Dear Abby | Fake flower prompts emotional reaction from offended widow

Dear Abby: My brother-in-law died a month ago and was cremated by the local affiliate of a prominent funeral home. To make it easier for my sister, I accompanied her to the mortuary to pick up her husband’s remains. I walked in alone, and as I returned to the car with his urn, a young funeral home employee in a black suit and scuffed shoes followed me. Through the window of the car, he presented my sister an artificial red rose and said, “We’re sorry for your loss.”

My sister and I were appalled by the insincerity of this gesture, and I called and told the funeral home director that the sentiments were as phony as the rose. He said, “I thought it was a great idea,” and couldn’t understand our reaction. Were we wrong? – Resenting Phony Sentiments

Dear Resenting: Yes, you were. When people are grieving, emotions are sometimes raw, so I’m not going to scold you. However, your response to the young man was ungracious. All that needed to be said was, “No, thank you.”

Dear Abby: My mother-in-law keeps buying us decorator items that don’t have a place in our home. While I appreciate the effort and the thought, I have no more closet space in which to store them. I was taught to accept gifts and express gratitude, even if you don’t like them.

My mother-in-law is coming to visit in a few weeks, and my husband insists we should display the items she’s purchased for us. This would entail putting holes in my walls, as she tends to get us items that need to be hung. I don’t think we should have to go through this charade just to appease her. It will only encourage her to buy us more things. What should I do? – No More Closet Gifts

Dear N.M.C.G.: It won’t destroy your home to display one (or two) of the items your MIL has given you while she’s visiting. But while she’s there, make sure she opens the closet where you have stored all the other items she has sent “because she’s such a generous doll you can’t possibly use them all.” When she leaves, sell the gifts or donate them, then pray she takes the hint.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.