Human Burial Rites

In the last two days three members of The Fellowship have lost someone they loved.  A husband, a father, an aunt.  People.  While exchanging emails with each of our friends it has become very clear to me that many of us have very different, what is the word?  ways? family traditions?  protocols?. when it comes to burying our dead. Different yes, and every one is so laden with grief and release and closure. The funeral is such an important occasion in a life.

Death is as predictable as birth. We all have our ways of dealing with it. And every family tradition is different.


The other day I was in the kitchen with my son and we were discussing an old gentleman we both knew. We were worried about some of his behaviours. My son said “He is afraid of dying.”  His wife, as she set the table, laying knife beside fork agreed  “Everyone is afraid of dying.”  she said. “No.” said my son, ” “Mum isn’t. She is the only person I know who is not afraid of dying.”  He hates that this is true. But it is true.  I faced it. I touched it.  I will never be afraid of it again.

“Shoulder high.” I called to him as I chopped the greens. Bashing gaily away at the poor innocent leaves with the big knife.  I have always told my sons and my daughter that they must carry my casket shoulder high through the crowds of mourners (laugh). Then afterwards have a big party.   I do think it is important to have these things in order. “That’s enough.” he said. Not wishing to pursue the conversation further. Sons are like that. backwards-746

Yesterday, this  is what I wrote to our fellowship friend,  who is having to wait two weeks before the funeral of her dearly departed.  (Not her choice by the way.)

“I remember when Mum died, after such a long time ‘dying’ (and we even wished for her to be able to die she was so ill and in such pain), that I actually got a shock when she died.  I was knocked sideways by it really. Everything happened very fast. In NZ we  tend to bury people within a couple of days. After they have died the undertaker collects the dead mother,  then a few hours later returns her to the family home (or to the marae) and they are set up – the casket open – then we all sit with her,  people coming in to pay their respects  (shoes off, hats off)  they drop off some food and have a drink or a cup of tea with us. On the first night it sometimes get’s a bit rowdy, at the end of the second day (or possibly the third)  the body is taken to the church to sit for the night. We all go too, taking turns to sit with her. 
Then in the morning there is the funeral mass and we drive her out to the graveyard and after that service – we sing, then we throw straw on top of the casket in the ground to deaden the sounds and  then we all get shovels out of our cars and fill in the grave.  My family buries our people ourselves.  It takes a long time. 
I do  think that if someone cannot be bothered coming to visit me when I am alive why should my body have to WAIT until they come to visit me when I am dead.  Seeing someone alive is surely more important. (Yes, yes I hear my sons begin to growl again – Mama can you not behave for Five minutes.. ?).
Anyway, From the moment of death to the time of the burial – the dead of my family are not left alone.
After the burial we all go back to her home again and have lots more to drink and eat. This night usually gets VERY rowdy.  This is what we call a Wake in NZ. We sure drink enough to Wake the dead.  At home in New Zealand it is important to celebrate the life of the person who has died in their family homes or on their marae.  It is all very personal.  I knew a guy who took his mother in her casket to the graveyard in the back of his truck. I would like that! I don’t want a bloody shiny expensive hearse for goodness sake.
All this left me wondering about your burial rites. Your family traditions.   How do you bury your dead? What are your burial rites.? Are we really that different?
As the Old Codger says. “We are not getting off this boat alive. “
 white peacock
Not today though darlings. If we are reading. We are alive, today.
Love, love,


151 Comments on “Human Burial Rites

  1. Your NZ customs sound a little like sitting Shiva for Jewish families. Except that the body is there, where Jews get their loved one buried within 24 hours. And then a week of visiting and family, eating and drinking. Celebrating the life.

    When my mother died, after a very painful and draining bout with lung cancer, we had a huge party and filled her house and her yard with family and friends. I think she would have loved it!

  2. I think that saying goodbye is a very important part of the healing process. I’m very much in favour of burial – a body is full of nutrients that should go back into the ground as opposed to being burned up and wasted …and in the process there’s an unnecessary contribution to global warming.
    I hope we all have a happy Saturday in the land of the living 🙂

      • People always seem to be very upset when they miss saying goodbye to friends and loved ones. Having them at home or church provides an opportunity for a proper farewell. Being able to gather and remember the person is also cathartic IMHO.

        • It is true, my best friend died a few years ago, but I was Here and unable to get back there (NZ) for the funeral, and I don’t think i have ever got over her death, or even accepted that she is dead. Hmm.

  3. When my Ma finally died after months of pain, we were both glad and knocked sideways. She was taken away and prettied up, and lay in state in her coffin. My father asked did I want to go and see her? I looked at him as if he were mad. Pa, she’s not there any more. That’s not her, that’s something she left behind she didn’t want any more. After her Requiem Mass, we had a big party to celebrate her life. Champagne, flowers, lovely food. People said nice stuff about her. It was a good send off. And answering all the letters of condolence for my Pa taught me that it’s important to say something, and that people appreciate and keep a letter that’s kind, considered and well expressed. It’s a comfort. Personally, I’d like to be tipped into a hole under a cherry tree, to bring beauty and deliciousness into the world each year…

    • Losing letters is a terrible loss for our societies now. Receiving a letter, a real letter, not just a hallmark card, is a wonderful thing nowadays. A thing of wonder.. c

      • And it’s so much more precious if it’s handwritten, crossings-out and all. A good letter of condolence or congratulation truly is something to treasure.

  4. both my parents and uncle died after long, painful procedures in hospital. both parents and favorite uncle went in on my birthday,dec 1.all died about christmastime.
    december is pretty much shot for me. and everyone avoids my birthday,thankfully,and we don’t schedule any dr visits in dec
    i have prepaid my funreal, with instructions not to change a thing.
    no big west virginia style bible thumpin, services,with loud preachers,no obit in paper, quick gravesise only service, ashes to ashes,ect
    any changes will require me to visit them from the afterlife.
    i hope the off the wall things i have done will be thier memorys of me.

    my heart goes out to those that have lost loved ones

    • I bet no-one changes a thing! Except I hope the graveside service is not too fast. You deserve a pause and a thank you. Actually i will say thank you now too while you are alive(long may it last!) – your help has been gold to me and my wee farmy. c

      • thank you
        usually my birthday is during wv deer season, am surrounded by”the cousins from hell”.
        they invade from other states to hunt on farm.
        never a dull moment the first week of season.

