Dear Margo: Not Quite Cyrano…

Margo Howard’s advice

Not Quite Cyrano…

Dear Margo: I have a situation with my best friend of 11 years. Back in February, I fixed her up with a surgical resident and wound up in the middle, encouraging each one to be honest. They refused to tell the other the truth, even when it was what the other really needed to hear. I felt helpless because two of my good friends were hurting each other by playing games.

The guy has since moved to another state for a job, and my friend (with whom I now live) is crushed that he more or less told her there was no chance for a long-distance relationship. The problem now is that my friend has accused me of “deliberately manipulating” their emotions for my own “education about human nature” because I majored in psychology in college! She’s gone so far as to say I purposefully sabotaged their budding relationship, and she is no longer talking to me to the point where she’s had more conversations with the cat than me.

I’m heartbroken. She rejected the tearful apology I offered for unintentionally hurting her by trying to get her and the guy to be truthful with each another. Actually, she yelled that I’m a worthless friend and poison to her. I don’t want to let my oldest friendship die without a fight, but I don’t know whether this is worth fighting for. Your thoughts? — Floored in Syracuse

Dear Floor: Your situation puts me in mind of an old (and true) saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.” Your game-playing girlfriend is blaming the wrong person; she and the young man have loused this up, not you. If you cannot get her to be realistic and stop making you the fall guy, not to mention conversing with the cat more than you, new living arrangements must be made. If she continues to think you have put her in your own Skinner box, the friendship is, indeed, kaput. — Margo, realistically

A Symbolic Tug of War

Dear Margo: Here is something I have not seen in your column before. I just spent two months caring for my terminally ill mother in her house, along with my sister and the local hospice. When Mom passed away, I returned home and went back to work. She had asked to be cremated, and her remains were to be mailed to me when the procedure was complete. My sister stayed in Mom’s house to close it up and take care of some final details. Before she returned to her home, she picked up Mom’s ashes. Since neither of us lived in the same town as our mom, we will be having a family interment later in the month in another town.

I asked to have the ashes at my house for a few days before the service. My sister told me no because I am an atheist (as was our mother). My sister is Catholic and tried to get a priest to come and give last rites, but no priest would do this for a non-Catholic. I am very upset that at this very sad time my sister is holding Mom hostage for her own reasons. — Sad

Dear Sad: Well, my dear, not to point out the obvious, but it’s too late now. If no priest would come for your mother when she was alive, the ashes are even less of a draw. I am not sure what your sister hopes to accomplish, but being an atheist, I’m not sure why you are so upset. This should have all the meaning to you of Mormons baptizing non-Mormon dead people. And truly, “Mom” is not being held hostage, an urn is. — Margo, steadily

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2012 MARGO HOWARD DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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58 comments so far.

  1. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    LW1 – your friend is blaming you so she does not have to blame herself.  My words of advice are to move and move ASAP.  Do not remain there and be hostage to her irrational emotions and her emotional abuse of you. If she could not be honest with the man and he with her, neither will ever be honest with you.

    LW2 – And I thought my family was dysfunctional when my Mom passed.  I have no words of wisdom but my heart goes out to you. 

  2. avatar Florafloraflora says:

    Letter 2 brings to mind my worst fear: that my family will get a hold of my remains when I die and have a funeral for me in their hateful religion. I realize “I” won’t be there for it, but it makes me sick to think of them using my dead body in their rituals after terrorizing me all my life with their judgments. Basically, what LW2′s sister is doing. A personal faith is one thing, but trying to push it on others even beyond the grave is monstrous.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      It’s like that doctor’s joke: Doc, my arm hurts when I move it like this (contorts arm) Doc says: Then don’t move it like that.
      There’s a kernel of truth in that. If it bugs you to think about it, then stop feeding those negative thoughts about something that you have no control over, and won’t even affect you in any way.
      Write a will that specifically states who shall be in charge of your body and your exact wishes so that you feel more secure and can let that negative energy go!

