Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Surprising Revelations and Soul Searching

Funerals. Celebrations of life. Whatever you want to call it when people gather together to give our condolences to the immediate family and share stories of the deceased are something I’ve never balked from going to. I find it interesting that no matter how well you think you know a person that there are people who will stand up and talk who present a whole different side of a deceased person’s personality. And I suppose that shouldn’t surprise any of us. We grow and change throughout our lives. We are marked and influenced by our experiences and the people we meet along the way. However, in the case of my childhood friend’s celebration of life it also gave me a lot to think about. As I said in an earlier post, we spent a lot of time together from the time I was born until our late teens. Our parents were best friends since before they were married. They vacationed together, built cottages four doors way from each other and kept in close contact their entire lives. We kids, though, eventually went our separate ways but through the grapevine we always knew the basics of what was going on in each other's lives.

The core theme at Allen’s Celebration of Life service was he lived the Marine values his entire adult life after having served four years in the early 1960s. I’ve always been fascinated by how so many old men pick either their college years or their four years in the military as the highlight of their lives while women pick the years when they're children are young. Allen and I exchanged a few letters back in those days when he was stationed in Japan and if he wrote about his coming of age in the military it wasn't to me. He grew up with not much of a role model for a father and after listening to the stories told at his memorial service I’m guessing Allen’s commanding officer in the Marines filled in the gaps on how to be a man. He had the Marine Corp honor guard and three gun salute as part of the service.

His mother was the kind of mother who (cheerfully) waited on her husband and son hand and foot. A typical example: as a teen Allen would be sitting at a table not more than four feet away from the kitchen sink during our nighty Monopoly games and would yell for his mom in another part of the cottage to get him a drink of water. He was a lazy kid, never made to do chores and his father never lifted a hand to do stuff that by tradition of the era was men’s work to maintain a house and yard. Allen's sister from around 11 or 12 years old used to follow my dad around like a puppy dog and he taught her how to do household maintenance like fix leaky faucets, repair screens and sticky windows which she did to help out her mom while her father read Westerns and drank beer and Allen read comic books.

And yet at the memorial the minister told story after story about how hard Allen worked on their church projects and others told how willingly he helped people in need. He came to religion in the last seven years of his life, after a deathbed promise to his wife of less than a decade. A confirmed bachelor until his sixties his marriage surprised a few of us back then. And I don’t mind telling you that it always gives me pause for thought when I hear about late-in-life devotion to a church. Will it happen to me? I don’t see how…yet I picked a Christian based non-profit place to live out my days. Just sayin'.

When prayers are offered at places like funerals or events here on campus it bothers me when they end with “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” after years of trying I still can’t wrap my mind around how excluding other paths to God makes the world a better place. I guess I had too much exposure as a kid to being told I was going to hell if I didn’t accept Jesus as my savior. Being a bullheaded kid (my mom’s nickname for me) who grew up to be a stubborn adult I can’t see me grabbing that transformation ring as I’m dying. If I did you couldn’t trust that I wasn’t just treating it like an insurance policy in case I’ve been wrong all these years of believing being a moral person with a good value system is good enough to get membership into the realm of angels, if there is such a place. 

One would think I believe in a heaven or an afterlife if you read the words on Don’s and my headstone. It says “Happy Trails to you…until we meet again”. I chose those words in the sense that our souls would find each other in the ether that fills the upper regions of space. Our souls meeting as gases and transforming into something else. Ya, kind of an off-shoot of reincarnation. It also was something Dale and Roy Evans used to sing at the end of their TV show and Don's funeral had a Western theme.

None of us will know for sure what happens after we die but I really would like to know if others who have not been church goers and/or are non-believers think about deathbed acceptance of church doctrine. If a loved one asked you on their deathbed to stand up in front of a congregation and say you’re ready to accept Jesus as your savior the way Allen's wife did would you do it? I suppose when someone is dying it’s easy to say whatever gives them comfort but actually doing it would take a deeper kind of love than I’ve ever experienced.  ©

56 comments:

  1. Not much chance of anyone asking me to do that, thank goodness. ❤️

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    1. Me neither although I do have some very religious people in my family---great nieces and nephews who are super sweet and sincere in their faith.

