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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Six years ago, my husband and I went to the Netherlands to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. We had planned and saved for the trip for many years. Another married couple, our best friends, were going with us. My mother had had several operations for cancer, but her doctor said she could live another six months to a year.

You can probably guess what happened. We went off on this trip, and the second week of our holiday I got a call from my brother telling me that Mom was in the hospital, but he didn't think I should cut my trip short and come home. I did not go home, but my mother took a sudden turn for the worse and died the next day. We had taken a weekend side trip and missed the telephone message giving us the news, so I missed my mother's funeral.

A day has not gone by that I haven't wept bitter tears and asked God to forgive me. My mother had sacrificed so much for me, and I wasn't even there to pay my last respects.

Just writing this has helped, but I still feel guilty. Maybe this will help others. Have you any words of comfort for me? -- SORRY AND SAD

DEAR SORRY: This "serenity prayer" has helped many who have tormented themselves with recrimination about something they have or have not done. It's the prayer for Alcoholics Anonymous. I hope you will commit it to memory, and use it often:

God grant me the serenity to accept

the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

DEAR ABBY: When my dog "Robert" died, I received an unusual memorial from a friend. It was such a good idea, I want to pass it along. A donation was sent in Robert's memory to the Companion Animal Fund of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University. The purpose of the fund is to support pet health research, and to purchase critically needed surgical and diagnostic equipment. Other colleges of veterinary medicine must have similar funds.

I also received memorials to the local humane society -- a good idea, too. -- ROBY KESLER, CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA

DEAR ROBY KESLER: In a sense, donations of this kind return to pets some of the physical and emotional benefits they so generously bestow upon all of us. How rewarding to know that research in your pet's name will not only help to perpetuate his memory, but possibly lengthen the lives of other pets as well.

DEAR ABBY: I read your "chuckle for today" in which you mentioned my late husband, George Jessel. Thank you.

My "chuckle" for a lot of days: I once wrote a short column for a small monthly newsletter in San Jose, Calif. I mentioned to George that maybe one day I might be famous, too. His only comment: "Honey, your only claim to fame is that you are younger than Shirley Temple."

Honest. I did love him. -- MRS. GEORGE JESSEL, PACIFICA, CALIF.

Hot off the press -- Abby's new booklet, "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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