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Old 11-25-2019, 09:03 PM
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Should I go to a memorial service?


An elderly family member of mine recently passed away. He and I were fairly close thru most of my life (at a distance). I and my family were invited to the memorial service, but I am on the fence about attending - reasons for the indecision:

- We lost touch about three years ago.
- My family has no relationship with him or his family, so it would likely be just me attending.
- I do not have close relationships with his immediate family and do not know any of his friends.
- It would require a flight, car rental, and possibly a hotel stay (I can afford it, but it would divert money from other things).

Since he wont be there, I find it hard to justify the trip. I am leaning toward not attending, and just donating the money I would have spent on the trip to the charity mentioned in his obituary.

I have never attended a funeral nor a memorial service in my life. So, on the other hand I have not dismissed the idea altogether.

I am interested in thoughts here.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:09 PM
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Just send a letter with whatever you would like to say about him, and ask someone to read it at the service. If nobody there knows you, nobody will miss your absence, but a nice remembrance story is always welcome.

A friend of mine asked me to go in his place to a service (he had moved across country). I didn't know anyone, but I was happy to do it, and to read the letter he wrote. Everyone was very appreciative.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:22 PM
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IMO, there's nothing you can do or say at a memorial that will make a wit of difference to anyone, especially since you haven't been in touch with the deceased for 3+ years and don't know anyone who will be there. Save your time and money for someone who (sadly) you're closer to. A condolence and sympathy card is more than enough in this case. If you want to make a donation to the charity, you're not obligated or expected to make it equal what you would have spent to attend.

Last edited by lingyi; 11-25-2019 at 09:23 PM.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
IMO, there's nothing you can do or say at a memorial that will make a wit of difference to anyone, especially since you haven't been in touch with the deceased for 3+ years and don't know anyone who will be there. Save your time and money for someone who (sadly) you're closer to. A condolence and sympathy card is more than enough in this case. If you want to make a donation to the charity, you're not obligated or expected to make it equal what you would have spent to attend.
FWIW, I don’t this there is a wrong choice here. However, I just wanted to say that when my dad passed away, every person that showed up meant so much to me. More than I expected it to, so I don’t necessarily agree that it wouldn’t make a whit of difference.

That said, however, since you weren’t close to the family your absence would not be conspicuous at all, so do what feels right.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:29 PM
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
Just send a letter with whatever you would like to say about him, and ask someone to read it at the service. If nobody there knows you, nobody will miss your absence, but a nice remembrance story is always welcome.

A friend of mine asked me to go in his place to a service (he had moved across country). I didn't know anyone, but I was happy to do it, and to read the letter he wrote. Everyone was very appreciative.
I was composing my post while you posted yours. I agree that a read message is nice, but personally, I don't want to sit through a dozen messages from people I don't know and who aren't there. I rather hear from one or two people who were closest to the deceased.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:39 PM
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Thanks for the responses so far. I had not considered sending a written note and having it read. I will consider that.

I should have added to the OP:

- I was not informed of his passing. After around 3 years of no contact, I just decided to send them an email and re-establish contact, and in the response I learned from his wife that he had passed about 2 weeks earlier.
- I inherited a number of photos from his early life. I scanned these and sent them to his wife in case someone could use them in a remembrance.
- Regarding my presence or absence, I think the only one that would notice would be his wife, and I think she may be miffed if I do not attend (but I am not sure I care).
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:51 PM
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I'm of the mindset that if it's not heartfelt, don't do it. You're not only not being true to yourself, you're not being true to someone during their time of grief.
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Old 11-25-2019, 09:54 PM
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Memorials and Funerals are for the living. As much as I adored my Daddy I did not want to be at his services. I went but it was pure hell. Do what you must to be at peace with yourself. If a message sent is enough, do it and be okay about it. IMHO.
Sorry for your loss.
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Old 11-26-2019, 04:29 AM
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When my father died (about 8 years ago), I went to his funeral and a reception afterward. At those places, I re-connected with some kinfolk that I hadn't seen or had contact with in 30-some years, and we have stayed intermittently in touch since then. (Turned out, we live within a reasonable driving distance, and thus do lunch together from time to time now, along with other kinfolk in the area.) I also met some hyper-distant relatives that I had never met before, with surnames that I had previously seen only in family genealogies.
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Old 11-26-2019, 08:50 AM
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I always avoided these events. They just weren't very upbeat.

But, when my wife died it was very touching to see all the people that loved her attending the memorial. She was an anthropologist. And a nice gathering of the local Paiute band came. It was beautiful.

That being said, do whatever your heart decides. And you won't go wrong.

An interesting side is that here, where I live, these memorials are very upbeat. And continue for nine nights after the funeral. Lots of drinking. Attending my landlord and good friend's funeral, I was the only one that teared up. The general feeling was he was in a better place (lots of Catholics here). All I felt was I will never see him again. Which is a selfish thought.
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Old 11-26-2019, 10:12 AM
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In that scenario, I probably wouldn't go. I agree with sending a letter; that's a classy move. It doesn't need to be read at the service though. Just send your condolences in a hand written letter to his wife.
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Old 11-26-2019, 12:17 PM
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In that scenario, I probably wouldn't go. I agree with sending a letter; that's a classy move. It doesn't need to be read at the service though. Just send your condolences in a hand written letter to his wife.
Yeah, this is where I am at right now.

