Thursday, May 16, 2013

Memory, Memorial, Miracle by Jena Galifany

May is a month of many happenings in my family. There are several birthdays: both of my sisters, one niece, a great-nephew, and my late Puppy Dog.

May is also a month of tragedy. Both grandfathers passed away in May, before I was two years old. I don't remember either of them. I experienced my first panic attack in May twenty years ago and continue to deal with them.

Worst of all, my oldest daughter was made a widow at the age of twenty-one seven years ago. TJ was taken from her in a car accident. He was a passenger. His seat belt failed to keep him from hitting his forehead on the dash. He lingered for two days before Amanda had to make the decision to let him go. There was no brain activity for two days before she had to make that horrible decision.

I'd like to share a few memories of my son-in-law, if I may.

TJ was a character. He was Phillipino/Chinese and had some odd ideas about how the world should work. For example: he thought it was alright to "taste-test" fruit in the grocery store. We used to laugh about him selecting an apple in Albertson's while Amanda and I were shopping with him for the first time. He polished it on his shirt and chomped into it. Amanda starred at him in disbelief, not sure what to say.

"TJ," I said, "you can't do that."

"Why not?" was his reply. "I have to make sure they're good."

That brought him a roll of the eyes from his wife and myself. I chose another apple and put it in the shopping cart so I could pay for it at checkout. I had some trouble explaining to the checker that I only wanted to pay for it, but not take it with me. He couldn't understand that I was paying for the one my new son-in-law had eaten.


TJ had never had a birthday party. An only child, he was raised by his father. His mother lived in a different state. Neither had given him a birthday party. I was privileged to provide him with one on his twentieth. It was small, only family and a couple of his friends. But he was thrilled.


TJ was Phillipino, as I mentioned before. Their culture has a lot of fish in their diet. Amanda is half-Italian, from her father. Amanda does not like fish. Shortly after their wedding, they went to her father-in-law's home for dinner. Lying on newspapers on the dining-room table was a large fish, approximately two feet long, head still intact. Amanda smirked. The conversation when something like this:

Amanda: "What is that?" (Horrified look.)

TJ: "That's dinner." (Wide grin.)

Amanda: "EEWWW!" (Wrinkled nose.)

TJ: (Brows drawn down.) "In my family, that is a blessing."

Amanda: (Brows raised.) "In my family, that means someone is gonna DIE!" (Think Luca Bratsi in "The Godfather".)


TJ's second Christmas and Halle's first.
TJ had never celebrated Christmas. His family just didn't celebrate holidays. I had the privilege of giving him his first Christmas. Amanda was pregnant with Halle. I had the joy of making it a Christmas none of us would forget.

For once, I had the money to do it right. Everyone got everything on their Wish List. We had breakfast together, all the kids in their pajamas. We opened gifts and enjoyed being together. Beside fulfilling their wish lists, I got each of them (my son, both daughters and TJ) a bucket of Legos, a Barrel of Monkeys, Video Games, candy and fruit (a family tradition). We even had the train around the Christmas Tree. That evening, we partook of a prime rib dinner together. The whole day was perfect.


TJ was a gamer, a snow-boarder, and an all around good guy. He left us too soon but he left a blessing in the form of Halle. She is now nine years old. She doesn't remember her father but she knows who he was by pictures and stories she's been told about him. He was a great guy and we all miss him.

May always begins on a bad note with the memory of his loss. We are happy that he was saved and baptized. Amanda finds comfort knowing TJ is in heaven waiting for her. They faced some challenges in their young marriage, but I feel they had a love that will last forever.

The memories of TJ are sweet. The memorial: I visit his grave occasionally and I always take him an apple. The miracle is that, even though she didn't know him, Halle is just like him in so many ways. She is truly her father's daughter.

Thank you for letting me share.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Beautiful post, Jena. Now TJ is special to the rest of us.

Jannine Gallant said...

What a lovely memorial. Thanks for sharing.

JenaGalifany said...

Thank you for allowing me to share. Have a wonderful day!