1. Sticky situation: Our priest asked I go to a memorial service and reception for a former friend of mine who committed suicide, even though his family is openly hostile towards me. I agree that this is the kind and decent thing to do, and am not only happy to go, I would have at least gone to the service even if she had not said anything.

    How do I graciously show respect towards the bereaved family and friends, both at the memorial service and at the reception without being intrusive? When is a decent and unobtrusive time to leave the reception?

    • Country Girl

      This is a situation where context (which only you will know) will weigh heavily into all parts of your question.

      You certainly may attend the memorial service for your friend, and should if it is what you would like to do. It is kind of you to want to be decent and kind towards the family. “Openly hostile” doesn’t sound too good. If you know that your presence will upset the family, then it is my opinion that if you want to be unobtrusive it would be best to attend the service and forgo the reception. As, of course you know, these events are for the purpose of honoring your friend’s life, avoiding any situations that may cause a shift of focus to any outside drama is the respectful thing to do.

    • Chocobo

      Is this service intimate, where you will be forced to meet or greet the family, or large, where you might disappear in the back of the crowd? If you think you can manage to attend without upsetting anyone, you might be able to go to the service. Stand or sit in the back, and leave quietly following the service. But if the memorial service is to be intimate, small, or the probability of seeing the family up close is high and you know they will not be happy to see you and cause a ruckus, you might consider not going at all, and paying your respects alone later at his grave.

      While I do not know the relationship between you and your friend’s family, now is not the time to open old wounds. They are already bereaved and their sadness might make their anger or hostility worse, and I know that the last thing you would want to do is accidentally cause a scene. Either way, I would skip the reception — the probability of seeing the family, or being greeted by them, is high there. You would be there for your friend, not for his family, and receptions are for the living, anyway.

      If you do plan to go, try to be as respectful as possible — wear appropriate, somber clothing and assume a somber composure, remain quiet, keep your conversations brief and in a low voice. The usual, really, but with even greater care than you usually would. And if you asked to leave, go immediately.

      Perhaps you should ask your priest why she thinks you should be there and give her your concerns about the family’s reaction. Surely she would understand the greater need to preserve the dignity of the wake/reception, and the memory of the deceased.

  2. Jerry

    Tough situation; the answer depends on facts that you haven’t really provided. This is a question I’d address to your priest, who knows relationships and your local culture.

    Funerals exist to comfort the living, including friends. Depending on the level of hostility, you either tell the family that you are very sorry for their loss or stay on the other side of the room and avoid interacting with them. I’d imagine, however, that the grieving family will be too caught up in their own issues to worry about your attendance.

  3. Thanks, all.

    A little more background. The former friend and his wife had cut off our relationship, which is why there is some hostility on their part. I feel none towards them.

    This will probably be a small, intimate memorial service and reception. Our priest made it very clear that I was to show up for the service and to bring something to the reception. She didn’t say whether or not to attend the reception. I am inclined drop off the food, to be invisible during the service, then leave as soon as it is over.

    It’s tricky because our priest considers her parish to be a ‘community/family’ and it is important to her that nobody feels like they have been snubbed.

    Please, keep up the suggestions. They are appreciated!

    • Elizabeth

      M., I think it’s important for you to do what YOU feel is right, not what you are told to do by your priest. It’s lovely that the priest thinks of you all as her flock, to be not only ministered to, but also instructed. However, you know best what happened with this friend, and how much his wife was involved, what words were had, and what the extended family is likely to know. While a memorial service is usually thought of as open to “all comers”, the reception (whose purpose is greeting and providing solace to the family) may not be the appropriate place for you. It is not your job to provide refreshments for the memorial reception of an estranged friend, and I’ll go so far as to say that your priest is overstepping by telling you to bring something. Spiritual leader does not equate to social orchestrator. These things are usually hosted by the family (though your church may have some other custom).

      My advice would be: treat your priest’s instructions as suggestions, and do what you feel would be most appropriate and what would make you the most comfortable.

  4. Toddler Mom

    We just had our toddler’s three year old birthday party. We received a gift (with a receipt) that he already had 2 of in the house prior to the party. I returned the gift (since he already had 2 of the same toy) and had him exchange it for a different toy that he really wanted. At the party, the mom noticed he already had 2 of the same toy, and told me to feel free to return it as the receipt was included with the gift. In writing the thank you note to her, do I thank her for the original gift, or do I thank her for the new gift my son picked out?

    • Country Girl

      Typically in this situation it is advised to simply thank the giver for their thoughtful gift and for their attendance at the party, etc. However in this case as the giver noticed that your son already had the gift and was the one to suggest the exchange, it would be fine for you to add to your note that your son was able to get a toy that he really wanted.

    • Fran

      I would thank her for everything: the original gift; providing you with the gift receipt so that you could make an exchange; and the new gift. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just “Thank you for the X and your thoughtfulness in providing a gift receipt. We exchanged X for Y, which Son had really wanted.”

  5. Nina

    Hi Toddler Mom,

    I certainly agree with Country Girl and Fran in all they say above. I would only add that, in this sort of situation, it’s nice to pay a compliment to the giver’s taste–“Obviously you know what [son] likes extremely well–the toy you selected is one of his favourites!” or some such. I’ve been in this situation a time or two myself, in that friends bought me something I wanted very much, so much that I’d already bought it for myself!


  6. Sarah

    My boyfriend and I have a birthday party in Chicago in a couple of weeks and the plan is to go bar hopping all night via a trolley. The price is $25.00 which includes all you can drink beer and booze and the trolley. I’m not a drinker so would it be rude to email the host and ask her if I could just pay for the trolley?

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