Unresolved Grief-the Death of a Spouse

Death

October 1st is the anniversary of my husband’s death-he died in 2005. When it comes to death time is irrelevant. Time slows down, speeds up, or stops all together, and there is no rhyme or reason to the pattern.

It’s interesting how the body cells remember the trauma of the loss of a loved one in ways that the mind does not. I’m only aware that there is a melancholy that shows up in my mood during this time of year, which I attribute to the approach of fall and the coming of winter’s darker side.

Then, in moments of quiet, I recall the sequence of events that led up to the final moment: the unbearable indigestion he experienced in May, the checkup and diagnosis of the tumor in June, the frantic search for expert medical care in July, the beginning of chemotherapy in August and the surrender to death’s approach in September.

Following the funeral hoopla I was immobilized by grief, grateful I was staying with my youngest daughter and her family. No longer interested in nursing, I spent my days caring for my grandson, who had just turned two that cold, November in Michigan. It was six months before I ventured back into the world of taking-care-of-others.

As a nurse, I offer support to depressed patients hospitalized with anniversary death issues or unresolved grief. Even before I experienced this myself I understood and was empathic to their experience. I was in my twenties when my brother died in a car accident and watched my mother cry for her grown child. She carried that sorrow with her to her own death.

Now, as I ‘forget’ each season, and move from summer’s joy to anticipatory anxiety or melancholy, my daughter gently reminds me of my loss. And, once it is named it is no longer an anchor pulling me down. It moves out of the subconscious realm of: ‘something is wrong’ and into a place of clarity: ‘oh yes, this is the time when the emotions were put on hold in order to care for my husband during his transition from this world’. I am reminded and I am able to process it and let it go.

Shared Support

I recently was in conversation with a co-worker who was heading north for a visit. It was the anniversary of her husband’s death, (October 2nd), and she told me she had to put flowers on his grave. We shared a common thread.

I am no longer within proximity to place flowers on my husband’s grave. I hold him in my thoughts and in my heart. It is enough for me to spend time in quiet, remembering the good times we shared.

I recall when I first came to this tiny, rural town in North Carolina. Following my travel assignment in Oakland, California, it was the complete opposite of the hustle and bustle of the East Bay area. No nightlife and no swinging hotspots. In the middle of nowhere this 4500 populated town was the perfect place to heal my heart.

I found the library at the local community college to be an embracing haven to write. Providing unlimited computer time and staff support I enrolled in online writing courses. The following was one of the first assignments-writing about what is on your bookshelf.

Missing You

My eyes fall on a photo so dear to my heart. It is an old photo of a much younger Denise sitting on my husband’s lap. A frozen still shot of a happy couple. My long, brown hair is cascading down my shoulders and his strong arms embrace me with love and support. His chipmunk cheeks puff into fleshy mounds with his beaming smile, pressing them up and into the orbital cavities and making it difficult to detect his sensitive, brown eyes.

Airport pickups were the best, as our reunion would start with spotting each other through the crowd and end in a huge bear hug-him lifting me off my feet, his jovial voice saying in his deep baritone, “who loves you, baby?” He was a large man and he would often mention how he loved my ‘petiteness’, as he wrapped his arms around me.

I loved his strong arms. And, years later, when the cancer came to him, I silently mourned the muscle atrophy that robbed him of his strength. They could barely hold him up as he used first the walker, to transfer from one position to another, then to a wheelchair, and finally becoming bedridden.

We had remarried by that time-one week before his death. The marriage ceremony was a mere formality for we had remained loving friends committed in ways we had been unable to achieve as a married couple. The deepening of our relationship bypassed time, distance, and commitments in other relationships.

It surpassed terminal illness and death.


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Comments 67 comments

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 6 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Denise: A big hug to you ((((((((Denise)))))), the loss of a loved one is never easy, especially of a spouse and child, so I understand your feelings. To think, we all will have our turn of physical separation at some point, makes me appreciate every moment I have with s/o.

This month would have been my nephew's birthday, (he would have been 23; he passed away 5 years ago as well). During his anniversary and birthday, we do our little personal rituals; My sister (his mom), lights a pretty candle, places flowers next to his photos, and I light a candle and kiss his photo, and talk to him. I like to believe that the feeling we carry in our hearts of love keeps our loved ones alive and connected to us in spirit. Love to me is a bridge from this world to other.