      • avatar Florafloraflora says:

        You are entirely right and it’s not something I often dwell on. Trouble is, I’m not sure there’s anyone I can trust to do what I want with my remains. I just try not to dwell on it.

      • avatar Ariana says:

        Or try not to pass on anywhere near your relatives :-D

    • avatar chickey_soup says:

      A solution if you are willing….medical schools and scientist rely on human body donations. It’s not for everyone but those who can are making a lasting impact on future generations. Also it strikes me as something likely to piss off people who subscribe to hateful religions. And it’s one of those things you can arrange before hand.

      • avatar Cheryl44 says:

        Sorry, but they can have their hateful funeral without the body, even if you do get to donate it to science. There’s no way to stop them. I’m in the same situation, for what it’s worth. I don’t think I’ll be subject to them being able to put me on display at their hateful service because I’ve pre-paid for an immediate cremation and burial. I think my family is too cheap to have to lose out on the services that will be free for them. I’ve told all of my friends to stay away from whatever service they decide on.

      • avatar chickey_soup says:

        Well, yes, technically, though without the body it would usually be described as a memorial service. Its very hard to make people do what you want, ultimately because you just can’t control others. Anyone can do anything they want to, all any of us can do is to do what we can to have it on our terms.

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #1:  I seriously doubt that your interference in your friends’ relationship is the cause of its demise but I also wonder just how intrusive your *advice* was.   This whole drama should serve as  a good lesson for you to butt out and let people work it out on their own for better or worse.  Since your girl friend has not accepted your apology, it is probably time for you to move out and hope that in time she will gain some perspective on things and realize that this relationship was not meant to be.

    Letter #2:  I don’t understand your sister’s rationale one bit as I didn’t know that you could somehow contaminate ashes with atheism…particularly when the ashes are those of an atheist and as a product of 13 years of Catholic education, I can tell you that this idea is not something based in Catholic doctrine.  But if she refuses to relinquish them to you, short of having a tug of war over the urn, there is not much you can do about it.  Some  people get crazy after a loss and do stupid and hurtful things to each other and perhaps that is what is going on with your sister.  I’m very sorry for your loss.     

    • avatar Ariana says:

      LW#1: I got the same vibes from that letter. You don’t just ‘wind up’ in the middle of someone else’s relationship unless you enjoy that role. I get that she wanted to help her friend, but I wonder if she got so caught up trying to ‘fix’ the two of them that it became more about what she wanted to achieve.

      It’s unfortunate that the friend is also targeting all her hurt feelings at her friend. Even though the LW may have been part of the problem, there’s no call to blame a relationship fail on her. It’s not surprising though. The same thing often happens when someone finds out their spouse has been cheating… they choose to place all the blame the outsider instead of on the cheating spouse.

      Since the LW wants to save the relationship, I’d give the friend a little more time to let the hurt feelings simmer down. Then I’d write a personal letter to her apologizing once more and emphasizing how much their friendship means to her. Then invite her to a coffee to talk. Her reaction will let you know whether your friendship can outlast the storm.

      • avatar K Coldiron says:

        I agree too about LW1. It sounded like the LW was way too entangled in the relationship. That doesn’t change the fact that her friend is being unreasonable, but I think responsibility and involvement should end after you say “John, this is Mary; Mary, this is John.”

  4. avatar Ariana says:

    LW#2: I thought that was a pretty cold answer. She’s emotional about her mother’s day and having the ashes for a few days in her house might have helped bring her closure. Her being atheist has nothing to do with it, the ashes are a potent reminder of her mother. The uber-religious sibling who refuses to let the sister keep the urn in her house a few days because she’s not a believer is way out of bounds.

    Who is the executor of the estate? If it’s not your sister, you can ask them to intervene on your behalf. You could also try to have a one on one talk with the sister. If all else fails, there’s not much you can do unless you are willing to get courts involved and live with those consequences. At least now you know who your sister really is.

