As John and Jennifer Tedesco fell in love their journey was always outwardly heartfelt and deeply personal. Their dating life was a steady stream of those “awe” moments for years that made friends a little nauseous. For example, Jenni would search the country for antique coins from the 1800s that were turned into love tokens. These were coins that couples, usually a dime, would use to express their love; keep the side with the date, brush clean and re-engrave the other side with their initials, and then punch a hole through it so it could be worn around the neck. As they built their love story Jenni would give these to John for various presents (birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas). They would imagine the 100 year old love story behind each coin and build their love on all the love the world had come before them.
John too would surprise Jenni, with many random adventures such as a trip to Charleston to see the Angel Oak Tree (the oldest living thing East of the Mississippi that weathered 1500 years of storms hurricanes), or to find a small two person Amish church on the side of a road in the woods of Ohio where couples could would go to hold hands under a heart and cross to pray together. John would create for songs and videos for Jenni. One year John would give jenni a different song representing a different aspect of their love for all 52 weeks of the year. On their third anniversary Jenni hand rolled 1,445 mini scrolls with personal notes on each then tied little ribbons on them, one for each day they dated. We told you - nauseating right?
Well, a couple of years later during their beautiful and magical wedding, which they coordinated themselves (due to their previous event planning experience), Jenn’s sister was giving a toast to hundreds of friends and family when she said something rather poignant for the couple. She said, the thing with John & Jenn is that “they LOVE OUT LOUD in a way that can inspire all of us.” Their ability to express love and tell their story was truly rare. That had always stuck with the two as they shared their love with each other and their family and friends.
Christopher’s Celebration of Life
John had come from a very close and large loud loving Italian family where he was the oldest of six children. In 2013 his younger brother Christopher welcomed a son, Noah, into the family; their father’s fifth grandson (no girls….then). Sadly, few months down the road his brother Chris would be overcome with a tragic breathing issue - at 29 years old he passed leaving behind his fiancé and his new little boy before his first birthday. This was a devastating loss for the Tedesco family especially after having lost their mother young some years earlier.
Throughout much of John’s 20 year career he had extensive event coordination experience; from large scale events such as community wide festivals, conventions for national organizations, to fundraising cocktails parties, grand balls, golf outings, basketball tournaments, and honorariums for individuals who made significant contributions. When his brother Chris died he knew he did not want to have his new nephew, their father and younger siblings stand for a couple days in front of a casket with a processional of grieving mourners repeating like a hammer on their hearts some version of “we’re sorry for your loss.” He knew Chris wouldn’t want that either. He wanted to leverage all of his love and experience to do something truly special for Chris. With a bit of coaching to the family who had only known traditional funerals the way we all do, they decided they would host a Celebration of Life instead.
The family discussed what was important to Chris - what he enjoyed, what he loved, how he lived his life and how should he be remembered. Chris loved music, he made music, and he had music lyrics tattooed on his ribs. He loved people and parties and just laughing with friends. He was non-judgmental and never met stranger. He liked being out by the lake and he liked bon-fires. When he was down he used to say, “chili dogs and milk shakes make everything better.”
With that in mind John and Jenni planned Christopher’s Celebration of Life as a family picnic on the lake with a sunset balloon launch and bonfire. Chris had wished to be cremated and used to say, “this way you can all have a little piece of me.” So as he wished his ashes were prepared by friends at Omega Crematory in Burlington, NC. Special necklaces for his fiancée and little boy were prepared to hold some of his ashes, granite hearts with some of his ashes for his sisters and special urns for his father and brothers. A small bit of ashes were put in to the dirt for a new tree they planted and they also sprinkled some on his mother’s grave.
John & Jenni had the lakeside park pavilion decorated with flowers and numerous pictures of Chris throughout life, their event services team brought in white tables and chairs to fill the field, and the caterers prepared all of his favorite foods. A custom website was built for Chris as a memorial tribute where family and friends could leave notes, video memorials were made with his favorite memories and songs and played at the event, posters of Chris were put up, and memorial cards with photos of Chris and some special quotes where prepared for guests. Sound systems were set up to play all his favorite songs and a couple of his original recordings in the background. Set off tastefully to the side, was a food truck from the State Fair that was brought in for the day to serve everyone milk shakes, and his favorite candies were laid out everywhere.
Note cards for all to write on were put with 100 white balloons and 1 black balloon (Black Balloon by Goo Goo Dolls was Chris’ favorite song and those were the lyrics tattooed on his ribs) then released at sunset. More personal notes to Chris, some from family and friends making sure they had one last chance to say I love you, I am mad at you, or I forgive you, were placed in sealed envelopes into a small custom wooden box; along with a sprinkle of his ashes. The boxed with everyone’s deepest notes were later burned in an evening bonfire for Chris.
A small informal agenda was followed. Their pastor said a few words. The family then took turns with a few emotional remarks that mostly showcased why Chris was so loved. Friends took turns sharing a few of their favorite memories as well. The balloon launch and then bonfire followed. All had shared in the midst of their deepest moments of grief a little joy and laughter celebrating the life Chris lived.
Their pastor and numerous others had expressed to John and Jenn that this was exactly what they wanted, how they wanted to go. Their friend, the director for Omega funeral and crematory services said, you will be surprised but this process you have laid out will greatly help the grieving process for so many in your family, and is the exact kind of thing so many others would love to have for their loved ones.
It was with that in mind, a year later, John and Jenn decided to let Chris’ memory live on as a service to others and launched Love Out Loud to help other families tell the stories and Celebrate the Life of those they loved so dearly.