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October 2010


                                 October   2010

  Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil



           “ GRIEVING NOTES ”

                    By Linda Vigil

When Mia took her life on January 5, 1984, our lives were broken and our world
as we knew it was  “Forever Changed.”

Approximately 6 weeks before Mia’s suicide, she started telling us that she was thinking of going to Italy —before settling into college life.  I remember being surprised and feeling somewhat anxious that she wanted to go to Italy and feeling even more puzzled that she wanted to travel alone.  I suggested, maybe she could ask a friend to travel with her, and I also asked her when this trip was going to take place, and what in Italy she was planning to explore?  

Mia was sharing an apartment with her older sister Mindy.  After Mia left our home, I remember feeling apprehensive and asking myself, where did this Italy trip come from?  As Mia’s mom, I felt she was too young to venture off  to another country, much less alone?  I then tried to convince myself, was I the problem?   Was I having the problem of letting go?

Mia was never going to Italy. She was trying to say good-bye and prepare us for the inconceivable act of suicide!  Her life in her mind was over.  The love of her life had broken up with her and the abortion Mia had, was unforgivable to her.  She could not handle the unending, unbearable pain she was feeling at that time in her life.

Our beautiful daughter’s choice was to stop her life —and her pain.

Mia’s choice Forever Changed the lives of her two sisters, Mindy and  Marlo, her father and I, her friends and other family members.

Al and I have had many, many hours of counseling and have worked very hard to raise our other two daughters.  I believe the hardest part of parenting, after losing Mia, was letting my other daughters go!  Letting them make their own mistakes and letting them shape their own lives!  I did not want to miss any signs or conversations that might ever lead to losing another daughter!

I have had to look in the mirror and face my own pain, and I have learned that I cannot stop Mindy or Marlo’s pain, but have learned to step back.  I’ve learned to let them feel their pain and let them find their own path way for their own recovery!  I have learned that none of us take the same path at the same time for our recovery!

Al and I are learning to  —Love the Life We Have, Not the Life We Don’t !  

If  you have read  “What Happened To Italy”  (which follow my Grieving Notes), we have been in Holland for 26 years!  Al and I will have been married 50 years on December 17, 2010!  So we are giving ourselves a true gift, a real trip to Italy!  Yes we are stepping out of ‘Holland’ for a short time,  —with 17 days to explore ‘Italy.’

We will feel ‘Mia’s presence’ with us, but we will also feel the healing that has taken place with our work with other suicide survivors.  Learning to live in ‘Holland’ and realizing that there is beauty, deep friendships, a loving church home.

We are so looking forward to our trip in October 2010, but we will be coming home to ‘Holland’ —Choosing Life and continuing to Love the Life We Have, Not the Life We Don’t!  

We look forward to our new  “Sharing and Healing”

In Sharing & Healing,
- Linda Vigil

Adapted  by  Al & Linda
from a  piece by  Kingsley

We are often asked to describe the experience of having lost a loved one to suicide,  by people who have not had that loss happen to them,  so that they can imagine and try to understand how we feel and thus maybe help us and others.

"You are going to feel," we tell them, "that what has happened to you has never happened to anyone else like you before. The belief that these things happen to other people, certainly not to people like us, will be shattered forever."

We compare it to planning a trip, —this being the trip through life  —but you're going to  Italy. You have bought and Italystudied all of the maps and guide books. You know that you will visit Rome. The Coliseum. You will see the works of Michelangelo. You will ride the gondolas in Venice. You even take the time to learn some handy phrases in Italian.  Italy is going to fill a    lifelong dream.

After months of eager anticipation the travel day finally arrives. You pack your bags, check your passports, and you get on that airplane. Off you fly into the blue skies.  Several hours later the plane lands. The stewardess comes down the aisle and says,  "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland," you scream.  "There’s been a mistake. What happened to Italy.  I signed up for Italy.  I have always planned for Italy.  All my life I've dreamed of Italy."

