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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Still Hears Echoes of the Man Who Got Away

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Still Kicking Myself in Frazier Park, Calif.," who walked away from a possible romance, prompts my letter. Months after a love affair experience that began in church with the opening hymn and ended 45 minutes later, I, too, am still "kicking myself."

Last spring, I entered the cathedral where I regularly attend 10:30 Mass. Because I was late, the middle section where I usually sit was full. I quickly slid into an empty pew toward the front. As I did, I noticed an attractive dark-haired man seated behind me.

The organist played the first note. I opened my mouth to sing and then stopped to listen to the rich tenor directly behind me. Encouraged by the strength and beauty of his voice, I joined in, assuming his phrasing would cover my mistakes. Instead of being overshadowed, his voice complemented mine. We began to sing unscored harmony as though we had practiced together for years. Our voices flowed in concert with the organist. Time stopped for me while we sang together throughout the entire Mass. With each successive hymn and response, we were a team singing duets.

I turned to shake his hand during the traditional kiss of peace. He warmly held mine in both of his, and his shining hazel eyes looked directly into mine. Smiling back, I wanted to speak, but I was dumbfounded. What I felt was so unexpected and powerful that I suddenly became shy. What could I say? God had arranged a perfect setting, and I could only lower my eyes.

Aware of him behind me in the communion line, I resolved to say something -- anything -- to him before leaving church. At least I could comment on his remarkable voice. However, after Mass he disappeared and has never returned. Perhaps he was in town on business, which makes another meeting unlikely. Or he may have been merely grateful for the opportunity to sing. Could there have been more to the day? My heart says yes -- but there is no way to know. -- WITH A SONG IN MY HEART IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR SONG IN MY HEART: Since there is no way to know whether or not there could have been more to the day, comfort yourself in the knowledge that for a few moments, you made beautiful music as one, and what you created together was your offering to God.

DEAR ABBY: During the past year, I have become good friends with a lady I'll call Ivy. I am a 36-year-old single woman; Ivy is 53 and divorced. We enjoy each other's company and she's been a wonderful friend.

Ivy is Jewish; I am Catholic. The difference in our faiths doesn't matter, because I believe that most religions are on the right path. However, I am unsure about how to handle our religious differences during the Christmas holidays.

Gift-giving is supposed to inspire feelings of warmth and happiness, and she has often said that when it comes to Christmas, she has lived the holiday vicariously through others. Naturally, I want to get her a gift, but is it the right thing to do? -- GENTLE GENTILE

DEAR G.G.: By all means present your friend with a gift -- for Hanukkah. Then invite her to share part of your Christmas celebration with you. Developing a close friendship with someone of a different faith can be enlightening for both of you.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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