Funeral Etiquette/Feeling Stupid
Dear Cousin Butchie,
I have never been to a funeral home before, so I got all nervous when I went to see my friend's mother laid out for viewing. It's a stupid custom anyway, but that's not the reason for the letter. I always have a warped sense of humor, so when something is overwhelming, I make a joke about it. So I went up to the casket and was very surprised to see how beautiful Amy's mother looked. There were tons of flowers (and I am allergic to all of them) and lots of people standing in small groups talking and even laughing. So I saw that I was supposed to say something to Amy. There were three people ahead of me, and I started thinking of what to say. When I was right on the spot, I hugged Amy and said that if her mother had known how beautiful she looked she probably would have died sooner. She thanked me for coming and I went and sat down. My conscience was telling me I had said the wrong thing.
Two weeks later, I called Amy and we went to see a movie. In the car she gave me a tee-shirt which simply said "I AM STUPID.' We both laughed and I went to the ladies' room at the theater to put it on.
Do you think this was meant to be a payback or an insult for what I said two weeks earlier? I hope you will put my mind at ease.
FIRST OF ALL.... thank you for being the first lesbian I can ever recall sending me a question. You are a pioneer, Bette!
Your reaction at Amy's mother's wake was awkward, but I happen to believe that there needs to be some levity at times like this. However when you don't know what to say, it's probably best to give a hug and say "I'm sorry." It's a situation in which body language can be used when you can't find the right words. A very simple "I love you" also works.
You may not be aware of some of the things people say at times like this. Here are some examples, and my reaction to them:
"God needed her more than you do!"-Bullshitski
"Only the good die so young."-How stupid! Mom was 94 years old!
"She wanted to be with your father." OMG! They hardly spoke to each other except to fight.
"God never gives us more than we can handle." That is so ignorant. You know she was an atheist!
It was a good idea to invite Amy to the movies with you. Sometimes people tell the bereaved to call them if they can do anything... and it never happens. Better to make a specific invitation. You aced it on this one!
As for the tee-shirt... I think that Amy has a good sense of humor, and she wanted to bust your chops (chopettes). It would have been a good time to tell her how dumb you felt about what you said. I am almost totally certain she now finds it amusing and the tee-shirt was a way to break the ice for a discussion.