And Jesus Wept

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I was struggling a little bit over here. The whole Paul Coakley story had my heart tied in knots for days. I was following it since the whole thing showed up on my newsfeed just before Christmas. That’s right, that’s when we heard about Paul, a Franciscan University alum, “a legend” according to my sister-in-law…who had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Just. Before. Christmas.10897104_1403222956640475_8266174565688072249_n

And he passed away last Monday. Barely 3 1/2 weeks later. His beautiful wife Ann, 7 months pregnant and three young children left behind.

My heart was, is– so knotted, so heavy over this tragedy and with it being right on the heels of Sarah Harkin’s death, I just couldn’t find the words or the willpower to write about all this. The emotional upheaval I was feeling on Monday was immense. And I didn’t even personally know either Paul or Sarah. Why, why?

Do I even have a right to feel this way? So connected, involved in this yet…not? Am I allowed to feel pain? Is it strange that every time I think of Ann Coakley having to delivery her baby without the love of her life, my eyes well up with tears?

All of this really shook me. I sat on the couch on Monday, after belligerently shaking the gates of heaven for days begging God for some miracle, and finding out Paul had died. I was stunned.  I had been so convinced, so sure of a miracle coming. Shocked and numb and…a little angry was how I felt.

My head was clouded, suffocated all afternoon with question after question for God

“Why does it seem like the good people are the only ones suffering?”

“What’s the point in being a faithful disciple, if the ‘lost sheep’ is the one fought for, protected? Shouldn’t we, the ones sticking it out through thick and thin get some benefit or protection for our loyalty?”

“How is this possible within six months, two devoted, faith filled, holy parents taken–just like that– from young families? Don’t we need all the good people we can get in this hedonistic society? “

“What is the point of all this? This life? If God wants us in heaven then why the heck did he put us through all this pain, suffering?”

 

In brief, I was having extremely earthly and naive philosophical questions. Because, well… because I am a human with human thoughts and human emotions. And I ask those questions fully aware of the correct answers but I ask them because  the reality of my human nature is raw. And it doesn’t want answers. It just wants to pound it’s fists on a table and break down crying,

” It’s just NOT FAIR”

And because you read stories like this and you have a ghastly moment of awareness when you go,

“That could be us.”

And you are scared. Truly, deeply, gut wrenchingly scared. I got thinking that I wanted to be done taking risks in my life with love, because more love equals opening yourself up to risking more pain. And I can’t bear the thought of something this tragic happening to my husband, or one of my children. I want to hide, stay away from everything,

leave me alone world! if I escape and hide, maybe you can’t get me suffering!”

I took these thoughts and convinced myself that it was all Facebook’s fault. If I wasn’t on Facebook, I would have never known about either of these tragic stories. I could have been blissfully living away in my little bubble. Happily ignorant of the profound suffering that my peers were going through. Selfish, I realized. Selfishly ignorant in my selfish little safe-bubble. Because I never would have been able to pray for Paul and Sarah. To offer my measly sacrifices for them and their families, to spread their story, to keep their memories alive. To ache and mourn together, as Heather so perfectly pointed out, like we are supposed to. Because we are the Body of Christ. And when one member suffers, we all feel the pain. Because, as my husband comforted me, “This life is our chance to choose LOVE

Pope Francis’ recent quote ” This kind of suffering can only be explained with tears.”  gave me so much comfort.

"And Jesus Wept"

“And Jesus Wept”

It is profoundly tragic what has happened. But I realized how much we need contemporary married saints. Married people who are holy yet from our era, relate-able, tangible… it’s too hard to relate to these married monarchs from the 14th century. We need them to pray for us from up there! Well, now look. Thank you, Paul Coakley for being a true example of Christian fatherhood and manhood. For loving your wife, spreading joy, protecting your family and fighting with every ounce of your being for life. And thank you Sarah Harkins, for giving us young moms hope and encouragement, for inspiring us with your example of holy wifehood and motherhood. For showing us how to above all else desire God and union with Him.

