valor above and beyond the call of duty


I posted this originally on November 11, 2015 for Veterans Day  – I think it’s equally appropriate for Women’s History month in 2020. Be prepared.

The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor awarded for “personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.” It is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the US Congress and so it is often known as the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The Navy began the award in 1861 during the American Civil War with the Army following suit a year later. Since the establishment of the award, more than 3,500 have been presented – 1,523 to honorees of the Civil War.

One Medal of Honor recipient is a woman. One. Out of more than 2.2 million women veterans since the creation of the Medal of Honor, the solo female recipient is Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a physician from New York,  who volunteered for and served in the Union Army as an Army Surgeon during many battles of the Civil War from the First Battle of Bull Run in 1862  to the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.

Dr. Walker was captured by Confederate forces in April of 1864 after crossing enemy lines to treat wounded civilians in areas her fellow male surgeons refused to go. She was arrested as a spy and sent as a prisoner of war to a Confederate prison in Richmond, Virginia.  When she was released in a prisoner exchange in August, 1864, she suffered from partial muscle atrophy that disabled her for the rest of her life. At the end of the War in 1865, President Andrew Johnson presented her with the newly created Medal of Honor.

Dr. Walker became a writer and lecturer following her service in the Army.  She wrote two books that discussed women’s rights including their right to dress as they chose, a cause she embraced personally as she was frequently arrested for wearing men’s clothing. She had grown up working on her family’s farm and had little use for the skirts and corsets women wore routinely in the late nineteenth century.

In 1871 she registered to vote along with many other women who believed they  had the right to vote already guaranteed in the Constitution. This was the prevailing strategy for suffragettes initially in this country. Later on in the Suffragette Movement, the strategy changed to push for a Constitutional Amendment which would irrevocably provide women the right to vote. Dr. Walker didn’t embrace the new strategy and distanced herself from this new wave of feminists which was ultimately successful in helping to secure the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment that granted women the right to vote in 1918.

In 1917 the Medal of Honor Board deleted 910 awards, including Dr. Walker’s, and the recipients were ordered to return their medals. Dr. Walker refused to return hers and continued to wear it every day as she had since the day she received it. She wore it until the day of her death on February 21, 1919 at the age of 87 – one year after the passage of the 19th. Amendment.

On this Veteran’s Day in 2015, I salute Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a soldier who showed personal acts of  valor above and beyond the call of duty in both her military service as a doctor during the Civil War which has been called one of the bloodiest wars in history and as a civilian who displayed the same courage in the battles for equal rights for women in the country she helped to unite.

I also salute the more than 2 million women veterans who have served – and are serving in the US military today. The personal sacrifices you make – and have made- are acts of valor and deserve recognition above and beyond what you receive.  I find it shameful that only one of you has been awarded the Medal of Honor. Surely history will rectify this oversight at some point. Until then, you have my admiration, respect and gratitude.

P.S. President Jimmy Carter restored the Medal of Honor to Dr. Mary Edwards Walker in 1977.  As of this March, 2020 no other woman has received the Medal of Honor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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international women’s day – march 08, 2017


I wrote this piece on March 08, 2017 and feel it’s worthy of inclusion in my Women’s History Month this year. I hope you agree.

Spring, 2017 will be the year I move on to my 71st birthday. I know, I know…unbelievable…and apparently my Mouth Almighty, Tongue Everlasting in my seventies shows no sign of a slowdown – if anything I seem to have gained speed with my posts following the not-too-distant sixties.

As I looked over the more than 80 posts I’ve made since April, 2016 when I began this year by talking about the need for a personal tune-up, I am amazed at how many opinions I’ve had on such a wide variety of topics. Geez Louise. Somebody stop me. I can’t shut up. Case in point, read on.

Change is in the air at Casa de Canterbury this spring, and Pretty and I are excited about our trip to New Orleans for the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival March 24th. – 26th. I’ve been invited to participate on a panel called Home is Where the Art Is, or is it?  Plus I will do a reading from my short story that will be included in their 2017 anthology. I’m super thrilled.

