Q. The mother of a friend of mine died and his aunt has hijacked the funeral. She made all the funeral plans on her own. Afterwards she called and told him when and where to show up for the services. The mother had earmarked money to pay for a funeral, so there is no cost to either party. But my friend feels so angry at being left out of all the decisions that he talks about not wanting to attend the funeral. Why would someone hurt him this way at such a sad time? I’m trying to…Continue
Added by Florence Isaacs on January 3, 2013 at 3:21pm — No Comments
Q. I don’t understand why anyone would want to be cremated, but it seems like more and more people insist on it, including my own father. Why has it become so popular?
I’m on your side. The very thought of cremation gives me the shivers. It’s so final—no chance of coming back. (I know. I know.) Others, however, feel differently. Their worst nightmare is…
Q. I’m going to a graveside funeral for the first time. Can you tell me what’s involved and why families choose this type of service, rather than a regular funeral at a church or funeral home? Is there any special etiquette I should know about?
A graveside funeral, which is also known as “direct burial,” is held at the site of the deceased’s grave in the cemetery. …
Added by Florence Isaacs on October 25, 2012 at 11:00am — No Comments
Q. Is it okay to tell a funny story in a eulogy? I would like to do so at my cousin’s funeral, but I wonder whether people might be offended. What do you think? Are there rules to follow?
A funeral is no time for stand-up comedy. But humor leavened with compassion does have a place on this occasion. The goal is not to entertain, but to share meaning and capture the person your cousin was—in a way likely to elicit chuckles or wistful smiles from those assembled…
Q. When is it a “must” to attend a funeral or a wake, viewing or visitation? I’m confused about how close you have to be to the people involved, and what is and isn’t appropriate.
I’ve recently received a number of queries on this subject. The questions range from “Is this occasion only for relatives and very close friends? I’d like to attend, but is it okay for a casual friend to show up?” to “I’d rather not attend. Can I make a donation to a charity or send…
Q. One of my business partners just died, and I’d like to run an In Memoriam ad in the newspaper and an industry trade magazine. What is a suitable In Memoriam message? I’ve never written one before.
Few of us have. Yet there are occasions in business or professional life when an In Memoriam ad or notice is appropriate to acknowledge the death of a principal, employee, colleague, customer or client, supplier or consultant and honor his/her memory in…
Q. I am thinking of sending a condolence message to a neighbor I knew decades ago. I just heard that her father passed away last November. If I had known at that time, I would have attended his funeral even though it would have involved a very long car trip to another state. I do have fond memories of this man, who was a kind and caring person. When I knew him I was a teenager and on the school debating team. He was a big fan and cut out articles from the local paper any time…Continue
Added by Florence Isaacs on June 21, 2012 at 1:15pm — No Comments
Q. My aunt died suddenly and was buried in a plot she purchased years ago. Because she had no children, I am now in charge of buying a cemetery stone. What’s the best way to do this and how should I proceed?
Begin by calling the cemetery to find out its rules for markers, headstones, and other options. Size, shape, design, and other requirements vary widely.
You can buy the stone from a monument retailer and ask friends, neighbors, or relatives for…
Added by Florence Isaacs on May 29, 2012 at 9:00am — No Comments
Q. My father, who is frail and elderly, wants his body donated to science when he dies. Does that mean there’s no funeral or memorial service? Why do people want to do this?
A. Those who make this choice usually wish to benefit society. The decision is sometimes difficult for survivors to accept, but it’s a matter of carrying out the loved one’s wishes. We hear less about whole body donations than about donations of body parts, but cadavers play a critical role in…
Q. I’m thinking about inviting an old friend, whose mother recently died, to lunch. I haven’t seen this friend in a while and didn’t attend the funeral. Is this an appropriate thing to do? What should I say when I call? This friend often complained about her mother, who was very cold and critical of her.