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  2. I think this post will open a floodgate of comments. It will be interesting to read other peoples thoughts on this.
    As for myself, after being brought up Catholic and attending catholic schools for 12 years, I've come to a place of being an agnostic. And I'll leave it at that.

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    1. I debated back and forth about even printing this post, took it out of the schedule then put it back in. But I couldn't stop thinking about what it would take for me to promise what Allen did,,,then actually do it.

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  3. I don't think we ever really know another person. Gosh, there are days I don't even understand myself! Your friend's life certainly changed during his final years, but I think that happens to many of us. As for our belief system, I think it has been an ongoing progress for me. When I was very young, I simply believed what my parents believed. As years have passed, I have searched for answers. Although I don't pretend to understand how faith works, I am very grateful for the peace it has given me. The search is real and it goes on for most of us.

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    1. I was on that search hard core for all of the '60s and haven't changed my conclusion much since then. I see what you mentioned about faith giving you peace around here. Lots of people around here talk about how they don't worry about anything because that's essentially God's job.

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  4. I, too, am intrigued by differing views of people as given in their obituaries or memorial services. My parents were married in Louisiana, as were their lifelong friends and distant relatives. The other couple moved to Texas while Dad was still studying mechanical engineering via the GI bill but struggling to support a wife and two children. The man enticed Dad to quit school and move us to a refinery town in Texas, where Dad's education would get him a steady job in the lab of a refinery, a job that would be lifelong. We spent many evenings and weekend outings in the company of that other couple, outings when the wife would pinch me viciously, out of Mom's view, if I wiggled around too much when we "women" were crowded into the backseat of the car. Of course I never told Mom and didn't dare yelp, convinced I'd be punished for doing whatever it was I'd done to deserve being pinched, but I also never thought too kindly of that beautiful woman who also told me when I was eight and wearing a brand new dress I loved that you couldn't tell whether I was coming or going in the dress. She left her husband and children and ran off with an also-married man on the city counsel, a huge scandal. I happened across her obituary the other day where young person after young person sang her praises, mentioning her kindness. Was she just so unhappy in her marriage that she took it out on me, a child who did everything she could to conform to expectations? Or did she pinch only children who wouldn't tell? LOL.

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    1. She had a mean streak that's for sure when you knew her. It's hard to wrap your head around how people can change so much, isn't it.

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  5. Know what you mean about those celebration of life ceremonies. Often, those I thought I knew well obviously had an life that I wish I had known better. We all leave different impressions to different folks.
    Was a huge fan of Roy and loved the "Happy rails--"
    My Mom always said,"death is life's greatest adventure," so that is how I view it. Someday, we will know.

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    1. We can't avoid death so you mom's attitude about it makes as much sense as any.

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  6. Such an interesting post. My problem with adhering to such a deathbed promise to a loved one is how would a person who had not believed just say "I believe" and think it means something? I have some lifelong friends who are true believers, and it gives them a comfort that I envy. I had extremely little religious instruction as a kid and have only done a little dabbling through my life. But I must say, when I consider that the moon pulls the tide, it seems more like an organized design to me than a Big Bang accident. Also, I remember a conversation I had with my mother when I was about 12, where I asked her if they were serious that people in, say Africa, who had never heard of Jesus, would be condemned to hell because they hadn't accepted him. So I think my problem (like my Dad's) is with organized religion, not with the concept of a creator.
    Nina

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    1. I don't think the concept of a supreme Creator excludes the concept of the earth being the results of a Big Bang. Science reveals lots of things that seem like miracles. But your last line speaks for me as well.

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    2. Nina, I had that same conversation with my Mom, when I was just a bit younger. She assured me that a missionary or someone would have presented Jesus' story to that young person in Africa. I was skeptical and there began my questioning of what I had accepted without question before then.

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  7. As an always non religious person, the sudden conversions are all about fear and fear alone. And who in their right mind, would want to worship a god who excluded way more than half the world’s population and send them to an eternity of torture. It’s a fantasy of fear.

