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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:09 PM
Original message
'Celebrating' deceased person's birthday.
I'd just be interested to hear your take on this.

We're going to a family (cousins) Christmas luncheon in a week.
We are a very friendly and convivial group.
Each family brings a dish and we've been assigned dessert.
Fine.

It will also be the birthday of one of the guys. He's about my age(60s).
His second wife will be there. Not the mother of his children.
His daughter's birthday was the same day.
VERY tragically, she died suddenly 4 years ago. Brain aneurysm.
Left a widower and 2 little kids, who will be there.

The hostess, a very sweet lady whom we dearly love, has suggested Miz t. do a birthday cake that should say 'Happy Birthday Judson and Jennifer'.

She says "That's the word I'm getting".
I don't know from where.
She says that Judson is 'upset'? that no one remembers Jennifer and everybody tiptoes around the subject.

This just seems very inappropriate to me.
There are other ways to remember the departed.

I'm going to talk to the hostess cousin tomorrow and see if I can get a bit more info.
In the meantime I'd appreciate hearing your comments.
Thanks.
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Bunny Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:14 PM
Response to Original message
1. I can see how Judson may be upset if he thinks everyone has forgotten
Jennifer. People should make a point to mention her to him on their birthday. But I think putting her name on the cake is a little weird.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:25 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. Yeah, it creeps me out.
And I don't really know how to 'remember' her to her dad's satisfaction.
"Hey Judson, I'm STILL sorry Jennifer died."?
Out of the clear blue?
I mean the funeral and all was the absolute pits.
I guess I could say "We still miss Jen."
I'm perplexed.
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Bunny Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:33 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. "We still miss Jen." That's perfect. I couldn't think of a better
conversation starter, trof.
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YDogg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:17 PM
Response to Original message
2. Seems if it's okay w/ the father and her husband, it's not bad.
Very sad sounding for the children, but maybe they would come to appreciate that their mother's life is celebrated, in any way.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:26 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. Have no idea if the husband is in on this.
Which brings up another point I hadn't even thought about.
How are he and the kids gonna feel about this?
It seems to be just coming from the dad.
jeez
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YDogg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:30 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. seems the husband is the most important one to check with on this
It could really freak him out, or freak out the kids, and he should be aware of this at least so he can alert the kids.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:34 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. Yeah, that's a damn good point. And thanks.
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Rabrrrrrr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:22 PM
Response to Original message
3. Damned weird to me. I wouldn't put a dead person's name on a cake.
But then, I'm a white protestant out of the New England tradition of congregationalism, so we don't do that stuff.

Hispanic catholics - maybe most Catholics, except, perhaps, German or French - and perhaps Hispanic Pentecostals as well, might very well find it perfectly appropriate and normal to have a birthday cake for a dead person.

I find it unapproachably tacky and weird.

Sounds like Judson might need some therapy or time to talk to someone about his grief, which, it seems to me from the few words you offered, that he hasn't dealt with her death very well yet.

It also sounds like his friends and family might also very well start to be more sensitive to Judson, and instead of pretending that his daughter isn't dead, actually talk about - and acually talk with him about it, acknowledge the reality, see how he's doing, don't flinch when he's honest, and otherwise stop trying to "save" his feelings by quitely "forgetting" that his daughter is dead and pretending otherwise.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:33 PM
Response to Reply #3
7. Me and you, bud.
They're basically not-too-churchy Methodists.
Pretty damn whitebread.

Judson is definitely the strong silent type.
He has never had much to say, not even before Jennifer's death.
Our conversations have never gone much deeper than the weather.
I'd feel very uncomfortable trying to open a conversation about his dead daughter.
And I only met her a few times. Didn't know her very well.
:shrug:
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:39 PM
Response to Reply #7
12. How about a second, smaller cake that says "Happy Birthday in Heaven, Jen"
It could be sent home with her kids. That way her absence is noted, yet it's separate from the father's living birthday celebration.

Poor man.
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Kerrytravelers Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 10:35 PM
Response to Reply #3
34. I'm a Catholic and I haven't seen this before.
Maybe other Catholic's have, but it's not necessarily a Catholic tradition.
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Rabrrrrrr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 11:04 PM
Response to Reply #34
35. I never said it was a tradition.
I only offered it as a possibility from my somewhat limited knowledge of Catholics, esp. Hispanic ones.

Thanks for chiming in, though - I'm not Catholic, and have never been Catholic, and will never be Catholic, so my knowledge is all second-hand at best, and is pretty much all Italian and Hispanic versions of Catholicism OR old-school (that is, historical Latin-based pre-1900 European Catholicism). I'm sometimes surprised by how limited my knowledge of Catholicism is; and sometimes I'm surprised by how dead on accurate I have been on some weird things... (weird to this Protestant, anyway).
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QMPMom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 12:42 AM
Response to Reply #3
36. I'm Catholic and I have never heard of this. It's creepy beyond words.
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Spider Jerusalem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 08:53 AM
Response to Reply #3
39. Not Irish Catholics, cetainly.
They'd drink to the departed and share reminiscences over whiskey, and maybe get a little maudlin, but that's about it.

The differences are much more cultural than they are religious; I'm at least nominally Catholic (from my mother; father's side of the family is Protestant), and I can't really imagine having a birthday cake for a dead person (my Catholic ancestors were mostly of English origin, as are the Protestant ones, and so culturally there's the common Anglo-Saxon distaste for overwrought displays of emotion).
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GoddessOfGuinness Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:34 PM
Response to Original message
10. I agree with you...
A toast to remember the daughter would be much more appropriate, in my opinion.

Bereavement can be so difficult to address. My dad passed away 13 years ago, the day before my mom's birthday. For the first few years, at every family gathering, she'd bring a photo of him to set on the dinner table, and have a toast to his memory. She wanted us to get together on his birthday and on their anniversary as well.

This made my brother and sister very uncomfortable, so they stopped attending the get-togethers. Of course, this upset Mom even more. The fact that, after 8 years, she was getting into a pattern of being depressed around her birthday, Dad's birthday and their anniversary, (September, early December, and late December, respectively), led me to suggest grief counseling. But like a good psychiatric social worker, she denied that she had a problem dealing with it. So now, at those particularly difficult times of year, she goes off somewhere on her own; figuring her family just doesn't understand her.

To make matters worse, my aunt, her only sister, just passed away in September, once again within a few days of her birthday; so this isn't going to go away any time soon.

Sorry to vent in your thread...I feel for you and your family, especially your cousin who's grieving. If only there were easy solutions. :hug:
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:41 PM
Response to Reply #10
13. Thanks, GOG. It ESPECIALLY sux when someone dies
on or near a holiday/special occasion.
It takes a lot longer for the numbness to set in.
My father-in-law died on New Year's Eve.
We were notified in an airport on the way to a friend's wedding.
Among strangers.
About the worst way that can happen.
Totally unexpected.
Bummer, and it made the day a sad one for us for many years.
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GoddessOfGuinness Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:45 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. Oh how awful!
It's hard enough to learn about when you're at home...
It must have put a damper on your celebrations. :hug:
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 07:00 PM
Response to Reply #15
23. We were in Albuquerque, enroute from Boston to Phoenix.
It was very weird.
The son of a close friend was getting married on New Year's Day.
BIG wedding.
Everyone was making a 4 or 5 day winter vacation out of it.

Only one friend, from our hometown in NH, but already in Phoenix, knew that we MIGHT be coming through ALB.
Somehow Miz t.'s sister got in touch with her and she had us paged in ALB.
No cell phones then.
Luckily, I took the call.
And then went to break the news to Miz t., our daughter, and her fiance.

We reversed course from Phoenix to Houston.
It's a day I will never forget.
BTW, Southwest Airlines was absolutely fantastic.
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brook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:37 PM
Response to Original message
11. Seems a bit 'off' to me.
Maybe a better way to acknowledge Jennifer would be to display a picture of her on a small side table in the living room or den with some mementos, a nice little bouquet, and even a fistful of helium balloons on pretty ribbons. It might even be appropriate, if Jennifer is buried nearby, to have Dad, Granddad and children take the balloons to the cemetery at some point.


On Thanksgiving, I was with a number of my daughter's in-laws. A half dozen or so took off for maybe 30 minutes to go visit the grave of the man who would have been my daughter's fil had he lived. I thought it was sweet. I'd have been uncomfortable if the dessert had "Happy Thanksgiving Ernie" on it though.


Maybe the present wife is 'trying too hard'? She might actually welcome a lower key suggestion.

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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:48 PM
Response to Reply #11
17. Well, the hostess is not the wife.
In fact, she's the divorced first wife of one of the other cousins.
Who will be there.
It's quite a tale.
There may be a book AND a movie in all this.
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brook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 07:54 PM
Response to Reply #17
31. Oh dear.
the plot thickens. Good luck!
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Redstone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:43 PM
Response to Original message
14. Drinking a toast to the departed is fine, but a birthday cake is morbid.
Redstone
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:48 PM
Response to Reply #14
18. Yeah, I'd be fine with that.
Morbid.
That's the word.
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Horse with no Name Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:46 PM
Response to Original message
16. I think "Happy Birthday" is a little gauche
However, there is no reason they can't "celebrate" her life.
If a cake is necessary, then perhaps saying "With love" or some other nice saying.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:49 PM
Response to Reply #16
19. I'll talk to the hostess tomorrow.
Maybe I can get to the bottom of this.
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mtnester Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:52 PM
Response to Original message
20. I go to my mom's grave on her birthday and sit...read...and I bring TWO
double tall extra hot milky way's with skim and whip from local coffee shop. And a card...

