DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Pam in Springfield, Ohio" (July 14), whose husband didn't want to go to his mother's funeral, was right on.
A memorial service can be a very different experience than a funeral with the casket present. One of the classiest ones I ever attended was at an art museum, with a jazz trio and a display of the deceased's artwork all around. After listening to some wonderfully funny stories about the nifty lady we were there to honor, there was wine and finger food and cordial sharing of fond memories.
My advice to any family is to start talking about funerals now, before the big event, sharing what you like and what you don't about funerals. There is never only one way to do it. -- LISA CARLSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FUNERAL ETHICS ORGANIZATION
DEAR LISA: Agreed! It's always nice to receive a letter from you. You have long been a valued resource to me and my readers. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I work in a funeral home and would suggest a couple of options to Pam regarding her husband. Some funeral homes have more than one viewing room. They could display his mother in one and have the receiving line in another. That way, he wouldn't have to see his mother in a casket. The service could include a closed casket -- or none at all.
Another choice would be cremation with a memorial service afterward. Both arrangements would allow the husband the chance for a final goodbye without seeing Mom in the casket. Whatever he decides, the wife should accept his final decision. -- LAURIE IN NEW YORK
DEAR ABBY: Sadly, both of my parents passed away within two years of each other. Instead of a funeral we held a Celebration of Life Memorial Service. (They both wanted to be cremated, so we did not have to deal with a coffin.) Abby, the celebration was beautiful for both. We created slide shows and poster boards of their lives, told funny stories about them, and had people get up randomly if they had their own stories to share. Yes, it was sad because we miss our parents dearly ... but it has also been much easier dealing with our loss when remembering their service as a celebration of their lives. -- MISSING MOM AND DAD, EUGENE, ORE.
DEAR ABBY: I have made it clear to all of my family members that I will not attend their funerals if they go before I do. I stopped attending funerals the minute I was allowed to decide for myself around the age of 16 (I am now 40). Whenever I go to a funeral, the prevailing memory for me is the one of the person lying in the coffin. I no longer remember him or her as alive.
For the most part, my family has been very understanding and allowed me to grieve in my own way.
Pam should let her husband keep his memories of his mother in life and support him. Rather than worrying about him being there for his siblings, she needs to be concerned about being there for him. -- ROSEMARIE IN MINNEAPOLIS
DEAR ABBY: A funeral is for the living -- not the deceased. I lost my husband after a long illness a few years ago. His last wishes were to have no funeral so our children and I would not have to go through that. Instead, we celebrated his life with family and close friends -- including pictures and stories that we turned into a memorial biography of his life. As much as we miss him, this has been a much better means of coping for our family. -- CHERYL IN LAS CRUCES, N.M.