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by Abigail Van Buren

Discovery of Genetic Disorder Forces Confession of Affair

DEAR ABBY: Decades ago, while I was a college student, a friend took the time and interest to help me through a severe bout of depression. She likely saved my life. She had no special training, just a kind heart and a willing ear. At the time, I didn't realize the profound impact she had made. Our lives diverged, and I never heard from her again.

Recently, I finally decided to reach out and thank her, but unfortunately, an online search revealed her 10-year-old obituary. From the notes in the guest book, I discovered she had suffered many personal hardships throughout her adult life, which contributed to her early death.

Because I was not able to help her as she helped me, I want to pass along two important lessons I learned: (1) Thank people and tell them you care before it is too late, and (2) be willing to lend a hand and an ear to someone in need, because you may be that one person who affects their life. She had a saying I would like to share, which has guided my life: "Just open your 'I' and LIVE becomes LOVE." -- WITH LOVE IN MINNESOTA

DEAR WITH LOVE: I'm sorry for the loss of your caring and compassionate friend. I'm glad you took the time to write and share what a meaningful role she had in your life. That she made herself available to listen when you needed it is something more people should do because we live in a stressful society in which many individuals feel lost and alone. And I love her "motto"!