  5. avatar mmht says:

    Margo I think you are being a little harsh on LW#2. The sister is holding the mother’s remains hostage, not “just some urn,” and she has every right to be upset by this. She also has every right to be upset by the fact that her sister is purposefully doing something against her mother’s wishes for her own end game. Atheist mourn the death of their loved ones the same way that religious people do, its just harder on us b/c we don’t have delusion that we’ll ever see them again and our feelings are constantly being pushed aside by others b/c we are told “Why do you care? Your atheist. To you this means nothing.” Never seeing, talking, or hugging a loved one again does mean something!

    • avatar Sita says:

      Yes, atheists have feelings too and we love just like others love.

      After we cremated my mom’s remains, my dad was adamant that he didn’t want to keep the ashes for a day or two, but wanted them scattered in my mom’s favorite river the same day. But since I would like to have just a bit of my mom with me I was able – with my dad’s consent – to keep some ashes for myself. Dad is an agnostic, mom was a Christian. We all agree to disagree and did what my mom had wanted us to do and after the cremation did what my dad wanted to do with the ashes. Sometimes the most religious member of the family can be the most intolerant, to say the least.

      • avatar mjd4 says:

        Um, I don’t think Margo meant that atheists don’t care about the death of loved ones. I think she meant, why do you care if sis wants to try to do last rites, since you don’t believe last rites actually have any real effect.

        (I think there is also the assumption atheists are more like to take a pragmatic, unromantic view that ashes are just ashes)

        Do people really say that atheists do not mourn? I know that there is a lot of prejudice against atheists, but I still find that shocking.

      • avatar mmht says:

        mjd4, it was her reply of “And truly, “Mom” is not being held hostage, an urn is” that upset me. Everyone mourns in their own way. For many people, it makes them feel better to take the approach of believing that once someone dies they are gone and their body was just a vessel, which is what I am assuming Margo meant by her reply. However, others do not feel that way and saying goodbye to their loved ones remains is an important part of closure for them. I just felt as if Margo was being blase about the LW feelings. Acting as if what the sister did was no big deal b/c there isn’t anything that could be done about it and then making statements that was tantamount to “Why do you care? These rituals mean nothing to you anyway.” The sister not only went against their mother’s wishes but also denied the LW closure, which is why I found Margo’s response appalling.

        As for your other question pertaining to general feelings of atheist, yes, our feelings often do get set aside in times like these b/c it is viewed as if we are unfeeling just b/c we don’t believe in an afterlife. When my aunt died I was extremely upset by it even though I knew it was for the best (she had been battling breast cancer for years and she was in so much pain it hurt to watch). But what hurt the most was responses I received from people, even my own family members. It was as if my feelings were negated simply b/c I didn’t believe she was in heaven. It was a very difficult time for me b/c I had to defend myself while trying to get over the loss of someone who meant a lot to me. Its a feeling I hope no one ever has to go through.

        Also, read Belinda Joy’s response b/c I think she epitomizes the thoughts of a good portion of so-called “Christians” towards atheist.

  6. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – Margo is spot on, as non-believers, this is an argument that is tantamount to fighting over a table that was owned by their mother. This is a non-issue. As a Christian, my heart bleeds for the mother that she died not having a connection to a higher power. However I am growing in my ability to accept that not all people want or desire a connection to a higher power and relish in their ability to think there aren’t any. The glee they find in not accepting OR praying to an entity outside of themselves is something we should all accept. Not respect….but accept. In this instance I agree with the Catholic church, last rites should not be extended to Atheists. They chose not to believe in life, so our Lord Jesus will not acknowledge them in death.

    Letter #1 – This is a constant on the Dear Margo threads. We all say the same thing over and over, and it is and will forever be true. When one half of a friendship wants to end it, it must end and the other half must accept it as a part of life and move on. Based on the gist of the letter, I would side with the angered friend.

