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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter I am enclosing with mine was written to you in March 2000 by my daughter, Kelsey Leigh Holland. She never mailed it. Kelsey died in her sleep of respiratory failure on Dec. 29, 2000. She was only 13.

"DEAR ABBY: My mother is a workaholic. She works at work, at home, after dinner and after all hours. She never has any fun. I'm afraid she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown -- if not already over the edge.

"I've talked to her, so have my brother and my father. How do I send the message to Mom that life is not just paperwork and deadlines, but fun and happiness? Signed ... OUT OF IDEAS"

Oh, how I wish I could change the past and spend less time working, volunteering, etc., and more time with Kelsey! But that's impossible. What I can do is be a better mother to my son, and pass along my daughter's message to your readers.

Parents, PLEASE spend more time with your children. Listen to them, share with them, teach them. Every moment of life is precious and we truly don't know how much time we have left.

Thank you, Abby, for listening. I wish I had listened before it was too late to spend more time with Kelsey. -- LORI HOLLAND, RIVERSIDE, CALIF.

DEAR LORI: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your daughter. I'm printing your message as a reminder to other parents. The working world can be extremely demanding -- and often there are not enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done. But children are young only once, and they are with us for such a little while.

Readers, the tragedy that has befallen this mother may never happen to the vast majority of you -- but in life, there are no guarantees. I could lecture for paragraphs, but I think you get the message.

DEAR ABBY: Because you sometimes print letters about acts of kindness, I would like to tell you how three guardian angels came to my aid this past winter.

I was traveling from New Orleans to visit my boyfriend in Dubuque, Iowa, when my connecting flight from Chicago was canceled. Another flight that day was unlikely because of bad weather.

In line at the ticket counter, I overheard two women talking. They were also going to Dubuque. I asked what they intended to do about reaching their destination. They introduced themselves as Mary Ann and Monica, and showed me a bus schedule they had gotten. After some negotiating, we managed to purchase tickets on a bus that would take us as far as Rockford, Ill., where Mary Ann's husband would pick us up. The women stayed with me the entire time and reassured me that everything would work out.

After a short wait in Rockford, Mary Ann's husband, Jim, arrived in the pouring rain and drove us safely to Dubuque, dropping me off at the door of my boyfriend's dorm. I tried to give him $10 for his trouble, but he refused it. All three of them waited in the car until they saw that I was safely inside.

Jim, Mary Ann and Monica, thank you. I will never forget your kindness. -- KATIE IN NEW ORLEANS

DEAR KATIE: I'm sure you won't. Your guardian angels literally went the extra mile -- and many more -- for you.

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

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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