Funeral Flowers are Gifts

Oct 6, 2010 | 5 comments

In yesterday’s Dear Abby column, a widower wrote in to say that at his wife’s funeral, many of their friends returned to the mortuary to collect the flowers they had sent. He said that some of the attendees were very rude, insisting that because they had sent them, the flowers belonged to them. He asked “Are those people just rude?”

Can you believe this? Has funeral etiquette and thoughtfulness for our fellow humans fallen to such a low level that people are taking the flowers that they sent to the family of the deceased? It’s one thing to take the centerpieces off the tables after a wedding – plenty of folks help themselves to those decorations without asking, it’s almost a given. (BTW, it’s polite to ask the host/hostess before helping yourself to the centerpieces. At my wedding, we had reserved the centerpieces for specific people, and other guests walked off with them anyway.) But jeez, taking home funeral flowers sent as a gift is really low.

Dear Abby’s reply was that when flowers have been sent – whether for a birthday or an occasion like a funeral – they are no longer the property of the sender. They belong to whomever they were sent to. She affirmed that those “friends” were insensitive and rude.

The widower’s daughter, who was in charge of the thank you notes, didn’t know who sent what because they were too distracted to look at the cards on the flowers. Abby suggested the daughter simply send a short message to those who signed the memorial book at the funeral service: “Our family thanks you for attending Mother’s funeral, and for your compassion during this sad time. Your thoughtfulness is deeply appreciated.”

Anyone who takes back flowers is not being thoughtful. If you send flowers, remember they are a gift, and you don’t take gifts back.

A Good Goodbye