DEAR MISS MANNERS: I don't know how to word this so you won't think it's untrue, although I know that at this point, you've heard everything.
My son was killed a little over five years ago in a street-racing collision. He was in no way at fault; my two oldest sons were traveling home and were hit head-on a little after 9 in the evening.
Life has been incredibly difficult ever since; I miss him with all my heart. He was the most amazing son -- he'd just graduated magna cum laude with a degree in philosophy and was going into the field of missions.
There were so many flowers at his funeral service that as I was writing thank-you notes, I could not figure out from the name who one of the arrangements was from. A month later, the driver who killed my son was arrested; that was when I learned his name, and that is when I learned who had sent the flowers. (His mother, I'm sure, had placed his name on them.)
Have you ever heard of such a thing? How can you kill someone and send flowers to their funeral, thinking that would make up for it? It absolutely compounded the pain, which some people seem prone to do.
GENTLE READER: Please understand that it is with the deepest sympathy that Miss Manners feels obliged to remind you that it is not those flowers that cause the terrible pain that you suffer.
Nor is it useful to think of that gesture as having been intended to "make up for" the horror of your loss. Most likely, the flowers were sent out of guilt or shame.
And while learning his name was a reminder, it was at least in the context of his being held accountable for criminal behavior.
Miss Manners suspects that the reason you are still thinking of those flowers, five years later, is that you wrote conventional thanks for them at the time, figuring it was a well-wisher whom you didn't know, only to have this seem to you, in retrospect, as if it constituted forgiveness. She can assure you that anyone who was able to feel guilt or shame -- and you may be right that it was the mother -- is not going to consider that absolved by a mere acknowledgment of the flowers. She recommends leaving the killer to his own deserved suffering.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother told me not to eat out of the saucepan after cooking my oatmeal. I find it easier and not necessary to waste another dish.
GENTLE READER: You seem to be interested in efficiency. Miss Manners therefore wonders why you have not discovered how consuming of time and energy it is to keep annoying your mother, as opposed to how much it takes to wash a dish.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have new furniture. I'm having a large buffet party, and I don't want people in the new living room. How do I keep food out of my living room?
GENTLE READER: A velvet rope across the door? A mean-looking bouncer?
Unless you have provided comfortable seating elsewhere, preferably with somewhere to park the plates, Miss Manners fails to see how you can expect your guests to realize that they will not be trusted in your living room.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)