DEAR AMY: My 94-year-old mother passed away in January. She was very specific about her grave marker because she was sensitive about her age. She said she didn't want any dates listed, only her name, and just her name. Since then my siblings have added her death date (because it doesn't give her age) as well as "beloved wife/mother/grandmother/great-grandmother." She loved her kids and her grandchildren but never knew the others and really didn't care much about them. Now they want to add my father's name! (They never had a good marriage), and potentially the names of our parent's direct children, including me. I'm not sure if there's even enough room on the marker. I think my mother would like the attention, but that's not what she said she wanted. She wanted only her name. So if you have any advice about the living (and the dead) and grave markers, I would appreciate it. I know my mother is laughing about this, but I wanted to step up and tell them what she said she wanted. How should I handle this?
Wondering at Graveside
DEAR WONDERING: One important function of gravestones is for historical purposes. The cemetery where your mother is buried will have specific regulations regarding size and type of stone. You'll have to follow them.
Yes, I agree that marking the year of death could end up being very important for future reference. Many families have a larger family memorial stone with the family surname, and individual family members listed, with birth and death years noted. Smaller markers assigned to specific grave plots denote who is buried in that spot — often with only their name (in my family, only first names are used for these markers).
When a marker says, "Beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother..." it is saying the deceased was beloved by her descendants, not the other way around. Noting who your mother knew and/or liked among her many descendants is not what a grave marker is for. Save that for your family's oral history.
The names of children, grandchildren, pets, etc., are generally not put on grave markers — I assume for space reasons, but also because the marker is there to denote who is buried there, not the names of the descendants.
Yes, continue to advocate for your mother's wishes with your siblings. And yes, do picture her looking on with amusement.
DEAR AMY: My niece (my older brother's daughter) is getting married in a few months. They are having a destination wedding. I was surprised not to get an invitation. My other brother and his family did receive an invitation (our parents have passed away). When I asked my sister-in-law about this, she said that she told the bride not to bother with an invitation because I probably couldn't attend, and only people they thought could attend would get invitations. I have since been invited to a pre-wedding wine and cheese reception in our hometown for everyone that can't make the wedding. I've also been invited to a bridal shower. I am not attending either, as I am hurt. Am I wrong?
DEAR AUNT: You are neither wrong nor right. You are responding proportionally to the hurt you feel in being excluded from a family wedding, to which your sibling has been invited.
Your sister-in-law's explanation does not make sense.
Some people seem to actually feel affronted when they are invited to a destination wedding, which would require a substantial financial commitment to attend.
But being invited does not require attendance. And hosts should not pre-emptively strike guests off of a list based on their perception about the guest's ability to attend.
The only consideration should be whether you want the invitee to be included, and this bride, clearly, only wants to include you when it's close to home.
DEAR AMY: I literally could not believe my eyes that you published the open-letter from "In a Quandary," detailing his wife's illegal abortion, some 50 years ago. Some things should remain private! Abortion should be at the top of that list. I'm disappointed in him, and in you.
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: People have free will, and they have the right to tell their own story, even if that story makes you (and others) uncomfortable.
I give this man a lot of credit for choosing to disclose this event. In doing so, he and his wife were willingly surrendering some of their own privacy to make a larger point.