Episodes

  • This week Sasha and Venetia sat down to record a podcast without the addition of any guests, to discuss their own grief as well a variety of other important matters that have been brought up in the Grief Encounters community online. 

    In the episode, they both discuss the recent anniversaries that have taken place for them, and what way the podcast has affected their own approach to these days. In the wake of some tragic and high-profile celebrity deaths in recent weeks, they also look at how we grieve for those we don’t know, and how a public death can often conjure up sad emotions relating to a loved one who has died.

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  • This weeks guest is The Sunday Times’ writer Laura Kennedy, a leading voice in grief conversation here in Ireland over the past five years. Laura’s work has done a huge amount in distilling a more modern approach to how we discuss the people we have lost in our lives, as well as the grief that comes with doing so. She spoke to Sasha about her beautiful mother Emma, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2015. 

    In the interview she spoke in detail about her mother’s illness and trying to navigate her own emotions, knowing that her mother’s illness was progressively worsening. 

    “I have always been very interested in emotions and have gone on to study those, and done a PHD in Philosophy relating to emotions because I found them interesting. And because my mother was always so strident about controlling them -that they are relevant, but they are not always true. So it seemed not particularly relevant. Her need was evidently greater. “

    Laura’s grief has developed, particularly in recent years, and she now finds herself in a better place when thinking back about Emma. 

    “I don’t feel the rawness of emotion that I felt then, and I think it would be deeply concerning if I did. I do feel the depths of emotion, but obviously I have learned to recognise it better, and cope with it better. And now also treat my responses with a bit of understanding and kindness, because you can feel like an idiot getting upset in the supermarket because of a song that came on. But you are a person. You’re not impervious and of course memory and emotion will affect you. And it’s not nice, but in a way its endearing, that even after 5 years, even a couple of lines from a song can bring her back in that moment” 

    After hearing this chat, we think listeners will agree that how Laura speaks and describes her own grief is equally as beautiful as her writing on the matter.

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  • This week’s guest is a mother from Manchester who’s life was turned completely upside down, on the night of May 22nd 2017. Figen Murray’s son Martyn Hett was one of 22 innocent concert-goers killed at a suicide bombing that devastated Manchester and beyond, as Salman Abedi, detonated an explosive device in the foyer of The Manchester Arena. 

    Speaking to Sasha, she described the night of the terrorist attack, as they excruciatingly awaited some positive news, as information trickled into their family home. Figen’s maternal instincts sadly proved to be true in this case. 

    “He’s dead. I just know, because it is like somebody has just taken this giant pair of scissors and cut off any presence of him. It feels like he’s suddenly gone, it doesn’t even feel like he is on the planet any more ”  She continued, ”call it mum’s intuition or something, but I just absolutely knew that there was suddenly no sense of him whatsoever. It was quite weird” 

    It’s clear that Martyn had something extraordinarily unique about his personality and character. The 29-year-old was a self-professed superfan of Coronation Street and had garnered many connections with the thousands of followers subscribed to his social media channels. Although thinking back about memories of her beautiful son sparks a certain level of pain, Figen still delights in telling Sasha about just how loved he was. 

    “ A lot of his friends were moaning that they had to make an appointment with him to even spend time with him, he was so popular. He lived life a hundred miles an hour really, and I don’t know where he got the energy from”.

    On the podcast, Sasha and Venetia have spoken a lot about taking action in grief, and how a devastating loss can often spur a loved one on, to channel their energy into something new. This is no different for Figen, who at the age of 59 has begun a Masters Degree in Counter-Terrorism, in a bid to try and understand why and how an act like this is possible. 

    Unlike the majority of death’s that have been discussed on the podcast, there was someone accountable for Martyn’s death, which makes the grieving process much more complicated. Remarkably, Figen has acknowledged in the past that she forgives her sons attacker, something requiring a huge amount of empathy and emotional intelligence. Through her Masters and advocacy work, she is determined now to focus her efforts into preventing radicalisation from an early age, which she believes is the root preventing terrorism claiming more lives.

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  • This week’s guest is the New Zealand rugby journalist, charity worker and children's book author Brent Pope, who joined Sasha and Venetia to speak about minding your mental health after the loss of a loved one. 

    There is a huge symbiosis between grief and mental health, and in recent years Brent has done stellar work in speaking about his struggles with depression and anxiety. Last April, Brent's father sadly passed away after battling Parkinson’s Disease at home in New Zeland. Brent delivers a beautiful account of his father’s character and what made him such a unique man. Having originally moved to Ireland for 3 months, he has lived here for the last thirty years and speaks candidly about the varying levels of regret he has about not seeing as much of his Dad as he would have liked to. 

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  • Erin McGathy is an American podcaster and comedian who has found her home in Dublin, since moving here in 2016. During her teenage years, she lost her mother Susan to cancer at the young age of 42. A seminal period in Erin’s young life. Last year during the run up to Mothers Day, Erin shared an incredibly open account on social media of her sometimes-beautiful, sometimes-complicated relationship with her mother, and how her illness managed to further these feelings. 

    “She told me that she knew I would do great things, and then she apologized for "being a bad mother." I still don't know why she said this and it's painful to think about, but I think she meant she wished we'd known each other more as I was becoming my own adult person. My mom was very elegant, womanly and measured; I was so clearly not heading in that direction, I remember my mother being noticeably disappointed in that, and even a little worried for me. In her weaker moments, she voiced that she was scared that no one would love me because I wore sports bras, didn't brush my hair and ate too much; I wasn't the type of girl that a boy would ever "choose". She later apologized for saying that, but not putting her expectations for herself on me was a struggle…”

     

    On this week’s podcast, she chats with Sasha about coming to terms with those feelings, years down the line. She also discusses her relationship with her now, and how the grief she felt manages to manifest in different ways all those years later. 

    Erin is the founder of Mob Theatre Dublin, and can be heard on podcasts This Feels Terrible, Human Conversation and Harmontown. Her stage performance Al Dawes Fucking Loves You also received critical acclaim at this years Dublin Fringe Festival.

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  • Since beginning the podcast, there have been certain topics that have featured in many episodes, but surprisingly the subject of childhood-loss has been relatively undiscovered so far. Today’s guest, Giles-Paley Philip's is a writer and podcaster from East Sussex, best known for his award-winning Children's books, and the excellent Blank Podcast, which delves into those moments when things aren't working right. 

    At the age of 6, Giles lost his mother to Leukaemia, and that grief is something that has stuck closely with him, ever since. He is a hugely important grief advocate on social media, and his beautiful children’s book Little Bella And The Moon was bravely written to aid parents in speaking to their children about loss. Giles’ debut novel One Hundred And Fifty-Two will be released this year, which looks at the story of a teenager facing the impending death of his terminally ill, making memories and moments from his own childhood as inspiration.

    In his conversation with Sasha, Giles recounts his difficult childhood balancing his mother's illness with his father’s alcoholism. They speak in detail about the unpredictable nature of life,  and the cards it deals you. They also talk about how there is always room for things to actually get worse, but don’t worry - the conversation remains lighthearted throughout. 

    Giles is the author of nine books, including The Fearsome Beastie (Maverick Arts Publishing), which has now sold over 70,000 copies and won The People's Book Prize 2012 and The Heart Of Hawick Children's Book Award 2013, and was Highly Commended in The Forward National Literature Award in the US. It was also Shortlisted for The Rotherham Children's Awards 2012.

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  • How do you cope with the death of a parent at 24 years old? The time when you’re somewhere between independence and reliance on parents, figuring out who you are and what you want to do, and trying to maintain friendships and a social life when your world is crumbling around you and no one understands. This weeks podcast guest is Rose Yavneh Taylor, author of 365 Days Past the Traffic Lights, a beautifully compelling account of the first 365 days following the death of her father, Cyrus Yavneh. 