This is our time now, our chance to choose to love God. Love Him when it’s hard, love Him when it’s pain, love Him when it’s suffering, and love Him when it’s joy…. and with all the mundane moments in between.

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“In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” –the Apostle Paul, Col 1:24

 

 

 

 

 

 

#celebrating #dailiness

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I love the idea over on The Habit of Being to celebrate the ‘dailiness’ in our lives this 2015. It spoke so much to my heart. So much.

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I’ve decided to participate and I look forward to appreciating the mundane much more this year. Join me… join us, will you?

Click on the  icons at the top of the blog to follow me on Twitter or Facebook– or find everyone participating by using the hashtag #celebratingdailiness :)

Happy 2015!

YES!!!

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8 years ago today, I was on my way up to the Divine Mercy Shrine with my whole family and my fiancee to get our brand-spankin-new engagement blessed. It was a day, a great gush of memories, I will always, always treasure. Maybe it’s the  baby I just had five weeks ago, or maybe I’m just feeling sentimental but I looked through my journals and realized I didn’t have an entry about this wonderful time.  So I decided to immortalize my memories forever on the world wide web. Actually, it’s just a heck of a lot easier to type than write by hand these days!

Hey, you don’t have to keep reading if your looking for sarcastic dry humor, because this could get a wee bit sappy.

8 years ago yesterday, January 5th 2007 was a really rainy day in New York. I was packing to head back to wrap up my final senior semester of college at Franciscan University. Christmas break was coming to an end, but I was really eager to get back to see my wonderful, wonderful, gosh-I-can’t-wait-to-marry-him boyfriend, Tom. Tom who lived 7 hours away in the amazing city of Pittsburgh, PA.

Rainy day, right? So naturally since I wasn’t going anywhere special or seeing any one other than my family, I sat around in my sweats and my oversized Columbia jacket, unshowered, listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack and simultaneously checking my e-mail  for the majority of the day.

I had reached out to Tom a couple times to but his phone kept going to voicemail. Which was odd. Eventually he called me back, and told me he was in the mall returning something from Christmas. He’d call me back later when he was done.

I popped on the tv in my parent’s basement and curled up on the couch with my pj’s and unshowered self when Mom stuck her head in asking if I wanted to go with her to adoration, then meet up with Dad and my sisters (like usual on Fridays) at Village Pizza. I really didn’t want to get dressed, and I remember actually debating if I should go or not. Honestly, I just wanted to talk on the phone with Tom…..eh what the heck. I went. I only upgraded my pj pants to yoga pants, kept the messy bun, make-up less, shower-less self in the super baggy hoodie and headed out with Mom. After all, I really didn’t care who I saw in this town. I had no one I needed to impress. Tom wasn’t here.

After holy hour, Mom and my sisters got ourselves a booth at Village pizza and we waited for Dad who was running late. It was pouring rain outside. Of course, because I was at the table, the conversation turned to wedding ‘one days’ and I told my Mom about a picture I had seen of a chapel length veil and oooo how I loved that veil, and I want a veil like that someday and…

“Annemarie!” She cut me off, almost exasperated, “You’re not even engaged! You’re not getting married anytime soon…”

Why was everyone still surprised to hear me talk like that though? I mean I only had been collecting wedding magazines since I was a freshman, and designing my wedding invitations since I was….like 12. And journaling about how I never wanted a honeymoon, just a homestead like the Waltons, and 7 kids and a wedding in a cotton dress with a black-eyed-susan crown…since I was like 10.  (I totally have the journals–and dress sketches– to prove it. What a hippie) Regardless, I knew I wanted to be- was called to be- a bride, a wife, since…well… since as long as I could remember. Nothing was more convicted in my heart, brought me more peace, than the thought of marriage. Especially to this guy, Tom, who I knew the Lord had led me to. (Another story, another day)

So there we were, waiting for Dad who finally bustled in all wet with his umbrella. He came up to the table and leaned over to me, asking me in a hurried way to quick run out to the Volvo for him. Because he had left something for my sister Katie, who was also heading back to college, on the passenger seat. He must have seen the hesitancy in me because of all the rain, because he insisted “Can you just do that for me?” I knew he needed to place the pizza order, so I got up, no umbrella, and jogged to the parking lot.

