The Subject Tonight Is Love

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Paul Bonneau 1959 – 2017

My brother Paul passed away earlier this month at his home in North Bend, Washington. He was 57.

Paul was my big brother. When I was little, he was the cool teenager—riding a moped and later a motorcycle, bringing girls over to the house, building stuff (and blowing up stuff) in his shop in the garage, excelling at school. I was 10 when he left home to go to McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. (He got into MIT but very few Canadians sent their kids to expensive American schools in those days—or even in these days. In fact, I sent my daughter who grew up here in the US back to Canada for university.) After he graduated from the University of Waterloo, he moved to the US to work for a then-small company called Microsoft.

Paul had a wonderful, amazing life. He loved his work as a software engineer. He made piles of money during the dot-com boom. He drove fast cars. He enjoyed skydiving. He paraglided after work every day for years. He loved love as well and married three times (one, two, three!). He had the risk-taking gene that completely skipped over me.

In 2012, we learned that Paul had developed malignant melanoma. Doctors tried to remove it from the top of his head where it first appeared. It returned. They removed more. It metastasized. In fall of 2014, his doctors gave him a prognosis of seven months without treatment. Near the end of 2015, after he had gone into remission thanks to experimental immunotherapy, Paul vowed he wouldn’t waste time. (This from someone who had lived life every day.) He started dating (!). He bought his dream car, a Tesla. He decided to learn Spanish. He travelled to Machu Picchu. He fell in love with a beautiful woman in Lima named Pilar. He got engaged. Sadly, Pilar’s fiancée visa, which was approved, did not arrive in Peru in time for her to travel to the US and fulfill Paul’s last wish to see her before he died. (He referred to his attempt to get Pilar up here as his personal Make-a-Wish program.)

After Paul’s cancer returned with a vengeance at the end of 2016, I spent the better part of this past January with him—two weeks in North Bend and one week in Los Angeles to look into enrolling in an experimental drug trial. That’s the most time I had spent with him since I was a little kid and we all lived together in the same house. He kept thanking me for coming and I kept telling him how grateful I was to spend time with him. It was such a gift. I returned again to his home in Washington on February 17 and was with him when he died later that evening. His daughter Danielle and his friend Mike were also there.

Paul had had it all but near the end of his life, he talked a lot about love. At the very end of his life—moments before he died—he looked at his daughter Danielle and said, “D, I have to tell you something, you have to listen.” (Danielle’s nickname is D.) “The most important thing in the world—in the fucking universe—is love.” Soon after that, he closed his eyes and was gone.

I try to provide helpful information and useful tips on this blog but Paul had the best nugget of all.


The Subject Tonight Is Love

By Hafiz

The subject tonight is Love

And for tomorrow night as well,

As a matter of fact

I know of no better topic

For us to discuss

Until we all

Die!

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46 Comment

  1. Trish says: Reply

    And I love THIS, Anne Marie. Thank you.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Trish. ~ Anne Marie

  2. Kristin says: Reply

    Thank you for sharing your brother with us. It was a beautiful tribute and an important lesson. Much love to you.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks so much Kristin. ~ Anne Marie

  3. How right is your brother – love is all that matters, love for each other, for ourselves, for the world in all it’s maddening glory. Your brother lived every moment of his life, he learned the secret. How wonderful for you to spend those precious days with him. Take very great care of yourself .

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you. I’m so grateful I was able to spend time with him.

  4. I am so, so sorry for your loss. This is a lovely tribute. <3

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you 🙂

  5. Sorry for your loss Anne Marie. Love is the most important thing. Xx

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Tammy. ~ Anne Marie

  6. Karen says: Reply

    Very sorry for your loss. Wise advice for us all

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Karen. ~ Anne Marie

  7. Michelle Snarr says: Reply

    What a great post.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Michelle.