    If the letter writer was such a good friend and knew both parties were not particularly upfront and honest about issues, why would she introduce them in the context of a “fix up”? Who does that? That is like fixing up a man that you know to be a pathological liar with a girlfriend that you know has trust issues. Then when the relationship doesn’t work out you are left with your mouth agape that they didn’t work out and are angry with you for not warning them about their date.

    • avatar Ariana says:

      I disagree that the mother’s remains are a non-issue to atheists. That disregards the powerful emotions that are in play when mourning someone’s death.

      Her sister wanted to have the urn in her house a few days, in order to take her leave. It’s not like she was planning on kidnapping the ashes and do something with them. Why should the Catholic sister be allowed to deny her sister access to the ashes because she is not of her faith, especially considering that the mother was an atheist as well?

      Even if you don’t believe in the afterlife, the ashes are a powerful reminder of a beloved mother. To deny the sister the right to have the urn in her house for a few days was completely disrespectful to her mother’s memory not to mention the sister.

      I would be very upset too if one of my siblings took my parent’s ashes and carried out some religious rites that went against my parent’s beliefs. It’s about respect and the sister showed none for anybody other than herself.

      • avatar Sita says:

        Actually by acting the way the sister acts, she not only disrespect their mother, but also her religion and herself. Only somebody with such small sense of respect would do such a thing as to deny their sibling closure in whatever way the sibling chooses to.

    • avatar bamabob says:

      “as non-believers this is tantamount etc.” If you are a Christian I don’t understand how you can speak for non-believers. My siblings are atheists, as are several colleagues and none of them “take glee” in their non-belief any more than they “take glee” in their non-belief in the boogeyman. It isn’t that they “chose not to believe in life,” they chose not to believe in something without any evidence to support it. “Because someone said so” isn’t evidence. I have no problem with you disagreeing with atheism or sharing your own beliefs, but I did want to clarify some misconceptions.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      It is apparent that you do not quite understand the position of atheists. Not all find glee in that there is no higher power. In fact, I would suggest that most do not find “glee” in that. Of course, atheists could make erroneous generalizations about believers, perhaps by suggesting that they must give up responsibility for their own morality and lives to a higher power to cope with the fact that their death may lead to nothingness and that they must take ownership for their faults, poor decisions, etc. They could also say that they do not respect your belief, they just accept that it is, while continuing to build straw men about people who think differently. I am not sure how it advances any conversation about the subject, but what’s new?

  7. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: Unintentionally or not, this letter comes across as being from a busybody type who likes to shop at Drama & Cliché.

    “I don’t want to let my oldest friendship die without a fight, but I don’t know whether this is worth fighting for.” How… noble.

    The whole motive of “they need to be honest with each other” is both vague and self-satisfying. Honest about what, and who exactly are YOU to be the barometer of honesty? Is Trista refusing to tell Ryan about her leukemia because she just wants to love again before she dies? Is Ryan keeping it a secret that he plans to leave town at the end of summer and this is just a casual fling? Are both of them internet pedophiles? Regardless, you’re privy to some sort of information from both parties that probably should have stayed private if you’re really friends with both, and unless each asked you to approach the other on their behalf—the standard response is to keep quiet and shut up and let them work things out on their own.

    LW2: I disagree with some of the above posts in that if this isn’t the best response Margo has ever given, it’s in the top five. In this situation, your belief system is in line with pretty much all the others—Mom is gone. So let her go. I’ve spread my mother’s ashes myself, and this is what I took away from the experience: the ashes aren’t your mother. In fact, there’s such a disconnect between all your memories of your mother and holding a 5 lb. box of dust, that it feels quite absurd to refer to the dust in your mind as being “someone.” You say you’re an atheist, so take solace that death means “done,” and a cue that you should move on with your own life while you’re here.

