Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let It Be

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

–Let It Be, the Beatles

Is there any mother whose heart has not been broken by her children? By loving them so much, by worrying about them, by losing them, by finding them again?

One mom I know has a child with leukemia. Another has a child on drugs. Another’s child died in a fire. A friend’s daughter has morphed into bridezilla. Another has a teenager who is, well, a teenager. I have two sons with autism.

What were we thinking when we had these kids? I have never regretted for a moment having them, but I have marveled sometimes that I don’t. Surely I would regret anything else in my life that had caused me such heartache. Would any of us, if we really really knew what we were getting ourselves into, have knowingly walked into this soul pain?

Amazingly, the answer, I think, is yes. Even Mary, who knew more sorrow than many mothers, would have said again to the angel who came to tell her God’s plan, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Years ago, when I was married and thinking that it was a good time for me to have kids, a friend with two young ones of her own passed along this advice. “Don’t have kids until you can’t stand not to.” Although the time seemed optimum, the truth was that I could stand not to, and so I waited.

Some years later, single and working overseas, adding children into my life seemed ridiculous. And yet, the drumbeat of desire beat ever faster and louder until the yearning could no longer be denied. And so I adopted James, a newborn. I flew back to the US to get him. My first week as a mom was spent at the US Passport Agency getting him a passport, and then at the Thai embassy to get him a visa so I could take him on an airplane for 27 hours home to Bangkok. Not the typical entry into motherhood! The years brought four more children – one a toddler, and three teenagers.

Where to look for guidance? Even after all these years, I think the best parenting model I’ve ever seen was a dog. My dog had seven puppies in the whelping box I had made for her in the corner of my kitchen. It wasn’t long before I recognized a pattern. When her puppies were sleeping all in a heap, she used the time to catch up on her rest, too. As they began to stir and whine for food, instead of responding to them right away, she would do a cursory check on each and then leave the box and go to her food dish. There, she would eat calmly as the yelping grew more frantic and insistent. After eating, she would drink some water and then go out in the back yard to attend to her own needs. Only then did she return to the box, and give herself over to her puppies’ mad scramble for a place at the table.

I never saw her short tempered with them until it was time to wean them. This she accomplished with little fanfare. She simply walked away from her little pack of puppies as they jumped after her trying to latch on. She sternly but gently nipped at the ones who didn’t get the message that the kitchen was closed. She didn’t stop loving them, but she let them know it was time to grow up.

I didn’t follow her model entirely. I have sometimes been a bit more like the bird I just watched outside my window as I sit here typing. A baby robin is sitting in the rhododendron and the parents keep flying up to it and feeding it. Even after the babies are out of the nest, I see the parents continuing to feed their adolescent offspring. If you have seen a baby robin, it has the perpetually frowning, disgruntled expression we would recognize on many teens’ faces. And yet the parents still spend their days catering to its hunger. There were times when I had to remind myself to be more of a dog and less of a bird.

The day to day needs of my children are no longer my responsibility. Letting go is hard. Letting it be, as the song advises, is often even harder. They have their own lives now, two of them with babies of their own. They do sit on the branches occasionally, chirping for some parental TLC, which I am happy to provide.

But the heart never heals, does it? It stays broken open and tender, vulnerable to the joy and the sorrow of loving someone that much. That’s why, in my darkest moments as a mother, when the pain seems too much to bear, I turn to Mary, a mom who understands, and I hear her whispered words of wisdom, “Let it be.”

I think I must let go. Must fear not, must be quiet so that my children can hear the Sound of Creation and dance the dance that is in them. –Russell Hoban

PS–I’m sure fathers’ hearts break just as easily, and I do not mean to exclude them. But my experience is as a mom, so I write from that place today. Nor do I mean to exclude people who do not have children. There are many ways to love, and all of them, at their deepest level, break our hearts wide open.

related posts: Mary was a Real Mother; My Plan B Family

68 comments:

  1. Galen, this post touched me so deeply. Nothing compares to being a mother. And, I, like you, believe each of us would choose to have and love our children no matter what others told us about the pain and heartache they can cause. I know I am so grateful for my two.
    Blessings to you and have a wonderful Mothers' Day!

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    1. Martha, Happy Mother's Day to you, too! Funny, when I wrote the post I wasn't even thinking about Mother's Day. I was thinking about a friend who is having a difficult time with her child right now. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Lovely post Galen and very touching. I never had children, but have adored my family and friends who are mother's. As a bird watcher, I too have seen them feeding their offspring as they chirp away for food. Enjoy Mother's Day!

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    1. Cynthia, Having children is not everyone's path. It wasn't mine for many years. If you are a bird watcher, I wish you would come visit and tell me what these other birds are at the feeder! I only know the robins! Thanks for commenting.

