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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: On Nov. 18, 1991, the life of my 17-year-old daughter, Karen, ended far too soon. Karen was a beautiful and compassionate girl, always thinking of others and how she could help them. Just as she had in life, Karen wanted to help others in death by being an organ donor. She had signed an organ donor card, but never discussed the issue with me.

My fear and ignorance of organ donation almost hindered the fulfillment of Karen's last wish. A very sympathetic and knowledgeable professional explained organ donation to me clearly, and addressed the objections I had that I now know were based on myths. Because of him, Karen's death was not in vain, and four people, including a 9-year-old boy, were given a new chance at life.

April 16 to 23 is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week. Today, my goal in life is not just to educate people about organ donation, but to make them aware of how important it is to discuss their wish to be an organ donor with loved ones. In most states, the signed organ donor card is a legal document, but the next of kin is always asked for permission.

Karen left a legacy by giving "the gift of life" to others, and it has helped turn my tears of sorrow into tears of joy. These gifts have enabled recipients to celebrate transplant birthdays while my family and I celebrate Karen's life.

Abby, I hope your readers will join our crusade to make sure everyone who needs an organ transplant receives one. -- BARBARA MUSTO, NATIONAL KIDNEY FOUNDATION DONOR FAMILY COUNCIL

DEAR BARBARA: Thank you for your eloquent reminder.

Readers: Please think carefully about becoming an organ donor, so someone can have life when yours is finished. If you haven't already signed donor forms and notified your family of your wishes, I can't think of a more suitable time to bring up the subject than National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week. For a free organ donor card and answers to the most commonly asked questions about organ donation, call the National Kidney Foundation's toll-free number: 1-800-622-9010.

DEAR ABBY: My fiance canceled our wedding two weeks prior to the wedding. We are going our separate ways.

I am uncertain what to do with the wedding shower gifts I received four months ago. My fiance and I bought a home, which I will continue to live in, and some of the items have already been used. My family and close friends have indicated that they do not want their gifts returned, but I am concerned about the other gifts we received. (Two wedding gifts received in advance are being returned.)

I feel as though I should at least offer to return the gifts or reimburse each person. However, I can't be sure who gave me exactly what. The cards and receipts were removed from the boxes, and the gift list prepared at my shower is not very detailed.

With the shock and devastation of my relationship ending, I am still worried about proper etiquette. Please tell me how to handle this. -- L.A. IN BETHLEHEM, PA.

DEAR L.A.: The best way to handle this is in a straightforward manner. Call the shower guests and explain that the wedding is off -- and that the gift list from the shower is not as detailed as it ought to be. Then ask what each person's gift was -- and if it has been used, offer to reimburse the money. I predict that most of the givers will refuse the offer.

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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