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‘It’s going to be OK’: Life after losing a parent

Three Long Islanders are carrying on their parents’ legacy with what they left behind.

To remember her mom, she’s tearing up their garden

Kathy Meyers reads a poem written by her mother in their garden.

To remember her mom, she’s tearing up their garden

By Rachel Weiss

Full, fat slugs

advance upon moonlit roses.

Sprinkle salt on them.

It makes them ooze and die.

Morning reveals

greenish blobs on pavement;

remnants of dead destroyers.

My daughter says

she’d rather let them live.

I prefer the roses.

A smile stretched across Kathy Meyers’ face as she read the last line. “The Solution” was written by her late mother, Barbara Reiher-Meyers. She recited it aloud sitting in the garden of her Ronkonkoma home, on a recent September afternoon.

It is in her garden that Meyers has found a space to grieve for her mother, who died in January at 83.

“I was brought home from the hospital to this house,” said Kathy, 55.

Growing up, Kathy was the only girl among five brothers. So when Barbara needed a hand in the garden, she reached for her daughter’s green thumb.

“I used to always go into the front garden and weed it and then I’d go inside and say, ‘Mom, how much will you give me if I weed the front garden?’ ” Kathy remembered.

“She’d be like, ‘I’ll give you $10’ and I’d be like, ‘OK good — because I did it already.’ ”

Kathy Meyers reads her mother’s poetry. (Credit: Shelby Knowles)

Barbara was a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. She was a vibrant gardener, a quick-witted writer, and an avid antique collector. When her health began to fail in 2016, Kathy sold her own house in Ronkonkoma and moved back in to be with her.

Right away, Kathy got back to work on her mother’s garden. They would chat about the possibilities: Turning the entire front yard into an English garden, adding a water feature, creating a pathway. Barbara told her daughter she could do whatever she wanted with it.

Since she died, Kathy has been expanding their garden.

“My coping mechanism is to tear into things,” she said. “So rototilling this yard or just working hard and working up a sweat, it gets out my aggression. And now we can sit here and be in the space that that energy formed.

“It’s all for her, because this is her house. This is her energy that’s making me do this.”

In addition to the potted plants and blooming flowers popping up in the front yard, Kathy created a pathway with a chopped-up tree that her neighbor cut down and added a seating area in the corner with a couple white metal chairs and a little round table, covered by a tablecloth.

Kathy feels connected to her mother through the work she’s doing, and she hopes the revamped garden will soon be filled again with life.

“I’m going to have every plant that I can think of, every plant that I can remember my mother telling me the name of,” she said. “Everything here is something that I know because she taught me.”

Now, budding hibiscus, daylilies and assorted seashells live in the Meyers garden, along with a sign that reads: “If silence is a wall, let words be a wrecking ball.”

Barbara was also beloved in Long Island’s poetry community, her daughter says — she was a wordsmith with an affinity for puns. “If you didn’t have a sense of humor, she was like, ‘You poor, sad person. I feel bad for you.’ ”

Kathy Meyers talks about her mother. (Credit: Shelby Knowles)

Every third Friday of the month, Barbara would emcee poetry readings at The Conklin Farmhouse and Barn in Huntington. The Walt Whitman Birthplace Association named her the Long Island Poet of the Year in 2018 — an honor she accepted before she died — and she often volunteered at its historical site. She was also a board member of the Long Island Poetry Collective and coordinated events for Northport Arts Coalition and Smithtown Township Arts Council.

Her 2004 book, “Sounds Familiar,” is a collection of mostly short poems, some inspired by her surroundings. There are a couple that refer to Lake Ronkonkoma, and one called “Sunrise Highway at Night.”

Like a white-knuckled flyer

my hands grip the wheel.

Something gleaming from the woods

too fleeting to be named;

Those tiny plastic whistles

on the bumper of my Buick

will surely protect me

from the flash and crash

of meat that            leaps across

blackness of highway.

I pray that if a deer

flies to wreck a hood,

that it will not be mine.