"But,"  she tells you, "there has been an unexpected change in plans. You have now landed in Holland  ...and so here we are."

We must now convince ourselves that we haven't really been taken to a horrible, disgusting filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place. A place that wasn't in our plans to ever travel to. So now you must go out and get new maps and new guidebooks. You must learn a whole new language. After some time you will meet other people who were also planning to go to Italy. You will meet a new group of people that you would have never met before.

You will find that when you catch your breath, and you look around, you will begin to notice that Holland has windmills.  Holland has Rembrandts. Holland has tulips. Yes, you can learn to live with the un-expected Holland. Windmill

But, you will meet people who have been to Italy. You will probably say to yourself, for the rest of your life,  "...yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned for myself."

For you  ...things will be different.  And the pain of that loss to suicide will never, ever go away, because the loss of that dream will always be a very significant loss in your life.

After the death of a loved one ...you are Forever Changed.    



     holiday candles  1.  DECIDE WHAT YOU CAN HANDLE COMFORTABLY AND LET FAMILY AND FRIENDS KNOW :   Can I handle the responsibility of the family dinner, etc. or shall I ask someone else to do it? Do I want to talk about my loved one or not? Shall I stay here for the holidays or go to a completely different environment?

Open presents Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning. Vary the timing of Channukah gift giving. Have dinner at a different time or place. Let the children take over decorating the house, the tree, baking and food preparation, etc.

3.  RE-EXAMINE YOUR PRIORITIES  :  CARDS,  BAKING,  DECORATING,  A TREE,   FAMILY  DINNER,  ETC.   Will you  really enjoy doing this —this year?  Is this a task that can be shared? Maybe it’s time for a ‘new’ tradition —one that will acknowledge the loss of  your loved one.

4.  CONSIDER DOING SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR SOMEONE ELSE :  Donate a gift in the memory of your loved one. Donate money you would have spent on your loved one as a gift to special charity. Adopt a needy family for the holidays. Invite a guest (foreign student, senior citizen, a neighbor) to share some festivities.

5.  RECOGNIZE YOUR LOVED ONE'S PRESENCE IN THE FAMILY :  Burn a special candle to quietly include your loved one. Hang a stocking for your loved one in which people can put notes with their thoughts or feelings.  Listen to music especially liked by the deceased.  Look at lots of photographs.

6.  IF YOU DECIDE TO DO HOLIDAY SHOPPING, MAKE A LIST AHEAD OF TIME AND KEEP IT HANDY FOR A GOOD DAY, OR SHOP THROUGH A CATALOGUE  :   Go over your list and catalogues with a close friend or loved one. Share the shopping days with an old friend.

7.  OBSERVE THE HOLIDAYS IN WAYS WHICH ARE COMFORTABLE FOR YOU : There is no right or wrong way of handling holidays. Once you've decided how to observe the time, let others know.

8.  TRY TO GET ENOUGH REST - HOLIDAYS CAN BE EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY DRAINING :    Proper and regular sleep hours are essential to physical and mental well being. ‘Time-out’ and rest periods will help keep you balanced with the acute grief associated with the holiday periods.

9.   ALLOW YOURSELF TO EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS  :  Holidays often magnify feelings of loss. It is natural to feel sadness. Share concerns, apprehensions, feelings with a friend. The need for support is often greater during holidays.

10.   KEEP IN MIND THAT THE EXPERIENCE OF MANY BEREAVED PERSONS IS THAT THEY BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL NOT COME TO ENJOY HOLIDAYS AGAIN.  BUT, REMEMBER, THERE WILL BE OTHER HOLIDAY SEASONS TO CELEBRATE  :   Any holiday period brings to the forefront special and happy past periods with our lost ones.  But, we have to remember that maybe during the next holiday period we can remember those times, with less heartache and pain.

11.  DON'T BE AFRAID TO HAVE FUN :   Laughter and joy are not disrespectful. Give yourself and your family members permission to celebrate and take pleasure in the holidays.



Suicides are NOT more common around the holidays. They can happen at any time, and they claim 31,000 lives in the USA each year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says.

You could blame George Bailey.  In the 1946 holiday film “It's a Wonderful Life” that fictional character contemplated suicide on Christmas Eve, possibly giving birth to the idea that suicides climb during the winter holidays.

But the movie maker Frank Capra, had it wrong:  Study after study shows that there is  no such link.  In fact, suicide numbers peak in the springtime  and may even dip in December,  according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Still, the holiday suicide myth has amazing staying power.

For the past decade, Dan Romer, a researcher at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, has been tracking mentions of suicide and the holiday season in stories published in U.S. newspapers from mid-November to mid-January.  His first study, covering the 1999 holiday season, found that just 23% of stories debunked the myth and the rest reinforced it.  By 2006, 91% of stories debunked the myth, and Romer took some credit.  Publicizing the facts had nearly killed the myth, he thought.

He was wrong.  In the 2007 season, the myth was back in half of stories, he says.  And Romer just completed his analysis of 2008 holiday coverage.  He found that 38% of stories supported the myth and 62% debunked it  —an improvement he attributes partly to a myth-busting report published last December in the British Medical Journal.

He can't explain why nearly four in ten stories are still linked suicide and the holidays.   "No one does it maliciously," he says.  "I think they are trying to help people."

But the myth may harm people instead.   "It might unnecessarily put people on their guard or increase their anxiety," says Ronald Pies, a psychiatrist at Tufts University School of Medicine.  “Worse,”  he says, “some people on the brink of self-harm might feel encouraged to follow through when they read or hear that holiday suicides are common.”   The myth can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Romer agreesand adds,  "You don't want to convey the message that this is acceptable or that there's a good reason to do it.”   But why does this particular myth persist?   One reason may be that the holidays fall during a time of year that can be trying for many people, says Paula Clayton, medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. People with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) tend to become depressed as days get shorter and darker.  They come out of their depression in the spring.

Meanwhile, some people do suffer short-term blues linked directly to the hubbub and stress of the holidays, she says.  People in mourning for a loved one can feel especially sad as special days come and go without that person, she says.   Pies adds:  "I certainly would expect that, in the present financial crisis, the usual blues would be intensified for many families facing loss of savings, unemployment, etc."  But, experts say, suicide is almost always the act of someone who has endured deep depression or another mental illness for months or years  —not someone with a passing case of the blues.

The holiday suicide myth may detract attention from the real needs of people who might consider suicide at any time of year, Clayton says:  "There are a lot of untreated people out there."  Meanwhile, researchers continue to look for the real patterns in suicidal behavior, says Alexander Crosby, a CDC researcher. " That can help us in terms of finding protective factors," he says.  One protective factor, he says, is "connectiveness "  —that is, how connected people are to friends, families and communities.

Fittingly enough, that was the very thing (along with an angel) that saved George Bailey after all.


They whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before.  
They are now  ...wherever we are !


Submitted by : Janet Carr in Memory of her daughter Allison

Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water-bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in a while one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going about with its friends.  Clinging to the stem of a pond lily, it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.

“Look” said one of the waterbugs to another, “one of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she’s going?” Up, up, up it slowly went, even as they watched, the waterbug disappeared from sight.  Its friends waited and waited, but it didn’t return. “That’s funny!” said one water-bug to another, “wasn’t she happy here?” Asked a second, “Where do you suppose she went?”  No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled. Finally one of the waterbugs gathered its friends together. “I have an idea. The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why.”  “We promise,” they said solemnly.

One spring day, not long after, the very waterbug who had suggested the plan to his friends, found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broken through the surface of the water and fallen into the broad and free lily pad above. When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn’t believe what he saw. A startling change had come over his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings. The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from his new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself above the water.