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  3. I relate to this post very much Galen. As mothers, we can be overprotective, sometimes to the point of wanting to feel their pain for them. But I've learned that we can't always take the rough tumble and rumble of their world for them. We do have to let go and let it be. It requires tough love but it is the only way that they will learn. Love is never easy - it cuts you open and makes you feel fragile and vulnerable, it humbles you as a human, it makes you more aware of a Higher Power. For all the heartbreaks and disappointments, I have never regretted having a child.

    Happy Mothers' Day, Galen and to all mothers who are reading your post.

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    1. Inspiring, What a perfect description of motherhood. Thank you for that, and for your good wishes for Mother's Day. Same to you.

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  4. Wonderful post with some wonderful observations.

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    1. janaki, Thanks for your kind words and for following.

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  5. Answering from the place where a friend of yours is having troubles at the moment, with your question about having our hearts broken by our child....it is that one bond in our lives, where if a child breaks our heart...that is the one broken-heart that will eventually mend, and one day you can nearly forget it ever broke in the first place. Unless, of course you draw attention to it....I do believe in the love heals all things.

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    1. Karen, You highlight an important distinction between the pain of hurt that you continue to nurse and hold a grudge over, and the pain that comes along with the joy of loving someone deeply. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. A wonderful post - thank you, Galen. It is the hardest job in the world, for sure, but I will never regret having children. The story of your family is truly inspiring.

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    1. Alexia, Thanks for your kind words. It is a tough job. I watch my two daughters settling into motherhood with their babies and it brings back memories both sweet and bittersweet. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. "let it be" is a wonderful motto for most things! and one of the hardest thing for most people. great post...

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    1. Good point. This is a great motto for life! Thanks for your comment.

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  8. I was watching Oprah a couple of weeks ago and they had a mother on the stage with an autistic child. Did you see that one? She wanted to know why she got what she got. The thing is, when you open up to motherhood, you NEVER know what you have or why it came to you! Mine are still very young and I discover new things about them all of the time that shock me, even. My oldest is brilliant with an IQ ">160" yet he has several learning disabilities like dysgraphia and is tentatively diagnosed with "Little Professor" syndrome which is a form of autism - and yet, no one is really sure what's going on with him. It might be some weird brain wiring. Yet here I am, in the meantime, just trying to figure out how best to meet is needs and move him positively forward every day. Motherhood is a puzzle! So I guess we get what we get and we need to understand that each of them is a gift to us...then they fly away.

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    1. Julie, I missed this show, but I can relate. You truly never know, even when you think you do! Thanks for sharing some of your story.

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  9. You just never know what you are going to get when you open to motherhood! I am amazed by my journey with this, and it is just at the beginning stages. We can recognize that whomever is brought to us is meant to be nourished by us...and then set free to fly on their own, one day.

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    1. Julie, Hi again! It's true, as you say, that our job is to help them not need us anymore--to teach them to fly on their own. Thanks for your additional comment.

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  10. This is a very beautiful post Galen Pearl. Thought I am not a mother I understand well what you are saying, looking at my mum learning to let go, her heart in pain sometime, wanting so much for us, not knowing what to give, where to stop, searching for the limits, loving without any.
    Happy Mother's Day to you and all mum around the world.

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    1. Marie, As we get older, we also find more compassion and understanding for our mothers, whether we ourselves are mothers or not. Thanks for the Mother's Day wishes, and for your comment.

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  11. Hi Galen,

    I enjoyed reading about the different parenting styles between the dog and robin. Although humans dominate the world, we can learn so much from the examples of animals.

    It is hard to let go when you have invested so much time and effort on someone. I suppose this is the case with parents. The words of Kahlil Gibran come to mind:

    "Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

    Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

    For love is sufficient unto love."

    Having no expectations or few expectations from someone we love is hard. But it is a lesson we must all learn, especially parents. This is the only way to be receptive to and flow with change and "let it be."

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

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    1. Irving, Thank you for adding those lovely words from Kahlil Gibran, who wrote some beautiful passages about parenting and about love. Thanks for your comment.

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  12. A celebration of Motherhood - thank you for this lovely saying that I will share with my 2 grown children: I think I must let go. Must fear not, must be quiet so that my children can hear the Sound of Creation and dance the dance that is in them. –Russell Hoban

    We each have our own stories of Motherhood and it's a beautiful thing - I always wanted to be a mother - in fact my daughter was born when I was 22 - young - of course, but yet I would not trade it for the world - my son when I was 24 - so now when I'm out with my daughter they think she is my friend - which she is and when I'm out with my son - well that's different story - they think I'm his girlfriend or wife - and he says, "Mom that's gross" and smiles!!!!