  5. No, no no box in the ground for me, what if I don’t like the person buried under/next to me or they smell or don’t want to talk? Cremation has been the preferred choice for most of our family. A memorial/remembrance service is held with friends and family all making a contribution and then a tea at a family members house afterwards. The body is then cremated later and the ashes collected by family to be scattered, place usually chosen before hand by deceased. My chosen spot is a large open field where I have taken my dogs for long free run walks. A friend of mine kept her father’s ashes a bit longer than she should have and a burglar broke in and emptied the packet (not sure what he was looking for ??) and she phoned me in a state while vacuuming up her Dad. How we laughed and cried together that day.

    My condolences to Fellowship members on the loss of their loved ones this week. It is tough, it is very sad but eventually memories of the good times will be the lasting ones.

  6. I don’t think I’m afraid either. But that might not be true. I guess I I won’t know for sure until it’s immediately imminent. For my dear Mom we had a ‘celebration of life’ about a month after her death. I don’t know why we waited a month, but I do know she wanted a celebration and not a funeral. I had asked four people to say something about her; I wrote a poem (which is strange because it was the first and last poem I’ve written), mind you I didn’t have the strength to read it so I asked someone else to do so. The four people had wonderful things to say, some of which were even new to me. And then others stood and told stories of my Mom — several others. It was truly beautiful. So beautiful that many of my friends were inspired to have their family funerals change to celebrations instead. My Mom was cremated and we spread her ashes around a tree she bought in a park. It has her name on it. My dear Dad passed in ’81 and his ashes are in a famous cemetery in Toronto. His ashes face a major street at a point where the subway emerges above ground; we bought this grave to be able to say ‘hi’ from the subway as we pass. I hardly ever take that route these days. We’re not grave goers. My only cousin in North America is a grave goer, she even visits my parents when she goes (and I think she goes often). I went once to see my Dad’s grave in 1987 because I was taking a class around the corner. I’ve never felt that he was there, I always felt that he was with me. As I do with my Mom. Both JT and I will be cremated and our ashes will be spread at the cottage. JTs Mom is at the cottage. I’ve always wanted to put a bench where she is, but we haven’t.
    I’m so sorry to hear about people losing their loved ones, my friend just lost his sister last week and he had a celebration of life for her too. They told stories of how she affected them.

    • Interesting what you say about grave goers – my mother in law is a grave goer and she takes plastic flowers to all the graves and changes them according to the designated colour of the season. She knows where all the bodies are buried. I love the idea of celebrating a life.. even a short one deserves the exchange of memories over a glass of wine or a cup of tea.. thank you eva.. c

  7. Terrific sympathies to our farmy fellows who have loss in their lives. Such a hard thing and at such a difficult time of the year. Biggest hugs of support and great powerful waves of strength being sent to you from my heart. This reminds me of how I have not invested enough in our fellowship that I don’t immediately know who you are. Me, who has been here for a couple…maybe three years now, and know only a handful of us. I am determined to change that. I’m struggling with a bit of illness which has made me face my own mortality right now, made me face what that would mean to my children, to their future. What a strange and difficult concept. We know we don’t make it out alive and eventually we all have to go, but that doesn’t make it any easier to lose someone, does it? Logic doesn’t count here; it’s accepted and denied in the same breath. And, most probably, there isn’t a single member of the farmy who hasn’t had a loved one pass away. My heart goes out to you. To all of us.

    • I hope this struggle you are having with a ‘bit’ of illness is manageable.. let me know if there is anything we can do. I think many of our fellowship (when I write our i mean you and I) stuggle with hardship, loss or just plain life and we seldom know. Maybe we get an inkling from a comment. But mostly I think just being here is enough. This community we have developed here is unique. incredible really.. impossible but here we are.. much love vonnie, hope you feel better soon.. c

  8. Sincere sympathies to these fellowship comrades, and thank you Celi for this post so that we can add our small bit of remembrance. I am among those who want nothing grand, nothing too sentimental, nothing really other than those who simply wish to pass on a word to my remaining family and support them. I have no reason to go into a box in the ground. Perhaps, as a final triumph and a way to finally conquer my fear of heights I will have my children scatter me from a mountain top into the prevailing winds. The thought of flying without fear is an amazing one.

  9. I love your tradition! I think it gives people time to work through it together and really get as much closure as possible. I’ve had a few family members die, but my mom’s parents had the most impact. They were my second set of parents and basically my grandpa was my father. He died of leukemia and my grandma at the ripe age of 93 died of a stroke. No matter how prepared you think you are, you are never prepared enough to not ever see someone you loved so deeply ever again. There really is no preparation for that! My family hates funerals for some reason. We typically have a wake instead.

    • I think families shuffle around and finds what suits them best. Every now and then a child will have a deep connection with a grandparent. Not all kids. You must have been (and still are one of those special kids. .. c

  10. There are so many wonderful comments here (and I will have to come back to read more because I am at the computer earlier than usual!) and I find so many varied views and customs fascinating. I respect all of these thoughts and rituals… it is very personal to all of us. I have never feared death. Life has been a struggle most of the time, and I know death will be rest for me… peace and something so amazing I cannot imagine. I am quite practical about death and what follows. I will not wish for the tribal (family) custom of sad grieving, two days of serious planning and stoic behavior, of trips to a mortuary (a strange, clinical place to me) to do more grieving, and then on the third day, a funeral led by a minister that none of us knew, and casket burial in a cemetery where other family members long forgotten are also buried. I want to be cremated, and when a time comes where the few people who wish to be present to scatter ashes can come together (be it days, weeks or months later), then have a simple ceremony for the release of ashes to the wind. I don’t want an obituary in the newspaper… no pomp and parade and no announcement. I want to go out as if I slipped away, never to be seen again. Just like the animals of the woodlands seem to disappear. Memories we make with others, written word, photographs and everything we left as a treasure in our lives is what we leave behind… our legacy to our loved ones. I hope to be remembered as a wild spirit, untamed who stole away on a whisper of wind.

      • Thank you, Viv. I am enjoying reading so many lovely comments this morning… I feel such a connection here. I find it very educational too.

