Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Five Months...

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If you had asked me five months ago if I thought I would be able to make it to five months without losing it completely, I would have said 'not a chance'. Looking back over these last five months without Aaron, they are mostly a blur. That first few weeks, I didn't take any photos, I couldn't go to bed at a reasonable hour, I couldn't eat, I felt like I was walking around with no purpose. The only thing that got me out of bed in the morning was knowing I still needed to be a mom to Aaron Jr.
At times, I still feel this way. I still can't go to bed at a truly reasonable hour, I still have a hard time eating properly,
taking photos... I am going crazy more than ever with my camera (and that is hard to imagine). I still feel like I am walking around with no purpose... but not as often. Aaron Jr is still what gets me out of bed most mornings. He still needs me and over these last 5 months, I have learned that... I need him just as much or even more. He gets me through...
When I think back on all of the years Aaron and I crossed paths, but didn't properly meet, it seems so right that we were together in the end. It just all kind of worked out with Aaron, I didn't have to try to get him to like me or anything like that. And I didn't have to try hard to like him. It came very naturally. I didn't have to search long and hard for him. He was right in front of me for many years without me knowing the 'diamond in the rough' that was so close. The treasure that would eventually be mine.
Of course our marriage, like any other, was never easy. We had our moments of complete joy and our moments of difficulty and trial and all of the other stuff in between... but I believe that we are blessed after someone passes away to remember the moments of joy and the moments of contentment and try to avoid the others. You have the ability to see a person for what they truly are and the great things they have done in their life. I always knew that Aaron had an incredible heart and a great love for other people and a huge desire to serve... but since he passed away, I have learned even more of what made Aaron who he was / is. I have a greater love for him and a greater desire to be better. The lessons we learn from the lives of those around us are so valuable. It has amazed me the lessons that I have been taught from learning more and more about the life of my husband. What a huge blessing for me to have the knowledge that our marriage can be eternal.
Today, I took Aaron Jr and we went to the cemetery. They finally put down grass. It was cloudy and gray while I was there, but at one point as I was sitting there on the new grass, the sun peaked through the clouds and it shined down on me. I couldn't help but smile through my tears. I said a prayer of gratitude and I am so glad that we could be there today. I know that my Father in Heaven was very aware of my needs today.
Afterwards, we stopped by a place to look at headstones. I am trying to figure out what color of granite I want to use. There are so many factors that go through my mind as I try to make decisions about what will be on the headstone. There is so much to say and so much to tell about Aaron, but you can't sum it all up in that little space. It will be a double headstone. It will have both of our names on it, so it will be for both of us. It was very strange picking out a headstone for myself... but as I drove away, I couldn't help but ask these questions in my own mind, "How did I get to this place?" and "How is it that I am having to pick out a headstone for my 30 year old husband?"
It still seems so unreal. Will it ever feel real? I don't know.

Last year (or maybe it was the year before now that I think about it), Aaron's Dad got four little tree saplings in the mail as a gift for Arbor Day. They had started to wilt because they hadn't been planted, so Aaron's Dad was either going to throw them away or asked if Aaron wanted them. They looked pretty far gone, but Aaron agreed to take them and see how they did in our yard. Within the next day or so, Aaron planted all four trees in our flowers beds. He had just put in new soil and thought they would do better there than anywhere else.
They were all about 8 to 10 inches tall. Well, last summer, they thrived. They got taller and even got leaves on them. By the time Autumn came, they varied in size, but they had done great all summer.
Well, after Aaron passed away and once I put my house up for sale, I thought about all of the trees we had planted since we moved in there. Within the four years, we had planted approximately 25 trees not including the 4 saplings. I wanted so badly to be able to take all of the trees with me when the house sells, but it isn't possible. They have all done so well and are big and beautiful. Well, the 4 saplings came to my mind and I figured that they could be transplanted easier than any of the other trees. So, a couple of weeks ago, we went down with Aaron's parents and his brother and we got the trees. I thought it would be neat for the trees to go to various family members, so I gave a tree to each member of his family who owns their own home. They have all been replanted and I am praying that they all survive. Mine and Aaron Jr's tree is planted at my parent's house for now and we are loving having it here to take care of and look at. It is yet another piece of Aaron that we can have with us.