    So smiles is what I get from both of my children...
    Nancy

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    1. Nancy, When my kids were growing up, I had that quote framed and on the wall where I could remind myself of it every day! Funny story about you and your son. My daughter Mia looks so young that when she is out with her baby, people think he is her baby brother. Thanks for sharing your family story.

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  13. Letting go is so hard to do. I have a 21, 19 and 14 year old and have realized that letting them go to do their own thing is best for them and in the end best for us because we want them to have independence so they can live their best life. Beautiful post Galen!

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    1. Betsy, Yes, yours are at that age. Well, maybe not the 14 year old, but getting close! I wanted all my kids to be able to function independently, even my autistic sons. They live in a group home and go to work and have full lives. I see them every weekend, unless they are too busy and ask me to skip a week! Thanks for your comment.

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  14. A wonderfully poignant and uplifting post. Thank you.

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    1. Christie, Thanks for your kind words.

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  15. :-) Until my son asked me why I was crying, I realized I wasn't aware of the tears as I read your post. So beautiful, Galen. Letting go is very very hard, even when we know we have to.

    Happy Mother's Day hugs to you! I am overwhelmed today, reading your related posts, too! So blessed.

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    1. Vidya, You are so sweet! It is always a treat to hear from you. Thanks for commenting here and on the related posts, too.

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  16. Beautiful Post!!! Thank you.
    Nothing is as beautiful as being a mother, and at the same time, it is a painful experience. We are always afraid not to be enough. we always want them to grow independent, sure of themselves, but at the same time, we need them to stay in our live, to need us like they did before

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    1. Nikky, One of my daughters might want to move away to work at some point in the future. She worries that this will make me sad. I have to tell her that I'll be fine and she should go if that's what she wants to do. That's a hard thing for a mom to say. But in fact, that's what I did when I reached adulthood. I moved all over the world and then settled on the other side of the country from where I grew up. It is part of our life's path that some stay close and some move away. Thanks for your comment.

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  17. Galen, what a beautiful post. So glad I stopped by today. Nice that I'm now a dog mom, but for the longest time I was that bird, unable to let it be.

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    1. Myrna, I'm glad you stopped by, too! I love the expressions, a dog mom or a bird mom. That's great and I'm going to use those terms. Thanks for commenting.

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  18. Dear Galen,
    Happy Mother's Day! You have the right attitude about mothering. There is a time to let go and say that you've fulfilled your duties. I love the story about watching your dog wean her young.

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    1. Angela, She was one smart dog! In today's American society, that can sound a bit cruel or unloving, but I always thought the best thing I could do for my kids was help them not need me. I might add that once weaned, the puppies and the mama dog got along very nicely! Thanks for your comment.

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  19. Thank you for your sweet comments on my poem.
    Life is not without its trials, (wish it were.) Your blog shows a good attitude even if there is problems. God is trustworthy and in him we can safely trust.
    Oh yes, I really liked your dog story with the puppies !!

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    1. Joyful, All life has challenges. I try to not add to them unnecessarily. Glad you like the story. Thanks for commenting.

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  20. Thanks you for a very sweet endearing post. I loved the example of the dog and bird. We often can learn lessons from nature. As a mother your heart is so open to love for your children and it hurts to watch them struggle through their own life lessons. You are right we need to pray for them and just let it go; they have their own lessons to learn. We just hope we have prepared them well to leave the nest.
    Blessings to you for a wonderful heartfelt post.
    Have a Blessed and Happy Mother's Day.

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    1. LeAnn, Thanks for the kind words and the good wishes for Mother's Day. Same to you!

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  21. I want to be more of a dog :) I would do it over too, even though there are days I feel as if I'm not cut out for this mothering thing. It takes a lot of dying to self. I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day!

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    1. Alecia, All I can say is that my dog mom times were some of my best parenting times. Thanks for your comment and the good wishes.

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  22. Let's hear it for the mama dog!

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    1. Linda, No kidding! Thanks for commenting.

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  23. This was one of the most truthful and beautiful posts I have read in a long time. I know the painful desire for children, then the hurt as they reject the God I brought them up to love. A mother's heart never does stop hurting and loving.

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    1. Shanda, Thank you so much for your kind words. It's hard not to judge the path our children take sometimes, but I trust that they are in God's hands. Thanks for your comment.

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  24. What a heart felt post! I thought because I have so many kids I would be happy when they left to have one less mouth to feed and take care of...this was never he case...guess I will never stop being a mother..
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.
    happy mothers day!

