In Memoriam: Brandi Nicole Stanley “Celtic Lassie” 1988 – 2015 “I will NOT go without a fight.”

Her name was Brandi Nicole Stanley.

Brandi Stanley

Brandi Stanley

I am her father. Please remember her.

Brandi lost her battle with cancer the evening of Memorial Day, last Monday. I was with her, holding her hand, as I had promised.

Brandi, the Celtic Lassie, was a survivor of childhood cancer. She was not supposed to have survived then, but her indomitable fighting spirit and stubbornness prevailed. As her older brother said, “She was too damn stubborn to die.”

This time, it sneaked up on her with no warning. She fell in her bedroom the morning of April 29, just one month ago. She thought she might have broken something, so we went to the emergency room at our small local hospital for x-rays. The doctor transferred her immediately to the Medical Center associated with the medical school. Cancer was discovered, diagnosed as Undifferentiated Adenocarcinoma, advanced Stage IV.

She had been asymptomatic up until her fall. The bones of her pelvis were invaded and eroded by the advancing tumor, weakening it and causing it to fracture spontaneously. The fall did not cause the fracture. The damaged bone simply split. She described the sensation as, “My leg just went away.”

Undifferentiated Adenocarcinoma is one of the most rapidly growing of all cancers. A disease that is not very responsive to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Surgery was out of the question because it had metastasized to multiple organs.

Her brother and I had to tell her. As an EMS student, she knew what the diagnosis meant. She simply asked the oncologist how much time she had. Then she cried.

This young woman, so full of life and laughter, was handed a death sentence at 26.

As a survivor of childhood cancer, she knew the value of life. She, and we, tried to cram as many adventures into her life as possible. She was a musician, a horsewoman, correctional officer, adventurer, student pilot, crack shot with rifle and pistol, animal lover, and loved to travel. She also grew orchids. She hoped one day to be able to see a Ghost Orchid, but never got the chance. She had been a student of Wing Chun Kung Fu, and planned to enroll in Krav Maga classes this summer.

She also loved cooking, especially Cajun or Tex-Mex style. Fellow blogger Joy of Fishes was impressed by her collection of spices, writing about them in a diary on Daily Kos.

She left law enforcement and corrections for health care. Last year she enrolled in the EMT/Paramedic program at a local college. Truly, a critter person, no matter if the critter had two or four legs. We often said she ‘picked up strays’. The poor, sick, unfortunate and handicapped had a friend and advocate in Brandi.

She is one of the few people I have ever known who tried as hard as she could to live by the Golden Rule.  She lived by the The Three Sieves as best she could. Before speaking, she had learned to ask herself, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?”

Her older brother wrote a message and posted it on his message boards. What he wrote is blockquoted below.

My younger sister, Brandi, passed away [the evening of Memorial Day, May 25, 2015] after an all-too-brief struggle with cancer. She was just 26 years old.

She had cancer as a baby, and kicked it’s ass, but it waited 26 years and sneaked up on her again while she was busy planning her life.

Brandi was a VERY southern girl, with an accent you could cut with a butter knife. She loved trucks, guns, sports, games, motorcycles, airplanes, horses, and a profoundly ugly Pug named Percy.

She collected strays…people, animals, whatever needed fixing or a home. She took care of everyone around her. She wanted to be a mother, but never had the chance to marry and have kids.

She loved the mountains, Roan Mountain in particular, and was very proud of her Scottish heritage. She learned to play the bagpipes. She loved the Highland Games and men in kilts. She definitely had a Scottish temper.

She did not suffer fools or mean people lightly, but she laughed easily and loved to have fun. She shared anything she had with everyone around her.

She had just completed EMS training and was looking forward to working as a paramedic. She loved the ambulance crews, the excitement and loved helping people. She had finally found her niche.

Brandi’s passing has left a hole in all of us that you could drive a truck through.

We already miss her terribly. This just does not seem real.

In accordance with her wishes, we will be having a wake to celebrate her life; to remember her as a whole vibrant human being, rather than a funeral. She despised funerals, having attended far too many of them in her life.