This post is getting long, but there is one more neat thing that happened this last week. My brother-in-law, John, got Sheila re-shoed last Friday. My sister, Lisa, went over to watch the horse get new shoes and afterward brought one of the old horseshoes to me as a keepsake. When I saw it, I was thrilled. I was so excited and I asked her if the other three were still there with the horse. She called John and he said that the shoer had taken them with him, but he called him for me and he said he would save them. So, a friend of mine, Joann, who lives closer to him went by and got them and brought them to me today. I was so grateful.
It was so thoughtful of my sister to get one for me. I am grateful she thought about me. I hadn't even thought about the fact that Sheila had the same shoes on that she had on when Aaron passed away. Now, we have these to keep. They were the last shoes Sheila would have been wearing when Aaron was here to ride her.
This week is Aaron's Dad's birthday and I am excited to give him one of the horseshoes as a reminder of Aaron. Hopefully he won't read this before I can get it up there to him. :)

I love you always, Menino...

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(thanks to Aaron's friend, Dan, for these shots of Aaron with Sheila taken in the Autumn of 2005)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sheila's New Home

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John and Aaron Jr riding Sheila.

It has been awhile. Aaron Jr and I went out of town, but we are back. I will post photos from our trip next time.
This time, I wanted to post the photos I took at Sheila's new home. Sheila is Aaron's horse. Her name is actually pronounced 'Shayla'. Aaron heard that name in Brazil while he was serving there and really liked it, so that is why he told me he wanted to name the horse Sheila. Anyhow, when Aaron passed away at the end of November, Sheila was living at Aaron's friend Brandon's house. After Aaron passed away, that is when I needed to figure out where Sheila should go and that is when I asked my brother in law, John, to take her. He and Aaron always talked about him getting a horse and them being able to go horseback riding together more often... so it made sense to me for John and his family to take Sheila. I also wanted Aaron Jr to be able to ride her, so it is perfect. I hope John and Lisa and their family know how grateful I am to them. It is a blessing that they agreed to take her and take on the huge responsibility of having a horse. I know Aaron is grateful as well.
Anyhow, a few weeks after Aaron passed away, Aaron's friend Dan and John went down to Brandon's house, picked up Sheila and brought her up to Dan's place. He also has horses and he agreed to let Sheila live there for the time being until John had another place ready for Sheila to go. The photos I posted a couple months ago of the horse were taken at Dan's place. Thank you Brandon and Dan for the help you have been. John's sister and her family have property in the next town over and they have a barn and a pasture where John wanted to put Sheila. So John went over and helped get a fence repaired so that he could move Sheila over there. A couple weeks ago, he was finally able to bring Sheila to her new home. So these photos are taken at John's sister's place and it is a beautiful place. She has space and a great shelter to get out of the weather. She seems happy there.
Thank you again John and Lisa. I am so grateful to you.

Aaron watching with anticipation for his next ride on the horse.

Aaron riding Sheila with um... one of John and Lisa's twins. I still can't tell them apart very well. Sorry twin. Hopefully your mom can help me out with this.

Top left: John's sister's little girl, Jane? with Caroline (John and Lisa's oldest) and John
Top right: Hannah and Elise (John and Lisa's twins) and John, Stella, and Aaron Jr.
Bottom left: John and Stella (John and Lisa's 4th daughter)
Bottom right: John's sister's little boy, Lewis? with Aaron Jr and John

Close ups of all of the kids riding in the photo above this one.
In the middle is Angus (John and Lisa's 5th child and only boy so far). He was sleeping most of the time in the car.

The left photo is a close up of the scar on Sheila's front leg. A few months after Aaron got Sheila, he was riding her and I think she got cut on a barbed wire fence. Whoever was riding with Aaron that day should let me know the details again since I am not remembering very clearly. Anyhow, for the next while, Aaron had to go and clean the wound, put this strange ointment on it and wrap it every single night. I went a couple of times with him and he took great care of her. He was worried about infection and I think he was successful to avoid any infection in her wound. He loved Sheila and I am positive that she loved him.
The next photo is of Aaron Jr's boot. I got these at a second hand store because he had grown out of his others and he was going to be a cowboy for Halloween again. So, I went hoping to find some, and these were there... for $3.00. It was a bargain. I got them home and hoped they were nice ones so that Aaron liked them. When he saw them, he said that if they were adult boots, he would wear them because he thought they were great ones. I felt proud.
The bottom photo is of Aaron's bridle and reins and bit. This bridle matches his saddle that I have here with me at my parent's house.

