Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to the letter about the man who read his deceased wife's diaries, written prior to their marriage, when she was a teenager. He had been unaware that she had dated many men, including one of his best friends, and that she had hoped to marry another man.

The man's daughter urged diarists to destroy writings not meant to be read by survivors.

As an archivist, whose job it is to preserve history for generations to come, I would strongly caution against destroying material. Diaries are few and far between today, and offer glimpses into the past. While that family may have had a bad experience, most people treasure diaries as an intimate connection with someone no longer present.

That man -- angry at what he didn't know -- sounds like a grieving widower who would rather be angry with his deceased wife than face his sadness at losing her. We all cope with death differently, and this might be the most comforting way for him to deal with his loss. If he is truly holding her teenage years against her, then whether it lasted 62 years or not, it couldn't have been much of a marriage. I don't think that is the case, however. His daughter should be ready to help him through his grief. He will come around when he's ready. -- STACEY C. PEEPLES, RIVERSIDE, N.J.

DEAR STACEY: It did not occur to me that diaries could be of historical significance. However, if someone is writing sensitive information in a diary or a journal, instructions should be left that those documents remain sealed until anyone who could be hurt by the contents has also passed on. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: To "Sad in Pennsylvania," whose 85-year-old father was distressed to find his wife's teenage diaries after her death (and others who might be in a similar situation), I want to say, "Please don't destroy these diaries -- or other writings -- after the person dies." I am the deeply grateful owner of my great-grandmother's diary, begun in 1855. It has given me profound insight into American history, human psychology and my own ancestry. A vital part of my life would be missing if someone had destroyed that book. -- SABRA IN L.A.

DEAR SABRA: You inherited a treasure. I can only imagine the changes that occurred during your great-grandmother's lifetime. When my own dear grandmother, Rose Phillips, died at the age of 103 in October 2002, our family realized that over the span of her lifetime she had seen the rise of the automobile, the birth of commercial air travel, Prohibition, women's suffrage, the Roaring '20s, the Great Depression, two World Wars, the discovery of penicillin, man on the moon, the invention of the microwave oven, the fax machine, the computer, the Internet, the cell phone and the birth control pill.

Oh, if only she had kept a diary!

DEAR ABBY: That daughter said her dad is upset after 62 years of a "full and happy marriage." That man should be feeling on top of the world. He was the one her mother selected to be her soul mate -- and nothing that happened before matters. -- HAPPY HUSBAND, ORLANDO, FLA.

DEAR H.H.: I agree.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600