May 20, 2011 in Features

Money-grabbing obits serve only the greedy

Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS – I began reading obituaries when I was a child, partly out of general curiosity and partly because I love good stories, and an obituary is often the only time in someone’s life when his or her story is publicly posted.

In recent years, I have noticed a rather disquieting trend in which family members request that memorial contributions be directed to them (sometimes specifically to college accounts of offspring) rather than to public charities, perhaps related to the cause of the beloved’s demise or to charities especially favored by the deceased.

When my mother died of lung cancer nearly three decades ago, we didn’t have much, but it never occurred to any of us to recommend that any memorial contributions be sent to us. Some of our friends responded by contributing (with our heartfelt approval and thanks) to the American Cancer Society.

I’m not talking about struggling young families who cannot afford a proper funeral for tragically lost children without the community’s help, either. Is this a sign that life insurance coverage isn’t what it used to be, or is society simply getting more selfish?

GENTLE READER – Another Gentle Reader has justly complained that a huge number of the questions Miss Manners answers involve people trying to extract money from their friends or people who feel pressured by those who are doing so – and that the answer is always the same: Stop it.

Yes, because Miss Manners considers unbridled greed to be the chief modern etiquette problem. Here is yet another example of using all occasions – every birthday, graduation, new domicile, engagement, wedding, anniversary, birth, and now death – as an opportunity to fundraise from relatives, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues.

She will stop hammering away at this when luxury-oriented begging, if not extortion, is no longer a common social practice.

DEAR MISS MANNERS – A relative of mine sent me a link to a web page containing what looks like an invitation to the wedding of another relative. I am nonplussed, because this web page says things like, “thank you for participating in our wedding,” and “all are invited to our rehearsal dinner at such-and-such on the evening before.”

The bride, a CLOSER relative than the one who sent me this link, has NOT told me or my wife that we are requested or invited, yet this is the second time a relative has told us about this wedding.

They DO know that we are financially challenged and it would be a considerable expense for us to travel to the wedding thousands of miles away, yet we STILL have received no word from the bride herself for whom I am a very close relative. How on earth should I/we respond to such an indirect invitation?

GENTLE READER – Why, you must get out your best writing paper and respond immediately in the third person, thanking them for the kind invitation.

Only you didn’t get one. So Miss Manners didn’t mean it. She just enjoyed thinking of the flummoxed look the bride would have when she received such a thing.

You needn’t respond at all, as you have not been invited. But in the interest of family harmony, you might write to say that you saw her web page, at the suggestion of other relatives, and wish her well. This may prompt a question about whether you will be attending, which would indicate that she included you in the “all” who were invited.


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