DEAR MISS MANNERS: I don't wish to sound petty or unfeeling, but there is a situation one finds in newspaper death notices that troubles me. Surely, when a person dies and the obituary is published, he or she is entitled to his or her 15 minutes of fame. If not then, when?
It is nice to read "John Sledbearer, beloved husband of Charity" or "Susan Sportsworthy, cherished wife of Clyde." But I do object to "He is survived by his 'beloved' wife, Charmain." Who says she was beloved? Or, "He was survived by his 'loving' children."
Would the old man agree to that? And isn't this about him anyway? It feels self-serving and inappropriate for the survivors to use those adjectives about themselves in this situation, but correct me if I am misguided.
I don't object at all to the deceased being described as "Beloved" or "Cherished" (more power to 'em) but I just don't want those left behind taking the accolades that, in my opinion, belong solely to the deceased.
GENTLE READER: The old man may not agree with his obituary, but if he could, would he speak up?
Would he say, "I can think of several women I cared for more"?
Or "Loving children, my eye -- I noticed they were too busy to visit me in the hospital, but not too busy to start grabbing my stuff the second I croaked"?
Maybe. These days one cannot count on anyone to observe the decencies. Miss Manners agrees with you that it is bad taste to use a death to point out the deceased's admiration for oneself. Many a time has she heard a eulogy given by a colleague or friend that pinpoints the deceased's finest quality as his appreciation of the humble speaker.
She also shares your distaste for affectionate adjectives in death notices, but only because she doesn't believe that public announcements should include the emotional aspect of the situation. Wedding announcements don't mention that the couple is crazy in love -- or if they do now, Miss Manners doesn't want to hear about it. But she cannot begrudge it to the bereaved who find comfort in it. One of the disadvantages of death is that one must leave one's reputation in others' hands, and if the truth is somewhat stretched in favor of respectability, well, people tend to gloss over things in life, as well.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Sometimes at parties in private houses, or in the synagogue during services, guests or congregants move chairs from where they have been placed by the hosts or the ritual committee. I understand, of course, why this happens: The people wish to sit by friends. However, the effect may be to constrict the walking space and prevent other guests from circulating, and to block the fire exits and obstruct the Torah procession. Is there some appropriate statement or action in these circumstances?
GENTLE READER: The statement is either a public announcement of "Please clear the aisles" or a private request of "Excuse me, please," and the action is to have the moveable chairs replaced with ones that are either bolted down or too heavy to move. If you were thinking of something more forceful, Miss Manners requests you kindly to stop.