Bonnie Persson-John [nee Hakkila] (1962-2003)
On August 16, 2003, we lost one of our most beloved members and
contributors. The news was a shock to us all and sadness and a deep
sense of loss rippled through the HBI community. Bonnie joined HBI in
1998, and has been there as a contributor, editor, sounding board, and
above all, a friend, over the last 5 years. She was a wise,
compassionate, and completely kick-ass Heartless Bitch and we will all
miss her greatly.
In this electronic age, it is possible for a special person to reach out
and enrich many lives around the globe. Bonnie was such a person. In
addition to her wonderful advice column and her participation in the
Bitchboard, Bonnie developed some very close bonds of friendship with
several HBI members, and saw some of us through some very rough times.
Bonnie was a most amazing and compassionate
woman, and a dear friend who provided physical, emotional and moral support to many. Sometimes that
support was a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen, sometimes it was a much-needed kick in the butt.
Bonnie is survived by two sons, Zach and Tim, from a previous marriage
and her beloved wife, Ann-Charlotte. Just like the people she advised in
her column, Bonnie's own life was filled with difficult choices, but she
accepted the consequences and always worked towards living her life
fully and with passion; doing the best she could for the people she
loved. One of her favorite quotes (most often attributed to Grace Hopper) was,
"A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.", and bespoke
the courageous way that Bonnie chose to lead her life. Though she chose for very
personal reasons to end her marriage to their father, Bonnie was constantly
trying to find ways to spend more time with her boys. In every conversation
involving them, it was clear how deeply she loved them and wanted the best for
I hope some day that Zach and Tim have the opportunity to see
this page and learn about the kind of incredible *person* their mother
was, how she positively influenced so many people's lives, how admired she
was, and how much she dearly loved them.
This page is a memorial to Bonnie from her friends and readership.
Bonnie was a devoted wife, and a loving mother. She was a daughter, she was a sister. She was a Radical Dyke. She was a Heartless Bitch.
All of those titles were the least of who she was.
Many of you were totally unaware of how she cared for her wife who suffered from MS. This was a labour of love for her, and she never once complained about how tiring that kind of work is. Caretakers are special, underrated people. We tend to be unappreciative of how grueling that work is until we need it or have to do it ourselves. Bonnie was no saint, however. She complained about how the disease ravaged her wife faster than she could fix it or adjust it. She complained about a system that offered substandard care. She complained that there was this situation in which her wife's health was slipping through her fingers slowly and there was nothing she could do to prevent it. If Herself is reading this, I hope she knows just how deep and abiding Bonnie's love for her was.
She had two boys who were the center of her heart. Those of us who knew her best knew that while her day to day life was all about her wife, she spent her year centered around her children. Instead of seasons passing, her life revolved around seasons of post-children and pre-children.
It is unnecessarily hard for some lesbians to be both wife and mother, and Bonnie's life was no exception. She faced the same roadblocks, the same obstacles, and the same small-minded prejudice that is no stranger to any gay person. I often marveled how like Kate Chopin's "The Awakening" her life was like, and I wonder now if she'd find this comparison funny or sad. Probably both.
She was my friend. This is how I knew her best. We walked side by side through some very rough patches in our lives, and I often thought of her as a beacon of light and of hope throughout those times. She spent a good portion of her life as a counselor, so she had a fondness for helping people find their way through the muck of their own minds, and sometimes their own making. I loved the tender and compassionate way she tended to the people in her life, and how she also possessed the ruthlessness of the gardener who prunes to bring forth greater, stronger growth.
Remember her with fireflies. She had an affinity for them because they reminded us of beacons in the darkness of our souls. That's how I remember her, as a light in the dark.
There really are no good words to describe her. She was certainly a Heartless Bitch... but the place where her heart should have been was absolutely enormous. She was a sweet, kind, loving, supportive, vibrant, brave, strong, beautiful woman who I wish I had had the opportunity to meet. I spoke to her on the phone one time, on IM fairly often up until about a year ago, and on e-mail not as often as I should have, but it didn't take much to fall in love with a woman like her. She was a wonderful mother, a wonderful wife, and above all a wonderful friend, and I miss her terribly.
