During our recent Florida vacation, we got the news that my sister-in-law’s father had died. We had known him and his wife for a long time, and they lived about an hour from where we were staying, so of course we would go to the funeral. It would be our second in two months, after my brother-in-law’s father died in January near Boston.

In that case, we got the news at home, and could make flight arrangements and pack appropriate clothing to wear to the services. But in Florida, I had nothing appropriate for such an occasion. What to do?

I think the last time I purchased any similar garb was at least twenty years ago. I bought it at Men’s Wearhouse, and remember the employees (it involved three of them) putting on a whole dog-and-pony show involving jackets, shirts, pants, and ties. I appreciated their efforts, but walked out with just one suit, which I then wore to every milestone family event over the next two decades. But that suit was at home in St. Louis, more than 1,200 miles away.

I discovered there was a Men’s Wearhouse nearby, so we drove over. I wondered if I’d get the same treatment, although this time I wasn’t going to buy a whole suit that I’d likely wear only once, maybe twice. A dark blazer and a long-sleeved button-down shirt would be enough, along with the black jeans and a black pair of sneakers I’d brought on the trip. In other words, nothing formal, but maybe business casual.

I explained all of that to the clerk who helped me, who was both patient and really good at his job. He understood I needed something that wouldn’t need alterations and didn’t try to upsell me into anything more expensive than I said I wanted to spend. Nor did he lay out full outfits he could tell I wasn’t interested in. He found items that fit me and looked presentable enough (not an easy task, as my years as a GQ model are long behind me). We were out of there in less than twenty minutes.

When we got to the memorial service, we offered our condolences to my sister-in-law, her siblings, her nieces, and her mother. They were all nicely dressed. So were my brother and two nephews, looking spiffy in suits they had brought when they flew down the day before.

As for the rest of the attendees, well, let’s just say they exemplified how life is different in Florida. A very small number of the men had sport jackets on. Others looked like they’d just come off the golf course in polo shirts and khakis. A few wore shorts. One guy had on a t-shirt.

I’m no stickler for dress codes and can’t remember the last time I wore a tie, but a t-shirt? To a funeral?

Yet it quickly became clear to me that what people wore was irrelevant. As we’d seen in Massachusetts a few weeks earlier, everyone was there because they cared for the deceased and his family. His children and grandchildren shared stories and memories about him and what he had meant to their lives. There were lots of hugs and tears, along with plenty of smiles and support from family, friends, and neighbors.

And the guy in the t-shirt was first in line for the buffet afterwards.