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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am writing you with the hope that people will read this and think about it. I lost my beautiful daughter and her fiance to a drunk driver. She was only 20, and her fiance was 23. The driver had three DUIs and the passenger had five. These two individuals, neither of whom had driver's licenses, left the scene of the accident. They did not help or even go for help, but just ran.

My daughter's wedding would have been in seven months. Most of the plans were complete. I miss my daughter so much. She was my only child. Her fiance was wonderful -- smart and such a kind person. This should never have happened. Our courts need to be tougher.

We chose to bury my daughter and her fiance side by side. On their headstone, we have a picture of the two of them hugging each other with their engagement date beneath the picture and the words, "Together Forever." It is a tribute to their memory. We have placed items on their grave many times.

Abby, I cannot understand why people have taken the items we left. I am shocked that people could be so cold and heartless that they'd take things off a grave. I know my baby is gone, but her body was placed there. I visit and take gifts out of love and respect for their memory. She was my life, my joy, my child. For someone to come and steal from her grave hurts beyond words. -- SAD IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR SAD: Please accept my sympathy on the loss of your beloved only child.

Cemetery policies vary from place to place. Most cemeteries will allow items to remain on a gravesite only for a limited period, after which they are removed by personnel so the grounds can be properly maintained. Discuss your concerns with the cemetery's management to see if they have removed the items you left, or whether there may be a problem with theft. If items are being stolen, the management should be alerted so that security procedures can be put in place.

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to the mother of the 17-year-old who was dating a guy Mom felt was bad news. Your answer, that the daughter may have to learn for herself, was exactly right, Abby.

When I was 16, I started dating a guy my parents felt was bad for me. They told me one time how they felt about him, then let me make my own decisions and come to my own conclusions. It took me four years to realize what my parents had known from the start, but it was a learning experience I wouldn't trade for anything.

I know it was difficult for my parents to keep their comments about him to themselves and not interfere, but I thank them for doing so. That relationship made me who I am today. It made me understand my strengths and weaknesses, what I wanted in life and what I didn't.

I am now 25 years old and married to a man who is everything I ever wanted and everything my bad-news boyfriend wasn't. -- HAPPILY EVER AFTER

DEAR HAPPILY EVER AFTER: It is never easy to watch a child stumble or make mistakes, but the lessons learned from personal experience are the ones most clearly remembered, as your letter attests.

Author E.M. Forster said it well: "Spoon-feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon."

DEAR ABBY: I took my dog fishing with me to a lake in the mountains near here. He's well behaved and I had him on a leash, but he was attracted to some discarded, balled-up fishing line with bait on it. He gulped it down. I didn't see this, so when I turned around I had a dog with fishing line leading into his mouth and down his throat.

This involved a rush trip down the mountain to the emergency vet clinic, hours of anguish and lots of money.

The vet told me he sees about one dog a week who has swallowed a fishing line with a fish hook. Dog owners: BEWARE. And fishermen: Never drop a discarded line with a hook. It could be your own dog you catch! -- KEITH JACKSON, DENVER

DEAR KEITH: What a harrowing experience! Fishermen should remember they are sportsmen. And good sportsmen respect the environment and never leave litter behind. To leave items lying around that could be dangerous to pets, children or wildlife is unconscionable.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600