Unless you're one of the 17,000 or so who got a confirmation number in your e-mail box, you won't be going to Michael Jackson's funeral today, but that doesn't mean we outside the Staples Center can't use this whole sad past week as an object lesson in the business of remembering the dearly departed.

For instance:

1) Your personal project can wait until after the services, if there are to be any.  If you have a new business—a restaurant, a line of clothes a (ahem) record label—there's plenty of time to promote those things after the dead have been given their due.


2) Declaring "I'm in charge" in the absence of a will could be embarrassing when the will is discovered and you are not, after all, in charge.  Resist the urge.

3) If a dead person has family—especially if they are underaged or otherwise vulnerable—don't aid or encourage their exploitation by wanting to see every last scintilla of their anguish.


4) If a funeral service is invitation-only, if the family has stated it's only for family and close friends, honor that wish and stay away.  (And don't assume you're closer than you are; if your presence is desired at an invitation-only service…you'll receive an invitation.)

5) You don't have to be invited to send a condolence note to the bereaved: a quick note with a remembrance of the dearly departed's kindness (to you or someone else), sense of humor, or something positive can be balm to a grieving family.

6) Dress accordingly: too much cleavage, too much flash might have their place at a cocktail party—but they usually don't go well with a solemn service.

7) If the family requests that instead of flowers, a contribution be made to a favorite charity, honor their request.  If you have a problem with the charity (maybe it's Planned Parenthood and you don't believe in birth control, etc) then send a check to the family with a note saying "please use however you need to."


Karen Grigsby Bates is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News, and  co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).

is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).

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