Kathy has been making appearances all over Long Island in her mother’s place, including at the United Methodist Church auction in Lake Ronkonkoma. “She was their best customer, and I knew she was missed,” Kathy said. She also organized a memorial for her mother at the Sachem Public Library, where family and friends gathered to read Barbara’s work.

Kathy hopes that her community will also follow her into the garden, either to pick up a shovel and getting to work, or to hang out.

“All of these things I do because other people need me to, but I need to say, ‘This is how I can have her stay alive and share her with everyone,’ ” Kathy said. “I hope I come home and find people sitting here. I hope I come home and find a plant from someone.”

When she first started working on the garden, Kathy began in the area right outside her mother’s bedroom window. She realizes now that this may have been intentional.

“I feel like maybe consciously and unconsciously, I finished this area first because this is what she would see if she was in her bed,” she said. “She’d see this garden. She wouldn’t see all the ripped up parts, she’d see what I’m doing and she would like it.

“I feel her watching me doing it and saying, ‘OK, I did tell you you could do whatever you wanted.’ ”

You used to hear his voice on WALK-FM.
His son still hears it all the time.

Josh Shnayer remembers his dad by the sound of his voice.

You used to hear his voice on WALK-FM. His son still hears it all the time.

By Rachel Weiss

Josh Shnayer did not want to get into his dad’s car.

It was November 2007 and his dad, Dave Shnayer, had died a few weeks earlier after a three-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He was 49. Josh was 22, home from his last semester of college. It was around Thanksgiving — and just he and his mom were in their Island Park home.

He knew he couldn’t put it off any longer. “I got a car that’s practically brand new that dad had; I can drive his car,” he remembers thinking to himself. “It’s nicer than mine anyway.”

Josh started up the silver Volkswagen Jetta for a quick drive to his girlfriend’s house and noticed there was a CD in the player.

He turned up the volume, and there it was: his dad’s voice.

“It’s JD Howard, good morning,” the cheery yet cool voice says over the beginning of Marc Anthony’s 1999 hit “I Need To Know.” “Hello to the girls soccer team from Sachem East High School, washing cars at the Friday’s on North Ocean Avenue in Holtsville. Great day to get your car washed. Hey girls, I think you missed a spot!”

Dave Shnayer was known across Long Island as JD Howard — J for Josh, D for Dave, and his own middle name, Howard. Listeners could tune in every weekend to hear him on WALK-FM 97.5, where he lived out his dream of being a disc jockey. The CD contained some of Dave’s on-air highlights: bits of news, the weather, and chatter before and after hit songs from yesterday and today.

An excerpt of Dave Shnayer working as a DJ on WALK-FM. (Audio credit: Connoisseur Media; Photo credit: Danielle Silverman; Video credit: Shelby Knowles)

As Josh listened to his dad’s upbeat voice, he sped through a range of emotions. “I made it to the corner before I had to pull over and compose myself,” he said.

“I was almost mad at him, you know? I got mad. I’m like, ‘Why the hell — you know where you are right now, you leave that in the car planned?’ ”

But then he thought to himself, “Shut up, you idiot. Stop it.”

Josh, now 34 and living in Westbury, no longer believes his dad left the CD for him to find on purpose. “But if it was unintentionally or subconscious, maybe that was his way of saying, ‘I’m here, it’s OK.’ ”

He continued to listen to that CD “over and over on a loop” for the next few months, every time he drove his dad’s car. He says it helped him grieve.

Eventually, Josh traded in the Jetta for a five-speed stick shift. He had never driven a stick shift before, but was “adamant” about the purchase because he liked the car.

Josh momentarily regretted it on one sticky summer day while trying to get the car over a steep hill. He estimates that he stalled out eight or nine times.

“People were blaring their horns at me, and I’m losing my mind and I’m flustered,” he said. “I think I said at the time, ‘I should’ve kept dad’s car. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.’ And I started reminiscing and thinking about the past, and then I played the CD. I remember listening to that to calm me down.”

There was a distinct difference between Dave’s “radio voice” and his “dad voice,” his son says. Josh can still hear the latter in his head: His dad’s soothing reassurances in the hospital when he broke his finger as a kid. “Listen to my voice. It’s going to be OK.” His contagious belly laugh that echoed through the house while he watched “The West Wing.” The way he scolded him when he cut corners, and his thoughtful fatherly advice.

