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While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On explaining death to children:

When my mother was very young, she was extremely concerned about dying and repeatedly asked her mother (my grandmother) about it.

Eventually, Grandmother turned to her and said, “Look, do you remember what it was like before you were born?” My mother said, “No.”

“Well,” said my grandmother, “That’s what it will be like when you die.”

I was in my late 50s when Mother told me this. It continues to be comforting.

– E.

On partners who refuse to budge on one thing or another and won’t say why:

Why are some people such gutless wonders that they won’t say things in plain English? Or, as we say to children, “Use your words.”

If someone used his words, it could lead to a productive (if possibly unpleasant) discussion. In my opinion, it is both selfish and cowardly for people to refrain from explaining themselves verbally when they are in a relationship with someone who clearly desires such communication.

– The Verbal One

On providing real help to a family member:

My family visited my parents recently. My spouse and I are having serious difficulties and are working on that. My parents aren’t oblivious, but instead of volunteering unhelpful advice (“She’s such a shrew”; “He’s such a jerk”), my mom simply took me aside at the end of the visit and said, “We’re here for all of you. Whatever happens, you’re all good people and we will help as much as we can.”

I don’t know what the future holds, but that sort of quiet support (for both my spouse and me) is priceless.

– Anonymous

On begging a mate to adopt healthier habits:

My wife has chosen a path that I cannot force her from. In my situation I believe that any suggestions, hints or offers only strengthen her will to resist.

It is clear that a lack of activity and poor diet will shorten and/or reduce one’s quality of life. As I approach retirement age, I’m nagged by thoughts that we’ll be living something less than we could have because my better half is home sick or an invalid when we might have had some quality years. Take care of her when and if she gets to that point? I will. And consider that commitment: doctor/hospital visits, rehab, special care needs, not to mention the financial costs and stress.

I will have to try not to let bitterness enter. But it will be harder to get over these feelings when I think of what might have been when all she had to do was get off of the couch.

– M.