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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I read the letter from the "Grinch" who didn't want her elderly neighbor intruding on her family Christmas morning.

My husband was in the military during Christmas 1964. While he was overseas, my three small children and I lived in a neighborhood with a large number of retired people.

Early Christmas morning, an elderly woman from across the street arrived unexpectedly with gifts. She said she wanted to come while the kids were still opening their presents and the gift wrappings and ribbon were all over the floor. She had no family of her own and wished to be part of our family's celebration.

My children, grandchildren and I still celebrate together on Christmas mornings. My husband survived the war, but has since died. That dear elderly neighbor has long since passed on, but my children and I speak of her lovingly each Christmas morning as we open gifts among paper and ribbons scattered on the floor.

I hope "Grinch" will rethink her outlook. She should realize that sharing the joy of Christmas with others will teach her children a precious lesson for years to come. -- A FLORIDA GRANDMA

DEAR GRANDMA: You're a woman with a heart of gold. As "Grinch's" letter shows, some people are more territorial about their families and holidays than you are. I agree that sharing the holidays would be a valuable lesson for the children. A joy shared is twice a joy.

DEAR ABBY: As regular readers of your column know, more and more often the bereaved are giving themselves permission to break away from formalized funeral rituals and creating final memorials that are in keeping with the expressed wishes of their deceased loved ones.

As president-elect of an association dedicated to affordable alternatives to conventional funerals, I urge your readers to:

(1) Take time now to preplan and discuss with family their wishes for this final event.

(2) When that time arrives, exercise your rights to create a memorial that is in keeping with the close family's expressed desires.

(3) Do not be intimidated by those who insist that you are doing the loved one a disservice by not having a conventional funeral.

Thank you for helping us to shed some light on this issue, Abby. -- TOM SIMONSON, CREMATION ASSOCIATION OF NORTH AMERICA

DEAR TOM: I'm pleased to post your gentle reminder for any reader who needs encouragement. Talking about the inevitable isn't easy; sometimes it's difficult to get people who love us to listen to such an unpleasant subject.

However, the most practical way around those defenses is to make clear, well before the need arises, that you want your family to keep as many of your assets as possible.

A funeral procession that rivals the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace may be a great spectacle, but it's a little late for the star of the show. The time to show respect and affection to those we love is while they are living.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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