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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: Today is Mother's Day, and I welcome this opportunity to offer congratulations and good wishes to my readers as we honor our mothers and celebrate this sentimental occasion.

I've had many requests over the years for the following poem written by Strickland Gillilan. It emphasizes how a mother reading to her child can enrich both their lives. The poem also is a favorite in my "Keepers" booklet.

THE READING MOTHER

(By Strickland Gillilan)

I had a mother who read to me

Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.

Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;

"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a mother who read me lays

Of ancient and gallant and golden days;

Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,

Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a mother who read me tales

Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,

True to his trust till his tragic death,

Faithfulness lent with his final breath.

I had a mother who read me things

That wholesome life to the boy heart brings --

Stories that stir with an upward touch.

Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;

Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be --

I had a mother who read to me.

I am often asked by readers whose mothers are no longer living if I know of a special prayer that might be offered to honor the memory of a deceased mother.

The one with which I am most familiar is the prayer I found in my Union Home Prayer Book. It is the one Jews recite on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

IN MEMORY OF MOTHER

"I remember thee in this solemn hour, my dear mother. I remember the days when thou didst dwell on earth, and thy tender love watched over me like a guardian angel. Thou has gone from me, but the bond which unites our souls can never be severed; thine image lives within my heart.

"May the merciful Father reward thee for the faithfulness and kindness thou has ever shown me; may he lift up the light of his countenance upon thee and grant thee eternal peace. Amen."

DEAR ABBY: What is the significance of wearing a single carnation on Mother's Day? -- FLOWER CHILD

DEAR CHILD: A red carnation is worn to signify that one's mother is living. A white carnation signifies that one's mother is deceased.

There should also be an identifying flower worn by those mothers who chose motherhood by rearing a foster child or stepchild.

And a special place in heaven awaits those mothers who choose a physically or mentally challenged child, knowing that he or she has not only special needs, but also requires a super abundance of love, understanding and patience.

Happy Mother's Day!

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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