On Saturday, April 6, 2013, we lost Tiffany Faith Burnoski, 20, in a fatal car accident when she was heading home to San Francisco from Cal State Fullerton. She was a Civil Engineering major and an American Studies minor at California State University Fullerton. Tiffany leaves behind her father and mother, Tom and Jennifer Burnoski; her older sister and brother-in-law, Jamie and John Magpoc, her younger siblings, Jonathan, Joshua, Matthew and Elizabeth; her aunt, Christine Joy Ferrer; uncle, Frederick Ferrer; her grandmother, Erlinda B. Amagan, and boyfriend, Casey Chow. If you’d like to donate to the family towards the funeral, medical and other expenses, you can do so on youcaring.com. This is the eulogy I had written and read for Tiffany’s funeral on April 16. Tiffany is my niece.
I became an Antie when I was only 8 years old. First, to Jamie, when my older sister Jennifer married Tom, and then on September 17, 1992 the day Tiffany Faith Burnoski entered this world.
And you don’t know how many times over the years I’ve tried to explain to people that Tiffany is NOT my cousin, she is my niece. Yes, she’s somewhat around my age, taller than me, bigger than me, even sometimes acts more grown than me, but she’s still my niece. This was also the case for Jamie. I think we finally gave up and just told people that we’re sisters and I looked like the mom, Jamie looked like the dad, and Tiff looked liked both.
But Tiffany was more than just my niece—to me she was, and still is one one of my best friends, my confidant, and my big/little sister.
Tiff was real, smart, driven, and creative. She was the type of person you could tell everything and anything and she’d always get you. She’d listen to your good/bad/ugly/and crazy. She’d be the first to laugh at you, but also with you. She possessed an infectious laugh, one hell of a smile, and brought joy and silliness to every room she entered. She liked Math and was dedicated to Civil Engineering and American Studies, and still managed to stay rooted to her love for dance and song.
Tiff loved her siblings, our family, her friends, and of course, her boyfriend Casey very much. What other 20-year-old do you know, would take all of spring break off work just to hang out with her littlest siblings? And also spend the weekend before with her brothers, and travel back and forth from So Cal to be with her family for Easter? I mean at, 20, I was just trying to go to New York City for spring break with my friends.
Growing up in the same household, my nieces and nephews and I are all so tight knit. And constantly with each other. When Tiff and I were younger, we even wanted to start a dance team and call ourselves, “T-N-T, Dynamite,” for Tine and Tiffany. We both love to dance.
Tiffany is a beautiful soul, whose life, I see now, has touched countless people. Last week, they even held a vigil for her at CSU Fullerton. About 150 people lit candles for her that evening and shared stories about how much Tiff meant to them.
From Fullerton, as part of PASA Kaibigan, and her dance group Infinite PASAbilities; to Shiloh Church, and as part of Jah Oui, Voice of Pentecost Christian School, SF State and their dance department; Hollister, Lowell High School, and their dance department, CAT and she never ceased to make a positive impact. If you know anyone one of us in our family, you also knew Tiff.
Over the last several days, I’ve probably played the YouTube video that her Fullerton friends made for her, “In Memory of Tiffany Burnoski” close to 50 times — just to hear her voice at the end of it, just to hear her sing.
For me, everything has been a blur of emotions from shock to sadness to frustration to hope. What has brought me the most peace has been prayer, meditation, my supportive friends, listening to that inner voice inside of me, talking to Tiffany throughout my day, and hearing about the hundreds of beautiful things people have said about her on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
I realize that there is no use trying to make sense of her death, or to blame, or to wonder what if, or to think she had her whole life ahead of her, or that it should have been me who died.
Life is life, no matter how long or how short. What matters is what you do with the life God’s given you.
And yet, so many of us live day-to-day, dead—dead to this life, dead to yourself and dead to who you are. So in the end, what is life if you don’t give it purpose? And if you don’t create meaning with your actions, no matter your situation.
If nothing else, today we celebrate Tiffany’s life, who she is, and everything she represents. She truly lived. And that is why we are all here today. Her life imprinted on our lives.
My youngest nephew Matthew gave me a shirt for Christmas that said, “World’s Best Antie.” But the truth is, I was blessed with the world’s best nieces and nephews, all six of them, and I will always love you guys, no matter what.
The last time, I saw Tiffany was a week before she passed. It was last minute thing, but she met me at my work and did my hair and makeup for my best friend Hannah’s wedding, just like she always did my hair and makeup for various occasions. She even let me borrow her earrings for the wedding. I’ll forever carry this memory with me.
We must remember, that although Tiff’s physical body may no longer be with us—her spirit and love remain immortal. We must realize that we are not our bodies. Our body is only a host; a vessel that God uses to house our soul and spirit.
A few days after Tiff died, someone very close to me had a dream. In that dream Tiff said, “Why is everyone acting all crazy… tell them I’m happy. Tell them, tell them, I’m finally free.”
Well, I guess I’m really gonna’ have to learn how to do my own hair and makeup now, huh? Thank you for being that glue that held our family together. And even now, you’re still that glue that brings us all together. I know you’ll always be with me. – Tine
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things unseen.