He had become a dragonfly. Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by the new dragonfly landed happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below, to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the waterbugs! There they were scurrying around, just as he had been doing some time before. Then the dragonfly remembered the promise, without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly, he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now, that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water.

“I can’t return!” he said in dismay. “At least I tried. But, I can’t keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the waterbugs would know me in my new body. I guess I’ll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they’ll understand what has happened to me, and where I went.”Dragonflies
And, the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air.

Dear God, please remember my loved one who has left the pond we live in —and remember me.



Elderly suicide is a very serious problem. Although the elderly (age 65 and older) comprise about 13% of the U.S. population, they account for over 18% of all suicides.

The most common cause for elderly suicide, as for all suicides, is untreated depression.  Thus, elderly depression needs to be recognized and treated.  And about one third of the seniors who are 65 or older experience depression.

Some individuals erroneously believe that depression is a normal part of their being elderly, which is completely untrue.  Depression is not normal for people of any age.  Elderly people with depression have a chemical imbalance in their brain.  That chemical imbalance is extremely common and highly treatable.

ElderlyHowever, it is important that an elderly person who exhibits symptoms of depression receives a thorough physical exam from a medical doctor to determine if there is a physical basis for the depression.  Some physical conditions and the use of some medications may cause symptoms of depression.

Also, many elderly people will hide their depression because they do not want to be seen as weak, crazy, or suffering from dementia.  So it is critical to watch closely for any hint of a suicide warning sign or depression symptom.  Always keep the lines of communication open.   Please remember that close monitoring of any elderly person is always required, especially after any stressful life event such as the loss of a spouse.

If you are an elderly person and need help, please reach out.  Talk with family members.  Call a friend.  Get into therapy.  Take action to help yourself.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .


The causes of elderly suicide are treatable and suicide is preventable. Learn the Risk Factors for elderly suicides —and how to help suicidal seniors.

For most older people, their life has been a time of fulfillment and satisfaction with life's accomplishments. For some older adults, however, later life is a time of physical pain, psychological distress, and dissatisfaction with present, and, perhaps, some past aspects of life. They feel hopeless about making changes to improve their lives. Suicide is one possible outcome. However, the causes of elderly suicide are treatable and many of those suicides are preventable.  Each year more than 6,300 older adults take their own lives, which means nearly 18 older Americans kill themselves each day.

Older adults have the highest suicide rate,  more than 50% higher than young people, or the nation as a whole. Suicide is rarely, if ever, caused by any single event or reason.  Rather, it results from many factors working in combination which produce feelings of hopelessness and depression.  Since suicide for the older person is not an impulsive act, you have a window of opportunity to help the older person get help. YOU can help prevent a suicide.


Suicide can happen in any family.  However, life events commonly associated with elderly suicide are: the death of a loved one;  physical illness;  uncontrollable pain;  fear of dying a prolonged death that damages family members emotionally and economically;  social isolation and loneliness;  and major changes in social roles, such as retirement.

Among the elderly, white men are the most likely to die by suicide, especially if they are socially isolated or live along. The widowed, divorced, and recently bereaved are at high risk. Others at high risk include depressed individuals and those who abuse alcohol or drugs.


There are common clues to possible suicidal thoughts and actions in the elderly that must be taken seriously. Knowing and acting on these clues may provide you the opportunity to save a life. In addition to identifying risk factors, look for clues in someone's words and/or actions.

It is important to remember that any of these signs alone is not indicative of a suicidal person. But several signs together may be very important. The signs are even more significant if there is a history of previous suicide attempts.

A suicidal person may show signs of depression, such as:1magnifing glass

* changes in eating or sleeping habits
* unexplained fatigue or apathy
* trouble concentrating or being indecisive
* crying for no apparent reason
* inability to feel good about themselves or unable to express joy
* behavior changes or are just "not themselves"
* withdrawal from family, friends or social activities
* loss of interest in hobbies, work, etc.
* loss of interest in personal appearance

A suicidal person also may:

* talk about or seem preoccupied with death
* give away prized possessions
* take unnecessary risks
* have had a recent loss or expect one
* increase their use of alcohol, drugs or other medications
* fail to take prescribed medicines or follow required diets
* acquire a weapon.

