Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

DEAR ABBY: I have kept the enclosed column of yours for many years. It is yellowed and frayed at the edges, but it carries a strong message that many people are unable or unwilling to hear. Would you please print it again? -- GERTRUDE IN VERO BEACH

DEAR GERTRUDE: Here it is. Many people identify with its message. Read on:

LET ME GO

Pardon me, doctor, but may I die?

I know your oath requires you to try to keep me alive

So long as my body is warm and there is a breath of life.

But listen, Doc, I've buried my spouse,

My children are grown and on their own.

My friends are all gone, and I want to go, too.

No mortal man should keep me here

When the call from Him is unmistakably clear.

I DESERVE the right to slip quietly away.

My work is done and I am tired.

Your motives are noble, but now I pray,

You can read in my eyes what my lips can't say.

Listen to my heart and you'll hear it cry,

Pardon me, Doc, but may I die?

DEAR READERS: If people (of any age) are enjoying their lives and want to live, fine -- keep them comfortable and happy as possible, but those who can no longer find any joy in life should not be forced to go on living.

Before you or a loved one reach a critical stage of illness, a durable power of attorney for health care form (or whatever form is applicable for your state) should be filled out and placed in your medical records. Appropriate forms are available in most hospitals.

With this document you designate a family member or friend to carry out your wishes if you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself. The form tells physicians in advance whether you want them to perform "heroic measures" to keep you alive if you are in a coma and will never regain consciousness, or have no hope for a meaningful quality of life.

DEAR ABBY: My parents will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this month. I am interested in any ideas you might have to make the party unique. I have three small girls ages 7, 5 and 3 who might be able to do a small performance, etc. Any ideas? -- STUCK IN 2000

DEAR STUCK: Yes. The "girls" could sing, "Happy Anniversary to you" (three times in unison), take a bow, then smile sweetly, and leave the audience begging for more!

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like Dear Abby