Dear Ann:

Halloween is no longer a fun holiday in our family. My great-niece, "Erica," died in an accident two years ago on Halloween. She was trick-or-treating with her younger brother and a friend. As she turned to leave a neighbor's house after being given candy, the hem of her costume was ignited by a lit candle that was inside a pumpkin placed on the steps. The fire spread quickly, and although the homeowner tried to put out the fire, it was in vain. Erica died the next day.

No one in the family had considered the possibility of such an accident when Erica went out that evening. The children were cautioned to watch for traffic, strange people and opened candy, but no one mentioned lit candles.

I would like to alert parents to be very careful and watch their children when they are trick-or-treating. If you plan to have a pumpkin with a lit candle, please put it inside the house, where it can be viewed through a window. And parents, please be sure your children's costumes are flame-resistant.

Our entire family has been devastated by Erica's death. She was our little angel, a wonderful girl, and we miss her every day.

--Texas Aunt

The death of a child is always sad, but to have lost your adorable niece in such a bizarre accident is heartbreaking. I hope it will give you some measure of comfort to know that your letter will be read by millions of people, several of whom may never have given thought to the danger of a lit candle in a pumpkin. You may have saved some young lives today, and I thank you.

Dear Ann:

I am 26 years old, and am married to a wonderful man of the same age. We both have successful careers. My husband, "Bill," works in his family's business. Our problem is Bill's older brother, "Jared." He is a cocaine addict and has been the source of endless grief for the entire family. His parents have had to raise his children, pay his bills and they even bought him a house. Jared has been in and out of prison for the last four years because of his drug dealing, but is always welcomed back into the family business whenever he shows up.

Bill works unbelievable hours and has put his whole life into the business. Everyone has reaped the benefits of his hard work. Lately, Bill has been stressed out because he never knows when Jared is going to come back to the office and try to take over his position. My in-laws still own the business, although they are no longer involved in the day-to-day operations. Bill has discussed Jared with them. They dismiss his concerns and insist that Jared will always be welcome in the business because, "after all, he is our son, too."

Every time Jared comes back to work, he creates problems and steals so much money that Bill is beside himself. He makes drug deals while on the job, which upsets my husband to no end. The dilemma we are facing is this: Should Bill leave the family business, after all the years of hard work and personal investment? We don't want to do this, but we can't take it anymore.

--Fed Up in the East

So long as Jared is free to come and go as he pleases, mooch off his parents, take drugs and steal money because he is "their son, too," he will continue to do it. Too bad his parents don't see that they are enablers, crippling their son instead of helping him.

Your husband should leave the business and strike out on his own. I predict that in due time, his parents will be begging him to come back. He can then decide whether he wants to.

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