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by Abigail Van Buren

Man in No Hurry to Part With His Mother's Ashes

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Ned," lost his mother suddenly at the age of 54. Her wishes were to be cremated and have her cremains scattered in the Arizona desert. It hasn't happened yet.

Her cremains started out on the bookcase headboard of our bed. I finally moved them to the living room in front of the fireplace. One day, I returned home from work and, once again, the cremains had been put back in our bedroom -- this time on the nightstand next to our bed.

Abby, our 10-year-old son was extremely close to his grandmother. They adored each other. To this day, he talks to the urn as if it is his grandmother. In addition, the cremains did not all fit into the urn, so a second box was sent along with the urn. With time, the box has separated and started to leak.

I think it's unhealthy to continue to have the cremains in the house, and I also feel it's disrespectful to my mother-in-law. How can you be firm and loving at the same time? How should I bring this up without putting my foot in my mouth? -- WOEFUL IN INDIANA

DEAR WOEFUL: It appears your husband is having a difficult time letting go. I recommend you sweep up the cremains that have leaked out of the box and place them in a baggie. When your husband is in a relaxed, and hopefully receptive, mood give it to him and tell him that his mother had asked that her cremains be scattered in Arizona -- not the bedroom. If he can't bring himself to do that, perhaps he would compromise by agreeing to keep them elsewhere than your bedroom. Your having moved them should have been hint enough that their presence made you uncomfortable.

It is not unheard of for survivors to keep the cremains of loved ones with them -- and the subject has appeared before in my column. However, since it makes you uncomfortable, you should not have to sleep with his mother.

DEAR ABBY: I am being married soon. My sister, "Alice," promised to help me with the last-minute details. However, yesterday Alice called to inform me -- with regrets -- that she'll be on vacation with her husband at the time my wedding is scheduled, so she won't be able to help me after all. I am upset to say the least. I have no bridesmaids to help me, and I was counting on her.

Alice is very sensitive, so I'm afraid to say anything to her. Am I wrong to be upset? What should I tell my friends when they ask about her? Is there anything I can say to my sister or my guests that will go over well? -- HURT IN HOUSTON

DEAR HURT: Tell your "sensitive" sister that you are disappointed that she won't be there to share your happiness (it's the truth), and that she'll be missed (it's also true because her absence will be noticed), and that you'll manage without her (because you will).

Then ask a couple of close friends to help you. If the "last-minute details" are shared, they shouldn't be too much of a burden for anyone. Should your guests inquire about your sister's whereabouts, be truthful and let them draw their own conclusions. Her failure to attend is not a reflection on you.

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