    • avatar Sita says:

      David, I must disagree with you here. As logical as atheists are, we still have a heart. I know that my mom’s ashes are so far removed from the actual person my mom used to be, but they give me peace every time I hold the little bottle containing the ashes. But that’s me.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I think Margo’s comment isn’t to hurt someone or deny them feelings of expressing love, but to put things into perspective. Ultimately, the person is gone and the ashes just become yet another possession. Is it worth creating a defensive posture or grudge or potentially damaging argument over a picture, a piece of furniture, or someone’s remains? Each of us has to answer that from our own perspective—I think Margo’s answer gives the LW some ammunition, which ironically can be used to defuse the situation and hopefully has the effect of instilling in her a sense of “oh yeah… I guess you’re right.” It really IS just an urn, and I personally believe the LW would be better off in the long run to let it go and move on, and try to understand why her sister is acting the way she is based on her own belief system.

      • avatar Ariana says:

        I kind of thought Margo’s tone was a bit put-offing in that she is seeming to say: You’re an atheist so therefore these ashes now have absolutely no value to you, so let your sister do whatever she wants.

        That doesnt sound like putting things into perspective, it sounds like she’s blowing off the LW’s feelings. Her sister was being very disrespectful and her answer is: why should you care?

        Sometimes it is worth making a stand and saying: Hey, it’s not OK for you to treat me like that, so let’s try to work out a solution that we both can live with. She didn’t even try to offer a way for the LW to resolve the situation.

      • avatar K Coldiron says:

        Right on, Ariana.

    • avatar martina says:

      My husband is an atheist and I am far from it. I want to be cremated and used as fertilizer and my husband would never cremate someone because then there is nothing left of that person. So, to him, as long as there is a physical presence that person is still there. I know that when my father passed, the most difficult thing for me was watching them close the casket because his physical presence was gone and so he was truly gone. What I understand from Margo’s response is as you say, her mother is not in that urn, her mother is in what she remembers and keeps in her heart. But, there are some people who need that physical tie to keep those we lost from being completely gone. She may need those ashes for those couple of days just to ease herself into being able to let go.

    • avatar Hellster says:

      David, you are my new favorite. That first letter was on a par with soap opera–and badly done soap opera, at that. Honest about what? Bleh! The tipoff for me was this:
      “She rejected the tearful apology I offered . . .” You don’t describe your own apology as “tearful.” That’s a stage direction. This chick is yanking Margo’s chain.

      As for the cremains (I love that funeral-industry-coined term!), your sister just wants to get you to admit you really aren’t an atheist. Like most deists or theists, she can’t believe that there are people who actually do not believe in god, or who believe there is no god. She is holding your mom’s ashes hostage, and the ransom is for you to accept her faith. Don’t do it; never negotiate with terrorists.

  8. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Never, ever come between a couple – even for good reasons. Not unless you’re a very close relative and something serious is at stake (wellbeing of children, spousal abuse). Unless your friend can “see the light,” your friendship is over.

    L #2: Sorry about your loss and pain. Sister should have allowed you keeping the ashes for awhile. Guess she’s punishing you for not being Catholic? Sad.

  9. avatar bobkat says:

    LW1: For real??? How old are you all? 12? Your ‘friend’ and this surgical resident sound extremely immature. Once they were together you should’ve backed off, instead of meddling in their ‘relationship’. Besides looking for another living arrangement, like Margo said, you should also swear to yourself to never, ever play match-maker again.

  10. avatar JCF4612 says:

    1) Either you or your clearly former friend needs to move, so you can have some peace on the home front.  

    2) I am so sorry about your situation. The Catholic church, once again, shows its colors. If it helps, I have my parents ashes in my home because no decision was ever made by them on final burial. I’m torn between two states, and while leaning toward their home state … that creates new dilemma. Which cemetery, that of my father’s family … or my mother’s. As it stands, quite literally, the urn is in my office, serving as a bookend. In the interest of efficiency, I may make the final decision, but let my daughter handle it down the road, including my own ashes.      

    • avatar Lila says:

      JCF, make sure your executor knows where the ashes are and what to do with them. Combining them with your own funeral plans might be a really nice way to handle it – scattered or buried together.