One of the coffees and the card get left for mom...I do this on other important days too.

Here is a pic my uncle took after I had left last year Xmas Day and sent it to me:



So yeah, I celebrate every holiday with my mother...even the day she left us.

I miss her still (Mom, 6/14/04 the day she suddenly and unexpectedly went from us)
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:55 PM
Response to Original message
21. My comment? That you should be more understanding of a man whose child has died
No matter her age, his child is dead. Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead. This kind of grief will make people do things we who are not in grief will think bizarre. Frankly, I think you have two options: either comply with the request, or suggest one that will make you less uncomfortable but will still honor the spirit of the request, that is, that the departed be remembered on what was formerly her birthday.
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Maddy McCall Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 07:01 PM
Response to Reply #21
24. Dad isn't the one who wants the cake.
Cousin is...and Mrs.Trof is expected to make and decorate it.

Therefore, trof does have a dog in this fight.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 07:07 PM
Response to Reply #24
26. Thanks Maddy. Read on at your own risk:
Frankly if they wanted "Fuck Christmas" on the cake, I don't really care.
But this just seems...not right?
The feelings of more than one person are involved here.
I hope to get more info tomorrow, and the damn cake will have whatever is desired.
Boy, why did this warm and fun gathering have to get so damn complicated all of a sudden?
bah humbug
;-)
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Maddy McCall Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 07:11 PM
Response to Reply #26
27. Don't you dare let this get you down.
You know, Mrs.T should make WHATEVER KIND OF CAKE SHE LIKES. Period.

(I'm making a coconut cake right now...hint hint ;) )

Like you said, this is kind of selfish on the part of the cousin, because what she wants may actually cause a great deal of discomfort for Jennifer's immediate family.

You're a good guy to take this to heart and to think about how it will affect others.

:hug:

But don't you dare let this ruin your holidays.

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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 07:16 PM
Response to Reply #27
29. Naw. Miz t. told the cousin-in-law
(it's a long story and I may put it at the bottom of this thread)
"trof isn't gonna go for this."
Boy, does she know me.
I said to Miz t. "Well, doesn't it sound weird to you?"
"Yes, but if that's what they want, I'll do it."
I'll post what I find out tomorrow.
And maybe the whole how I came to be found by these cousins story.
It's a 'ripping yarn'.
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Maddy McCall Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 07:24 PM
Response to Reply #29
30. I'd love to hear what y'all decide.
This is one of those DU stories that I WILL check back on,,,to see how it resolves.

:D

I think I like Mrs.T.

(BTW, back when I first joined DU--weren't you the DUer who nearly amputated his hand on a seltzer bottle? If it wasn't you, I'll spend the next week wracking my brain to figure out who it was. :silly: )
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 07:51 AM
Response to Reply #30
37. Yep, that was me.
Fully recovered now.
I don't make my own soda anymore.
:-(
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 07:02 PM
Response to Reply #21
25. Not helpful.
But thanks for the effort.
:shrug:
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Maddy McCall Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 06:59 PM
Response to Original message
22. From one southerner to another.
Trof, we southerners can make a party out of just about anything. We're known to drink Hurricanes while storms rage offshore. We call our friends over and have cook-outs when we have the blues. A funeral is just another excuse for a pot-luck dinner.

But this is weird. It's eerie. It will make the guests VERY uncomfortable...not just for themselves, but also for Judson.

I don't know if you are a family elder or not--but if you could talk to the person who suggested doing this and let them know that it's just not really a good idea, that would be great. Why not pass around a card expressing that you as a family continue to keep Jennifer in your thoughts and have everyone sign it on the sly...then one of you could pass it to Judson after the festivities are over and everyone is departing.

That kind of grief is one that he probably would be uncomfortable sharing in such a festive way. At least with the card, he could open it in private--and, to me, it would have so much more significance than putting Jennifer's name on a cake...a cake that people will eat....that's just kinda weird and, well, gross.

:hug:
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 07:12 PM
Response to Reply #22
28. Absolutely.
I've marched in jazz funerals, not too sober, and loved every minute.
And cried at the cemetery.

I've been in a flyby for a fallen squadron mate and come down and gotten knee-walking with the rest of my flight afterwards.

