Q. My husband’s mother passed away suddenly. She was in her 80s. His father died the previous year. My husband, “Dan,” attended his father’s funeral but chose not to attend his mother’s. He wanted to remember her in his own way. He did not want his final memory of her to be the one in the casket. We live on the West Coast; the funerals were on the East Coast.
His three older sisters are angry and do not speak to him anymore over this. Everyone grieves in their own way. It makes me sad that his sisters are acting like this. They’ve called him every name in the book and dumped a big guilt trip on him. They all live on the East Coast, and we see them infrequently. My husband held his tongue to keep the peace when the girls stuck Mom in a home immediately after Dad died.
Was he wrong to not attend his mother’s funeral? I think that his sisters need to get over this.
A. I have a little history with this subject. When my mother died, some of her friends were mad at me because there was no circus, I mean, funeral. One relative even had the gall to go on television calling the absence of a funeral “a tragedy.” Not only was this not my decision, it was my mother’s, but I can think of no more personal choice than how to deal with death — your own or someone else’s. Dan’s response was useful for him, and I would be supportive. You might suggest he ignore the sisters until they dismount their high horses. And how nice that they live on the other coast.
Dear Readers: Here are a few talk-back letters, something I have steered away from, but now think may have value. Let me know what you think.
Dear Margo: You missed the boat with the mother whose son was freezing her out. She is one of millions of mothers who put their children at the center of their universe and then are shocked when the “child” turns out to be self-centered. She taught him that he deserved nothing but the best, and she would do without so he could have it. He internalized her message and found a materialistic woman. I’m not typically “blame everything on the mother,” but in this case I think it is justified. To value his mother is a lesson she never taught him.
Dear Margo: You neglected one likely element in your response to the dad whose daughter is able-bodied but is being supported and chooses to nap and browse Facebook all day rather than work. She’s probably suffering from depression. I urge people to keep this possibility in mind when critiquing inactivity and apparent laziness. The best support would be to help her find out whether she’s prone to this debilitating condition, which can make simple tasks unbearably difficult, if not overwhelming.
Dear Margo: You had a letter from a woman who was upset that her daughter’s godmother hasn’t been a good friend. Could it be that this woman has too many family celebrations, expecting others to travel too often and obligating them to cough up gifts? The letter writer mentions that her friend had to deal with “her mother’s belongings and difficult family members,” but without a drop of empathy or support for her friend’s challenges. My take is that the woman sounds pretty narcissistic.