Dear Ann:

I just read the letter from "Carol in Martinez, Calif.," whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack, but had the foresight to carry ample life insurance. I wish I had known Carol in Martinez. Perhaps I would have learned something from her.

I am a 43-year-old widow with two children, 10 and 11 years of age. My husband passed away after a sudden seizure. He was only 37. Although "Tom" made a good living, we were just getting by and never managed to save anything. The only life insurance Tom had was through his work, and that wasn't much. When he died, I received benefits for one year. After paying the funeral expenses and outstanding debts, there was nothing left.

Tom and I had discussed life insurance and decided it was something we could not afford at the time, so we waited. Now, it is too late. And it isn't only life insurance. If only we had paid out an extra $15 a month for insurance on our mortgage, it would have paid off the house. A few extra dollars on our auto loan would have paid off our car.

My children and I get by on Social Security benefits, which is a lot less than what Tom was earning. I wish I could be a stay-at-home mom, but that's not possible. I have to work. Because of the Social Security benefits, I am allowed to make only a specified amount of money per year. Our total income is less than half of what it was. It is difficult to explain to two young children why we have to cut back on so many things. I am doing everything I can to hold on to our home so that when the children are ready for college, I can sell it and pay their tuition.

My message to your readers is, HAVE LIFE INSURANCE. All the "if onlys" in the world won't help if you don't. My Tom was 37 years old. It can happen any time, anywhere to anyone.

Finding My Way in Tampa, Fla.

I am grateful to you for taking the time to write a letter that could make a great deal of difference in the lives of many readers. No one can make a point as well as someone who has been there, and you certainly have. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Dear Ann:

Here's another one for your stupid judge collection. I guess it pays to get drunk in New Orleans. If this story had not appeared in a respectable paper like the San Angelo Standard Times, I would not have believed it. I hope you print it.

J.H., San Angelo, Tex.

No comment from me because this decision is apparently being appealed, but here's the Associated Press story. Thank you for passing it on.

A drunken bicyclist was seriously injured when he ran a stop sign and pedaled into the path of a police cruiser speeding to respond to a call. The intoxicated bicyclist was awarded $95,485. The judge ruled that the police officer was partially to blame for the collision with the 58-year-old bicyclist, who suffered two broken legs and a fractured skull.

The bicyclist's lawyer said the ruling proves that "drunks have rights, too." The man had a blood-alcohol level of 0.13, which exceeds the legal limit of 0.10. The lawyer argued that the police officer could have avoided the accident had he not been driving so fast. The officer said his siren was blaring and his lights were flashing when he hit the intoxicated bicyclist. The officer plans to appeal.

Gem of the Day (Credit Chicago columnist Zay N. Smith): Guns don't kill people. They just make it a lot easier.

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