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  8. I give a resounding "no" to the idea of last-minute changes in my theory of life and death - and I wouldn't lie to a congregation.

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    1. I wouldn't lie to a congregation either but I might lie to a loved on if he/she were dying and it get them peace to hear me say the words. But since there is no one I'm close enough with anymore who could ask that of me, it's just a theory. From all accounts Allen's conversion in front of his wife's church congregation was sincere and he dove head first into devoting himself to the do-good journey he was on. The minister talked at length about it.

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  9. I'm an atheist after being raised and baptized Roman Catholic. I finally had had enough after years of Guilt and Never Being Good Enough, according to nuns and the RC doctrine and mass. It seemed like a lot of suffering for nothing; the faith held no comfort. It made no sense to me, especially the part where unbaptized babies went to hell.

    I don't believe in heaven or hell or anything like that. My own grandmother, a saintly Lutheran, asked me before she died to go to church. (No idea how she knew I hadn't been.) If I don't do it for her, I wouldn't do it for anyone.

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    1. My dad had a falling out from the Catholic Church when he was a boy and never went back. I sadly don't know much about my mom's history with religion except she never attended a service in a church while I was alive. Churches or rather some of its members can be so judgemental and unkind while trying to bring people into their folds. Makes no sense to me.

      You're the first person I've known (well second if we count Allen) who was asked to go to church as part of a person's dying wishes. I have to believe that a person would have to be well on their way to making that conversion to actual do it. The alternative theory that you loved the person doing the asking so deeply that you came to accept Jesus as your Savior just doesn't seem possible to me. Like I said, I've never loved anyone deep enough to change a core value for them like that. Yet when I was in my 20s I might have joined a church for love, while my thoughts on God and religion were still forming.

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  10. Reading this, three things came to mind. One is a comment by a seminary professor: "The point is that God accepted us; whether we accept God is a matter of response and relationship, not doctrine." And then, there's this, from no less than Leonard Cohen: "I’m religious in the sense that I know the difference between grace and guilt.” I love that. Anyone who tries to guilt anyone into a 'decision for Christ' or into church membership hasn't quite grasped the heart of the Christian faith. But beyond all that, I absolutely love this song by Iris DeMent. Like Iris, I don't know what's coming, but I never worry about it.

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    1. You always share the most interesting things! I love the Cohen quote---. knowing the difference between grace and guilt. I've heard the seminary professor's quote before but Iris Dement is new to me.

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    2. Thank you for mentioning Iris DeMent’s “Let the Mystery Be.”

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  11. I always learn something new about a person when I attend their funeral - something that makes me wish I had known them better when they were still living.

    As for deathbed or "do me a favour" conversion to Christianity - no thanks. Husband #2 tried to shame me for not being a Christian and not raising my kids that way. I don't need fear of eternal damnation to get me to live my life right - I have morals and empathy to thank for that (something Husband #2 could have benefited from. #1 too, for that matter). Not pulling the "Oops, sorry! I'll take my Jesus now" get-out-of-jail-free card. Whatever the afterlife has in store for me is whatever it is. Probably oblivion, but who really knows?

    Deb

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    1. You hit on the factor that really gets to me about Christians who want us to convert...that it doesn't seem to matter to them that we have good moral and empathy guiding us they still judge us as lacking if we don't say the magic sentence.

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  12. Forgot to ask in my earlier reply this morning - how is your healing going?

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    1. I'll let you know more after the 13th when go back to the doctor. It's still got a lot of drainage coming out but I think that's normal and it's not closed up which I didn't expect, but I don't think it's as deep as it was. The bandages itch like crazy but I can't go without them only in the shower according to my wound care sheet.

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  13. I think that most people (including ourselves) are full of surprises and hidden sides. At memorial services, the negatives are usually glossed over or not mentioned at all. I do believe in a higher power but not in a heaven type place. When I go, I guess I'll find out then. :)

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  14. There was a Roman emperor (Constantine I) who converted to Christianity on his deathbed. Literally. His mother persuaded him and I am certain he did see it as a two way bet, an insurance policy. Helena, the mother, became a Christian Saint. This was all in the 4th C, when paganism was still the accepted religion in the Roman Empire, so even then people were scared of what would happen if you didn't follow Christian doctrine.