May your husband's spirit envelop you with the love you both share.

Hugs~

Marie


CircleofAngels profile image

CircleofAngels 6 years ago from Waterlooville, Hampshire.

Thank you for sharing Denise - blessings to you x


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 6 years ago from USA

I'm sorry for your loss, but thank you for a beautiful hub.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Marie-Thank you for such loving support and hugs. :) I know you understand the experience of this deep loss.

CircleofAngels-much gratitude for your support.

Barbara Kay-thanks for stopping by to read the hub. Condolences accepted, thank you.


the clean life profile image

the clean life 6 years ago from New Jersey Shore

Denise, such a beautiful hub and my condolences to you for the loss of your husband. Memories are so beautiful and no one will ever be able to take them from you. Your husband will be with you always, in your memories and in your heart. Remember, you shall meet again one day. Stay strong Denise and God Bless.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hey Mark, nice to have you stop by. Thanks for your lovely comments and support. Much appreciated.


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 6 years ago

Hi Denise,

I am so sorry for your loss. As I read your writing, I could feel your shallow breaths and deep sighs for what you had and lost. Yet, I could feel how much your husband still lives within you. It was nice of you to share your thoughts, and I hope it brought you some solace. Love is eternal and pain is ephemeral. I hope you find peace and happiness in all you do.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

ToKnow-Thanks for stopping by to read this hub. I appreciate your kind words. Thank you. :)


bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

Denise, I know your words will help many people who have lost a spouse or loved one. I loved where you said you will always hold him in your heart. Only one who has been in your shoes can begin to understand. I can't imagine! I did lose my dad though, and that hurt bad. BAD.I was holding my Daddy's hand when he died, and 7 years has not blurred the memory. But time has eased the pain...mainly because I know that is what he wanted.


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

I am saddened for your loss and grief of such a fine man in your life, you stood by his side throughout his illness till the end. Know that he is at peace and looks down on you and will always be there waiting. I know the feeling of loss and grief and the pain associated with it. This is a beautiful tribute to your best friend, lover and husband thank you for this beautiful moment and share. peace and hugs.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Bayoulady and Saddlerider1-what a nice surprise you showing up here. Thanks for stopping to read the work and express your support through your kind words. Much appreciated. I've received it with an open heart. :)


equealla profile image

equealla 6 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

Denise, one of my "responsibilities" is to take care of my mother-in-law's matters. I have moved her from her old home to a retirement village close to my house, just over one year ago.

Lately she is acting in ways I do not understand. As I read this article, is was like a guide to me. Now I know what is wrong with her. I don't think she herself realises what her problem is, but I know now what to do to help her.

My dad-in-law, (an exceptionally wonderful man) passed away 16 years ago in a horrible shooting accident. She never came to terms with that, I realize it only now.

You know, real soul mate friends carry each other in times we need it the most. You must be such a friend of mine. Your words up above is giving me insights and answers to a current problem, which I am sure, with love, may be resolved.

Thank you my dearest Denise, for writing down this article. Blessings and solace to you.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 6 years ago

Hello Denise , the anniversery connection is something very strong in some lives , I too understand. Hugs to you for sharing....Stay well.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

.....you must carry on ..... and carry on your husband's sweet and tender memory - that is what we call the continuity of life .....I myself, well, I'm on my own now with no family whatsoever - my two best friends, my mum and dad died in 1992 and 2004 - but I am who I am because of them - and it's better to have loved than not loved at all.

Sincerely I must address this heartfelt message to you and say how sorry I am - but life must carry on somehow and someway ......


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thank you, dear friends, for your kind words and support. Received with much appreciation.


Krissy Parker 6 years ago

Gosh Denise -- I didn't know. A hug from me. You are so strong. Thank you for being able to put your feelings into words - it gives me something to connect to, since I still can not define my grief.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Krissy, I didn't know that you didn't know, LOL. I suppose we just never had an opportunity to really talk much. Thanks for reading the piece. Writing has always helped me. Perhaps you should try it? If nothing more than to release your own feelings about it. Hugs back to you.


bbutterfly 6 years ago from Michigan

Heartfelt


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks JP :)


