DEAR MISS MANNERS: After the death of my father only two months ago, my mother and our family have all found that our mourning is more acute now that our perspectives have cleared of initial confusion. Our church family, colleagues of my father's, friends and neighbors have been extremely generous with us, and I have been honored and humbled at once to see the graciousness Dad's kindness has engendered in those who will miss him most.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the church family has apparently been able to understand what we are going through. My mother has been a member of the choir for 30 years or so -- but, during a decline in his health and Dad's eventual hospitalization, Mom "took time off" to be with him. Both before he died and -- as I have found out -- since, the minister of music has pressured Mom to rejoin the choir over and over. Just this week, she and I met him by chance in a restaurant, and he smilingly enjoined her to "come on back, it is time!"
Not only is my mother still in pain, but she was on her way, the very next morning, out of state for three weeks. I gently explained that the minister was going to have to wait at least that long for her return, but that I would honestly like to see Mom take as much time as she feels necessary before rejoining the choir.
My brother's and my concern about this seems to make Mom more defensive of the minister of music, but I truly feel that his persistent approach is unkind and insensitive. It is difficult to make a joyful noise when still choking on sorrow.
My question is whether it would be grossly inappropriate to write either to him or to the church asking for forbearance during this difficult time, which may not be "over" quite by this gentleman's expectations. Your guidance would be much appreciated.
GENTLE READER: While sympathizing with your complaint, Miss Manners wishes you had used a kinder and more sensitive phrase than "unkind and insensitive."
The gentleman means to be kind. He is not bludgeoning your mother because he needs an alto, or whatever she is. It is because he wants her to know that she will be welcomed back, and also because he feels that the activity would be good for her.
The insensitivity is in not yielding to her judgment about what is best for her -- rather like a host who cajoles a guest to take more food or drink, under the impression that it is hospitable to ignore repeated rejections.
This is annoying, but it is not intended to be mean. What he needs to be told, firmly, is that your mother appreciates his invitations, and that she -- as the best judge of her emotions -- will let him know when she is ready.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there a correct way to slide the food off a fork into one's mouth? Should one use one's lips, or is it acceptable to use one's teeth?
GENTLE READER: The lips. Miss Manners is afraid that the screeching sound involuntarily made in reaction to the sound of teeth scraping over a fork is not conducive to gracious dining or gracious digestion.