    At 24 years of age, Rose straddled two worlds; living in both a picturesque English village and an adventure-filled Hollywood lifestyle in Los Angeles. But in late 2017 life hurtled her into a new realm, one that was immersed in medical settings and put her life on hold. In the first episode of 2020 Sasha spoke to Rose about the tough realities of losing a parent during this seminal period of her life and development. Rose’s unique account of her first year of grief is raw and unfiltered but also familiar to anyone who has experienced loss in this way before. They talk about the initial diagnosis, the experience of becoming a carer for her father and why a resource tailored for young adults is truly needed.

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  • Sasha looks back on what has been an incredible debut 12 months for Grief Encounters, featuring some of the most powerful interviews on the podcast to date. 

    On behalf of all the team, we want to wish our listeners and past guests a joyous and prosperous 2020. We will be back next Tuesday with our first show of the New Year.

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  • Christmas can be a difficult time for anyone who has experienced loss in the past, and feelings of grief can be greatly amplified in these busy few weeks. This week on the podcast Sasha & Venetia revisit their first ever episode of Grief Encounters in an incredibly insightful interview Dr Colman Noctor, who is an Adolescent Psychotherapist with St Patrick's Mental Health Services.

    Christmas is a time built on traditions for many people, and Colman discusses the positives and negatives of building new traditions after a loss, in particular for families. He also gives an insight into how children process information differently to adults, and how that can make the grieving process an often strange and difficult one for a child to deal with. 

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  • This week’s guest is a tenor, writer and performer whos beautiful show Nine Weeks received widespread acclaim at this years Dublin Fringe Festival. Nine Weeks deals with Seán Kennedy’s experience of bringing his terminally-ill mother home from Australia, at the hands of an abusive partner. Seán’s account of his weeks spent in Victoria Point caring to his mother, and ultimately freeing her from the control of her partner genuinely have to be heard to be believed. It is a story where the unconditional love he shows is abundantly present throughout the conversation. 

    In the interview, he discusses at the detail the terrifying nature of balancing the cocktail of drugs and medicine’s required to tend to his mother’s cancer and his constant fear of accidentally overdosing her. Finally, Seán’s account of his mothers final hours and minutes are extremely vivid and paint an incredibly clear picture that will be familiar to many listeners. Also in a similar vein to a host of recent Grief Encounters guests, the story involves the absolutely incredible care team from Our Lady’s Hospice, Harolds Cross, who Sasha and Venetia both have personal connections with. 

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  • This week’s podcast is slightly different, as we hear one woman’s account of undergoing fertility treatment, and the pain and disappointment that was to follow. Fertility treatment has undoubtedly been a catalyst for joy in many couples lives, but for a large proportion of people, the treatment does not work. Deirdre Donelly feels that she was given miss information by an Irish fertility clinic when she underwent treatment nine years ago. 

    Deirdre gave birth to her first child David in 2004, which brought a huge amount of joy to her and her husband. A few years after David was born she began trying to become pregnant with her second child, and at this point realised there may be something wrong.  Deirdre visited a fertility specialist and decided that she would explore this route with her husband. Fertility treatment can be all-encompassing and sadly during this period, Deirdre’s mother died of breast cancer. After months of expensive and painful therapies, Deirdre and her husband found out that there was only ever a 3% chance of success for the treatment she was on, which is something she believes was hidden from her by the clinics. 

    She speaks to Sasha about the grief involved with being an infertile woman, as well as the many caveats as to how Ireland currently deal with women’s health on a national level. Deirdre also speaks about the loss of her mother and the guilt she felt for not being around more during her mother’s illness, because of her treatment. 

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  • This week’s podcast marks the first live episode of Grief Encounters, as Sasha and Venetia were part of an extraordinary night of poetry, film and discussion at the Dublin premiere of the extraordinary documentary Git Was Here in The Sugar Club. The documentary is based around the life of Christopher “Git” Byrne who passed away from cancer in March 2016. Lorcan Fox, the films Director and Git’s friend interviewed him on camera about his life – his regrets, his legacy and his view on mortality. This 90-minute chat is the genesis of the incredibly moving film.

