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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have just returned from my godson's funeral. He committed suicide -- at age 18. He had been captain of both the football and basketball teams in high school, had lettered in a third sport and had graduated with honors. He was doing well as a college freshman, but to solve a temporary problem, he chose a solution that was final.

Abby, he was much loved, and the church was filled to overflowing with friends and family. The pastor was blunt. He said he was feeling anger, betrayal and sadness that a fine young man was gone. We lost a friend, a son, a brother. My godson didn't mean to hurt his family and friends, but he was unable to see past the dark hole of his own pain.

At the service, the pastor asked for a show of hands from people who would not mind a call in the night from a depressed friend who needed to talk. Every hand was raised without hesitation. Any of us would have helped my godson had he only called.

Depression, probably brought on by a chemical imbalance in the brain, is treatable. He could have been helped.

Among your many readers there are bound to be some who are seriously depressed and at suicide's door. Please -- whoever you are -- if you think suicide is the solution, you are wrong. Someone cares and can help you. Please reach out.

Life is a gift not to be wasted. Allow someone to help you so you can find the joy in life. -- SHARON LEWANDOWSKI, HASTINGS, MINN.

DEAR SHARON: Please accept my heartfelt sympathy for the tragic death of your godson. You are right -- depression often is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be corrected with treatment. People who are depressed have only to reach out. If they cannot confide in family or friends, they should call a crisis hotline to find support and direction to treatment. Someone is waiting to help.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have a beautiful 1-year-old daughter and are very happy with our life. My problem? For many personal reasons, we have decided that our daughter is the only child we wish to have. When friends and co-workers ask me when we are having another child and I tell them we probably won't, the responses are incredibly rude -- from "You HAVE to have another child," to "It's mean, cruel, unfair, etc. to have only one child."

I am almost offended because this is an important life choice we have made, and these people are telling us we are wrong. I wouldn't think of telling them they have too many kids or they married a loser, etc., which are also life choices.

What I need is a polite, short response to this question so these people know that my personal life choices aren't up for judgment. How can I do this without being rude? -- INCENSED IN WYOMING

DEAR INCENSED: Try to keep uppermost in your mind that these well-meaning but insensitive individuals are just making conversation. The fact that asking when someone is going to enlarge his or her family is a potential minefield is lost to them.

The next time someone asks you when you're having another child, politely reply, "Our factory is closed." And if the person ventures an opinion about it, say, "Let's change the subject," or "Thank you for the input -- but we're happy with the decision we made."

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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