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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Less than two weeks ago, I lost a friend of more than 40 years. He had been in poor health for the better part of two years and succumbed to the many complications of emphysema. He left a wife and two adult children.

The evening before the funeral, there was a viewing that was attended by many friends and relatives. At that time, his sister told the widow she would like to take some pictures of the floral arrangements, some of which were sent by relatives in the Midwest. She wished to send these relatives some pictures. She was given permission, as long as she took only snapshots of the flowers, and not the open casket. The sister-in-law agreed to abide by this.

The grieving widow had no sooner left the room than the deceased's sister proceeded to take snapshots of her brother in the open casket! At the graveside service the next morning, she also took snapshots of the people attending the service, and even went so far as to take pictures of the casket as it was being lowered into the ground. When the widow learned of it later, she was furious.

She called her sister-in-law the following day and expressed shock and disappointment that anyone would commit such a morbid, insensitive and uncaring act. The sister-in-law rationalized that the pictures were her own personal memento of her brother -- since he looked so good, better than she had seen him look in a long time. The widow demanded the exposed roll of film, for which she offered to reimburse her sister-in-law, but was refused.

Abby, what do you think of this? Should the sister-in-law have taken those pictures? -- ONE WHO HAS LOST A FRIEND

DEAR ONE WHO HAS LOST A FRIEND: The sister-in-law was wrong to promise the widow she would refrain from photographing the open casket and then going back on her word. However, everyone grieves in his or her own way -- and if a sibling would find comfort in having pictures of her brother in his coffin, who am I to argue? It's not something I would want to revisit; however, I'm sure this situation isn't a first. What is interesting is her statement that her brother's corpse looked better than he did when he was still alive.

DEAR ABBY: I was sitting in a restaurant at noon, enjoying lunch with my husband. Sitting at a window table directly ahead of us was a nicely groomed older couple.

Abby, this woman whipped out her compact and a pair of tweezers and proceeded to pluck the hairs from her chin and neck! Her husband just stared off into space. Our server told us the couple are regular customers, and she does this every time she comes in.

I know some of the old rules of etiquette have relaxed in recent years, but now I've seen everything. Abby, what do you think? -- HARRIETT IN HOLLYWOOD

DEAR HARRIETT: I think the woman displayed bald indifference to common table manners. A quick lipstick application is acceptable in public; however, any procedure that lasts more than 30 seconds is a no-no and should be performed in the powder room.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, 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, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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