Bon was, is and always will be the kind of Bitch that I aspire to be: straight forward, honest and unapologetic coupled with an incredibly generous and giving spirit.
The sun is shining a bit dimmer today. My heartfelt condolences to her much loved family.
Bon was there for me when I was going through one of the most difficult times in my life. Even though she was facing her own personal challenges, she was always there with her own unique brand of honest encouragement and insight. She was a generous woman who shared her gifts with all of us.
HBI is made up of many people but Bon’s contributions as both Dear Fuckin Bon and on the BitchBoard were an example of what a heartless bitch is – strong, compassionate, honest, and funny. She could give you a well deserved bitch slap and make you laugh at the same time. Her influence will be long felt and long remembered.
Even though we never met face to face, Bon was my friend. It was a privilege to know her. (Thank you Bon for sharing yourself with us.)
I’m sick with shock and sadness. Life can be so unfair.
Bon started an e-mail bond with me that we’ve shared over the past few
years, after I wrote something that touched her in a light-hearted
thread. Some of you (Members and Bitchboard participants) may remember us talking about the possibility of
everyone being bisexual and a few of us were playing around with some
sign-offs and I wrote “Bonus Bi”. She wrote and said her favorite uncle,
if I remember the relation right, used to call her Bonus as a child, and
it was very endearing to her and she hadn’t heard it used in years, etc.
We found we had a lot in common including life experiences and two boys
around the same age. Over the years she’s helped me through some pretty
confusing times. I’m going to miss her very much. My tribute to her is
what a testament she is to friendship, even if we’ve never met in
person. She was more real to me than anyone I’ve physically met.
To add to strange coincidences, I’ve been thinking heavy about her the
last couple of days. I had the urge to e-mail her yesterday, and never
did. I’m sure she knows she was loved.
I can’t help but wonder, why someone who touches so many lives? If any good can come out of this it may be self examination and new determination not to waste a life without trying to make a difference.
My sympathies and love to Loff and her two beautiful sons.
Bon, Bon, how blue am I...it's utterly depressing to lose a friend like you. Someone I didn't have to snuggle up to, on any specific issue, to feel close to, but someone who understood the value of a good virtual snuggle, too. ;-)
I feel an incredible responsibility to you. I rarely feel that I can't get something "right" with words, but I'm daunted trying to memorialize you. There is way more to you than I knew about, but things were all right that way. I trusted who you were. I knew your mettle, and I knew there was a lot of unpredictable tenderness in there. Everybody loved you. I was in awe of that. You loved all the right people, for all the right reasons, and you treated everybody like a human being. You believed that people can redeem themselves, but you held them to that high standard of responsibility, too. You believed that with communication, anything is possible; that good could be actively transformed out of nasty situations; that bad actions could and should be changed to good ones; that illness could lead to understanding; and that society, with the proper medicine, can heal itself. I think you knew, intimately and far more than you advertised, that there is a LOT to heal.
You never preached these values, yet you practiced them. I think what I valued most highly about you were your boundless powers of self-examination. I could never say a critical word lightly to you. That was a valuable standard for me to measure up to. In a world of dolts who need to be clobbered with clue-by-fours periodically just for the basic stuff, you were always tweaking and fine-tuning an already highly calibrated conscience. I respected that. So much. I don't get to interact with many people who listen as intently for my thoughts inside the words, and yet can be as infinitely generous with both as you always were.
Hey Bon. We miss you. Maybe you are still hovering close. We can't believe we've lost you. And we want to continue measuring up to the high standards you set, especially since you would have expected no less from us. Your time was too short, my lass. You were gorgeously sentient on this earth, and we loved you. We are bereft, but grateful to have known you, dearest Bon.
Her death is inconceivable. She was perhaps the most supportive person I've never met. I will remember Bon through the most important lesson I learned from her: Driving myself towards destruction in a frenetic attempt to support the ones I love doesn't make me a heroine. It makes me a loser. The true strength lies in the ability to support people and still take care of myself.