Yep, weird and morbid and...gross.
I gotta find out who suggested this.
The hostess has way more sense.
Or at least she used to.
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mykpart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 09:54 PM
Response to Original message
32. Why does a cake for an adult have to say
"Happy Birthday Joe"? What if the cake said simply, Judson & Jennifer, and the month a day of their births?
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BikeWriter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-30-06 09:59 PM
Response to Original message
33. Two of my Brothers were born on the same day. One died...
We refrain from mentioning him on that day, unless our other Brother chooses to.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 07:57 AM
Response to Original message
38. I will update tomorrow. Thanks for comments.
Our hostess works during the week and I won't bother her at work, so I'll call her Saturday and see what really gives.
Again, many thanks for all the comments.
It's been an interesting discussion.
trof
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 02:46 PM
Response to Original message
40. Thought maybe you'd like to know the beginning of the story.
It's kind of heartwarming, if I do say so myself.
My parents were divorced when I was four.
It was a very bitter divorce, especially on the part of my maternal grandparents.
In the 40s, in the south, this just 'wasn't done' by genteel folk. It was tantamount to branding their daughter as a fallen woman.
Partly because of them, I never saw or spoke to my father or any of his family again.
Not his parents, nor his brother, nor two sisters.

Fast forward about 50 years.
After many years out of the state, we returned to coastal Alabama, about an hour from Mobile.
Several months after we had moved in I got a phone call.
To make a very long story short, it was a cousin, from my father's side of the family, who I never knew existed.
Her grandfather and mine were brothers.
She lived just north of Mobile.
Mary and I talked for almost an hour.
Soon after we hung up, her mom called and we talked for a long time.
The next day one of Mary's brothers called.
Everyone seemed pretty excited about finding the long-lost cousin, as was I in being 'discovered'.

Soon Mary's mom called to invite us for a Saturday lunch at the family farm about 2 hours away.
Miz t. and I went, somewhat apprehensively.
Would we like them?
Would they like us?
As we pulled up the long driveway, through a pasture, leading to the front of the house, we saw DOZENS of people, young and old, standing of the front porch of a lovely old classic country farmhouse.
Oh. Wow.

I'm happy to say that we all pretty much did and do like each other and Miz t. and I are now part of their family and they are part of ours. And these (some of them) are the cousins we'll be getting together with in a week.
And they all lived happily (more or less) ever after.
:-)
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brook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 03:10 PM
Response to Reply #40
42. It's a beautiful story, trof.
I'm just sorry there were all those intervening years - but, still - they're over and you've regained some of what you'd lost.


I was on the cover of Newsweek when I got divorced. "The New American Women". Not a flattering story, either. A more honest tag would've included the word "bad" somewhere close to "women". Anyway I can relate somewhat to your background story. Many court battles and family estrangements followed. Things are better but still fragile now...40 some years later.

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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 03:41 PM
Response to Reply #42
43. Damn. I made inside US. News & World Report many years ago.
Photos and everything.
We were in a recession in the 70s and it was about people who had been laid off as I was.
Bit of a coincidence.
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brook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 03:48 PM
Response to Reply #43
44.  media cousins
who flew maybe? :)
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 03:49 PM
Response to Reply #44
45. Yeah. Did we talk about that? TWA
My brain is mush.
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brook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 05:27 PM
Response to Reply #45
46. Yeah.
American...slightly after they replaced the tri-motors. :)


I mentioned some where a few days ago that I have some TWA unopened playing cards. You can have 'em if you want 'em.

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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 05:53 PM
Response to Reply #46
47. Actually, I would. but...
You could probably get a decent price on e-Bay.
American, yes.
Now I remember.
Fellow retirees, kinda.
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brook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 06:09 PM
Response to Reply #47
49. PM me an addy
I might sell my soul, darlin' - but never my 'mementos!
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AlCzervik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 02:50 PM
Response to Original message
41. the whole name on the cake thing trips me out, don't want to sound mean
but it just plain does. I think someone maybe making a slide show of her would be nice and maybe at another time, not at the party. Just my opinion.
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skygazer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-01-06 06:02 PM
Response to Original message
48. How can a dead person have a happy birthday?
It sounds like the hostess is trying to ease Judson's pain but in an awkward way. I would think having a cake with happy birthday wishes on it would only reinforce the fact that the poor woman died suddenly before her time.

It is hard when someone dies - people don't know how to react or what to say so they often act as if the person never existed. But this strikes me as quite forced and awkward. Better, I would think, for people to quietly and personally assure the man that his daughter has not been forgotten - "My, Jennifer would be so proud of the kids" or "We still miss Jennifer's presence" or "I'm sure Jennifer is with us in spirit."
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