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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Cremation vs. Burial (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Cremation vs. Burial
katharina
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I had a conversation yesterday with a woman who firmly believes that cremation is disrespectful to the body. I said that if you're throwing it on the campfire, sure, but both cremation and burial are just different methods of breaking the body down to its constituent elements - one by oxidation, the other by decomposition.

After a little more discussion, we decided that it is cultural, but she claimed that in the United States, our culture firmly holds that burial is respectful and cremation is not.

I don't think this is true. I think cremation is gaining "popularity" and it is much more prevelant in some parts of the country than others. I also think it can be very respectful. I saw the finale of season three of Doctor Who - that was respectful all over the place. Also, having seen things decompose, I don't know that that's exactly kinder. It is not an attractive or graceful process.

So, in your neck of the woods, which is preferred? Is either considered disrespectful?

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Scott R
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My grandmother was cremated.

My father-in-law, who has his funeral director's license, has requested that no embalming be done, and has specifically stated that he does not want to be cremated under any circumstances. He says this is because he understands the funeral system and wants none of that to happen to his body.

I think burial is still generally preferred in my neck of the woods, but cremation is rapidly becoming more popular.

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Javert
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I have no idea what's preferred around here, but I always thought that I would be cremated.

It just never sat right with me about dressing up the deceased in expensive clothing, putting them in an expensive box and then burying it in the ground. There's something Ancient Egyptian-feeling about that and it never made sense to me.

And I'm focusing on expense because it's going to cost your family more to have you buried than cremated, not that I have any real problem with people burying valuables if they want to.

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Xavier
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Not sure what's preferred, but there's no doubt in my mind that I want cremation for myself.

Rotting in the ground has little appeal to me.

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katharina
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My preference for what happens to my body would be cremation - I would prefer a rapid dust to dust instead of a long, drawn out, disgusting process. However, I really like that I can visit my mother's grave. I think it is important to have some place to visit in remembrance of someone. So, torn.
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
My preference for what happens to my body would be cremation - I would prefer a rapid dust to dust instead of a long, drawn out, disgusting process. However, I really like that I can visit my mother's grave. I think it is important to have some place to visit in remembrance of someone. So, torn.

Can't your family keep the ashes?

Or how about burying the ashes? Sort of a hybrid between the two.

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katharina
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Yeah, burying the ashes seems the best option. And most expensive, since you pay for both a burial and a cremation.
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
Yeah, burying the ashes seems the best option. And most expensive, since you pay for both a burial and a cremation.

Why do you have to pay for burying the ashes? Couldn't you just find a nice spot on your own property?
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Dagonee
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I don't care much personally, as long as enough is done to ensure that I can't be buried alive. Autopsy, embalming, and cremation will all achieve that goal.
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katharina
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quote:
Couldn't you just find a nice spot on your own property?
There is no family estate. The advantage of a cemetary is you don't have to knock on some strangers door and ask to visit a corner of their yard and then discover they took down the headstone and planted begonias on top of your father.
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Dan_raven
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A few notes:

Many funeral homes offer special buildings that can house the ashes. I forget if they are called Crematoriums or Vaults, or something. So there is a place to go, with a nice view, to visit your loved ones.

Burials have the problem of eating up land. You can't really do anything on the land once its a burial ground without getting everyone's permission to move the bodies.

However, at present burials are more profitable than cremations for that industry. As land prices and upkeep become more expensive, I think that will change.

Finally, consider this from an environmental point of view. Cremation may add to global warming, but what do we do with burial? We take a body, ready to decompose and be recycled by the earth, and we hermetically seal it in a giant metal box, cutting it off from the earth.

The only worry I have with cremation is the problem of getting the correct ashes into the correct urn. The funeral industry has a history of money saving idiots who can't even bury the right body in the right place, or anyplace. I find it hard to believe that they always get the right ashes into the right urn.

