Dear Ann:

I want to thank you for the encouragement you give your readers to mend family fences before it is too late. You printed a letter from a woman who said her brother had little contact with his father, who was dying. I, too, was estranged from my father for several years, but we reconciled our differences a couple of months before he died, thanks to you. I am so grateful I took the time to read your column the day that letter appeared. I immediately related it to my own situation, and helped care for my father at the end of his life. I also told him how much I loved him for the first time, and it made a world of difference.

I have been estranged from my mother for many years as well, and recently learned that my stepfather is terminally ill and has only a few months to live. It made me realize the torment she must be going through. I decided to call my mom and tell her how much I love her, before it is too late.

Thank you, Ann, for those wonderful words of wisdom. Your advice helped me have no regrets when I lost my dad, and now, I am going to make sure I have no regrets with my mom, either.

-- R.L.

It was good of you to take the time to write and let me know I helped. I hope your letter will encourage others who are estranged from family members to follow your lead. Some may be rebuffed, but those who find welcoming arms will be forever grateful. Trust me.

Dear Ann:

This is about your response to "Tom in Ft. Atkinson, Wis.," whose friend still had his late wife's voice on the answering machine. You advised him to tell his friend to stop avoiding reality, and remove the message.

My father died almost two years ago. My sister and I have asked my mother not to erase my father's voice message on her machine. It brings us comfort, smiles, and sometimes, a tear -- every time we hear his voice. I don't need a grief counselor, Ann. We are all dealing with Dad's death in a normal and healthy way. We just like to hear his voice now and then.

My mother is about to remarry, and her new husband has asked her to change the answering machine message, which is perfectly understandable. Instead of having Mom erase my father's voice, I bought her a new tape, and took the old one home so my sister and I can listen to it whenever we want.

I am sorry "Tom" finds it depressing to hear a dead person's voice, but there are some of us who cannot hear it often enough.

-- No Name in Minnesota

I was surprised that many readers shared your view. I assumed most readers would feel as I did. I was mistaken. Here's another:

Dear Ann:

I had to smile when I read the letter from "Tom," whose friend still has his deceased wife's voice on the answering machine. My wife programmed all the machines in our house. If she were to die before me, you can bet all those machines would stay exactly as they are now.

Tom's friend does not need grief counseling. What he needs is someone to come over and show him how to work the darned machine.

-- Technologically Challenged in Maryland

I was pleased to hear from you, because turning on the microwave is the limit of my "technical" expertise.

The letter from "Tom" created an avalanche of mail from readers who found the voices of deceased family members comforting. I say, to each his own.

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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