. Sure, it was rude, but people DO forget to turn the things off, so I was willing to forgive. After the mass, I noticed the phone woman talking to my FMIL.  FMIL looked kind of upset, so I went over to see if she was okay. Phone woman was walking away by the time I got there. It turned out that she was a realtor who had appraised Grandpa’s house the year before, and she had chosen THE FUNERAL as the appropriate time to try to get the grieving family to list the house with her agency! All I can say is, it’s a good thing she didn’t decide to follow the family to the burial. I can’t say for sure I’d have been able to keep my temper in check. And no, the family did NOT use her agency to sell the house.


My MIL is rather concerned with appearances, especially weight. She greets my husband with comments such as "You'd be so handsome if you lost weight." She once informed me "Oh, you have a waist again."  But the corker was at her older brother's wake.  Her brother John died following a long battle with cancer. A tall man, he had wasted away during the last months of his illness. My MIL looked into his casket and admiringly whispered to my SIL, "My, look how thin he is!"


Hi Jeanne-- I absolutely love your site. Here's a horror story for you. A few years ago my mother was bedridden and dying of cancer. She was a very private person who tried to maintain her dignity to the end. She had made it clear to my father that she didn't want anyone but him and her nurse seeing her delirious, especially if she started to lose control of bodily functions. 

One night I was helping my father over there at the house. Mom's sister, my aunt Sarah, had decided to fly with her son and his wife a distance of several hundred miles so they could say their last goodbyes to Mom. The problem was that Sarah didn't let my father know they were coming. They just showed up and parked themselves in the living room, expecting hospitality. Sarah demanded to see my mother, who was upstairs in bed having a bad spell, and my father said he needed a little time (to clean Mom up and hopefully get across to her that her sister was here to visit). I got the guests something to drink, but there wasn't much in the house in the way of food because Dad had been getting delivery a lot.

 Sarah complained about what a bad host Dad was, practically ignoring them like this. I offered to take them out to dinner (and get them out of Dad's hair) but Sarah refused to leave. "I haven't seen my sister in so long and I'm not leaving till I see her." Well, Mom hadn't been in much of a condition to travel lately, and Sarah never offered to visit her earlier in her illness. (During all this the son and his wife just sat uncomfortably and kept their mouths shut.)

Finally Dad came down and said that they could go up and see her, but Sarah refused, saying she was too old to climb those stairs-- she insisted that since she had come such a long way, my mother should come down to meet her, and if she couldn't walk downstairs, my father should carry her. Dad, who was pretty calm under the circumstances, informed her that my mother wasn't coming down those stairs again alive, and that that was how Mom wanted it. He offered to carry Sarah up the stairs instead. Sarah was hugely offended by this suggestion and said, "Well, never mind, if I can't see her tonight, then just show us where we'll be sleeping so we can change and go to dinner."

Now Dad was starting to get upset-- Sarah already knew that the one very small guest room in the house was UPSTAIRS, and besides it was currently packed with medical equipment used by the day nurse, and with his wife dying he didn't feel like dealing with houseguests anyway! He didn't say all this, but offered to get them a hotel room nearby. This was the last straw for Aunt Sarah, who, after expressing her high state of insult that they would be shunted off like this, with hotels being so EXPENSIVE around here (hello?! he offered to pay!), took her son and his wife and *flew all the way back home* that very night.

Two days later my mother passed away, and the funeral was the following week. Sarah did not attend, declaring to anyone who would listen that it would be asking too much to have her spend the money to fly up again so soon-- as if it hadn't been her choice. None of her children or grandchildren attended either. Some time later, my father invited everyone from my mom's family to his second wedding, as he was on quite friendly terms with most of them. Aunt Sarah came and seemed to enjoy herself. We later found out she was telling everyone how boorish it was for my father to invite her-- forcing her to spend all that airfare and hotel money (hello? in what way was she forced?)-- especially after he WOULDN'T EVEN LET HER SEE HER DYING SISTER AND MADE HER MISS HER FUNERAL. Nobody really listened, and nobody talks to her anymore except her own descendants, which is sad. Thanks for listening...



I recently lost my big brother at the age of 34.  His death was unexpected, but not entirely unanticipated, but many people, including family members, did not know how bad his health was before he died.  Anyway, after the shock of the funeral wore off and I returned to my home in another state, it really hit me how many people completely ignored the pain and grief of my sister and me.  This was much more true of those in my parents' generation than my brother's, but you would be amazed at the number of people who came up to my sister or me, gave us a hug, and said, "How terrible for your parents."  Yes, it was terrible for my parents, but it was also terrible for us.  Siblings are supposed to buck up and help out with arrangements, get things for the parents and grandparents, and generally pretend that this is not a devastating loss in their lives. 

I was touched by one friend of the family, though -- she had lost her son about 10 years before, and went on to tell me how devastating she knew this was for me and how her daughters were available for me to talk to if I needed them.  It was very, very sweet.