Bon had that strength. She was generous, confident and demanding. (And she had an excellent bullshit detector.) Her sharp pen allows a beautiful personality to shine through in her posts. I cannot even begin to grasp the extent of the loss experienced by those who were close to her. Bon is gone, but she leaves a powerful legacy behind. She reached out and touched a lot of people. I know that I have grown through knowing her a little, even though I never met her in person.
The day Bon died, I was visiting some relatives on a wee island on the west coast. As I often do, I went for a walk on the small, local graveyard. A particular tombstone caught my eye, because the names on it were so very American. The inscription on the stone struck such a note with me; I couldn’t get the phrase out of my head. It said: “fearless and gentle”.
Two years ago, I was in half a world away from home. When I wrote that a situation had arisen on the home front, she immediately e-mailed me to offer her support. That moved me so much. I didn’t really lean on her, but to know that I could helped so much.
Nordahl Grieg, a Norwegian poet and pilot who died during WW2, wrote a poem called “De beste”, which never ceases to move me. I haven’t managed to find an English translation of it, but since I really wanted to share, I have translated the three first and the last verse myself. Since I struggled to keep both the meaning and the rhymes, I sacrificed the latter.
Dear Bon. The reality of your unexpected death eludes me. My mind keeps
coming back to the e-mail I was about to write when I logged on and saw
“Bonnie Persson-John (DFB) ... We will miss you terribly...”. I
instantly understood that you were gone, but as I clicked on the
heading, I clung to a far-fetched hope… Perhaps you were moving to a
remote place with no Internet connection? Of course you weren’t. You
were, and are, dead. I wonder how long it will take before I no longer
look quickly for your name when I search for new posts.
Death can blaze like heat lightening,
we see with new clarity
every life in its white distress:
the best are the ones who die.
The strong, the pure of heart
who wanted and dared the most,
quietly they bid their farewells
one by one they walked west.
The living manages the world.
There is always a troop left
the indispensable good,
life’s second best men.
They enriched the life they abandoned,
their spirits live in new men.
On their graves it should be written:
The best will always stay on.
I’m not normally into regrets, but now I regret not e-mailing you more than twice. And I regret that I didn’t follow my impulse thought of going to Malmö last year.
The radio plays “Starry Starry Night” now, and the mellow tune makes the tears well up in my eyes again. I don’t even know if you liked it, but it is bizarrely appropriate that this song, which most of all reminds me of my very good friend with BPD and schizophrenia shall remind me also of you from now on. So many of my coping mechanisms for crises among my loved ones stem from your posts. You, who showed so many how to deal when suicidal thoughts rear their ugly heads, are dead, far too early. It is such a bitter irony.
Thank you for informing me of this very, very sad news. I read
it w/utter astonishment and a great sense of loss. Dear Fuckin' Bon
was probably my main reason for regular visits to the site. I could
always depend upon her sage insights returning me to my faltering
center. What a void she leaves, but I'm sure all the heartless bitches will rally and continue to make hers a proud spirit that remains in its pages and hearts.
--heartless bitch - psmith
I am so sorry to hear you lost your friend. I enjoyed, was enlightened
by, and cried profusely over the love, compassion, truth-telling, and
real sharing she gave to the people who reached out to her. Reading some
of those letters, I concluded some of the authors were in deep shit,
maybe even living with untreated mental illnesses. Bon helped people to
struggle with helplessness, pain, and hopelessness.... Please grieve in any way you see fit,
as long as you need to, until a natural healing can gently begin.