        • A whisper in the wilderness. I have always wondered about how animals disappear when they die, often they go off to be alone BEFORE they die. Yet when our people die we gather around them holding their hands and talking gently to them as they go. Do you think we do that for ourselves? Would you rather die alone, under a tree, looking up at the sky? I think it would be easier to manage somehow. My Mum said once that the ‘hardest part of dying was getting everyone else through it”. And after days of vigil by her bed she died when we were all gone and only Dad was sitting with her. I wonder now. c

          • My father in law was in a nursing home after a stroke and broken hip. One Friday he told the aide helping him dress that he’d ‘had about enough’. Sunday morning two fo his daughters stopped to visit, he told them to go on to Mass and maybe for breakfast after. While they were gone he died. Quietly and without fuss, just the way he lived. My dad had six weeks from diagnoses of lung cancer that went to the bone to his death during the night. During those six weeks the pain and weakness got progressively worse and he bore it like many of his generation, with great stoicism. It was purely dreadful to watch. My mom was told six months due to bile duct cancer and it was that almost to the day. One day she was simply too tired to get up and progressively spent more time asleep for the next two weeks til she slipped away with my sister & I in attendance. I see with the older generation the typical funeral, visitation the evening before with perhaps a small prayer service. The Mass sometimes that evening, sometimes the next morning with just family attending the burial. While I personally think graveyards are an awful waste of good land (must be the farmer in me) and wish to be cremated I figure at that point it won’t really matter to me what’s done with the ‘mortal remains’, I’ll be dead and gone after all. If those I leave feel the need for a service, so be it. If not, that’s ok too.

            • I think that graveyards with concrete vaults are an awful waster of land, the old fashioned kind I do like. Interesting that sleep is a warm up for death. Lovely in a way. c

        • ~”a wild spirit who stole away on a whisper wind:” ~ such a lovely thought ~

  11. I think the rites of passage inevitably can’t hope to please everybody, and each passing means different things to different people. I don’t like the idea of valuable land being used up for cemeteries, heavily sown with stone. The best funeral I ever went to was my brother-in-law’s. He was buried in a willow wicker coffin in a natural burial ground of woodland with marvellous views. Each “grave” was planted with a tree, and there were no headstones. This not being an option in France, we have opted for cremation, all paid for in advance, including the wake. We don’t want a religious service, and have each planned our own, with music chosen and poetry. Now I’m having second thoughts because of the UN-GREEN aspects of cremation, but certainly don’t want to be buried here. One aspect of funerals that I do like is that the whole village turns out when one of our residents dies, to support the families.

    You’ve made me think today!
    ViV xox

  12. What a thought provoking post – in Spain we bury our dead loved ones very quickly. The next day. I like that, moving on quickly. But then all the people that want and need to be there are usually local. In England you can wait weeks for a “slot” at the cemetery or crematorium but loved ones tend to be further away. Our family send offs tend to depend on the circumstances – older folk who have lived good lives…well we celebrate their lives. Younger lives, unexpectedly cut short are a very different goodbye.

  13. Our family all go direct for cremation and with a small memorial in the church as soon as possible its, like the the NZ, a wake to raise the dead.

  14. If seems as though so many of us in the Western World, versus the Eastern, do fear death, so much so that often they pretend it won’t happen and refuse to even discuss it. Which often turns into a big problem for the family left behind in terms of making decisions on how to proceed. My siblings and I were so fortunate in that my Mom, 20 years before her death, willed her body to the Medical School near her, so be used for research, as needed, and then cremated and the ashes buried in a special beautiful forested area on campus with a small stone marking her grave. (I have tried to do this as well, but unfortunately for me, the school has had to stop the practice, as so many people began donating their bodies for research, often to avoid the astronomical prices of funerals.) My dad and stepmom had every single detail of their deaths, cremations and ceremonies planned, written and given to their children, so we knew exactly what to do. So wonderful! On the other hand, my husband’s parents, even when gently prompted by us, don’t want to talk about what will happen to them, have not arranged for burial or cremation or any other details to help their son and daughters carry out the disposal of their bodies. So, it will be a more difficult time. And because we are never really ready to let go of a loved one, death is certainly difficult. My sympathies and thoughts go out to those in our farmy family who have lost loved ones recently.

    • have you done the planning for yours too? I think I need to have that discussion with my children next time I am home.. Though they hate the discussion.. And like your folks – written would be better..c

  15. That’s sad to hear that some of the fellowship have had losses, and I feel for them. My mum died two years ago at the age of 82 and I suppose that’s what you call a good innings, but it was still hard. I do like the idea of my ashes being thrown from a mountain top, what a great idea! X

    • I think it would be pretty important to make sure you throw them downwind! I am always getting that wrong when i am throwing hay over a fence!.. c

  16. There are people who are afraid of death but like you i am not one of them…. I am, as you may know , a firm believer in my Faith , so therefore I would ask myself ‘what is there to fear’…..There is a saying ‘ Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered it and there was nobody there’
    When I depart from this world I am being cremated, parcelled up and sent to UK. There my daughters can do what they like. Scatter me to the wind, bury me in the garden, float me on the sea..whatever… does not matter just as long as I am not stuck in a pot on someone’s mantle shelf.
    We are all born and we will all die..whether we like it or enjoy what you have now and look forward to what is to come

  17. Terribly interesting post. First, my sincere condolences to those in the group that have lost loved ones.
    It has become custom in my family to be cremated. The last time I attended a funeral of anyone that was buried was 10 years ago. Odd, huh?
    I have discovered something about cremation though—-if the person dies (my brother for instance) and I am not there to see him before he dies and is cremated, it’s almost as though he was abducted by aliens. It rattles the part of my part than seeks closure. Is he really dead, I wonder? I know better, but my heart looks for a body to say goodbye to. Also, there is no place to go “visit” him. I have a small vial of his ashes, but it’s not the same.
    Like others have said, I’m not keen on taking up real estate. I want to be cremated too.
    In that same vein—-cremation often takes a bit of time, so memorials often take place nearly a month after the death. For the immediate family, the wound has just begun to scab over at one month’s time. A memorial then rips the scab off and the wound begins to bleed again. Terribly hard on the heart, even if you were “glad” (I was happy for my mom and dad both when they passed–such suffering before death) that they were finally free of their pain.

