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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Marie in Grand Prairie, Texas," who was shocked at some of the attire and lack of respect shown at a funeral she attended. She sent a list of do's and don'ts regarding funeral etiquette.

My mother passed away recently. Shy and homebound, she knew very few people. My siblings and I expected less than 25 attendees at her funeral. We were stunned to see triple that number gathered for Mom's service. Some were family members, but most of them were our friends, many of whom had never met Mom. Some wore dresses and suits; others wore jeans.

I wouldn't have cared if they had come in their bathrobes. These wonderful people put their lives on hold to come and tell me they cared about me and were sorry about the loss of my mother.

Your response to Marie was right on target. It's not about what people wear; it's what's in their hearts that counts. -– MOM'S DAUGHTER, ROCKWALL, TEXAS

DEAR DAUGHTER: Many people wrote to comment on Marie's letter. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Bravo for your response to Marie regarding "proper and acceptable" funeral behavior. When we buried my Herb, I violated the "hug and acknowledgment" rule she listed. As relatives, friends and acquaintances (well over 200) filed by his American flag-draped coffin, I hugged each and every one -– a spontaneous reaction.

There should be no hard-and-fast "rules." Herb would have deplored a regimented service. The entire group even joined in singing John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" during the service. More than a year later, I still receive compliments about his wonderful send-off. -– "HUGGING SUE," LEMOORE, CALIF.

DEAR HUGGING SUE: Your husband's funeral was a "love-in" at the time you needed it most. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Two years ago my best friend "Sara" (who was 13 at the time) suffered a major tragedy. Her father, a long-haired biker in his mid-30s, died.

When we arrived for the funeral, we were shocked to see most of the adults wearing blue jeans and cut-off shirts. Her father had been dressed in blue jeans, his favorite Harley shirt and a leather jacket. His friends left mementos (like a remote control) in his coffin and cheerfully chatted about the good times. There were few tears.

At first I thought it was improper. I have since changed my mind. I now know that's exactly how her dad would have wanted it. He wanted to go out with a bang –- and he sure did! –- ALLIE IN ST. CHARLES, MO.

DEAR ALLIE: More power to him. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Hugs and acknowledgments can be given anytime, anyplace. After the viewing, prior to my husband's service, a mother held out her baby, who took my finger in her fist. I knew then that, yes, life does go on.

Every person in attendance took away a little bit of my pain. I couldn't begin to tell you what they were wearing. –- CENTRAL NEBRASKA READER

DEAR READER: I understand. A woman named Patricia in Cincinnati related that she wore a bright green dress for her husband's funeral. A few days before his sudden death he had admired it on display and said it would look even better on her. She wore it knowing his spirit was with her, whispering, "You made the right choice!" And, indeed, she did if it brought her comfort.

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

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