Immediate Action Is Needed If The Person Is Threatening Or Talking About Suicide If you have contact with older adults, look for these clues to a potentially suicidal person. Your observing, caring about, and a suicidal older adult the difference between life and death.
You See the Warning Signs of Suicide. What Now?


1.   DO learn the clues to a potential suicide and take them seriously.

2.   DO ask directly if he or she is thinking about suicide. Don't be afraid to ask. It will not cause someone to be suicidal or commit suicide. You will usually get an honest answer. But don't act shocked, since this will put distance between you. (Some people may deny feeling suicidal but may still be very depressed and need help. You can encourage them to seek professional help for their depression. It's treatable.)

3.   DO get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.

4.   DON'T taunt or dare him or her to do it. This "common and false remedy" could have fatal results.

5.   DO be non-judgmental.  Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.

6.   DON'T be sworn to secrecy.  Seek support.  Get help from persons or agencies that specialize in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.  Also seek the help of the older person's social support network: his or her family, friends, physician, clergy, etc.

7.   DO offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.  It may make the    person feel as if you don't understand.

8.   DO take action. Remove easy methods they might use to kill themselves. Seek help.


There are many resources available to help suicidal seniors. If you think that the person might harm him/herself or you observe clues of a possible suicide, immediately contact a professional to help. A community mental health agency, a private therapist, a family physician, a psychiatrist or medical emergency room, or a suicide/crisis center are resources listed in the yellow pages of your phone book.

Suicide is preventable at any age. Most suicidal persons do not want to die so much as they want to be rid of their emotional or physical pain. They need help. Depression is not a normal part of aging. The treatment for depression has a very high success rate. We can prevent the premature, unnecessary self-inflicted deaths of our seniors. Suicide causes society the loss of talent, skills, and knowledge as well as the personal loss of a loved one to the surviving family member. This is no less true when the person is an older adult.

Mayor's Death Brings Common Tragedy to the Forefront

So it turns out there are times we can't help talking about suicide. Even if it's only a single, anguished word,  "Why?"  That was the word on everyone's lips in Coppell (Texas) and across the area as news spread that the mayor there shot her 19-year-old daughter and then shot herself.

Suicide is one of the few remaining subjects we don't discuss. But when a public figure is involved, that usual shroud of secrecy and privacy is ripped away. And it all seems so rare and shocking.  How could this happen?

mayorThe reality is that suicide happens all too frequently  —at least about 34,000 times a year in this country.

To be sure, it's rare for a sitting mayor to commit suicide.  And the death of the daughter adds another heartbreaking dimension to the story.  But ordinarily, the suicide of a 55-year-old woman in a comfortable suburban home on a weekday evening wouldn't cause a ripple on the public consciousness.

But, that must quickly change if we're going to have any chance of stemming any more such tragedies. In fact, our lack of understanding this kind of a death, is reflected in the important two factors that make this suicide story so shocking to all of us.

First, there was Jayne Peters' position.  A mayor!  That goes to our perception that suicide only affects a certain, predictable group  —and that mayors of prosperous cities can't be part of any such group.

But this is a club with open membership.  It's the club of mental crisis. and, in particular, the illness of depression.  People simply couldn't believe Mayor Peters would take her own life.  After all, hadn't they just seen her smiling and passing out candy during the town's Independence Day parade?

Yes, it was true.  And it's also true that people are very good at hiding in public the despair that claws at them in private.  The stigma associated with suicide is part of the stigma attached to mental-health issues of any kind.  It's a stigma that forces depressed people to summon up a brave smile and swallow their pain rather than openly deal with what is going on in their lives.

