My 34 year old cousin T.J. died from a seizure. He was a daredevil who excelled at everything he tried: skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, track (his high school record remains unbroken) and racing cars. After years of concussions sustained in a variety of ways, he developed epilepsy and spent years trying to find the right medicine.
Instead of college, he decided to work on the intricacies of race cars and moved from small town Michigan to CA to apprentice himself with a master. He loved his chosen profession in a niche field. At his service, his best friend Cody placed his welding helmet on the closed casket.
Four of his best friends stood up to talk about T.J. and the impact their friendship had on their lives. To me, the most poignant speaker was Cody, who spoke about how T.J. led him in a series of firsts - his first time snowboarding and skateboarding were with T.J. Cody also said that his stint in the military had left him without the emotional range he once had. He said that he should have known it would be T.J. who would be the first to show him the way back.
T.J. and his fiancé were slated to be married in two months. She wore one of his jerseys and carried his favorite shirt with her to the visitation and memorial the following day. She lay with her head and arms on the casket as if embracing him from beyond. A friend of hers read a letter to him that she had written after he died. It was lovely and funny and poignant. The song that was to have been their wedding tune played.
My 90-year-old aunt said, "Golly, I have never felt so much love in one room in my life."
The funeral home was packed to capacity and everyone was crying.
The only false note of the ceremony was from the priest. It was clear that he didn't know T.J. and tried to call him by his first name of Taylor, but said Tyler instead. My cousin Leslie (T.J's mother) had to correct him. Another mistake was when the priest claimed T.J. was meek, a claim that was later refuted by his four best friends and one of his sisters.
I am proud of T.J. for the life he led. Not many people absolutely love their lives - and he obviously did. He was someone who was absolutely certain of himself and his chosen path.