Working in radio was always Dave’s ultimate goal. Over the years he lent his friendly voice to WALK-FM, B103 and Fresh 102.7. He was also a salesman for Skyline Displays, a Little League and college baseball umpire and a multi-sport athlete.

“I think he achieved everything he wanted to achieve in his life,” Josh said. “He had no regrets for anything, other than maybe being a Mets/Jets/Islanders fan.”

Josh and his dad always bonded over sports, whether they were discussing the draft, playing catch or hitting the links. Dave got his son into baseball early on, and Josh got his dad into golf.

Josh first took an interest in golf after finding some old clubs at his grandparents’ home. His dad signed him up for a golf camp and, eventually, he started taking lessons, too. Josh thinks as his dad got sick, he knew he wouldn’t be able to throw a baseball back and forth, so golf became their new game.

“We played golf regularly when I was in my late teens and early 20s before he got too sick to play,” Josh said. “And it became something that we would do together.”

When Dave died, per Jewish tradition family and friends helped bury him by taking turns shoveling soil onto the casket. Josh threw in some golf balls, “so that no matter where he was, he’d never lose those golf balls. As many as he’s lost, now he’s got a couple with him.”

And when Josh and his mother visit his grave in Lindenhurst, he always puts a golf tee in the ground next to the footstone.

Josh doesn’t consider himself spiritual. But his dad exists vividly in his memories — in an instant, he can be transported back in time to WALK-FM’s old studio in Patchogue.

“I would go down there on the weekends and they’d set me up in a conference room,” he said with a grin. “I’d have Disney movies, I’d have lunch from the deli and I’d watch afternoon hockey on FOX.”

And just down the hall, his dad would be accompanying Long Islanders on their afternoon drives, their weekend shifts, or their days at the beach. Like those listeners, Josh will always remember his dad by the sound of his voice.

“He touched a lot of people. In different little areas, he made his mark. I know in particular with radio, that attached to me because that’s what helped with my grieving process: listening to him.”

Her parents died unexpectedly.
Now she’s sending ‘blessings’ their way.

Winy Haryanto remembers her parents by memorizing the Quran and doing good deeds.

Her parents died unexpectedly. Now she’s sending ‘blessings’ their way.

By Rachel Weiss

Winy Haryanto lost both of her parents unexpectedly in 2008. They died on the same day — her mother, Enny, 58, had a stroke and went into a coma, and her father Haryanto, 63, had a heart attack. Winy wasn’t there when it happened and missed the funerals — according to Muslim tradition burials take place within 24 hours, and she was home in Valley Stream.

“In our faith, when you die, your deeds are not cut off,” said Winy, 42. “If you have a child who keeps praying for you, if you did charity in your life that people still benefit from, then you still get the blessings from it even after you die.”

“I wanted to do something huge.”

Winy decided she would memorize the entire Quran — more than 6,000 verses of Arabic text. She’s been taking lessons on and off for nine years, but started working at a consistent pace recently with a new teacher.

Muslims who memorize the Quran are called Hafiz or Hafiza, which translates to “guardian.” It’s believed that Quran reciters receive rewards and blessings for themselves and loved ones in the afterlife for this accomplishment.

“It’s very hard, but I found a teacher who is willing to go very slowly with me,” Winy said.

She practices three or four times a week, for one hour each day, and her teacher works with her over the phone. “When you want something bad enough and you try to find a way, I guess you’ll find something.”

Learning to listen

Growing up, Winy and her mother used to argue about clothes all the time. Winy’s favorite outfit consisted of a baggy T-shirt and tight jeans, much to mom’s disapproval.

Winy Haryanto talks about her mother. (Credit: Shelby Knowles)

“You know, like MC Hammer, that type of shirt,” Winy said with a laugh. “I didn’t like MC Hammer, I’m just saying, that’s how everybody dressed.”

Years later when Winy visited her mother back home in Indonesia, Enny gave her a red blouse with tiny floral stitching and a scarf to match.

