An Open Letter to James Crestwood (On the Death of your Mom)

An open letter to a close friend, James Crestwood. James’ Mom passed away in Salina, Kansas on April 2, 2018. Her funeral was at First Covenant Church in Salina this morning April 6. This is a letter of mourning and a letter telling one brother that I am here for his family amidst the pain, and loss. I love you James, I will always have your back, but especially in the painful and dark times of life. Now is one of those periods. 

“The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

“And when great souls die,after a period peace blooms,slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us.They existed. They existed.We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”

Maya Angelou 

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!

Matthew 25:23 NIV 

Mom’s funeral April 12, 2017 Holy Spirit Catholic Church Fresno, California 


Last night when I was driving home I decided to grab dinner at a Chipotle. I recently became friends with your brother on Facebook. I was standing in line about to order when I saw your brother post the obituary for your Mom. That took my breath away and I felt confused. To see that while going through my feed stunned me. I was overcome with emotion. After I ordered I sat at a table and cried for you and your family. To lose your Mom at 61 is way too early. My thoughts, feelings and heart right now are not in Washington, D.C. Currently they are in Kansas with you and your family.

James I remember when I traveled to Kansas in 2011 and hung out with you and your family in Salina. I met your Dad and spoke to your Mom briefly. I remember your Mom sitting in a chair. If I remember correctly she commented about how I knew you. Your family James has always been loving and kind. Whether it be your parents or your own the love has always radiated from it. And though I never met Chris or Andrew I am confident in saying that I would most likely encounter this from them to if I got to know them.  In this time James you will be lost, just as I am lost and yet that bond you have with your Mom will always remain. Your Mom will live on through you and will be reflected in your family and household. 

Death is a hard topic. I know this well as I, and my family are dealing with this issue. Recently I started seeing a grief counselor and talking over my Mom’s death with him. When I was talking with him I had to explain the situation and the difficult loss that was Mom’s illness and death. I explained how you called shortly after my Mom died and expressed your love and support. I was in shock. I was so numb after all I was clinging to hope. What I will never forget James is how you invited me out to Kansas and spend time with your family. Feeding some livestock and hanging around on your farm, and seeing what was rebuilt from the tornado that destroyed your barn. I wrote about my trip out to Kansas in “A Third Open Letter to James Crestwood.” I couldn’t tell you what your charity and love meant to me. There are friends and then there are friends, and then you know that one rare soul who impacts your life. You have been such a person. And the truth of the matter James is that your love, passion, grace, and more reveal and show how your parents loved and raised you. The love you have shown me ultimately comes from your Mom. And your Mom has touched many people – far beyond the women’s ministry at First Covenant Church in Salina. It includes me, those you meet with on business trips, to those you met while in Kenya. The same holds true for your brothers. From their time in South Africa to up in the Minneapolis area your Mom’s love and grace still continue and still flows forward. That is the greatest gift that can be given. That of love. And in that sense your Mom will live on through you, your family, your siblings and more. In that sense you have a lot to cherish and hold dear. And that can never be taken by anyone. 

The world has altered and shifted. The world is hurting and broken. You know this both through Lyd’s counseling program and your time back here in DC and Kenya. And against all that stop and think of how the world was made a better place because of your Mom, Cheri. Think of how rich and grace filled it has been by her presence? Can you imagine how poor this world would be had she not existed? Can you imagine the lives that would be lacking if your Mom didn’t intervene in individual lives or know people? The death of a loved one is hard and the world is mourning and broken. This is not how it is supposed to be. There should not be this kind of pain. It’s okay to cry, grieve and more. And yet James, I wish I could have prevented this from occurring. If there was a way that I could give all that I have to spare your family – your Dad and brothers this pain I would. Why? Because I see how this pain has touched my family. And I wouldn’t want your family to suffer. In another post down the road I will share with you what I have learned about grieving and loss for your family. 

But you know what was eerie about all this? The fact that your Mom’s death practically fell on the anniversary of my Mom’s. The date is separated by one day. So what does that mean? Is your Mom and my Mom getting to know each other up in heaven? Is your Mom trading stories with my Mom about your family? And is my Mom sharing stories with your Mom about mine? Did my Mom sit down with yours and embrace her and tell her about the time you met with them when you worked in D.C. politics? You made an impression on my Mom, so much so that from time to time she asked about you. Now that both our Mom’s are in heaven is my Mom telling your Mom about you in person? One day I think we’ll find out. 

I know you are dealing with shock and are numb. Let me just say this… after how you have helped me with my Mom’s death, its’ time for me to return the favor. If you need anything at all. I am here for your family. If you want  me to spend a couple of days with you out in Kansas I can do that. I will be there later this year, my Dad wants to see Missouri and the Eisenhower Library in Abilene. So I will be in your backyard. Perhaps I can extend a couple of days to talk with you and have a beer and do for you what you did for me. But tonight and these past couple of days I grieve with you. And in that sense I stand with you. You can cry on my shoulder anytime. Lean on me how ever much you would like to. James, from the depths of my heart I am profoundly sorry over what happened. Its with that that I extend my deepest sympathies on your loss. I love you James, just as I love your family. I will always love your family. 

Again I am profoundly sorry over what happened. 

Very Respectfully, 

David Bonner 

One thought on “An Open Letter to James Crestwood (On the Death of your Mom)

  1. Pingback: Dealing with the Death of Mom: The First Year of Grief | Wondering Eagle

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