The problem: My father passed away recently. He had a military honor guard at his memorial. I found out afterward that my sister-in-law was of the belief that I had gone to the honor guard and asked if my husband and 15-year-old son could be part of their ceremony (gun salute/Taps). This was completely untrue and, to me and my family, even laughable. Yet, she believes it. Now she’s holding an enormous grudge. What do you do when someone chooses to believe a lie?
Low road: Gift her a copy of “Honor Guard for Dummies.”
High road: I am sorry to hear about the loss of your father, a man who served his country and was honored fittingly.
As is often true in times of mourning, vulnerable humans react in ways both brave and baffling. This fixation on the honor guard (military volunteers who provide funeral honors for fallen comrades) is likely not what’s at issue here.
I’m assuming that your sister-in-law is married to your brother, who also is dealing with the huge loss of Dad. Perhaps your brother always felt that Dad liked you best, but he never said anything. Maybe he felt marginalized during the planning of the service and his wife, in protective mode, is speaking on his behalf with a claim that seems odd at best.
You can’t force her, or him, to stop believing what they choose to believe. So let it go. Don’t invest another minute of energy in what will only escalate into an ugly verbal wrestling match over something inconsequential.
Do your best to honor Dad by keeping the remaining family together and at least civil until the loss doesn’t feel as raw.
When the time is right, many months from now, ask your sister-in-law if she’d be up for a cup of coffee. Tell her you’re missing Dad and would love to hear her memories of him. Perhaps at that point, you’ll get some clarity, and maybe even an apology.
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.