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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a former hospice nurse, now completing my graduate training as a nurse-practitioner in oncology. I am dismayed by the frequency with which physicians and the media ignore or misrepresent hospice as an option for terminally ill people and their families.

Hospice is NOT "giving up." It is changing the focus of care to enhance quality of life. The hospice team of nurses, social workers, chaplains and physicians accompanies patients on a difficult journey with an eye to relieving physical, emotional and spiritual pain and suffering. Hospice care alleviates the fear of dying. Indeed, it allows patients to die with dignity and in a way that enhances the beauty and meaning of life and death for them and their families. -- ROSIE TOWNLEY BAKEWELL

DEAR ROSIE: I hope your letter generates the kind of response it deserves, because it's an important one as our population ages. I'm sad to say that even today, patients die protracted and painful deaths because some physicians and misguided but well-intentioned families seem unable or unwilling to admit that the person is terminal. Perhaps some of the fault lies with the medical schools, which have not given end-of-life issues enough attention in their curricula.

Since everyone has to die, a death with dignity seems like the way to make every minute of life one that's worth living.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing with a message of warning to newlywed wives.

When I first married "Jim," I used to spend hours after dinner every night on the phone with my mother talking about family news -- what was happening with my father, my sister, my sister's husband, etc. When Jim complained, my mother and I both felt he was being selfish and ignored him.

Soon Jim took up jogging, and as soon as I picked up the phone in the evening, he would leave the house to run his miles. Then Jim started traveling to races on the weekends, and eventually met "Peggy," a pretty schoolteacher from a neighboring town who also liked to jog.

My inability to "let go" and build my primary family ties with my new husband cost me a great guy. How do I know he's so great? Because he still waves to my mother and me when we see him in the park jogging with Peggy and their two beautiful daughters. -- OUT OF THE RACE IN N.J.

DEAR OUT: I'm printing your cautionary tale for all to see. How sad that your preoccupation with your family caused you to shut out the person with whom you vowed to build a life.

I find it interesting that when your ex-husband sees you in the park, you're still with your mother. Unless that's the way you want it to be for the rest of your life, I recommend some counseling.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "CALL ME LUCKY": You are right. As author J.G. Holland observed: "The most precious possession that ever comes to a man in this world is a woman's heart."

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