Tuesday, August 16, 2011

* Mourning Becomes Electric

Friend A, recently a widower, was visited unannounced by friend B at his home to get advice about house painting, of which Friend A is an expert. Both males spent a few awkward moments before friend B heard the word "funeral" from friend A and realized friend A's wife was nowhere to be seen. 

Soon the announcement that she had died filled the leaden air and friend B was enormously embarrassed at his own insensitivity. It is summer and many folks do not read the paper regularly in summertime. The obituaries come and go in three days in modern times, although the funeral home operates an on-line obituary for its clients.

A simple mourning wreath on friend A's door would have avoided this awkward social moment.

I grew up in a suburb of New Haven, Connecticut, a city  with a predominantly Italian population.

Women wore black when a relative died.  In my neighborhood, two spinster sisters in their fifties wore black from head to foot for the rest of their lives after their parents died. On the hottest days of summer they were black scarecrows strolling the sidewalks.

I used to think such rituals were foolish.

Now, that I am older, I understand that some folks need to have a mechanism to alert others in society to "tread lightly on certain topics of conversation."

I recall reading that Queen Victoria made the entire British nation wear mourning clothes for a full year after Prince Albert died. She wore black for the remaining decades of her long life.

Such national commands are  excessive----and the work of a control freak, Royal Highness or not.

But a simple mourning wreath on a front door seems reasonable. 

 It would have been useful to my widower friend a few weeks ago here in Vermont, 2011.

I suppose Twitter and Facebook users would not have encountered this problem.

Does the Facebook wall have a "mourning wreath" icon?

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