DEAR HARRIETTE: Wakes confuse me. From my work and personal life, I find myself getting invited to wakes of people I did not even know. Is this how wakes work? The family invites whomever they want, regardless of whether the deceased knew them?
I am not from the United States; I grew up in Europe. For funerals, you wouldn't invite people who were strangers to the deceased. If we are celebrating the life of someone, why would a stranger be there? I have declined invitations to wakes because I would feel as though I am disrespecting the dead by showing up. My friends say wakes are to comfort the living relatives. -- Puzzled, Little Rock, Arkansas
DEAR PUZZLED: To my knowledge, it is not customary for people who did not know the deceased to be invited to wakes or funerals. Perhaps if the deceased was related to a co-worker, that would be the exception. You may have been invited out of respect to you so that you were not left out.
It is true, what you were told, that wakes and funerals serve to comfort the living. They are ways of helping people accept that their loved ones are really gone. Some people do choose to go to these rituals as a support to their friends and co-workers. Only do so if you feel comfortable.