I wanted a photo of Aaron Jr on Sheila with his cowboy hat on. Well, he decided it was a game and he kept taking it off once John stepped away. So, I never got one of Sheila AND Aaron Jr alone with his hat on... but oh well.
It cracks me up that John is in shorts and cowboy boots. Aaron's mom tells us all the time about how Aaron would wear shorts and cowboy boots ALL the time when he was little. I will have to find a photo and post it.

I did get this one closer up without Sheila in the shot though.

Watching Sheila eat. He was fascinated.

Saying goodbye.

Aaron Jr is in this phase of blowing a kiss to most people when he says goodbye to them, so this is Sheila's kiss goodbye.

These next two photos were taken in September 2006. We were on our way home from a wedding and we stopped by to see Sheila.

This is the only time we took photos of me on Sheila.

This photo is the only photo we have of both of my Aarons with Sheila. It isn't a great photo since the sun was setting, but I am grateful to have at least this one. It is one of those things that makes you wish you had taken even more photos.

This photo was taken November 2004 soon after Aaron got Sheila. He is riding Sheila and I am riding his friend Justin's horse. I remember watching Aaron ride Sheila at full speed this particular day. It was my first time seeing Aaron do that and I have to say... I was AMAZED. I had never seen anyone ride a horse that fast in real life. I was in awe of him and his skills. I never rode a horse at full speed. I remember when Aaron and I were riding horses together in Moab once and he started running with his horse, so my horse ran as well and I was scared and thrilled at the same time. We weren't even going as fast as he was on this day. I loved watching him with horses, he loved them and knew so much about them. I still remember the first time I saw Sheila. I was so excited. I thought she was so beautiful. I have always loved dark brown horses. Ode is between us in this photo. I often wonder how Aaron's animals are feeling wondering why he has been absent from their lives for so long now. I really feel sorrow for them. I am sure they are missing him like we are. We miss him so much.

I am missing you, my cowboy...

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(thanks to Aaron's friend, Justin, for that last photo of Aaron and me on horses with Ode)

Friday, April 11, 2008

how 'WE' came to be...

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Someone named Jane, who leaves sweet comments on my blog asked me to tell how Aaron and I met. Well, this week has been nearly unbearable for me. I am missing him so much right now, so I felt like it would be a good time to write down (for the first time) the history of how 'WE' came to be... (it might get lengthy)

The first time Aaron and I were around each other was the first day of Junior High School. We both started 7th grade in August of 1989 at Bountiful Junior High School. We never really knew each other... we just knew OF each other. Those three years that we went to Junior High together, I don't remember even having one single class with Aaron. I remember him though. He was quite popular and had a lot of friends. From what I hear now from some of the girls that knew him then... he was the boy everyone liked.
I, on the other hand, was kind of shy unless I knew someone already. I didn't like Junior High and couldn't wait for it to be over. I really wasn't very social.
So, Junior High (9th grade) ended and Aaron lived in the boundaries for Bountiful High School and I lived in the boundaries for Viewmont High School. So, we still had no real chance of getting to know each other... but because we didn't know each other... we didn't realize then what we were missing out on.
Well, the summer between Junior High and High School, Aaron's family moved into our ward boundaries. They were now living only a few blocks from us, but because Aaron was already registered to go to Bountiful High School, we still went to different schools. So, even with Aaron living so close, we still didn't get to know each other. We had different friends altogether. I did get to know some of Aaron's family quite well though and I really liked them.
Well... 10th and 11th grade came and went. Then in the middle of our Senior year of high school, Aaron transferred over to Viewmont High School. So, there was yet another chance for us to get to know each other, but we still ran in different circles of friends and we still never had a class together. So, I really don't remember ever having a conversation with Aaron in all of those years. What I do remember about Aaron... is when he would drive past my house every day in his big Ford truck. Besides seeing him at school once in a while after he transferred, that is really all I ever saw of him through those years.

