Steel Advice: It's never too late to express sympathy

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DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I had a friend that died this past May. I had a sympathy card to send and during the past two months, I got sick and the sympathy card slipped my mind. My question is: How late is too late to send a sympathy note to someone? Is there a deadline? I don't want to bring up bad memories of the funeral but I would like to express my sympathy to the family. Your advice is appreciated.


DEAR SYMPATHETIC FRIEND: It is never too late. Your friend’s family needs to know you care. After the last piece of ham or cake is consumed, mourners return to their normal routines and leave the closest relatives to grieve alone. Depression easily slips in the backdoor. Your card may be the one that arrives on a lonely day when the family thinks they have been forgotten. Reflect and share a good memory you have of your deceased friend. Kindness does not have a time limit and your thoughtful card and note may be the catalyst that helps the family in their healing process.

 DEAR STEEL ADVICE: My neighborhood is consistently targeted by door-to-door “missionaries” of all stripes. I don’t like having my day disrupted by these folks, but at the same time I’m not comfortable being rude to them, since they always appear to be nice people. Often my politeness is apparently mistaken for interest and it takes a few minutes of conversation to convince these people to go away. To this point I have avoided putting a “no solicitors” sign on my front door, only because I don’t want to be seen as the neighborhood’s grouchy old crank. I welcome knocks on my door associated with buying Girl Scout cookies, supporting the local high school band fundraisers, etc. Any suggestions?


DEAR TIRED OF MISSIONARIES: Missionaries’ spiels are part of a well-rehearsed, high-pressure sales pitch. It appears to be spontaneous but the script is most always memorized. Control the dialogue with the evangelists by refusing to enter into an exchange of views. Never start to converse thinking you can convince them your beliefs are superior to theirs. It is not necessary to be rude, rather be firm. Eye contact and a resolute shake of your head while saying, “I am not interested,” repeated several times if necessary, may get you removed from their master list. If you choose not to answer your door, the Scripture quoting solicitors will return in hope of finding you at home. Think of these proselytizers as uninvited intruders and it will soon become clear who wears the rude shoes.

Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.

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