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Keeping memory of Terry strong

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Keeping memory of Terry strong

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Janelle Chase-Mayers always knew how she wanted her life to play out at age 27. She had planned to be married to a wonderful man, have her first child, and be pretty much living her dream.
And if by sheer will, Fate seemed to put her plan into motion. After achieving her Masters in marriage and family therapy at the University of Louisiana, she married journalist Terry Mayers, had a son, Terrence Jr, or TJ, as he’s commonly called, and had settled into a comfortable state of married life. Or so she thought.
But then a little thing called life intervened in 2008, which began a sequence of events that would claim the life of her husband, Terry, at the peak of his journalistic career, robbing him of the joys of fatherhood, and Janelle of the life that she had only began to immerse herself into and love. As a result of that Janelle now avoids making long-term plans for her life.
Fast forward three years later. TJ is now a thriving, energetic, three-year-old with a blossoming vocabulary, that bears an eerily striking resemblance to his late father. Janelle has carried on though, remarkably well, juggling a career as a therapist and motherhood, and adjusting to life on her own.
“Those two weeks in the hospital were a preparation for him leaving,” Janelle said. “You know how the old people say that death brings life . . . I had to be a mother at the end of the day. It was sadness but there was always joy because I had him,” Janelle said of her son. “My luck was that I had him. He was a newborn so it wasn’t a matter of don’t take care of him, don’t cope, I still had to do that.”
Perhaps her psychological training allowed her to cope with her grief head on. Or perhaps the demands of caring for a newborn strengthened her resolve, allowing her to discard any notions, if she did harbor any, of falling apart.
“Like I always tell people, people’s sons die, their husbands die, I guess this time around it was mine,” Janelle said.
After spending several years in the media, Terry Mayers had gained a rather large public persona, so his death which was seen as a man cut down in the prime of life, with so much to live for gripped the entire country.
“I think there was comfort in the fact that everyone knew who he was, therefore it wasn’t just my loss it was everybody’s loss,” Janelle said.  “Sometimes it was easier to deal with the fact that it was everybody’s loss than just mine.”
What made Janelle’s loss even more poignant was that back in May 2008 when Terry was hospitalized from an asthma attack, their son was only four weeks old.
“I don’t even think I had to make a promise to myself about that, he will know who his father was,” she said emphatically. “He’ll know who his Dad is, everything he stood for, his friends . . . .It’s funny because none of his friends have left. In fact I gained so many friends as a result of his loss.”
Janelle actually recounted stories of his friends standing by her side for months after his death, making sure that she and TJ, were bearing up under the strain. Some even slept at the house making sure it wouldn’t be bombarded by the loneliness and grief and memories.
“I have tremendous friends, mine as well as Terry’s,” she said. “They looked out for me. I think it was four months before I was in the house alone, every night someone would come and sleep. My neighbourhood also helped and gave me overwhelming support, because it wasn’t just my loss it was their loss.”
While by all accounts now, many would dub Janelle as a single mum, she says the label is far from accurate. With the unwavering support of her mother, Terry’s parents, his godparents, and his nanny, she never feels like she is navigating the journey of parenting all on her own.
“I always tell people that parenting is not for one person,” she said. “There were certain strengths that I know Terry had that I don’t, like patience that is not my strong point. Now I have to find other people in my life to teach him patience,” Janelle said.
With only two years of married life under their belt, and a newborn son, there are many who would have been angry at death’s unwanted interruption in their life.
“I guess I didn’t have the time to be. At the end of the day what purpose would it have served. If I was angry then I would be an angry mum and what good would that be to TJ.”
 For now, Janelle cherishes the memories, and goes on knowing that she and Terry created something special in TJ.
“You know when Terry was in the hospital, I spent my first Mother’s Day there. I begged the nurses to bring TJ, to see his father and I put him on his chest, because at that point I knew you know,” Janelle recalled. “I don’t know if Terry knew he was that, but I wanted him to have that. You know that was my Mother’s Day gift.”