    De mortuis nil nisi bonum (speak nothing but good of the dead) is a rule which also still applies in eulogies and on many other occasions. Personally, I would call a spade a spade, whatever. I wonder what will be said of me, pity I can't be present.

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    1. Rituals and beliefs like not speaking ill of the dead that have lasted for centuries fascinate me. We are truly creatures of habit.

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  15. This is such an interesting post and I love the comments, too. The older I get and the more I read, the less I know. So I can't see that happening. But I do think my mom holds out hope she can pray my brother (and probably me now) back into the Church. I've heard of a few people asking for a priest, but never anyone who extracted a promise like that from someone else. Your friend seemed to find another meaning in that Church, though, after his wife died. To each his own, I guess.

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    1. I love the commenters who follow this blog, you included. I can almost understand asking for a priest or minister. I pretty much unloaded my entire church/religious ideas to the pastor here---Ms. Angel. I knew when we met on the bus last summer that if I was ever going to do that that she'd be the one. I just didn't think it would happen so soon. I wrote about it a few months ago and now she's in my writing group and has visited my brother as part of her duties here. He agreed with me that she's very much like our cousin....looks, voice quality, etc.

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  16. You ask if a loved one asked this of me on their deathbed. Yikes. Sounds like they'd be issuing an ultimatum not a heartfelt wish of unconditional love for me. So I might squeeze their hand and murmur "mmmmum". I have been curious about life after life and whether it'd be enjoyable. To that end I have listened to NDE'ers - those who have tasted the other side with near death experiences, and also done a 'past life' and 'between lives' soul regression. What has impressed me is how unconditionally loving the nonearthly life is and that love is freely given from there to us here.

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    1. Wow, that's another way to look at it....that's it's not unconditional love if someone asks that of you on their deathbed.

      I have listened to NDE'ers too but I think medical science can explain their experiences, what happens to the brain in near death situations so I take it all with a grain of salt. But what has been pointed out many times in this thread, none of us knows for sure about any of this.

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  17. I’ve always believed in God, having grown up attending the Methodist/Baptist/Presbyterian churches. The people in my small Methodist church comforted me when my parents didn’t, the Baptists scared me about hell, and the Presbyterians taught me to think. For me, it’s become pretty simple to grasp that Jesus died for my many sins, and that “God so loved the WORLD.” The entire world, no matter what.

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  18. I find many religious people to be the most hypocritical and so have my own value system along the lines of "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (well, mostly!).

    I think its a case of not speaking ill of the dead. I think I'd abide by that but NOT uttering falsehood. I'd get by "mmmmm" to other people who sang praises I thought were fake (and also down mark those same people as not to be trusted). That said, there's always SOMETHING positive to say about anyone! Like the guy who wrote his unsatisfactory manservant's reference "X will always serve you to his satisfaction". ~ Libby

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    1. I like the way you think. You and I would get along just fine as neighbors. Too bad we live half a world away from each other.

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  19. What a thoughtful question and not an easy one to answer. I suppose that since I believe we live many lives till we get it right that we will meet up with people in our next one from our pasts, even if we don't know recognize them as the one we knew before -- just an incredible familiarity of sorts. But I make all that up because who the heck knows? Are prodigies naturally gifted or did they get a head start in a previous life? Are trans kids just trying to find their earlier life gender? And yet, I pray daily (is it force of habit? Partly and partly for real). I'd like to think my parents are partying it up with my aunts and uncles in another world. Who knows. Guess we'll find out someday.All I can do is live my best life in a kind way and hedge my bets that if there is a hell of sorts I won't be in it!

