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by Abigail Van Buren

Good Manners at Funerals Show Respect for Family

DEAR ABBY: I recently attended a funeral where I was shocked at some of the clothes worn and the lack of respect shown. (In 1993, my brother died, and one of my cousins wore a dress in such a bright color it hurt my eyes to look at it. She also wore a ring on every finger.) My curiosity was aroused concerning appropriate funeral attire, so I went to the public library and read everything they had on funerals, as well as Miss Manners and Emily Post. Here is what I found:

1. Don't be late.

2. Wear dark clothes.

3. Don't wear more black than the widow.

4. Wear minimal jewelry (wedding band, tasteful earrings, watch, tie tack).

5. Humor is acceptable as long as it's tasteful and low-keyed.

6. If it's acceptable to the family, exes may attend or serve as pallbearers.

7. Family members only are allowed to sit in the family section. (No exes.)

8. The time for hugs and acknowledgments is when the family is receiving guests at the funeral home or at the cemetery -- NOT as people pass by the coffin to pay their last respects to the deceased.

9. Don't bring babies or unruly toddlers.

10. Don't get up and leave during the service.

I hope this will answer some questions for people, so we can all start to show more respect to the families and to the deceased. -- MARIE IN GRAND PRAIRIE, TEXAS

DEAR MARIE: I'm sure your list of do's and don'ts will be of interest to many people. However, I have a personal experience I would like to share with you:

When I was in my 20s, a male contemporary, "Doug," was tragically injured in a boat accident. His injuries were massive and irreversible, and for days his life hung by a thread. Then the inevitable happened and he was gone.

The day before the funeral, I spoke to his girlfriend and asked if she would like to ride to the service with me. When she arrived at my home, she was wearing a bright orange mini-dress. Of course, when we arrived at the chapel for the service, every head turned in her direction, and there were more than a few raised eyebrows. She saw the stares and turned to me with tears in her eyes. "I know they're looking at me because of what I'm wearing," she whispered. "I'm wearing this dress because Doug always loved to see me in it. It was his favorite."

After that, I stopped forming judgments about what people wore to funerals -- and paid more attention to what was in their hearts.

DEAR ABBY: I am being married in September and am faced with a problem. My aunt has asked me if a picture of my grandfather, who recently passed away, may be placed on the altar. The question shocked me. I didn't know how to respond. Is this appropriate? I don't want to make a joyful event depressing. -- BRIDE-TO-BE, NORFOLK, VA.

DEAR BRIDE-TO-BE: It doesn't have to be depressing. Placing a small photograph of your grandfather on the altar would be a sensitive and loving gesture. A short reading could be dedicated to your departed grandfather who is with you in spirit -- a sentimental warm-up for the main event.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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