Yes it is appropriate to invite the bereaved to lunch or dinner (or coffee, for that matter) a few weeks or more after the funeral. By then the calls of…Continue
Q. Why do so many people refuse to prepare funeral and end-of-life instructions while they’re well, instead of saddling next of kin with all the decisions? It’s not morbid to discuss funeral arrangements and end-of-life care.
Before you take the step of planning for your own death, you have to accept the fact you’re going to die—and you don’t know when. Those are very disturbing thoughts, and there’s a tendency to deny or banish them. Your own…Continue
Q. I work for a small company, and it is up to me to notify employees that a coworker just died. Customers and suppliers who worked closely with him must be told, as well. Is it okay to inform people via email? What should I say? Do I have to include funeral details?
In large organizations, managers, supervisors, or department heads usually inform employees or associates of the death and follow specific guidelines from Human Resources. Spreading the word…Continue
Q. I’ve been asked to be a pallbearer at a funeral. What exactly is a pallbearer supposed to do? How many are there? And do I have to say yes? Frankly, I’ve only seen pallbearers in movies or on TV.
Pallbearers carry or accompany the casket at a funeral. They are friends, relatives, professional or business associates of the deceased—or sometimes members of the religious congregation. Pallbearers who do not actually carry the coffin are called “honorary…Continue
Q. The father of an acquaintance of mine just died at 98 years of age, and I’m uneasy about what to write in a condolence note. Nobody lives forever. The man had dementia for years. Is there something I can say besides “I’m sorry” in this situation?
People are living much longer these days, and obituary pages are filled with notices for people who died in their nineties or even beyond. I just saw a notice for someone who died at 104. In this case, you…Continue
Q. My cousin just died, leaving his family high and dry. Money management wasn’t one of his talents, and he left no insurance. His wife is disabled, and their son is unemployed. Funeral expenses will more than wipe out what little savings there are. I know it’s incredibly tacky, but I think they should request monetary donations instead of flowers from people to help pay the funeral costs. Is there a tactful way to ask for money?
There are times when…Continue
Q. I just heard that the mother of an old friend died several months ago. I haven’t seen or talked to the friend in over a year due to her move to another state and my own busy life. Her mom was very kind to me when I was a teenager and needed all the positive reinforcement I could get. I’d like to send a condolence note, but so much time has passed and I feel embarrassed about losing touch. Should I write or not? What can I…Continue
Q. I’ve been told not to attend my aunt’s funeral, due to a longstanding feud with my side of the family. I had nothing to do with it, and my aunt was always very kind to me. I’m very upset that I can’t say goodbye to her at the funeral home. Should I attend anyway and just sit in the back? Can they keep me out?
A. A funeral is a way to honor the deceased and grieve in the company of family members and friends. It’s a healing experience and an…Continue
Q. A dear cousin of mine is dying of colon cancer and I’m going to visit him. I want to see him, but I’m also nervous about it. I don’t know what I should talk about. What do you suggest?
A. This situation has become more and more common—and complex—due to medical advances. One issue involves your definition of “dying.” It used to mean days/weeks/a few months to live. Today, the person may have a terminal illness that allows him to function in life (at…Continue
Q. I’m thinking about running an In Memoriam ad in the newspaper as the fifth anniversary of my daughter’s death approaches. Is it appropriate to do this so long after she died? How do I place the ad and how much does it cost? What should I say?
A. An In Memoriam ad is appropriate on the anniversary of a loved one’s death or birthday. For example, I recently saw an In Memoriam, placed by a son, on what would have been his late father’s 100th…Continue
Q. My brother-in-law wants to be cremated after he dies and have his ashes shot into space. I laugh when he mentions it, but he’s serious. Do people really do this?
You’d be surprised. The man who invented Pringles potato chips wanted his ashes buried in a Pringles can. Ashes can be scattered in space—or in the great blue yonder from airplanes and balloons—and even in fireworks.
Some people prefer a body of water, as in…Continue