A recent Ethicist column in New York Times Magazine caught our attention: “The Mistress at the Funeral.” In it, a reader explains that he recently lost a good friend. In his final weeks of life, the friend told him that he wanted his mistress to attend his memorial service. Though the wife knew the mistress existed, the reader wasn’t sure whether he should honor his friend’s wishes.
At Legacy.com, our answer was a resounding, “No! You should not invite the mistress to the funeral!” And we were pleased to see that the Ethicist agreed.
Funerals are a time to celebrate, honor and remember the deceased’s life. But at their core, funerals are for the living; they are designed to provide comfort to the deceased’s family. The same is true of obituary Guest Books at Legacy.com – the Guest Book is a place where people can share memories and condolences to comfort the grieving family.
Legacy.com receives more than one million condolence messages each month. We employ a team of content screeners who review these messages for appropriate content prior to posting them online. Their job is to be sure they post nothing that could be upsetting or offensive to those who visit the Guest Book. Our content screeners understand that Legacy.com’s goal is to provide comfort in a difficult time.
Years ago, I spoke with a customer who was shocked that we would not post her condolence message. I explained that we do not post negative comments about the deceased as it could be upsetting to the family. I still remember her adamant tone when she responded, “But he really was a jerk!” My explanation then remains my explanation today: “I’m not saying he wasn’t a jerk. I’m just saying this isn’t the place to talk about it.”
Our screening policies can be a source of frustration for those whose messages we deny. But while we know not everyone is a saint worthy of high praise, we also know how devastating it could be to a grieving family to read negative comments about their loved one.
Simply put: funerals and Legacy.com Guest Books are not the place to air grievances, expose sins, or tell the “truth” of someone’s life. There is a time and a place for such things. This is not it.
For more about Legacy.com’s content screening, we encourage you to read the New York Times piece: “In Online Mourning, Don’t Speak Ill of the Dead.”