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Don't wait until it's too late to mend fences with loved ones

Staff report

Dear Annie: My brother, "William," recently passed away in his sleep. His passing came as a shock to everyone. He wasn't ill or showing any indication that something was wrong. We suspect it was a heart attack.

However, the real tragedy of his passing is that William and his two children had been estranged for more than 19 years. When I called his son and daughter to inform them of their father's passing, I could tell that they certainly felt the loss, and they also understood that any opportunity for reconciliation was now lost forever. All the years of anger and resentment suddenly appeared senseless.

I do not know the reasons for the estrangement, but I can place blame on William, as well as his children, because all of them were adamant that they were "right" about the way they felt. I had discussions with my brother, but he was never ready to open up communication with his kids. I also met with my niece in the hope of persuading her to phone her father and try to talk things out. She didn't. And her brother declined to talk to me about it.

Whatever wounds they had incurred had not healed, and there was no change of heart. With their father's passing, they will now have to cope with their inaction for the rest of their lives.

Please pass my letter along to your readers. Life is too short to harbor ill feelings and resentment, especially with loved ones. God gave us the blessing of children. Parents and children should not toss this blessing aside for what turns out to be in hindsight some perceived slight or miscommunication. - Mourning My Brother

Dear Mourning: Our sincere condolences for the loss of your brother. We hope your letter serves as a heartbreaking warning. People often think they have limitless time to fix relationships, but you never know what will happen. If someone is important to you, work it out. Talk it through. Get an unbiased third party to mediate if necessary, but don't let it fester until it's too late.

Dear Annie: I am a heating and cooling professional. In the past month, I have gone into many homes to repair their furnaces. Several times, the only problem I found was faulty batteries in their digital thermostats.

Please inform your readers that spending five dollars and replacing their thermostat batteries could save them an $80-$100 service call from their heating contractor. They should change these batteries every year. Perhaps next fall, when they are thinking about Thanksgiving or buying holiday gifts, they could pick up some extra batteries as a gift to themselves. - Staying Warm in South Dakota

Dear South Dakota: Thanks for the welcome information. We admit that replacing thermostat batteries did not occur to us, but we will pay more attention in the future, and we hope our readers will, as well.

Dear Annie: "Finally at Peace" said she learned to appreciate those grandchildren who keep in touch and stop mourning the ones who don't. I, too, spent an inordinate amount of time "grieving" the loss of my nieces and nephew after my parents and my husband passed away.

Over time, I decided to help with my church's Sunday school and recently went to work for an after-school program. I'm no longer grieving, and guess what? The last time I spoke to my nephew, it was a very positive experience.

I agree with "Finally" that there are ways to involve yourself with children. They don't even need to be related to you. I meet and enjoy the company of many young people. And actually having a job allows me to earn extra money, as well. - Also Finally at Peace

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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