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas

I'm so sorry for your loss, Denise. You've expressed your feelings well which allows others to get a glimpse at how it must feel to watch someone you love so much slip away. Thank you for sharing.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi KCC-thanks for stopping by to read the hub and comment. I am sorry about the loss of your son. I cannot begin to imagine what that must be like. You are a strong person and you offer much to the community with your articles.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

You are so sweet! God bless you Dear Denise!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hey Mick-Nice to see you here. Thanks for reading and commenting. :)


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 6 years ago

How beautifully you were able to share your loss...giving us all a "slice" of your lives together and apart. Truly a wonderful love store...thank you for sharing. Hopefully you have slowly mended and have made a new life...I'm sure he's looking down, smiling, and still very proud of his "petite lady" as well as loving friend. I look forward to following you.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hello B.malin-nice to meet you and read your comments to this very tender hub of mine. Thank you. I think I received a condolence card, following his death, that said it very nicely: the stars that twinkle above are our loved ones watching over us. (paraphrasing). He had a loud and infectious laugh which I miss so much. Today, I joined my daughter at her new church and got teary eyed. It reminded me of when John and I would attend a similar church years ago together. But, life does go on. Thank goodness I have a wonderful family to spend time with. I'm looking forward to reading your work. :)


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 6 years ago

unresolved grief can go on for many years..it's important to get the therapy that you need to move on

good hub.:)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Stacie--nice to meet you. Thanks for reading the hub. Not sure if you meant 'me' when you wrote "it's important to get the therapy you need..." or if it was a general statement as in the collective, "you" of all. ?

If it was in reference to me-thanks. I wrote this as part of recalling the feelings of saddness and meloncholy that return each year which is 'anniversary' grief. My grief is not a dysfunctional, crippling type which has interfered with my ability to move on. Initially, it was devastating. However, I am fully functioning in the work and home environment. The title was used as a general statement, not personal exper at this time of my life.

I actually do work with people who have been hospitalized because they could not get past the trauma. The grief incapacitated them on all levels and they were not able to find any joy or happiness in their lives. Such is not the case for me. (See Soul work: JOY, another hub I wrote.) Thanks for your comments. :)


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

I'm very sorry for your loss.

This is a moving post!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Carolina-me too. I appreciate that you read the piece and for commenting.


Ruby Taylor 6 years ago

The way you dedicated your blog to healing hearts for Bereaved Parents, I am really inspired and loved your way of work. I have passed the website on to many people who had a loved one or friend who was dealing with the loss of someone they loved.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Ruby Taylor-thank you for sharing this work on grief. I hope it helps those who read it. How kind of you to let me know. Thanks. Best wishes in your support for the grief struck.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

Thank you for sharing your pain and healing with us. This is a great Hub. This will help many others who are not sure if they can make it. The best to you. Thanks again.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Lilly. I appreciate your comments.


DebbieEdwards 6 years ago

This was incredibly beautiful. My respect and condolences go to you, and your ability to translate your emotions to others. So many will receive your wisdom as support. Keep up the great work.

Much love,

Debbie


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hello Debbie, Thank you for stopping to read this hub. It is, of course, a special one to me. I appreciate your feedback and encouragement. Nice to meet you.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Thank you for sharing such sad but beautiful story. I am so sorry for your loss.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hello Susan, thanks for reading this hub and commenting. Nice to meet you. I appreciate your comments.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I was so saddened to read of your loss. Please consider yourself hugged. This is a beautiful story.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Genna-what a warm greeting I received this morning when I opened my hubpage up. Thank you. I appreciate the time you took to read this hub and your sincere comment. Have a blessed weekend. Namaste.


jewelsofawe profile image

jewelsofawe 5 years ago from Oregon

Wow! This is sad and I am sorry to hear this. My heart goes out to you. I would hate to have the man I love and have loved for 9 years die. I wrote a lens at squidoo on death with a poem I wrote about stepfather after I watched him die from esophogeal cancer.

Here it is if you want to check it out: http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/death-of-a


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

I can't believe you mentioned esophageal cancer. That is what John died from. How interesting & coincidental. Thanks for the link. I will check it out. I did get your email also, thanks.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

This is such a powerful, moving hub with exquisitely rendered details of unresolved grief- tears filled my eyes as I read the "Missing You," section, for the relationship you shared with him momentarily sprang to life, only to be swallowed up by death in the final paragraphs.