The family respectfully requests that anyone who would like to send flowers, gifts or arrangements, please, instead, send a contribution in remembrance of her (Brandi Nicole Stanley) to Blair Batson Children’s Hospital, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in Jackson, Mississippi.

They saved her life when she was less than two years old, and gave us the 24 extra years we were able to spend with her.

Blair Batson Children’s Hospital will always be very special to our family.

Thank you ALL for your kind words of love, support and condolence.

We thank you all very much, and we are very grateful to have such a wonderful circle of friends and family.

Much love and respect from all of us, to all of you.

– All the Stanleys, Ryans, McCulloughs, Clan Skene, and our extended family

Late Friday afternoon, we finalized plans for a Wake. It will be held Thursday evening, June 4, at the Episcopal Church she attended. She loved to go to church. Not for the sermons, but to help with the little kids in the nursery so their parents could attend services.

This 26-year-old young woman knew she was dying. She refused to give up right until the end. She told us she was not going to go quietly, because that would mean she was a quitter.

Joy of Fishes flew down to help me with her in her last days.

Brandi started talking about what she wanted and didn’t want. She said she hated funerals, and did not want a funeral. She wanted her friends and family to get together and remember her.

She asked for me to tell about her life. She wanted others to tell about her as well.  After a moment, she said she wanted her laptop so she could show us a music video that said what she herself wanted to say. This is what she pulled up on the laptop:

Later, on the evening of May 22, Brandi began to speak. Her words were a mixture of poetry and prayer. A soliloquy.  I was brushing her hair, smoothing it out on the pillow. Alternately holding her hand and running my fingers through her long hair.

Speaking was hard for her. The monster had already caused her to have problems with speech and word finding. Yet, she struggled to get the words out. As she spoke, Joy of Fishes picked up her notebook and began to write down the words Brandi spoke. Here is what she said:

First soliloquy:

Everyone needs family
Everyone needs a hug
Everyone needs something
No body should die alone
Everyone needs someone to catch them

[CS – Do you feel alone?]

Not any more.
I am not going alone, and that’s the truth.
My time is not done yet.
I got more to give.

[CS – You have given an awful lot, more than you know.]

Not enough.
I go the distance.
I am not a quitter.
I am not a quitter.
I will walk again where ever it is.

Brandi's Holding Cross

Brandi’s Holding Cross

[A friend had given her a Holding Cross that she had held while she underwent chemotherapy.

Holding Cross grasped in her left fist, Brandi’s left arm shot straight up.
Drawing on reserves from somewhere deep inside, she began speaking with a strong clear voice]

To the women of the world
Try the best
I love you mom
Put your arms around your perfect girl and boy
Love them
Tell them how perfect they are
One day you might not have them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Second soliloquy –

Very early in the morning on May 23 transcribed verbatim by Joy of Fishes:

I promise god, I swear to you

[Speaking to me]

I found my life between you and mama I swore that I would not go down without helping you and her succeed. Anything you need is done anything you need yours

I made a vow while I was under that I would keep you safe and I meant it by god I mean it no more asking no more doing no more … I should be able to do this I am 25 26 years old you need something I am at your doorstep quickly. Dad I need you in my life. Its my turn to give back more to you. The airy* place what he gets he wants

How do I …. oh god you know what I mean daddy you know exactly what… just please just know know get some more heat please

I want a … because its my turn, my dad’s turn dad live for this long enough time for him to find a vacation home nice vacation just go just be family all together just family that’s all I want is family OK why is it hurting so bad why is it hurting so bad oh my god oh oh oh please everybody just give me her me please just help my I’m not ready to die its not my time its not my place its not I’m not ready please if i screw up send me some kind of truth that I’ve screwed up I just need to know that my dad is next to me. my mom is already in heaven with his little satchel so many I want to save my dad my brother his wife his baby and baby girl on the way I want to be there for her life I want to see her I want to see jack get 3 years old

take my sins give me another chance I know that in need to do to change I just gotta do it you just gotta put my hear through it please Jesus please I need it now more than ever please dear lord as long as I get pains off I’ll do what it take dear lord please just take this please just don’t take me yet I’m not ready I’m not ready I’m not ready to go I several different people just please I want

please Jesus it anything show me that there is something that is there I wonderful good for my father I help him as much as I can around the house maybe not as good as i could be computer games go down slow give a woman a chance to prove herself to prove herself please and forever now Amen please and forever.