When I returned to work, I was amazed by the number of people who expected me not only to be "over" the death of my big brother only weeks later, but also who asked probing questions about his death and asked why an autopsy wasn't done...!  I had no desire to answer these questions, must less delve into the details about my family [my brother was adopted, but his younger siblings -- my sister and I -- were not.]   A grieving person will go into the details of the death if they wish to, but if they don't seem to want to share, don't press.


Love the website, here's my submission:

A certain family member of mine (I'll refer to her as Gretchen) has always been a little self-righteous and sometimes it's downright hard to figure out what she was thinking, but this one blew me away! But first a little background: her husband passed away a number of years ago and she was absolutely devastated. A short while after, Gretchen's self-righteous nature really began to show and I fell out of touch with her. I found out that she later became involved with (and began living with) the brother of her now deceased husband (the brother was also widowed). This was strange to say the least, but we didn't begrudge her for it because they both were happy.

However, both Gretchen and her new boyfriend (whom I'll call Fred) were getting on in years and it was only a short time before Fred was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. A short time ago, I heard from my mother that Fred had passed away, a real surprise because both of us are directly related to him and neither of us had been invited to the funeral! We didn't even hear about this from Gretchen, it came from another family member after the funeral. But that's not the clincher...apparently, Fred had been in the hospital for about a week before he died and Gretchen never bothered to contact his children to say that their father was dying! It wasn't until after he passed away that she called to inform them of the funeral. As I understand it, the funeral was rather awkward because his children were understandably upset that they didn't get to say goodbye to their father.


A couple of years ago, my husband’s grandmother passed away after a long illness and the death of her husband a few months earlier.  The couple had both grown up and lived in the same small town their whole lives, and were respected and well-loved members of the community.  My husband, his brother, and their male step-cousins and step-cousins’ husbands/boyfriends (basically, all the men of their generation in the family, all in their mid-to-late twenties) were asked to be pallbearers.  

It was a warm July day, but my husband put on his best dark suit without a second thought.  One of the pallbearers, my husband’s uncle’s stepson (not a grandchild of the deceased), was not at the church when everyone else had gathered.  I was a little worried that he might not show, and was trying to figure out a suitable replacement just in case.  Well, he did show up in time for the funeral, but when I saw him I was speechless.  He was wearing denim shorts and a t-shirt for the state’s pro hockey team.  To be a PALLBEARER in an elderly woman’s funeral?  

I understand that in this small Midwestern town (several hours away from where my husband and I live) people may not dress quite as formally as they would in a city, and may not have money for a suit, but the other men were at least wearing slacks and a shirt and tie.  This guy looked like he was on his way to a barbeque.  I think it was incredibly disrespectful to the rest of the family, and my husband was hurt that anyone, much less a family member, would dress that way for his dear grandmother. 



In 1996 I had a foster daughter living with me. Her mother was very sick and known to be dying of cancer. I had spent several excruciating visits at the hospital and the homes of several of her family members while the family bid goodbye to her mother.

At about midnight one night the phone rings. My policy is not to answer the phone that late, but the foster daughter was having a sleepover and one of her friends picked up the phone. It is the older half-brother. The mother had died previously that week, and the funeral is scheduled for tomorrow at 10:00.

That day was one week after the girl's 17th birthday, which had NOT been acknowledged by her family. She had planned to celebrate by doing what teens are first allowed to do when they turn 17: donate blood. We both had appointments for the following day.

I told her it was her choice. I would certainly take her to the funeral, if she chose. We could reschedule the appointments. Blood, after all, is needed just as much on Tuesdays as on Saturdays. She said that her family hadn't bothered to tell her of her mother's death, that the funeral notice was obviously an afterthought, and finished with the quote, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." Classy kid.


Years ago, my roommate died after being hit by a drunk driver. She was young and a had a few male friends. One of them, whom we hadn't seen it probably six months, called and asked me for her bed.  I told him we had already given it to our third roommate.  He told me he wanted it for "sentimental reason". Needless to say, I was so disgusted I couldn't say anything else.


I know you hear it all the time, but I LOVE your site! I spend hours reading stories when I should be sleeping :-D 

I recently attended the funeral of my great-uncle. Once the gravesite service was done, the Reverend announced that the church, which my great-uncle had attended very regularly, was kindly holding a small reception with food and drinks for the family and friends of my uncle. As I was comforting one of my great-aunts and waiting for the crowd behind us to clear out enough for us to make our way to our cars, I heard two of the mourners (a couple who had frequently driven my great-uncle and his wife to family functions, since neither of them could drive themselves - they were well-compensated for doing it, as well) discussing whether or not to go to the reception. The deciding factor was, and I quote, "Hey, it's free food" and a small shrug. Now I don't know whether I'm simply being nit-picky or overly sensitive, but that managed to strike me as disrespectful.



My grandfather died in April 2003. His family is at opposite ends of a big Midwestern state, and I live on the East Coast, so I attended the memorial service. I had only been to Catholic funerals before (this will become important later), so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

At the funeral home, we were greeted by energetic Gospel music (unexpected, but not rude). The man seated at the organ was loudly chatting on his cell phone.

