Presented at Bonnie's Memorial Service on 8/11/07 by Mike...
About a year ago I heard part of a broadcast on National Public Radio. The subject matter was famous people and the notion of true greatness. With references to JFK, Martin Luther King, Princess Di, Sinatra, Elvis Presley. They tried to distill greatness down to a few ideas. Unique style, commanding grace, skill or insight. A larger than-life-presence. I was heartened by the notion of how many people will forever remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when some of those people died. I laughed as they cited the familiar phrase, “Elvis has left the building” – as if the physical and spiritual world had fundamentally changed for the mob of fans at that moment. But the broadcast left me feeling like the writers hadn’t fully captured the notion of greatness.
Two weeks ago, my Isabel asked her Uncle Bob what he meant when he said that Bob Marley was a legend. He told her that a legend is someone who was so great at what they do that their greatness lives on even after they die. I took me a moment to have it really sink in. About greatness living on and how relevant it was.
I truly believe that to have known Bonnie is to have known greatness. To have known a woman who was utterly extraordinary – and not on one dimension like work, or like motherhood – but on many, many dimensions.
I also believe that the cornerstone of greatness is not notoriety. And it’s not one’s accomplishments. And it’s not even the often-cited notion of how many friends you have, as opposed to how many expensive toys you end up with.
I believe that the cornerstone of greatness is inspiration. To what extent are we inspired by another person? Inspired to be with the person, and to fully seize and enjoy the now, the moment with that person? Inspired to want to be like the person? Inspired to be a better person yourself in some way – by virtue of having met, or known, or spent time with the person? Inspired to live life more fully? Inspired to be the person’s friend, or relative, or to be the person’s boss or the person’s direct-report at work, even just to be an acquaintance of the person?
I’ve never been inspired by another person as much as by Bonnie. And I have a unique perspective on all of this – because in my lifetime I have had occasion to be her acquaintance, her boss at work, her friend, her husband, and by extension her direct-report.
I also know from your kind words and selfless and gracious deeds, particularly over these last 4 years, that many, if not most of you here, have likewise been inspired.
Here is a partial list of things that inspire me about Bonnie and characterize who she was:
unflappable poise, even under pressure; pure grace; unrelenting strength; natural beauty and radiance (how does a women look that beautiful in her final weeks, having endured all she has); warm and reassuring smile; razor-sharp intellect; analytical prowess; single-minded focus and determination; unwavering friendship; tour-de-force motherhood; always in control; fearless and self-assured about doing it her way; boundless courage even in the face of imminent death; unparalleled sense of style; infectious sense of fun, humor, adventure and bias for seizing the day, every day; stunning creativity and artistic flare; light-up-the-room presence; unabashed confidence and bluntness, uniquely coupled with humility and true sensitivity; and complete selflessness for those she loved
I have several mental snapshots I want to share.
Not dating yet. Bon has brand new Saab Turbo. Bon turns left onto Lombard from Van Ness, by banking around the right lane, passing all backed up cars in two inner lanes, thereby pinning me to the right-side of the car due to the g forces. “This women drives more aggressively than I do for God’s sake. Now I know what it feels like to experience unbridled fear sitting in the passenger seat when I’m driving”. I say to myself, “I really like this woman.”
Dove Associates: Bon is best, most talented hire Dove ever made. And I got a wife out of the deal.
Staying up all night creating 2 by 2 matrices and lists, talking about and negotiating what our dreams were and what our life together would be like for us and our future family, despite our religious differences. Remember thinking “she’s really cute and she really is a nerd like me”.
Bonnie on NBC Nightline with Ted Koppel, covering the beverage industry – one of many, many such appearances. She was a natural. Nailed it in 1 take without any script. Amazing poise. Nightline staff provides feedback on audience perceptions “Guys want to be with her, and the gals want to be her.”
Howard Schulz, founder/Chairman/CEO, Starbucks. 99-2001 Bonnie covers Starbucks stock while at H&Q. 2005 Bonnie is cleared for discharge from U of MN hospital –but in neutropenic state. Howard learns of it same day. Next day, Howard dispatches the Starbucks corporate jet and crew, which flies Bon, Isabel, Devon, and me home to SFO in rock-star accommodations.
Style – 5 words/phrases I had no concept of before Bonnie: 1) Anthropologie 2) Mani/Pedi 3) Massage Therapy 4) Zappos 5) black as a color for clothing. Mike is escorted into Nordstrom’s for Annual Men’s Department sale. Owns no black clothing on entry. Leaves mumbling in a transe “Why only black? …Because black is black. Black is black.”
No medical degree. No need. This is Bonnie. Aug ’03 – self-diagnosis of Leukemia. Early Apr ’05 Believes she has relapsed. 05 05 05 She does relapse.
Dec ’05 MN doctors say no C-Diff. Bonnie knows otherwise and will collect evidence proving them wrong. Enlists Mike. Who must take digital photos of her poo to show to Doctors. All doctors unanimously and collectively chuckle at her research, but still dismiss Bonnie’s claim. 2 days later, lab results confirm Bonnie’s diagnosis. Jun 15 ‘07 Self diagnosis of relapse, but must take strong stand to convince doctors about need for biopsy to confirm, as everything is perfectly explainable by cold and flu. 3 days later, relapse is confirmed.
Jack of all trades, master of none. Hogwash. This is Bonnie. Cum Laude from Dartmouth – in Art History. Top 10% from Kellogg in business. Excels in Advertising. Moves to strategy consulting and is a rockstar. Moves to equities analyst position and within 3 years becomes Wall Street Journal All-Star Analyst. Role model for motherhood is the understatement of the century. Previous note to self: “Our budget for interior decorators will be low. She does it all herself with amazing flare and awe-inspiring color, texture, and contrast. Budget for the actual furniture and decorations: will not be so low”. Fashionista extraordinaire. Dinner parties / Kids parties – Does them herself; Barefoot Contessa can cook, but wishes she could entertain like this. Freehand sketches of birthday CD covers are works of art and works of love. She was writing a novel when she died. This is partial list.