    Chris was a gregarious character with an infectious smile and a beautiful family with his wife Caroline and son Harry, who was born in the autumn of 2014. Sadly, just weeks later Chris was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour and despite several operations and amazing care from the Irish medical system, Chris passed away at the age of 31 in Harold Cross Hospice. The film begins with Chris’s individual story but expands to a spectrum of experiences and ideas around death and dying. Interviewing experts across all areas, from academics and historians to medical consultants and gravediggers, we aim to understand more about death and mortality. 

    After the screening, Sasha and Venetia sat down for a discussion with Caroline and Lorcan with an audience filled with friends and family of Christopher’s, to discuss the impact of his tragic loss on both of them, and how this truly beautiful tribute came to life. 

    We want to thank Lorcan Fox, Fiachra Doyle, Kevin Flynn and Caroline Byrne for allowing us the chance to be apart of such a special night. You can check out more information about the movie and possible future screenings through their social media pages. 

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  • Grief Encounters was set up with one clear goal, which was to open up the conversation around loss for Ireland(and beyond)’s bereaved community. There weren’t nearly enough conversations on record offering support to those in the midst of their grief, and what a better medium to begin one, then a podcast. Unbeknownst to the Grief Encounters team, while we were busy plotting the opening sequence of podcast episodes to take us through January and February, this weeks guest was also spending her free time in a very similar way. 

    Liz Gleeson is an experienced grief therapist and also the host of the excellent podcast Shapes Of Grief, which came out in January 2019. Her podcast hosts conversations with people about their experience of loss and grief in their lives, looking at important topics such as losing a partner to illness, complicated & disenfranchised grief and finding meaning after loss. 

    In this episode, her and Venetia spark some incredibly interesting conversation about their learnings so far, and what drove them to both start their own outlet for grief. Liz also shared her really interesting opinions on vocalising sympathy for someone who is grieving, stating that  If you are unsure of what to say, it’s often worth taking the risk because the sentiment is usually the most important matter in the conversation. 

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    To check out more of Liz’s work visit here website Shapes Of Grief.

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  • This week’s podcast is incredibly special, as Sasha and Venetia are joined in studio with Tomi Reichental, who's personal story is inspirational, emotional and more than all - incredibly important to tell.  Born in Slovakia 1935, Tomi is one of the only Holocaust survivors to have settled in Ireland after being liberated from the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1945. Tomi is an incredibly thoughtful and emotionally intelligent man which is clear from his account of the atrocity that he and his family lived through. 

    When he was liberated in April 1945 he discovered that 35 members of his extended family were murdered, Grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins-died in the Holocaust. Tomi was 9 years old in October 1944 when he was rounded up by the Gestapo in a shop in Bratislava. Along with 12 other members of his family he was taken to a detention camp Sered in Slovakia where the elusive Nazi War Criminal Alois Brunner had the power of life or death, as he decided who would face deportation.  

    Tomi, his mother Judith and his brother Miki, his grandmother Rosalia, aunt Margo and cousin Chava were dumped into a cattle wagon on a train bound for Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The other 7 members of the family were sent to the slave labour camp at Buchenwald, where inmates were literally worked to death, 6 of them perished in Buchenwald only one survived.

     

    Tomi has experienced grief on an extraordinary level, and kept his past completely hidden from friends and family for over 50 years because of fears this could happen again. In the past 15 years, he has dedicated much of his life to speaking about the holocaust to schools around Ireland. This year The Bar of Ireland have selected Tomi as their incredibly deserving recipient of The Award For Human Right’s, will be presented to him on the 28th of November 2019. Tomi has also featured in an extraordinary  2017 documentary Condem To Remember, that details his extraordinary life pre and post-war which is well worth a watch. 

