Donna Smaldone
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Tuesday / March 22 / 2011

Life is fragile: today I celebrate Tina Fonzo

Without wordsmithing, I simply say, “Happy birthday, Tina.”

Today marks the day Tina Fonzo came into this world 41 years ago. She left it when she was 16.

[CLICK to listen to the song Forever Young, from Alphaville’s debut album also called Forever Young (1984) — one of Tina’s favorite groups.]

I believe we are souls who have bodies. Not the other way around. My Mom reminds me of the reassuring words I spoke at my Grandfather’s wake to my then 4-year-old sister, “That’s not Grandpa. That’s just the costume he wore while he was here.” I was ten.

So as I immersed myself in a good cry last night, I marveled at all the things Tina must be doing now. Right where she is. As opposed to speculating who or what she would be if she still had her earthly body.

Don’t get me wrong. I have complete lack of understanding of the “whys” and won’t portend otherwise. I was in the same car that swerved off the road into that tree and for 24 years, have grappled with countless “whys” and “what ifs”. When you share someone’s final moments, something births in your soul that connects you to that person in a very intimate way. Forever.

I will forever be connected to Tina. She touched my heart and life at a time when I needed her. I hope I did likewise for her.

Being back “home” has been therapeutic for me. One of the “whys” I can’t explain is why I survived and she didn’t. But I no longer feel guilty for doing so. I’ve had an awakening of sorts. A reconnection to home, to friends, to family. Reengaging with many I went to grade school with has reminded me of the unique connection we all share. A bond that cannot be broken no matter the years or heavens that come between us.

I am grateful to count Tina Fonzo amongst my most cherished friends. And today, I celebrate her life.

28 responses to “Life is fragile: today I celebrate Tina Fonzo”

  1. Julie says:

    Donna,
    Big hugs to you today. I am so thankful that I knew Tina… I am celebrating her life with you today! “Forever Young”
    Love you so much!!
    Julie

  2. Donna Smaldone says:

    “Forever Young” – love it! A beautiful tribute to a beautiful life. Love you! xo

  3. Beth Tooker says:

    Beautiful, Donna! Thanks for reminding me today about how precious life is. You have no idea the impact you have on others. Thank you for shining the light!

  4. DeRonda says:

    That’s beautiful Donna.
    So many of us have been along side you through the years, struggling with unanswered questions, sharing in your grief…praying for your hurt to heal.
    Your zest for life is inspiring; Tina would be so proud!

    “That’s just the costume he wore while he was here.”
    ♥ it!— you were wise beyond your years!

    ps; I want a new costume; mines too BIG! ;o)

  5. Donna Smaldone says:

    Your words really touched my heart, De. Thank you! You brought a tear to my eye but before it could fully form, I started laughing at the PS! …yet another reason I think you’re great! xo

  6. Michele says:

    Wow. You never cease to amaze me. Your inspiring words, your love for life and all things in it. Although I didn’t grow up knowing you like my sister did, and maybe because I’m older and I appreciate things so much more than when I did when I was young, I’m glad to know you now. I love hearing things that you say, and the posts you put on your page. Very inspiring, to say the least.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Your words mean a lot, Michele. Thank you for sharing them. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to share life with both Dan and Tina, even if only for a moment.

  7. Denise says:

    I agree with Michele, well written words that sent chills up my spine. We will never know why her and Dan were taken so young but we can all value the friendship we had with them the short time we had them. Forever in our hearts and forever looking over us♥

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      The questioning and the “whys” would drive us crazy if we let them. “Let us die young or let us live forever. We don’t have the power but we never say never.”

  8. Debbie says:

    <3 <3 <3 Beautiful reminder of the value of life, and the precious impact we all have on one another. <3 <3 <3

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I love how you mention the impact we all have on one another, Debbie. Such truth in your words. These are the bonds that touch our inner being and help form who we are.

  9. DeRonda says:

    It’s amazing what a song can do. I am forever brought back to the moment the Parsons sang it, EVERY time I hear ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’…♪ “Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on your way…”♪

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      So true, De. Songs are powerful… in their words, in their melodies, and mostly in the way they wrap themselves around you, enveloping you in a time and place flooded with loving memories.