I agree that those we deeply love continue to live on inside our hearts where we carry them with us for the rest of our days, no matter what other loving relationships we forge afterwards, and yes, even the body and subconscious remembers our beloved.

I lost my first love to cancer when I was 18. He was 21 and it was, indeed, difficult to watch him waste away from the strapping construction worker he was when we first met 2 years earlier.

Since then I've lost many others close to me and found that each new death opens the old wounds up again, revealing unresolved issues from the past.

I no longer try to fight those feelings, I simply let them rise to the surface, acknowledge them, have a good cry, and then let them go. As you say, we can process the unresolved grief one piece at a time and then release and move forward.

I also agree that nursing is a particularly tough profession for those who have lost loved ones. We feel tremendous empathy, yet it is also a continual reminder of disease, death and suffering.

Like you, I've found a lot of relief through writing.

I'm glad we've met on Hubpages, as we have so much in common.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Gosh, Gail, I'm humbled by your words. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss at such a young age. I agree, we have so much in common. Thank you for your story and support. It is so appreciated. God Bless...


Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

My deepest sympathy, our stories are so similar. We got the news of my husbands cancer in April, surgery in June, thought he was okay,found out in August it came back, his body died Nov 13,2009. I'm so very thankful I was able to stay home and take care of him during that time! I know he's nearby in spirit. Thank you for sharing your story, bless you


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Dear F.L. yes, we do share a common bond here, besides an interest in writing. I'm becoming less and less amazed and startled with other stories of the speedy course a cancer takes the life of their loved one. So sad. My condolences with you. Thanks for sharing.


SweetMarie83 profile image

SweetMarie83 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Thank you for sharing this Denise, I hope it was cathartic for you. I'm sorry for your loss - you read my hub on grief, so I know you know that my dad died of cancer, and it is so painful to watch someone you love suffer and die. When it comes to the anniversary of my dad's death, my mum and I used to shut ourselves away on that day and shut out the world, but now we try to celebrate, have a drink in his honour, share memories, etc. We did that on their wedding anniversary last year too, went to the flower garden where they had their wedding photos taken, and my mum was so grateful that her kids did that for her.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

That's a beautiful way to spend the memorial day, Marie. I was just thinking of how we celebrate a loved ones birthday who has passed. I live in another state, now, but my children usually set flowers on John's grave on his birthday, which is next week. Thanks for your comments.


FaithDream profile image

FaithDream 5 years ago from (Midwest) USA

Denise, this is a beautiful tribute and a moving memorial to your husband. I can imagine your pain as this is never easy.

It doesn't matter if it was 5 years ago or 10, sometimes the pain of grief can seem like it just happened yesterday. Recalling the last moments together, what was said, and the sequence of events. We re-live them as a way of understanding and accepting it.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful article.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks, FaithDreams. I appreciate your comments.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...I would imagine that from all of the 100 hubs you have done (and yes there is a hearty congratulations to my favorite hubgem for what you have accomplished over the past year) this particular subject of your dearly beloved husband must be the one in which you hold so near and dear .... grief never become fully resolved but I think that time has a way of telling us to let go and move on - especially when we are able to keep our bodies and our minds active through interests (like the Hub and of course through the support of friends and family)

...I lost my two best friends - my dad in 1992 and my mum in 2004 and I live on my own with no family at all in this world except for my two beloved cats but I have found a really great Hub family here - so I think our stories (you and I) have taken different journeys but they have also crossed paths too.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Sir Epi-you are such a kind hearted person. Yes, I am grateful our paths have crossed and I am proud to call you my friend. Thanks for reading and commenting on such a special hub to me. (((Hugs)))


Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 5 years ago

What a deep and heartfelt story of two people who loved and respected each other. I am so sorry for your loss of someone who meant so much to you. I don't look forward to the day when I will experience this unexplainable pain. My husband is twenty years older than me. I cherish him so much. We are each other's best friend. I wish you happiness. I will save this for comfort when the awful event will strike in my life. take care


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Jo-I must have experienced via telepathy, your reading this morning. I had an overwhelming memory of John and how much I was missing him this morning. I sat down to write a poem reflecting this, but it just did not do it justice. Thank you for your words. Many Blessings.


