D ear Amy: My mother passed away recently, and my sisters and I are planning her “celebration of life” gathering.
Mom was a loving and generous woman with seven siblings. The one surviving sister hadn’t spoken to Mom in over 20 years. She says mean, destructive things to all her nieces and nephews and their children. She has caused so much hurt that I have been asked to send her a note telling her not to attend.
What should I say? “You haven’t spoken to my mother in over 20 years — not to mention your malicious, judgmental ways. So why would you want to come to her funeral?”
Please help me find the words.
— Hurting Daughter
Dear Hurting: I am so sorry for your loss. This extra family challenge doesn’t make things easier. The way you’ve worded your note to your aunt, however, frames it as a (rhetorical) question. Questions, of course, beg to be answered. Because you don’t want an answer, you shouldn’t ask.
You can choose not to inform your aunt of the memorial service and hope she doesn’t find out about it. Or if she already knows, you can contact her to say, “We are mourning our mother’s death. Because of the estrangement between the two of you and your often expressed negative feelings toward the rest of the family, we think it would be best if you didn’t attend the service.”
Prepare yourself as well as you can that she might see this as a challenge. If she shows up, accept it. But if she gets out of hand, ask a friend, spouse or the funeral director to firmly and politely escort her to her car.
Dear Amy: Recently I met a group of retired women for breakfast at a casual restaurant. One of the women brought her toddler granddaughter. During the meal she let the girl sit on her lap and eat her scrambled egg and pancake off the table. The waitress offered her a dish or clean paper place mat but she refused, saying the girl gets enough germs on her own.
I was disgusted thinking of all the “ugly” germs on the table, but I didn’t say a word. Would I have been overreacting if I had said something?
— Lost Appetite
Dear Lost: I agree with you that this is gross and unappetizing. The grandmother could/should have made a different choice – if only for the sake of the other diners.
But in terms of the “germ” issue, I think there is minimal risk to the child.
Dear Amy: The letter from “Wife/Caregiver in Limbo” hit me like a ton of bricks. My wife of 29 years has advanced dementia. We got the bad news last April and my wife has been in assisted living since then.
I have been seeing a fabulous woman occasionally since last August. She knows my wife and the situation. My wife is still relatively cognizant, but I see signs all the time that she is failing. She is only 59 years old.
I have to admit there was much guilt about this new relationship at first. As time has gone on, though, that guilt is going away. Even my mother-in-law has told me I have to get on with my life.
I just wanted you to know that there are more of us who appreciate your answer to her question.
My credo, like Barry Petersen’s, has been “Don’t judge until you walk a mile in my shoes.” This is such a heartbreaking ordeal to go through.
I would not wish this on my worst enemy.
— Sad Husband
Dear Husband: It is hard to imagine anything more heartbreaking than enduring this long goodbye. Whatever your romantic situation, I hope you will continue to express your love and loyalty to your wife in every way you can, for as long as you can.
Dear Amy: In your answer to “Mourning Mom” you described the “enormity” of her sense of loss.
This is a misuse of the word. Enormity is used to describe something heinous or atrocious — such as a war crime.
— Wordly Wise
Dear Wise: Several readers corrected me here. Thank you all.