“I hate red,” Winy said. “Not as a color, but I wouldn’t wear red. And I looked at it and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m 30 and we’re still talking about clothes.’

“I didn’t make a fuss. I just took it and I wore it.”

Winy and her mother spent the day visiting relatives. “At the end of the day, I literally had a headache. Maybe I was tense that it was on me and I don’t like it, I don’t know,” said Winy.

“At some point my mom turned to me — we were in the car — and she said, ‘Wow, you listen to me now.’”

After her mom died, Winy was going through her belongings and came across a business proposal. It caught her eye because of how formal it appeared. She figured out that it was typed up by a restaurant server Enny met, and it detailed his plan for a small business he wanted to start, including the merchandise he would sell and the amount of money needed to get going.

Winy laughs while imagining her mother dining out and having an in-depth conversation with her server, eventually telling him to “write something up” for her.

“She’s that kind of person who would just talk to anyone, and her demeanor is very open and people would just open up to her. When I saw that, I broke down because it was just this random thing.”

At her memorial, Winy said she was approached by two women she had never met, both widows, who said Enny helped them through difficult times.

“I mean, I’ve always known that she was really generous. But that was kind of surprising for me I guess,” she said.

Now, Winy contributes to crowdsourcing campaigns on Facebook whenever she can, and does good deeds for those in need, particularly single mothers and divorced women. She is also a part of a homeschool co-op, which includes her children, and they often band together to help each other.

“We heard about this lady, she had six boys and her husband just died and we made a care package for her,” Winy said. “I painted on this mug and just had some words of support for her and we raised some money and gave gifts to her boys.”

‘Work on your heart’

Winy’s father was a diplomat working for the Indonesian government, so growing up, she lived in various places, from Italy to Suriname to Malaysia. She got more in touch with her Muslim roots when she came to the United States to obtain her master’s degree in agricultural economics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

She told her father, Haryanto, she wanted to start wearing the hijab. (Many Indonesians use only one name, and oftentimes a father’s first name also becomes the family surname.)

Winy says she had never really talked about whether she should wear the hijab with her parents before. She said her father was always “very devout and spiritual,” but “I had a very liberal upbringing, because of his personality,” she said. “He was kind of conservative for himself, but he wanted [my brother and me] to find our own way.”

When Winy put on the hijab for the first time, she said she “couldn’t step out the door.” She didn’t understand why she felt that way, so she called her dad and tried to talk it out with him.

“I thought, ‘Something’s wrong with me,’” she said. “Why can’t I wear this when I want to? Before this, I didn’t want to. Now I want to, but why can’t I do it? And I called him and I cried.”

Winy remembers her dad telling her three things: spend extra time praying, don’t get angry and “don’t let your thoughts be empty” when you could be thinking of God.

“And that’s all he said. I was like, OK, well I’m talking about hijab. He’s not talking about that at all.”

But she took all of his advice, and after a month, she began to wear hijab regularly.

“Looking back, I understand that he was trying to say, ‘You have the will to do it, but now you have to work on your heart.’”

Through the generations

Winy now goes to Masjid Hamza in Valley Stream with her husband and their three children. She admits she envisioned herself being “a bit stricter” with her children than her own father, but has come to understand his parenting method.

“We’ll pray together but as my kids have grown older — my oldest one is 13 now — I realized that our kids, they’re not something that you mold. They’re their own people,” she said. “And now I realize that my dad was right. That you can’t just force things into them.”

When Winy was considering wearing the hijab, she remembers something her father said in passing: “If you do it, maybe your mom will follow.” Winy laughed and said, “So you do want me to wear it!” though he never explicitly said it.

He was right, though — Enny began wearing the hijab after her daughter did.

Looking back on her visit a decade ago to see her mother, Winy is glad she didn’t protest wearing that scarf and blouse, although she didn’t like to wear red. That was her last time in Indonesia with her mother.

“She passed away a year after,” Winy said. “And I thought, ‘Thank God I didn’t say anything. I didn’t make a fuss.’ Because if that was my last visit and I argued about color, I would have regretted it.”

