DEAR ABBY: I missed the funeral of a long-time family friend, "Tom," because I foolishly relied on one of my relatives to let me know when the service was and she didn't. I had to go out of town two days after Tom died, but I should have called someone before I left so I could revise my travel plans. I was so sure my family would let me know.
Out of embarrassment, I compounded the mistake by not contacting Tom's sister when I returned two days later and realized I had missed everything. When I finally spoke with her, she was furious with me, for which I don't blame her. When I tried to explain, she misconstrued everything I tried to say and accused me of "just making excuses." She went on and on for so long I was shocked by how upset she was.
I'm not an important person to Tom's family even though he was special to me, so I'm not sure why she's so upset with me. I don't know what to do because the more I try to communicate, the more irrational she gets.
I'm mourning Tom, who was like an uncle to me, and I want to make it up to his family. He had been sick for a long time, so his death wasn't a surprise. I see some of his relatives quite often and I don't know how to approach them when I see them next. Any ideas? -- ANGUISHED IN NEW YORK
DEAR ANGUISHED: Attendance at funerals is not compulsory. Your reason for missing Tom's funeral was legitimate. Many people skip funerals because they prefer to remember the deceased as they were instead of in a coffin. Tom's sister is grieving for her brother and taking her pain out on you. What she said was out of line and you do not have to apologize further.
When you see the other family members, extend your condolences, tell them you were out of town at the time of his funeral and that you are sorry you were unable to be there to support them. Period.