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Javert
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On a side note, I think it'd be kind of nice for my resting place to be as fertilizer for begonias. [Smile]
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katharina
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Oh, it all goes back into the circle.

However, that does belie the point of having someplace to visit.

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cmc
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My great-grandparents were cremated. The have a small plot at a cemetery down the Cape, though. So - they're ashes now but we've still got a spot to go visit them.

I guess I (ignorantly) thought that even when you got cremated you had a plot in a cemetery...

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mr_porteiro_head
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I don't want to make that decision for my own body. Once I'm dead, what do I care what happens to it? But my family will care. I think that my family should decide what to do according to what's best for them.
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brojack17
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I hate how expensive everything is. I have told my family that I do not want a viewing or funeral. I want to immediately be thrown in the cheapest box and tossed into the fire. I don't want people to get all dressed up and be sad while I lay in a casket at the front of a room. I am not a formal person, so for me to lay in a casket in a suit would be weird. Maybe shorts and a t-shirt.

I want a fellowship. I want people to get together to eat and tell stories and just hang out together (three of my favorite things). I do want a slide show of pictures (another of my favorite things). I would like a celebration of my life and not such a focus on my death.

My wife was really concerned about the ashes. She didn't know what to do with them. I found this website. They take your ashes and make diamonds out of the carbon. I really like that idea and so does my wife. I would like to be made into five diamonds (one for wife and one each for my daughters) and those diamonds turned into pendants. My wife loves diamonds (duh) and she really likes the idea of being able to have something nice to remember me by.

There is one caveat to all of this. I told my wife and parents my wishes, but I also told them that if my wife feels she "needs" a funeral and/or burial for closure, I am fine with that. What do I care, I'll be gone. [Smile]

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dkw
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_raven:

Many funeral homes offer special buildings that can house the ashes. I forget if they are called Crematoriums or Vaults, or something.

A crematorium is where the cremation happens. A vault is the big metal box that the casket goes into before it's buried.

The word you are looking for is columburium.

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katharina
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quote:
I want a fellowship. I want people to get together to eat and tell stories and just hang out together (three of my favorite things). I do want a slide show of pictures (another of my favorite things). I would like a celebration of my life and not such a focus on my death.
This is a great idea. I do like services, though - I like gathering to pray for comfort.
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Javert
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Why not just keep the urn? Or do ashes 'go bad'?
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Artemisia Tridentata
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I've always thought about a quick donation to the local medical school. Dad was always dissapointed that I didn't go. I could make it up to him and save a bundle too.
I wonder if I could arrange for a dixieland band to escort me to the front door?

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dkw
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For people seriously interested in keeping expenses low and having as "natural" as possible a burial I highly reccommend the book Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love by Lisa Carlson. It's a pretty good guide to do-it-yourself funeral practices, with a state-by-state guide to laws regarding embalming, burial, transport of bodies, etc.

It's also good to read if you'll be planning a "traditional" funeral for yourself or someone else and want to know what's really necessary vs what a funeral home might try to convince you you need.

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katharina
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Well, who would keep them? I like that I don't have to go through anyone else to visit my mother's grave. And my dad remarried - I'm not terribly fond of my stepmother, but putting my mother's ashes in the living room seems like too much to ask.

That's a good recommendation, dkw.

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MrSquicky
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Why not spread them around? It's not like all the ashes have to be stored in one place.
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Xavier
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quote:
My father-in-law, who has his funeral director's license, has requested that no embalming be done, and has specifically stated that he does not want to be cremated under any circumstances. He says this is because he understands the funeral system and wants none of that to happen to his body.
What happens in the funeral system for cremation that's so objectionable?

Not that I care too much what happens to my body after dead, I'm mostly just curious.

I wouldn't be opposed to donating my body to science (assuming they still wanted it after my organs are harvested). I'm guessing they cremate after the body is no longer useful.

