Dear Annie: Can’t buy graciousness
Dear Annie: My oldest is about to graduate from high school, and we are celebrating with a party. We plan on having our daughter write out a thank-you card to those who give her a gift and help celebrate her big day. However, last year, at several parties we attended, there was a sign that read: “In lieu of sending thank-you notes, we will be giving a donation to a charity.” Is this proper etiquette, or is it simply allowing the graduate to get out of doing what’s right? Please tell us what proper thank-you etiquette is as this affects so many people every year at this time! — Unsure in Ohio
Dear Unsure in Ohio: Sending thank-you notes and donating to charity are both great things, and one does not preclude the other. Yes, I think these parents are missing an opportunity to instill two meaningful life lessons into their children before they go out into the world. The first is that they should always express gratitude for gifts. And the second is that they can’t buy their ways out of everything.
Dear Readers: My advice to “Saddened Siblings” generated strong feelings on both sides — those in favor of the sister who wrote to me and those in favor of her brother, who has power of attorney for their mother. Many readers liked the idea of holding a family conference with the goal of everyone getting along for their mother’s sake. However, one reader, attorney Samuel Johnson, argued persuasively that power of attorney should not apply in this case because the mother is fully capable of making the decision about whether a Do Not Resuscitate order should stand. I agree with Mr. Johnson’s conclusion and appreciate that he took the time to educate all of us on this issue, especially me:
Dear Annie: I almost always agree with your advice, but I have to disagree respectfully but strongly with the advice you gave Saddened Siblings. I am a retired lawyer who practiced in family law and did a lot of work with seniors around competence and planning issues.
It is offensive and presumptuous for these children or anyone else in a similar situation, including spouses, to abrogate to themselves a decision whether to put a DNR order in place. The mother here may well have some mild impairments (“What did I come into this room for?”), but in order to still have the right to make her own DNR decision, she only needs to understand what’s at issue, and from what was written in that letter, she clearly does.
The letter’s author proceeded exactly correctly. She, together with her mother’s caregivers, made sure that the mother understood the issue, and then let her make the decision, which they accepted. The brother, on the other hand, was wildly out of line, to interpret the fact that his mother is enjoying her life to mean that she would not want a DNR order in place. As long as a person is competent, a health care power of attorney only allows a person to carry out and implement the decisions of the “principal,” in this case, the mother.
The care facility was also completely out of line to allow the son to remove a DNR order on his own authority, unless he lied to the staff about what his mother had said. And the care facility’s lawyer would probably be aghast to hear that such a thing happened. It is not for the children to “come together on this issue.” It is for the children to defer to their mother’s decision.