  18. While I dislike that people are having to deal with death at this time of year I do like that y’all talk about it. I’ve dealt with too much death, both sudden and not, to be afraid of it. I am torn between being cremated and being set out for the animals somewhere. There is a tradition (Buddhist?) where the dead are cut up and laid out on the mountains for the animals. I like the idea that I would complete the life cycle and return to nature. That being said I don’t think it is legal here, nor does my husband want to do that. My other thought is to donate my body to a body farm and help that way. Sadly, I know we should get this figured out sooner rather than later. No, we are not old, but I know how quickly things can happen. One really must have your affairs in order no matter how old you are. It is good that people talk about death though. We knew with my dad that it would be soon but a fall sped his death along. All my life I have known where he and my mom wanted their ashes scattered. We waited a couple months after his death to scatter his ashes mostly because my mom did not want to hold a big public funeral. A small group of family and close friends went camping, road horses, and scattered Dad off the top of the mountain. Someday we’ll scatter Mom up there too. My folks and their good friends and neighbors are sharing an urn as well. It is a beautiful wood box with an elk carved on it and they all decided there shouldn’t be any more expense then necessary, so the box is used as a temporary holding vessel until the ashes are scattered. Grief and death are a given but there doesn’t have to be fear. Life should be celebrated even in the end.

    • What an interesting thought-the sharing with a body farm for science after death. Although I am an organ donor I didn’t consider this option although it sounds a bit more like my scientist daughter than me I think that this is a worthwhile way to give back so to speak when the body is no longer needed.

      • I am an organ donor too, but my children would like to have a body to bury, they want to be able to carry me to my grave.. so i would not donate my body to science.. c

    • I love the idea of the carved box as the ‘waiting room’ for your ashes before they’re scattered…. I’m not afraid of dying, I don’t particularly want a funeral, but I would like a wake where I can be kindly remembered by my friends and family. I still prefer the idea of burial under a fruit tree!

  19. Today is the feast of St. Cecilia. I just read that she sang as she was martyred. You are named Cecilia in that spirit, I guess. I’m wondering how you came to be unafraid of death. It would make life so much easier for me if I were unafraid.

    • I did not know it was my feast day, and here I am sitting all my myself. If Mum were alive she would have reminded me. Thank you for letting me know.. she is quite my favourite saint. c

  20. I have a Catholic friend who lives near by that seems to go to a ‘viewing’ at least a couple of times a month. The first time she asked me if I wanted to go with her, I thought she was going to view a house. Turns out she was going to ‘view’ a dead body of a friend/neighbor. I was horrified! You see, as I told her, I don’t do dead!! Mangled bodies that are still alive I can deal with, get in there with sleeves rolled up and help all I can. Once someone (or something) dies, I’m out of here. Have no idea where this comes from, it is not that I am afraid of death or dying (like you Celi, my own death doesn’t bother me – well maybe the method/pain of it might cause me to cringe a bit). It’s the thought of this dead piece of carcass that is no longer the person I loved just lying there all cold and empty that gives me the creeps. So when my ex-husbands father died, in Dublin Ireland, we had to go and sit with the body like you described. People were stroking him and kissing him and I was freaking out in the corner! An Irish funeral sounds very much like a NZ one, three days of sitting with a dead loved one.
    Nope for me, cremate me and throw me under a rose bush as soon as you can, then go have a raving party!

    • Viewing is a strange word really. I wonder why they call it a viewing. Kind of distanced. However it is a nice way to gather..c

  21. What a timely post. Hubby and I just got back from caring for his dying mother. We had the privilege of being there with her until the end. Her wish was to be cremated and her ashes sprinkled by her parents. No funeral, no fuss. She was wonderful

    • Sad and wonderful. I am glad that your MIL had you there with her and that you will carry out her wishes. Sad to lose such a good old friend. All my love carla..c

  22. I think one reason grief is so powerful is because it makes us realize our own mortality, especially when older family members who have been with us all of our lives pass away. In our family it is usually the funeral or memorial five to seven days after passing. The body will have been sent to the funeral home after death. There may or may not be a viewing of the casket before and after the service. Then a nice reception oftentimes put on by ladies of the loved one’s church. with far more food than everyone can eat. That day or a few days later, the burial. I am not a grave goer., especially since I was named after a now deceased relative-seeing my name on a tombstone is too creepy!
    My parents wanted to be cremated and their ashes buried at sea. I want the same., with my beloved late dogs’ ashes scattered with mine. Simple, less costly and after all-I won’t be there,. There is a sweet story called something like “Don’t forget the fork” about an old lady telling her pastor why she wants to be buried holding a fork in her right hand. You might want to read it.

  23. We do whatever we can afford. We don’t stand on ceremony around here. I learned the importance of funerals, etc., the hard way, however, when a friend and coworker passed away. His only family, an estranged sister, handled the practicalities and that was it. Those of us who cared for him were left feeling a lack of closure, and our jobs were such that it was difficult to get together properly. So in my family we talk about it a lot, what we want when our time comes. We all agree on two things: do the cheapest thing possible with my remains, then get together and remember me with lots of laughter. Except Mom: she doesn’t care about remembrance. And my son: he has requested a DJ and a dance floor.

      • Yes exactly! I won’t need this shell anymore, just get rid of it! I do hope everyone gets together for remembrance, though. Maybe at a good restaurant. It will comfort them, and entertain me before I move on.

  24. My oldest daughter can recite my funeral wishes from memory. I should worry. But I don’t. I want to be cremated and have my ashes scattered in Matanzas Bay. I want the funeral money spent on a nice vacation for my family. We belong to a different Christian denomination than the one I grew up in, and my husband may have an uphill battle to fulfill my wishes.

    • I hope he gets your way then. Write it down and give it to your daughter. I bet together they will get Your way.. c

  25. We just had a funeral yesterday for my great-grandmother. She was 99 and had 43 great-grandchildren and 7 great-great-grandchildren! Even though we are sorry she is gone, it is hard to be too sad, she has wanted to go for about the last 10 years. She has been a widow for 23 years. Her body was in the house for a day for people to come and see, then we buried her in her husband’s grave. Afterwards all her descendants who were able to be there gathered at the house to eat and remember her life, which has been full and interesting.

    Interesting how many people aren’t aware why it is called a wake! Back centuries ago, the family would sit up with the body of the deceased for a week, to make sure it wasn’t going to wake up – a surprising number did!

    I feel for those who lose unborn children. A friend lost a baby at 6 months pregnant at the beginning of the year. They were given the body by the hospital, and a family member gave them permission to pop it into their grave plot, under the headstone. It helped to give them closure, the baby had already become a part of their family. But so many don’t have these options, they are just sent home by the hospital to get on with their life.

