Friday, September 30, 2011

Laughing With Bonnie

Dylan and Christine
Today I'm headed to Vegas to perform a wedding ceremony.  Stop laughing. (I know who you are.) 

The bride-to-be is my tattoo-covered goddaughter, Christine, who will be marrying her tattoo-covered boyfriend, Dylan.  Also present will be their two-month-old baby girl, Reilly (not yet tattooed).  Noticeably absent will be Christine's mother, Bonnie. 

Bonnie and I met 20 years ago when we both worked at the world headquarters of a Fortune 50 company. Her infectious laugh--especially at my immature jokes--was an attribute that stood out amidst the sea of oh-so-serious MBA-types in our sterile work environment. But it was her sense of compassion for the underdog, and the passion with which she strove to create fairness in an often-unfair world, that cemented our friendship. Bonnie weighed no more than 95 pounds, yet inside that tiny body was an enormous heart.

Within a year of meeting, she and I decided to go into business together. A single mom, Bonnie loaded her two kids, two cats, and two gerbils in the car and moved from New York to Los Angeles, where I had recently relocated. (By the time they arrived, they were down one gerbil.)

We spent long nights working on our business plan, usually over wine and lots of laughs. We encouraged each other to go on blind dates, and then laughed together when those dates were a complete flop. We cooked holiday meals together, took her kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s together, and spent a lot of time visualizing big plans for our respective futures. But mostly, we laughed.

Our business didn’t work out, but our friendship remained rock solid. In time, I relocated back east again for another corporate job, but we stayed in touch. One day, a mutual friend, Kelli, called to tell me that Bonnie was in the hospital. While at the public library with her kids, Bonnie had begun hemorrhaging profusely. As she lay on the floor of the library about to lose consciousness, she told her seven and nine-year-old to call Kelli and then lock themselves in the car until Kelli arrived to retrieve them.

At the hospital, doctors discovered that Bonnie had uterine cancer that was so advanced, her body was actually trying to abort her uterus; thus, the massive hemorrhage. Bag after bag of blood was transfused and an emergency hysterectomy was performed. Following the surgery, there was heated discussion about chemotherapy. Without it, some of her doctors argued, Bonnie would die. Others said that because of her weight, chemo would surely kill her. Ultimately, her lack of health insurance made the final decision: no chemo.

Once Bonnie’s health stabilized, she got serious about handling the legal paperwork for my guardianship of the kids if she were to die while they were still minors. Suddenly, as a single-woman with no dependents, I was contemplating the likelihood of instantly becoming a mother. But I should’ve given Bonnie more credit. When it came to having a goal about which she cared deeply, she was like a dog with a bone. And Bonnie’s goal was clear: to raise her kids herself.

After a decade in remission, her cancer returned with a vengeance, and shortly after Christine’s eighteenth birthday, Bonnie died in her sleep. Her two now-grown children, a handful of friends, and I took a boat out to sea and spread her ashes. Then we went to a restaurant and drank her favorite champagne and told stories about her and laughed until our sides hurt. Because Bonnie would’ve wanted that.

For her wedding tomorrow, Christine has asked me to incorporate stories of her mother into the ceremony. Thus, while Bonnie’s absence will be palpable, her presence will be undeniable. And I suspect this will be one of those weddings that involves a lot of laughter.
Bonita Louise Young
1955 - 2005
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Lauren's book, Zuzu's Petals: A True Story of Second Chances (In The Telling Press, 2011), is the #1 Top Rated memoir on Kindle. Hardcover copies are available at, or signed copies can be ordered at Happy Reading!

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