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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Why do men and women of the clergy expect to be paid for performing wedding and funeral services for members of their churches? My mother informed me today that the preacher at my grandmother's funeral will be paid $100, and the man who sings will receive the same.

Both of these men had known my grandmother for 20 years. Neither one will be inconvenienced in the least to attend her funeral.

I thought being a church member entitled one to at least a few kind words said about them without the family having to scrape up more money. I would never dream of charging for saying a few words about someone I claim to have known and loved. It would be an honor and a privilege to deliver a eulogy at the funeral.

What do you think? -- NO PRICE ON FRIENDSHIP

DEAR NO PRICE: I agree it is both an honor and a privilege to be asked to participate. However, when the clergyperson or musicians render professional services, they should be compensated.

That said, nowhere is it carved in stone that a clergyperson must officiate. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law died after an excruciating nine-year illness. It left my husband emotionally exhausted. He had always planned for his uncle to officiate at her funeral. Unfortunately, the uncle preceded her in death. We felt strongly about not wanting a stranger to perform the service.

I'll never fully understand why I offered to conduct my mother-in-law's funeral myself -- but I did. I have no professional background as a public speaker or a minister.

When I told our daughter, she fully supported my decision and asked to help. We had little time for planning, but on the plane from her home in Washington to Florida, she jotted down ideas for a division of responsibilities, including music.

Our ideas paralleled amazingly in a situation neither of us was personally prepared for. We were apprehensive about what the more conservative family members would think, as well as our emotional ability to perform this function. We were determined to do what would please and comfort our husband and father most.

To our great relief, our efforts were fully supported by all who came. To know her cherished granddaughter and other relatives participated in her unique and personal service would have pleased Grandma beyond words.

Abby, I've learned we are limited only by our perception of our abilities. -- A FLORIDA FAMILY

DEAR FLORIDA FAMILY: How true. I hope your letter will inspire others to follow their hearts.

DEAR ABBY: A reader who signed herself "Mom's Daughter, Rockwell, Texas" agreed with your response that when it comes to funeral attire, it's not about what people wear; it's what's in their hearts that counts.

Her letter made me recall these words from "The Little Prince," by the late Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." -- ARTHUR M. PRINCE, Ph.D., MEMPHIS, TENN.

DEAR ARTHUR: He was right. That's one of the reasons why "The Little Prince" is a little classic.

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

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