RIP Bonnie Toon-Sweeney

Bonnie obitToon-Sweeney, Bonnie Jean 59 Jan. 21, 1954 June 14, 2013 Bonnie Jean Toon-Sweeney, beloved wife, daughter, sister, auntie and friend, passed away peacefully at home while surrounded by friends and family on June 14 following a courageous three-year battle with ovarian cancer. For all those who were fortunate enough to know her, she will be greatly missed for her kindness, generosity and gentle, caring nature. She was truly a gift from Heaven. Bonnie was born Jan. 21, 1954 in San Francisco, the first of seven children for Dr. Robert W. and Joan Marie Toon. She grew up in the Irvington neighborhood of NE Portland, attending the Madeline School and later St. Mary’s Academy, where she first developed her interest in theater and graduated in 1971. Bonnie continued to study theater at Fort Wright College in Spokane and later at the University of Portland, where she returned to college after a 15-year hiatus and earned her bachelor’s in theater management in 1994. Along the way, she worked at Meier and Frank by day and in local theater productions at night and on weekends. It was during one of these average work days at Meier and Frank that she met the love of her life, Patrick Sweeney. They were married in Sept. 1981 and shared a life of laughter, respect, adventure and love. The door of their home in SE Portland has always been open for family and friends. Throughout her adult life, Bonnie made a name for herself working in live theater productions in and around Portland. She began her Portland career acting and directing with Summus Theatre Ensemble, a company established by Fort Wright College alums. Her later work was primarily as a stage manager and producer for several local theater companies, including Oregon Stage Company, Classic Greek Theatre, Lakewood Theatre Company, Coho Productions, Quintessence Language & Imagination Theater and the Portland Revels. As much as she was known for her love and commitment to theater, there was no greater priority in Bonnie’s life than her family. From an early age, she embraced the role of being the “big sister” to her six siblings and carried on in the same fashion as aunt to her many nieces and nephews. She never missed a family gathering, near or far. She always remembered to congratulate or acknowledge. Her love and caring was genuine and she always had time for family. No tribute to Bonnie would be complete without acknowledging her love of animals, particularly cats. Bonnie and Pat’s home provided shelter, comfort and love to countless feline friends over the past 30-plus years. If there was a cat in need, Bonnie and Pat made room in their home. Bonnie Toon-Sweeney is survived and loved forever by her husband, Pat; mother, Joan; and siblings, Brian (Kathleen), Mary, Michael, Kathy (Heather), Karen (Andre) and Kevin (Christy); and by sisters-in-law, Molly Chong and Kathleen McIntire. She is also survived by 26 nieces and nephews, many of whom will always know her as Auntie Love. Bonnie was preceded in death by her father, Robert. A recitation of the rosary will be at 7 p.m., June 27, at Zeller Chapel of Roses. A funeral mass will be held at All Saints Church at 2 p.m., on June 28, with a reception to follow. Private burial will take place at Belle Passi Cemetery in Woodburn at 11 a.m., June 29. Arrangements by Zeller Chapel of Roses. In lieu of flowers, Bonnie encourages you to buy a ticket and support live theater. Sign her guestbook at

Published in The Oregonian on June 23,

The above official obituary can be found here.

I have a couple of rambling thoughts on this.

Bonnie’s death wasn’t unexpected. She’d had cancer for a couple of years and had gone through the whole mess of treatments. I don’t remember when exactly, but I remember that one of the blog posts on CaringBridge said that she’d stopped receiving treatment. Of course that meant that it was only a matter of time.

I was sort of okay with this. I’ve learned in the last few years that it’s futile to “fight” against terminal illness. At some point, nothing can be done. But when I say “okay,” I don’t mean “happy.” As much as I was reading the facts, a tiny part of me hoped that she’d somehow pull through even though my rational side kept reminding me that such a hope was horseshit.

The thing for Bonnie was, though, that yes, she was in my parents’ generation, which, by definition, mean that she’s older than I am, she still seemed far too young to die. Sort of in the middle of my former friend Tim who committed suicide last year and my late grandmother who died of natural causes a few years ago. Tim was near my age and I certainly don’t feel close to death. My grandmother was 90, so that made total sense. Bonnie I guess made half sense.

