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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have waited for more than two months to write this letter, and many prayers have been said to Our Father to help me get it right.

I have traveled from the Southwest to the Northeast visiting nursing homes with family members and dear friends, as well as doing volunteer work in them years ago. I have seen people there with cancer, Alzheimer's, emphysema, and some who were just old and sick. The staff in some homes is not very kind to many of the lonely residents.

Please, Abby, urge your readers who want to do something worthwhile to volunteer in nursing homes. I have been there and heard the residents crying out for their family members by name all night. I would go up and down the halls and stop to pat them on the hand or brush their hair.

Please tell families to stay with the loved ones when their days are numbered -- or hire, ask or even beg someone to be by their side. Believe me, they are scared to death, and no medicine I have seen completely eradicates the pain.

My darling aunt, whom I loved dearly, died last Thanksgiving Day of cancer -- so beautiful, but so afraid of being alone. There was no way I could leave. She would say, "Please don't leave ... I'm afraid," and so I stayed.

Abby, I hope your readers will take what I've said to heart. After all, any one of them could be next. -- GRIEVING IN ORANGE, TEXAS

DEAR GRIEVING: Please accept my sincere sympathy for the loss of your beloved aunt. I'm hopeful your eloquent letter will move others to volunteer in nursing homes. Although there are medicines that can alleviate physical pain, the most effective cure for loneliness is caring human contact.

DEAR ABBY: Is the following happening all over the country, or is it just happening in the Southern states? I mean, females going all out to get a man.

My husband and I are retirees who have moved to Florida for our so-called "golden years," and this is the second time that this has happened. The most recent incident concerns a somewhat younger woman (a clerk in a food specialty shop) who used sexy conversation and spoken intimacies to attract my husband -- who will be 80 years old his next birthday, but doesn't look it.

I am afraid that if this business continues, I will use physical violence on this person. I don't know what to do otherwise. Please help me. -- R.L. IN WINTER HAVEN, FLA.

DEAR R.L.: Calm down -- there is no guarantee your husband is buying what she's "selling." A word to the owner of the shop should be sufficient to stop the problem. Or you can take your business elsewhere. Violence is not a viable option.

DEAR ABBY: The letters you receive about the kindness of strangers are always enjoyable to read. Let me take this opportunity to thank the gallant young man who, during an unexpected gust of wind, chased after my wig as it rolled across the library parking lot. Sign me ... NOW COVERED IN PHOENIX

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