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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This May, my grandmother, Elizabeth Eichelbaum, will receive her Ph.D. in art therapy from the University of Tennessee. At graduation, she will be 90 years old!

Abby, she received her bachelor's degree at age 69 and her master's at age 81. She has been attending classes the last two years in spite of macular degeneration (she is nearly blind).

Grandmother was separated from her mother when she was a small child in Russia. She lived in the czar's palace during the Russian Revolution, but eventually came to America. Some time after coming to this country, she was reunited with her mother.

Our entire family is extremely proud of her accomplishment, and she is an inspiration to all who know her. If you print this letter, it may inspire others to continue their education no matter what stumbling blocks may be in the way. -- DENNIS J. EICHELBAUM, PLANO, TEXAS

DEAR DENNIS: Your grandmother is an amazing woman, and I admire her determination. My heartfelt congratulations to her for her inspiring accomplishment. Readers, Elizabeth has proved it can be done, so what's stopping you? Go back to school if that is your dream.

DEAR ABBY: Would you be willing to inform your readers of the publication of a book of importance to every one of us -- Jessica Mitford's "The American Way of Death Revisited"? This book, a revised edition of a 1963 version, does a tremendous service in informing Americans about the wretched excesses of the funeral industry, into whose hands we all must ultimately fall. It describes in detail the means employed by that industry to separate us from our money just at a point when, through the sorrow and confusion attendant upon a death in the family, we are least prepared to think clearly.

Mitford's book -- which is eminently readable -- is available in a paperback edition for just $14. Every family should have access to it. Every minister should read and act upon it. Every retirement home, church and synagogue library should keep a copy available to loan out to its members. Preplanning (but not prepayment!) for funeral needs, based on the sort of information Ms. Mitford presents, is something every American family should do as soon as possible. -- JOHN B. GABEL, DUBLIN, OHIO

DEAR JOHN: When Jessica Mitford's book, "The American Way of Death," was first printed in 1963, it was a bombshell -- and remained on the best-seller list for a year. Before it was printed, many grieving families would plunge themselves into debt to pay for lavish funerals they could ill afford because they felt that the amount of money that was spent on their final farewell was an indication of how much they loved the deceased. How absurd!

After that book was published, Americans realized they could pay tribute to their loved ones and bury them with low-cost, dignified funerals without experiencing guilt or embarrassment.

Readers looking for a simple and inexpensive funeral should write to the Funeral Consumer's Alliance, P.O. Box 10, Hinesburg, VT 05461. The alliance has been a reliable resource for many years, and I'm pleased to recommend them.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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