HNT, being a weekly celebration of exposure, is supposed to include a picture of yourself. But I have found that sometimes it warrants a "special guest" -- and this week's celebration of exposure does reveal a bit about me (as will be explained), but is also an exposure of my grief.
Francine's cousin Santo Amalfi (whom many of us called Sonny) died suddenly last Friday November 20, 2009 of a massive heart attack. He woke in the early morning with chest pains and did the exact thing you're supposed to. He went straight to the hospital. So, when it happened, he was in the best possible place to be to have a heart attack. But despite their best efforts, they weren't able to save him.
It was absolutely shocking and devastating to think that Sonny, who just celebrated his 40th birthday in September, was suddenly and tragically no longer with us.
Sonny leaves behind two young children, a wonderful loving wife, three very close sisters and a group of family and friends as large as his gigantic heart.
Memories of getting together with family at various gatherings over the years always included tales of Francine, her brothers and their four cousins getting into various kinds of mischief when they were children. Sonny could be quiet at these gatherings, often just sitting back and listening to one of his sisters or cousins recounting humorous stories about him, so I didn't always directly see his playful and mischievous spirit; but I have been privy to countless tales and intimately knew his bright and infectious grin and his wonderfully contagious laugh.
As we all gathered together in our grief and discussed celebrating the good spirit of Sonny and his "no-bull" attitude about enjoying life to the fullest, we started gathering photos to include in a music slide-show for the funeral home visitation. I set about scanning them and putting them to music.
For the three song set, I included two standard and fitting songs. Sarah McLachlin's "I Will Remember You" And Louie Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World." For the third song, given Sonny's affinity for fishing, I chose Brad Paisley's "I'm Gonna Miss Her" which is a tale about an avid fisherman being given an ultimatum from his wife that it's either the fishing or her.
For that video, I used dozens of pictures of Sonny fishing and hanging out with his outdoorsman buddies. In one sequence of shots Sonny is walking with two buddies and in typical Sonny fashion, moons the camera in a subtle way. So there's a shot of the three walking away, Sonny's butt hanging out -- then the next of him with his pants back up and laughing his special mischievous laugh. It was a perfect Sonny moment, which I knew many people would recognize.
But at the last minute, I pulled it out of the video, fearing it might offend some people. (Me, I'm not so brave and bold as Sonny was) But in any case, I thought this HNT would be fitting to include Sonny's "moon" shot as well as the video.
You could always rely on Sonny for either a laugh or to be there when you needed him. One friend wonderfully described him as a family man, a fisherman and a true friend.
At the funeral home visitations on Tuesday, there were endless lineups out the door of the hundreds upon hundred of people who wanted to pay their respects. In fact, at the end of the afternoon showing, which had already gone overtime for an hour, there was still a lineup that had to unfortunately be asked to return at 6 PM for the evening visitation in order to give the exhausted family a bit of a break. Similarly, the chapel was packed beyond capacity at his funeral and burial service on Wednesday. What further evidence of the incredible reach and effect he had on so many lives?
As one of his friends said: "He may have been small, but he had the heart of a giant."
We miss you, Sonny. Godspeed and let's hope the fish are biting good in heaven.