The last speaker during the “Family Reflections” portion was Granddad’s brother. “Great Uncle Bert” is a very successful preacher in the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church, which is often called the African American church. As “Great Uncle Bert” went on about how Granddad “loved his people,” he paused, then said, “You know, we have to keep our churches going.” Huh? He continued with “When White folks didn’t want us in our churches, they were stronger. I have no patience for Black folks sitting up in White folks’ churches!”

As far as I know, Granddad was not religious. Grandma, my aunts and uncles, and the rest of the family is Roman Catholic. Maybe he didn’t know about Black Catholic churches, maybe he didn’t care. But he had this ex-Catholic seeing red.



My step-uncle passed away suddenly a few years ago. It was pretty devastating to the family as he dropped dead of a heart attack in front of my two cousins who were then in the early teens. Needless to say it was shocking. 

The incident in question happened at the viewing. My cousin's friend attended the funeral. "Jake" was in his mid teens then. He's a big boy, so he looked a lot older for his age. So the whole family is mingling (my dad's side of the family is rather large) and he comes up and starts hitting on me! Hello! This is a funeral, not a pick up bar, besides the fact that he's much younger than I am. I politely turn him down. 

After the viewing we go to get our jackets and he says to me "I know why you have such a negative attitude towards men." "Oh really, why?" I answer. "I used to council girls who've been raped." My jaw hit the ground. I've known this guy for 10 minutes tops and now he thinks that I've been raped because I won't go out with him? Luckily we were out of earshot from my family members and I told him off. So he skulks off with his tail between his legs and starts hitting on one of my cousins! Long story short they are now married (shotgun wedding) with 4 kids. This jerk STILL tries to hit on me at family functions in front of his my cousin/wife and even had the nerve once to grab in inappropriately. When that happened I threatened his male-hood.


My grandfather passed away several years ago.  The whole family was distraught, of course, but my grandmother was inconsolable.  They had been married 51 years...since she was 18 years old, and he was her life. 

My grandparents' neighbor was a pushy, controlling woman, but she was sometimes very helpful to my grandparents.  My mother and this neighbor did not get along because my mom felt she was pushy, obnoxious, and they had had many arguments about what was best for my grandparents (my mom's parents).  My mother used to be invited to functions at the neighbor's house until they started disagreeing about my grandparents so this only made my mom dislike the neighbor more. 

The day of the viewing arrives, and the neighbor lady goes into overdrive in the controlling department.  She starts dictating to the family who they will ride with, etc.  The family is so upset they just kind of go along with her suggestions. 

The next day is the funeral, and neighbor lady is still in overdrive and controlling.  The original plan was to borrow a friend's mini van so all the family members could ride to the cemetery together (no one had a car that would hold everyone in the immediate family).  Of course, the neighbor lady wouldn't hear of it.  Probably because it wasn't her idea.  Neighbor lady takes my grandma, my grandfather's sister, and her husband in her car.  My parents and I ride in another car, and everyone else takes their own car.  My mother is fit to be tied.  She's already very emotional, worried about my grandmother's emotional state, and just wants to be near her mom. 

Neighbor lady gets lost on the way to the cemetery.  She thought she knew how to get there (she knows everything of course), but she didn't.  She's asking my emotionally distraught grandma for directions, and of course Grandma is of little help.  Just a side note:  Grandma has lived in this town most of her life, but in recent years has developed trouble finding her way around.  They stop at a bar and get directions, and we are on our way.  My mother is madder than a hen at this point.  If she could have gotten to neighbor lady at that moment, I think we would have had another funeral.  My mother knew where the cemetery was, but followed neighbor lady who was leading the procession (of course) to prevent them from getting lost permanently.  The rest of the way to the cemetery, my mom is complaining that if we'd all gone in the mini van she could have given directions, and everything would be fine. 

            We go back to my grandparents' house after the funeral for the wake.  Here's the best part!  My grandfather had become estranged from his brother several years before my grandpa died.  It really was up to my grandpa's brother to apologize, but being too proud and an alcoholic, he never did.  My grandfather died before his brother could make peace.  Much to everyone's surprise, my grandpa's brother came to the funeral.  He actually arrived at the house the morning of the funeral, and spent some time with the family (many whom he had not spoken to since the falling out with my grandpa).  My grandma was the most surprised, but she gave him credit for coming to pay his respects.  She figured that having to live with not making peace with his brother before he died was punishment enough.     

Well, at the wake, neighbor lady gets grandpa's brother and one of his sisters alone in the garage.  She reads grandpa's brother the riot act about how he should have made peace with his brother, and how awful he was to have treated his brother and family like he had!  First of all it was none of her business, not her place to tell him off, and she wasn't supposed to know about the falling out!  My grandma had confided to her in confidence!  Then his sister starts in on him.  After that he was mad so he left without really even saying goodbye to the family he had just started trying to reconcile with!  He still won't speak to my grandma to this day.  



