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by Abigail Van Buren

Sister's Ashes Are Focus of Family Concern

DEAR ABBY: My younger sister died two years ago. She was only 43. She left behind her husband of 19 years, three children, my parents and myself (along with many other family members and friends).

Her choice was to be cremated. As a family, we discussed my brother-in-law's plans for the ashes. He discussed various options and we, of course, shared our desires and wishes. Her ashes remained in the cardboard box from the funeral home on a shelf in their living room until my brother-in-law moved into a new place a year later.

My mother finally confronted him. She said it was disrespectful not to have finalized a resting place for her daughter. She said she knew the ashes belong to him because he's the husband. His response was he was sorry she felt that way. Now we don't know what he's done with them. He became engaged 15 months after my sister's death and has been living with his fiancee.

This seems so wrong to me and so dismissive of my sister and my family. What can we do? We want a final resting place for her. We think his actions show he obviously doesn't care. -- DISILLUSIONED AND HEARTBROKEN

DEAR D&H: That's not necessarily true. Your former brother-in-law may care so much about his late wife that he cannot let the ashes go. I hope you will maintain contact with him because it's a way to keep track of those ashes. As his wedding date grows near, he may soften his stance and allow them to be divided, perhaps with some prodding from his new wife, which may be the solution that's best for everyone concerned.

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