We graduated on the same day from the same school in the same graduation ceremony. But... we still didn't know each other.

Well... time went on and a few years after High School, in December of 1998, I left on a mission for my church. I served in England. My mission was to last 18 months and I was so excited, nervous, scared, happy... every emotion. My brother, Spencer, was serving a mission for our church in Italy. His mission was to last 2 years and he had already been gone 6 months when I left to go to England.

About 3 months after I left, I heard through letters that Aaron had decided to go and that he was going to be serving his mission in Brazil. I was so excited for him. A few months after that, I was reading something that Aaron had written about his mission in a newsletter from our ward. He sounded so happy, so I decided that I wanted to write him a letter (even though I didn't know him) and tell him how happy I was for him. So, I sent him a letter. I wasn't even positive that he would remember who I was... but he wrote back. And the rest is history. We wrote to each other for the rest of my mission and then the rest of his mission. These letters that I received from him were priceless to me before he passed away, but now that he is gone... I read them over and over and they are treasures. I was reading in them recently and there is one thing that caught my attention as I was reflecting on how long I had known OF Aaron, but didn't KNOW him. In one of these letters, he wrote:
"I know it hasn't been very long since I've written ya, but I've learned one thing important, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!' Well maybe that's a sorry excuse, the truth is I don't know why. I am sure that before we started writing each other, you thought I was weird. But now you know that I'm weird, and you don't have to just think that. Well anyways, I have been thinking about you alot lately... You have constantly been in my prayers and I feel like they are being heard. I know that God loves you greatly, it shows in the talents, blessings, and qualities that he has bestowed upon you, being a daughter of him. Leslie there is something special about you that catches peoples attention! It is the light of Christ... ...I know these things because I have felt it in your countenance. I personally don't know you very well, but I recognized through you, my Heavenly Father. I don't know, no I do know that I've never told you thank you for being who you are. I remember seeing you in High School and other places and I recognized the peace that you had in your life, and I desired the same peace. Few people have been able to affect me in such a strong sense, but it is by you and these few people that have helped me return to my Father, by recognizing his love."

Through these letters, Aaron had a way of making me feel very special. He definitely wrote kinder things than I deserve, but it is always nice to hear them. There is no question why I would have been so drawn to him. You can see why I treasure all of these letters. They are truly dear to me and I am so grateful that I have them.
In return, I thought the world of Aaron. He impressed me so much. He was inspiring to me and he had a heart of gold. He was one of the most genuine people I had ever known and I knew that there was something VERY special about him.

Continuing on... I got home from England in June of 2000. Aaron got home from Brazil in March of 2001. I was there to hear him speak about his mission and I was amazed by him. He called me later that day to see if we could get together sometime that week. I was more than excited. We did get together and then that weekend, he came with me and some friends down to St. George to go hiking / biking. We stayed in a motel... a room for the girls and a room for the boys. :)
Anyhow, this photo below is the first photo ever taken of Aaron and me together. These photos were taken on our hike in Snow Canyon near St. George.

Whenever I look at this photo, I want to return to the moment it was taken and turn around and give him a huge hug. Doesn't he look so cute? On this hike, he and I hung back behind the group and talked a lot... we were getting to know each other in person. It is one thing to get to know each other in letters, but it is another thing when you are getting to know each other in person. I really liked him.

A couple more photos from the hike and one that Sunday after church standing by the St. George Temple.