My most heartfelt condolences,
--Julia Marie Landi
Just a short note to express my sympathy for Bon's passing. I'm so sad
to hear about it. She was truly an inspiration to all of us -- and to me
especially. I always looked forward to her columns and had a great deal
of respect for her straight-shooting way of handling people. I don't
have much time for BitchBoard participation, but I know she left her
mark there as well, in her usual forthright and honest manner, and I
know that many others besides me feel the poorer for her absence. My
condolences to her family and friends -- you'll all be in my thoughts
now that Bon has left this physical plane, leaving us behind perfectly perplexed with pungent perception
i knew of her more than i knew her; now listening to your voices and her stories i realize why my heart is dull
bon reminds me closely of my mom
i see her words in a different light now in this growing darkness; she's gone because her light was needed to shine upon all from above instead of illuminating this relative few.
bon resides in the same space as my nana, your aunts, and nearly all grandmas. those fearless focused practical hopeful Heartless Bitches who persevered pioneered and gave as good as they got with a whole lot of moxie tempered with love
they challenge us, guide us, advise us, console us not to be stagnant, weak-willed, ordinary. to raise an eyebrow to mediocrity and smirk at obstacles. to plow forward when all else seems lost.
when our time comes to join that BBQ in the sky, bon will be there drink in hand - raising it in welcome.
I haven't been here in a while, my own life has been a bit hectic. I
just read about Bon's passing, and it's just such a shock. She was one
of my favorite things about HBI. It's always a jolt when someone dies
young. It makes no sense at all. Lately it seems to be happening a lot
to people my age, and even if it isn't someone who you know very well,
I remember a few years ago a woman died in a fire - she was a friend of a
friend, I didn't know her. It was a horrible tragedy, she was 25 years
old. I didn't attend the funeral, but a friend of hers who was there told
me about it. A jesuit priest gave her eulogy and he said, "I believe in
the resurrection, but I don't feel it." I think that's the way it is
when someone is young and suddenly wrested from your midst - it's hard to
think of it as natural, it's not supposed to happen, not just yet.
Sept 19, 11:00
Bonnie's funeral was today.
It was a non-religious ceremony, but at a churchyard chapel.
It was beautiful, heart-wrenching, sad and happy.
The chapel was small, light, simple in decor (think Scandinavian design). It has been a lovely autumn day, sunny, warm, with all the trees turning red at the old churchyard.
The flowers were glorious, all kinds of colors and sorts - even irises, where do you find irises in september? Loffa's father was there and had got a flower decoration in the American colors, as he said, to honor Bonnie.
At first, Loffa had decided that the music should be Bonnie's favourites, but then she thought she couldn't take it, and the organist did some "muzak" as we later joked. Nocturne and some Swedish folksong etc.
Loffa had asked me to read Jade's eulogy in translation, which I did, between sobs. The same eulogy appeared in the local paper this week, somewhat edited (radical dyke and heartless bitch wasn't proper for the family-new page, I guess). The ceremony-man had read it and taken quite a bit of it for his memorial speech already. But Jade’s version in its whole is much better.
I had brought a print-out from the HBI memorial page in a roll, tied to a bouquet of about 20 different garden flowers that I put on the coffin, from all of us. Bonnie loved gardening and flowers, and I thought that would be to her liking.
Loffa also wanted W.H. Audens's poem "Stop all the clocks", and she had asked me to read it, as she didn’t think that she could do it herself.
The ceremony-man also read a few other poems, one of them of a Swedish poet, Tomas Tranströmer, “Svarta Vykort”. I haven’t been able to find a translation but it goes something like this:
In the middle of life it happens that death comes
and measures man. The visit
is forgotten and life continues. But the suit
is made, quietly.
After the ceremony we gathered outside in the sun, and nobody quite knew what to do. Loffa didn't want to go for a "funeral do", but when she asked me what we should do now, all I could think of was the sportsbar, Gloria’s, where Bon and Loffa always used to hang out and even had their own table (the staff had sent a beautiful flower arrangement).
Everyone just laughed and agreed, even though some thought that it wasn't really "proper", but where else could we talk, and remember Bon best?
Copyright© Heartless Bitches International (heartless-bitches.com) 2003, All Rights Reserved
Pause your cursor over each link below for a more detailed description
Want to link to HBI?
Want to know when we update? Subscribe to our "What's New" RSS Feed
(What is an RSS Feed?)
Get SharpReader - our favorite RSS aggregator - it's free!
If you don't have a Newsreader, you can subscribe to updates via email: