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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Paw-Paw and Maw-Maw in Alabama" (May 13), whose son has cut off contact with their 5-year-old grandson to "protect" the boy from Grandpa's eventual death, left me feeling intense sorrow for all concerned.

In 1996, my grandfather was ecstatic that I was pregnant and anxiously awaited the arrival of his triplet great-grandchildren. At age 102, he was with us at the hospital when they were born, and remained an integral part of their lives until his death five years later.

We believe Grandpa's loving involvement with the children extended the quality and length of his life. In exchange, the kids' first years were blessed with the special love and adoration of a great-grandparent.

Abby, the day "Paw-Paw's" letter was published, I picked up my now-12-year-olds from school. They told me their writing assignment that day was an essay relating a favorite memory. Be it serendipity, providence or coincidence, two of the triplets had written about "G.G." (Great-Grandfather). One of the stories ended with "although G.G. is no longer with us, he will always be in my heart." -- JAN IN ARLINGTON, TEXAS

DEAR JAN: Thank you for sharing that story. Response to "Paw-Paw's" letter was huge. Many readers wrote to describe the importance of grandparent memories in their lives. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: We lost my father 16 months ago after a long illness. My small children spent two days a week with him and my mother, and were a significant part of the joy in his life.

We never hid his illness from them. We did just the opposite. My son was a great help to his Nana and Pop-Pop, bringing him lunch and helping to move the medical equipment back and forth across the house.

I am convinced that allowing the children to be a part of their grandfather's life through the end of it has given them a sense of compassion and a life skill that all of us will need at some point in our lives. Children grieve, too, and it is our job as parents to help them learn to cope with life's disappointments, not to shelter them from the realities they will face as adults. -- NANCY IN ALLENTOWN, PA.

DEAR ABBY: As a hospice chaplain, I have worked with many children and many levels of maturity. In my experience, it is important to listen carefully to children and let them "self-select." If they seem comfortable or choose to be with a family member who is passing, it is best to let them be there. If it appears to be traumatic or they verbalize that they don't wish to be there, honor that as well and perhaps find a parallel way in which they can share in the transition. And bear in mind that the age of the child does not necessarily indicate his/her preparedness for confronting end-of-life issues. --- ARTHUR IN DERRY, N.H.

DEAR ABBY: Months after my granddaughter Kacie was born in 2000, I found out I have a rare cancer. As long as the medicine I take works, I am fine except for occasional pain. We see Kacie every day, before and after school. I really don't think I would still be here if I couldn't see her. Kacie is the light of our lives and gives me something special to live for. -- GRANDMOTHER IN OHIO

DEAR ABBY: When our grandfather died, my sisters and I were upset that we didn't get more time with him. Years later, we found out that our parents had decided to shelter us from his last few weeks of life. This form of "protection" wound up "killing" Grandpa for us, before he was dead.

Please don't do this. Allow them to spend every moment they have left. If you have had love and laughter to the end, you will grieve but with the knowledge that you did all you could to honor Grandpa and preserve his memory. Regret perpetuates itself -- and my parents now realize they did the wrong thing. -- SHEILA IN MANHASSET, N.Y.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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