This is my personal etiquette faux pas story!  I didn't intend for this to happen, but in an effort to lighten the mood after my grandmother died, I committed the following faux pas:

My grandmother (my dad's mom) passed away.  Since she lived in Florida, only my dad could afford to travel for the funeral.  He returned home a week later with some of her personal belongings that were to be given to me, my mom, and my other grandma.  We were sitting on the couch going through some of her costume jewelry.  We were talking about grandma, and where some of the jewelry had originated from (gifts from us, etc.).  I found a pin that was in the shape of a banjo.  It was pretty detailed, and even had little strings that could be strummed although it didn't make any sound. 

So I decide I'm going to act like I'm playing the banjo.  I know that Roy Clark is a legendary banjo player, and that my family likes his music.  So I start "playing" this "banjo" and start singing the first Roy Clark song that came to mind...ready for this?  The song was "Thank God & Greyhound"!  One of the lines in the song (and the one I opened with) is "Thank God and Greyhound she's gone!"  Once I realized what I was singing, I immediately stopped and made some stuttered remark about how it was the first Roy Clark song I could think of, and didn't realize the inappropriateness until too late.  My family laughed it off, but I'm sure they thought I had poor taste at that moment.  Why couldn't I have remembered the theme from "Hee-Haw"?  I felt like a donkey after that scene!      


My boyfriend's grandmother, who lived outside of Boston, passed away and we flew up from Georgia to attend the wake and funeral. First, as the funeral procession drove from the funeral home to the cemetery, I couldn't believe it when others cars merged into the very short procession! They couldn't wait until all FOUR cars in the procession passed. Nope. HAD to get where they were going, even if it showed a complete lack of respect for the dead.

When we got to the cemetery, where there was to be a graveside service, there was one row of chairs set up. Here's how the seating arrangement went: BF's uncle (grandmother's son), BF, BF's dad (grandmother's other son), BF's dad's girlfriend, BF's dad's girlfriend's daughter, BF's dad's girlfriend's daughter's husband, then me. I wasn't able to sit with my BF at HIS grandmother's service because of people who A) hadn't even ever met the deceased and B) weren't related to her nor in relationships with anyone who was.

As an aside, it was in early December in Massachusetts and was rather chilly outside (luckily, no snow and warmer than usual, but still cold) and, being the native Southerner that I am, I was FREEZING. In addition to giving comfort to my BF, I could have really used his body heat! After the service, my teeth were chattering and I was seeking out spots in the sunshine. My boyfriend teased me, "You know you're the only one who's cold?"



At my grandfather's funeral, my eldest cousin, who hadn't bothered to visit my grandparents in several years, slung his arm around my sister, and in the midst of the family, proclaimed, "You know we were the favorites because you were the youngest and I was the oldest." 

Now my grandparents were always very particular about NOT playing favorites among their grandkids. Though another cousin and I had always been particularly close to our grandparents, no one of us would ever dare suggest that we were loved or favored over the others. My sister gracious and stunned, performed a nonchalant but politely neutral reply. The beauty of the moment was doubled edged. In the process of doing this, my tactless cousin slighted both his parents and youngest sister. She'd been adopted some years earlier into the family -- when my sister was a teenager.


My grandmother died very suddenly, after a routine surgery that went wrong. She was a very kind woman and all of her children were very grief-stricken, and struggled to organize an appropriate funeral for her.

One of her daughters (my aunt) was dating "Rude Rick" at the time. The rest of her siblings didn't care much for him -- he was a heavy smoker, alcoholic and thought it appropriate to flirt with her friends and family members -- but most people were too polite to say anything about his behavior... until this funeral.

My grandmother was a simple woman who asked for very little, and her only wish for her funeral was that no photographs be taken -- not of the flowers, her, or anyone or anything else. Her children thought it was a very simple request to grant, and wanted to be able to do this for their beloved mother. They relayed this wish to other family members and friends who were unaware of it, and everyone cooperated. Everyone, that is, except Rude Rick. He was well aware of the request, but he reasoned that in his family it is appropriate to take photos of those who've passed away -- so why couldn't he take photos of his girlfriend's mother? Somehow, he managed to sneak some photos of her lying in the casket, without the family knowing. Then he showed some of his family members those photos. When word leaked out that he had taken pictures, my grandmother's sons, including my father, asked Rude Rick to give them the photos (they planned to destroy them). Rude Rick refused to give them away, but he told them he would consider exchanging them for cash. My father ended up PAYING Rude Rick for the photos and negatives, just so he could destroy them and try to honor his mother's wish.



My cousin, an only child, was married to an appalling woman with whom he had two children. He contracted advanced stage Hodgkin's disease in his early thirties. After two years of battling cancer, he was hospitalized with pneumonia, which for someone in his condition, was life-threatening. One night, his wife was summoned to his bedside because he was gravely ill. She asked her neighbors to accompany her to the hospital while my aunt stayed with the children at their home. The next morning my aunt got a phone call from the undertaker asking about the "arrangements". That was the way she found out that her only son had died.



