Friday, July 31, 2009

Death Etiquette

Is there such a thing as death etiquette? If not, there certainly should be. Too many of us just have no clue what to say when someone is ill or has a recently deceased family member. 

A mortality-related etiquette question from this week's Social Q's column in the New York Times.  

"Did He Just Say That?

My mom was found to have stage III ovarian cancer. We’ve been moved by the many notes of support we’ve received. But one comment caught us off guard: Not long after my mother finished chemotherapy, the husband of an old friend asked, “What’s it like being so close to death?” What should we have said?

Anonymous, New York

Make that three sure bets in this world (to go with death and taxes). Sometime or another, we all say the worst thing at the worst moment.

I hope your mother wasn’t too upset.

Depending on the closeness of the gathering, and your mother’s mood that night, she (or you, if she was too dumbstruck) could have shared some of her feelings or replied that she was focusing on happier prospects. She might even have made the ultimate point: Cancer may have put a finer point on her mortality, but that doesn’t mean that you, I or Mr. Foot-in-Mouth know any better when ours will strike."

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