Monday, January 24, 2011

Nothing is certain but death and taxes

Hello Dear Readers,

I’m sorry about the delay between postings, the last two weeks have been very hectic in my personal life. School started again, and I lost my Grandmother, Mickey, to a long battle with cancer.  Under these circumstances, I hope that you’ll forgive me for my absence, and understand why I needed to take some time.

While our blog this week will deal with something that isn’t modern, per say, it is necessary. At some point in everyone’s life, we will all have to deal with death, and the  etiquette of the grieving process. 

Death, and dealing with death are difficult. It leaves us with a sense of total helplessness, and with an overwhelming awareness of our own mortality. The mourning process, from a cultural standpoint, is ever changing. Every culture has their own traditions and standards, be respectful of them, even when they are foreign in comparison to your own. Regardless of culture, death necessitates the immediate presence and need for impeccable etiquette.

The first rule when dealing with death, is to establish what your relationship is to the grieving family. If you are not particularly close, then it is appropriate to send a condolence card to the family, flowers/donations to the funeral, and possibly attending the service. Please, use your discretion, and read the obituary, if the obituary specifies family only, etc. it is inappropriate for you to come to the services. Also, if you aren’t significantly tied to the family, or the deceased, do not attend the graveside or entombment service, the family deserves their privacy, and the right to grieve freely.

It is appropriate, and encouraged, to bring over an offering up to one week after the passing of the loved one. Traditionally I try to bring over something hearty, and not overly nostalgic, or sweet. I have a wonderful lasagna recipe, that I make mainly from scratch, and have had wonderful feedback with. Be thoughtful, and think comfort food, Macaroni and Cheese, Meatloaf and Mashed potatoes, Pot Roast, and potatoes in general are a great suggestions. If you’re not a great cuisinier, then bring over a lovely tray of fruits and veggies with a homemade dip, arranged appealingly. Whatever you decide to make, or bring, please, please, remember to make it with love,  and yourself/semi yourself. Your touch, and consideration will help the dish convey the things that words cannot possibly say during this difficult time. Remember, the family already overwhelmed, don’t defeat the purpose of your kind gesture by bringing over something that needs to be thawed, or is complicated to plate and prepare. Also, the reason I suggest no sweets, is because they can trigger memories of happier times, “My wife loved your lemon cake, Mrs. Smith. I wish she were here to enjoy it.” proceeded by uncontrollable sobbing that only makes you feel like the bad guy.

Your gesture of food is not where your obligation ends, especially if you were close. You are expected to, at the very least, send a condolence card. It is suggested that you attend the funeral, and make yourself available to the family. Condolence cards should be white or cream, heavy card stock. I really love Crane & Co stationery for these occasions, it is classic, timeless, and elegant. Keep your sentiments in the card short, and to the point. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” followed by a fond memory of the deceased, closed with a restatement of your condolences, and a statement of availability/solidarity.

Finally, I would like to discuss appropriate funeral attire. I tend to err on the conservative side when it comes to funerals. Unless otherwise specified, black, deep grey, some types of navy, and white are appropriate colors for attire. Not prints, not black and red. Black, deep grey, some navy’s, and white accentry. Personally, I  prefer simple black, it is the safest, and conveys undeniable respect.

Recently, I attended a funeral where we were asked to wear pink, because it was the deceased person’s favorite color. When you have permission to wear color, you may. I chose to incorporate pink with a hair flower, or accessory, not bring it into my ensemble colors. My best advice is to stick with black. Under absolutely no circumstances should you, or anyone else accompanying you, dress in casual wear.  No denim, flip flops, ugg boots, t-shirts, etc (living in the southwest is so much fun, we’re always in resort wear mode, yuck!) It may be helpful for you to purchase a funeral dress/suit. I have one, and while it may sound morbid, it makes my life easier, during difficult times.

A funeral is the celebration of a person’s life, it is also your last opportunity to show your respect for said person. Do not disregard their memory, or life, by showing up as if you’re heading for the beach.

I’ll elaborate, as it is my favorite thing to do. Gentlemen, at the very least, slacks, button down shirt, tie and dress shoes. Suits are always preferred.  I also expect you to appear tidy, and well groomed. Ladies, slacks, blouse, and heels or smart flats, or a modest dress.  Be mindful of your nails, make sure they are well groomed (NO CHIPPED NAIL POLISH!) If you have long hair, consider pulling back, and keep your makeup modest, a classic lip and eye are fine, but no one wants to look at Tammy Faye Baker while trying to grieve. Also ladies, a funeral is not the time to pull out your push up bra and low cut tops.

At recent funerals, I have seen my fair share of distasteful mourners.  More specifically, people who belong to a specific scene/lifestyle.  Most memorably, a Goth person and a Rockabilly person. I have lots of “Rockabilly” friends, but there are some occasions during which you should tone down your lifestyle choices.You will always be you, but don’t have the audacity to pay your last respects to Aunt Nina wearing cherry barrettes in your hair, doing your best Rebel Without a Cause impression. It might not be a popular thing to say, but I assure you, being respectful of the dead and the family, doesn’t make you any less of who you are, you’ll always be a special snowflake, even without doing your best Robert Smith impression.

Next week, my darlings, I promise we will discuss a more cheery topic. In the meantime, please, behave yourselves!

1 comment:

  1. You really do consider everything. I had occasion recently to wish that I owned a go-to funeral outfit. It is absolutely the wrong time to be thinking about what to wear.