DEAR ABBY: You once printed a letter from a man who was dying. He wanted his surviving widow to pursue happiness after his death with some man who would be kind to her. The letter was mainly addressed to those who might stand in judgment if she began dating soon after he was gone.
Abby, is there a rule of thumb about how long the widow or widower should wait after the death of the spouse to begin pursuing another relationship? -- LONELY IN GADSDEN, ALA.
DEAR LONELY: There was a time when it was considered scandalous for a widow or widower to date before a year of mourning had passed. However, today the grieving spouse may begin to date whenever he or she feels ready to do so.
The letter you remember was signed "'Mac' in Oregon," and it bears repeating. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Thank you for supporting the widow who started dating three months after her husband died. You were right when you told her, "The time to show respect for one's spouse is while that spouse is living."
Here is my story, and there must be a few thousand husbands (and wives) who feel the same as I do.
My wife and I have had many good years together. We raised kids, lived through joyous good times and horrendous bad times.
I am in my 18th month of chemo treatment for various cancers. I may live three months or five years. It doesn't matter how short or how long my life will be, but it's reasonable to assume that I will die before my wife does.
I have had a more rewarding and fruitful life than I probably deserve, for which I am grateful. But the day I die, my last thoughts will be regret that I shall leave her alone. So sad, to me, to know that after so many months of total concentration on my welfare -- days of putting up with my misery and never letting me see her own misery -- her reward will be to be left alone.
Abby, she is not the kind of person who should be left alone.
So I tell her now, and I want all my kids and friends to listen: "As soon as you possibly can, after throwing my ashes off the boat into the Pacific, wrap the memories of our life together around you -- and begin a new life. If three days, or three months, after I'm gone, you find a man who will love and cherish you for a few years as I have for so many, go for it! You've earned it." -- "MAC" IN OREGON
DEAR MAC: Your sincerity rings true, leaving me uncharacteristically speechless. Thanks for a two-hankie letter.