Q: At my husband’s memorial service, the funeral home staff seated myself (the widow), our young children (2.5 and 7 years of age), my parents and my best friend (who was there to take the youngest child, if there were any issues) in the first pew. The pew was full.
My friend and the toddler had to leave three-fourths of the way through the service, due to a full diaper and a tantrum. It was a pretty stressful day for all of us.
My deceased husband’s mother and two siblings, as well as some uncles and aunts (siblings of the mother), were seated in the second pew.
After the memorial service, my former mother-in-law took me to task on the seating arrangements, saying HER family should have sat in the first pew. She was extremely angry and vocal, complaining that that I “got all the attention.” I was shocked and confused, mumbled something about not arranging the seating, and left.
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Can you please give me your opinion on my former mother-in-law’s behavior?
P.S. I was happily married to my husband for 21 years and still miss him.
A: Many people would make the excuse that bereavement is “stressful” — and that bad behavior, such as your mother-in-law’s, must therefore be overlooked. Miss Manners recognizes the former without being convinced of the latter.
While it might have been reasonable to seat your husband’s mother ahead of your parents, this is no longer relevant. Fighting over recognition at the funeral of a loved one is loathsome.
Your evasive response was sensible. Perhaps your mother-in-law will recognize her rudeness and apologize, but if she does not, you may find that a polite aloofness will be unfortunately necessary between people who ought to be able to be of comfort to each other.
Q: Is it proper to renew vows after one year?
A: Were they running out?
Q: As a young child, I was given a trinket by a lady who knew my mother. I hung onto it, and several decades later discovered that it was actually a collectible worth several thousand dollars. I have discovered that the woman is alive. Is it proper to offer to return the gift, and if so, how would I phrase it tactfully?
A: Returning a gift is generally an insult and therefore best done only if that is your intention. In the situation you describe, it is both unnecessary and, because of the possibility of misunderstanding, unwise.
Although the trinket turned out not to be a trinket, Miss Manners believes that the value of a gift is measured by its meaningfulness to the recipient, and therefore notes that its value was always high.
It would be charming to write a second thank-you note mentioning how much the item means to you even after all these years — if you can promise Miss Manners that you will not mention the current bidding at online auction sites.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.