I had a hard time with the eulogy for my sister. What do you say about a sibling? You want to be honest without dwelling on the parts of our lives where there were tensions or conflicts. I started with brainstorming notes, snippets of what came to mind when I thought of her. Then I tried to pull out the pieces that could be shared. I tried, Bonnie.
Here’s the result.
Eulogy by Ian Lind.
March 28, 2017
I think the can get through this.
I’ll begin by saying Bonnie was my sister, but I have no doubt that many of you knew her far better than I.
She was four years older than me, an eternity in small kid time. I had just finished the 8th grade when Bonnie went off to the University of Colorado at Boulder.
So we didn’t remain close enough for me to hear details of Bonnie’s marriage and subsequent divorce, her remarriage to Ray Stevens, or her move to Groveland, up in the mountains of California, where she lived and worked for the next 30 years.
In about 2005, Ray was diagnosed with lung cancer, and died in March 2007. After his death, Bonnie was lost. She locked the door of her house, leaving everything inside, and returned to Hawaii to help care for our parents, and build a new life for herself.
Bonnie and I had something in common. We inherited the pack rat gene from both of our parents.
Both of us have saved—should I say hoarded?—piles and boxes of stuff, letters sent and received,
things we collected ourselves as well as those we inherited.
The challenge, of course, is justifying what would otherwise just be terminal clutter.
Bonnie did that by becoming a skilled genealogist and historian. All those papers became part of her data.
She continued our mother’s search for family roots here in Hawaii, and back across America and on to England and Scotland.
Bonnie would go all in when tackling a mystery of the past, whether tracing family, or as Historian for the Daughters of Hawaii, or during projects for the history museum back in Groveland, California.
Part of her reward was the rush of those periodic “aha” moments—when a last fact finally falls into place and you say, Aha, that explains it! The other part was the opportunity to recite her findings in excruciating detail to whatever captive audiences she could corral. Often repeating herself more than once, as I can attest from personal experience.
Bonnie privately regreted that we were not a closely-knit family. “Why can’t we act more like a family?” she once asked me.
But once back in Hawaii, she quickly realized she was home again. She told me that she found comfort being in and belonging to a Hawaiian community once again. It is different, she said.
You were part of that. And our family thanks you.
She was by no means perfect. She could be judgemental of others, and stubborn in her judgements, even when confronting contrary evidence.
We ran into that when, after spending years tracing our father’s Lind family back through generations in Scotland, she talked me into doing one of those DNA tests that trace back in the male line, son to father to grandfather and so on. But when the results came back, they showed an unexpected fork in the family tree—the DNA didn’t lead where her meticulously researched family history said it should.
I thought the reason was probably simple–that there had been some hanky-panky in the Lind family several generations back. Not so unusual. But Bonnie blamed the technology. The DNA tests must be wrong, she said, because they didn’t agree with her research.
At the end of her life, Bonnie left us with a mystery. She must have known for some time that she was very sick, but why did she fail to reach out to family and friends?
I don’t have an definitive answer, but she did drop a clue.
The last time I saw Bonnie before she finally called for help and was hospitalized, was to celebrate her 73rd birthday last April.
My wife and I had just finished renovating the old house in Kahala where Bonnie and I grew up, and that day we sat on our deck in the shade of the mango trees planted when Bonnie and I were born.
Bonnie took the occasion to point out the many colorful crotons still thriving around the edges of the yard, which she reminded me were from clipping collected by our Hawaiian grandmother from around the islands. That launched on the story of our grandmother, who self diagnosed her own cancer back late 1950s, and quietly decided she could not afford to go to the hospital for medical treatment.
Instead, she packed her bags for the trip of a lifetime. She rode a bus across parts of the mainland she had never seen, even when she had to ride in the back of the bus. She traveled to other Pacific islands, including Fiji and Samoa, and then she criss-crossed Hawaii from one end to the other, seeking out and renewing ties to friends and family, and finding those colorful crotons. And when her travels were done, she came home, and passed away.
Perhaps Bonnie was just talking about the plants. In retrospect, though, she may have been saying much more. But we’ll never really know.
I’ll wrap up with Bonnie’s own words, left on her “Life with Cancer” blog just hours after Ray died.
“Give thanks for the life which touched so many.”
And, as she wrote then, “Keep praying.”
I also set my iPhone on the podium and took an 8 minute selfie as I spoke. It’s a bit weird, and I really should just pull out the audio and trash the video. But for now, it will do.
And Bonnie’s “Life with Cancer” blog, written over 15 months as her husband battled lung cancer, has been preserved in large measure by the Internet Archive. Here’s a link.