    • I am one of those people. I had no idea they sat up to make sure the Body did not Wake! Thank you for that! And yes (being one of those women).. losing a baby and being sent home without one to bury.. it is miserable.. c

  26. On November 28, 2014 we will have a Baha’i burial service for my beloved Bill. Friends will have washed his body, wrapped him in silk, and the burial will be at Rose Hills, LA, and a long burial prayer (think reverse lullaby; lullaby for babies, and a long God-filled oratorio just said in the open air (we don’t show the body), and the friends like all different birds in the Kindom will gather and listen to his; the air will be filled with a divine sweetness, and the envelope of a body that bill had begun to rail against, will be tucked into the Creato’r’s earth. January 10 we will have a memorial, with music, lots of musicians in the community, joyous upbeat songs, funny stories; our lives were filled with them. People all around the world are responding. Aldamaar called from Mongolia, a writer friend emailed from Ireland. People in the Congo, Santa Ana, California, down tn Pasadena, don’t you know, down the street, in every nook and cranny are bending their spirits and my feel are sloshing in love, like wading in ankle deep water. It’s quite an experience. Our marriage was a “Fortress of Wellbeing; http://www.Baha‘ if anyone interested in the Faith; we don’t proseletize, one mjst investigate thisFaith for themselves. Basically: manis one, God is one, and all the religions agree, and we will find boys and girls (I seem to be on a roll here) that the earth’s equilibrium hath beenjupset, and we are going through the birth panges of the beginnings of spiritualization and maturity of the planet, and the failing of old corrupt institutions which are hanging on like dianasours. When they breathe fire, and fight, they are at their weakest. So now we, who live during these times, celebrate; and this blog C’s stuff, is one big celebration, and before I put a quote in I must say, “Doesn’t Boo look resplendent in his new red jacket,” and “Sheila, the idea of your being a pet pig, solacesme deeply.” love esther
    I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to
    shed on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?
    Bahá’u’lláh: Arabic Hidden Words, #32
    3. O

    • This is so rich in ritual and deep respect. I have Bahai friends but knew nothing about the death practices. Thank you for this.

    • Thank you for sharing your grief . . . . in five days time I’ll quietly join you in your loss . . . the Greater Powers will be there . . .

    • Makes me feel like my grief is selfish; that loved ones move on to a beautiful place, and that there is no reason to be sad except for my own loss. My grandpa told me as much but, you know. 🙂 Your Bill is going to have quite the send-off!

  27. First, my deepest sympathies to our Farmy friends who have recently lost loved ones.

    My sister died of cancer in May. She was at Hospice in the end, so it was pain-free. In all other aspects however, it was just bloody ghastly.
    I am not afraid to be dead. But, I am afraid to die like she did. I do not have the courage (or dignity, or grace) to manage such an illness the way she did.
    I hated the way we all sat around her, waiting. For days. Listening to her trying to breathe.
    She had planned her funeral with her husband. She had wanted a wake, with music and laughter and wine. But he had not listened to her and when she died he did nothing at all – about anything. She got none of what she wanted.
    I was her support-person throughout her illness. At all the chemo treatments, doctors visits etc. I was with her all day, every day at Hospice. By the time it was over I was exhausted.
    But, I will regret forever that I didn’t have the strength to organise her funeral myself.
    She deserved much, much better.

    • Ah. Darling girl this is sad. But it was out of your hands. This is hard for me to explain but I know a little of what you are saying. I think .. that we cannot look back on a a past period of our lives, with the energy that we have now, and judge what we did then. (read that sentence slowly – twice – I wrote it carefully for you) I know completely that you did what you could do then. With all the ammunition you had at your disposal then. But you were low on everything – your/our supplies were depleted. Now you look at that time differently – you have recovered a little, you have more energy. but Then – you/ we were ripped apart. We did the best we could. I know you did. Do you think she does not know this? She knew immediately. She would not have cared. What she cared about was your hand in hers right to the end.You did good honey. You did more than good. c

      • Thank you Celi.
        I read your post at 230am our time, and have been weeping since.

        Sue’s husband and three kids (26, 24, 21) did not step up for her at any stage of her illness. Mum, dad and I hoped they would do for her funeral. Especially given that they had discussed it with her and knew what she wanted. They did not. The funeral was so bad it was embarrassing.

        She really did deserve so much better.

        But you are right. Of course you are. I did step up for her. I did the very best I could at every stage. I have to try and hold on to that.

        Thank you for being the voice of reason.

      • I agree. You did the hard work when her husband and kids could not bear it, and that matters. Illness and death bring things out of us that nothing else can: the strongest of us may crumble, the most humble may rise.

        The music and laughter and wine…in reality it was meant for you! I hope you still partake, in her memory.

  28. My father wanted to be cremated and was. I saw him, after he’d died, and was amazed at what peace it gave me. He looked peaceful and that made all the difference to me. My mother wishes to be cremated as well, following a high-kicking party. Then she wants my brother and me to scatter her ashes in all the places she loved which will require an outrageous road trip. She’s always said that funerals are the most fascinating events. She loves them. All that coming together and probably the rush of emotion. The best funeral I ever went to was that of my French mother-in-law. The service was in a church built in the 1300’s. Tiny. Then we walked through the little town carrying the coffin all the way to the cemetery. I will never forget that walk. The streets. The light. The way we all talked and cried and even laughed. And then there was feast, outside under the August style. French-style. With lots of wine and talk late into the night. Cigarettes and stars, for those who smoked.

  29. Warm and healing thoughts to those of the Farmy grieving today, may you find a moment or two of peace to remember. I haven’t really been been touched by death, really only my ex’s mother who was a dear and well-loved friend. her funeral was standard Catholic mass, burial in the local cemetery and then the wake at the local bowls club where she played the pokies. It was a lovely gentle time of remembering her. For myself, I’m not afraid of dying and will be happy to ‘go home’. I have told my kids I don’t want money wasted on a fancy wood coffin, and have been exploring ‘eco-coffins’. There are wicker ones as someone else suggested, a woman in England makes beautiful poor wool felted ones, and in a village not far from me there are a couple of young women who make bio-degradable cardboard ones, that don’t give off noxious gases if burned. They will paint it in a design of your choice, or you can get a plain one, and have a coffin-painting party with all your friends and family gathering to make their mark. I like this idea, then after the party I can use it to store my wool and fabric stash until the coffin’s needed. I’m working on stitching myself a shroud, no crimpilene frock thank you, I tell my kids, so I stitch up squares of fabric with events, places and people that have meaning in my life, and they’ll all be stitched together to wrap me in. Friends make blocks as well and send them to me. I want Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody played really loudly, and everyone to have a good time.,but like your sons Celi, mine doesn’t want to know………I get that stern “enough Mum”……but I tell him it’s important, they need to know these things.

