Dear Abby

DEAR READERS: In light of recent events, many of you have requested that I reprint something regarding living wills, a subject that has appeared in this column since the early 1970s. Because this subject is both important and timely, I am doing so -- with additional comments. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: No one wakes up in the morning planning to have an accident, a heart attack or some other life-threatening condition. All too often doctors and nurses are faced with a family divided on what they "think" our patient would want (or not want). Combine this with the shock and grief these people are experiencing, and the situation becomes volatile. People should complete a living will before they need one. -- FORMER SURGICAL NURSE, VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.

DEAR FORMER NURSE: Thank you for speaking from the perspective of someone who has been in the trenches and seen firsthand how important it is to make one's wishes clearly understood.

DEAR ABBY: I saw my handsome, 6-foot, 200-pound father waste away to an 88-pound skeleton after fighting a two-year battle with cancer. The doctors told us it was hopeless, yet they kept that poor dear man alive month after month with transfusions, tubes, needles and drugs, while he prayed to God to take him.

Abby, you would do millions of readers a priceless service by acquainting them with the living will. --GRATEFUL IN JOLIET, ILL.

DEAR READERS: By now, the importance of having an advance directive -- or living will -- should be apparent to everyone. Contrary to what many people may believe, this is not just a document for old people. A living will is simply a document that instructs your physician, lawyer, clergyman, family members -- even a few trusted friends -- what your wishes are if there is no hope for your recovery and you are unable to speak for yourself.

I have a living will, and I hope that the people who love me will respect it. Mine states that if there is no hope for my recovery and all hope for life is gone, or I lose my sense of reason, I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means.

If any of you disagree with this philosophy, you should put your own feelings clearly in writing, too.

For information about advanced directives or living wills, consult your physician, your legal adviser, or visit � HYPERLINK http://www.compassionandchoices.org ��www.compassionandchoices.org�. Click at the bottom of the Web page where it says "Information about advance directives."

Anyone with problems having an advance directive honored should contact the Compassion and Choices support staff toll-free at 1-800-247-7421. This group will advocate for honoring your advance directive, including legal action if necessary. Its services are free, and are supported entirely by donations and memberships.

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DEAR ABBY: Please settle a question about wedding etiquette for me. My friend feels it is the guests' responsibility to "seek out" the bride to congratulate her at the reception.

I have been married 12 years, and I remember that one of the important things I had to do was to mingle with the guests and thank them for coming. Has this ritual changed since then? -- SNUBBED IN CINCINNATI

DEAR SNUBBED: No, good manners have not changed. I don't know how large the wedding you attended was, but the bride should have visited each table to have personally thanked her guests. It's the gracious thing to do.

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For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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