It was dark, and wet but the street was lined with beautiful white Christmas lights still. I made it to the Volvo and dove inside the drivers side to stay dry while I searched for Katie’s gift or whatever it was. Nothing was on the passenger seat. I checked under the seat if it fell, nothing. Nothing in the visor, or the glove compartment. Checked the driver’s visor and found an envelope. With Tom’s handwriting all over it. Huh?

I opened up the envelope and immediately the words “be my bride” “marry me” leapt out at me from the dozens of scribbles filling up the page. My heart did somersaults and I quickly turned around and looked in the back trunk of the car where I saw duffel bags. Tom’s duffel bags. I was sweating. Crap, I realized, I wasn’t wearing any deodorant either! In a matter of seconds, everything clicked in my head what was happening and by the time my body does what it normally does when I’m surprised—shake uncontrollably– guess who was standing outside my car window.

Tom, with an umbrella (smart guy) was motioning to me to open the door and get out. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, partly because I couldn’t believe I blew the surprise too soon and partly because I was totally stunned…I got out and all he said was

“Hey.”

“hhhhiiiiii” I whimpered

He was smiling so much, and I continued whimpering and waving the envelope

“What are you doing here? How did you get here? What are you doing? I thought you were at the mall.”

He told me he just came to drive me back to school. I looked at him like ‘yeah. right.’

“Let’s take a walk.” He was SO calm, so….rehearsed!

“A walk?” I started blubbering, ” But it’s raining!” But he took my arm and led me down the sidewalk back towards Village pizza. We got to the corner crosswalk and he pushed the button. We waited and then, he turned around, faced me and put both his hands on my shoulders.

All I remember him saying is “You know I love you.” and I thought “No. Not now! I’m in my sweats! I haven’t showered! I have no make up on! I am SO GROSS! WHYYYY”

Then, he knelt down on that sopping wet sidewalk, and I kept shaking like a leaf and blubbering. Actually I was crying so much, I said “What? You have to say that again, I’m never going to remember this, because I just can’t believe this is happening” Cars at the stop light were honking. He was crying. I was crying. I was shaking, he wrapped me so tight in his coat to stop me from shaking, I had to explain, through blubbering that I wasn’t cold just so, so, so, shocked. So caught off guard. SO HAPPY!

After the elation, and excited chattering that happens afterwards— when he told me how he’d been traveling over 9 hours to get to NY on time via busses and trains and my Dad picking him up at the station…. he stepped back, reached into his jacket pocket and said,

“So do you wanna  see the ring or what?”

Because he kept the ring in his pocket, per his friend’s advice “ You always want the girl to say yes to you, not the ring”  But who cared about the ring at this point? The love of my life was going to marry me! I didn’t care if it was a rubber band!!! I was going to be Mrs. Tom Thimons!!!

Of course, the ring made me cry even more. I love, love, loved it. A solitaire round diamond, set high in yellow gold. Classic, and old fashioned. Perfect. Just like him.

So that’s how it went, and we walked back into Village Pizza where I shakingly presented my rock to my family, including other relatives who showed up in the interim for an impromptu celebration. My parents were busting open a bottle of wine, and the owner of the restaurant offered his congrats, hugs and kisses from everyone all around….and I was still in my sweats. Oy. So much for being low on the radar that day.

What a day. What a totally exhilarating feeling and unbelievable moment. How much I praised God, and still praise Him constantly. And still turn to Tom and say,

“Thank you SO MUCH for asking me to marry you!!”

and he always answers me the exact same way,

“Thank YOU for saying ‘yes‘.”

