Dear Annie: When my older sister was dying a year ago, our entire family supported her with calls and visits with the exception of our father and half-brother (my mother’s son from a previous marriage). They also didn’t attend the funeral and offered no explanation for their absence.
Five months later, another sister died. “Dee” never married, and our father was her legal next-of-kin and responsible for the funeral arrangements. Dad refused our help and then denied us any information with the exception of our half-brother. My father had Dee cremated and then mailed her ashes to our half-brother, who then dumped them in his backyard. We learned of this after the fact.
We don’t know why this happened, but we suspect it was a collaborative effort between our father’s third wife, 20 years his junior, and our half-brother’s wife, 11 years his senior. The two of them are close in age and good friends. They are also controlling, manipulative and spiteful.
Is there any way to find out why our father turned his back on his own flesh and blood to allow his stepson to perform such a vile and hateful act? How do we find closure? — Grieving Brother
Dear Grieving: Our deepest condolences on the loss of your sisters. Your grief is undoubtedly compounded by the astonishing lack of compassion shown by your father and half-brother. There is no explanation for such contemptuous behavior, and it serves no purpose to waste time and energy trying to figure these people out. In fact, upsetting you may be one of their goals. Consider grief counseling through any local hospital, and please know that your sisters are at peace regardless of the circumstances.
Dear Annie: I received two different invitations: one for a birthday party and the other for an engagement party. Both stated “no gifts, please.” Yet on arrival, there were tons of gifts.
I was astounded by this and asked, “What’s with the gifts?” wondering whether I missed something in their message. I was assured by those who set up the invites that they asked for no gifts and that if I wanted, I could get one the next day. Does that mean gifts were expected after all?
At the engagement party, I asked a family member why she brought a gift, and she boldly replied, “Because I wanted to.” As more gifts piled on, I began to feel humiliated, embarrassed and angry. In order not to spoil the occasion, I left.
What is the proper etiquette in situations like this? — An Avid Annie Fan
Dear Avid: People routinely ignore “No Gifts” requests, which not only upsets obedient non-givers, but can also embarrass and upset the recipients. This is another reason why gifts should not be mentioned on any invitations other than those for showers, where gifts are, in fact, expected. You did nothing wrong. If it happens again, please pay no attention to those who cannot follow directions.
Dear Annie: I was surprised to read the letter from “Pastor’s Wife in the Northwest,” whose husband wasn’t paid for his wedding services.
The churches I have been affiliated with have a set of prices for weddings and specifically list the cost for the use of the sanctuary, the organist, rehearsals, cleanup and the pastor. The fees must be paid a week before the ceremony.
Members of the congregation may have fees waived, and needy persons may receive a discount. The pastor may waive his fees entirely, but that is up to him. She might want to call other pastors in their community to see what they do. — P.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.