Holding the blouse, she said, “I don’t wear it, but I still keep it.”

‘It’s going to be OK’: Life after losing a parent

To gain the strength to move forward after their parents died, these Long Islanders found comfort in the things they left behind.

To remember her mom, she’s tearing up their garden

By Rachel Weiss

Full, fat slugs

advance upon moonlit roses.

Sprinkle salt on them.

It makes them ooze and die.

Morning reveals

greenish blobs on pavement;

remnants of dead destroyers.

My daughter says

she’d rather let them live.

I prefer the roses.

A smile stretched across Kathy Meyers’ face as she read the last line. “The Solution” was written by her late mother, Barbara Reiher-Meyers. She recited it aloud sitting in the garden of her Ronkonkoma home, on a recent September afternoon.

It is in her garden that Meyers has found a space to grieve for her mother, who died in January at 83.

“I was brought home from the hospital to this house,” said Kathy, 55.

Growing up, Kathy was the only girl among five brothers. So when Barbara needed a hand in the garden, she reached for her daughter’s green thumb.

“I used to always go into the front garden and weed it and then I’d go inside and say, ‘Mom, how much will you give me if I weed the front garden?’ ” Kathy remembered.

“She’d be like, ‘I’ll give you $10’ and I’d be like, ‘OK good — because I did it already.’ ”

Kathy Meyers reads her mother’s poetry. (Credit: Shelby Knowles)

Barbara was a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. She was a vibrant gardener, a quick-witted writer, and an avid antique collector. When her health began to fail in 2016, Kathy sold her own house in Ronkonkoma and moved back in to be with her.

Right away, Kathy got back to work on her mother’s garden. They would chat about the possibilities: Turning the entire front yard into an English garden, adding a water feature, creating a pathway. Barbara told her daughter she could do whatever she wanted with it.

Since she died, Kathy has been expanding their garden.

“My coping mechanism is to tear into things,” she said. “So rototilling this yard or just working hard and working up a sweat, it gets out my aggression. And now we can sit here and be in the space that that energy formed.

“It’s all for her, because this is her house. This is her energy that’s making me do this.”

In addition to the potted plants and blooming flowers popping up in the front yard, Kathy created a pathway with a chopped-up tree that her neighbor cut down and added a seating area in the corner with a couple white metal chairs and a little round table, covered by a tablecloth.

Kathy feels connected to her mother through the work she’s doing, and she hopes the revamped garden will soon be filled again with life.

“I’m going to have every plant that I can think of, every plant that I can remember my mother telling me the name of,” she said. “Everything here is something that I know because she taught me.”

Now, budding hibiscus, daylilies and assorted seashells live in the Meyers garden, along with a sign that reads: “If silence is a wall, let words be a wrecking ball.”

Barbara was also beloved in Long Island’s poetry community, her daughter says — she was a wordsmith with an affinity for puns. “If you didn’t have a sense of humor, she was like, ‘You poor, sad person. I feel bad for you.’ ”

Kathy Meyers talks about her mother. (Credit: Shelby Knowles)

Every third Friday of the month, Barbara would emcee poetry readings at The Conklin Farmhouse and Barn in Huntington. The Walt Whitman Birthplace Association named her the Long Island Poet of the Year in 2018 — an honor she accepted before she died — and she often volunteered at its historical site. She was also a board member of the Long Island Poetry Collective and coordinated events for Northport Arts Coalition and Smithtown Township Arts Council.

Her 2004 book, “Sounds Familiar,” is a collection of mostly short poems, some inspired by her surroundings. There are a couple that refer to Lake Ronkonkoma, and one called “Sunrise Highway at Night.”

Like a white-knuckled flyer

my hands grip the wheel.

Something gleaming from the woods

too fleeting to be named;

Those tiny plastic whistles

on the bumper of my Buick

will surely protect me

from the flash and crash

of meat that            leaps across

blackness of highway.

I pray that if a deer

flies to wreck a hood,

that it will not be mine.

Kathy has been making appearances all over Long Island in her mother’s place, including at the United Methodist Church auction in Lake Ronkonkoma. “She was their best customer, and I knew she was missed,” Kathy said. She also organized a memorial for her mother at the Sachem Public Library, where family and friends gathered to read Barbara’s work.

Kathy hopes that her community will also follow her into the garden, either to pick up a shovel and getting to work, or to hang out.

“All of these things I do because other people need me to, but I need to say, ‘This is how I can have her stay alive and share her with everyone,’ ” Kathy said. “I hope I come home and find people sitting here. I hope I come home and find a plant from someone.”

When she first started working on the garden, Kathy began in the area right outside her mother’s bedroom window. She realizes now that this may have been intentional.

“I feel like maybe consciously and unconsciously, I finished this area first because this is what she would see if she was in her bed,” she said. “She’d see this garden. She wouldn’t see all the ripped up parts, she’d see what I’m doing and she would like it.

“I feel her watching me doing it and saying, ‘OK, I did tell you you could do whatever you wanted.’ ”

You used to hear his voice on WALK. His son still hears it all the time.

Josh Shnayer did not want to get into his dad’s car.

It was November 2007 and his dad, Dave Shnayer, had died a few weeks earlier after a three-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He was 49. Josh was 22, home from his last semester of college. It was around Thanksgiving — and just he and his mom were in their Island Park home.

He knew he couldn’t put it off any longer. “I got a car that’s practically brand new that dad had; I can drive his car,” he remembers thinking to himself. “It’s nicer than mine anyway.”

Josh started up the silver Volkswagen Jetta for a quick drive to his girlfriend’s house and noticed there was a CD in the player.

He turned up the volume, and there it was: his dad’s voice.

“It’s JD Howard, good morning,” the cheery yet cool voice says over the beginning of Marc Anthony’s 1999 hit “I Need To Know.” “Hello to the girls soccer team from Sachem East High School, washing cars at the Friday’s on North Ocean Avenue in Holtsville. Great day to get your car washed. Hey girls, I think you missed a spot!”

Dave Shnayer was known across Long Island as JD Howard — J for Josh, D for Dave, and his own middle name, Howard. Listeners could tune in every weekend to hear him on WALK FM 97.5, where he lived out his dream of being a disc jockey. The CD contained some of Dave’s on-air highlights: bits of news, the weather, and chatter before and after hit songs from yesterday and today.

An excerpt of Dave Shnayer working as a DJ on WALK-FM. (Audio credit: Connoisseur Media; Photo credit: Danielle Silverman; Video credit: Shelby Knowles)

As Josh listened to his dad’s upbeat voice, he sped through a range of emotions. “I made it to the corner before I had to pull over and compose myself,” he said.

“I was almost mad at him, you know? I got mad. I’m like, ‘Why the hell — you know where you are right now, you leave that in the car planned?’ ”

But then he thought to himself, “Shut up, you idiot. Stop it.”

Josh, now 34 and living in Westbury, no longer believes his dad left the CD for him to find on purpose. “But if it was unintentionally or subconscious, maybe that was his way of saying, ‘I’m here, it’s OK.’ ”

He continued to listen to that CD “over and over on a loop” for the next few months, every time he drove his dad’s car. He says it helped him grieve.

Eventually, Josh traded in the Jetta for a five-speed stick shift. He had never driven a stick shift before, but was “adamant” about the purchase because he liked the car.

Josh momentarily regretted it on one sticky summer day while trying to get the car over a steep hill. He estimates that he stalled out eight or nine times.

“People were blaring their horns at me, and I’m losing my mind and I’m flustered,” he said. “I think I said at the time, ‘I should’ve kept dad’s car. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.’ And I started reminiscing and thinking about the past, and then I played the CD. I remember listening to that to calm me down.”

There was a distinct difference between Dave’s “radio voice” and his “dad voice,” his son says. Josh can still hear the latter in his head: His dad’s soothing reassurances in the hospital when he broke his finger as a kid. “Listen to my voice. It’s going to be OK.” His contagious belly laugh that echoed through the house while he watched “The West Wing.” The way he scolded him when he cut corners, and his thoughtful fatherly advice.