Fireflies. Not just an age-appropriate metaphor. Spiritually they’re real. Spiritually, Bonnie could fly. And she still can.
Juxtaposition #1. All dressed up and decked out. Stylish. Smokin. Vs. 25 days without a shower on a NOLS hiking trip with Cindy Lou Hoo.
Juxtaposition #2. Consistently wows Fortune 500 CEOs with skills as an analyst. Vs. woos her future husband by kicking my butt biking up Mt. Baldy on a mountainbike. Finishes with mud all over her face. Briefly adopts the self-appointed name ‘Kid Maypo’. 2 years later I propose to her on Mt. Baldy. 9 years later she requests that half her fairy dust remains be scattered at Mt. Baldy.
Breaking in new nurses by schooling them on potential contra-indications, treatment protocols, and specific drug efficacy.
Challenging and pushing the world’s leading experts on Leukemia, including Dr. Charlie Linker, and our beloved Dr. Kristen Hege, to whom we will be forever in debt for what they gave our family: 4 extra years of love, life, and laughter, …But also making the nurses and doctors marvel, and laugh. …And ultimately causing them to cry with us at our collective loss, despite all their training to compartmentalize.
Shares with Devon Gold a whimsical thought of one of the little things she’ll miss – like the outcome of the last episode of the show “Lost”. Wed night, Devon makes it happen via a conference call. Exec Producers and Co-creators of Lost, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, call Bonnie and tell her the ending, not just of the show, but of the entire series. “Bonnie, you’re a little sleepy, are you sure you’re up to it to take this call” Pulls off the O2 mask, smiles and says “I think it will be fun. Let’s do it.” Not a 10-min Hollywood sympathy call. This is Bonnie. She engages. She critiques and praises their life’s work across Lost, Alias, Felicity and other TV shows. They chat, laugh, swap notes. 45 minutes later, the two media moguls feel like they just re-connected with a long lost friend and now want to create a character named Bonnie in one of their shows. 12 hours later, Bonnie dies. Classic Bonnie. Live for the moment. Seize all that life has to offer. And inspire the hell out of two Hollywood Moguls who she just met moments earlier.
Skiing – This winter will be my 40th consecutive season. It is a passion for me, albeit more so than for Bonnie. One of my dreams is to heli-ski with my girls. Bon adopts the dream as well and plans out every detail of the ski season of 2006-2007 in advance. She doesn’t like the cold. She’s not at 100% yet. But Bonnie skied about 16 days last winter. The results of one season: Devon was skiing solo at age 3. Isabel skied solo, and went on to ski blue runs with authority at age 5. Bonnie taught them to ski, not me. And one of her last notes to me several weeks ago was to do whatever it takes to realize my dream and heli-ski with the girls.
Knowing death will come in a matter of months or even weeks, she does the following:
-- Managed girls schedules/keeps their routines …from her hospital room - like a Field-General directing the troops from a Command Center
-- Prepares memory boxes for the girls
-- Prepares Multi-page letters to girls
-- Video-taped messages to the girls
-- Worked toward securing Devon’s acceptance to school 18 mos from now
-- List of lists to help Daddy when she is gone: Favorite books, Summer Camps, Activities, When it is OK to…. Go-to People, Diet, Boys, Education, Clothing, etc. …This is the mother of all honey-do lists (which I embrace with all my heart).
-- Finds peace with what will happen to her
-- Finds peace in knowing her girls will be OK – with all the love and support that surrounds them – through family, Bobbi Jo – who she often referred to as her ‘Guardian Angel’ -- and a community of her girlfriends that is nothing short of humbling and life-affirming with respect to their love and humanity
Knowing death will come in a matter of hours, maybe sooner.
-- “Mike you better stay tonight after all.”
-- Few hours later. Pain. Discomfort. Extreme weakness. Not enough O2
-- Brief sleep. Followed by more of same difficulties, but increasingly so.
-- Fights off discomfort, low O2. In feat of superhuman strength, sits upright.
“Are you sitting up to help yourself breathe, Bon”. Nods head, “No.” Shakes off pain and grogginess again. ‘Gives me a warm smile only Bonnie can give’. Leans forward. Kisses me. Collapses backward against pillow. Immediately falls back to sleep in exhaustion. Dies five hours later in her sleep. A gift I will never forget.
Alicia and Rick’s house. 12 hours after Bonnie’s passing. I enter. 25 smiling faces. All are highly accomplished, super-smart, beautiful, extraordinary women. This must be wrong place. Where are the men? Only the women here. They just completed their meeting. Meeting? Agenda, committees, tasks – all regarding Bonnie. The troops have mobilized. They are perhaps as inspired by Bonnie as I am. From 9pm ‘til 1am, I heard their stories about how Bonnie was extraordinary. At several points, I was completely surrounded, and was peppered by questions relating to how she was extraordinary. I felt like I was the widower of a rock legend, surrounded by many of her most ardent followers; who loved her most and were most inspired by her.
Bonnie Kramer Tonneson is the best example of greatness I have ever known. I love her more than I love myself. I will continue to be inspired by her for the rest of my life. Most importantly, I’ll make sure Isabel & Devon have lots of opportunities to be inspired by her as well. If any among us has any doubts about Bonnie’s greatness living on, sometime when you get a chance, spend a few quality moments listening to and observing Isabel or Devon. You’ll know.
Bonnie has left the building. But she will never leave my heart.