DEAR ABBY: I'm convinced my father's wife killed him and I don't know where to turn. He had fought complications from quadruple bypass surgery for a few years, and had been in hospice for months prior to his death. My siblings and I didn't put all the pieces together until afterward.
Although I'm sure Dad was killed, based on facts and discussions with social workers, I'm pretty sure it was assisted suicide, which is illegal in most states, including the state where he lived. I feel cheated and angry at my father's wife for not having the guts to talk to us about his plans, and Dad for relying on her to tell us when she never had a good relationship with any of us. I'm also angry with myself for not stopping what I witnessed as it happened before my eyes. How could I have been so blind?
It has been several years now, and I still feel guilty for letting it happen, although I'm not sure how I could have stopped it. Your thoughts would be appreciated. -- ANGRY SON IN GEORGIA
DEAR ANGRY SON: I'm sorry for your pain and anger, emotions that are not uncommon when a loved one dies. But for your own sake, accept that if your father had an advance health care directive, and trusted his wife to carry it out, then she was following his wishes. While today's medical interventions can prolong someone's life, they can also prolong death.
Hospice offers grief counseling for family members for a period of time after a death occurs, and you and your siblings should have received some. It would have helped you to stop blaming the wife, and let go of any negative feelings so you could go on with your life. And that, I assure you, is what your father would have wanted.
DEAR ABBY: My sister "Mary" was in a car accident when she was in her 20s that left her with some brain damage. She appears normal, but has trouble with interpersonal relations, boundaries and impulse control. Overall, her behavior varies from acceptable to belligerent. When she was evaluated by professionals years ago, our family was advised to set standards for her behavior as near to normal as possible.
When we go to restaurants, Mary has a hard time deciding what to order, often engaging the server in an uncomfortable, long conversation about the alternatives. When her meal arrives, she is rarely satisfied with her choice and makes a scene over her dissatisfaction to the server. If we try to intervene, she becomes even more belligerent.
She looks forward to going out and we love her dearly. We would hate to exclude her from these family outings, but we don't know what to do. Can you help? -- IMPOSSIBLE TO DIGEST IN WASHINGTON STATE
DEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO DIGEST: Because you were told to "set standards" for your sister as near to normal as possible, that's what you should be doing. Before you take her out for a meal, explain to her what the ground rules are. If she acts out, do as you would with an unruly child and leave the restaurant until she regains control of herself.
Because of her impairment, she may need extra help with her menu choices. Luckily, many restaurants now post their menus online. If you print one out and go over it with Mary, you might be able to make the process of ordering easier for her. I can't promise it will work, but it's certainly worth a try.
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.
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