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by Abigail Van Buren

Dying Woman Celebrated Holidays in a 'Living Wake'

DEAR ABBY: I am a rabbi who was asked by a funeral director to talk with a family dealing with the wife's terminal illness. When I met Mindy, I was touched by her bravery and sensitivity in confronting her disease. She shared that she and her family were taking charge of the calendar and moving all the holidays forward so they could squeeze in as many celebrations as possible in the coming weeks.

Regardless of the actual date on the calendar, they were celebrating secular and religious holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. These events included decorating, serving the appropriate food associated with the observance -- even wearing costumes for Halloween.

On my last visit, Mindy described something else she had done. She invited relatives who lived far away to be with her and gave them quilts she had created over her lifetime. She remarked that it made sense for her to be able to say her goodbyes rather than miss that opportunity. She described it as a "living wake." A few weeks later, she was gone.

For Mindy, condensing the holidays gave her the ability to control her medical situation in a gracious and innovative way. Her choice of saying goodbye to loved ones gave her -- and them -- time to heal any rifts that had occurred. In dealing with her own impending death, she bestowed a special gift to us for these upcoming holidays.

Let loved ones know today how important they are to you. If there is a way of resolving a family disagreement, do it as soon as possible. Life is too short for many of these disagreements. Finally, appreciate and enjoy the time we have with family, relatives and friends. It is truly irreplaceable. -- RABBI ALBERT SLOMOVITZ

DEAR RABBI SLOMOVITZ: Well said. I confess that your account of Mindy's final weeks and her passing left me feeling very emotional. It is a profound lesson for us all, as is a poem that is a favorite of my dear mother's and mine:


-- Author Unknown

If you are ever going to love me,

Love me now, while I can know

The sweet and tender feelings

Which from true affection flow.

Love me now

While I am living.

Do not wait until I'm gone

And then have it chiseled in marble,

Sweet words on ice-cold stone.

If you have tender thoughts of me,

Please tell me now.

If you wait until I am sleeping,

Never to awaken,

There will be death between us

And I won't hear you then.

So, if you love me, even a little bit,

Let me know it while I am living

So I can treasure it.

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