Ask Amy: Brother writes unsettling funeral home dispatches
Dear Amy: I have an older brother who is currently fighting lymphoma and stage 4 liver cancer. It is too late for surgery, so they are treating him as an outpatient. The outlook is not great.
My twin brother recently was hired to work at a funeral home.
He sends emails to me and our older brother almost daily regarding his funeral home duties.
These emails are extremely detailed accounts of prepping bodies (“they don’t complain”), transporting bodies, preparing for funerals, placing the heavy casket over the grave on slings and straps, and then waiting for the family to leave so they can lower the casket down (“sometimes it seems like forever”).
Amy, I am struggling with these emails, thinking that if I were the one fighting for my life, I would not want to read or hear about this.
These details upset me, but I am more concerned about my older brother and how this affects him.
However, I don’t want to open up a kettle of worms.
My husband says to stay out of it, and not get involved.
I am not sure what to do.
Do you have any thoughts or suggestions about what I might say? — Grieving
Dear Grieving: First off, making fun of the important and sacred work of preparing a body for burial (“they don’t complain”) is extremely unprofessional and insensitive.
Every single body passing through this funeral home was a loved one, friend or family member of someone who has paid the funeral home for this important service. The deceased and their family members should be respected, both in the moment of preparing for burial, and afterward.
Your twin brother desperately requires sensitivity training.
When your husband advises you to “stay out of it,” what is he saying? These emails are addressed to you and so I’d say that you are already in it.
These notifications upset you, and so you have the right (and responsibility) to tell your brother the truth about how they affect you.
I suggest that you send him an email: “I can tell by your detailed descriptions that your work is engrossing. I am truly happy for you that you seem to love your job. However, being totally honest, I find the detailed discussions of what happens behind the scenes at the funeral home very unsettling — in no small part because our older brother is currently fighting for his own life. I don’t know how he feels about these descriptions, but in my sisterly opinion, I do wish you would be more sensitive.”
Dear Amy: My mother passed away in 1996. She gave me her wedding ring.
My youngest nephew, who is also my mom’s youngest grandson, was getting married a second time to a girl I actually thought would be “the one.” (His first marriage ended in divorce.)
Anyway, I gave my nephew my mother’s ring for this wedding. He was so moved that he cried. I knew he loved the idea.
Well, the second marriage only lasted five years.
My nephew has three daughters from his first marriage, and I would prefer the ring stay in the family.
Do I have the right to ask for the ring back? — Hoping
Dear Hoping: You have the right to ask for anything, as long as your expectations are reasonable.
I’m assuming that your nephew gave this ring to his second wife. State laws seem to vary concerning whether wedding rings are marital property (belonging to both and subject to division upon divorce), or separate property (individually owned). Family heirlooms are often considered a separate category, and (according to my research) a judge might ask that the ring be returned to your family.
If the two of them did not divorce through a court, but have a cordial relationship, your nephew could certainly ask his ex if she would return the ring in order to keep it in your family.
Yes, you have the right to ask if he would be willing to try.
Dear Amy: “Hurt in Ohio” was very upset because one sibling received all of the family photo albums after their mother’s death.
Thank you for pointing out that parents should divide photos with the goal to pass them along to all family members.
My mother prepared albums or each of her children and left other photos with the direction that we should share and swap them. — Grateful
Dear Grateful: Family photos are of little monetary value, but their emotional value is impossible to measure.