Well, this is where my heart breaks as I remember the events after the trip to St. George. After that trip, we 'dated' for about another month... I was really liking Aaron. I loved him as a friend for sure, but was a little nervous about moving on to the next step. I was scared. So, I told Aaron that I wanted to be friends for now. I know that is the most horrible thing to hear when you are dating someone. I just didn't know what I was doing. I wasn't that practiced in the whole dating scene. He told me that I broke his heart and I felt horrible. So, that started several months of not seeing each other or talking to each other. I can't even express the sadness I feel now that I missed out on those precious months with Aaron.
That summer of 2001, I moved in with some friends to a new apartment in Orem and was enjoying life. Well, in January of 2002, I learned that Aaron was living in the same apartment complex as me, but he was in a different building. I hadn't known for 4 or 5 months that we were only living about 100 yards from each other. That same month, I was out talking with a friend on the sidewalk by my building and a truck pulled up in front of us and here comes Aaron walking around the truck and comes up and gives me a big hug and says hello. It was so good to see him. We talked for a minute and then he left.
In February of 2002, I was talking to some friends that I knew that were also in Aaron's church ward and I asked them if they knew Aaron. They said that they knew of him and said that they don't see him around much. Well, I decided at that point that I wanted to see how Aaron was doing. So I called his parent's house and got his phone number from his dad and tried to call him. I left messages on his phone for almost a week. Well, I decided this one day that I was going to try one more time and if he didn't answer or call back, I was going to leave him alone.
Well, this time he answered. We talked for about an hour and it was such a great conversation. He asked if he could come see me the next day to ask my advice about something. So, he came over the next day. We talked for a little while, but he never asked me advice... I hope it was just an excuse to come over. My birthday was that weekend and my roommates and I were planning a party, so I invited him to come...
He came. I was happy to see him. He waited until the party was almost over before coming and I was glad. I got more time to talk to him and it felt so easy and natural.
While he sat there, he wrote me a birthday card and what he wrote touched my heart and I knew that I wanted to date him again.

This is at the party. That is a piece of wood that he thought looked like a piece of pie, so he is pretending to eat it. :) ???

We went out a several times in that next few weeks and then Aaron left to go back and visit Brazil. I missed him... a lot. When he got back, we continued dating and he invited me to go on a trip to Lake Powell with him and some friends. I had never been to Lake Powell, so I was so excited. I went with him and here are our first photos together once we began dating again. They are in Lake Powell...
These are all scanned in, so some of them are not quite clear.

This was the night we were heading home. We were loading the boat. Aaron bought this boat right after we started dating again. It was his dream come true. He loved this boat.

Here in Lake Powell is where we told each other that we love each other for the first time. It was the greatest feeling in the whole world. I didn't even need to hear it to know it though. The way Aaron had been treating me and serving me in those first couple of months... I knew he loved me. But it was wonderful to hear it.
It was only about a week after we got home from Lake Powell that we secretly got engaged.

And that is where I will leave the story for now...

I will say, though, now that Aaron is gone... those months between the times we were dating are precious months that I missed out on in Aaron's life. I was sad about those months before Aaron ever passed away, but now... it is heart wrenching. I want those months back... I want every moment back. I don't know what inspired me to write Aaron a letter while we were on our missions... but I cannot express how grateful I am that I did write to him... and that he wrote back. What a blessing.
I am blessed to have Aaron as my husband. I am so grateful. As I read his letters and his journals and hear more memories from other people... I learn more and more about Aaron than I already knew. I have to say... I am falling in love with Aaron more and more every day. I love him now more than I ever have. Even though he is not here with me physically, my love for him continues to grow every moment of every day. I realize more each day how blessed I am that we chose each other. I never realized what it truly meant when people talked about 'their other half'... until 'my other half' was gone. I do feel like half of me is missing. It is hard to describe the feeling, but it is real and painful. Oh, how I miss him. I can't wait until we are whole again.

I love and miss you so much Aaron...