oh god please help oh please help

oh what’s going on

please god

how many times to you get how many times do you get

I want me to have a son and family too I want to have a happy family too I want to live and I want to have my place in the world I want to have someone to call me mama as they come in the door and I’d love to have die shouldn’t be tonight shouldn’t be today  I think I am beautiful. If I start hating down on myself will it help

I’m ready I’m tired of fighting but I want to see my family in this lifetime I want to see my family I want to be grandmother this all my mother told me she told me if you ever have kids remember your parents

i just want to live until i just want to live just want to live i just want to live i just want to live i just want to live

puppy 5-13-2015 Her Pipes and drum have gone silent.

Brandi's pipes, bodhran and Holding Cross

Brandi’s pipes, bodhran and Holding Cross

* She was having trouble with words. We believe she was trying to say “airstrip place.” We had been looking for a place in the country with room for a grass airstrip and horses, and that is what she meant.

About Chuck Stanley

Dr. Charlton (Chuck) Stanley is a board certified forensic psychologist, with interests in aviation psychology, peace officer selection and training, ethics and communication skills.
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49 Responses to In Memoriam: Brandi Nicole Stanley “Celtic Lassie” 1988 – 2015 “I will NOT go without a fight.”

  1. I. Annie says:

    My deepest condolences Chuck. It’s unfathomable why she would be taken so young. Senseless, unfair, heartbreaking, that such a fine young woman couldn’t reach her full potential in this life.

  2. po says:

    So sorry fro your loss, Chuck.
    Thank you for sharing the life and memory of your Brandi with us. You have mentioned her quite often, and through that, I got a glimpse of your pride in her, and your love for her. She, obviously, was a lovely daughter, a lovely person, and she, obviously, was a beloved daughter, a loved sister.
    May she rest in peace, and may she be blessed with light to transcend realms, to be present in your lives as if she never left, to be part of the lives of the stray and the needy, as if she never left.
    May you be given the strength to bear through this, and to turn it into greater purpose in your lives and the lives of others.

  3. rafflaw says:

    Wow. Chuck, it breaks my heart that Brandi and you and your family had to go through this ordeal. She is in a better place and is no longer in pain. She and your family are in my prayers and my thoughts. Take care Chuck and let me know if I can help in any way. She is with the Angels.

  4. Mike Spindell says:

    This site came about as a cooperative of like minded people who had connected through the years at Res Ipsa Loquitar. Some have met with others, some have a relationship and I have come to know and cherish their friendships via E mail, with the exception of some random phone calls through the years. I can’t speak for the rest of the gang here, but to me Chuck Stanley has paid a somewhat parental role, though he’s not that much older than me. He is a man of depth, learning, wisdom, kindness and most of all a good heart. I highly respect and admire him. There was a time at RIL where I was feeling lost and confused. A phone conversation with Chuck set me straight with good advice and a comforting voice at the other end of the line.

    When Chuck’s beloved wife Letha died we exchanged thoughts via E mail and I tried to comfort him as best as I could. However, from my own experiences of death with people I’ve loved, I know that words can never bring comfort, it only helps people mourning to known that you care about the pain that is inevitable from such a loss.

    Chuck shared with us the unbelievably sad news of Brandi’s diagnosis early on and it was my misfortune to have never met Brandi, nor corresponded with her, but this horrific news brought me to tears. I am a father of daughters and for me ,my children and my grandchildren have given purpose and meaning to my life. Through the years as Chuck wrote of Brandi’s life and latest adventures, I could sense the pride that this extraordinary man had in his beloved daughter and even get a glimmer of how extraordinary a young women she was.

    You see above her accomplishments, which given her young age bespeak a life well-led with curiosity, courage and a strong, strong will. The transcription of some of Brandi’s last words by Joy of Fishes showed a courageous person struggling with the inevitability of her death. She did not go gently into the night, she left this life with the same courage that she displayed throughout it. Twenty-six years is the wink of an eye, but how many of us can see we lived our to our twenty sixth years with as much joy, decency and goodness as this lovely Celtic Lassie?

