The greatest common denominator of all living things is death. You can’t escape it. You can’t hide from it. The Grim Reaper will eventually find you and take you to Heaven, Hell or some place in between; whichever you earned in your stint here on the mortal plane. Generally, those left behind will mourn your passing, celebrate your life, or remember you fondly. However, for those that pass on that weren’t exactly cut from the Nobel Peace Prize cloth, it may be a little more difficult for those left behind to write appropriate comments in the sympathy cards. Here is my list of absolute no-no’s (unless you really and truly just don’t care what others think or feel, you uncaring barbarian!):
1. He’s dead, Jim!
No matter how much of a Star Trek fan you and the deceased are or were, this really isn’t appropriate in a card. Yeah, it’s funny, but do you really want to piss off the Romulans? You could try for “I have been, and always will be, your friend.”
2. May the Force be with you.
I grew up with Star Wars but it doesn’t mean I’ll put it in a card to express my condolences for someone’s loss. Don’t get fed to the sarlacc. Why not use “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force” instead.
3. I know how you feel.
Really? Your grandmother was kidnapped by a Bigfoot, dragged through the swamp, forced to pick fleas from his hide, fed twigs and berries until she keeled over from exhaustion and starvation too? Amazing! I thought I was the only one! How more insincere can you really sound? Try for something a little more supportive and heartfelt.
4. I didn’t know he was sick.
Your best friend’s Uncle Bob may not have been sick. He may have accidentally met his demise with a neck tie, a door knob and a little late night mature entertainment. Unless someone shares the specifics of a person’s death, never assume. Stick with something the focuses on the good virtues of his life; “I am so sorry that you have lost your favorite Uncle. You shared many happy memories with him and I hope those memories comfort you now in your time of sorrow.”
5. At least now we won’t have to drive a stake through her heart.
Even if Aunt Lidia kicked puppies, inspired nightmares and horror stories, had breath that could shrivel a blooming rose, and could scare the crap out of small children and full grown men alike, doesn’t mean she deserves to be remembered as a foul human being. Perfume de Garlique might be a wise choice for the next month, just to be on the safe side. She might have heard those nasty things you said about her under your breath and might want to have a chat about them really late some night.
6. Piss on his grave!
Pissing on something is best left to Calvin and his least favorite vehicle or sports team. You never know if the deceased’s cold, dead hand might reach up and grab you by the little boy parts if you try to leave your own remembrance on their grave. And the undertaker might take offense to you waggling your naughty bits in a place of serene remembrance.
7. Prayers really do get answered.
Always be careful what you wish for, this might come back and bit you in the ass when you least expect it. You may have prayed for their demise, but they might have left all the bills in your name. Now who has the last laugh? Nothing says ‘I love you, forever’ like a credit card bill with a 30% interest rate charged to the limit.
8. I thought the old bastard would never die!
He spent years hinting that you were in his will and you couldn’t wait for the day to come when the lawyer slowly opens the sealed envelope to reveal the disbursement of your relative’s earthly treasures. What the hell do you mean Mr. Fluffy gets everything and all you get is a life size portrait of him with the damn cat?! Bring him back so we can kill him again! Never count your eggs before they hatch. Yeah, I hate that saying, too.
9. May he rot in hell.
I have wished this on some of the living at times, but I would never wish this on a dead guy. Besides being bad juju, how do I know that my wish didn’t tipped the scales on judgment day and send him to his eternal unrest on a roasting spit surrounded by hungry, flesh eating fiends? And it’s bad for the wisher’s Karma, too.
10. At least she got to live a long life.
One person’s long life is not another person’s long life. Maybe her family has a history of living into their 90’s and she only lived to be 73. By comparison, she still had a good 17 years of pole dancing, chasing buff orderlies, and barrels of beer drinking to go and now the grieving family may feel like their time with her was cut short. Don’t be a dork, avoid this expression at all cost.
11. She’s in a better place.
And you know this how? She might have had a hidden, dark side and ended up as Satan’s bed pan cleaner instead of in some dreamy place filled with gently playing harp music and an all you can eat dessert buffet. Maybe this life was the best thing that ever happened to her. Hush now, before you swallow the other foot.
12. Get over it, he’s dead.
No matter what a person was like in life, they always leave some sort of impression on those they left behind. Just because you despise the dead guy, don’t belittle the feelings that others have for him. Their sense of loss is very real and deserves respect. And the dearly departed might have actually been a saint to them even if they were evil incarnate to everyone else. Or you friend might have just scored the inheritance lottery and you don’t want to ruin your chance of getting a new sports car for your next birthday. Swallow your pride and play nice.
Death is inevitable; there is no way around it. When the time comes to send a sympathy note, remember to be on your best behavior. Rude and thoughtless comments don’t belong in the grieving process, no matter how much the deceased is hated. Before you put pen to paper for that sympathy message, consider the person that will be receiving it and write your note accordingly. You want them to know that you are there to support them through this and that you care about them. You don’t want to alienate them because of a unthinking or oblivious comment.