We’re hoping to go to Dallas the following week for the NCAA Women’s Final Four the first weekend in April which would give us an opportunity to return to Worsham Street for a long overdue visit with The Little Women of Worsham and the Fabulous Huss Brothers. That would be icing on the proverbial cake. (Michael Reames, are you making me a real birthday cake this year? Money is no object. Pretty will contact you.)

Today I was cleaning out my extensive collection of family memorabilia which always reminds me of my need to let these pictures and items go – just let them go. They take up space needed for…what? Office supplies. Packing materials. Unsold books. Carolina Panthers commemorative coins. Five years of tax returns. Old cameras.

This is one of the pictures I found –  I totally lost it when I saw the image of these two significant women in my life before their respective illnesses took them to a different place.

m

My two moms, Selma and Willie, and me

This picture was taken in 2007 during a visit with my mothers for both of their birthdays in March of that year. Five years later in the spring of 2012, Willie died on April 14th. and Selma followed her eleven days afterwards on the 25th. Wham, bam…gone. Were they ready to go? Of course. Had they suffered long enough? Surely. But the loss of two women who had such monumental influence in my life was devastating. I felt like my connection to what had been my home was broken and couldn’t be fixed.

In reality and from the perspective of five years down the road from that awful place, the connection to home and family isn’t really lost. Powerful images of the people in my past live on today and remind me of what is most important for the future.

Today is International Women’s Day, a special time to honor the women we cherish, a day of reminder that our world would be very different without the women in our lives; it’s a woman’s day away from the ordinary.We are lucky because they’ll only be gone for one day and will be back with us tomorrow.

Pretty, the adventure continues, and I thank you for the home we share and the knowledge that you’ll be here tomorrow morning when we start another day together.

For the rest of my women friends and followers in cyberspace, celebrate yourselves today. You are enough.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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lessons in survival: the unsinkable Violet Jessop


Twenty-four-year-old Violet Jessop, the daughter of Irish immigrants who lived in Argentina when she was born in 1887, worked as a steward on board RMS Olympic, the largest civilian luxury liner of its day,  when it collided with the British war ship HMS Hawke on September 20, 1911. The ship returned to its port at Southampton in England without sinking and with no fatalities.  Seven months later Jessop was hired to work aboard the RMS Titanic which set sail on April 10, 1912 and famously sank four days later after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Violet escaped via lifeboat in that historic accident which took the lives of more than 1,500 people.

Despite surviving two dangerous threats to her life at sea, Violet became a stewardess for the British Red Cross during WWI on a hospital ship  HMHS Britannic that had been converted from a commercial liner. On November 21, 1916 the Britannic sank in the Aegean Sea and took 30 lives out of the thousand on board. Again, Violet Jessop survived – this time by jumping from a lifeboat threatened by the ship’s propellers.

the unsinkable Violet Jessop

(1887 – 1971)

(Wikipedia image)

What drew me to the Wikipedia stories and the piece by Katie Serena in History Science News that were my sources today was the concept of women who survive…whatever life throws at us. Most won’t be on a huge ship about to sink in the Atlantic Ocean like Violet was when she was such a young woman; but all of us face difficulties throughout our lives that threaten to drown, overwhelm, instill fear, panic, the desire to escape. Sometimes our lifeboats hang by ropes of uncertainty amid the shipwrecks that interrupt smooth sailing.

And yet, the poet Garth Brooks reminds us not to “sit upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied…choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance that tide.” – The River

Violet Jessop dared to dance the tide.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STRONG IS THE NEW PRETTY: CELEBRATING MARCH MADNESS!