My ring!

My ring!

At the Divine Mercy Shrine, where we consecrated our engagement the day after he proposed.

At the Divine Mercy Shrine, where we consecrated our engagement the day after he proposed.

With my sister & maid of honor

With my sister & maid of honor

Just so, so, happy.

Just so, so, happy.

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My knight in shining armor.

My knight in shining armor.

Re-creating the moment

Re-creating the moment

Blessed.

Best (and last) Christmas Break ever!

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The corner where he proposed 11 months earlier….

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Great food. Great Memories.

Great food. Great Memories.

A Bowl Full of Jelly

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Need some holiday cheer? Here’s my “bowl full of jelly” for you, courtesy of my postpartum brain. Lucky, lucky, you.

Let me tell you a true story. It goes like this:

Three weeks ago it was Black Friday. And I had a baby, after eating a ginormous breakfast, which was preceded by an even more ginormous Thanksgiving dinner. I looked like I swallowed the turkey whole. And my belly was stretched to the limit. I had told Tom there was no more room left, I felt like my skin was going to split in half. Funny enough, hours before I delivered one of my lovely stretch marks indeed cracked and started to bleed. Ah, what fun.

Sidenote: Where have I been since I last posted on October 6?! On bed rest, barely able to walk with a 10mm kidney stone, homeschooling, doctors visits,two birthdays,then surgery to remove the stone, then pre-term labor scare/8 day hospital stay, doctors visits, , then recovery on the couch again, homeschooling, doctors visits, Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping, labor, delivery, recovery on couch again, and a partridge in a pear tree.

So I had the baby, my fourth baby! It was fast and furious (lol, sorry to all in the room!) but amazing. Baby boy is an angel, just so easy. Either that or I’m just super lazy this time around. Siblings are doing great, Dad is a freaking SUPER HERO,  Grandparents and Aunties are wonderfully helpful… I’m getting sleep and all…but well, um, I think part of my brain died during this whole process. Like the part of the brain that handles mental sharpness, or awareness, or logic, or even proper parts of speech. Gone.

I suspected something was amiss at the one week pediatric visit. Tom and I shuffled in with our diaper bags, stroller, car seat, coats, coffees and plopped down to wait for the doctor to come in. The nurse asked me to get the baby out to be weighed, and then she attempted to fill out paperwork…asking me all sorts of questions WHILE I WAS DOING SOMETHING ELSE. I mean seriously. I was struggling enough trying to focus on how to secure these darn diapers that I forgot were the size of croutons, let alone trying to field her questions. I mean, my brain space just died lady.

So when she asked me “And who delivered the baby?”

and I looked up at her with an annoyed look as if what? What did she think? Tom delivered the baby?

I quite rudely replied ” Um. I did.”

I was seriously taken aback when she started to laugh, as did Tom and she told me “Oh your a funny one.”

That’s when it hit me that something wasn’t right in my normally normal brain. And then I felt ridiculously bad for being so rude to the nurse, when I was actually the dumbo.

Later that week, as I kept requesting we get ‘feetprints’ of the baby for his memory book to which my Dad had to keep correcting me, “footprints. Foot. Prints” and still later when I couldn’t remember the names of my own kids…I knew I wasn’t the sharpest drawer in the knife no more. (it’s a joke, don’t worry)

So, aware of this great change I probably should have kept my mouth shut when we were in the grocery store last Sunday.

When we were walking out of the store, after a nice little visit with Santa and his elves, we passed through the candy section. The deliriously enormous candy and chocolate section of our neat little local family owned grocery store. It was decked out to the nines with sugar plum fairies and gingerbread galore. Piles of confectionary concoctions and chocolate everything. Among which were stacks of huge molded Santas made out of chocolate.

To which I saw from afar and toting a kid on each hand shouted way too conspicuously and pointed,

“Look guys! Chocolate Santa!!”

