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by Abigail Van Buren

Dying Mother's Wishes Are Turned Into Dust

DEAR ABBY: I lost my mom to cancer several months ago. She made my sister and me promise not to let her die in a hospital, but the night of her death we decided to put her in hospice. She needed care 24/7, and although we and Mom's companion were taking turns in shifts, the stress had taken a heavy toll. Mom died three hours after we made our decision.

We also promised to bury her because she didn't want cremation. However, we realized that we couldn't afford the price of a funeral so we convinced Mom to be cremated. Part of it was financial, but also, neither my sister nor I plan to stay here.

Abby, Mom had two wishes at the end of her life, and I wasn't able to fulfill either one. She had no life insurance, and the financial responsibilities my sister and I have made it impossible.

Now I'm having second thoughts. Was I wrong? Should you grant your parents their final wishes? I'm seeing a counselor about this, but would like your thoughts. I'm afraid we forced Mom into accepting cremation. Will the guilt ever go away? -- GRIEVING IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR GRIEVING: Before I answer that question, let me commend you for seeking counseling. Sometimes it is simply not possible to grant a dying person's final wishes. Because caring for your mother was taking a toll on your health, it was necessary to ensure that she received the care she needed before any of you buckled under the stress. As to your discussing the necessity for cremation with her, I'm sure she recognized that you were right or she wouldn't have agreed.

Will the "guilt" ever go away? Yes, but only when you are finally ready to recognize that guilt can be part of the grieving process and let it go. You have done nothing wrong. Talking about this with your therapist is the surest way to work it through.