With Sympathy
July 21, 2011 10:44 AM   Subscribe

I recently saw an obituary for a previous employer's father. Is it inappropriate to use this situation to re-establish contact?

10-15 years ago, my wife and I worked as property caretakers for a wonderful family. We befriended them and their extended family and we think fondly of them. After leaving their employment (10 years ago) we exchanged Christmas cards for a couple of years, but eventually fell out of contact with them.

Recently I saw an obituary for her father and it has me wanting to express my condolences but I also feel it's a shame that we are no longer in touch.

I'd like to send a card, but I'm not sure if it's inappropriate to come out of nowhere with it?

posted by humboldt32 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's not inappropriate and will almost certainly be appreciated. When my father died last fall, I was really touched by all the people from his past who contacted us to let us know what he had meant to them at different points in their lives.
posted by something something at 10:46 AM on July 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: It's fine. My father died recently and people came out of the woodwork to offer condolences, often with fond remembrances of my dad from a long time ago, or nice stories I hadn't heard before. So I'd stick to the condolences at this point and work at the re-establishing contact thing slowly over time, but I think it's fine.
posted by jessamyn at 10:47 AM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Please do write. My father-in-law died two months ago, and the cards and letters from people who had been long-out-of-touch were a significant source of comfort for the family.
posted by rdc at 11:04 AM on July 21, 2011

Best answer: When my folks died, I made a point of running their obituaries not only in the local paper where they lived, but also back in the communities where they'd grown up, and where their families lived for many years after they'd left to follow my father's Navy career. I'm glad I did, and we got maybe 50 more cards and letters from people that remembered my mother from her small Nebraska home town, and appreciated knowing what had happened to her. It really made it easier for my father, I'm sure, to know she was so widely remembered. And a few weeks later, when he died, I did the same for him, and got a similar response, even from people in their nineties, who must have had the obituary read to them!

People's lives make wider circles among us than we often consider, and if we only notice that at their death, it is better than not noticing at all.
posted by paulsc at 11:17 AM on July 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Absolutely.
When I read the question above the cut, I could see how if could be an iffy situation - I had images of "re-establishing contact" meaning using this polite social moment for networking "Hey sorry to read about your dad, just wanted you to know that I thinking of you, and wondering how hte business is going cuz I'm unemployed, wanna be my contact on LinkedIn?" But that's not what you meant at all.

Sympathy cards are one of those things that doesn't need a "sorry I haven't written lately" at the top of the note. Just say you were sorry to hear the news, and know that they'll appreciate your thoughts. If you're concerned they'll blank on your name, just be sure to have an oblique reference to how you knew him e.g. "every time we met while I was working for your family, he was gracious and kind".
posted by aimedwander at 11:30 AM on July 21, 2011

Best answer: Yes please, and include a handwritten note expressing your condolences.
posted by easily confused at 11:36 AM on July 21, 2011

Best answer: Absolutely send a letter, it will help them A LOT that people they were never expecting to hear from still care.
posted by tel3path at 11:46 AM on July 21, 2011

Best answer: I did this when I saw the obituary for an old friend's wife. He was very pleased to hear from me, and we've stayed in touch since.
posted by vickyverky at 12:14 PM on July 21, 2011

Response by poster: aimedwander, you are correct. Networking isn't my intention. In fact, my apprehension is that I didn't want it to seem that way. This family was very kind to us, but they were, after all, our employers.

Thanks everyone for your encouragement. I haven't had a lot of experience with death in my life, luckily. It leaves me unsure as to what's "normal".

Is it inappropriate to mark you all as best answer?
posted by humboldt32 at 12:19 PM on July 21, 2011

Best answer: This is totally the point, in a way, of obituaries. Funerals are for the living and all that. You're doing a great kindness.
posted by desuetude at 9:32 PM on July 21, 2011

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