Dear Readers:

The following appeared in my column a few weeks ago, and resulted in a firestorm of hilarious comments. My Gem of the Day, which created the uproar, read as follows: "The business of government is to keep the government out of business -- that is, unless the business needs government aid." I added a gratuitous (and disastrous) P.S.: "This is Ann. Will Rogers said this 50 years ago. I wonder if he had a crystal ball."

Very soon after that column appeared, the reader mail began to pour in. Here's a sample:

From Baldwin, N.Y.: Are you in a time warp, or do you get messages from the grave? Will Rogers died in 1935. Do the math, lady.

San Antonio: You wondered aloud if Will Rogers had a crystal ball. Well, he must have had more than that if he made the comment attributed to him in a recent column of yours "50 years ago." Will Rogers and Wiley Post died in a plane crash in 1935.

Langley, British Columbia: Did you flunk arithmetic? Fifty years ago was 1949. Will Rogers had been dead for 14 years by then. He was a very smart fellow, but I doubt he was able to figure out how to communicate with the living after he died.

So-ooooo, dear readers, this is Ann, writing from the Editorial Salt Mines in Chicago, where I have opted to do penance for that ridiculous gaffe. Will you settle for 14 lashes with the wet noodle, or should I get out the bullwhip?

Dear Ann:

I read your column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Once in a while, a specific item will capture my attention. Last week, a letter appeared that answered a very important question I had been wrestling with for quite a while. The headline written for our newspaper caught my eye. It read, "Widow Sees Remarriage as a Tribute to Happiness Shared With Deceased." The letter was signed, "Not Giving Up on Happiness in Pittsburgh."

The writer said her 47-year-old husband had died 10 years before. She loved him dearly, but missed the companionship and intimacy of marriage, and wanted to experience it a second time. She said marrying again was a silent tribute to her first marriage.

Last January, I lost my wife of many years to liver failure. Our marriage was very beautiful in every way, and when she died, I thought I could never love again. Recently, I started to see a fine woman who is becoming important to me. I had been wrestling with many conflicting emotions when I read in your column that remarriage after a spouse dies does not mean the first marriage was not a happy one. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Seeing that letter in your column was a godsend, and I want to express my appreciation. I now feel I can move ahead with my life and find happiness again. I hope you will print my letter and sign me

Grateful in Seattle

Thank you for letting me know my column helped you resolve those conflicting emotions. I hope your new love will help heal the hole in your heart, and that you and that "fine woman" will live happily ever after.

Gem of the Day (Printed in R&R Magazine): Yogi Berra, former Yankee star and manager, was famous for some of his utterances as well as his extraordinary ability as a ballplayer. He also had a habit of not being on time for appointments. Usually, he was a half-hour late. One time, when he showed up only 15 minutes behind schedule, he proudly proclaimed, "This is the earliest I've ever been late."

To find out more about Ann Landers and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.