      If something happens to you without any instructions left behind, your “bookend” could end up who knows where, and by the time someone figures out it contains human cremains, their identity may be lost.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      The Catholic Church has nothing to do with this conflict between the sisters.  The sister was wrong to ask a priest to perform last rights on a non-Catholic let alone an atheist and the priest did not insert himself into the situation and rush to do a death bed conversion of the mother.    This is the sister’s hang up.  My guess is she is angry/hurt/worried because he mother died an atheist and projecting that anger on her sister who is also an atheist.  I think the sister of LW#2 is being an ass but don’t ascribe it to the teachings of the Catholic Church which would be at worst indifferent to this situation and at best would tell sister with the ashes to give her sister some comfort.   Its a sad situation. 

    • avatar mayma says:

      Wait a second, what does the Catholic church have to do with this?  How are they “showing their true colors once again” in this scenario?  Because they refused to perform last rites on someone who didn’t want last rites performed?  What’s wrong with that?   Maybe the Catholic church recognized that the mother isn’t an appendage of her daughter and is entitled to her own decisions/beliefs.

  11. avatar Lila says:

    Margo – I can understand LW2′s desire to just have possession of the ashes for a few days. We’re all agnostics in my family, and Dad was cremated when he died. We were notified when the ashes were ready for pickup. My brother was content leaving them at the crematorium until we were ready to do the scattering – but it bugged me to think of my Dad’s remains sitting on some anonymous shelf. I KNOW he’s not there anymore, I KNOW the ashes are not really him, but – I wanted his remains at home, where it seemed to me that they belonged. So I told my brother I was going to make the one-hour drive to go get them, and he ended up coming along. We put the box on Dad’s bed, where it stayed until we were able to go scatter the ashes where he had wanted, and frankly, I felt better for it.

    Yes, it’s just a box of ash. But it’s the last bit of physical connection that my Dad ever had to this world. The dignity or even the affection that we give to human remains is reflective of our care for the person when living. If it were “just an urn” in most people’s minds, there would not have been so much outrage over the improperly dumped urns (and misplaced bodies, which are really no different) at Arlington Cemetery.

  12. avatar D C says:

    Your mother isn’t there.  You were with her, taking care of her as she died.  You don’t need those ashes.  Let it go and let your sister have her way.  You and your mother were of like mind.  I think that’s probably why your sister is holding on — she knew mom liked you best.

    I am so sorry for your loss.  May you have sweet memories to give you peace.

    My mothers ashes.  Hmmm.  My mom told me to “just flush me down the toilet” when she was dying of cancer and hospice was called in.  At the memorial service we held in my home I got the laugh of the year.  And older brother who absolutely cannot have grown up in the same house as me because we were never as country-bumpkin as he turned out to be, saw the large bowl and candles I had set aside for everyone to light a candle and set into the sand as they shared a precious memory.  My brother thought the sand was her ashes.  I mean… seriously?  That was a lot of sand.  I could see if she weighed 700 pounds, but it was more like 70 when she died, so …

    I kept her ashes on the shelves in the living room for a while, trying to decide what to do with them.  I couldn’t inter them next to dad — he was an ass.  I couldn’t imagine her spending eternity stuck next to his dry bones.  I couldn’t scatter them at sea because she never learned to swim.  But it bothered me that she was in the living room listening to all the racket on the television and the kids — she preferred quiet and solitude.  I ended up going out one day to bring in the trash can and was hit by a frigid 30+ mph wind in the face and knew exactly what to do.  I took mom’s ashes to a man-made hill in a nearby park — a protected wetlands area so I knew there wouldn’t be a subdivision built on it anytime soon, and I THREW her into the wind that carried her over the little man made lake/alligator habitat and into the swampy forest.  Except for the bits of bone that were too heavy and fell at my feet.  That was a bit disconcerting.   

