Life Advice



Ask Amy: Stories of secret-keeping from the vault

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

At the reunion, your husband may choose to seek out this person to share his story, or these two Carolines may find one another through another medium, but it should not be through you.

(February 2011)

Dear Amy: My brother died from AIDS, and our mother has instructed me, my sisters and our families to keep the cause of his death secret from other family members, friends and neighbors.

When asked how he died, she names some other disease. She has even asked mourners at his funeral to donate to a charity for people suffering from that other disease.

My mother cared for my ailing brother for many years. I understand her fears of exclusion because of sexuality (my brother was gay, and so am I). These subjects are completely taboo with mom.

How can I respect my mother's wishes and also tell the truth, so that I can be "real" with my cousins and other relatives?


I sincerely want to honor my brother's memory and show support for others with AIDS or HIV.

– Wordless

Dear Wordless: If your mother has told you to lie about the cause of your brother's death, then you can’t respect her wishes and also tell the truth. You and your siblings should encourage her to discuss this openly with you, even if she can't discuss it with others.

You should also consider what you believe your brother would have wanted.


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