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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My mother passed away four weeks ago. Last night, I sat my three children down and read them my mother's life story from birth through 12th grade. As a graduation requirement for Ironton High School in Ironton, Ohio, in 1940, she had to write her life story.

She wrote about kindergarten, her best friends, neighbors, favorite games she played as a child, her religious testimony, her first crush, first time wearing makeup, first date, prom, and best Thanksgiving in a horse-and-buggy carriage going to my great-grandmother's farm in Kentucky. The vivid descriptions she wrote of herself as a young girl are so rich and beautifully clear in our minds today. What a gift this has been to me, my brothers and sisters and our children. Of all the possessions she left, her story is our most meaningful and precious treasure.

Abby, I'm writing this letter to suggest that high school English teachers today consider such an assignment. -- CAROL JEAN CLICK HARDISON'S DAUGHTER "SUE" IN GEORGIA

DEAR SUE: Your dear mother's writing project is a priceless memento, and the idea is certainly worth mentioning. The senior year of high school is a logical time to pause and take stock before beginning the great leap forward to adulthood. Not only would the subject be something with which the writer is intensely familiar -- it would offer many opportunities for creativity.

DEAR ABBY: You recently ran a letter about the importance of having identification. May I add a personal experience?

I had what I thought was a heart attack. I got myself to the hospital and was rushed into the emergency room. I was put on oxygen and hooked up to machines and monitored. The nurse even gave me a nitro pill. Then she asked me a question: "Is there anyone we can call for you?"

I was floored at the idea. I had ID with me; I'm never without it. But it was not current. My wife had a job that had her driving from store to store and couldn't be reached. My daughter slept days and I didn't have her telephone number. My eldest son had just moved and I didn't have his new number, either. I couldn't remember where my youngest son worked. None of my family could be reached.

At the time I was employed as a supervisor at the post office, and part of my job was to give a safety talk once a week. I used the above experience in my talk on the last day I worked. All the employees assured me that their IDs were up-to-date, but I insisted they check to make sure. I saw pencils whipped out to hurriedly erase outdated information, and one carrier piped up, "My God, I haven't been married to that witch for three years!" I know firsthand that current ID is very important. -- DEX PACKARD, AURORA, ORE.

DEAR DEX: I think you've made your point. Not only is it important to carry identification everywhere, it's equally important that the information be up-to-date. It doesn't have to be fancy -- a 3-by-5 index card tucked in a purse, a wallet or a pocket will do. And for joggers and athletes who don't want to "carry" anything, marking the information in indelible ink on the tongue of an athletic shoe will accomplish the same thing.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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