I found out from Mutual Friend that my neighbor's father had died. I knew that "Anne" and her father were not close and in fact hadn't spoken to each other for years. Anne's father was very wealthy and remarried a woman with three children. Anne hated her stepmother and stepsiblings. I called to express my sympathy and was shocked by the conversation. She was irate because her father had left more money to his eldest step-daughter than Anne. Anne was to receive the same amount as the other two step-children. And even more insulting to Anne was the fact that all of their inheritance is held in a trust, with the interest going to support her stepmother until she died. Anne is outraged because women in her family "die young" and she will probably never see any of this money. Anne does add that at least she and her brother and sister are being given a sizable (six figure) amount right now, so at least she's not "getting totally sc#%wed".

Let's see, you have a strained relationship with your father. You don't speak to him or visit him in the nursing home (her sister would relay information to Anne of their father's condition) yet you expect to be showered with money upon his passing? Inheritance is not an entitlement!

That weekend I go to breakfast with some friends/neighbors (which includes Anne) and we're listening to her go on and on about how she has been wronged when someone asks where "Adam" (her live-in boyfriend) is. I knew, through Mutual Friend, that Adam had been planning for weeks to go to "the cabin" with a group of guys. (Bear in mind that Adam is rarely "allowed" to do anything without Anne. I was really surprised that she was "letting" him be gone the entire weekend!) Anne tells us her inconsiderate boyfriend abandoned her, in this, her time of grief. Now, I never heard Anne say she was sad about her father's passing or wished they could have reconciled. In fact, she said that she was GLAD she didn't visit him in the nursing home or waste money flying home for the funeral. I think Anne needed the kind of consoling only a hefty check could provide.

A couple of weeks later I talked to Anne again. She informed me that she had hired a lawyer and was contesting the will. She doesn't expect to get any more money from the estate, but she knows it will enrage her stepmother.


  I love this site so much. Before the loss of my husband 2 years ago,  I took some of the  stories with a grain of salt. It was hard to believe people could be so clueless in their words and deeds. Now, I'll believe anything.

  My husband and I had been married for 16 years. We had 2 daughters aged 13 and 15. My husband's death was completely unexpected. I, literally, went to sleep a wife and woke up a widow. At  the very first, shock seems to switch off the emotions but leaves the mind clear. Later, things go a bit hazy.

I did what had to be done. My children had to be comforted. I had to arrange for a minister to break the news to my MIL. She lived on the opposite side of the country.  I didn't want her to be alone when she found out her son was gone. Of course, there were several other calls to be made. Then, the family started to arrive.

One of the first relatives to arrive was my BIL, my sister's husband. He hugged me and said he was sorry. Having done what he felt was his duty, his next words were, ''Have you decided what to do with Tom's car?'' My husband had been dead less than 5 hours! His only other remark was to ask if my husband kept his tools in the garage!

Then things got a little hazier and family and friends were everywhere. It was hard to keep track of everything. One ''friend'' took the opportunity to go through our papers. I found out weeks later,  when she asked how I was going to pay our bills and quoted the amounts! I sometimes wonder, if God grants us shock to prevent needless bloodshed in times of trouble.

One of the worst incidents took place 8 months later. We have a neighbor who has taken being a busybody to legendary heights. I go to great lengths to avoid her. Unfortunately, every now and then she corners me. Once, after grilling me with questions about my income and job plans, she came out with- ''So, are you ready to find yourself a new man?'' I was stunned! She made it sound like buying a car.

I don't want to give anyone a wrong impression. For every thoughtless, insensitive incident, there were a hundred acts and words of support and comfort. It would be wrong not to acknowledge,  there are many people who do get it right. I am so grateful to them.

I was blessed to have someone near me, who had lived through bereavement. She gave me so much understanding and good advice. The day before I returned to work, she warned me to ''get ready for the U-turns.'' My reaction amounted to ''Huh??'' She said, I would notice that people would see me coming and suddenly veer off in another direction. It wasn't personal at all. They just panicked when they tried to think of what to say. I was amused when I had 3 U-turns on my first day back at work. Later,  these people found a way to come up to me and  offered their condolences.

So many people do have problems thinking up what to say. It really isn't complicated. ''I'm sorry'' and ''Let me know how I can help.'' are both good. For that matter, a hug and a ''Are you and the kids ok?'' said in a caring way, was pretty wonderful too. Really, all that matters is to let the bereaved know you care. Well, that and keep your hands out of her desk and your mind off her possessions.


About five years ago my mother unexpectedly died of a heart attack.   Needless to say, it was very shocking and I was utterly devastated.    After the funeral, I returned home exhausted and feeling as though my heart had been ripped out, I laid down to rest and reflect.  Suddenly there was a knock on the door from a next door neighbor.  As I answered the door, still dressed in that horrid black suit with my make-up smeared and eyes puffy from the hours of crying I had endured, my neighbor, Julie, offered her condolences.  I was just thinking of how nice it was of her to come comfort me, until she really showed her true colors by then asking me to feed her cat while she and her family were on vacation.  They were literally pulling out of the driveway honking for her while we were talking.  Obviously this lady (if I can call her that) has no idea what frame of mind one is in at the time of losing a loved one.  What a loser!



