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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Recently one of my dearest friends, "Mary Helen," was forced to perform CPR on her brother "Bill" when he collapsed at their parents' home. Unfortunately, Bill died, and Mary Helen was left wondering if she had somehow performed the CPR incorrectly.

Right after the funeral, a "friend" interrogated Mary Helen about the precise method she used during the CPR. This "friend" then announced that Mary Helen had done it wrong, confirming her worst fear -- that she was responsible for Bill's death. Needless to say, she took the news very hard and blamed herself.

Several weeks later, a doctor told Mary Helen her brother had been suffering from a form of heart failure. Unfortunately Bill had mistaken his symptoms for the flu. After much discussion, the doctor insisted that Mary Helen had performed the CPR correctly, and even if Bill had been in the hospital, his death was inevitable.

Abby, please tell those well-meaning individuals who judge those of us who "fail" at performing CPR to hold their tongues. We don't need a guilt trip. My CPR efforts failed when my husband had a heart attack several years ago. I was 31 years old when I performed CPR with all my might in my nightgown on the floor of our bedroom while our small children slept down the hall. There are people who wondered aloud if I had done everything I could to revive him.

Mary Helen and I already know what it is to lose sleep asking ourselves: "Did I count the breaths wrong? Should I have pushed harder or faster? Is it my fault he died?"

The death of a loved one is hard enough -- but it's even worse when you've tried to do everything right, and someone says you did something wrong, implying the death was your fault. Thank you, Abby, for allowing me to vent. -- EILEEN IN PORT ANGELES, WASH.

DEAR EILEEN: Even when CPR is performed by a trained professional, it doesn't always save lives. You and Mary Helen should have been praised for your efforts rather than chastised because they didn't succeed. Time and again, studies have shown that any CPR efforts are better than none. Be secure in the knowledge that you made every possible effort to save your loved ones when you didn't hesitate to get involved.

Bottom line: Learning CPR is an investment of time everyone should make.

DEAR ABBY: My ex-wife and I were childhood sweethearts. We divorced 20 years ago because we couldn't see eye-to-eye on anything. However, since our divorce, we've become friends.

During our marriage, we acquired a sizable collection of unique timepieces. When we divorced, I received "custody" of the collection. I am now considering giving my ex-wife one of the timepieces in the collection as a gift.

I know a present is a present and shouldn't have "strings" attached, but is there any way I can give her one of the clocks with the stipulation that it must be passed on to one of our grandchildren? -- GOING CUCKOO IN CHALMETTE, LA.

DEAR GOING CUCKOO: Since you and your ex-wife are now friends, and this collection once belonged to both of you, discuss it with her to make sure that the future of the collection is something on which you can see eye-to-eye. If it isn't, give her another gift, and leave the collection to your grandchildren in your will.

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