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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Over the years you have printed many letters about the importance of telling the people you care about that you love them.

About four years ago, I took heed. When talking to my dad, with whom I was very close, I closed with, "I love you, Daddy." He seemed surprised, and then responded, "I love you, too, honey." From then on, every time I ended a conversation with my dad, we had the same exchange.

My dad went to sleep in his home last Nov. 26 and didn't wake up. I want you to know how grateful I am that you woke me up. You have no idea how comforting it is to know the last words we said to each other were those of love. Thank you, Abby, for waking me up before it was too late. -- BONNIE BARNETT, IRVING, TEXAS

DEAR BONNIE: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your beloved father. I may have given you the message, but you had to be receptive and ready to hear it and take action.

It takes only a moment to say, "I love you," or to express appreciation. And as important as the spoken word is, the written word can be enjoyed over and over again. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: The New Orleans reader who commented on a letter to a catering company brought back memories. Our son was active in a church youth group that needed an electrical modification in the room the group was using. He asked an electrical contractor in the church to do the work and later offered to pay. The contractor told him the work was gratis. Our son then wrote him a letter of thanks.

Two weeks later the contractor died of a heart attack. I spoke to his widow at the funeral. She told me her husband actually cried when he got my son's letter. He had done dozens of small jobs gratis at the church and was usually thanked with a word -- but that was the only time he ever got a letter of thanks.

Our son is now chairman of the department of religious studies at a large university. He certainly learned the importance of a written note. -- PAUL A. MILLER, WICHITA, KAN.

DEAR PAUL: You sound like a proud parent -- and you have every right to be. You raised an intelligent and considerate son.

DEAR ABBY: Many of us in our office are wondering about something that happened at our office Christmas luncheon. All the employees were given a $35 gift certificate for food from a local grocery store. We were then encouraged to give it to a local charity (no pressure, of course). A box was provided at the door for us to drop off our gift certificates for those less fortunate than ourselves.

We think it is inappropriate to give a gift and then suggest that it be donated. What do you think? -- THE OFFICE GANG

DEAR OFFICE GANG: I agree with you. Once a gift is given, it belongs to the recipient to do with as he or she pleases. Regardless of how gently it was done, for a boss to "encourage" the employees to forgo the gift and make a donation was still arm-twisting. I'm all for charity -- but not when it's done in that manner.

DEAR ABBY: In response to "Sensitive Nose in Garden Grove, Calif.," who complained because his seatmate on a plane wore too much perfume, I would like to share some advice my older sister gave me when I was a teen-ager.

I'm not sure who said it originally, but here's the quote: "A scent is not to be announced, but to be discovered." It's a guideline I use to this day when I apply my perfume. -- DIANE IN OMAHA

DEAR DIANE: I agree 100 percent with that philosophy. And it applies to men as well as women.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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