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  • The importance of end of life care can never be understated, not only for the patient but also for their loved ones. It’s something that Sasha and Venetia both discussed on the podcast before, having experienced the special work that they do first hand. 

    This week’s podcast is a special one, as Sasha is joined in studio by palliative care doctor and bestselling author Kathryn Mannix, to speak about how we approach loss and the grief that often follows. Kathryn and Sasha go into detail about the experience of death and our responsibility to make it as comfortable as possible for those that are ill, sharing both of their experiences. They also discuss the importance of living in the now how we must prepare ourselves for our own deaths. 

     

    In her Sunday Times, Best Selling book With the End in Mind, Kathryn explores the biggest taboo in our society and the only certainty we all share: death. Told through a series of beautifully crafted stories taken from nearly four decades of clinical practice, her book answers the most intimate questions about the process of dying with touching honesty and humanity. She makes a compelling case for the therapeutic power of approaching death not with trepidation but with openness, clarity and understanding.

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  • In recent years, the public’s attitude towards grief and loss seem to be changing, and more open conversations about the subject are happening, with those bereaved. These conversations, however, are often still regarded as taboo when speaking about Pregnancy & Infant Loss, with the grief often being kept silent. 

    October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, and this week Sasha and Venetia were joined by the incredibly inspirational writer and blogger Aoife Bermingham, to speak about her experience with stillbirth, after losing her son Oisin in September 2016. Aoife was also joined in studio by Éabha, her beautiful daughter who was born five weeks previous to the interview. 

    Aoife’s life changed forever on Tuesday 28th 2016, as she accounts in this beautiful passage from her blog Irish Mum On the Run:

    “At 4.05 we got called in. Up I hopped on the bed and the sonographer started putting the gel on. I asked her not to give us any inclination of the gender as we wanted a surprise as I joked with her that at my last anomaly scan the previous year the sonographer said ‘him’ and I spent the rest of my pregnancy assuming it was a boy and was shocked when we had a girl!

     At 4.07pm my life changed forever.

     The sonographer placed the handle on my tummy and within 5 seconds, placed her hand on my abdomen and uttered the words that constantly ring in my ears (ok I am crying now writing this), ‘Aoife, I am so sorry but your baby has no heartbeat’… my own heart skipped a beat or two, my mouth dried up and my head went foggy, ….’don’t say those words, those words, stop, this can’t be true, try again, this is all wrong, this can’t be true’ is what was swimming around in my head but I couldn’t talk. I looked at the screen and saw an outline of baby just lying there, not moving, on the screen. I couldn’t look any longer. “

    In the interview, Aoife speaks in detail about the years and months since that day, and how it has changed her forever. She also discusses the importance of others acknowledging Oisin and his ongoing role in their family. 

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  • Anniversaries are something that Sasha & Venetia have spoken about on several episodes of the podcasts so far. They can spark a huge range of emotion, and often bring back a lot of sad and difficult memories. Some like to mark an occasion, while others are happy to see the back of these milestone dates. Often the way someone chooses to remember their loved one is dependant on their years or months grieving in between, and what form of relationship that is kept with the deceased. 

    This week on Grief Encounters, Sasha chats with an old friend of her’s Ollie Skehan, as he approaches the 20th anniversary of his friend’s tragic death this Sunday, October 27th. In October 1999, Niamh O’Herlihy was travelling in a car with her sister Anita, a close friend of theirs and her one-year-old daughter, when they were involved in a tragic, and fatal car accident that shocked the country to its core. 

    Niamh and Anita were members of an extremely promising girl-band called Nivita, that were making moves in the record industry right before the accident. Ollie and Niamh met in during their time studying together in Griffith College and immediately became close companions after enrolling. In the interview, Ollie casts his mind back to the days before and after the accident, and the vividness of it is clear to see. With Ollie’s accounts of those days, it is clear to see how much the world has changed in those 20 years, particularly in the ways we find out about the loss of a loved one. 

    He also speaks about his relationship with the O’Herlihy family and how keeping in touch with Niamh’s parents allows him to still have a relationship with Niamh herself. We were delighted to be approached by Ollie to record this beautiful episode as his own testament to his loving friendship with Niamh, his poignant way of marking the 20 year anniversary. 

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  • October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month internationally,  and for many people, the first name that springs to mind when thinking of the subject, is that of Marie Keating, who passed away from the illness in February 1998 .

    Since Marie’s death, her family have done unimaginable work in creating awareness for the disease, which devastated them 21 years ago. This week Sasha and Venetia are joined in the studio by Linda Keating, Marie’s daughter and Founder of The Marie Keating Foundation to tell us about the incredible work her family have done in spreading awareness about cancer in ireland. 

    In the interview Linda tells the podcast that her mother died because she did not know enough about cancer and the importance of early detection. She also had a huge and extremely common phobia of visiting hospitals and interacting with medical professionals, meaning that she put off getting herself checked for a long time. The saddest part about their story is that If Marie had understood her symptoms and if she had been treated earlier she would be alive today. This fact has been the driving force behind the incredible work Lind and her family have done in the years since their loss. The type of breast cancer that Marie died from is called Paget’s Disease, which is a decaying nipple that can be followed by a malignant tumour, causing breast cancer. 

    According to Linda, Marie Keating died because she did not know enough about cancer and the importance of early detection. If Marie had understood her symptoms and if she had been treated earlier she would be alive today. This is why The Marie Keating Foundation was started. 

    About the charity:

    Given the fact that there are over 170,000 cancer survivors in Ireland today, the Marie Keating Foundation supports cancer survivors through its Positive Living and Survive & Thrive programmes, which are run nationwide, free of charge, for men and women. 

    Over 1,000 cancer survivors have attended courses and seminars since the programmes’ inception in 2014. The Survive & Thrive Programme is aimed to assist anyone who has come through treatment to adjust to their ‘new normal’ and offer practical advice and help in many areas of life including diet and exercise, emotional support and adjusting to returning to work.

     The Positive Living programme is for men and women living with advanced cancer and supports them in coping with their specific physical and psychological needs. The Foundation is almost entirely reliant on private and corporate donations to provide its cancer awareness and support services free of charge to families in communities throughout Ireland.

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  • Anniversaries are a bit of a theme for us this month on the podcast, and today, the 10th of October marks 10 years since the death of the brilliant and beautiful Steven Gately. On the morning of October 11th 2009 , Ireland woke to the devastating news that one of its brightest stars, had passed away in his sleep. In one of our first episodes, we had the absolute pleasure of speaking to one of his best friends and bandmates Mikey Graham about his love for Steven, then and now.

    He opens the interview with a truly honest account of Stephens personality, and what he meant to the band and the country as a whole. As the talk progresses, the conversation opens into a fascinating discussion about Mikey’s own spirituality and enlightenment through his journey living with grief. Mikey’s words throughout the conversation are incredibly moving, thought provoking and surprisingly practical for our listeners to consider.

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  • This week on the podcast Venetia sat down with the incredible Irish writer Éilís Ní Dhuibhne to speak about their shared experience of losing a partner, the person that they loved most. Éilís  is the  author of  12,000 Days: A Memoire Of Love And Loss, which is a truly beautiful account of her relationship with her husband Bo Almqvist, who passed away suddenly in November 2013.

    Éilís gave up on fictional writing in the months following his death, but began a diary where she took not of her thoughts and feelings. These in depth passages ended up becoming the basis to her truly stunning book, which took a lot of inspiration from many greats in the field such as CS Lewis & Joan Didion. 

    In the interview Venetia and Éilís share a huge amount of similar experiences and feelings, that can only be shared through the commonality of losing a spouse. The main difference between their experience has been the time in between, and Éilís’s own awareness and account of her healing since Bo’s death created a really positive conversation between the pair.

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    Music by: Nctrnm

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