    • avatar Ariana says:

      “That was a bit disconcerting. ”

      Oh my goodness! I’ll bet it was. Never considered that that could happen

  13. avatar francophile1962 says:

    Not any pearls of wisdom here, but I’m wondering why LW1 thought it was necessary to mention that the guy in question is a surgical resident (no mention of the woman’s occupation). To me this smacks of the LW upping the ante by impying she was helping the friend move up the “food chain”.

    • avatar K Coldiron says:

      I suspect she was mentioning it to show that he had light feet. I.e. since he was a resident and not firmly established, he wasn’t likely to stay in the area longer than a year or two.

  14. avatar bamabob says:

    Deaths in the family bring out the best in people and bring out the worst in people. I don’t think LW2 gives two figs for the “just the urn”. It’s what is inside the urn that is breaking her heart. How that is tantamount (as Belinda Joy suggests) to arguing over a table is beyond me. I hope there is some impartial 3rd party that LW2 can ask to intervene and mediate–another sibling? An aunt or uncle? The lawyer handling the will? The director of the crematorium?

  15. avatar K Coldiron says:

    I’d like to suggest, re LW2, that atheism and “just an urn” are two separate issues. My theory is that everybody views a dead body differently, and that it might not have much to do with one’s religion. Some people see it as a vessel that had its only use during life and is as meaningful as dirt when the person dies; some people feel that the body has as much meaning as the memory of the person, and the urn on the mantelpiece brings them enormous comfort. Some people are creeped out by dead bodies, some people are totally chill about them. Go figure.

    Margo seems to feel that the contents of the urn don’t (or shouldn’t) really have a relationship to the mom the LW knew. But plainly, the LW feels a connection to the contents of the urn, and I don’t blame him/her. I think the sister is being a jerk (and is maybe a bit unbalanced in her grief). Mostly, I’m sorry for LW’s loss and how it’s getting fuzzled up by this debate about the ashes.

  16. avatar mac13 says:

    LW#1. Didn’t I see this on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy? Just kidding, but really? You seem to think that since you set them up you have the right to mediate, be in the middle, whatever you want to call it. When you put yourself in the middle of 2 people you can expect to get the fallout between them. You are in the line of fire.  The fact that you can’t see that your friendship is over amazes me. Leave her alone. Haven’t you done enough?

  17. avatar mayma says:

    I wish there could be a huuuuuuuuuge Public Service Announcement regarding the phrase “I ended up…. ” or “we wound up…. “  [See LW1: "I fixed her up with a surgical resident and wound up in the middle..."]

    Anytime a letter-writer uses that phrase, their credibility decreases by at least 75% for me.  It’s a screaming, honking, sirens-blaring, sparkler-erupting indication that that person is not taking responsibility for him/herself.  We don’t just wind up doing things.  We make choices.  

    I think LW1′s friend may have a good point about LW1′s behavior.

  18. avatar Janet66 says:

    Oh – SIGH. For some reason, a vocal majority of Margo’s commenters *love* to bash the letter writers. You cannot seriously expect anyone to believe that best girlfriends don’t talk about their relationships. Really? Unless y’all are like 80 years old, there’s no excuse for not having a clue!

    LW#1 – You did NOTHING wrong. You tried to set up two friends, and what single, searching person out there wouldn’t appreciate that? You’re studying psychology. I have a good friend who’s a psychologist and guess what? Everyone asks her advice about relationships.  So there you are, and your best friend is confiding in you about problems with the relationship and your surgical friend is doing the same. You’re a psychologist, your job is to help people with their personal problems. So, you tried to help. The relationship ended anyway. Not your fault.

    At this point, your best friend is being unreasonable. It stings because you acted with good intentions. What would you advise a client coming to you with the same problem? Sometimes the clearest answer is the hardest to accept: Your friend is being a jerk. Why would you want to be friends with someone treating you like this? You have nothing to apologize for.  Chin up! These things happen and I suspect, ultimately your friend will feel the loss more than you.

    • avatar mac13 says:

      I have to still disagree. If the best friend is actually being an unreasonable jerk, that means she is making all of this stuff up. If she is making it all up, why on Earth would the LW need or want to patch the friendship? She is upset over the fact that the friendship might be over.  If I had a friend that over reacted to that degree when I had done nothing I would happily write her off. Plus I would never set her up with someone. I can’t escape the gut instinct that the LW was playing puppeteer and it blew up in her face, and now she wants to save face. But that’s my instinct.

  19. avatar catydid says:

    is belief in an afterlife predicated on a belief in God?
    i don’t think so.
    i was raised in the Episcopal church, but became disillusioned a long time ago. i’m not sure i can go so far as to call myself an atheist, but i am certainly an agnostic.
    nevertheless, i like to believe that we go on in some form after our physical bodies die. that doesn’t have to mean that i accept that some guy who died 2000 years ago has anything to do with me or that there’s some higher power out there. it just means that i think that we are more than our physical bodies and the possibility of another existence is appealing.
    i would recommend the book “What Dreams May Come” to anyone who is interested in this idea. (just don’t watch the movie.)

    • avatar D C says:

       (just don’t watch the movie.)

      No lie!  Don’t watch that movie!

    • avatar Lila says:

      catydid, I agree that it might be possible that there is some form of continued existence not predicated on a “God” as most people conceive. It is also possible that there IS a “God” and yet, NOT an afterlife.

    • avatar mac13 says:

      That’s an interesting theory. But I help think if there is the possibility of another existence, where is that existence? Heaven? That take takes you full circle to a belief in god. On a spiritual plane? I am not sure of what value that existence would be. Something to think about.

  20. avatar Miss Lee says:

    My sympathies for letter # 2.  When my father died, he left specific instructions that he did not want a viewing.  I consider viewings a barbaric ritual but I am not religious nor was I close to my father (long story there).  My father’s death was very hard for my brother.  My brother was a recovering alcoholic with little over a year in sobriety under his belt.   He had many things left to say to my father and no time left.  He wanted the viewing so friends and family could gather and honor my father.  We all knew that it was his way of working through his grief so we went along.  Actually it turned out quite well with folks traveling many miles to come.  These events are very hard for families and we must all make our peace in our own way.  Perhaps the writer can envision her mother looking down, shaking her head and being very amused by it all.  Doing so with my father worked for me.

    Letter 1: a good lesson in why one should never be a matchmaker.  You always get blamed for things you can not control.  Move on. 

  21. avatar Teresa says:

    I agree that LW2 should have had her time with her mother’s ashes. Not being religious, as many have said here, does not mean that parting with a loved one through death does not go through the full range of emotions. And, just because LW2 is an atheist, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the same rights to closure as any of her mother’s other children. For the “religious” sister to have denied her non-believing sister that time and closure with her own mother’s ashes was not just heartless, but if you lean towards the religious viewpoint, I hope it can be agreed that it was a grievous sin as well, the situation being caused by envy and wrath as well as a heaping helping of childishness and utter selfishness.

    • avatar Teresa says:

      Left some words out, that should have been “does not MEAN YOU DON’T go through the full range of emotions. “

  22. avatar normadesmond says:

    “Mom” is not being held hostage, an urn is.

    FABULOUS ANSWER MARGO!

  23. avatar lebucher says:

    Amusing cremains story:  A friend of mine passed 2 years ago.  She was an engaging sort but did have a bit of a headstrong and prickly personality.  After her death, her children contacted me to ask for help in locating the place where she wished to have her ashes spread; it was her favorite state park where she used to ride her horse.  So I took the morning off of work and played tour guide and took them to that park.

    I had noticed they were not really dressed appropriately for walking in the woods:  two of them were wearing shorts and sandals.  Upon hiking for a while they settled on a spot that looked inviting.   Just as they were spreading the ashes, one of her other friends pointed out that the ash-spreader was standing in a large area of stinging nettles!  Her kids all burst out laughing!

    It was, after all, truly fitting that her prickly personality be placed in the middle of a bunch of prickly plants.