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katharina
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quote:
Why not spread them around? It's not like all the ashes have to be stored in one place.
Which all goes back to the "It's nice to have a single place to visit."
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MrSquicky
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You have a single place to visit. Are you talking about a single communal place to visit?
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katharina
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I said what I wanted in my posts above.
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brojack17
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I don't really have a place that is so special to me that I would want my ashes spread there. Also, I wouldn't feel comfortable with the ashes being in the house so I doubt my wife would too. If I am a diamond, I can sit in the jewelery box and be worn when she feels like it.
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MrSquicky
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I'm actually sort of digging on the idea of having a box of my ashes with a scoop and a bunch of zip lock bags next to it.
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brojack17
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That's kinda cool. Let people take and do what they wish with you.
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scifibum
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Aside from religious reasons for believing the body shouldn't be messed up after death, or people who want to be frozen for later revival, I think the desire to protect ones body after death is a little odd. It's almost like they think they will feel what's happening.
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
I'm actually sort of digging on the idea of having a box of my ashes with a scoop and a bunch of zip lock bags next to it.

With a little sign that says "self-serve".
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pooka
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A lot of funeral homes may not tell you that no embalming is not an option, since it requires refrigeration, and in Utah at least, limits the viewing to immediately before the service and family only (at the place my grandparents went). So yeah, if a funeral home tells you it's not an option, that may not mean illegal. But most people aren't really in a frame of mind to shop options at such times.

That's why I think planning ahead is nice.

My mom went back and forth on the cremation matter. I'm not really sure where her wishes sit at this point. I think she was always perturbed by the thought of embalming.

I don't have much preference one way or another.

I knew a lady who kept some ashes of her husband and children in a small container on a necklace. The only reservation I'd have about that is how distressing it would be to lose it. What's that The Accidental Tourist said? Never travel with anything so precious that you cannot bear its loss, or words to that effect.

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lem
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quote:

So, in your neck of the woods, which is preferred? Is either considered disrespectful?

I have always assumed that congestion has more of an impact on what burial type is preferred then culture. In Tokyo I would think most people are cremated. In Nebraska I would think most people are buried.

I am guessing that as cities become congested and crowded they cremation will become more popular. Land will get too expensive and space will become an issue.

On a side not, I want my wife to sell my body for research. Why force my family to pend money when they could make a couple bucks and help with scientific research?

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brojack17
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Of course, my wife is to have me baked only after everything that can be taken to help others is already gone.

Not to hijack the thread, but how do you feel about organ donation?

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Artemisia Tridentata
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quote:
The word you are looking for is columburium.
From the Latin word for Dovecot, I believe. Go figure that one
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LadyDove
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It's odd, but most people I know of who express a strong preference ask for cremation. Mostly because of the weirdness of decomp, being viewed dead and the expense of burial.

The grievers, otoh, seem to prefer burial. IME, each time the departed wishes have not been honored, it was in favor of burial over cremation.

I think this is because burial gives the grievers a more tangible opportunity to say, "Goodbye" and helps in the acceptance process.

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Sean Monahan
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
After a little more discussion, we decided that it is cultural, but she claimed that in the United States, our culture firmly holds that burial is respectful and cremation is not.

I have to say, I've lived in the US my whole life, and although some people prefer one or the other, I've never heard anyone in my culture make the claim that cremation is "disrespectful".
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katharina
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What part of the U.S.?
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Jhai
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I'm with Sean - I've never heard that cremation is disrespectful. I grew up in California.
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katharina
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What part of California?

I have definitely heard that it was disrespectful, so clearly there are different attitudes in different parts of the U.S.

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Sean Monahan
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I've lived in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and currently Nevada.

EDIT: Though I must admit, I've not discussed the subject with everyone I know.

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katharina
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I'd be interested in an actual survey of attitudes. I've lived in Texas, Utah, Michigan, and Virginia, but I only had a conversation about what to do with the body in half of those places.
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0Megabyte
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You know, honestly? I'd rather go out in some dramatic fashion that ends with nobody ever able to find my body. You know, as long as it wasn't painful, or I was stuck there dying slowly or something.

Then, because nobody ever found me, for the rest of human history they could at least say, "he's not really dead. He's just waiting for the right moment to return!"

Come now. Who wouldn't want such a King Arthur style thing? ^_^

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Sean Monahan
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There's a little bit of a stigma towards cremation in my mind. I think that's because I never heard of cremation until I was in my teens. In my formative years, I only knew that dead people were buried. So in the back of my mind, cremation is still a little "weird" for me. But logically, I think I'd prefer it.

Something just occured to me. Let me preface this by saying this is *not* my belief - it's just a conjecture. But maybe some people find it disrespectful in a subconsciously religious way; as though applying fire to the body is somehow consigning the person to some sort of hell.

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Belle
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Take everything out that can be used - organ donation, definitely, then I don't really care. If my kids want me buried in a spot they can visit, then fine. Personally, I don't go to gravesites of my loved ones that have died. I don't see the point. As far as my religious beliefs are concerned - I don't believe they are there, or that what is in the ground is anything more than decomposing organic matter. It's just a body, and has no real significance for me.

I do understand that not everyone feels that way. My aunt likes to visit my grandmother and grandfather's grave and take new flowers, and clean it up and everything. It means to something to her, and that's great. It's just not the same for me.

I have never heard anyone say cremation is disrespectful per se, but I do note that here - in the Bible Belt, deep south portion of the country - that cremation is rare. Most people do have embalming and burials in cemetery plots.

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Jhai
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I've lived all over Northern California & Central California. I've been in SoCal often enough that I'm fairly certain that cremation isn't an issue there.

I imagine the large number of immigrants in California might have something to do with this. Among Hindus (a sizable group in the Bay Area), cremation is absolutely the thing to do.

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pooka
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I think there's a doctrinal aspect to Mormonism that the body is integral to the soul, and so I think that's where the idea of disrespect concept comes in -- however, what constitutes respect or disrespect varies widely. So it is cultural. The friend's cultural education has that it's disrespectful while yours does not.

My mom's point was that filling the body with embalming chemicals is just as disrespectful as incinerating it. I mean, fire has a lot of religious symbology that formaldehyde does not.

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maui babe
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My father was quite young when he died (44) and his parents encouraged us to cremate him due to the lower costs involved. At that time (I was about 19), my older siblings and I were firmly against the idea and paid the extra ~$2000 or so to have him buried. He's buried in Reno, where he lived when he died, and I've never been back to the cemetary since the funeral. My sister has, but she lives closer. At this time in my life, I'd probably agree with my grandparents and cremate him.

My grandparents informed us at that time that when they died, they would be cremated and they did not want any funeral service. We respected their wishes, but it felt kind of wrong. My grandmother went first, and I sent a card and called grandpa, but he was insistent that there wouldn't be a service. He died about 11 years later and I got a call from my uncle to let me know. Again, I felt bad that we didn't gather for a funeral, but we were all pretty scattered and probably wouldn't have been able to do much anyway due to other family circumstances (our mother was terminal at that point and we were making arrangements for her).

My mother was buried, but not embalmed. My flight was delayed on the way to her funeral and I was not present when most of the decisions were made. I thought my step-father and brother spent WAAAAYYY too much on the casket, but they were caught up in the emotion and fell for some of the high pressure at the funeral home.

As for myself, I've told all of my children to donate whatever they can and dispose of the rest of me as cheaply and efficiently as possible. I despise the idea of a viewing - I think they're terribly morbid. I like brojack's suggestion for a service, but honestly, all of the family funerals I have attended have been almost exactly what he described.

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Epictetus
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I think if I were cremated, I'd opt to have my ashes mixed in with wet concrete that could then be made into some sort of a monument.
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