Angelo Bonadonna

Angelo Bonadonna, 1985-2011.

My dear friend Jane comes from a gigantic (really, like: enormous), loving, close family.  A few weeks ago her cousin Angelo, who had been teaching in Thailand, died while hiking near a waterfall.  Janey sent the email below to our close group of friends, which like an idiot I read while on the treadmill this morning– I had to stop and dry my eyes with my sweaty towel.  I was really struck by the way the personality of her family comes alive in these excerpts below.  Jane’s email is a great snapshot of her family– I have only met the smallest percentage of them yet each one has had that same fun spark that I love about Janey herself.  The email from Angelo’s father is both shattering and uplifting– I am amazed that his grief does not contain an iota of anger or bitterness.  (It reminds me of Janey and her resolute belief in the positive.)  Finally, Mr. Bonadonna references a blog written by a woman who was with Angelo when he fell.  I have not spoken directly to her to get permission to reproduce her words, so rather than steal her articulate and beautiful tribute, I am linking you to her blog:  

My heart goes out to everyone in Jane’s family who is grieving the loss of this bright light.  If you have the time, click through to Allison’s blog and read some more about Angelo Bonadonna.

From Jane:

Hi Girls,

I wanted to say thank you to each of you for the help, offers of help and just general love and support the past two weeks. I wasn’t prepared for how hard this loss would hit me. I’ve experienced the death of “one too soon” before, but not one of my peers – my cousins are this gigantic life force – and I figured we had years as a mass group of 40. I’m grateful for the past few years of getting to know Angelo as an adult. We played on the family kickball team together two years ago –  I was pretty bad and Angelo covered for me more than once! We went to baseball games together, hung out with the cousins and at his parents’ house – my aunt and uncle live nearby so we’ve spent lots of time with them since we moved here. 

It’s been pretty amazing how social media opens the floodgates of communication. I was corresponding with one of the teachers searching for Angelo in Thailand while he was missing. Since then there has been so much written about him by friends and family, I thought I’d share a perspective my uncle found last night.

 Love you all,  Jane

 And from Jane’s uncle, Angelo Bonadonna:

Now that we’re back home, including Ang, and we’ve had our second funeral Mass for him, and have buried him near his grandparents, and aunt, and other family members, and Gabby Hartnett (who, like Angelo, went to his grave never seeing the Cubs win a World Series), I feel I can start going through the messages and tributes that have been left here.  

I feel a need, first of all, to offer great thanks to one Thai “farang” (foreigner), Allison, whom I remember meeting in Thailand, though I don’t remember what we said to each other, if we had a conversation (sorry Allison!). Ironically, this first thank you addresses none of the stunning tributes and messages posted in Facebook, but rather responds to the chance encounter I had today in reading Allison’s blog. The link is below. Allison is a lovely writer, and her narration of the events surrounding Angelo’s accident and death have brought me much solace, and in some unexpected ways.  

The throwing of money in the river is a stunning image. But more than anything else, it was the angry Thai man. . .  I’m so grateful for his expression; it articulates a basic and necessary and futile . . . what? Dissatisfaction? Frustration? Hope for change? Love?  

I see myself in that man, though I harbor no blame to anyone. I know we can’t protect life in any absolute way. 

It helped me (and Loretta) a great deal to see the places both where Angelo fell and where he was recovered. We actually filmed the waterfall and surrounding area, and I have to say, in the film, the falls and river look pretty and tame—even docile and harmless. But I remember standing on the rocks, and having our guides—JJ, Stuart, and Kaitlyn—point out the slippery parts (any wet stone, moss, gold-colored dirt, etc.), and I remember how absolutely slippery those places were. Genevieve kept falling, and my shoes felt like roller skates on ice (once I went barefoot, I was able, at least, to keep myself upright). Of course, I was terrified walking there, mindful of what had just happened a few days earlier, even though, by all accounts, the water was much lower and more peaceful than it had been. I saw fear or concern in Kaitlyn’s eye’s, too; clearly both of us were thinking that all it took was one slip, and then the worst outcome, if not inevitable, was at least possible….  

Anyway, Allison, thank you for processing and presenting the whole event the way you did. And for your kindness and sweetness in speaking of Angelo. My gosh, there are so many others to thank, for exactly the same reason, but at least I’ve started. Peace, all. –Angelo Bonadonna

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