I’ve never had any doubt about the different strengths of the women in my life, but it sure has been fun watching a team of young women who have proven their physical strength, endurance,  and mental toughness to the many fans who have had the opportunity to see them in person or have watched them on television during the 2019 – 2020 NCAA women’s basketball season. The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team has been rated Number One in the nation for the past 9 weeks. Last week they finished their regular SEC season with a perfect 16 – 0  to place first in the conference. This past weekend at Bon Secours Arena in Greenville, they won the annual SEC tournament championship as well.

If strong is the new pretty, these young women are gorgeous!

Senior leadership we will miss next year:

Kiki Herbert Harrigan and Ty Harris

Mad Kiki and Chill Ty – you girls have been the best – thanks for your guts and glory!

Zia Cooke, Victaria Saxton, Destanni Henderson, Aliyah Boston

They will be back – and they’re fierce!

Winning is the most fun!

Slo, Pretty, Gamecock G,

with outstanding player Lele Grissett who had a great season!

Hey, Ref, don’t mess with my team!

The women who make our Gamecock basketball go round:

Head Coach Dawn Staley and Associate Head Coach Lisa Boyer

Huge congratulations to Coach Staley and the Gamecock women’s basketball program for a wonderful  regular season. As Coach says to her players, don’t flinch now. Onward.

Stay tuned.

(Clearly, I lifted most of these pictures from ESPN’s game coverage without their permission, but the picture of Lele Grissett with her fans courtesy Brian Murrell.)

 

 

 

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the race is on


GP: James Clyburn and Joe Biden, 190621

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) with former Vice President Biden

at annual fish fry in Columbia June 19, 2019

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

True political confession time. I voted for Pete Buttigieg in the South Carolina presidential primary this past Saturday, leap day in 2020. I hope my friend Linda Ketner (who was the first openly gay candidate to run for the House of Representatives in South Carolina in 2008 and whose political acumen I seriously admire) isn’t reading along since she made a great effort to change my mind to vote for Joe Biden, the person she truly believed was our best hope to beat the current White House occupant this November in the general election. I told her I would wholeheartedly support whomever our nominee was, and I intend to keep that promise.

I am inclined to vote my heart in the primaries, though, like Al Sharpton in the 2004 primary which John Edwards won in South Carolina. Although Edwards was born in Seneca, SC, which made him a kind of home boy in our state and many people I knew supported him, I remember I struggled even back then about my primary vote. Edwards had good experience, was a successful attorney in North Carolina; he looked good on television which was apparently a huge plus. Eventually John Kerry got the presidential nomination, chose Edwards as his running mate, and promptly lost to Republican Dubya (George W. Bush) in the general. I voted for Reverend Al in the end because of his passion for the poor and those who had been disenfranchised in the political process. The fall of Edwards that followed him in his life afterwards was like a Shakespearean tragedy of epic Hollywood proportions that continued to astound me. I am stunned to discover  Reverend Al still owes almost a million dollars for that 2004 presidential run. Can anybody help him? Mike? Tom?

The South Carolina primary is over, Super Tuesday is behind us, and the race is on…here comes pride up the back stretch, and heartaches going to the inside…my heart’s out of the runnin’…true love’s scratched for another’s sake. Thank you, George Jones, I couldn’t put it better myself. My guy Pete dropped out after his inability to score support among African Americans in South Carolina, and he knew he wouldn’t win against the presidential incumbent without that support. He and another candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar withdrew Sunday and pledged their support to Joe Biden whose South Carolina victory may be an historical turning point in the 2020 election. Joe needed a big win here, and he got it.

I thought the media attention given to our state last week was fun and fabulous. For me, watching my favorite MSNBC commentators like AM Joy Reid hosting their programs from a locally owned meat and three restaurant called Lizard’s Thicket in Columbia was as thrilling as spotting Texas A&M’s women’s basketball head coach Gary Blair and his wife strolling around the Colonial Life Arena Sunday afternoon taking in the sights before the game with our Gamecock women’s basketball team. Honestly, presidential politicking at  Lizard’s Thicket and the Aggies in town at Colonial Life Arena for the final home game of the regular women’s basketball season – well, how good does it get for an old sports loving political activist dyke? Not much better than this.

