Dear Abby:

My husband, "Ned," lost his mother suddenly at the age of 54. Her wishes were to be cremated and have her cremains scattered in the Arizona desert. It hasn't happened yet. Her cremains started out on the bookcase headboard of our bed. I finally moved them to the living room in front of the fireplace. One day, I returned home from work and, once again, the cremains had been put back in our bedroom -- this time on the nightstand next to our bed.

Abby, our 10-year-old son was extremely close to his grandmother. They adored each other. To this day, he talks to the urn as if it is his grandmother. In addition, the cremains did not all fit into the urn, so a second box was sent along with the urn. With time, the box has separated and started to leak.

I think it's unhealthy to continue to have the cremains in the house, and I also feel it's disrespectful to my mother-in-law. How can you be firm and loving at the same time? How should I bring this up without putting my foot in my mouth?

Woeful in Indiana

It appears your husband is having a difficult time letting go. I recommend you sweep up the cremains that have leaked out of the box and place them in a baggie. When your husband is in a relaxed, and hopefully receptive, mood give it to him and tell him that his mother had asked that her cremains be scattered in Arizona -- not the bedroom. If he can't bring himself to do that, perhaps he would compromise by agreeing to keep them elsewhere than your bedroom. Your having moved them should have been hint enough that their presence made you uncomfortable.

It is not unheard of for survivors to keep the cremains of loved ones with them -- and the subject has appeared before in my column. However, since it makes you uncomfortable, you should not have to sleep with his mother.

Dear Abby:

Our 27-year-old college-educated daughter, "Peggy," has announced her engagement to a high school dropout with an abusive past and a rap sheet longer than my monthly grocery list. He supports two teenage children from a previous relationship and has been in and out of jail for assault and battery and DUIs.

Peggy has lived with him for the past year and has stopped speaking to us because we won't pay for the wedding. She and my parents feel we are wrong for not supporting her and paying for the wedding. What is your opinion on this? She is marrying him against our wishes.

Upset Parents in Virginia

Please inform your daughter -- and your parents -- that a wedding is a GIFT, not an obligation on the part of the parents. For all of the reasons you have stated, you have ample reason not to pay for the wedding.

Dear Abby:

We are invited to a renewing of the wedding vows of a couple who have been married for 10 years. (They're a young couple in their early thirties.) We are trying to figure out if we have to give them another gift, since we gave them one when they were first married. Please help us out.

Baffled in Brooklyn

Call the couple and ask if (and where) they are registered. This will give them the chance to tell you whether or not gifts are expected.

A "renewal of vows" could be considered a fancy anniversary party, and if you attend, you should mark the occasion with some sort of gift. It doesn't have to be expensive -- it could be a photograph of you and the couple with a short paragraph sharing a happy memory; something associated with their hobbies or interests; or a tree or plant for their yard.

Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate