Slate’s resident advice columnist recently printed a letter from an adult child with a very unusual problem:
Dear Prudence, My mother died a decade ago; neither she nor my father had burial plans, so we scrambled and Dad bought a double plot. A few years later, Dad met a nice woman. They live together and call themselves engaged but are not getting married for financial reasons. Recently, Dad wanted to discuss his final arrangements with me and my brother. Dad stated that he and his fiancee both want to be cremated and buried in the plot with my mother. My mother cared very much for social conventions. Putting my father and his girlfriend in the ground with her for eternity seems like a slight, and it also bothers me. After my father dies, I’m thinking of having my mother exhumed and cremated, and keeping her ashes with me. I know this is probably prohibitively expensive, and if my mother were alive she’d tell me not to spend money on a corpse. But I’m appalled at my father’s lack of respect for his wife of nearly 50 years. The tombstone is going to read as if he were cheating on her throughout their marriage. She deserves better. (So does his fiancee, frankly.) How should I approach this with him?—Grieving but Trying Not To Be Morbid
I don’t always agree with Prudie, but her advice to Grieving was admirably pragmatic: Do not exhume your mother and hoard her ashes in the name of social propriety. That’s self-defeating. Indulge your dad’s modern day pharaoh fantasy and allow him to be buried with all his women. Posthumous unions are advantageous for estate purposes.