The emotional side of it too is strange. Even though we all knew this was coming, the day I found out, it was a bit of a broadside. I thought something like, “I’m now in a post-Bonnie world.” I’d had an identical thought several years ago when my aunt Janice, my dad’s sister, died of a brain hemorrhage (or something.) I don’t know because I didn’t care. Janice was a bitch, I was glad she was dead and felt nothing at all when I knew she was. A post-Janice world felt no different than one with her in it.

Not so with Bonnie. As I wrote on Facebook shortly after I was informed of her death, she was one of the kindest people I’d ever known, and that’s including my parents! It was always a wonderful thing to see her about once a year and chat about the goings on in our mutual lives.

That’ll never happen again. And unlike with Janice, I’ll miss it forever.

But I won’t eulogize further. I think the obit does a fine job of that. My second thought is a little more on the difficult side.

Soon after the announcement that Bonnie had ceased using her feeding tube, she received last rites.

There’s something about her and her and my godfather you have to understand. Yes, they’re Catholic, but they’ve never seemed Ca-tho-lic. I can remember literally zero conversations during my time with them that had anything to do with the Church other than the fact that he’d gone to a Catholic school. I mean it. The fact of their faith never came up. I think that’s partly why I always felt, with some small exceptions, perfectly comfortable with being an out atheist in my family. No negative social consequences.

so there it was. In black and white. Bonnie getting last rites. i thought even, Why’s she getting last rites? She’s not THAT Catholic.” Obviously it didn’t matter to me. It was Bonnie’s time left and hers to do with what she pleased. If getting last rites made her feel good about what was gonna go down, more power to her.

But that kind of bothered me. Not that she was doing it, but my reaction to it. See, for years I’ve had a giant problem with the Catholic Church and I’ve not been quiet about it at all. I’ve been gone so far as to say–and I stand by this–that the little old lady dropping a dime in the box is complacent in the evil the Church has committed. Not only that, but her dime is helping to fund the Church’s activities–good and evil.

And yet I was sitting there, reading about Bonnie’s last rights, then later mass, funeral, and burial, and kept thinking more along the lines of, “Isn’t that nice?” The hypocrisy bothers me. Why am I not okay with the anonymous, hypothetical old lady dropping the dime, but I have no issue at all with my late godmother’s faith? I really don’e know. to be honest, I think I give a pass for no better than emotional reasons.

Finally, the big thing that’s kind of bothered me about all this, all the now knowing that bonnie was most likely a “real” Catholic is that that inescapably means that she bought into the bullshit. I’m not even talking about the truly evil child-rape bullshit. No, I’m sure she wasn’t into that. What I mean is the basic, day-to-day, St. Peter’s-wiating-for-you bullshit. Several times in blog posts, mentions were made of St. Peter welcoming bonnie and long-dead relatives greeting her again.

I just couldn’t shake it. My annoyance. “No, they’re fucking not,” I thought, “because it’s all made up. Bonnie’s dead and that’s the end of it.” I of course have made no comments as such in any manner to the family. I’m not a rude asshole for the sake of it. And honestly, if they wanna truly believe that, obviously that’s their choice, but it still saddens me. That life, on its own merits, is not taken seriously. It’s forsaken for bullshit fantasy because we’re all so fucking terrified of death.

In the end, though, none of my pissing and moaning matters. What matters is that Bonnie was a great lady, had a wonderful life, and though I hate that it was cut short, I’m proud that she lived it to the fullest.

Miss you, Bonnie.

4 Responses to “RIP Bonnie Toon-Sweeney”

  1. […] godmother, Bonnie Sweeney, died about three months ago. Other than a greeting phone call only weeks before her death, I was neither […]

  2. […] day, I get this kids’ book from my godmother Bonnie. I was only recently reminded of her giving it to me; for decades, I’d thought it was my […]

  3. […] immune to triggers of traumatic experience, and this doc certainly had its share. specifically, my godmother died of cancer this past summer, so some of the material hit straight […]

  4. […] called Joo Hee Kim Memorial Asshole. But then I remembered writing about my late godmother Bonnie and my late friend […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: