Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Funeral Etiquette

2001 Archive
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My younger sister and I are the only kids and when our Dad died after a long illness at 82 it was not a shock although sad.  Our mother at 80 was not really up to funeral arrangements but still " in charge", so the day after his death we started making the plans.  Mom insisted on shopping for a funeral home.  I suggested the oldest and most trusted in the community, but after visiting 3 including that one, we ended up there.  I felt like maybe I was taking charge of too much and ask my sister to get her minister and find someone to do the music.  Boy, I wish I would have taken more control!  The minister was a hip young dude who had a real strange and watered down message, but the kicker was the music.  Two young folks stood up wearing jeans and with their guitars began to sing, Turn, Turn, Turn, by the Byrds!!!   This is from the book of Ecclesiastes and talks about death and the seasons of life and very "hippie" like.  Our dad was a fun dad, but was a dancer in his younger years and some big band music would have been more appropriate for him.  Also, a pastor who actually talked about death and heaven.  Anyway, when our mom died, I just took charge and it turned out real nice.



September, 2001, and I was working in Asia. On 9/9 I received an email from my mother to say that my father had died unexpectedly. The email was surprising in itself, as my parents divorced more than 25 years ago, lived states apart, and each had formed other Significant Relationships. I called Dad's lady (?) friend and asked what had happened - she said she hadn't called me because nobody had my number. Really?? Last time I had visited Dad he had it written up in indelible ink on the wall by his phone, complete with all the international access codes. She had keys to his apartment. Also, she was busy organizing the wake. !!!!!! Without telling his three grown children, even my brother who was living in the same city??? She had figured 4 days later would be good for her (and her nurse daughter, who was rostered off that day). I asked what about my sister - on the other side of the country - and myself? Did she suppose WE might have some interest in this (all three of us "kids" have remained much closer to Dad than to Mum, but that's a whole lot of other stories) - after all, we have known not only Dad but also most of the friends who would be invited, for many more years than she has. No, it wouldn't be convenient to change the date in case her Maisie couldn't get other time off.

And then there was 9/11. AND the city I was in had its wettest ever recorded typhoon - 6 feet of water through most of the city streets - forget about getting to the airline office to purchase a ticket, let alone to the airport, even if there had been any flights back "home." And she still wouldn't change the date of the wake. It's not even as if it would have messed up a funeral parlor, as Dad had willed his body for medical research, and his mortal remains were already safely with the nominated university.

The other problem I eventually had to sort out through a lawyer was that Dad had willed two rare-edition books specifically to me. One of them I was able to take directly from his shelves (in front of witnesses) when I did finally make it to his apartment. The other one was nowhere to be found ... it turned out that one of lady? friend's daughters had taken it because she thought "it should be in the National Library". If she had been able to read the language of the insert in the flyleaf, she would have seen that a copy HAD already been sent to that library.



About two years ago, my uncle (let's call him John) passed away after a long battle with diabetes. He left behind three sons, two his biological sons, and the other his wife's son from a previous relationship. He adopted this son, and since we didn't feel this was everyone else's business, it was rarely brought up to people outside the family. 

About four days following his death, my aunt decides that since the funeral is out of state, they will hold a visitation hour for family and friends of the family at her home, so those who could not attend the out- of-state funeral can pay their respects. In attendance at the visitation was a loud, obnoxious, meddling woman, whose two daughters were good friends of my oldest cousin (the adopted son) and attended school with him. This woman, we'll call her Jo Anne, busied herself in the corner talking to my mother, and proceeded to ask my mother if perhaps my oldest cousin were not my uncle's biological son, as he had once shown her  oldest daughter (a close friend of the oldest cousin) a picture of himself in an elementary school yearbook in which he had a different last name. My mother discreetly confirmed this. 

As Jo Anne, her husband, and two daughters were leaving the visitation, she stops to hug my eldest cousin. As she is hugging him and telling him goodbye she has the nerve to say," So, John really wasn't your father?" No one else hears her say this except for her husband, daughters, and my cousin, but he later informs his mother and family as to what this woman said to him. I wish I'd heard her say it, as I would have given her a piece of my mind. Seriously, who says things like that, especially 4 days after that person's father has died? 



My grandpa died when I was 11-years-old.  Now I loved my grandpa with all my heart and I truly adored him.  I knew he was very sick and was going to die.  I was somewhat prepared for the inevitable, but was not prepared for the day of his funeral.  To start things off, no one told me he had died until we were on our way to the funeral home.  I was wondering why we were sort of dressed up, but when we picked up my aunt and she was wearing a dress I figured something was up.  My aunt got in the car and I asked her, "Why are you dressed up?"  Of course she gave me the funniest look and told me that you dress up for funerals.  I asked who died.  THAT'S the moment I was told.   

Now we get to the funeral home and I sort of hang out in the back of the room.  Well, actually, mom shows me to a bench, tells me to plant my butt and do not move.  Fine.  The service starts and everything goes just as smooth as can be.  At the end of the service everybody files past the casket to say their final goodbye.  I get halfway up the aisle when I finally see my dead grandpa for the first, and last time.  I instantly begin to freak out.  I was crying so hard I could hardly breathe and kept saying, "I want my grandpa I want my grandpa." I was in such shock that I actually collapsed to the floor.  Because I had only just learned he was dead an hour before.   

So the next thing I know my mother is dragging me by the hair to a back room.  She tosses me in, slams the door behind us, and promptly slaps me so hard across the face I nearly fell to the ground.  She then sneers and tells me to shut the f*** up, I am embarrassing her, stay in here until someone comes and gets you.   And my family to this day still wonders why I refused to go to funerals for YEARS after that.



I would imagine it's a little harder for a bereaved person to enter into Etiquette Hell, mostly because we give them a lot of sympathy and forgiveness, because of the whole "Loss of a loved one" thing. But this managed.

Some years ago, an aunt with Alzheimer's faltered, then suddenly died right after Christmas. The memorial was in record time, but my family still managed to drive down for it, as she was my mother's only sister. After the preacher talked for a bit, the widower got up and spoke about his wife, breaking down in tears and seeming to be truly distraught.

However, once we're at the post-funeral reception, my uncle introduced his mistress to people. Yep, introducing his mistress at the funeral for his wife.

Strangely enough, we don't really talk to him anymore.

-STILL wondering what he was thinking, but not sure I want to know.



While working in the frequent flier miles customer service center of a major airline, I was bound to receive the occasional phone call from someone who's relative had died months before and they are interested in collecting the deceased's unused miles.  One day I received such an inquiry from a woman who said that her husband had died.  I expressed to her my condolences, to which she replied, "Yeah, we're burying him this afternoon."



My only child ,aged 14, was killed in a highly publicized shooting. These incidents happened while I was planning his funeral:

The pastor and youth pastor came to my home 3 days after his death to discuss the funeral. With them came this evangelist that I had never met or seen before. He immediately started to tell me about all the high profile funerals he had officiated for and made it clear he expected to perform my son's eulogy. I told him that since he had never even met my son, he wasn't not going to have any part in his service. I knew he was only there because of the publicity. 

While I was trying to make the arrangements with the pastors, my son's best friend's step-mother came in. Instead of leaving when she realized what we were doing, she sat down and started trying to talk to the youth pastor about her step-son's problems and how he needed help. Every time we started to talk about the funeral, she interrupted. Now I had been dealing with people coming in and out for 3 days, friends, family, media and strangers and trying to cope with the death of my only child whom I loved very much. I admit that I completely lost it. I screamed at her that we were trying to plan my son's funeral and as her step-son was still living, his problems could wait. Then I went through my house screaming obscenities. 

Once my mother found out what happened and calmed me down, I did go back and apologize to the pastors. The step-mother was smart enough to leave. I did go to her home and apologize to her later. 

Just as an FYI, I got so tired of hearing all of the usual platitudes like "He's in a better place, He's with God now, He's is in Heaven". I guess it's a wonder I hadn't lost it before then. My son was only 14 and as far as I was concerned his place was still with me as I wasn't finished raising him.



If someone gets upset by my behavior, I blame them for it .. I am a firm believer in treating others as I would hope to be treated .. when I was seven or eight years old I horrified all the adults by waving furiously at all my friends we passed on the street as we rode in limos to my grandfather's wake .. I still don't see why everyone was suddenly tearful .. if we've lived a good life and been good people we're supposed to go to a better place .. who would want to deprive my beloved grandfather of that!  I felt it was something to celebrate ..  Lucky grand-dad ..



A little background on my mom' s side of the family All the brother and sisters don't get together very often.  This owing to the fact that only three of them live in the state they grew up in everyone else has scattered.  Well on of the few times we get to see anyone is at weddings and funerals.  My grandfather married my grandmother.  First marriage for her second for him.  My grandfather had two kids.  One passed, the other alive and kicking. 

Well ,a few years ago my grandmother passed. My grandfathers son was there and my grandmother always treated him like her own even though by the time my grandparents had married he was living with my grandfather's mother.  I am very close to this uncle and love him to death.   And at the gathering after the funeral I and my older cousin (we were very close for a long time till this event.) went outside. My cousin then (who loves attention for herself and should be thrown somewhere besides her for all the horrible things she has done but I have just recently realized)  accuses my uncle of molesting her while living with him.  No, my uncle is a very sweet man and would never do this.  (My cousin accused my uncle's daughter boyfriend of raping of her when the only time that they were ever together was when my aunt was right there) She likes to focus all the attention on herself and to accuse someone of something that never happened (she later admitted it) at my grandmother's funeral to get attention is just downright wrong. 



One week after I'd had major surgery we learned that the young wife of my husband's friend had died suddenly, leaving two little children and a devastated husband. Because I literally could not walk or take care of myself,  I could not attend the funeral and my husband couldn't leave me by myself. We called right away to speak to "Michael', comfort him and offer our condolences. When it was my turn to speak to him, we had a very good talk and I felt I was able to offer him some comfort and listen to him, etc. As the conversation wound up, I started to express my regret that there wasn't anything we could do to help since we couldn't be there but that they were in our prayers. . .and he interrupted me and said, "People keep asking me what they can do (I hadn't offered, knowing I was incapacitated and would be for some time, as well as broke) and I keep telling them the best thing they can do is contribute to my children's college funds. Let me give you the address. . ."  



With friends like these, who needs enemies? My mother passed away after a nearly two-year battle with differing forms of cancer. She had a friend who I had never cared much for but had been a good friend to both of my parents for a number of years. She herself had recently remarried after losing her first husband to cancer.   On the second day of the visitation, the friend and her new husband show up at the funeral home and introduced me to Mary, who she described as a good friend of my mother's. I thought it was odd as I was close to my mother and could have confidently said that I knew most of my mother's friends, if only by name. Mary didn't sound familiar but nonetheless, my mother had been very active in the community so I didn't think it wholly unreasonable that she would have friends I had not met and/or heard of.   

As it was later revealed, Mary and my mother had met briefly on only a few occasions and the real reason for her presence was to introduce Mary to my father -- who had been a widower for less than 48 hours! Dad: 58, retired, moderately well-off, grief-stricken and from a generation of men who lived with their mothers until their wedding day and with their wives thereafter. Mary: 40, never married or in a long term relationship, caring for her Alzheimer's-stricken mother, a shopaholic, massively in debt ($100,000-plus), in a pitched legal battle with her brother over some questionable expenditures as the power of attorney for their father and never having held a permanent, full-time job.   

Jump ahead seven years: Dad and Mary are living together. My father has paid off her house (and the massive renovations to it), her debts (which she has continued accumulating), bought her a car, paid for a three-week vacation in Bermuda, another in Northern Ontario/Northern Michigan, pays for her mother's nursing home and recently revealed to my brother and I that he is pretty much tapped out, does not love her (and doubts he ever has) but feels completely trapped.   And my parent's "friends"? Dropped off the face of the earth after they announced they thought Mary was a little too needy for them. Thanks using my mother's funeral as a matchmaking service and for unloading your loser friend on the recently widowed! Unbelievable!



On to my story....My beloved grandfather died a few years ago of numerous health problems, one of which was cancer. His death was very hard for our family as he served as a father to us all - my cousin in particular.

The whole family traveled to see him before he died and stayed together in their house with my grandmother while we made preparations for the funeral. The faux pas was committed by my cousins' husband. He was relatively new to the family, but had gotten to know my grandparents fairly well. In the week that we were there, he did not once go the hospital, or anywhere else with the family. The fact that he went to the funeral was a surprise.

He used the entire week to get drunk, cry, and pass out on my grandparents sofa. By the way, my grandparents were fairly religious and were not drinkers. He was apparently overwhelmed with grief, which somehow related to his brother who died 15 YEARS AGO of cancer and was using this week of all times to grieve. My cousin needed his support as she was losing one of the most important people in her life (as we all were!) But all he could do was act like ridiculous and stress everyone out.

The night my grandfather passed (2 hours afterwards), he cornered my dad (my grandfather's son) and drunkenly regaled him with his suffering and sadness over his brother!! My dad just looked at him, let him finish, and went to bed. How he kept from hitting him square in the jaw, I will never know.

He is no longer in my family.



This is short but sour and still has me furious to this day. My sweet little niece died as an infant. All the family is gathered at the funeral home, offering condolences and basically trying to deal with our collective grief. In walks an Aunt, late as usual, loud and overbearing. She crushes everyone with hugs that last too long and you can literally hear people's bodies being smashed in her embrace. Then she says, loudly and to no one in particular, "Well, it's probably best this way. She could've suffered her whole life." 

I think everyone's jaw just dropped to the floor on that one! She had the facts surrounding my nieces' untimely death totally mixed up and assumed she had died from an ailment when actually it was a birth injury and a nurse's negligence that caused the death. Oh, and same Aunt was at the wake, laughing uproariously at her own feeble attempts to crack some stupid jokes. Just a word to those of you out there that may have to deal one day with the passing of a baby. Just say "I'm sorry" or something like that and let it go. And why would ANYONE try to lighten the mood at a wake? Ridiculous at best.



 My father was born into a large family of 11 children.  He never talked about his childhood but apparently it was a bad one.  He simply didn't want me and my sisters to ever know our relatives on his side.  He would only tell us that most of them were sketchy and had spent a lot of time in jail.  And that when he had returned from the Vietnam War that hey had disowned him.  So I never knew any of my relatives.  My parents divorced when I was 10, partly due to my father having a big gambling problem, which he got rid of a few years after the divorce.   

Well, my father died when I was 22 of a heart attack.  I and my husband lived out of state and he had to file for emergency leave because he's in the military.  Two days after my father's death we arrived at my mother's house.  I should note that I have a twin sister who was in grad school at the time and an older sister who is an out of work drug addict who had disowned our entire family.   

The day after my father had died, my twin and older sister had gone to his apartment to go through his things.  My father had died penniless and with few possessions.  My older sister was being grabby, she said that since she was the oldest that she could take everything if she wanted to. My twin said that she just wanted the model of a boat that she had given my dad and my older sister said she was "going to have to fight her for it".  My twin ended up getting the model boat after all and tried to get a Christmas ornament for me that I had given to my dad.  My older sister said that my twin was selfish, as that ornament was her son's favorite toy (what?!), but luckily, my twin insisted and I got it (one of the only things I have left of my dad).  My older sister's husband actually walked out wearing my dad's coat.  My twin has always been passive and I wish I had been there so that I could have had a "talk" with my older sister about all that.   

Well, my twin had called the newspaper and told them that she was going to write my dad's obituary, but apparently my Uncle Allan had already done so.  The obituary even mentioned that my dad was a big gambler, which I thought was inappropriate.  Also, the obituary said that in lieu of flowers, to make a donation to the National Cancer Society.  My uncle Allan hadn't talked to anyone about this and my dad died of a heart attack, not cancer!    

Because my dad was a veteran, the VA handled his funeral at a national cemetery for free.  Yet my greedy older sister went around telling everyone that she was having to pay for the entire funeral and was trying to collect money from family and guests.  My older sister also tried to ban my mother from the funeral, since she didn't get along with her.  My mother came anyway on my insistence and tried to give my older sister a hug, but she just walked away.  

During the procession, my Uncle Allan insisted that his car be first in line, even though it wasn't really appropriate.  Also, at the cemetery, three chairs had been set up for my father's three daughters, his closest kin.  My older sister sat down in one of the chairs and my Uncle Allan and someone else sat down in the others.  My older sister didn't say a word to me, my twin, or my mom the whole time, she was mad at us for not giving her money for the free funeral that she would have used to buy drugs.  It was all very bad, my father deserved a better funeral.    



My grandma died 2 months after my grandpa did. It was a bad summer, so the whole family was pretty raw at the funeral. We soldiered through it though, and Grandma would have been proud. The problem was during the procession to the cemetery - about 5 miles from where the service had been held. Despite the fact that we had several County Sheriff motorcycle cops escorting us, people kept trying to insert themselves into our procession. The worst one, though, happened just short of the cemetery entrance. The road narrowed to 1 lane there, and the driver of a van owned by a nationally known lawn care company tried to get in behind the hearse. My uncle cut him off, so he tried to cut in behind my uncle, but Daddy cut him off. So the driver tried to cut in behind Daddy...and my brother apparently lost his temper and forced the van off the road and into the ditch. (My husband, daughter and I could only laugh about this, knowing that Grandpa, in heaven, was hollering, "Give him hell, kid!" *No* one was ever allowed to disrespect my Grandma around my Grandpa!)

When we got back to my aunt's house after the funeral, my BIL called the local number for the nationally known lawn care service and complained about their driver - he had the number of the van, as well as the plate number - trying to wedge himself into the funeral procession. The dim bulb at the other end of the phone had only one question: "Are you a customer?" BIL was flabbergasted, but rallied enough to answer, "No, I'm not. I never will be. And neither will the other 40 homeowners here."

As a homeowner, I get sales pitches from Nationally Known Lawn Care company frequently. Every time they call, I relay this story to them, and explain that I will *never* contract with their company (nor will the other members of my family). The company rep I'm talking to invariably whines that I'm holding a grudge...and I happily agree. All they had to do was apologize when my BIL called them.



Love your site, but again I must disagree with you. As a funeral director I can tell you that many, if not most parents who have lost babies, carry them during the visitation. It may creep some people out, but a baby belongs in it's mother's arms not lying in a little white shoe-box-of-a-casket. I would not offer the child around, but you would be amazed at the number of people who want to hold the infant. Embalming totally sanitizes the body so there is no harm or risk, and I'd rather do that than kiss a corpse which many people have no problem with. 

Also, you calling it “disrespectful” is just too judgmental. These parents have just had their precious baby die. In grief, anything that helps the loved ones cope is fine. A comparable example is that the Catholic will not allow non-religious hymns to be played in a church funeral. If someone loved Celine Dion and would have like to have it played at their funeral should they not have that right? Well according to Priests THAT is disrespectful, however I bet you will agree that with them.


Anything? Would flinging oneself into the grave hole on top of the casket be acceptable if it helped Aunt Fifi to cope with the death of a loved one?  No, there has to be boundaries to define respectful, civil behavior so that in the midst of high emotions, one is restrained by objective, unemotional rules of behavior.  There is a time and place to grieve and mourn the death, particular a death of a child, saying your good byes.  But once the body is embalmed and prepared for burial, there should be some respect for the deceased.  Handling an infant corpse like it was a doll to be cradled in the arm like a football or passing it around is not an appropriate gesture of respect.  None of us would consider someone crawling into the casket to cuddle the deceased one last time to be an appropriate gesture during a viewing. What you do in the privacy of the funeral home with just yourself and the casket there is another matter.  

As for agreeing with the Catholic church and priests who uphold their church's policies, yes, I agree with them.  If someone doesn't agree, they can change their religion or not have a funeral in that church.  


About three years ago, my SO’s father had a heart attack and was admitted to hospital where he was gravely ill and in ICU for a number of weeks.  My SO was due to go about 600km away on a training exercise for 6 months which was a requirement for his degree.  The night before he was due to leave, the hospital called to say that his father had suffered another heart attack and they weren’t sure if he’d make it.

My SO really struggled with whether or not to go on the training but when the hospital gave the all clear he decided to go as he would have had to re-do a year if he didn’t.  We dropped him off with a bunch of strangers and one hour into our car trip home we got the call that his dad had died.

His Uncle (who was driving) refused to turn the car around, despite our begging and my SO was forced to deal with this devastating news amongst a bunch of people he did not know.

Come the day of the funeral, my SO’s brother’s GF and I had both taken off work and had set up the hall for the reception after the service, and prepared the tea and coffee, everything.  Neither of us had a car at the time, so we were walking 5 to 6km’s between the house and the hall to prepare everything.

My SO was brought back home on the day of the funeral so I got to see him for about 2 minutes before we had to leave for the service.  He was torn up and could barely speak from crying.  All I wanted to do was to be with him, but I was relegated to the back rows because I wasn’t “family”, and couldn’t sit near him.

When we got to the reception after the service, it was obvious that no one had thought about who was going to be serving the tea and coffee so the other GF and I started doing that.  I was wearing black high heel shoes with an appropriate skirt and jacket, and it was boiling hot.  Realizing that everyone was asking for cold drink and cold water, I walked 1.5kms to the shop to buy ice and cold drink (I made this trip 4 times in total).  I was buying 3 or 4kg’s of ice at a time and had to carry it back to the hall.

I was kept away from my SO during this time because he “needed to be with his family”.  Neither I nor the other GF were able to eat the entire day as we were kept too busy, we served, collected and did dishes, ran errands and cleaned the hall all by ourselves that day, didn’t see our other halves at all (and as you can imagine, my heart was breaking for him and all I wanted to do was to be with him).

At the end of this, we were told that we would have to walk home because the entire family was going out to dinner to reminisce and to remember their Dad, and we couldn’t come because we weren’t “family”.  I don’t hold it against my SO as he wasn’t informed of this until I told him much later.

My SO was taken back to his training programme the next day and I never did get a chance to be with him.

To this day, we’ve never received so much as a thank you for organizing everything or for spending money to provide people with refreshments or anything.



My great Uncle Joe passed away last year.  We have a large extended family, many of whom still live in the same small town.  The great Aunts and Uncles attend the local Catholic church regularly, and the resident Priest, who has been there for years, should know them pretty well.  But this Priest is a drunk and a real creep, and never takes any extra time with his parishioners.  During Uncle Joe's funeral mass, he committed two inexcusable faux pas:   

1.  He hardly mentioned a word about who Uncle Joe was as a person.  Uncle Joe was quite a character, and there were hundreds of stories that could have been told.  But Father Creepy only let one or two of the relatives get up and speak, and he was clearly impatient for them to sit down.  The rest of the mass was all Catholic intoning, impersonal and routine.  Not a tribute to Uncle Joe at all.  Personally, I believe that this is because Father Creepy never bothered to get to know him.   

2.  This one is even worse... when Father Creepy was intoning his mass, he said something about "Joe's lovely wife Mary."  This would be fine, except that Uncle Joe's wife's name is not Mary, it's Helen.       



My father died in 2000 - I was 28 and quite devastated because he had been my only parent for 12 years since the equally traumatic death of my mother and I was the only child. I was married with two children at the time and found out he had died after my aunt (dad's younger sister) and I had finally convinced the police in Arizona to do a "welfare check" on him in his winter condo where he lived alone. He wasn't elderly - only 63 - and had suffered a heart attack it would seem.

Breach 1 - I had still been holding out hope that he had felt a wild hair and gone down to Tuscon without telling me or something like that, that he was still alive. My aunt, with whom I've never been close and whom my father described as "psycho" (nice technical terminology for a post-graduate educated counselor but let's move on) called and said, "He's gone. He's dead."

I immediately began screaming "No! No! No!" I did move the phone away from my ear and if it was still too loud she could easily have done the same. Her first words to me when I returned were, "That was totally unnecessary. I think you damaged my eardrum."


She then proceeded to tell everyone the week of the funeral that I was "hysterical" and "beyond the pale" in dealing with my father's death.

The funeral was in my father's hometown in rural South Dakota and the funeral director handled the vagaries of getting him from the mortuary in Arizona, where the hospital was very hot to get him moved, to the one in South Dakota. The funeral director told me that the airplane trip and the quick embalming job on the part of the Arizona morgue had "taken a toll" on my father's appearance.

Say no more. What say we have a closed casket?

At the visitation, I had a collage of family photographs and other memorabilia I thought would be of interest to his extended family and friends, most of whom were lifers in that rural county.

Unfortunately, there were several people who mentioned "I wish I could see him," and while I tried to be polite but vague regarding the reasons for the closed casket, a rumor started that he had shot himself (never did figure that one out) and when my then-husband and I took a break to sit in the chapel, I returned to find two people I didn't even know had lifted the lid to take a peek. I was speechless. I think the positive element that came out of that shocking act was that the gunshot story was quickly squashed.

Later on, another aunt and her then-husband took over in the visitation room while I took a walk in the January snow to get some air. I came back and greeted some people along with my aunt and uncle. A woman came in a squinted at the series of framed snapshot collages I'd placed in the room and said, "I can't believe there aren't any of me."

I politely inquired as to who she was.

"I was his high school girlfriend." This lady was a brown-eyed redhead and the only high school girlfriend I'd known of - and my father loved to tell stories of his youth - was a platinum blonde, blue eyed, Norwegian lass.

Trying to be diplomatic, I said, "My understanding was that he had mostly gone with Lucy (last name omitted) in high school."

She let loose with a tirade of obscenities about Lucy and I never did catch her name but the funeral director and my uncle escorted her out. My aunt went to the same school but said she did not know who the woman was either.

A third aunt, my father's older sister, interrupted my private crying in the bedroom of my father's house in the evening after the midday funeral to say it was time to do thank you notes and I needed to be a little considerate of the "company" and "socialize" with them. I said to give me a moment and I'd be out. She was back three minutes later, turned on the light and said, "Some of us have to get going and we need to do the thank you notes." I said I would take care of them myself on a later date, that they didn't need to stay for it. She brought my large male cousin and physically dragged me out of the room at which point I did walk on my own to the dining room table where six female relatives were seated around the table. I never have understood why, if it had to be done the same day, the six of them couldn't handle about 60 thank yous. Or why I had to send one to my ex-uncle, whose ex wife and daughter were in attendance, who had sent a card with an inspirational bookmark, yes bookmark enclosed.

I could go on quite a bit about the funeral, the auction of my father's things, the burial and his sister's reactions but this has been long enough.

I did take on a lot as Dad's only immediate family that I shouldn't have had to at 28. For all the greed and demandingness, no one helped me with the arrangements, costs (though I did later receive a modest inheritance) or anything.



My brother is well known in my family and hubby's family for no manners whatsoever. He will emit any obnoxious fume from any orifice of his body with nary an "Excuse Me"; I can't believe we were delivered of the same mother.

But this story takes place during the funeral for my mother-in-law who lost her five year battle with cancer this year. We arrived at the church for her services with some time to spare. I found my mother and aunt in the crowd of people waiting outside to get in. I asked if *Tim* had come and Mom said he had already gone inside. Since the church was so small and the crowd so large, my mother and aunt were in the group that was seated in the back room of the church and the service was piped in over loud speakers. This was fine with them and there was no problem.

The family was called to enter the church to be seated in the front pews and as I was going down the aisle I spotted Tim sitting at the end of a pew. He saw me and stopped me to ask where Mom was. I told him she was in the back and proceeded to my seat.

The service was very lovely, very touching, with much crying. My mother-in-law was a very dear lady and she fought very hard the last part of her life. When the family congregated at the house afterwards, I heard hubby's cousin talking about the guy sitting in front of her who fell asleep during the service. She asked if I knew who he was as she had seen me talking to him. MY DUMB A$$ BROTHER FELL ASLEEP DURING MY MOTHER-IN-LAW'S FUNERAL AND WAS ACTUALLY SNORING!!!!! Cousin said she reached up and thumped him on the head to wake him up. He apparently woke up not realizing he'd been thumped but at least he managed to stay awake the rest of the service.

Also, at the grave site, Tim made the comment he imagined my father-in-law would get remarried soon. They had been married 53 years and he was devastated when she died. I said I didn't think he would remarry, but Tim is pretty sure he will and soon.

AAAAARRRRGH!!! Why does my brother never have a CLUE!!!



Recently, my 33-year-old brother committed suicide. As a result, I and my household were in shock, grief, disbelief, and not functioning at a very high level. When my sister-in-law phoned, I told her of the funeral arrangements, and mentioned I'd hire someone to come to my home and clean my floors and bathrooms in advance of the reception. I was so touched when she said, I'll come do that for you. Her offer made me cry. She lives 3 hours away by road. Well, she has an infant and decided not to drive. I was surprised later to hear she was flying in and then renting a car. All told, the travel time was greatly increased by her choice. She arrived, and was the picture of compassion and lent an ear. I was very grateful to have her here, and she cooked a couple of dinners for us. She was unable to follow through on her offer of cleaning my floors and bathrooms, due to looking after her infant. At that point, I'd ceased to care about the state of my home....just needed to get through this sad event. So, the funeral comes and goes. Days later, I receive a copy of her credit car bill in the mail. She billed me for her airline ticket and her rental car, to the tune of nearly $500. Ah, the price of compassion!



In April of last year one of my best friends died. It was tragic for all of her friends, she died four days before her eighteenth birthday, in a car wreck.

Then comes her funeral, planned to allow all of her friends attend. Allow me to give you some background information on the minister that was to speak at her funeral.

He's also an officer for the high school we attend. A very mean man, my friend didn't like him at all (the feeling was mutual), and I can't imagine why her parents decided to let him speak. Still, there was nothing we  could do about it, and we were all still too shocked to voice our opinion.

When the day of the funeral came, we all gathered at the Funeral Home. Before we set out, he decided to say a few words about our dear friend.

Two minutes into it, it became painfully apparent that he didn't know her as a person. He used a form of her name that she absolutely abhorred, and would never use with us. About three minutes into it, he went off into a save-your-soul sermon, considering our group of friends, who are mostly of different religions.

It was completely uncalled for, but I think he got the idea because he quieted down after incessant glaring. This was supposed to be about our friend, not god.   We went to the funeral without any other incidents, his second sermon was much shorter.  



When my best friend (only 35 years old) was dying of cancer she asked me to spend some time with her going over her 'final wishes' with regard to her memorial service. She became very interested in planning how and where this would take place, telling me favorite music she wanted, etc. Although this was a very sad time, and she was leaving behind three young children, she seemed to take great comfort in these discussions and took particular interest in describing to me, in great detail, what flowers she would like in bouquets by the altar. I took careful notes of everything she wanted, double checked it with her and also spoke to her husband about her wishes, which he was grateful to know. 

One thing she felt particularly strongly about was not wanting to be buried, finding the whole idea 'yucky' and preferring cremation with her remains scattered.    During all of this time, her mother, whom she did not get along well with, spoke sharply (if she spoke to me at all) to me about how maudlin this was and how could "I' be thinking about flowers at a time like this and arguing with me about her own daughter's wishes! Obviously I couldn't tell her daughter this and had to bear the brunt of her rage (which I'm sure was just her devastation at her daughter's death but still, I was trying to help and do a job nobody else wanted to do and which my friend needed and appreciated) I did the best I could to calm her and just continued saying that I was only carrying out "Mary's" wishes. 

When the sad day came, I was asked to officiate at the service. I wrote the service and included special prayers Mary and I had chosen that honored her children, her husband and her parents and friends. I read her husband's moving tribute, held a moment of silence and made sure all the music she'd chosen was played. I also spent an hour at the florist making sure the bouquets had the exact flowers Mary had wanted. I was delighted to see how beautiful they were, just what she would have wanted, and heard many people comment on them.   After the service I had many people come up to me and say this was the most moving service they had ever attended, so personal, and it made them think of Mary. During the entire service, Mary's mother sat in the front row, arms crossed, legs crossed, and GLARED at me at my podium for the entire time. She later insisted that 'her' half of Mary's remains be--you guessed it--buried.



My great-grandma died at the age of 94. Her funeral was not so much sad, but a celebration of her life. My family is Catholic so we had a priest at the grave site with us. He was reciting a prayer and used the words "ashes to ashes and dust to dust." My youngest cousin who was just learning to talk started repeating "dusty dust, dusty dust" over and over again. It caused more than a few giggles and my aunt had to take him away. My great grandma loved kids and would have thought that was the best part of the whole thing though!



My mom was in the kind hands of Hospice when she died after a three year battle with Breast Cancer. We had very few relatives other than immediate family - her three grown children, our dad and our own young children.  Since mom was being cremated, in lieu of services at a chapel or funeral home our family decided to have our minister preside over a small reception in my folk's home.  My own co-workers thought it a little strange as did some of my friends, however, mom was eventually to be interned in another state and it seemed impersonal to hold a formal service of any sort. 

Several of the Hospice caregivers were included and a couple of my folk's friends.  This was a small group totaling about less than 15, so we set up chairs in the living room, had an easel with a collage of pictures of my mom, some candles, a vase of three roses representing her children.  We set the vase and candles on a beautiful crocheted runner my mom had made, on the "wood box" next to the fireplace - a chest very similar in appearance to a "Hope Chest" that holds firewood.

We were pleased with the kind words expressed by our minister and my sister read a beautiful poem and that was pretty much it - afterwards we served some refreshments.  My family members kept coming upon hushed conversations and strange looks from the attendees and it was my teen daughter that finally discovered the problem.  Seems the "wood box" - a pine box stained a dark walnut shade, appeared to others to be a coffin and everyone thought mom was in it!  We had not shared the details about mom being cremated or the reasons for our "a-typical" reception and apparently everyone thought we were too cheap to give mom a "real" funeral or a casket and some even thought she was going in the backyard afterwards.

These were otherwise kind people and once we discovered the misunderstanding - we quickly explained and got a good laugh about the whole thing - mom would have loved it.  To this day, our family does a double take when walking by the "wood-box".



I have a comment and a story to share. I work as a funeral director so I have lots of faux pas' that I could share but first I'd like to say that all the experts agree, children should be taken to funerals. (They should be kept on their best behavior) but there is no harm done to a child by telling them the truth about death, and the funeralization process. However, never confuse them with terms like "grandma is sleeping", or "she's gone away." Children know that a bird found dead on the lawn is dead. You can teach them about faith and heaven and all that goes with it, but very young children DO know that their pet hamster is gone forever when the bury it in the back yard. Also they too need to mourn. Funerals are for the living - not the dead, and there is no age barrier for grief Children need to experience the pain of losing a loved one AND the joy of knowing that people are there for them to help, to lend a hand, and to share in their sorrow.

Now for my story. A dear friend of mine, Karen, got married in September to her first love. They "saved themselves for their wedding night, had a huge wedding and lovely honeymoon. Three months later, Tim was killed in car accident. She was widowed at 21. The funeral director that dealt with her in making the funeral arrangements said, "Don't worry, you'll get over it and marry again." Imagine the day her husband dies, some so-called death care industry professional is saying something that stupid. He was right, she did eventually re-marry, but that is not what you need to hear after your world has just collapsed.



My father-in-law recently passed away after many months of illness.  He and my mother-in-law had been married 53 years and he died the day before their 54th anniversary.  It was a very emotional time for everyone and very draining on everyone.

We had a very nice funeral service with the graveside service in a beautiful location overlooking the ocean.  My brother-in-law and his wife graciously had an after the funeral service at their house, which was nearby the burial.  The afternoon went nicely with people telling their favorite story about my father-in-law.  My daughter and I decided it was time to leave for a long drive home, while my husband and son would stay longer.  

As we went to leave, my brother-in-laws wife announced to the crowd that she had some flyers by the front door regarding her daughter's upcoming performance in "Annie" and would everyone please take one.  She even had put an envelope there for cash/checks if you wanted to purchase tickets right there.  Needless to say, I was shocked.  Somehow using a funeral to advertise your daughter's upcoming performance and sell tickets did not seem appropriate at all.  Had I known, I could have perhaps brought a Tupperware catalog or two……or maybe sold Girl Scout cookies as well….



On June l6, 2005, I lost my Mother to Pulmonary Fibrosis, on her 82nd birthday, and on the day before she passed away I finally managed to get in contact with her brother in another state, to let him know that his sister was sinking fast, and it is true that he was headed in our direction when the end came, but he, the uncle, did not get to see my mother until she was lying in the casket at the funeral home during the visitation on the afternoon of June 19 before the funeral the next morning, June 20. 

This brother of my mother has always been a cocky, chesty, outspoken type, a control freak who wants the last word, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances, and my mother's death was no exception---on the evening of June 19, after the visitation was over, my mother's brother thought it necessary to tell me about a job my mother had, before I was born, with a certain local company, and the circumstances under which she left the job.  I'm not convinced that what he was telling me was true, because my mother shared the most intimate details of her life with me through the years, and I told this uncle so, and he became very huffy and defensive in his insistence that this was how things were.

 At this point, I lost it, I told the uncle and his wife and kid, who happened to also be with him, not to show up for the funeral the next day, but to just get out of my life and go home. The wife (aunt) and kid (cousin) are just like the uncle for wanting the last word, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances, and the kid even tried to provoke a fist fight with me after I told them to leave. The uncle, aunt and cousin did not show up for the funeral, but I'm surprised that they didn't, because I really thought they would want the opportunity to mess with me some more. Even if what my uncle told me about my mother was true, it is my feeling that he should just SHUT UP, and let it die when my mother died. 

Nonetheless, these people are regarded by many in the family (mother's relatives) as friendly, outgoing, extroverted types, and I'm sure they went crying to many different people about my kicking them out of my mother's funeral. The uncle, even as much of a dictator as he is, has been known to break down and bawl in certain situations. The uncle is 70 years old, his wife is 64, the kid is 38, and the kid is a psychologist in the southwestern united states---this guy surely makes his patients even worse than they were before they went to him.



My mom had passed away and my sister told me she bought a beautiful arrangement of fake flowers to put in the vase by her grave.  I thought that was really sweet and went a few days later to see it.  I didn't want to say anything to my sister, but the flowers she picked out looked like she had gotten it from the dollar store.  A few days later she mentioned it to me and asked if I liked the flowers.  I said how the red roses were nice.  She said "Red roses?  That's not what I got!"  It turns out that someone actually switched out the flowers she got and put some cheap ones there instead.  Can you say tacky?!


Page Last Updated May 15, 2007