Polite response to news of death morphs into performing at funeral. Help
October 28, 2019 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I responded politely to an email describing funeral arrangements for someone I knew very vaguely as part of a hobby group seven or eight years ago. I hadn't even heard that he'd died. Now I'm getting emails about performing a song at the funeral with a few other members of the group. I wasn't even sure that I would attend the funeral but plans are underway and it seems I've been volunteered. Can I (or should I) get out of this without looking like a dick?

Seven or eight years ago, I attended a weekly performing group for about a year. Last week, the main coordinator for all these groups, who I do not know personally, emailed my cohort plus alumni from the two years above to share funeral arrangement details for one of our group, a man of around 45 who had died suddenly.

I couldn't place who she was talking about initially. Once I'd remembered who he was, I replied to the email saying that I was unaware of his death, thanks for letting me know and to keep me posted on the funeral arrangements. I wasn't sure if I would go along, but thought I might pop by quickly if the service was local and didn't clash with any work.

This weekend I received several emails from the same coordinator discussing the fact that the mother of the deceased was so glad that seven of us had agreed to do a song at his funeral (there was some vague allusion to this idea in the first email) and to arrange a series of rehearsals of said song.

Seven people is already a small number of responses, when perhaps eighty of us or more would have been emailed. One person has already responded to say that she can't manage the rehearsals due to work commitments, but will try to make it on the day. The coordinator herself is saying that she won't be able to make the funeral itself but will come out for drinks post-funeral.

I feel terribly guilty, but I don't want to take time out to go to the rehearsals (more than an hour away by train) and I don't want to perform at the funeral.

There's no nice way to get out of this, is there? But at the same time I'm annoyed with coordinator for promising away my time and committing me to doing this with the man's grieving mother. I already wrote and deleted several emails. Please advise.
posted by doornoise to Human Relations (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Dear Coordinator,
I am not available to participate in this event. I'm so sorry for any miscommunication that led you to believe otherwise.
Best regards,
posted by something something at 8:48 AM on October 28, 2019 [22 favorites]

Best answer: Just send your condolences to the mother and say you had other plans that weekend that you cannot cancel.
posted by mareli at 8:50 AM on October 28, 2019

Best answer: "I regret that I won't be able to be perform at the funeral, though I will try to attend if I can rearrange some other commitments. Sincerely, doornoise."

Short and direct is best, in my experience.
posted by pingzing at 8:52 AM on October 28, 2019 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, you have nothing to feel guilty about. This is a totally reasonable misunderstanding, and it's totally reasonable to say "Oh, I'm so sorry for the mix up, but I can't commit to this." That might annoy someone, but it's not your fault. You can be a nice person and still have someone annoyed at you.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:52 AM on October 28, 2019 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Grieving people can make odd choices, assume no one is at their best right now. If you want to maybe be at the funeral but not perform you could be a bit more hand-wavey....

"I am so sorry for the misunderstanding but my plans are up in the air at the moment and I will not be able to commit to participating at this event."

You absolutely do not have to do this. You can even show up at the funeral and not perform there. It's okay.
posted by jessamyn at 8:52 AM on October 28, 2019

Best answer: Dear Coordinator,

I am sorry that my response to your original email was misconstrued as committing to perform at the funeral. I am unable to rehearse or perform at the event. Please extend my condolences where appropriate.

posted by Medieval Maven at 8:57 AM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Email duly sent! A composite of your suggestions.

Thanks for the fast responses, everyone. Really helpful.
posted by doornoise at 9:20 AM on October 28, 2019 [9 favorites]

coming in late...when a writer friend was invited to a fellow poet's memorial she made it very clear when I asked that she didn't want to speak; which was fine with me.
posted by brujita at 1:41 PM on October 28, 2019

This is the Perfect Time for some white lies!
1. You remember Bruce well and thought he was a great guy, and
2. You are out of town, so you can't make the funeral.

Send two emails:

Hi Mother-of-Bruce,
I'm writing to express my sadness at the loss of Bruce. We were friends in Group and I always found him so intelligent and interesting and kind. (Share a little anecdote if you have one). I will be out of town for the next little while so I just wanted to say that I am thinking of you and sending strength and peace to you and the rest of your family.
Sincerely, Name.

Hi Choir Director (and maybe Choir, if applicable),
What a lovely plan to perform at Bruce's funeral. I'm so sorry to be out of town and unable to attend. I hope you're doing okay. I've been thinking of that time in our lives fondly. I remember Bruce as such an intelligent, interesting, kind person, and send hugs to the group.
Warmly, Name.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:12 PM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

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