Dear Ann:

May I respond to "Nancy in Lubbock"? She said when her mother died, the family sent in a photo for the obituary that had been taken 40 years earlier. She said the family wanted a photograph that reflected the mother they knew best, and that her mother would want to be remembered the way she looked "when she was young and vital."

My mother is 66 years old, and as far as I am concerned, she becomes more beautiful every year. She has earned every wrinkle and gray hair the old-fashioned way--by raising four kids, six grandkids, and yes, a husband.

Why does society value youth ahead of wisdom? Beauty is more than skin-deep. I do not agree with Nancy that most children would select a photo for the obituary of "the woman who raised us, not the old woman she was when she died." I hope I do not need to make that decision for many years to come, but when it happens, I will select the likeness of the beautiful woman she is at the time--no matter what her age.

Tom C. in Nashville, Tenn.

I appreciate the wisdom in your comments. Here's another letter on the same subject from someone who also disagrees with Nancy:

From Iowa: It is nonsense that most adult children would prefer to remember their mothers as they looked when they were "young and attractive." Aging is a fact of life, not a progressive disease. As one of the "older folks," I am not ashamed of my appearance. We don't all live by the standards of Hollywood beauty. I have a nagging feeling that Nancy felt her mother's elderly appearance somehow made her look older, and that is what bothered her.

Whoever wrote "Vanity thy name is woman" did not know you. You sound like my kind of lady. Here are two additional comments, the first from the daughter of a 77-year-old woman:

Phoenix: "Nancy in Lubbock" makes a good point. Everyone has his or her own idea of how a loved one should be remembered, and not all women want their obit photo to look "current." Shortly after my own mother read that letter in your column, she left the room and returned with a photo of herself and said, "This is the picture I would like in the newspaper when I pass on."

I was surprised to see that it was her engagement photo, taken 50 years ago, when she was 21. I said nothing, but I am not at all sure I will follow her wishes. I'm afraid it would make her, as well as her survivors, look ridiculous.

Boston: My mother lives with me, and we often read your column together at the breakfast table, exchanging various parts of the paper. She read the letter from "Nancy in Lubbock," who wanted to use an old (and flattering) photograph for her mother's obituary.

After reading that, my mother said to me, "When I pass on, I want you to give the Boston Globe a picture of your father and me taken at our wedding. It is my favorite." Ann, my mother is now in her late sixties, and she and my father were divorced more than 40 years ago. Shortly after the divorce, he married "the other woman," and they had two children. Now, there are several grandchildren. I really don't want to follow her wishes.

Please help me with this dilemma.

Your mother may not be playing with a full deck, or perhaps she is still nursing a very old wound. You would be doing her a grave injustice if you followed her instructions. Use your own judgment, please. The entire family will appreciate it.

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