Working in radio was always Dave’s ultimate goal. Over the years he lent his friendly voice to WALK-FM, B103 and Fresh 102.7. He was also a salesman for Skyline Displays, a Little League and college baseball umpire and a multi-sport athlete.

“I think he achieved everything he wanted to achieve in his life,” Josh said. “He had no regrets for anything, other than maybe being a Mets/Jets/Islanders fan.”

Josh and his dad always bonded over sports, whether they were discussing the draft, playing catch or hitting the links. Dave got his son into baseball early on, and Josh got his dad into golf.

Josh first took an interest in golf after finding some old clubs at his grandparents’ home. His dad signed him up for a golf camp and, eventually, he started taking lessons, too. Josh thinks as his dad got sick, he knew he wouldn’t be able to throw a baseball back and forth, so golf became their new game.

“We played golf regularly when I was in my late teens and early 20s before he got too sick to play,” Josh said. “And it became something that we would do together.”

When Dave died, per Jewish tradition family and friends helped bury him by taking turns shoveling soil onto the casket. Josh threw in some golf balls, “so that no matter where he was, he’d never lose those golf balls. As many as he’s lost, now he’s got a couple with him.”

And when Josh and his mother visit his grave in Lindenhurst, he always puts a golf tee in the ground next to the footstone.

Josh doesn’t consider himself spiritual. But his dad exists vividly in his memories — in an instant, he can be transported back in time to WALK’s old studio in Patchogue.

“I would go down there on the weekends and they’d set me up in a conference room,” he said with a grin. “I’d have Disney movies, I’d have lunch from the deli and I’d watch afternoon hockey on FOX.”

And just down the hall, his dad would be accompanying Long Islanders on their afternoon drives, their weekend shifts, or their days at the beach. Like those listeners, Josh will always remember his dad by the sound of his voice.

“He touched a lot of people. In different little areas, he made his mark. I know in particular with radio, that attached to me because that’s what helped with my grieving process: listening to him.”

Her parents died unexpectedly. Now she’s sending “blessings” their way.

Winy Haryanto lost both of her parents unexpectedly in 2008. They died on the same day — her mother, Enny, 58, had a stroke and went into a coma, and her father Haryanto, 63, had a heart attack. Winy wasn’t there when it happened and missed the funerals — according to Muslim tradition burials take place within 24 hours, and she was home in Valley Stream.

“In our faith, when you die, your deeds are not cut off,” said Winy, 42. “If you have a child who keeps praying for you, if you did charity in your life that people still benefit from, then you still get the blessings from it even after you die.”

“I wanted to do something huge.”

Winy decided she would memorize the entire Quran — more than 6,000 verses of Arabic text. She’s been taking lessons on and off for nine years, but started working at a consistent pace recently with a new teacher.

Muslims who memorize the Quran are called Hafiz or Hafiza, which translates to “guardian.” It’s believed that Quran reciters receive rewards and blessings for themselves and loved ones in the afterlife for this accomplishment.

“It’s very hard, but I found a teacher who is willing to go very slowly with me,” Winy said.

She practices three or four times a week, for one hour each day, and her teacher works with her over the phone. “When you want something bad enough and you try to find a way, I guess you’ll find something.”

Growing up, Winy and her mother used to argue about clothes all the time. Winy’s favorite outfit consisted of a baggy T-shirt and tight jeans, much to mom’s disapproval.

Winy Haryanto talks about her mother. (Credit: Shelby Knowles)

“You know, like MC Hammer, that type of shirt,” Winy said with a laugh. “I didn’t like MC Hammer, I’m just saying, that’s how everybody dressed.”

Years later when Winy visited her mother back home in Indonesia, Enny gave her a red blouse with tiny floral stitching and a scarf to match.

“I hate red,” Winy said. “Not as a color, but I wouldn’t wear red. And I looked at it and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m 30 and we’re still talking about clothes.’

“I didn’t make a fuss. I just took it and I wore it.”

Winy and her mother spent the day visiting relatives. “At the end of the day, I literally had a headache. Maybe I was tense that it was on me and I don’t like it, I don’t know,” said Winy.

