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by Abigail Van Buren

Desire to Comfort Widower Goes Beyond Friendship

DEAR ABBY: A few months ago a longtime friend and business associate I'll call "Brian" lost his wife. They had been married for nine years. Brian and I have shared many conversations over the years and know details of each other's lives. He's a remarkable person with outstanding values and a wonderful heart.

I have been legally separated for a year and am in the process of getting a divorce.

I feel terrible for Brian. I know he loved his wife and was committed to her. I feel an overwhelming desire to comfort him, but have held back because it might be a problem because of our circumstances. We have much in common and really enjoy each other's company, and I do feel drawn to him. But I don't want people talking negatively about us, as if there were something going on.

How can I let Brian know I'd like to be there for him without revealing that I would like more? I realize it is inappropriate to infringe on his period of mourning, but I would like him to know I have a genuine interest in him. -- FROM A DISTANCE

DEAR FROM A DISTANCE: It would not be an infringement on this man's period of mourning to pick up the phone, tell him you heard the sad news about his wife's passing and offer your deepest sympathy for his loss, because you know how devoted he and his wife were to each other. It would also not be an infringement to invite him for a home-cooked meal if he wants one.

But don't be surprised if he tells you the last thing he needs is a home-cooked meal because these days, when an eligible man is widowed, the eligible ladies are often not as restrained as you are, and line up at the widower's door within days of the funeral. "The early bird gets the worm."