Dear Annie: I am so upset I’m beside myself. Every time I think about it, I get so angry I could spit!
A neighbor and walking buddy of mine for many years, “Marie,” died last year, and no one in our circle of friends knew about it. We knew she was in failing health with Alzheimer’s disease, but no one knew she was as bad off as she must have been. All contact we had with her was through her husband, “Bill,” who had assured us that other than her ability to remember, she was fine.
One day, I was driving past the house of Marie’s sister, “Nancy,” and stopped as Nancy and her husband were coming down the driveway. They confided that their brother-in-law never invited them to visit, and sometimes he even sent them away if they dropped by. However, I would often see Bill’s side of the family visiting.
What’s really got me going is that last week, there were two obituary notices in the local paper. One stated that Marie died last year and that a memorial service was to be held at a veterans cemetery later that day. The second announced Bill’s death and said he would be receiving military honors at the same cemetery, inviting all their friends and neighbors to attend to honor Bill and pay their respects. Because of the short notice, I wasn’t able to attend.
I feel bad for Marie and Bill’s family, but even if I could have gone, I’m not sure I would have liked going to honor her husband. Marie was kept pretty isolated from us most of the time, and her husband walked with us when he could, much to our dislike. He was a very controlling and verbally abusive husband, selfish and self-centered. He would constantly monitor my friend’s food intake. Ugh — it’s got me going again.
How can I pay respects to someone I had no respect for whatsoever? What should I say to his family members if I see them? There’s already a “for sale” sign on the lawn. — Feeling So Bad
Dear Feeling: I am so sorry for your loss. If you see his family members, stop and talk to them, but only with words of compassion. Don’t vent to them about Bill and how angry you are over his treatment of Marie. They are grieving a beloved member of the family.
I think that what is causing you the most anger is the feeling that your friend was forgotten. Try organizing a way to remember Marie. Perhaps you and your other walking buddies could pool money to sponsor a bench or another memorial marker in her name, or you could all organize a walkathon to raise money to help victims of domestic violence.
To anyone who suspects that a friend is being abused: Please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
Dear Annie: Let me add my voice to all the others I hope are telling you just how wrong you were to advise “It Was ‘Only’ Sex” not to tell his adult son his true biological origins. People always deserve to know their true biological heritage, for reasons too obvious and incontrovertible to list. In fact, informing the son is the only decent reason for this wife to have caused such great pain by telling her husband at this late date. She has several people to ask forgiveness of, including the other siblings. — Mental Health Professional
Dear Mental: Thank you for weighing in, and I have heard from others voicing similar opinions. My only caveat is that if this man decides to tell his son, I think he should implore his wife to be on board. It would be best for the two of them to sit all the kids down together so they can work through the pain of the revelation as a family. Otherwise, it might splinter them.
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