The operations manager for Outerlimits Offshore Powerboat in Bristol, R.I., Jason Amaral and his wife, Melissa, entered the holiday season with family plans, most of which centered around Christmas with their two young children at their home in Pembroke, Mass. And then without warning, those plans—and the course of the rest of their lives—changed tragically.
A beautiful family, Melissa, Ellie, Damien and Jason Amaral were ready to enjoy their fourth Christmas together.
A little more than a week ago, their four-year-old son, Damien, died at Boston Children’s Hospital. A yet to be fully understood or diagnosed “cardiac event” took his young life.
“We don’t even truly know what happened, but there was an abnormality in his heart,” Jason Amaral said. “We are having genetic testing done for him and getting Ellie, his sister, tested too.”
Damien Amaral’s funeral was held at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Bridgewater, about 12 miles from the family’s home in Pembroke. It is the same parish where his Jason Amaral, who has worked at Outerlimits for more than four years, was baptized, took his first communion and was confirmed.
A first-grader, Ellie Amaral is six years old. Like her parents, now more than ever she needs the distractions of everyday life to take her mind off a tragedy most of us can’t imagine. So she returned to school yesterday.
Damien, Ellie and Melissa Amaral enjoyed their time on the water.
The Amaral children were close, the kind of close that comes with part being of a large Portuguese-American family.
“Ellie’s taking it really well, she’s a pretty tough kid,” said her father. “She is very aware, but she doesn’t want to talk about it.”
Amaral paused for a moment.
“He was such a lovable four-year-old,” he said. “He was Melissa’s little man when I was at work, but he was daddy’s boy at night and on weekends when we went to Outerlimits.
‘He loved anything to do with boats,” he continued. “Whatever I was doing at the factory, he wanted to be there. It was like he was my little twin. And he was super tall for his age and super strong.”
Damien Amaral was laid to rest at the same Bridgewater cemetery where his grandparents are buried.
Damien Amaral will not be forgotten.
Earlier this week, Jason Amaral stopped by the local fire department, the one that responded to their call when he and his wife discovered their son unconscious. They brought coffee and donuts to thank the first-responders, who had done everything they could to save Damien Amaral’s life but ultimately did not succeed.
“One of the police officers who came into the house that day came to the wake,” Amaral said. “He said, ‘It’s one thing when you see that happen to an adult, but it’s another when you see it happen to a kid.’”
Like he husband, Melissa Amaral exudes remarkable inner strength and courage at a time when having neither would be understandable, if not common. But the Amarals are anything but common. They’re extraordinary.
“We actually went to the police and fire station yesterday morning with hopes of donating most of the toys we had bought Damien for Christmas,” she Melissa. “But we were about a week or two late because they had already made their deliveries.
“We will be donating some to his pre-school in Pembroke after the holidays,”she said
With Christmas just four days away, Jason and Melissa Amaral are still reaching for slices of everyday life, knowing of course that what they once knew as normal will never return. But they are still hosting the big Amaral family Christmas day party at their Pembroke home.
“We decided to push forward for Ellie,” Jason Amaral explained.
There are no silver linings in the death of a four-year-old child. There are no blessings in disguise. Both Jason and Melissa Amaral know this in a way most parents never will.
But there are moments of clarity.
“One reflection?” Jason Amaral remarked. “During your normal, busy, daily life, it’s amazing how congested and cluttered your mind can get. You truly do ‘forget’ for a moment how important your family and friends are.
“This is a huge wake-up call for all of us,” he added.
Said Jason Amaral of his son, Damien, “He loved anything to do with boats.”
The entire speedonthewater.com team offers its heartfelt condolences to Jason, Melissa and Ellie Amaral and their entire family.—Matt Trulio