And it was then that I noticed the nice, big, black man, standing about 5 inches to the left of the display. Which didn’t help my pointing because it was pretty hard to determine what the heck I was so excited about.

Also did not help that he and I made eye contact, and I pursed my lips together and scurried out the door.

At least he didn’t have a red hat on. Now that would have been awkward.

 

Have a Happy Christmas, from our family to yours! May your days be merry and bright! And may all your Santas be….. chocolate ones!

 

 

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Think About These Things

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Sunday’s readings really brought a lot of peace to my heart. I was becoming frazzled and confused with the state of everything in our world today: beheadings, bombings, Ebola, Ferguson, ISIS…. every time I got on Twitter some other news source had another shocking, terrible, the-world-is-ending calamity. And then we had the readings yesterday in Mass. St. Paul seemed to have dealt with this kind of demon before, this anxiety dragon, this depressing negativity, this sky-is-falling mentality. Suddenly, a reading which we’ve all heard so often

” Have no anxiety at all but in everything, with prayer and thanksgiving make your petition known to God…” (Phillipians 4:6)

Suddenly these lines leapt out at me more earnest than ever before:

“Whatever is true, Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS.” (Phillipians  4:7-8)

 

Wow, I thought. Look at that. St. Paul just lays it out, give us the prescription what we should be occupying our thoughts with. That’s amazing! And if that’s what Saint Paul’s advice is, then I’m going to take it… because how can you argue with that advice? You can’t. Guess what? The world is always going to be a chaotic mess. Always. There’s Ebola now, but there was the Bird Flu then, and there was the Swine Flu… and Anthrax, and somehow we all kept moving on. There is violence in the Middle East, and there was the Holocaust, there was 9-11…evil always was, yet light always conquers. And I shall choose think about those things instead.

A visual aid (mostly for myself, but for all of you too!)

Whatever is TRUE

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Whatever is HONORABLE

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Whatever is JUST

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Meriam Ibrahim arrives safely in the USA after being held captive and sentenced to death for her Christian faith

Whatever is PURE

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Whatever is LOVELY

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Mom denies chemotherapy to treat bone cancer to save the life of her unborn daughter

Whatever is GRACIOUS

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If there is any EXCELLENCE

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Saint John Paul II forgives his attempted assasinator

If there is anything WORTHY OF PRAISE

Christ on the Cross by Diego Velazquez, 1632

Think about these things.

-Saint Paul

 

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Fall Reminds Me of Kevin

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This time of year always makes me remember being a senior in college and participating in Nursing Home Ministry.  It was something that Tom and I did with a group of other students from Franciscan University.  Particularly, I remember Kevin, possibly the most moving experience during my time there! I had written this story back on break during 2007, it’s one of my favorite memories and it still brings tears to my eyes to recall it.

I hope you enjoy:

I met him one fall afternoon in my senior year of college. He was tall, handsome and quiet. I could tell before I met him that Kevin was a gentle man. He sat in the same chair, in front of the same window, each day. The look on his face was undistinguishable, neither bored nor interested. Every day he wore a blue sweatsuit with matching blue slippers and white baseball socks. It was clear that Kevin was much younger than everyone else at the nursing home. His dark skin was still taut and smooth and his mustache was neatly trimmed and devoid of white hairs.

It was obvious by the look in his eyes that he was alert. You read about people with sparkle in their eyes, but I never actually met someone who did until I met him. His eyes seemed outgoing and talkative, if one can give eyes a personality. They needed to have personality though, because he could barely talk and thus chose not to.  At first this saddened me but it also piqued my curiosity about this man. Communication is what draws together individuals and forms relationships. Without relationships, life would be a depressing cloister of emotion . The nurses didn’t seem as troubled in this matter as I was. They said Kevin liked to sit there alone. He had been in an accident, and not spoken a word for years.

One day, I sat with him in those waxy nursing home chairs and asked simple yes or no questions. “Are you having a good day?” “Was lunch good?”  “Are you excited about bingo night?”  Slowly, he would shake his head according to what he felt as his large hands held onto the arms of his seat. When I asked him if he liked the Beatles, he nodded his head a definite yes. Others in the home said they liked the Beatles, so I decided next time to bring in a Beatles CD and picture book  for a change in activity.

 

When that day came I put on the disc and sat beside Kevin with the picture book in my lap. He was the only one in the room who was cognitive enough to look through it. That was the thing. He seemed perfectly fine. I knew that there had to be something deeper, something undiscovered within this man.  I started to flip through the Beatles book, pointing to members of the band and naming them. Slowly I talked about the instruments in the pictures and songs they wrote. All through our telepathic conversation his eyes would let me know if he was enjoying the topic or ready for me to turn the page.

 

On our third time through the book, I tried to ask him something aside from our usual yes or no questions. I pointed to a picture of the drummer for the Beatles and asked him who it was. He immediately stopped smacking his lips together as he usually did repetitively, and instead moved his lips slowly up and down, as if he was trying to say something. I stared at him, aware that his eyes were quickly darting between the picture and me. Through his brown eyes which stared unfaltering into mine, he seemed to be screaming “give me one more minute and I’ll say it!” After a long silence, he replied confidently “Ringo Starr.” He was completely right.  It was such joy to finally hear the sound of his voice! Excited by this tiny accomplishment we moved on to other pictures; I would point and he would tell me who it was. Each time he was right.

Despite the fact that the majority of our time conversing was silent, those visits were one of the best parts of my week.  It was a sweet conversation of learning; having him teach me to be paitient and me teaching him to open up. Sometimes I wondered if he was answering my questions to be polite but really wanted me to stop. I took comfort when I asked him if I talked too much. He looked at me with those intense dark eyes, began the lip motion and told me “no”. So our conversations continued each week when I would go to the nursing home with a group of students from the university.  Kevin was just trapped within himself. He understood, talked, and listened really well.

The moment I will never forget, is the day I  brought my Earth, Wind and Fire CD in.  I knew it was his favorite band and I wanted to surprise him to see how he would react. Disco jazz took over the living room at the nursing home and you could see him get happier. He started snapping his fingers and tapping his foot, then he turned to me and said  “I’m listening to the music!”. That was the second time he had spoken to me without being asked a question.  I smiled at him and we sat next to each other in our usual chairs, in front of the same window, just enjoying the music. Whenever I hear that album, I am reminded of how happy he was in that moment. He would name each of the songs as they came on, sometimes even before the vocalist started singing. You could tell he was genuinely happy. His inner self seemed to delight in the beat of the melody. After a while of listening, I asked him the usual questions, “How was your day?” “Are you happy?” “Did anybody come to visit this week?” That time, when I asked him what the best part of his day was and after waiting for the typical two minutes he responded, “Your visit”.  Immediately I felt a lump form in my throat. Guilt swept over me for not coming to visit more often , I didn’t have many excuses.

It was understandable that he was often overlooked. After all it appeared to everyone, even myself, that he couldn’t talk. The staff said they hadn’t heard him say a word in years.  It was devastating to think that he was there all day long, left alone to sit in his nursing home chair and converse inwardly with himself. I still can’t bear to remember that window with him in front of it, in the same blue sweatsuit, wearing that blank expression on his face.  Yet, I am glad I will never forget what a gift it was to be able to pause in that moment and see the happiness reflected in his eyes and the tap of his foot. Watching him enjoy the music that day made me forget about all my anxieties. The beauty of the moment that we were sharing had changed me.

Sometimes silence is a pathway to the most meaningful conversations of our lives. Who we are when we are silent or alone is never a facade but the truth of our being. I am so grateful and forever moved. Somehow sitting in that stiff, waxy nursing home chair, listening to the jazz, just watching Kevin become happy made me understand the immeasurable joy that can come from companionship, with or without words.

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