Photo: Bonnie Natka (flickr)

I just found out that my favorite aunt died. The weird thing is that she died last month, and nobody told me about it, so I missed her funeral. I only found out that she’d died because when I phoned to catch up, a recorded message said her number was no longer in service.

When you’re calling a woman in her late 80s, this isn’t a good sign. So I went online, Googled her and found an obit.

I’m sad and a little freaked out – why didn’t her daughters bother to tell me? Although she lived in Detroit, where I grew up, and I now live in Philadelphia, I’d have flown in for the funeral. Hell, I’d have flown in even if I lived in China! I would have wanted to mourn her with the other people who loved her, instead of sitting alone, shocked and sad, at my computer, reading about her funeral a month after it took place.

A friend suggests that perhaps her daughters didn’t realize that even though I rarely visited, the two of us kept in touch by phone.  We’d check in every other month or so and enjoy hour-long conversations about our lives, the family, politics and the books we were reading. She was great fun to talk with and a terrific person — smart, unconventional, always optimistic and unfailingly supportive. When I left the practice of law to work at my local public library, she backed my decision without question. “Great move!” she told me. “You’ll love library work.”  She was there for me throughout my difficult divorce.

The last time we spoke, I’d told her of my son’s upcoming wedding. (She wouldn’t be able to attend — legally blind and 87, she no longer traveled.) When I fretted a bit about the fact that my son was only 22, she reassured me. “He’s very mature for his age. And you’ve told me how much you love his fiancé. In my generation, we all got married young. They’ll be fine.”

When I called her number, I was looking forward to telling her all about the wedding. I’m sorry that we’ll never have that conversation, although she’d be the first person to counsel me to have some perspective. After all, to die at age 87 after a long, full life isn’t a tragedy.  But I’m still sad, and adding to my sense of loss is the very troubling mystery of why nobody told me she was gone. Should I contact my cousins, offer my condolences and ask why? Or should I just let it go? This is exactly the kind of problem I could always run by Aunt Lucille. We’d talk the whole thing out, and I could always rely on her sound, practical advice. Now I’m on my own.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • fergiezoe caasi December 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    I looked up “missing the funeral because i had to move” on google and i found this.

    im 20 years old now, but 6 years ago, december 15, 2006, my friend died. and i moved to japan on december 16, 2006 because my family was in the military. she was the same age as me when she died. she died at 15. i was 14, but we were in the same grade. and i knew her since he 4th grade. our moms were best friends, and she and her brother use to come over my house every week.

    it sucks to miss a funeral. but im glad that im not the only one who missed a funeral .

    im sorry that you had to find out the death of your aunt late, but know that your not alone. 🙂

  • Roz Warren August 30, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Tina that is heartbreaking. Your poor mother. It is sad to think that somebody’s faith would lead them to exclude a dear friend like this.

  • tina August 30, 2011 at 10:10 am

    My mother found out about the death of a lifelong friend (Lucky)who was also my godmother, also by happenstance. She was in NY for a funeral for another dear friend but felt compelled to call my godmother. As things happen we didn’t as we were running from place to place. Once we resettled back in Virginia she called and found out her friend had died, was it an oversite?, was it because Lucky’s only child was a Jehovah Witness and his beliefs ran counter to our faith.Whatever, it hurt my mother deeply, she has never recovered completely as she was left to mourn alone two friends that she knew over sixty years, and writing this comment now I am still angry.

  • Eleanore Wells July 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Wow. I, too, am sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like. I co-sign with Nancy about reaching out to your cousins –especially without accusation– but I think I might call. Nothing like a real conversation to make sure the message on both sides is communicated the way it is meant to be heard.

    Good luck

  • Roz Warren July 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Please note that if you want to share this essay to your Facebook page (and I hope you do) you can only do it by hitting the FB “Share” button on this (the WVFC) site. If you try to “share” the essay from one FB page to another, you’ll be informed that you’ve successfully shared it but it won’t turn up on your FB page. BOO Facebook!

  • Roz Warren July 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Nancy that is excellent advice.

  • Nancy July 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    So sorry, this really sucks! My first thought was that your cousins were negligent airheads…however, after reading these thoughtful comments I see a bigger picture. Sally makes several good points, especially that the bereaved are sometimes overloaded as well as in shock so details get overlooked, and that if your first thought was to google your aunt’s name rather than call your cousins you guys probably aren’t very close. So they may not have had you on their minds. But it is still very painful not to be included.

    Personally, I’d send warm and polite condolence cards to these cousins, expressing briefly and without accusation, your shock at finding out so long after the fact.

  • Roz Warren July 18, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I so appreciate these heartfelt and supportive comments. This website brings together such an amazing, insightful and empathetic community of women (and some men.. I know!)I am very grateful to be part of it.

  • Sally July 18, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Roz, I, too, am sorry for your loss. An aunt of mine died recently at 103, leaving my mother as the last of 9 brothers and sisters. I gave the funeral parlor the information for the obit and thought I was being inclusive when I cited “generations of nieces, nephews and honorary nieces and nephews” thinking of the many friends of cousins who attended my aunt’s 100th birthday celebration (she never married and had no children of her own.) What I forgot was to mention her 2 living sisters-in-law. I called my aunts, apologized and hope they understand that it was not a deliberate slight.

    I question why your first response on finding the phone was disconnected was to google your aunt and not to reach out to your cousins. Did they know how to get in touch with you? Offer your condolences, share the memories of the woman you all loved and try to understand that people make stupid mistakes at the time of a loved one’s death.

  • hillsmom July 18, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Please accept my sincere condolences on your loss. My favorite uncle died last year and I didn’t find out about it until 9 months after the fact. We kept in touch sporadically, and evidently my phone messages and mail were delivered before things had been stopped. A cousin emailed me. I too, felt so bereft and grieved about not knowing. (I’m out of Uncles and Aunts now.) I did notify another cousin who was as shocked as I was…we hadn’t received Christmas cards that December.

    It took a lot of time…in fact, I’ll still sometimes find myself thinking that I should call him. Then I remember. Perhaps you might consider telling your cousins (in a non-judgmental way) how much you miss her.

  • Toby Bloomberg - @atsGf July 18, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Hi Roz –
    Echoing Pat .. sorry for your loss also.

    As the song goes, “no one stays in 1 place any more.” When you move away frm ‘home’ people tend to want to not bother you with bad news. Sometimes in their own grief they forget those not right around the corner.

    I can’t tell you what to do, but my sense is that you’ll honor your aunt in the best way for you and for her.

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen July 18, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Dear Roz,

    I am sorry for your loss. I was in medical school when my beloved father’s mother died in her 80’s. My mother chose not to tell me because, “I was under too much stress with all that study and work”. I was always certain that I was her favorite grandchild and was stunned that it was assumed that I shouldn’t drive one hundred miles to honor her in a community where that mattered. I know my mother loves me and that she made an odd decision based on the false assumption that I wouldn’t take a day to celebrate the life of a woman who had loved me unconditionally.