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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

All Family Members, Estranged or Not, Belong in an Obituary

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My father is very ill and will not be with us for too much longer.

One of his daughters is estranged from the family and has been for about 20 years. This was by her own doing, and despite overtures from us -- and even her ex-husband admitting that he stirred up the trouble between her and the family -- she has chosen to keep her distance.

Even knowing how sick he is now, she has not reached out to make contact. That is fine; while it hurt my father very much, he has accepted it and never mentions her.

My sister and I, who are responsible for helping our mother with arrangements, wonder whether or not to list her, her daughter and her grandson as survivors in the obituary. Most etiquette guidelines I've found approach the topic from the point of view of the family estranging the child and not the other way around. This daughter is from my father's first marriage, so my sister and I are trying to determine the correct thing to do without worrying our mother.

Of course, we are inclined to leave her out given that she initiated and maintained the estrangement, but we do wonder if there is a point of view that we aren't considering.

GENTLE READER: Yes, unfortunately. The facts.

Despite the estranged nature of the relationship, a relationship nevertheless technically exists. An obituary is a form of journalism, and journalism reflects the truth, not opinions about what should have happened. It does not punish people for bad behavior by erasing them from history.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Death