A Third Open Letter to Joe Blow (On Becoming a Dad while Mourning the Loss of my Mom)

An open letter to Joe Blow. Telling him about the grief I am experiencing with my Mom’s death. Against all that I learned that he became a Dad recently. This is a letter expressing both emotions of mourning and joy. Life goes on even amidst the pain. And in my season of mourning I am grateful for Joe and Ellie’s excitement in becoming parents. 

“Oh yeah…haha, I’m a Dad now. Had her on Monday morning; pretty awesome stuff. I’ve kept it quiet and will probably announce the birth either in an email to a few folks or a lower key Facebook announcement tomorrow.”

Text by Joe Blow to me. 

“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

Helen Keller 

In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.

Isaiah 25:6 NLT 

I read this part of Isaiah at my Mom’s funeral 


Life entering the world 

The start of Mom’s funeral

From Mom’s wake

Dear Joe-

This is going to be the third letter I have written to you. For your reference I have written the first one here and the second one here. There is a lot I have to say. I am lost right now. I feel so lost. My Mom wasn’t supposed to pass away. I spent so much time and effort in helping her. Mom wasn’t the only one who lived in the hospital. I did also Joe. When my Mom died in the ICU on April 1, before my eyes my world was shattered. It was permanently fractured. After my Mom died I wept over my Mom in a way I never have. My Mom wasn’t the only one who died, a part of me died with her. I am in shock Joe. All the words, all the emotions can’t describe how I feel right now. Going through my Mom’s wake was hard. Telling people about some of the ways that I remembered her was hard. I tried to speak from the heart. I had hoped against hope that my Mom’s funeral would not happen. When I saw her purse at home and cell phone I kept having the feeling that any moment Mom would walk through the door at any moment looking for it. My Mom’s funeral was hard, I felt so numb when reading the part about Isaiah during the funeral. Meeting all my Mom’s friends was interesting. I planned the funeral along with my Dad and sisters to honor Mom. I found out things at the funeral I never knew Joe.  One thing that was hard is that I heard from my Mom’s friends how proud Mom was of me in how I traveled to see her and take care of her. In the midst of her pain I was there for her Joe. You know when I was an infant and shortly before I was diagnosed with asthma Mom used to hold me, walk with me and take care of her when I was so young. I remember Mom telling me that story. Well in the end of my Mom’s life I was doing the same thing. I was holding her hand, kissing her forehead and trying to be the best damn son I could be. Mom at times in the hospital fell asleep holding my hand sometimes because she was cold and it gave her comfort. I am in shock at my Mom’s death. I am so numb that I have spent time weeping and crying in the privacy of my condo or car. I just feel like I am in a daze. 

Two things that happened in the past couple of days that stand out for me. I went into a hobby shop here in the Washington, D.C. area. And the owner of the shop told me that I will never get over my Mom’s loss. He said that holidays, anniversaries, and special occasions will be hard with Mom not there. He said that his Mom died 42 years earlier and he still misses and mourns her. I am bracing myself for this pain. And then my birthday happened on April 23. I cried because I knew I wouldn’t hear from Mom…and that is all I wanted. Losing a parent has been so hard Joe. Its been so hard. I have to tell you this I am dreading Mother’s Day. I go into the grocery store and I see my Mom’s favorite foods and drive by the stores Mom loved. Every time I see a Dollar Tree I think of Mom. Its against all this grief that something happened that made me smile. And that is the second part of this letter. 

You became a Dad recently. You and Ellie became parents. I have to tell you that even while my grief is hard I cried in joy for you the other day. I’m so happy for you Joe. Words can’t capture my excitement for you. You know what makes this exciting…is that I have known you for so long. I still remember picking you up when we both were in Campus Crusade. I still remember you entering my Honda Accord for the first time. I have so many memories of you Joe. From retreats, to watching the Firstar/US Bank fireworks on the shore of Lake Michigan, to the time you came out to Washington, D.C. recently. You have become quite the accomplished high school football coach in Southeastern Wisconsin. The only thing I am going to ask is the following, If you ever find yourself involved in coaching staff at the University of Wisconsin…can I get a few tickets from the sidelines? 🙂 I want you to know that you are going to be a great Dad. I have watched you grow so much from the 2001 time frame until today. In this situation I am so excited for you. I also have to say this…Ellie is going to be a great Mom. You married someone who is amazing and kind. One of the highlights of my life is watching you guys get married. I so look forward to hearing about the journey of parenthood which you have embarked upon. 

This is a hard time for me. But I want you to know that I love you. And that I am proud of you. In the midst of overwhelming loss, to also hear about life entering into the world means a lot also. I cried for the first time he other day tears of joy for you and your wife. Do you know how wonderful that felt in light of all the other times I have wept? So I want to say thanks for being in my life. Thank’s for your friendship. Thanks for your love. Thanks for checking in on me to see how I am doing in light of all the responsibilities you now have. I love you bro. I always will be grateful for having you involved in my life. You were one of the best things that came out of Campus Crusade for Christ in Milwaukee. So I expect to hear about the joys and trials going forward. Savor each day because before you know it, your daughter will grow up. Remember these times when she is a teenager and has a mishap and your car insurance rate will spike. Seriously bro I love you Joe. I dedicate the Boss Baby trailer to your family for the new Boss Baby in the Joe Blow household! 

Take care bro, 

I love you brother! 

David Bonner 

BTW – Joe I want to let you know that you made a major impression on my Mom. My Mom was impressed with you when you attended my graduation from Marquette in 2002. My Mom found you nice, loving and kind. From time to time she asked about you. And when I traveled to Milwaukee she knew you were one of the people I planned to visit. Thanks for honoring Mom Joe. That means so much to me today. 

3 thoughts on “A Third Open Letter to Joe Blow (On Becoming a Dad while Mourning the Loss of my Mom)

  1. David,

    Raw & beautiful words that you have written here. I get so tongue tied when I am flooded with emotion & I don’t want to say anything trite so, I hope you don’t mind a quote from Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom.

    “Life is a series of pulls back and forth… A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. A wrestling match…Which side wins? Love wins. Love always wins.”

    The thing I would add to the quote is when a loved one dies one no longer lives in the middle. Grief slams one into a dark night of the soul.

    I am glad that you experienced joy in the midst of your grief, I call those moments a pin prick of light in our dark grief. Keeping you in my thoughts, praying for you as you navigate the waves of grief.


  2. Someday, you will find great peace in having been with your mom as she transitioned into eternity.

    I was holding my mother in law’s hand when it happened. Just before, I realized that she was going. We had discussed the Bible where it said that we are changed in the twinkling of an eye. I leaned over her and said “Remember, Polly, in the twinkling of an eye.” Se blinked her eyes at me and a few minutes later she was in God’s capable hands.

    You will remember that moment for the rest of your life. You were a good and loving son and she knew you were with her. There is nothing more wonderful to a mom to have her children with her.

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  3. “Babies are God’s opinion that the world should go on.” -source unknown


    I can attest that 14+ years ago, in wake of 9/11 & my sister’s passing, at time when my mourning & pain was still intense, when my daughter was born it changed a lot of things. It’s difficult to look backward when one has a little one; it forces one to look forward. The Lord’s timing was perfect, even though we waited a long time & there was nearly 9 years between my daughters.

    I’m grateful that you can be truly happy for your friends Joe & Ellie, even through your pain. It shows me that while it won’t be easy, and it’ll take time, you’ll be okay. Blessings.


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