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Dear Abby: My 56-year-old mother passed away suddenly six months ago. It happened two days before my daughter's fifth birthday. I didn't know what to do when Mom died -- cancel or let my daughter have the party Mom and I had planned. Well, I opted to go on with the celebration.

My dad just couldn't face it. He left the house. I know in my heart that Mom would not have wanted us to cancel her granddaughter's party. I loved my mom dearly and would never have done anything disrespectful to her memory. I miss her very much. She was my best friend, and it's hard going through life without her.

Did I do the right thing?

-- Missing my Mom in Maine

Dear Missing: You did the right thing in going ahead with the party. I see no reason why a child of 5 should be forced to associate her special day with death and mourning if it's avoidable.

Calling for volunteers

Dear Abby: I am a concerned parent. My children attend a school that has a very tight budget. The school system here cannot afford to hire teacher's aides, so I help out as much as I can.

Abby, it's crucial for parents to volunteer as much of their time as they can to help teachers. Even one hour a month would be helpful.

I know several mothers who trade baby-sitting so they have free time to go to the gym or shop, but they never give a thought to volunteering at the school. I swap baby-sitting duties with a friend so I can do those things, too, but we also make the time to help our children's teachers.

Our children and their education should be our No. 1 priority. Would you please help me encourage parents everywhere to volunteer their time at schools? Thank you.

-- Volunteer Mom in Princeton, Minn.

Dear Mom: Many schools are in crisis because of budget constraints and could use a helping hand from parents. Volunteering in schools not only allows the teachers to dedicate more time to teaching, but it also sets a good example for the children. Children of parents who are concerned about, and immediately involved in, their education earn better grades. Everyone benefits.

I know from personal experience how rewarding volunteering can be. Every time I have volunteered, I got more than I gave.

Dear Readers: This is just a gentle reminder that messages of support to our troops stationed around the world are their No. 1 morale booster. Show your support by visiting and telling them you appreciate their dedication. Bless you one and all.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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