My mother and I were estranged for over 6 years before she died, and her death, although not completely unexpected given her lifestyle, was sudden - she was found dead in her apartment by the building caretaker. My younger sister lives in another province; she had her son drive her here, and she and I had to arrange our mother's memorial service (she had never wanted a traditional "funeral" and had always said she wanted immediate cremation, which we had done as soon as the medical examiner released her body). Her only sibling, our aunt, also traveled here for the service. 

I am fondly known in the family as "the faucet", because I cry at the drop of a hat - and when I'm angry, or exhausted, or happy - you get the idea. The fact that my relationship with my mother had been so very dysfunctional also contributed to some very heavy grieving. I was quite a wreck all that week - and at the memorial, I couldn't stop sobbing. Our aunt chose that time to go into a snit over some never-explained slight she felt she had been subjected to by my sister. 

To top it all off, my long-term boyfriend had just been through an emotionally traumatizing incident at his workplace, so he was not able to even be with me at the memorial, but he did come to the nearby Legion, where the after-memorial "coffee" was being held. 

On entering the function room at the Legion, one of my aunts from my dad's side (note- my parents split up when I was under 5, and my mother was never in contact with her ex-husband's family, although as adults we girls spent family reunions and holiday get-togethers with them) rushed up to me, and before I could thank her for coming, she thrust a piece of paper at me and said, " Here's my phone number and the name of a good friend of mine who's in your hospital (I am a nurse-manager at the largest hospital in our city). I need you to find out everything you can about her condition and her chances of recovery, because I am so worried about her." Yeah, thanks so much for your expression of sympathy, Auntie Dear!


Just noted this story about the uncle who took pictures of the body in the casket, casket and flowers at the funeral, etc.

While I do NOT approve of his taking pictures of the grieving family, I did want to point out that there may be some extenuating circumstances. When my grandmother died, my grandfather (who was terminally ill with cancer) specifically asked for pictures of her in her casket. After his death we threw them away, but while he lived he seemed to find them somewhat comforting -- I'm guessing it let him feel that she would be waiting for him.

As for the pictures of the headstone, etc., those are often used in genealogy research.

And one very simple story for this category:

My husband's father's father was buried in a little cemetery in Maryland -- but his name was spelled incorrectly on his headstone. Seriously! They spelled his last name "Hendirx", not "Hendrix".


Just a quick one for funeral mother passed away last October and at the funeral the first thing her very proper sister asked me is if there was a will. She wanted to make sure my mother left me half of the house she shared with my father (my aunt does not like him very much). I had no idea how to answer that. All I could say was "no, no will and I'm pretty sure the house was left to my father since he was living in it."


My mother passed away a week ago.  She had been in a nursing home for 6 1/2 years.  She suffered a stroke three weeks ago, followed by another a week later.  She was in hospice care for one week. 

We had a wonderful funeral and burial.  Then we released 86 balloons, one for each year of her life. This was followed by a nice family and friends dinner.

You may ask where is the etiquette problem here.  So, I will tell you.   Immediately following the services in the funeral home, I was having the grandchildren take their floral planters with them so they did not have to return 15 miles to pick them up.  We were very shocked to find the beautiful peace lily picked to go to my daughter had disappeared.  That quick while everyone was there.

My cousin's husband had walked over, picked it up and taken it to their car.  There was not enough flowers to go around. 

I guess this is not near as bad as some, but I am still perturbed about this.  Nothing was said to me about the flowers and I did not get the card which should go into the memorial book.

I guess I just wanted to vent.  Thanks for listening.   Carolyn


My mother had passed away and at her funeral I witnessed the most bizarre behavior by my aunt, her sister.  On the third day of viewing my aunt pulled her mini van up to the side door of the funeral home and started loading the plants and floral arrangements that had been sent by friends and loved ones.  My sisters and I were baffled by this so we quietly went over to ask her what she was doing.  She matter of factly said she wanted them and if she didn't take them now, some mere guest would surely take them home.  This was the day before the actual funeral.  We assured her that she could have them after the funeral was over but to please leave them until then.  No such luck.  She steadfastly continued to load over half the arrangements into her van.  

At the funeral the following day there were many concerned people wondering where their gifts of condolence might be.  They felt badly and wanted to assure us that they had indeed sent them.  We spent a great deal of time explaining the situation to many a shocked face.


I think I may also deserve to be in Funeral EHell for this one, but I will let you decide.   My nephew's wife's mother died unexpectedly last spring.  The day before the funeral, my nephew informed me that he had stolen some of my jewelry to put in the casket with his MIL, as "dragonflies were her 'thing' ".  (This was not the first, nor would it be the last time he stole from me.  Long story.)    