    To the end she was surrounded by her beloved father, performing a service of love that must have torn at his heart and yet is repetitive of the best of parents throughout humanity’s history, For her big brother and all the Stanley’s, Ryan’s, McCullough’s, Clan Skene, and their extended family, including Joy of Fishes who stayed with her too through the end, I send heartfelt wishes of sadness at their unthinkable loss. I’m unable to attend the wake, but on June Fourth, as the sun sets I will raise a dram of my best scotch, play Wild Horses and study the pictures of this darling young women and from afar add my tears over the loss of one who so exemplified the good of humanity. She will be remembered in many hearts for the person she was

    We Jews count our blessings with the skepticism of a people who know how bittersweet life is. The Hebrew word Dayainu means “it will be sufficient.” Brandi’s bitter departure and brevity of life left many a future thread unfinished, but to her many accomplishments in so short a time, I say dayainu: That doesn’t negate the fact that Brandi will be sorely missed by so many.

  5. Slartibartfast says:


    It’s heartbreaking to see someone who embraced life so passionately torn from it so quickly. My thoughts are with you and your family as you celebrate her life and grieve for her loss. Though I only know her through your words, she was clearly someone who lived her life to the fullest and shared that exuberance with everyone she met. We should all be so lucky as Brandi to remain true to ourselves until the end.

  6. A Friend says:

    I’m so sorry for your very great loss. May its weight lessen with time but your love for her never be lost.

  7. James Knauer says:

    An absolutely beautiful tribute, Chuck. Your love for The Lassie shines brighter than a million suns.

    We will remember.

  8. bettykath says:

    The loss of Brandi is heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  9. G.Mason says:

    I am very sorry for your loss. Take comfort that she is looking down on you. Do not waste her wishes for you by letting life make you bitter. May you find peace.God bless.

    Best wishes,
    G.Mason (poster at Jonathan Turleys site)

  10. Juliet Neary says:

    Oh, dearling, there are no words. I’m so very sorry for your loss. It sounds like it was a great gift you had in her.

  11. KT says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, Chuck.

    I have followed your posts on another blog, and I am a member of a listserv of board certified individuals to which you often contribute. I do not typically post comments to the blog or the listserv. I prefer to read and learn from the wisdom of others, and I always find your comments to be helpful, thoughtful, and enlightened. Although I have never met you personally, I admire and respect you greatly, and I am truly sorry the loss of your daughter and the other losses you have endured. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  12. gbk says:


    So very sorry. Words fail many times, but most especially now. I wish you well.

  13. G. Mason,
    I am not bitter. Bailing out on the other site is more like lancing a boil. Relief.

    Thanks. You know how to get in touch with me backchannel. Anytime you want to talk. I haven’t decided on posting to the list. The servers do not allow embedded links, so would simply have to tell them what to copy and how to do a search.

    To all,
    There are two stories (diaries) on Daily Kos. Lot of photos, and the admins let me post her rant on her own Daily Kos personal page. Ordinarily, posting on someone else’s account will get you banned, but told the admins I had her password, and would like to post her own words under her own name. They thought it was a good idea, so got the green light from the admins. They waited until I got it posted before changing her mojo icon to a headstone with infinite mojo. Comments are still open.

    It was gratifying that her own diary hit the Recommended list within seconds of being posted, and is still up. 540 Recommends and counting.

  14. Many people have encouraged me to write a book about her. I have made several false starts. It will be a strange kind of book. More like a series of anecdotes than the usual biography. She could be serious and hysterically funny at the same time.

    As for picking up strays and trying to fix them. That is a five week old puppy she is nuzzling in the picture. Her best friend brought it over from a litter her dog had. Brandi had less than a week to live, yet begged me to let her keep the puppy.

    We thought she would end up, either as a clone of Mother Teresa, or the little old lady whose house had to be burned down by the fire department.