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Saturday, April 5, 2008


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Well, it is really late and I am getting ready to go to bed. Tonight, I felt like I was in a movie. You know the movies where there is a girl who is lonely or feeling sad about something, so she goes out and rents a movie (or three) and gets Chinese take out? Well... I was that girl tonight. Luckily, I had Aaron Jr. to dine with me and to fall asleep while watching the movies with me. He was great company. As I carried Aaron Jr. AND the Chinese take out from the restaurant, the thought went through my head about how cliche this all felt.
As I finished the second movie, I was getting ready to go to bed, but wanted to look at my blog one more time so I could see some photos of Aaron. Well, needless to say, I didn't get to bed very early because the flood of emotions were back all at once. As I looked through the photos, I couldn't help but feel like something was just so wrong. I have talked before about how this doesn't feel real yet... but lately, it doesn't just feel unreal... it feels like there is just something completely wrong about the whole situation. Things just don't feel right anymore. Life is scary without Aaron. When I try to think about my future, it is hard to imagine living it without Aaron. I know that I am living it right now and it is going on, but I still feel so numb to the reality of everything. As time goes on, Aaron's absence is becoming more and more noticeable in just the everyday things. So far, I have been able to convince myself throughout the day that Aaron is just at work and as the evening approaches, Aaron Jr and I will head home to meet him there for dinner after his long hard day. Each time Aaron Jr says a new word or phrase or does something so sweet or so cute... I think about calling Aaron to tell him about it. When I think about the little things that I am missing out on because he is not here, I feel like the wind is being knocked out of me over and over again. Just the normal conversations between husband and wife... I will watch couples talking about normal everyday things and I will remember conversations like that with Aaron and I will have a strong desire to go back to that point in time and cherish the insignificant conversation. Something as insignificant as him asking me if I know where something is... or asking me if I can bring him a drink of water... or him telling me something that happened at work that day. I took these exchanges for granted.
I want to walk into the bedroom and see his pile of clothes that he wore the day before sitting on the floor next to the bed. I never minded having to pick them up and put them in the hamper that was only a few feet away.
I want to walk into the kitchen after he has made himself something to eat and see almost every single pot and pan dirty on the stove because he has used them all.
I want to see his dirty socks on the counter because he didn't want to get my clean floor dirty by walking through the kitchen wearing them.
I want to put my hands into the pockets of his jeans to make sure they are empty before washing them and feel a hand full of sawdust in the bottom of the pocket. It always got stuck in my fingernails, but I have to smile about it now.
I want to go to clean his bathroom sink and look down and find his whiskers all over in the sink and on the counter... probably from days before.
I want him to be snoring next to me in bed... or tossing and turning because he can't find a comfortable position.
I want him to hold me while we fall asleep tonight.
I want to be watching TV with him and see something amusing and look at him to see if he found it as amusing as I did.
I want to say something that I think is so clever and ask him if he thought it was clever. When he DID laugh at my jokes, I always felt a sense of accomplishment.
I want to use the baseball mitts that he bought for all of us for Christmas, but that we never used together.
I want to watch him wakeboard just one more time.
I want to go horseback riding with him just one more time.
I want to hold his hand just one more time.
I want to study his face and memorize everything all over again.
I want one more kiss and one more hug.
One more moment.
One more 'I love you'.

I guess I am having a difficult night... it feels so good to cry though. I try to sugarcoat my feelings sometimes for the benefit of others, but tonight... I just couldn't. I am having a hard time.

They didn't give me any fortune cookies tonight with my dinner, but I have some sitting right here on the desk that I got a week or so ago when I ate dinner with John and Tawnie (my brother and sister in law).
One says 'Your sense of humor allows you to glide through difficult times.'
The other one says 'He who has hope, has everything.' -Confucious
I do have hope. I have hope that I WILL get to have all of these experiences that I am missing out on... with Aaron. I have hope in Jesus Christ. He is my rock in all of this and I am grateful for Him.

Well, on a lighter note, I guess I will post a few photos from the last couple of weeks...

This is the last day we were in Oregon visiting Spencer, Kristi, Spencer, Luke, and Benjamin.

At the park with my sister Lisa and her kids: Caroline, Hannah, Elise, Stella, and Angus.

Aaron Jr. before haircut...

Aaron Jr. after haircut...

Bowling and Pizza for Aaron's mom, Sue's birthday.
Steve, Sue, Steve, Christa, Malia, Isaac, Nick, Sadie, Grace, Pearl, Sophia, Me (Leslie), and Aaron Jr.
Happy Birthday, Sue!

I felt out of place when I put this together and I didn't have my partner... so I threw in a photo of Aaron above me. That was taken about a week and a half before he passed away. It was our last date out together.

Aaron Jr.'s first time bowling... the kids all had a blast.

He threw this one... if you look close, you can see that it is bouncing. :)

One more 'CHEESE'. He has to do this several times a day for me. He is pretty cooperative most of the time. :)

I love you, Aaron...

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