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    1. Annmarie, I wouldn't mind seeing what an empty nest would be like--ha! But I would still like them all close by. Thanks for your comment and for following. Following you back.

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  25. I could not deny the yearning to have children of my own for a very long time. I longed for family warmth that I have not enjoyed as a child.

    At the same time, it was frustrating that I was not able to fulfill my wish. I experienced a number of failed relationships.

    I did not know what I was getting into, of course, with wanting to have children. I did not realize that it would entail so much with taking care of them. As you are already well aware, there can be many unexpected situations that come along with them around. As a parent, you must be able to adapt and be resourceful.

    In the end, I also realized that I had to go inside and solve all my past hurts. I had to learn about self-love. I already love my children to bits but love has just grown a lot more in my family ever since I look from within.

    I seriously wonder how you managed them all, reading about the issues that you go through. You are an amazing mother. Happy Mother's Day!

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    1. Evelyn, I think many of us try to heal our own issues through our children. It's human nature. The greatest gift we can give them is exactly what you describe--to heal our own hurts so that we don't put that burden on them. Thanks for commenting, and I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day. PS--As for managing them all, I gave that up long ago!

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  26. I have always loved that song. I am going to look up the song and play it to my daughter. She will be having her second child in a few weeks. Your post is beautiful. The message is something I am going to share with my grown children. I could not have writen my thought as clear as you have but they are very close to what I have thought in the past. Thanks for sharing. Happy Mother's Day. I hope you have a great weekend.

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    1. Bonnie, Thank you for the very kind words. Happy Mother's Day to you, too.

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  27. Beautiful, every word! I love your friends advice, be ready to let go. I think I have a good balance (sometimes). wink.

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    1. Jodi, Yes, that balance is sometimes precarious! Thanks for your comment.

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  28. Hi Galen,

    This was a beautiful post!

    I'm not a parent yet. However, I can sure appreciate what it must be like and what you wrote about in your post, I see very similar behaviours in my own mother.

    The bond between a mother and her children sure is special and probably the most strongest experienced by all.

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    1. Hiten, Even if we are not parents, we all have mothers, as you point out. So we can all witness the experience even if it is not ours. Bu as I said, there are other loves that at their deepest point also break our hearts wide open. Thanks for your comment.

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  29. Hi Galen,

    Beautiful post. Loved your message which speaks to all moms. No matter what our issues, our hearts can be broken and we do need to let go. Letting go of that control can be so challenging, even when our children are adults. But I have found the more I emotionally distance myself and just accept what is happening, the happier I, and I believe my children are. Thank you for the great reminder.

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    1. Cathy, You said it best. Accepting what is happening with serenity. The serenity prayer is such a wonderful guide. I bought a book today titled "The Wisdom to Know the Difference." Thanks so much for your comment.

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  30. Galen,
    This is a wonderful post. So true about being a parent. It is like opening up a Pandora's box and yet holds treasures unbelievably wonderful, amazingly sorrowful and indescribably forever.
    I love your friend's quote,"Don't have children until you can't stand not to."
    What a wonderful way to start my day. Your writing is perpetually comforting.

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    1. Kathy, "treasures unbelievably wonderful, amazingly sorrowful and indescribably forever"--what lovely, poetic language. Thanks for your kind words.

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  31. A truly wonderful post. Becoming a part is like opening up a Pandora's box which is sometimes rich with incredible joy, amazing heartache and perpetual treasure.
    I love your friend's quote, "Don't have children until you can't stand not to." (May I tweet that??)
    Your posts are always so thick with the things that make reading them one of the best parts of my day.
    Glad to have stopped by this morning.
    Love your writing, Galen.

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    1. Ah, another comment from you! Yes, you may tweet the quote! Thanks again.

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  32. Galen, I love you analogies of the dog and the bird. Ah, parenthood. It truly is amazing and awful at the same time. I think maybe my control issues don't help matters!

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    1. Naomi, I think of children as God's 12 step program for control addicts! Thanks for commenting.

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  33. Galen,

    I love reading the story of how your dog mothered her pups! As I'm not a Mom, it's harder for me to connect with the whole motivation of becoming a mother. But I see how powerful and beneficial it has been for you through reading these heart-opening words!

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    1. Sandra, I wonder if the mama dog's model can be used just as well outside of parenthood. We all have people and things demanding our attention and energy. Let's think about this. Thanks for your comment.

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  34. Galen I really needed to read this today. My son is soon to leave his nest for college and I have been struggling just thinking about it. So difficult to him off. But like you said we should all let them fly and live their own life, just like a dog. Thank you so much for sharing this

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    1. Rimly, So glad this came at a good time for you. Thanks for your comment.

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