  15. G.Mason says:

    I am sorry, as I was not referring to bitterness of the site but rather at life itself, as losing those around you can have such an effect. Live life to the fullest as that is what she wanted for you

  16. Chuck,

    Anyone should be considered fortunate upon their passing to receive a tribute so eloquent and full of love. It is a mark of a life well lived regardless of brevity to have created such a lasting and deep impression. Although I never had the privilege of meeting Brandi in person, I know I shall never forget her or her stories that you’ve shared over the years. They showed a young woman of great strength, tremendous compassion and stoic determination.

    With thoughts of love and peace, my sincerest condolences to you, Mark and the rest of the family.


  17. My best to you and yours in this time of loss Chuck. May it pass with the best memories of your daughter and the most hope for the future that you can see. Honor to your loved one, strength to you.

  18. My condolences; her last words were haunting and beautiful.

  19. G. Mason,
    English is an interesting language, with many ways to read meanings into things that are not meant. I did misunderstand your intent and see the wrong path my preoccupations took me. No, I am not bitter in the sense of your concern. On the contrary, it is not my nature to be bitter or sour.

    I tried to make her life as full of kindness as I could. She was a good learner. If you read her last soliloquy, you can easily see how badly she wanted me to be happy. It is unthinkable that I would do anything to displease her, even in death. We, along with my son, have been looking for a piece of property with enough acreage for an airstrip and a larger workshop. That is the meaning of the “airstrip” plea for me near the beginning of that second rant.

    One evening, just a few weeks ago, I called her over to my desk. Told her we had found a place, and the realtor had posted a video of the airstrip. Said I wanted to know if she liked this one. She leaned over my shoulder as I showed her this video:

    Her reaction as the plane got lower and approached the airstrip:
    “Just no.”
    “Are you serious?”
    “Um, not no, but HELL NO.”

    I had to tell her I was teasing.

  20. Brandi stepped into my heart the day I met her. She was a bright light, and the world is a better place for her having been here. {{{Chuck and family}}}

  21. Pogo,
    I am sure you know what it meant when the biopsy came back with the lab report saying “Undifferentiated Adenocarcinoma.” I had already seen the CT and my worst fears were confirmed. Strange that she was totally asymptomatic until that spontaneous fracture of the pelvis. FX line went from the acetabulum laterally to the midline.

    That kind of fracture in a young healthy person is never seen except as a high velocity impact injury, so I knew it was going to be bad even before we got the report from pathology.

  22. swarthmoremom says:

    Sounds likes she was a young woman that we would all like to have in our lives. My condolences…..

  23. mespo727272 says:

    Heartbreaking as rafflaw says, Chuck. You have the memory of a too short life exceptionally well-lived and the serene devotion that comes from true understanding of the glory and passion of the person lost. She will be remembered but not just for the eloquent way she wrote but for the eloquent way she lived — all in service to others. In a thousand ways, you will see her, hear her, and know she is there.

    Mary Elizabeth Frye had the idea:

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there; I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow,
    I am the diamond glints on snow,
    I am the sun on ripened grain,
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not there; I did not die.

    Ave atque vale!

  24. bettykath says:

    Chuck, You’ve shared many stories of Brandi but what makes me sorry I didn’t meet her is the picture of her with the glider. Women (and men) who fly gliders are a special sort, special in the very best sense.

  25. blouise says:


    She fought hard, she fought well.. She brought joy and renewal to Letha and shared all your passions with you. You never left her side during these final weeks and she went West on the sturdy cloud of your love. Look to the Mountains my very good man.

  26. Bob Kauten says:

    So sorry, Chuck. Thank you for sharing her with us.
    I’m glad you were there for her at the end.

  27. bron98 says:

    Dr. Stanley:

    My prayers to you and your family.

  28. Prairie Rose says:

    From your description, she did not go gentle into that good night, living brightly all along until the end as her spirit called her to do. She sounds like one of those people that a thousand years of knowing her would not have been enough.

    My heartfelt condolences to you, Dr. Stanley and your family. I am so sorry for your loss.

  29. RcCarol says:

    My deepest condolences. She sounds like a person I wish I had known.

  30. Elaine M. says:

    Brandi said that she wanted to have her place in the world. I believe she did. It sounds as if she touched a lot of lives. Although I never met her, I came to know her through the stories that her loving and proud father told us about her. I only wish I had had the opportunity to meet her. It’s sounds as if she was an extraordinary young woman.

