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by Abigail Van Buren

Man Devoted to Dead Wife Should Enjoy Living Instead

DEAR ABBY: A woman wrote you to complain about her gentleman friend who continued to put flowers on the grave of his deceased wife. You told her that her gentleman friend's devotion to the memory of his deceased wife had nothing to do with his relationship with the writer, unless she chose to regard it as a competition.

Excuse me, Abby, a year or two -- or even three years of devotion for your deceased is great. However, he chose this woman to live with and have a relationship with him now. It looks to me like he wasn't yet ready to join the living, and his choice was premature. Had he come upon me at this time and tried to pull that, I would have told him there was "no room at the inn" yet for the living.

You call it "devotion." I call it feelings of guilt. If I were the woman who wrote to you, I would have moved out that first year. Of course, she won't do that. She thinks she has too many years invested in the relationship. I would move out -- and when he needs some loving company or someone to cook for him, I would tell him to eat flowers or go see his beloved for sex. He certainly does not know how to treat the living. I suspect that is why he is still grieving. -- LIKES THE LIVING IN OHIO

DEAR LIKES THE LIVING: I still prefer to call it devotion. Because a person dies does not mean that the love for that person dies with him or her. Nor should it. Read on for a different view:

DEAR ABBY: I just finished the letter from the girlfriend who was upset that her shack-up boyfriend still put flowers on his deceased wife's grave. How DARE she feel this way?

I married my husband only three months after his wife passed on. She died unexpectedly of a heart attack. I put flowers on his wife's grave three or four times a year -- on their wedding anniversary and her birthday for sure. They are a token of my respect for her. I feel a grave without flowers is sad. Flowers show that someone still remembers.

I knew going into this relationship that he would always feel love for her. Just because someone passes on you can't turn the feelings on and off like a light switch! When it is his time to go, I'll have him buried next to his first wife, as he wishes. I am making payment on the plot next to his. My husband is a special man, and he has been blessed with the love of TWO good women who have and continue to adore him. -- SECOND ROMANCE IN ARKANSAS

DEAR SECOND ROMANCE: He is, indeed, a lucky man to have found such a secure and caring woman as you with whom to share his life. Anyone who sets up a competition with someone who is deceased can only lose, because the "ghost" is often perceived to have no faults by the surviving spouse. Respecting the memory of the deceased together can be a powerful bond.

DEAR ABBY: Is it appropriate to wear velvet after the Christmas holidays? Also, my new husband and I exchanged many gifts with my family and my new in-laws -- should we send thank-yous for each? -- WANT TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT

DEAR WANT TO: Velvet is fine in cold weather and certainly acceptable to wear after the holidays.

By all means, send a personal thank-you to each person who gave you a gift -- you want to start your marriage off on the right foot. His family, and yours, will be impressed that you both married courteous and thoughtful people.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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