A few years ago, my father, who was a public official, was killed in a mass shooting in our hometown. Now my wife and I have moved back home after a decade of living elsewhere. I’m happy to be back, but several times a week, I meet someone who hears my unusual last name and wonders aloud, “Now why do I know that name?” And they’ll often spend several minutes comparing high schools and relatives to try to figure it out. On my end I’m comfortable talking about my dad, and it’s great to occasionally run into people who knew him. I also don’t like the dishonest feeling of hiding the obvious answer. On the other hand, it’s quite a bomb to throw into a handshake conversation at the PTA. What’s the etiquette for an encounter like this?
—A Death in the Family