To me, as my mother Selma used to say when she had her right mind, the person who changed the course of the SC presidential primary in his endorsement of Joe Biden was our House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn who is the highest ranking African American member of the House,  a man who gave a passionate speech for Biden on Wednesday before the Saturday primary. In an interview with NPR host Mary Louise Kelly after his speech, Rep. Clyburn addressed one of my personal questions in this primary process. Why should I vote for another old white man.

“What I’ve said to people when they say that to me, I say, well, it’s a little bit like saying would you rather have an old Thurgood Marshall or a young Clarence Thomas. You don’t define that by age. You define that by people’s philosophy, so the age ought not to be a factor unless there are other things at play.” I would take Marshall over Thomas every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Finally, let me thank the people who have voted in the primaries thus far. I say Bravo to all of you who stood in lines for hours in your states to cast your votes for your favorites. The amazing turnout in the primaries bodes well for the general election in November. I believe the sights of the citizens in long lines indicate the level of dissatisfaction with a divisive president who doesn’t deserve a second term.  My hope is that new leadership in the Senate and White House will allow the American people to participate in moving our country forward in a direction that will lift all boats to steer toward the highest ports of true equality and justice for everyone.

In the meantime, I am excited to go to the SEC tournament in Greenville, SC this weekend to see our Gamecock women play. We finished the regular season with a 16 – 0 record, but of course we want more. That’s what fans expect. Go Gamecocks!

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BE WOKE! GO VOTE!


 “Suffrage is not simply about the right to vote but also about what that represents: the basic and fundamental human right of being able to participate in the choices for your future and that of your community, the involvement and voice that allows you to be a part of the very world that you are a part of… it is not simply about the right to vote for women, but also about what that represents: the basic and fundamental human right of all people, including those members of society who have been marginalized whether for reasons of race, gender, ethnicity or orientation, to be able to participate in the choices for their future and their community.”

(reported by Sabrina Barr, MSN News)

Say, whose quote is this? Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony or Lucy Stone in the 1800s during the beginnings of the Suffragette Movement in the USA? Or was it Alice Paul with her group of women activists called the Silent Sentinels who were imprisoned in America in the early 1900s, went on hunger strikes in prison and were force fed to be kept alive for three years before the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote was finally passed in 1920? The above quote could have been attributed to any of these American women who devoted their lives to securing the right of women to vote in our country.

Instead, the quote belongs to another American woman, Meghan Markle, who is now the Duchess of Sussex and spoke these words yesterday to a crowd in New Zealand where she was near the end of a Royal Tour with Prince Harry. While celebrating that country’s 125th anniversary of women’s rights to vote, she praised New Zealanders for their political actions in 1893 and concluded her remarks with a quote from the country’s most famous suffragette, Kate Sheppard: “All that separates, whether of race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.”

I am so proud that an American-born woman of color was in New Zealand talking about the basic right of all women to participate in shaping our democracies with the power of the vote. Every vote matters. You are only powerless when you fail to exercise your power.

Pretty is driving me this morning to my Lexington County voting place for early voting for the midterms which are scheduled for Tuesday, November 6, 2018. I am feeling very strong today. This election is very important in shaping the future of our communities, our states and our nation; and I, for one, want my voice to be heard.

I’m going to think about Meghan Markle’s final remark from Kate Sheppard: “All that separates, whether of race, class, creed or sex is inhuman, and must be overcome.”

Amen, sisters. Tell it.  We shall overcome. Be woke. Go Vote!

Stay tuned.

Note from the author: This post was originally published on October 29, 2018. Women voted in record numbers in the 2018 mid-terms, and I hope we will set even more records in 2020 because the stakes couldn’t be higher. The South Carolina Democratic Primary is this Saturday, February 29th.  Be woke! Go VOTE!