In my defense, I was recovering from an awful virus, a fact which may have affected my judgment.  I didn't go off on him like I wanted to, but I did tell him I wanted the ring back.  (He had taken a ring which had been a gift from my husband and a bracelet that I'd made myself.) I informed him that I would have given him the bracelet had he only asked, or I could have made a nicer, more appropriate piece for her. (The pieces were not used as jewelry for her, but rather just laid upon her chest like an afterthought.)   

That evening I attended the viewing with my mother, and I was already regretting my demand.  Not seeing any way to back out of it (and still wanting my ring back) I just hoped that my nephew would be tactful in retrieving it.  It could have been worse, but he did find it necessary to tell his wife what was going on.  She was already under a great deal of stress, being very young and dealing with her two children, the unexpected death of her mother, and handling all the arrangements herself.  I wish my nephew would have kept the thievery and recovery of the goods between us, rather than burdening his wife with more drama.   In the end, I did get my ring back, and now my nephew and his wife are going through a divorce.             Funerals0507-04

My mother recently passed away after a long struggle with emphysema.  My husband gave his teenage son, who lives with his mother, the news right away.  My stepson was very saddened by the loss of his "Grandma" that he'd known and loved for over 10 years and wanted to attend the funeral.  My husband purchased him a flight and called him to give him all the details.  My stepson then sadly informed my husband that his mother would not let him come to the funeral. 



About a year ago, my great aunt F* died. After her funeral, the family gathered at her house (full of expensive antiques) for food, etc.  Now, my great aunt was a widow before she died, and had only one son, R*. R* is mentally challenged, though he can drive and almost live on his own.  There was a lot of controversy over who was going to get what of aunt F*'s belongings.  So, during the gathering at her former home, people decided to go ahead and load up into their cars what they thought was owed to them.  R*, by the way, inherited everything legally except some land which was given only to my dad and his cousin.  

So, these family members actually stole from  mentally challenged R*!  To top it off, once some of the family found out my dad inherited some land (because he actually treated F* kindly) they began calling him saying that they deserved some of it too....and how he ought to split it up.  The nerves of these people!  I know these people are my family, but I'm ashamed of them. 



My daughter was living 200 miles away from home and needed to be in town here for the funeral but found it necessary to return home right after the service. She was 17 at the time and was dressed very well. Problem? Well, some people were flabbergasted. Her hair was a very VERY pink. It was her grandfather's funeral and she knew he would just laugh and get a kick outta the whole deal. No one he was there will remember her name, but she'll forever be a funeral giggle...and that's just grandpa would like it!!!



About a year and a half ago, my mother passed away very suddenly.  I had had no warning besides a phone call from her a week before her death where she complained of headaches.  She died in a hospital ICU the day after she had been admitted. 

My stepsister (let's call her Evillyn) was present at the hospital.  From that point onward, she took on everything.  She and my mother had not been close before.  As a matter of fact, Evillyn had on a couple occasions sent nasty letters disowning both my mother and her father. 

At the funeral home, I found a beautiful poem that I thought was fitting.  My stepbrother agreed.  Evillyn did not care for it, and substituted another.  Evillyn told me to write the obituary, and then did not like how I worded it.  She glared at me and yelled at me for saying that I was my mother's only daughter.  She then added herself, the other stepsiblings, their children, and the dog and cat.  She went into hysterics about how my mother was an angel from heaven and insisted that line be added. My stepfather had to pay for all of that and they charged per word. 

She picked out the casket after deciding she hated all of my choices.  She told me to pick out what my mother would wear at the viewing, and then decided she hated it all and went out to buy an outfit for her to wear. 

The worst part was when she began digging through all of my mother's things and found her credit cards and charge cards to various stores.  She launched into a tirade about how greedy my mother was and how she was spending all of Evillyn's father's money.  So much for my mother being an angel!  All of this right in front of me.  I was so mortified that night that I just left and never offered to help with anything else. 

On the day of the funeral, I was bemused to see that my staunchly protestant mother had a rosary entwined in her hand as she lay in the casket. 

If my stepfather passes away, I am staying far, far away from his funeral.  


My grandmother on my father’s side recently passed away. When I say my father, I really mean my stepfather, who has been with my mother since I was 6. I look to him as my dad, and after this experience with his other mongrel children from another marriage at my grandmother’s funeral, he’s more proud of me then he’d ever been… possibly because I turned out to be the good one, and I’m not even blood.

First, let me start off by describing his four other biological children (children is an under statement word, these are adults much older then myself). There’s “M”, who showed up at the funeral in jeans, a punk top, PURPLE HAIR, and face piercings. Next up the chain, there’s “R”, who came with his wife, “P”, in sweat-pants and oversized sweaters (more adventure with “P” later). Next, we have “S”, who grew up to be a breeder living off the system and popping out kids faster then you can shake a stick for the income (who was also sporting the most delightful and classy sweat-pants and tee-shirt with baby stains). And last but certainly not least, his eldest, “A”, who honestly isn’t as bad as the rest, though did drop out of University twice. Other then that he’s doing pretty well.