    • yours sons and mine! we will have to write it down for them! so they cannot ignore us! – actually this is not a bad idea..

    • If I were dying, I’d adopt your shroud idea in a flash. I’d ask all my friends to send a piece to denote our friendship and what it meant to them. My family would have very strict instructions to use it or be cut out of my will (nothing like a spot of financial blackmail…). Perhaps I’ll construct my own coffin out of papier mache; it’s strong and light so being carried shoulder high will be much easier!

      • I love the word shroud. We should all have one that we air on the rosemary hedge every sunday. Just to be ready. Just as a reminder that this coil is mortal. I could air mine but no-one would see.. my family is far, far away from here. Or maybe it is you. Love that word coffin, Cough IN.. hopefully NOT! c

  30. What a thought provoking thread to wake up to. There has been a lot of death in my life, enough for me to not fear it. I too wish for a basket, I first saw one when my sister and I were selecting my father’s casket, and I thought to myself, ‘that’s what I want’. I told my sister, but I don’t think she really listened; some people don’t like that kind of talk.
    I also firmly believe it is very important to have a marker. I was discussing this with my elderly art tutor after the service of a mutual friend. Often when we are young we don’t care about these things, cremation and scattering appeals. Ephemeral and free. But as time passes, our lives touch more and more people even if only briefly, we can become distanced and separated but that spiritual connection remains. Sometimes we can’t be with a person at the time of their passing, or even at their service simply because of issues of time and distance, yet we continue to feel the need to connect with them in a physical way for the rest of our own lives, and that is why a marker is important. It can provide closure and continuity.
    A man that was a lover and partner in my younger years died, but no one told me he was ill or invited me to his funeral. I learned he had died a few weeks later, I went to the cemetery and saw the mounded earth. Then life went on, and I would think of him a random times, over the years, if I happened to be at that particular cemetery I would try to find the grave and couldn’t. The earth had settled and trees had grown, nothing was as i remembered it. So I emailed the Sexton and she gave me the location details, I carried that scrap of paper in my purse for another four years. A couple of months ago I was at that cemetery again. After the gathering had drifted apart I got the scrap of paper out of my wallet and drove down through the tree shaded rows to the place I was seeking. It was odd, surreal. I parked the car and walked up and down two rows trying to work out the numbering and I had just decided I needed to go back and consult the directory board again. As I turned, there it was; a simple brass plaque with his name and dates. My world shrank, I just stood there looking at it, time passed, and slowly the world came back. Bit by bit I became aware of the sun and wind and the big norfolk pine tree and the two other ladies doing the same thing as me, I said good-bye to him, walked back to the car and drove away feeling that in some way a crooked piece of my life had be straightened and gently pressed into place.
    The point of that ramble is this: That little brass plaque with a name and a pair of dates is an enduring reference point. Something that can be visited, or not, but now I know it is there and it exists in my memory, that set of memories is now complete and I can put it away on the shelf. That’s what my tutor and I were discussing, what we would leave as a marker, I still don’t know precisely what mine will be like, but I know I will make it myself.
    Well good morning to you all, I don’t comment often and I’m not sure where all that came from.
    To those grieving, I wish you peace.

  31. These comments come, for me, at a time I feel the need for this discussion. I’m an Army brat and with a lifetime of moving around, there has been a bit of a disconnection from our roots. There is just “us”. A small family, my sister and I with the rest only children, their only children and my Mom. She’s turning 90 next week and we are losing her to dementia. There is a party planned with all of us coming together to celebrate her life. Could this be our wake?

  32. I have so many thoughts swirling around right now after reading every single comment, with much of what I wanted to say has already been said. One being I’m so sorry for some of the fellowship’s recent losses…my own dad just died last month and I am also losing my mum slowly to dementia, which is a terrible grief all it’s own. Cecilia, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the eco-reef burials or not but I thought of you when I heard about them because you love the sea so much, as do I. They take your ashes and embed them in some sort of material that is put back in the sea and they become artificial reefs for sea life. I mean after all, we came from the sea, we may as well return to it. The family goes along on the boat that takes you out there for the “sea burial”. I am thinking seriously of it because I am happiest when I am swimming in the ocean or just sitting next to it!
    Not to make light of any of this discussion but I can’t help but remember this quote someone said about the afterlife….I’m not sure if there is a heaven or not but I pray there is no hell!

  33. I was a grave goer for many years after my dad died. In Germany the grave is decorated with plants and flowers . It gave me peace to plant flowers, it was something I could still do for him. I’m not afraid of dying and I just want my ashes in a warm peaceful place.
    I am sorry for the recent losses in our fellow ship , my heart goes out to them.

    • I love that you can plant trees and flowers, here in the US you cannot plant anything at all in the graveyards around here. I don’t know about NZ.. I need to check.. But the idea of planting flowers alongside a grave is such a lovely one. c

      • You actually have this plot, you have a single or triple, my grandparents were buried with their son on a triple burial plot. Our cemetary in our village is peaceful and beautiful and a meeting place for people who take care of their relatives graves. I planted a climbing rose on my father’s grave and it was beautiful until my sister in law decided to rip it all out and put gravel on the grave. Oh well, what can I do 😒. I put some potted heather and a wreaths over the gravel.

  34. My sincere condolences to those in the Fellowship who have lost beloved ones in the last few days. I hope you have family and friends who will help you in your grief and that you will soon be able to live with what has passed and with what is to come . . .

    Having lived in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney for some three decades I have come up against ‘sitting Shiva’ amongst Jewish friends and neighbours on many occasions . . . it did pay respect and often make the pain easier for those left behind.

    Oh the Estonian Lutherans bury within days and have a huge wake afterwards: in my younger years I so objected to that custom I saw as ‘frivolity’ and indeed oft refused to attend: only later did I come to realize the ‘celebratory’ aspect of the custom. Well, I have already come up against my own immortality more than once: quite frankly once my soul leaves my body I am not particularly fussed as to what happens with the latter: I will know I have ‘left’!! In my case and perchance selfishly I want to be cremated so my ashes could be scattered at Sydney’s incredibly beautifully situated Botanical Gardens just above the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour: cannot think of a lovelier and more peaceful resting place 🙂 !

        • Miss C – Totally weird and I so love you for it!!!!!! Actually I have firm plans for at least another 20 in spite of . . .. . .and Miss C, I’ll turn up on your doorstep yet . . .
          Hmm : Boo an that coat and Marmalade with that particular kitty!!!!!!!

            • 2016, early autumn, I most certainly want to/have to meet John, Danny and my New Hampshire crowd too!!!! Oh, oh have to travel down to Texas also [ hmm, they do seem to be moving around there 🙂 !!] . . . it will actually happen . . .

  35. I wanted extend my sympathies to the members of the fellowship who have lost a loved one. I want to thank everyone for their condolences. It is a great comfort to me. I really mean that. My father died this past Thursday of Alzheimer’s and complications from decades of smoking. I am an only child and my mother died many years ago. There are some difficulties with my father’s wife, to put it mildly. The service has been scheduled for Dec. 8. Upon inquiry as to that length of time, I was told it was convenient for her and that is all I needed to know. I tell you that not as a poor me, but as a “this is how it is”. You all have been so honest. It gave me courage to do the same. However, I have wonderful friends, a loving husband, concerned distant relatives, and the fellowship to hold me up and it is more than enough. I feel wrapped in comfort even though you weren’t sure who you were speaking to me. It helps tremendously. Thank you so, so much.

    • You have some time to ‘wait’ for matters to settle down . . . may all pass quietly and peacefully . . .sincerely

    • Oh, Kim, I’m so sorry to hear about your father. I have to confess how jealous I am of you because I remember how you were so so so much help to Cecilia, and I know I could never be as helpful. There was nothing you couldn’t do–fearless!!

  36. Condolences to those who have lost their love ones. We also have had our mother, father, granddaughter, and mother-in-law at home in an open coffin for a few days – 3 or 4, depending on how long it’s taken some family members to travel from the outback of Australia or wherever they might be. Those days have been an important part of saying goodbye. We’ve lit candles and the children have run in and out of the room, sometimes stopping to be still and take in what has happened. My dad’s service was at home in the living room with a celebrant friend who also farewelled my mum 2 years before that. My guitarist brother has played to them to help them on their way. We’ve had food, tears and laughter and marvelled at the fact that all five siblings are together and talking to each other. It’s all been sad, warm, devastating and wonderful at the same time. Thank you for raising the big subjects of life Celi. You never flinch from the hard stuff. Your children are lucky. (PS Here in NZ we now have lots of trained celebrants who are independent of religious organisations. They work with the family to create the service the family wants)

    • So wonderfully Nz’ld – even the guitar. To have all five of you together at one time is such an achievement. we don’t think about that when we wander the world.. c

      • I saw a list of WordPress notifications and it seemed that you’d left a request on this post, to use my comment in your next book. But I don’t see that request here. Let me know by email if you can. The answer is probably yes. I just got home from a big funeral so the subject is close to me.

        • I shall be back in touch on this by email.. yes..after a while.. though at present a book of burial rites is more of a suggestion than an intention.. a good one though.

  37. My condolences to those who have lost loved ones.
    I have had many deaths during my lifetime. I do not fear that different birth, for that is what it is. As we knew not what we were coming into at the moment of birth, we know not what we are going to at the moment of death. The transition is in its way the same in that we are not given to understand or know what we are going into. We shed the shell at death as we leave the womb at birth. I have sat with my family members as they approached their deaths, been aware of the change in the air as they left this world, slipping away from the body they no longer need and into the unknown. In the end, even with a room full of people, we die alone. The hardest part of having someone you love die is realizing that you can’t be physically with them anymore, at least for me.

  38. You do realize you have another book (rough draft) here, I’m sure.
    That said, my dad’s family has a tradition of cremation and scattering ashes at Mt. Rainier. My granddad is up there, and several aunts and a couple of uncles. My brother will be there (when my sister-in-law is ready to go there for it). It’s my wish to do the same. My folks didn’t go in for grave-visiting at all, and when they died (two weeks apart, when they were both ill) we had a memorial service a couple of months later on what would have been their 60th anniversary. Then the following summer we all gathered at the mountain.
    The business of scattering ashes “to the wind” is a bit romantic, however, and most people don’t realize it. They don’t blow away, they are heavy. Plan accordingly.

  39. I’m late in the day, literally, Sunday night Australia time to the post and comments. I’m sorry for those to whom your refer Celi for their losses and those mentioned in the comments. But this a worthwhile conversation. And if it’s being had here then I like to believe it’s being had elsewhere. Because no matter what the beliefs, traditions wishes are they need to be communicated to someone somehow before the time comes. It’s not for us, but for those we leave behind… for they are the ones who however long lived however lived are left with the honour as we leave our earthly bodies this time around.

  40. Our family tradition tends to be cremation with a service. Though, it’s really up to the individual. We will follow the wishes of the deceased. When my dad died, he was cremated. We chartered a boat with our immediate family. The boat took us out to sea until we lined up with my dad’s favorite beach swimming spot. We scattered his ashes there. A service was held later for extended family and friends. Years later, we were contacted about a class action suit against the people who cremated my dad. Apparently, the company was caught mixing ashes. I have no idea who we scattered in the ocean that day or where my dad’s ashes went. I would go to the beach anyway and think about him. It didn’t matter that his actual ashes weren’t there. He’s dead. As the living, what I needed was a place to go.

  41. I’m awed by all the experiences and wisdom in this group. Thank you for your willingness to share.

    I just got through prepaying for my mom’s funeral in the small town 400 miles away where she has lived for more than half a century. She wants a funeral and has even told me what hymns and poems she prefers, and exactly which papers to send her pre-written obituary to. I think it’s a good thing to face these things. That’s why Buddhist monks have to spend time in charnel grounds–to learn not to turn away. Mom has shown me what a pioneer soul is–one that embraces the wonder and mystery, but doesn’t shrink from the dark. There is a line from a Whitman poem where he’s talking about death: “All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses; And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”

    When I was living in England 25 years ago, a call came in the middle of the night that my father was dying–completely unexpected. I flew home by myself to the Midwest in February. My husband said he couldn’t come because of teaching responsibilities, but I knew if was because he was afraid and we were at the end of our marriage. During the next six weeks I saw my mother shrink physically but grow spiritually. I saw my father transform from being a sturdy 6’4″ to a ravaged man bent in half over a cane, unable to feed himself. I was so filled with terror there was no room for anything else. And there was nowhere to turn for comfort–now, suddenly, I was the caretaker not the cared for.