    I think we are different people to many, based on our relationships. I've often been to a funeral and thought, "Gee, I wish I'd known that about this guy" or "Who knew?" Usually the people that hated him didn't show up or certainly aren't going to chip in with the accolades. There was a fellow across the street from Rick who was a horrible neighbor. But when he died the things on his online memorial page told a different story. Maybe he changed. Maybe circumstances in his life dictated later behavior.

    Hmm. The best time in my life was either ages 17-21 or 45-65 (before my body started falling apart as much as it has.) But 5-10 was pretty good, too!

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    1. You borrowed a lot of your beliefs from reincarnation, as I have too. There is comfort in that and it answers questions as to why we think we just click with someone we just met or instantly dislike someone with (known) history between us.

      You got 'living your best life' down pat. I envy you're artist life and how many friends you're able to keep in touch with and your wine club. I had my own "Rick" so I can smile with deep understading when you tell Rick stories.

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    2. Any god presence that is so ego driven as to prioritize belief in the presence over attempts to live as good and selfless a life as we are capable of living, is not a god I can imagine. The only god I can imagine is one that loves any parts of us that have ever shown love or care, and who is indifferent to spoken or acted acts of belief. That’s what I despise about trump, that he values blind loyalty over decency or honor; why on earth would I tie myself to this set of values in a god?
      So no conversion here to anything more than an effort to try to be a kinder, gentler, more truly good versions of myself . That I’d agree to work on, if someone I loved asked that if me. But to express belief under duress - no, it would go against my own core beliefs.

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    3. Audrey…that’s an excellent comment

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  20. Well. I would ask my kids to return to church on occasion, and remember what they have been taught. Extracting a promise though never. It's interesting that everyone seems to assume he lied to the congregation for his wife. Perhaps she knew that it was something he wanted to do and gave him that little push. Hard to lie to a community for ten years which is what a church is, after all. I will have a traditional funreal and no speeches

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    1. Ya, I wondered the same thing. Perhaps I wrote it wrong for people to assume he lied about the conversion. Seemed pretty sincere to me or he wouldn't have done so many things for the church in the years that followed.

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  21. There are people I've known most of my Life that still Surprise me in ways I never expected, both in good ways and in bad ways. We only ever really know what people want us to know and what they are willing to reveal of themselves. Your Friend waiting until his Senior Years to get Married would be a shocker, after being a Bachelor so long. That said, many Old Men get Married only becoz they want someone to look after them and do their housekeeping/domestic duties that they'd be stuck paying someone to do for them otherwise. As a Senior Woman, if Heaven Forbid, something happened to The Man, I'd never Remarry, I don't need to be some Old Dude's Housekeeper/Cook/Maid/Nurse/Caregiver that I don't have a decent amount of History with, I just couldn't be that Invested in a 'new' Relationship to the level of commitment an 'old' Relationship has earned.

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    1. She'd been married before and her daughter stood up and read a letter her mother had written before she died about how Allen was the love of her life. Though I must admit when they married I jumped to the conclusion that he was looking for a housekeeper based on my (miss)preconception of him. From all accounts it wasn't that way and he ended up being her caregiver for several years and his sister said he was a good one.

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  22. I don't have an immediate answer to your questions. I know that it's easy to say you'd do whatever your loved one wants, but whether you believe in what you say to make them happy is difficult to know as an outside to the relationship. Will think on this.

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    1. Not a hard question for me because there is no one left to die who could ask me for a death bed promise. LoL

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  23. That's a heavy question to process. I can see myself saying, but can I just ask you this one question.... Like you, so hard for me to wrap my head around it.

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  24. Guess we won't know until or unless it happens to us....

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  25. Jean, I'm very late getting to this. When I was diagnosed at age 50 with a cancer that had a lousy prognosis (20% five-year survival rate), I was forced to face my own mortality, and I was relieved to discover that I did not suddenly revert to religion in the face of a likely early death. Instead, I found my belief in a circle of life in which death is a natural part very comforting. It interested me that I, who did not belief in any kind of religious afterlife, seemed to fear death less that others I knew who did believe in an afterlife.

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    1. That is interesting,,,your fearing death less than believers in the afterlife. It makes sense though. You sure fooled them on that negative prognosis, didn't you.

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