 

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remembering The Red Man (December, 2000 – February 22, 2016)


The good news is the Angel Band played, Big Dawg Bernard came to The Middle to announce promotions and this time when the roll was called up yonder The Red Man’s name was on it. He made it to the Top and joined his running buddies Tennis Ball Obsessed Chelsea, Paw Licker Annie, Smokey Lonesome Ollie and even ran into Sassy the Old One. It was a joyous reunion – everyone was happy to see him…well, maybe not happy…more like glad he made it, if you catch my drift.

In September, 2010 Red began the rants and raves with his post I’m a Talker which produced the first two “Likes” he ever had: Wayside Artist and Terry1954. They have stayed with us for the whole ride with Red and Pretty and the Old Woman Slow and the rest of the cyberspace folks who gave us 69,666 hits in the past six years while posting 666 posts – a nice number to end with, don’t you think?

It’s very hard for me to let go of Red’s Rants and Raves but I find it difficult to “edit” for Red when he no longer dictates to me while lying next to my feet as I sit at my desk. I feel I have to let him rest in peace with his brother and sisters.

I hope all of Red’s 1,649 followers will follow me to my I’ll Call It posts (www.iwillcallit.com.)  – I think many of you already have – and so the writings and photos from Casa de Canterbury will continue on my other site, hopefully with Red’s keen insights and observations serving as my muse when the days lack inspiration otherwise.

I thank all of you so very much for the “likes” and “comments” and hits through the past six years. Truly Red’s Rants and Raves changed my life.

Get me outta here, Percy – and he did.

Red’s favorite spot…in Pretty’s lap getting Pretty pets

 

in the beginning was The Red Man…

and the Old Woman Slow loved him

(Posted on Red’s Rants and Raves September 02, 2016)

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flying high in Galveston


“Riding under a baloon beats making hay, but

believe me after we came down no more baloons for us.

How foolish to want to be way up in the air,

& then after you are up there,

you want to be down.”

I’m not sure who the two men are in the “baloon,” but this post card was one of a very few saved by my maternal grandmother, Louise Schlinke Boring a/k/a Dude to me. I believe the man on the right was one of my grandmother’s five brothers, and the man on the left was my maternal grandfather James Marion Boring, Sr. The post card was unsigned and not stamped which makes me imagine it was hand delivered.

What struck me about the card was the message written in pencil on the back, regardless of the missing names or how it was delivered. The people in my grandmother’s family were farmers so they were well acquainted with the labor involved in making hay in the hot Texas sun. My grandfather, on the other hand, was an adventurer who started and failed in business enterprises from root beer stands in Houston to a movie theater in Richards with four children along the way during his lifetime (1887 – 1938). I can believe the balloon ride was his idea.

No more balloons for these guys, though. “How foolish to want to be way up in the air, & then when are up there, you want to be down.”

I’ve felt that same feeling more than once in my life, too…not about balloon rides, of course. I’m not that brave.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

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celebrating Black History Month with Pearl


In the tiny Sears Roebuck kit house I grew up in, boundaries were both invisible and highly visible. The home was owned by my maternal grandmother and shared with two of my mother’s adult brothers in addition to my daddy, mother and me. The home was crowded. When I think back on it, I don’t know how we all managed to eat and sleep there – not to mention the scheduling of everyone’s turn in the single bathroom which barely had space to turn around to close the door after entering. That room was tight, and boundaries were tightly defined.

While the home itself was small, the lot on which it sat was large, a corner lot with an unattached garage (with an attached outhouse that may help explain the bathroom scheduling inside) behind the house. Beyond the garage a small pond which we called a tank in rural Texas lay quietly in an “in-town” pasture that had no fences. My back yard was spacious, vast in a small child’s mind, unique in comparison to the other small frame houses sitting on the few dirt roads that connected them.

Although the tank wasn’t very big, the fish and frog population that lived there mysteriously thrived, encouraging our relatives from the bigger cities of Houston, Dallas, Rosenberg, et.al., to make regular fishing trips to our place “in the country.” They came with their poles, rods, reels, live and artificial bait to try to land Ol’ Biggie, the name my Uncle Toby gave to the wiser large perch and catfish that proved elusive most of the time. During those early years I preferred running around the banks of the tank with my cousins to dropping a line with a squiggly worm in the water.

At random times, though, I made an exception to enjoy the company of a full-bodied black woman named Pearl who walked across another invisible line to come fishing in our tank. One paved road we called main street distinctly divided black and white people in my community in those days in the late 1940s and early 1950s;  that street should have been painted blood red. Pearl lived in an area of town on one side of the street I knew simply as The Quarters. I would be much older when I realized the name referenced slave quarters that still separated her world from mine.

Pearl told me the best stories about all the fish she had caught in the hottest fishing holes around the county. I believed every word she said because I trusted the deep rich voice that spoke. Pearl and my grandmother were good friends who visited together whenever she got ready to leave with her bucket full of fish. Pearl had the best luck catching perch in our tank – never very large – but she bragged that the little ones were better to fry anyway. Made sense to me. My mother also adored Pearl which surprised me since Mama didn’t adore anyone including herself.

Pearl Harris was the first black person in my life. She was warm, affectionate, funny and always kind to me. I have no idea how she came to be friends with my grandmother. I suspect they met in the general store in town where my grandmother clerked. Whatever the circumstance, I felt their friendship was authentic. They were easy with each other. I now know Pearl’s walk across the invisible racial divide to our fishing tank was not only brave but necessary to put food on the table for her family. My grandmother could relate to that need, too.

Wanda Sykes says in her Netflix comedy routine that I’ve watched at least four times now, seriously, at least four, that all white people need to have at least one black person who is their friend. Wanda thinks that friendship just might be a starting point to heal the racial divide that is at the center of income inequality and a host of other problems in our country. From a little girl growing up in a Texas town big enough for only one general store but large enough to contain two worlds separated by skin colors of black and white, I say I couldn’t agree more, Wanda. Bravo.

RIP Pearl Harris (1893 – 1957).

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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this year really is 19


Nineteen, I argued with Pretty last year, when we were out with our friends Francie and Nekki having dinner to celebrate our anniversary date: February 09th. Pretty shook her head so I persisted with well, we got together February 09, 2001, so that makes 2019 our nineteenth anniversary. At the moment I said those words, I knew I was wrong. Me, the math person in our family, had missed that number which any fool could see was eighteen.

So now I again say nineteen in 2020, and I feel confident I’m right.

February 09, 2001 – Cancun, Mexico

I look at this picture, see those smiling younger women having dinner at a restaurant in Mexico, and wonder if they had any inkling of the journey they started that weekend.  I think journeys weren’t even in their minds. I was trying so hard to impress Pretty I boldly poured the hottest salsa on my tacos which produced a heat surge not unlike a hot flash. I almost fainted.

Pretty on the other hand did as she has done for nineteeen years of my trying to impress her. She laughed. That laughter has sustained us through the roller coaster rides life brings to everyone who risks the journey.

Today we were driving to retrieve our pickup that was in the Dodge shop having airbags replaced. Our conversation focused on my cell phone which Pretty has disparaged from the time I purchased it a few months ago, a phone which I still can’t use properly. I told Pretty the problem was now compounded because I have lost the vision in my left eye (I’ll have laser surgery to correct shortly). Pretty who has an iPhone said, you have a funky phone because you refuse to pay for a good one. How could she help me if I didn’t have an iPhone. Point taken. Give me 48 hours to think about it. I love the 48 hours trick.

Conversation topics change over the course of a marriage, but for us Mexican food is still a comfort meal. I go easier on the salsa caliente, though.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning makes me wish I were a poet. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach when feeling out of sight for the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need by sun and candlelight. I love thee freely, as men strive for right. I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. I love thee with the passion put to use in my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose with my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life; and if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.”

I love thee, Pretty.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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