    One morning, my mother woke me and whispered that he was gone and I should come into the next room where he’d died in his sleep. Every fiber of my being screamed, no, you can’t go in there. But I did and it was utterly amazing. It was like walking into a cloud of peace–exactly the opposite of what I was expecting. All the fear left me and I kissed his forehead and held his hand and marveled at how wonderful this event was. It was not just that he was out of pain, it was something much bigger–a homecoming for him, for all of us. I felt as if he had been gently reclaimed by a love much greater than ours. I was happy for him. I have never looked at death the same way.

  42. My husband wants me to (quite illegally) haul him to the top of our local mountain and burn him on a pyre up there. I have no clue how’d I’d get that done or who would bail me out of jail afterward!

    He proposed to me on the top of that mountain, we bought a house with a grand view of it, and an enormous photo of it (on fire, with the town cemetery in the foreground) graces our living room wall. Official name? Slieve Cairn. For those with no Irish – Grave Mountain.

    I think I can handle some jail time to do that for him.

  43. My condolence to all those having lost someone and are grieving. There are many heart warming stories everyone has written as well as heart breaking. It feels as if everyone has wrapped a cloak around each and everyone of us and, for me, that’s a tremendous support. I have no fear of dying – maybe I should – but my fear is in living. I hope that doesn’t sound selfish. Sometimes it just feels life is too hard and the struggles endured can be too much. I read the blogs everyday and enjoy so much the antics of all – it is the highlight of my day and then my reality kicks back in. But for those few moments I am part of something rewarding, even if from a distance. So thankyou Celi for making me – us – part of your life, and to everyone who writes in with their thoughts, especially on such a topic as this. Has there ever been so many replies to your blog? xx

  44. Mommy Marmalade looks so content with her happy brood. Is Boo liking his coat better? Times change, and burials are changing, too. My grandparents and parents were “viewed” at a funeral home for a few hours over a couple of days, and on the third day a service and burial took place. Funerals are so expensive now, many are opting for cremation and a small service.

  45. Wonderful post. I have missed reading for several days as I have been on deadline with a project, plus gallivanting to sing on the radio and to visit Johnny. But I will save my email of this to read again. My family does not do much in the way of wakes or memorials. Mom wants to be cremated. I probably will be, too, but I will want a memorial music party for everyone to gather, remember and assuage their grief together, With good food that I would have liked and perhaps beautiful seasonal flowers, whatever season it happens to be when I die (We can have this in California where something is always blooming).

  46. As you’ve said, this is quite a conversation. Practically the next book – greatly important thoughts
    Peace and healing to all who dropped by and are suffering in heart.
    While our family has had many many very very old members pass away, these “died well” – no long painful periods.
    I’m not one for open casket funerals. I will go to viewings to comfort the family. But the ones in the caskets – while nicely “done-up” never look right – not like they did. A poor imitation with life force and soul gone. I have do/did my best to be with, visit, and talk to the elderly ones when alive, I can let go – remembering their last smile and hugs and words.
    My dad always said funerals were for the living. As a death is unsettling, he was probably right – people remaining trying to make sense and peace with the unavoidable final curtain.
    I do like the idea of straw on the casket. And I prefer a gravesite funeral with a few of the old old country hymns sung. Traditionally, in small rural towns, people pull their cars over off the road as the hearse goes by…just about everyone knows or knows of everyone, but even the “new” people in town offer this tribute. It is somehow comforting – the respect of a passing – like a life mattered even if not touching you directly. Not done in the larger cities. Also after the burial, the church offers a pot luck dinner to feed family and friends. Left-overs, and there are always tons – are packaged up for the immediate family and their freezer. When my father’s generation was the “adults”, we always met in a home and “visited” until late. That’s where you heard all the family stories and high jinx they did when young. Things changed with this generation and it wasn’t so congenial, so we’ve skipped some. My parents would be sad about the lack of closeness, but we are spread widely now, some of the spouses don’t get along, there’s the difference ways incidents are remembered, and I think there’s some guilt for not coming when called – or thinking the person “wasn’t really sick” so why hurry guilt. So as even under the best of situations, there’s exhaustion and stress, best to leave while all are sort of pleasant with each other.
    I will live until I die and not worry about it. Hope to leave gracefully and “die well”. But it does appear having a place to visit – a spot to show that it was real and this person did exist ore than in memory is important to some, so I leave it to them as they decide. But simple, I plead. What matters is what is done while you are here on earth. All the ceremony and cost won’t take the place of that.
    Peace Celi. And strength. And joy.

    • I like the meeting in the how for a visit. Sometimes I think that it helps relationships to put things aside and get on .. c

      • Normally I’d agree but if people see it as an opportunity to bully, curse, insult, and name-call totally out of the blue for no reason when everyone else is getting along, uh, count me out…we’ll chat on the phone later. Some of us remember the promise not to fight. (How about reeling in your spouse?)
        Sadly guilt makes people do odd things at unfortunate times? Pretty unpleasant when it’s already stressful.

          • Was raised “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I try to do that. Sometimes you have to just walk away to keep the peace and hope at some point down the road you’ll be able to start over.
            Appreciate you taking time to chat. Hope your Thanksgiving was terrific…dragging my feet on the Christmas decorations. Would like to enjoy this one for a bit

            • It is a good saying to remember. I also think that if you answer meanness with silence they will only hear the echo of their own words.. we are on our last thanksgiving meal, then the visitors will all go home and quiet will come again.. no need to rush into christmas here either..c

  47. My lovely daughter and my sweet voiced wife have been instructed that, at my burial, they are to sing an old Billy Joe Shavers song entitled Ride Me Down Easy. I’ve loved the song for years.

    Kathy my guitar picking songwriting daughter is not as big a Shavers fan as her old man.

    Like the idea of the shoulder high carry though. Good post.

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