My fiancé accompanied me to my grandmother’s funeral, as I had never dealt with a death before and was really emotionally shaken. He wore his beautiful CF’s (he’s in the military), complete with medals and all to show his respect to my father, who was also in his own CF’s for the funeral. I think this meant more to him then he’ll ever really let on. I can’t believe that his other offspring showed up in sweats and dirty clothes! They’re not poor, he sends their ungrateful butts money all the time. So disrespectful!

A few hours later, we’re all sitting in my grandfather’s house, and we’re told that we can take one thing right now, anything we want, to remind us of our grandmother. For once I see that perhaps these creatures have some type of inner feeling, even though they don’t express it on the outside. I took a home-made knitted dog that my grandmother had made years ago when I was little, that I used to sleep with when I went to visit them. “A” suggested that my grandfather pick something out for him because he thought it would have more meaning if it was given just to him from her. “S” took some knitted blankets for her kids. “M” wanted something similar to what I took, which was a knitted rabbit my grandmother had made that was her favorite when she went to visit. Unfortunately, “R” turned his vote over to “P”, who demanded the knitted rabbit from “M”!

“P”’s a rabbit freak (I mean, she has the ashes of her two cremated pet rabbits on her night stands), and she started with the whole “Grandpa said before the funeral I could have it!” This woman is in her late 20’s! Well, “M” was heartbroken, because it’s all she wanted, and had to fight like hell to get it. It didn’t even belong to “P”, it belonged to “M”.

When she just won’t let it be, it got too much for my father, who began to cry. My mother saw this, and went ape-sh*t on “P”! Saying how childish she was being and how much it’s hurting her father-in-law to see that all she cares about is the stupid stuffed rabbit on this day, etc. etc. After exchanging incredibly crude language to each other, “P” ordered “R” to pack, as they were just going to leave. But before they left, she went into my grandmother’s jewelry box, and took our family ring! It was all the children’s birthstones on it (yes, including mine), and my father’s and his brother’s. 7 precious and expensive stones in all. So that’s what she chose to take if she couldn’t have the rabbit. How awful is that?? She’s not even immediate family. She’s so greedy, I finally couldn’t hold my tongue and backed my mother up outside, away from the other guests, not to upset my father more. We haven’t heard from her since then.



Miss Jeanne,   My father in law passed away recently and my husband and I attended the visitation and funeral.  I was taught growing up that it is appropriate to wear a dark color to the funeral and that 'Sunday Best' was the rule.  Apparently, no one ever told my husband's extended family these rules of thumb. 

One cousin thought that a Tim McGraw concert t-shirt was appropriate funeral attire (he had worn a different t-shirt to the visitation the evening before).  His wife was in spandex pants and a t-shirt.

I think my favorite though was Betty.  I was introduced to her at the visitation and noticed a necklace with some writing on it.  The word started with the letter B and at first I thought it said Betty.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that it said, "B***H!!!!  I was stunned!  I actually choked on my coffee!  I thought there was no way she would wear that necklace to the conservative Baptist church service we were having the next day...I thought wrong.  It was her accessory of choice for the funeral service as well.  Did I mention she is in her 30's - old enough to know better!

I am still shaking my head over that one!     


My Uncle John died very suddenly and funeral arrangements were made.  I come from a very large family of 10 children.  6 girls and 4 boys.  3 of my sisters (Pamela, Priscilla and Alison) and I attended the funeral together.  My sisters and I sat in one row, and all of our husbands sat behind us.  

The details of the arrangements were not clear to all of us.  My sister Priscilla and I were told that our Uncle was being cremated, while my sisters Pam and Alison were told he was going to be buried.  When the funeral procession began, the priest walked to the alter, followed by the casket and immediate family.  My sister, Priscilla was seated at the far end of the pew next to my sister, Pam.  Priscilla (thinking Uncle John was being cremated) saw the casket and was confused.  She leaned over the Pam and said "Wait a minute....I don't get it".  My sister, Pam, not knowing anything about cremation arrangements, thought my sister was referring to the incense being spread by the priest, which is traditional Catholic ceremony.  

My sister Pam leaned back over to Priscilla and said "I NEVER get it!".  At this, my sister Priscilla began to giggle, which started Pam into a giggling fit.  Now, mind you, my sister Alison and I never heard the conversation between Pam and Priscilla, but we knew something was said because we could feel the pew moving with their laughter.  The next thing I knew, Alison let out a tiny giggle.  I looked at her as sternly as I could and said "Do not, under any circumstances, look at them.  Don't start!".  

It was too late.  Alison's giggling was soon out of control.  Well...I couldn't help it.  I started in too.  The four of us were sitting there laughing our fool heads off at the funeral of our Uncle and nothing could get us to stop.  Every time we tried, we failed.  We only hoped that people would see us and think we were crying instead of laughing.  Our husbands, on the other hand, didn't see anything amusing about the situation and all of us were thoroughly tongue lashed after the services.  It was was so very wrong...but to this day, when my sisters and I get together, we still laugh about it!


Page Last Updated May 15, 2007