    Chuck, you have my deepest sympathy. I can’t imagine anything worse than losing child. My heart breaks for you and your family.

  31. Aridog says:

    Chuck…I’ve “spoken to myself” in your words elsewhere, but needed to say the same thing here:
    I cannot fathom how the loss of a daughter would impact me. I have only one child and she’s my one good thing I have contributed to this earth. I wish you nothing but the best in the future, wherever it takes you. Your comments were always valuable and I am very sorry you’ve reached this point, but I think I understand it. Were it me, I’m not sure I could continue at all. Take care.
    I’ve also honored your son’s request in memoriam.

  32. Aridog,
    Thank you so much. The Children’s Cancer Clinic at the University of Mississippi Medical Center gave us two and a half decades with her we would not have had otherwise.

    Here is one of my favorite pictures of her:

  33. pete says:

    Chuck, I had to look up Roan Mountain and ghost orchids. I can see why she loved the mountain and wanted to see the orchid. My condolences to you and you family, I can’t imagine what you are going through.
    Brandi Nicole Stanley will be remembered.

  34. dickeyae says:

    I am so very, very sorry.

  35. dickeyae says:

  36. Aridog says:

    Chuck Stanley … your post of photographs of Nicole’s life, on Daily Kos, as “Otteray Scribe”, is an outstanding tribute, where, yes, images speak louder than any words. At least to me. A superb tribute to someone you plainly loved as life itself, perhaps more. I recommend anyone who has not read and seen it, to do so now.

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  38. travelforaircraft says:

    Reblogged this on Travel for Aircraft and commented:
    Brandi Nicole Stanley exhibited bravery in the face of long odds for a long time with grace and verve. This is one of the best pieces of writing to be seen in quite a long time, as well.

  39. dlberek says:

    So sorry to hear about your painful loss, Chuck. From her portrayal in this space, I can see she was a beautiful person, full of positive energy. She will be a part of our memories!

  40. Aridog says:

    Chuck Stanley … I’ve noted Brandi’s date of demise and I will not forget. It serves to remind me how much I have to be grateful for in this crazy world. You do appear to have provided her with every experience she desired and she discovered others all on her own. A Stearman II from the year of my birth. Awesome. I am sorry to be so sanguine, however, with only one daughter I cannot help it, I can “feel” it…my child, my all. I hope peace displaces pain in your life sooner than later.

  41. Lancerlady says:

    I am just at a loss after reading her prayers to want to continue fighting..what a fighter she was…she must have gotten that from her daddy. As I sit here in tears thinking of how much you must be hurting I know she is not anymore. I am so sorry…xxoo

  42. Aridog says:

    I believe Brandi Nicole lives on, due to the beautiful posts by Charlton on this and the D-Kos sites. And, please, I am not being “religious” just honoring a memory well preserved.

  43. Thanks everyone for the kind and supportive words. This past month has been the worst single month of my life. One of the last things she asked was that she be remembered. When her mom was doing genealogy research in old cemeteries, she would wander around and wonder about people long gone. She talked about how sad it was that they had no one to remember them. I recall her expressing those feelings when she was as young as nine or ten years old.

    I want to create something from those powerful, lyrical words of hers that lives on long after all of us are gone.

  44. Dear Chuck,
    I am sorry to see this about your daughter. I know that it is painful for you. I have had to let my parents go. It was hard for me to it. As I have mentioned, my father went to heaven in 1985. My mother left this life December 18,2006. I remember that day so well. I had a meeting with the doctors and I told them I would only agree to remove my mother from life support if they would give her a slot of morphium and not let her wake up. My mother was in a death pose. Her head was back and her mouth was opened. My wife was there with me. I told mama how much I loved her. Sudddenly, without using her mouth or vocal chords, she spoke to me and said: I love you, son.”
    Her voice was so far away; however, it was clear. I feel his eternal spirit was speaking to me. Every Christmas I do not feel the joy I once did. I miss them terribly. I have no children, and Nancy and I just have each other. Nancy was a professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. Without my Nance, I just do not think I could make it. If you do not mind, I will pray for your family.

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