I appreciate all the insights.
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Old 11-26-2019, 01:14 PM
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Just another $0.02: Weigh the chances that you will regret going against the chances that you will regret not going. Only you can answer that, based on whether you tend to rue things or not.
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Old 11-26-2019, 03:38 PM
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This is clearly a 'follow your conscience' type of situation. If you feel you'll regret NOT attending then by all means attend. However, if the relationship has become distant and you'll feel like you don't know anyone anyway, maybe it's not worth the expense.
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Old 11-26-2019, 03:48 PM
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Since he wont be there, I find it hard to justify the trip. I am leaning toward not attending, and just donating the money I would have spent on the trip to the charity mentioned in his obituary.
I've used this one a few times and always got more from it than being with strangers who are basically in a fog already. And sometimes I take the time of the service to write a letter to the deceased letting them know what they meant to me and the memories I have; I don't send it of course -- I just do it as a form of meditation in their honor.
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Old 11-26-2019, 03:51 PM
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Send a letter, make a donation to the charity, but, unless your conscience is seriously telling you to do so, don't go. I say this as someone who's been going to funerals for extended family my whole life. You will feel out of place and uncomfortable no matter how friendly and welcoming people will try to be.
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Old 11-26-2019, 04:15 PM
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It is a tricky situation. I know people who made (remaining) lifelong enemy's by not sufficiently attending to end of life needs. Including (though there was more than that in the case I am thinking of) funerals. Of course not all families are so sensitive, but one never can be sure. If you ever might be in a situation where you need anything from that side of the family, make an effort. It will be noticed.
If you can, I suggest attending. If that is impractical, then a letter to the survivor(s) and a card to the funeral home. They collect all such and turn them over to the family after the service.
Those would be my options. YMMV
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Old 11-26-2019, 05:03 PM
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Memorials and Funerals are for the living.
That's really the long and short of it. If there's nobody at the memorial for your relative who you know, then there's not much point in going, unless you feel it would somehow benefit your own state of mind to go.
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Old 11-26-2019, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen View Post
FWIW, I don’t this there is a wrong choice here. However, I just wanted to say that when my dad passed away, every person that showed up meant so much to me. More than I expected it to, so I don’t necessarily agree that it wouldn’t make a whit of difference.
...
Quote:
Originally Posted by harmonicamoon View Post
...
But, when my wife died it was very touching to see all the people that loved her attending the memorial. She was an anthropologist. And a nice gathering of the local Paiute band came. It was beautiful.

...
Both of these.

I used to think it didn't matter whether I went to stuff like this. Until my husband died. I was surprised how much it meant to me that people bothered to come. People who knew him that I had never met. People who knew me (my clients) who had never met him. I was very moved that people made the effort.

Even so, I still don't go to every service that comes down the pike--and there are a lot at my age. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 11-26-2019, 05:31 PM
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I've been to a lot of memorial services over time--too many, perhaps. Sometimes it's been very obvious that I needed to go. Sometimes less obvious. It's certainly happened that I've had the kind of ambivalence you express--I didn;t know the deceased all that well, no one will notice or care, etc., etc.

Looking back, after the fact, I've always been glad I went. My impression is that people appreciated my presence and I know it was often helpful for me. I certainly can't remember any memorial services/funerals I attended about which I now say, "God, what a COLOSSAL waste of time," or "What the hell was I thinking?," or "Wow, I really didn't belong there."

So going would have been my suggestion. Until I got to the flight and rental car part. The memorials about which I was on the fence have all been local or local enough that I could drive--the mother of a friend who lives two hours away, my mom's cousin who lived an hour and a half, that kind of thing. To me, flying would be a dealbreaker unless it was someone I was very close to. YM obviously MV, but I think there's no obligation to go under the circumstances you describe.
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Old 11-26-2019, 05:45 PM
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Memorials and Funerals are for the living...
Well, I presume there will be some alive folks there. Whether they know you or not I'm sure your presence will be noted and appreciated.

That said, based on everything you've shared, I would not go. If it were local, probably. But the flight/hotel aspect would have me reaching for pen and card.

Your heart is already speaking to you about this, tipping you in one direction or another. Listen to it.
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Old 11-26-2019, 05:46 PM
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Funerals are for the benefit of the living. If you need to say goodbye to him in a formal way, then you should go. IF you're ok with not doing it, that's ok, too. A third option may be to watch it online somehow...I know they do that for weddings, maybe they do it for funerals too. Also, most funeral homes have an online registry sort of thing where you can offer condolences to the family if you want.
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Old 11-26-2019, 11:30 PM
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For some people, funerals are a social status event. My parents would come home from a funeral and discuss who was and wasn't there. Disparaging both those who they thought should have been there and those they thought shouldn't. Yeah, they were petty, but the same thing happened with weddings.

Another reason I don't attend funerals. There's nothing I can say to the deceased or the living that I should have said while the person was alive. There's so much "Oh, I was thinking about you!" Ummm...okay, is that why haven't talked in the past 10 years?
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Old 11-27-2019, 12:46 AM
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Nope. Knowing what I do about you, the weather should be enough to keep you at home.

Sorry for your lose.

Hope to see you on the slopes this season. Targeted to get up to 3 feet up top tonight. Yeah, we'll see...

Best Wishes.
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