  8. Dear Anne Marie, this is a beautiful tribute to your brother. I am so sorry he is gone! Sending love to you xxx

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks so much Annie. I am sorry too 🙁 ~ Anne Marie xxx

  9. Janine says: Reply

    Thank you for putting this message into words for us, it is a gift to read. I’m pleased for you that you had that special time with your brother at the end. Carry on shining your light x

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I’m so grateful that I had that time with him. Thank you Janine. ~ Anne Marie

  10. Maureen Pegg says: Reply

    Anne Marie. I am so sorry to learn of the loss of your brother. He sounds like a wonderful person and your way of honoring him and his life is beautiful. A wonderful reminder about what is important in this world. Look after yourself.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Maureen. He was a wonderful person. ~ Anne Marie

  11. What a beautiful & well-written post! I’m sorry for your loss. So sorry. Thank you for sharing –it is true! It’s all about love!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you! He would be happy to hear that many people read this and appreciate the message 🙂

  12. Laura Routh says: Reply

    Thank you for sharing this personal story, Ann Marie. I needed this reminder of what’s really important. Thinking of you…….

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Laura. I needed the reminder too! ~ Anne Marie

  13. my sincere condolences. it must be a difficult time – sending big hugs

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you so much 🙂

  14. Julia says: Reply

    I have no words to adequately express the depth of my appreciation for this post…and my sincerest sympathy to you, on the death of your brother. What a fine person! Imagine the ripple effects spreading out from his life, his work, the love he spread…and now you are dropping another pebble whose ripples will spread out too, continuing his most important message.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you so much Julia. That’s very comforting. ~ Anne Marie

  15. Aurora says: Reply

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Love is the only thing that matters.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks so much Aurora. ~ Anne Marie

  16. MegMeg says: Reply

    Sorry to hear you’ve lost such a life-enhancing brother and friend, but thank you for sharing this gem. Take care of yourself and your girls, and continue to exude that love. xx

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Meg. xxx

  17. Zoe says: Reply

    My thoughts and condolences are with you and your family. 🙂

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you so much Zoe 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  18. Becky says: Reply

    Love is all you need. Condolences Anne Marie. xo

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Becky. ~ Anne Marie

  19. Karen says: Reply

    Annemarie, you post was an absolutely LOVEly tribute to your brother, what an amazing story. You clearly have the LOVE gene. Take good care,
    Karen

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hahaha! That made me laugh out loud. Thank you Karen! ~ Anne Marie

  20. dear dear anne marie, the goodbye with a loved one is a deep place – a journey of many twists and turns and I thank you for introducing your brother paul to me – I like the sound/feel of him. I dont think it is strictly correct that the risk taking gene passed you by – ahem ms whole food / fermenter extraordinaire and plastic free advocate , I still despair of the plastic bags coming into my place and truly admire the space you hold in this regard.
    I sometimes follow the practice of making death an ally, you know the one where each morning you look into the mirror and say well if this is the last day of my life how do I choose to live??? and then the other day while drifting along a forest path I thought yeah well what if today is the day that I really and truly embody the I AM Presence what if today I become enlightened – fully present in each and every moment fully awake to the creative possibilities of all that life has to offer.
    I’m not sure why I mention this except that it gave me another sense of empowerment of lightness – and your story of paul and love served once again to remind me that there is no separation there is no us and them, there is at the heart of it all – love love love….farewell paul
    many blessings to you and ,
    P.S. the sour dough biscuits here keep reaching new heights

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you for this Sandra. I read it the day of Paul’s funeral last Saturday–a really hard day. Your comment comforted me a great deal. I need to be more present and I need to be constantly reminded of the need. (I’m glad the sourdough is going well 🙂 ) ~ Anne Marie

  21. Naomi says: Reply

    This is absolutely beautiful. Your brother had it right. And, how sweet of you to spend so much time with him. xxoo- naomi

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Naomi. I am so grateful for that time.

  22. I’m so sorry for your loss. I was stunned to see this particular poem in your subject line, but very sad to find out the occasion. But your post conveys joy for a life well-lived and well-loved, so I lift my virtual glass to you both. All the best, Joumana

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you so much Joumana.

  23. Mary Taylor says: Reply

    Oh Anne Marie. I came over here to read about some other cool tip and I found your post about love and about losing your brother. He sounds as awesome as you but also quite different! Thank you for sharing about Paul. I hope you have some comfort from the memories of all the time you spent together. Big hug.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you, Mary. I really appreciate that. I do have some comfort knowing that I was able to spend so much time with him (and remembering that time). I still can’t believe he’s gone. ~ Anne Marie

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