T is for Fire

Posted by Kim on Sunday Mar 7, 2021 Under Uncategorized

Tonia, the flame –

Tonia didn’t just live life, she burned through life. And everyone in her path was changed. She left her mark upon their heart. She had a fiery passion and a full range of emotion to complement it. She laughed hard, cried hard, and loved deeply.

A beautiful force wild and free.

Tonia, the beauty –

Tonia was captivating. She loved dress-up and make-up, but she had natural smoldering beauty. She’d enter a room and it was instantly warmer, instantly brighter. She radiated personality and charm. When she talked and laughed, she glowed. To be in her presence was to be entranced. Her beauty in life was so big she couldn’t contain it.

It spread like wildfire.

Tonia, the storyteller –

Tonia would tell stories and all I could do was to hang on every word and laugh. I’d laugh until my face was soaked with tears and I couldn’t catch my breath. It seemed as though my laughter was fuel to her fire. She’d be watching me – and as soon as I could breathe, she’d add another layer to the story. Through my blurry vision I’d try to focus on her only to find she’d be laughing as hard as me, but persisted to tell her story. And ever so animated, she’d hit every detail with purpose and had the intonation to match. From gangster ducks to spiders under bowls, she kept me laughing. That’s what Tonia did for me…she kept me in a full on combustion of laughter. And I had a laugh only Tonia could ignite. I miss that laugh. It’s lost inside me now. Time with Tonia left my stomach muscles sore, but my heart so full.

And she burned even brighter.

Tonia, the gamer –

Oh, the nights gaming! I had not ever been a gamer, but playing with Tonia made me want to play. I couldn’t wait to clean up the kitchen after dinner and head over to the office for some Overwatch time. She would send me silly gifs, usually including a cute animal, asking where I was or how much longer. I looked forward to joining and hearing her in my headset. Her happy, clear, beautiful voice. Tonia played a character named Mercy, the healer for our team. She’s an angel that flies around and attaches a beam of light to each player to support them and keep them alive. Her greatest asset is her ability to boost teammates. Ironically, Tonia played this character in life as well, always, always, always boosting others. (I played the tank. It was my job to protect her and the team, but she always managed to save me…in many ways.)

See, gaming wasn’t just about the game. No, it was about our experience together. Every night we would find so much to talk and laugh about. Anything and everything really. Somebody would say something and it would spark a song in Tonia’s head and she would sing. She had songs for the names of each map. She had songs for everything. It was so catching that we would end up singing our own words rather than talking, making up songs as we went. Just set our talk to a rhythm and we would sing. It lit us up! There we were singing and gaming. Singing and gaming.

Tonia would talk in funny voices too and she had many! She would say silly things, do silly things, and even when stuff went wrong and we messed up in the game, she would find the humor in it. (“Did I get anything?…You got Deva…I got Dever????”) I can still hear her even without my headset on. She turned the evening into an event and I had front row seats. I would laugh so hard I would cry and then I couldn’t see the screen to play the game! It was all blurry. (Funny, I only ever had blurry vision when I was with Tonia – Toniavision.) I miss my blurry eyes. They are dark now. I spent most all of those games absolutely straining my eyes to see the screen, but with a song in my heart.

And she burned even brighter.

Tonia, the girl –

So beautiful she made me feel beautiful.

So funny, she made me feel funny.

So happy, she made me feel happy.

Tonia was so fierce in life that it was uncontrollable and she let it spread. When I would laugh, it made her laugh. It stirred her and she fed off this power she had. She wanted to unleash more happiness everywhere. And she didn’t just do this for me. No, she did it for everyone she met. There were no guards up with Tonia, you just melted into her silliness. She was the real deal. Even the guy who poured her gravel called her after leaving her house to chat some more. People couldn’t get enough of Tonia. She threw her complete attention on whoever crossed her path and made them feel like the most important person on Earth. She left little embers wherever she went.

And she burned even brighter.

Tonia, the daughter/sister/aunt/friend –

Tonia (Tonzer) loved her friends and family more than anything else. She wholeheartedly wanted to be close to them and surrounded by them always. That was most important to her. Donna (Sisser) became her neighbor and they spent days and nights together. I talked about them so much in the same sentence together (Donna & Tonia, Donna & Tonia, Donna & Tonia) that they organically became “Donia” to me…as if they were one. Sisters and best friends. Back in the day Tonia spent the summers with Grant (Grunky) at his condo and worked at his office. I still remember playing around and taking fun photos in the office and eating at Miyabi every Friday night. Over the years Grant and Tonia still talked nearly every single day. Sister/brother and best friends. Her nieces and nephews stayed with her. Hung out with her. And to be her friend was to have the most loyal and devoted friend ever. Tonia loved those close to her fervently and the bond was powerful and endearing. Her love so pure and rich that we grew from it.

And we burned even brighter.

Tonia, the memory –

I love her so dearly. For the life of me, I cannot believe she is gone. She was the baby sister I never had. She is one of the rare people that made me feel truly good about myself. She’s easily the coolest person I’ve ever known and surely ever will. There’s a million more things that come to mind when I think of Tonia. I could never possibly write them all down. This is just a small flicker of who she was and what she meant to me.

I miss the laugh. I miss the blurry vision.

I miss her flame.

2 Responses to “T is for Fire”

  1. Debbie Miller Says:

    Kimberly, you really captured the essence of Tonia. Even though I never met her, I feel like she’s a friend, and a fun one! She seemed absolutely delightful and loving. I m so happy you had a baby sister. I know, because you’re my baby sister and baby sisters are wonderful. Everyone should have one because they become one of your best friends in life. I’m so sorry you are missing her, but so thankful you have beautiful memories.

  2. Tricia Jennings Says:

    What a beautiful tribute! You were truly blessed to have had such a wonderful person in your life. I am so sorry for your loss but I am happy that you have so many wonderful memories to look back on and to keep Tonia’s spirit alive.

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