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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Three months ago, my cousin "Jacob" married a wonderful woman I'll call Kate. Only days after their wedding, she was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable cancer. Though we thought she might be with us for one last Christmas, she passed away just after Thanksgiving.

The day after the funeral, Jacob began receiving phone calls from Kate's family, demanding the return of the wedding gifts they had given this couple only seven weeks before. One of them even had the audacity to tell Jacob that she didn't want to "waste her money" on him since Kate was dead!

I would understand if Jacob had divorced his wife, or if the marriage had been annulled, but this poor man lost his bride to cancer -- he certainly didn't push her away. Abby, Jacob is heartbroken. He certainly cannot deal with returning wedding gifts so her relatives can get their money back.

Kate's family is large, and Jacob has gotten at least two phone calls every day for a week -- sometimes more. Personally, I think what they're proposing is indecent. What is the appropriate response to Kate's family? -- AGHAST IN ARIZONA

DEAR AGHAST: Just when I think I've heard everything, along comes a letter like yours. Jacob kept his marriage vows -- to love, honor and cherish Kate until death parted them. He is entitled to keep the wedding gifts and to far more consideration than he's receiving from his late wife's family. As for the "appropriate response" to Kate's family, I wouldn't blame Jacob if he changed his phone number to one that's unlisted.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for printing the letter from "Desperate for a Compliment." That letter spoke to my husband's heart. That night he started calling me "pretty." I later saw the letter in your column.

We have a successful marriage, but we get comfortable and lazy. I don't need a lot of compliments, but would rather receive them from my husband. So, thank you again for waking him up. You're the best teacher. -- SMILING WIFE IN CINCINNATI

DEAR SMILING WIFE: I'm pleased the letter had such a positive effect. Now it's your turn. Tonight, leave a little note on his pillow telling him how much he means to you. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I have just finished the letter from "Desperate for a Compliment." I have been married 13 years to my high school sweetheart. I felt the same way "Desperate" did until a friend asked me if I ever told my husband how handsome he is.

That got me to thinking. I assumed that because he is so good-looking, he didn't need a compliment. I was wrong. I began giving him sincere compliments, letting him know I noticed how good he looked and praising him for other nice things he did daily.

He has given me more compliments in the last few months than I would have received in a year's time, and they are sincere and sweet. He has even gone back to calling me "pet names."

Please let "Desperate" know that a little kindness will get her much more than a lot of nagging will. -- NEVER TOO LATE

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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