Dear Abby: A few months ago, our beloved son-in-law, "Tom," died unexpectedly at only 39 years of age. Our daughter and her three children, all under 8, survive him.
The night Tom died, neighbors took care of our grandchildren, while others accompanied my daughter to the hospital. They waited throughout the night until we arrived from out of state, hundreds of miles away.
The next day these wonderful people took their own children out of school to play with our grandchildren. Neighbors took days off work to comfort and care for our daughter. They organized a schedule of who would provide meals.
More than 15 families in the neighborhood helped with all the small yet important details before and after the funeral. Photos of our son-in-law and the family were enlarged, framed and displayed in the visitation room of the funeral home — along with hand-drawn pictures and letters of sympathy from the neighbors' children and our grandchildren's classmates. Friends set out journals for guests to record their memories of Tom and express their condolences.
In the coffee room at the funeral home, neighbors arranged for baby sitters, toys, food and beverages for the many children in attendance. After the memorial service, these folks catered lunch at our daughter's home.
Several neighbors opened their homes to out-of-town visitors. And to top it all off, the family next door moved out of their home to provide extra room for family members attending the funeral. Now, months later, neighbors are still taking our grandchildren on outings, checking on our daughter, and bringing in meals on occasion.
Never have I seen a neighborhood with so much warmth and caring. In a day and age when neighbors barely know each other, it is inspiring — especially in a metropolis like Chicago.
I know of no other column with a wider audience than yours, Abby. Please share this experience with your readers in the hope that they, too, will make the effort to participate in their neighborhoods and be of service to others. — A Grateful Mother
Dear Grateful Mother: I offer my condolences for your loss. Being of service to others is the highest calling I know. In these complicated economic and political times, people often narrow their focus. Your daughter's neighbors are an inspirational example of brotherly love in action.
Dear Abby:I was divorced three years ago and am uncertain about what to do with my wedding album. This is on my mind because I'll be remarrying this year, and I have no desire to keep the photos from my first marriage. My dilemma is that I have two small children and wonder if there would be any benefit — or harm — in keeping the album for their sakes. (Their dad is pretty much out of the picture.) Thanks for any light you can shed on this. — Bride-to-Be in Omaha
Dear Bride-to-Be: Although that chapter of your life is now closed, it is still very much a part of your children's history. Put the albums in storage for your children to have later.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. © Universal Press Syndicate