“At some point my mom turned to me — we were in the car — and she said, ‘Wow, you listen to me now.’”

After her mom died, Winy was going through her belongings and came across a business proposal. It caught her eye because of how formal it appeared. She figured out that it was typed up by a restaurant server Enny met, and it detailed his plan for a small business he wanted to start, including the merchandise he would sell and the amount of money needed to get going.

Winy laughs while imagining her mother dining out and having an in-depth conversation with her server, eventually telling him to “write something up” for her.

“She’s that kind of person who would just talk to anyone, and her demeanor is very open and people would just open up to her. When I saw that, I broke down because it was just this random thing.”

At her memorial, Winy said she was approached by two women she had never met, both widows, who said Enny helped them through difficult times.

“I mean, I’ve always known that she was really generous. But that was kind of surprising for me I guess,” she said.

Now, Winy contributes to crowdsourcing campaigns on Facebook whenever she can, and does good deeds for those in need, particularly single mothers and divorced women. She is also a part of a homeschool co-op, which includes her children, and they often band together to help each other.

“We heard about this lady, she had six boys and her husband just died and we made a care package for her,” Winy said. “I painted on this mug and just had some words of support for her and we raised some money and gave gifts to her boys.”

‘Work on your heart’

Winy’s father was a diplomat working for the Indonesian government, so growing up, she lived in various places, from Italy to Suriname to Malaysia. She got more in touch with her Muslim roots when she came to the United States to obtain her master’s degree in agricultural economics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

She told her father, Haryanto, she wanted to start wearing the hijab. (Many Indonesians use only one name, and oftentimes a father’s first name also becomes the family surname.)

Winy says she had never really talked about whether she should wear the hijab with her parents before. She said her father was always “very devout and spiritual,” but “I had a very liberal upbringing, because of his personality,” she said. “He was kind of conservative for himself, but he wanted [my brother and me] to find our own way.”

When Winy put on the hijab for the first time, she said she “couldn’t step out the door.” She didn’t understand why she felt that way, so she called her dad and tried to talk it out with him.

“I thought, ‘Something’s wrong with me,’” she said. “Why can’t I wear this when I want to? Before this, I didn’t want to. Now I want to, but why can’t I do it? And I called him and I cried.”

Winy remembers her dad telling her three things: spend extra time praying, don’t get angry and “don’t let your thoughts be empty” when you could be thinking of God.

“And that’s all he said. I was like, OK, well I’m talking about hijab. He’s not talking about that at all.”

But she took all of his advice, and after a month, she began to wear hijab regularly.

“Looking back, I understand that he was trying to say, ‘You have the will to do it, but now you have to work on your heart.’”

Through the generations

Winy now goes to Masjid Hamza in Valley Stream with her husband and their three children. She admits she envisioned herself being “a bit stricter” with her children than her own father, but has come to understand his parenting method.

“We’ll pray together but as my kids have grown older — my oldest one is 13 now — I realized that our kids, they’re not something that you mold. They’re their own people,” she said. “And now I realize that my dad was right. That you can’t just force things into them.”

When Winy was considering wearing the hijab, she remembers something her father said in passing: “If you do it, maybe your mom will follow.” Winy laughed and said, “So you do want me to wear it!” though he never explicitly said it.

He was right, though — Enny began wearing the hijab after her daughter did.

Looking back on her visit a decade ago to see her mother, Winy is glad she didn’t protest wearing that scarf and blouse, although she didn’t like to wear red. That was her last time in Indonesia with her mother.

“She passed away a year after,” Winy said. “And I thought, ‘Thank God I didn’t say anything. I didn’t make a fuss.’ Because if that was my last visit and I argued about color, I would have regretted it.”

Holding the blouse, she said, “I don’t wear it, but I still keep it.”

Share your own memories of losing a loved one and how you keep their legacy alive.

Stories by Rachel Weiss

Video by Shelby Knowles

Photos by Shelby Knowles and Danielle Silverman

Produced by Anahita Pardiwalla and Heather Doyle

Design by Mitchel Severe