Dear Harriette: My home is on Long Island, and I have a small beach as part of my backyard. The sand is my property, and I enjoy spending time on the beach. I also invite my children and grandchildren to come together and play on the beach.
My friend’s sister recently passed away and was cremated. I know this friend from a mahjong group I am in. I would not consider us particularly close, but she called me today and asked if she could scatter her sister’s ashes on my beach. Her sister loved the beach, and my friend wanted to do it in a private place without scantily clad onlookers.
This request makes me very uncomfortable. The thought of having my grandchildren play on someone’s ashes is honestly vile to me. I was given as much time as I need to think it over, and I just cannot think of what to say. I cannot have ashes scattered on my property, but I also cannot reveal my insensitive reasons as to why I don’t want them scattered. What should I say when I call her back?
— No Good Spirits, Roosevelt, New York
Dear No Good Spirits: Your friend knew that she was making a big ask, and you do not have to agree. Indeed, you can tell her the truth — you feel uncomfortable about her sister’s remains being spread where your grandchildren play. Tell her you have great respect for the departed and know that she is doing her best to honor her sister’s life.
You may want to suggest that she select her sister’s favorite beach and then go there early in the morning and before the season starts to avoid having any company at all.
Dear Harriette: One of my friends has a religious room in her house. At a get-together she threw recently, she asked that only those who are of her religion come in the room or pass through. I applaud her for having a beautiful and sacred space in her home. From what I’ve seen, the room is spectacular.
I understand why I have never been invited in, and I give her the right to do whatever she wants in her own home. However, some guests were rubbed the wrong way and do not want to return to her home. People were saying she should’ve closed off the room if she didn’t want to risk those who belong to other religions in it. Others have thought that she did this to brag and create an air of mystery regarding her prayer room.
I have heard a lot of flack, and I consider myself close to her. I don’t want to come off as bitter, but I want to warn her about what people have been saying. Since I don’t have a problem with not being let into the religious room, should I keep my mouth shut?
— Not My Territory, Denver
Dear Not My Territory: Since you are aware of the concern but not affected by it, you may be the perfect person to bring it up to your friend. My recommendation would be for her to close the door and open it only when her guests all share her faith. Otherwise, she is creating an awkward situation. Let her know that some guests were uncomfortable, and suggest that she be more mindful of when she reveals her sacred space.
— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.