  10. Dawn says:

    Thank you my friend for being you and remember we ALL have a purpose…Happy Birthday Tina, you touched us all!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Human nature is such that we struggle with understanding “what exactly IS my purpose!?” But to your point Dawn, we all have one, and knowing that is enough to press forward. Onward!

  11. Mark Petrie says:

    Donna,
    Having been there with Charlotte and shared her last moments I can honestly tell you that your insight is correct. We just have to know that God needed Tina, Charlotte, Dan, Robert and Jeff as angels in His realm and we were meant to be angels in our. Please never discount the fact that your captivating smile, words and energy can touch the lives of so many. I feel blessed that I have you back. Being truly altruistic means that we will never know how we have touched others, just that we have. You are truly that spirit! Happy Birthday Tina and Happy re-birth to you Donna. I know what you are capable of! Keep that spirit alive!
    Mark

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      It is indeed an experience like no other, Mark. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. You truly just touched my heart. There’s refreshment and joy in exchanging memories of loved ones. I am grateful for life, for love, and for friends like you.

  12. Cindy Brown says:

    I think we all struggle at some point in our lives with ‘what is our purpose for being here’ and in your case and many others, ‘why me’.
    I believe You, my friend, have found it. The Lord knew you were destine to help so many others through your insightful words of wisdom and your generous heart to share them with others. He knew you had ‘The You Evolution’ locked inside of you.
    I Thank you for stopping me from slipping into the “life/people really suck lately” attitude and for helping me reach deep down inside myself to bring back out the ‘me’ I use to be. You are an inspiring lady and we are all very lucky God so fit to share you with us!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I applaud you for transitioning that passion and momentum in the direction of “you” and embracing life along the way, Cindy. If I was able to play a role in that, I am thankful. And I am thankful you shared this with me and my readers. Welcome to The You Evolution™!

  13. Brenda Agnew says:

    First off let me start by saying Happy Birthday Tina,

    I have said it before and will say it again Donna Your an AMAZING person to have something so tragic happen to all of you at that age but yet you remember, you healed, you prayed,you have accepted.

    You have done some amazing things with your life and for what its worth I am so proud of you. Continue to be the amazing person you’v become, and let your light and love shine thew.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I’m so grateful for the community in which we grew up, Brenda. We all went through this together and drew closer because of it. I appreciate your kind words and look forward to what’s next in this, The You Evolution™.

  14. Kim says:

    Again, great words of wisdom. I love the then “love of my life” in my junior year in high school to an auto accident.. He did NOT pass. He has spent the last 30+ years of his life in a nursing home. I think of him often, visit him when I can (it gets harder and harder to pull myself out of a deep depression once I visit), and pray for him constantly. The “Whys” are too hard to comprehend and I rely on my faith to carry me on a daily basis..
    Thanks for sharing and “Happy Birthday Tina Fonzo” !

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      My hearts breaks as I read your words, Kim. I won’t pretend I have a magic solution for your pain because I don’t. But I do understand it, at least on a certain level. That is A LOT for a teenager to take on. And no matter how we grow and develop, it’s hard to remove our teenage self from those experiences. An exercise you may find helpful (as I have): I’m not sure if you’re a Mom or not, but I encourage you to put yourself in a mother’s shoes. What would you say to your teenage daughter if this happened to her? Write yourself a note in the voice of a mother to her daughter. And then read it, and embrace the love that is surely there.

  15. Michelle says:

    Donna,
    I was coaching JV field hockey when I came to know both you and Tina. When I hear the song “Bridge over troubled water” I think of Tina and the whole field hockey community coming together in a big circle at her wake/funeral and hugging one another. Over the years I have had thoughts of her come to mind as well. I think your words and great attitude are inspiring. As someone in an earlier post said – you were wise beyond your years when you spoke about your Grandfather. I’d like to think you are right! Beautiful words about Tina!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Wow, how wonderful to hear from you, Michelle. Thank you for sharing. Field hockey was such a unifying sport. We epitomized “team”. As I wasn’t able to leave my room in the ICU to attend the funeral, I appreciate hearing of the solidarity and love that was so readily displayed. So many friends, classmates and teammates came to visit me in the hospital and the love was evident there, too (…even from the visiting field hockey team we had beaten earlier the day of the accident). I am grateful to be part of such a tremendous community.

  16. Karen says:

    As always, well said. I can’t tell you how much I love you and appreciate your insight. Have an awesome day.

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