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by Abigail Van Buren

Cemetery Wreath Thief Does Grave Disservice to Family

DEAR ABBY: I need to let off some steam, because the more I think about an incident that happened last summer, the madder I get.

My sister and I take turns (a few days at a time) caring for our 91-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer's and can't be left alone.

My family lives 60 miles from my mother, so before returning to my home for the Fourth of July, I took flowers to the family cemetery, which is close to Mom's house. It's something I do every year, and the tradition holds great meaning for me.

It was late afternoon on Saturday when I took wreaths I had made for each of my grandparents, an uncle, my precious son (who was 5 years old when he died), and my dear late sister who was recently laid to rest.

Each wreath was unique -- I had carefully chosen favorite flowers and colors. Even though the wreaths were artificial, they were pretty, and I felt proud to display them on the graves of my loved ones.

The following evening, my sister called me after she had delivered her flowers to the cemetery. I was shocked to hear the news that my offerings were no longer on the graves -- someone had taken them! (I am positive that the wind hadn't blown them away because I was careful to secure them in the ground.)

I have heard stories about people stealing floral displays from graves to put on other graves -- even selling them at yard sales. However, I have come up with a solution: The next time I take a wreath to the cemetery, I'll put on my rubber gloves and add poison ivy to the greenery. -- ITCHING TO GET EVEN IN CINCINNATI

DEAR ITCHING: I don't blame you for being angry, and your solution is both clever and diabolical. However, as much as you would like to get even with the wreath thief, please don't do anything rash. An innocent person -- like a groundskeeper -- might pick up the wreath and suffer the consequences.