Jason Menayan profile image

Jason Menayan 5 years ago from San Francisco

Such a gorgeous, moving Hub, Denise. You are a gifted writer.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Jason-thank you for your comment and for the following. It's always a mystery how one is led through the maze of Hubpages to another's hub at just the right moment. I appreciate the delicate fabric that was laid out this morning as I attempted to reach Simone and was led to you instead. Reading your hub about your book reviews was just the right thing for me to receive this morning. Many Blessings.


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California

I don't know how I missed this before Denise, very heartfelt truth, however many times we hear that death is part of life, it doesn't ease the pain. Although I can not imagine how it would feel to lose your life long partner, it must be quite overwhelming, even immobilizing at times. My sister and Step-Mother are both nurses, so used to comforting others, when my Mother died suddenly over a year ago I felt like a piece of me was gone forever, and it is really hard to find a way to deal with it. Just lost both Grandmas the year before so it seems a subtle awakening to the fact that I can no longer be the needy one, time to step up and do some nurturing myself, and so the cycle goes...Nothing that anyone can say prepares you for the loss of someone you love. Hospice was very good though in our case, and then I suppose time, it just takes time and of course writing :-) Great hub Denise! I wish you positive thoughts!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Kath-thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I miss John more as time goes on for a multitude of reasons. He was such a comfort and had a great laugh. I plan to write more of our antics together sometime. Sorry for the loss of your mother. My goodness, a sudden death is worse, I think. Never able to really say goodbye the way we hope. My father had a massive heart attack in 2008. Lately, I have been missing and wanting that parenting and nurturing from them. It has been a rough couple of months...

Take care-and do nurture yourself. With the loss of someone who knows us well we do lose a part of ourselves-or at least the connection to someone who knew us well and accepted us for who we are.


Fennelseed profile image

Fennelseed 5 years ago from Australia

There is so much warmth in your recollection of the airport pickups and that special reunion moment between your husband and yourself. Thank you for sharing your experiences in dealing with grief.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Good morning, Fennelseed-thank you for your comments. I appreciate your reading this.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Denise,

I appreciate you pointing me in the direction of this heartfelt message of love, grief and survival. I do wonder if nurses have an even harder time with the deaths of those we love. We are so intimately involved with this process professionally; and the lines get terribly blurry, when you nurse 24/7 in your heart and with every action.

I understand you putting your education on hold at that time. I do believe you will know the proper time for you. You do seem to be a natural in the teaching field with nurses, as you are with all of us.

Have a peaceful evening, mar.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for your comments, Mar. I appreciate them. I enjoy your work and am looking forward to reading more.


ubanichijioke profile image

ubanichijioke 5 years ago from Lagos

Quite a moving story. Tearful and full of lost memories. I can only but say 'Be strong'. You re a great woman. So sorry for your loss


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thank you, ubanichijioke, for your kind comments. I appreciate it. It is hard at times to be strong, but I know that I surprise myself at other times. But, even with the grief, I know I am a very blessed woman. I have so many wonderful people in my life, such as yourself...and for that, I am very grateful. Thank you.


Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK

How wonderful to have felt such love and to have found your soul mate. Your memories will never leave you. I can't begin to imagine the devastation you must have felt. Your words moved me to tears. Having wonderful people around us to nurture us is a blessing. It is evident from the beautiful comments that you have support and empathy from all of us. Look after yourself.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hello Peanutritious, nice to meet you. Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate your support.


inthenickoftime77 profile image

inthenickoftime77 4 years ago from New Zealand, aka: Aotearoa, aka: The Land Of The Long White Cloud

Hi Denise, What a beautiful, well written hub. I am so sorry for the loss of your dear husband. He sound's like a lovely man.It brought a smile to my face when I read how he used to say "who loves you baby ". My husband says that to me all the time. The thought of losing my husband scares me, he is my rock and I dont have to `imagine' what grief will follow if he goes first. You are a brave lady, but lucky enough to be surrounded by loving family. Grief is grief, whether you lose a child or a husband. You dont suffer more with one than the other,and there are alot of us out there who have experienced it. So know you are not alone and are fully supported.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi inthenickoftime77-thank you for your kind words and for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate them. I'm happy you found your way to this hub. John was my rock as well...he still is when I think of him. And, I understand what you are saying. One of the last things I said to him, when he was bedridden, was "I thought I would be first, now you'll have to light the way for me."

Thanks for your support. I appreciate it. Hugs to you.

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