DEAR MISS MANNERS: Many people do not feel the need to cancel parties, events, performances, games, etc., even though a close family member or friend has died. "She would have wanted the party to go on." That is what Clive Davis said when he held his pre-Grammy party with the body of his dead friend Whitney Houston still on the premises.
What is the rule about what events do or don't "go on" when a family member or close friend (how close?) dies. Does the football player still play in the Super Bowl the day after his father dies? Does the president address Congress the day after the death of his daughter (for example)? Where do you draw the line?
GENTLE READER: It is amazing how many recently deceased people take an interest in jolly events that they will miss. One used to be able to take it for granted that hosting a party or attending a joyous event while in mourning was something to be avoided.
However, this is not always possible. The Constitution allows flexibility in the timing of the State of the Union address, even if network television producers do not. Team members may need the contributions of a player who feels up to participating.
There can be no absolute rule, as the severity and closeness of the loss has to be weighed against the importance of the event, the ability to reschedule and the level of inconvenience to other participants. If participation is unavoidable and bearable, Miss Manners and good taste still expect subdued behavior, and the phrase "She would have wanted the party to go on" to be said in a funereal tone and not followed by open displays of hilarity.
(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, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Holidays & Celebrations | Death