"Why are we so ashamed to talk about depression and the impact that it can have on the human body?" asks Benaye Rogers, president of Contact Crisis Line.  "We have to face the fact that depression is an illness.  It's nothing to be ashamed about any more than cancer is," she said.

And we all accept that cancer can affect anyone, mayors included.  The problem with suicide is that we try to use rational thought to comprehend the actions of an irrational mind.  Counselors describe depression as extreme tunnel vision.  The depressed person's field of view narrows and narrows until absolutely nothing is visible but the pain. "You have so much to live for," people will say to a suicidal person.  But it's utterly invisible in that moment.

So here we are, stunned and talking about suicide for a change, acting as if it's such a rare thing.

"Why?  Why?"  we ask, when we should really be asking is , "Why again?"

Brees Opens up in Memoir about His Mother’s Suicidedrew brees

NEW ORLEANS   —Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees asks himself often is there anything he could have done to prevent his mother from committing suicide.  The New Orleans Saints quarterback initially viewed his mother's death as very personal, but he opens up about that tragedy as well as other failures and misfortunes in his new book,   "Coming Back Stronger."

In the book, Brees writes, "I ask myself the question often.  Could I have saved her?  What could I have done?”"

Brees led New Orleans to football glory despite being in mourning  —and guilt-ridden  —over the death of his mother, Mina, in August 2009.  Although he didn't discuss her death in detail during the season, he devoted an entire chapter in the book to his relationship with her.  He reflects on his alienation from his mother in adulthood, wondering whether he could have handled it differently.

Brees has said that he realized during many late nights sitting at his computer, writing about his mother's death could serve as therapy for him and maybe advice for others.

"I felt like it was very appropriate because I feel like so many people deal with that, be it the relationship with a parent or death of a loved one, whatever it might be," Brees said.  "I wanted to address it in a way that was very sensitive to my family but also very truthful, hoping that if somebody else has gone through that, or not gotten over it, or is not sure how to handle a situation like that.   "Maybe this can help," he said.

Brees said he set out to write a memoir that could help readers find ways to turn adversity into opportunities to improve themselves and their lives. Certainly, Brees has experience with that.

"I know that I've had so many experiences in my life and lessons learned through adversity, where I feel like if it wasn't for that adversity, then I certainly wouldn't be where I am now or have the opportunities that I had to get me to this point," Brees said by phone from New York, where he was making a series of appearances of his first book.

Brees writes that even his first meeting with his wife, Brittany, was a flop in which he described himself acting like an "idiot" and leaving her with a terrible first impression.

His football career from high school through college at Purdue and the NFL was loaded with setbacks detailed in the book, the worst being a career-threatening throwing shoulder injury in 2005 that effectively ended his playing days with the San Diego Chargers.

Brees then joined the Saints, longtime losers in a city recently devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  His recovery outpaced his doctors' predictions, he has played brilliantly ever since and now rebuilding New Orleans boasts of its first Super Bowl title.

"It was very much a mentality of, 'No matter what, I'm always going to find the positive out of the negative and I'm going to come back stronger,'" Brees said.  "I certainly feel that New Orleans has taken that philosophy.  If you look at post-Katrina New Orleans, in a lot of ways it's come back better than it was before.

"Certainly, there's a lot of work to be done, but I try to draw the parallel in a lot of ways as to why I belonged in New Orleans and New Orleans was a calling for me.  We all had the same thing in mind and we all were there to help each other," he said.

Brees has been making TV, radio and book signing appearances before stops in the New Orleans area and in San Diego, California, where he still maintains a home.

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I asked for strength  ...and God gave me Difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom  ...and God gave me Problems to solve.

I asked for prosperity  ...and God gave me a Brain and Energy to work.
I asked for courage  ...and God gave me Danger to overcome.

I asked for Love  ...and God gave me troubled persons to help.
I asked for Favors  ...and God gave me Opportunities.

I did not receive any of the things that I asked for.
But,  ...He gave me Everything that I needed.


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