Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Funeral Turns Into a Three-Ring Circus

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been helping a new friend plan her dad's memorial service, and it is getting really messy. She has step family members and close friends who are telling her to do things that she doesn't necessarily want to do. They are driving her crazy. I step in whenever I can to be a buffer, but I can only do but so much. She is listed as executor of the estate. I want to suggest to my friend that she let them know who's the boss. I know she wants to be thoughtful, but it is getting to be too much. -- SOS, Chicago

DEAR SOS: It is wonderful that you are there to support your friend through this trying time. As it relates to the people who are troubling her, yes, it may help to establish the lines of demarcation. Suggest that she talk to them by first assuring that she knows they, too, are grieving. Then she must make it clear that she was named executor of his estate and that she has the plans in order. It may help to articulate those plans clearly so that there are no questions. She can listen to their ideas but let them know that she is in charge. If she can come up with tasks that they can undertake, that could be helpful. If they feel like they have a participatory role, it may help them calm down.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Traditionally, my mother hosted Thanksgiving dinner and my aunt hosted Christmas dinner. Fifteen years ago, my mother abruptly stopped hosting Thanksgiving, and it divided our family. So many of us have wanted to have this tradition start again, and we don't know how to do it in a peaceful manner. My mother is stubborn. She thought it was too much on her since she is older. We wonder if we offer to pitch in and cook if maybe she would do it. Do we dare ask? We want a reunion before she dies -- she is in her 80s. We just lost one of our aunts of the same age. -- Family Ties, Washington, D.C.

DEAR FAMILY TIES: Yours is a great idea. Suggest to your mother that you and your siblings and cousins be responsible for cooking and cleaning for Thanksgiving dinner at her house. Tell her that you want the whole family to get together this year, and what better location than her home. Promise that you will not create work for her, but that you will make it easeful and happy.

If she balks, remind her that your aunt recently died and that your family members want to be together to celebrate one another. Ask her to bend her rule just this once. If she agrees and she enjoys herself, perhaps she will say yes again!