DEAR ABBY: My neighbor was very ill with diabetes and an amputee with other health problems. Her husband worked long hours to pay for her health care and keep food on the table. They also had custody of a 3-year-old granddaughter.
I'm sorry to say this idea didn't occur to me until after the lady died suddenly, and her husband was left a widower with a small child to raise. Once the funeral is over and the church and neighbors move on, those left behind are often without support. They have funeral bills to pay, medical bills and their grief.
My local grocer happens to deliver, so I went and bought two cases of canned vegetables, rice, beans, flour, corn meal, sugar, potatoes and pasta every other month and had them delivered anonymously. That way my neighbor wouldn't feel it was charity. He has since figured out it was me, so I take food to them now because he's still having a hard time after his wife's death. But the little girl is thriving and I don't have to worry she will be hungry.
Please ask your readers to think beyond the usual mourning period, and look further at a family's situation after a loved one dies. A little help can go a long way. -- HAPPY TO LEND A HAND IN TENNESSEE
DEAR HAPPY TO LEND A HAND: I'm pleased to print your letter. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a caring and generous neighbor like you. When a death happens, the most important thing is to maintain contact with a grieving family and observe the Golden Rule as you have been doing. The time to be a friend is when someone needs one.
DEAR ABBY: Many years ago we adopted three children through our state's child welfare system. At the time, we knew they had full and half-siblings somewhere "in the system." We have not yet told our children they have biological siblings, although they do know their birth parents are no longer living due to drug abuse.
I was recently able to locate two of the full siblings through Internet research, and I have been following their lives on their social networking pages. Both are adults now -- one is a college student; the other is a young mother.
I am torn. My children are teenagers now and old enough to be told they have other siblings. But should I uproot these young women's lives to learn about us and meet our children? I'm also not sure whether they know the circumstances of their biological parents' deaths or would want that information.
It doesn't seem fair to dump all this on a college student and a young mom, but my children have a right to know, too. I almost wish I had never started searching. Please advise. -- KEEPER OF THE SECRET IN ILLINOIS
DEAR KEEPER OF THE SECRET: You are obviously a caring and sensitive woman. I agree that your children have a right to know they have other blood relatives. I'd be very surprised if the young women your children are related to were shocked by your contacting them. They are older and may have some recollection of their siblings. However, before discussing this with your teenagers, I recommend that you make the initial contact to be absolutely sure the two adult siblings would like to meet your children.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)