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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My mother's family has never been close-knit, but what they did to her was despicable. My grandmother died recently, and not one person in the family called Mom to notify her. We saw it in our local paper.

No funeral details were mentioned, so we called the mortuary repeatedly only to be told arrangements were "still pending." Mother tried to contact her sister, but got no response. She called her brother four times. He told her the same thing -- the arrangements were pending.

Two days later, Mom heard from another relative that her mother had been buried in a private ceremony with only immediate family. Mother called her brother again, and was told it wasn't true -- the arrangements were still pending.

The next day, Mom and I went to the cemetery to see if the rumor was true. Imagine our sadness when we found my grandmother's grave. Mom was heartbroken that she wasn't able to pay her respects to her own mother.

We went to my uncle to break the news to him, thinking he didn't know, and were shocked when he admitted he had known all along about the arrangements, but that Mother's older sister had instructed him to share no information with Mother. He said his "hands were tied" because she made him promise not to divulge any details to us.

Abby, please tell your readers that no matter how dysfunctional family ties may be, everyone should be able to pay last respects to their own parent. And funeral homes should have the decency to tell callers that funeral arrangements are private rather than lying about it. -- BRENDA IN TEXAS

DEAR BRENDA: My deepest sympathy to you and your mother for your loss. Regardless of what caused the falling out with her siblings, their behavior was brutal and allowed her no closure. They have made it plain that she should keep her distance, and for her own sake I hope she will. It is obvious who "runs" that family, and further contact will cause your mother only more pain and frustration. Sometimes people have to build their own family, and that's what I recommend you do.

DEAR ABBY: At 78, my dad has given up on life. After a bout with cancer in his 50s, he has gone downhill with severe depression, sleep apnea, heart issues, etc. Dad sleeps about 20 hours a day, and refuses to do anything to improve his quality of life.

My mom is a vibrant woman of 70 who enjoys excellent health. She has many years ahead of her, but her quality of life has diminished because of my father. We encourage her to find some kind of life outside the home through friends, women's groups, church groups, etc., but she's reluctant to leave Dad. She's a youthful person who is, basically, living with a corpse.

I love my father, but his refusal to do anything to make his life better (treat his sleep apnea, get some exercise, take his meds properly) makes me realize he won't change. I hate that two lives are being destroyed because of Dad's choices. How can I make Mom see her life could be better? -- TROUBLED SON IN ILLINOIS

DEAR TROUBLED SON: You and your mom should schedule an appointment with your father's physician to discuss everything you have disclosed to me. His doctor needs to know he sleeps 20 hours a day and isn't compliant in taking his meds. And you need to find out whether your father's condition is improvable at this point, because you may be judging him too harshly.

While your mother's life might improve if she got out more, it's possible that if she took the time away from your dad she would feel too guilty to get the most out of it. If there are family members or friends who would stay with him while she went out, she might be more receptive. Remember, you can always suggest, but don't push.

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