Danny’s Book: Laughter, Tears and Braids

B.Ham.FrontCover (2)

Laughter, Tears and Braids by Bruce Ham (aka: Danny Tanner)


(Written in 2013)

To my blog readers,

You guys have encouraged me through some very difficult times. It is hard to believe the girls and I have made it through three years without Lisa. Writing has helped me tremendously, and a stronger me means more stability and happiness for my kids.

I started a journal the week after Lisa was diagnosed. It helped guide me through the timeline of Lisa’s illness which is the meat of my book.

Laughter, Tears and Braids is not a compilation of my blog posts. In fact, there are very few stories that I’ve written about before. I think it’s pretty dang funny in places as I describe our marriage, our children, and our glorious life together. (I want to apologize in advance for my vasectomy story.  It’s a bit too colorful.  In my mind, there was a point to it – some of you may not get it.  Women, when you get to that chapter, you may want to hand the book to your husband).

After sharing the book with a few of you, I’m told that it’s a pretty tough read.  In places, it’s grueling because it’s a really sad story.  The hero dies.

The book follows many of my journal entries as they move from concern for Lisa’s health to all out grief and anger at the world.  They are raw; they are real.

I primarily wrote this book for my girls, for them to read later in life.  Although, I do think that others might benefit from my experience. Perhaps it’s a glimpse into what people go through in troubling times – maybe a deeper understanding will help us all reach out in appropriate ways when we see others hurting. Maybe it’s a reminder to appreciate the life we have today.  I never fully did and still struggle with that sometimes. It is certainly a story of hope. If I can make it through something this horrible, I’m guessing almost anyone can.

I’ve included the introduction from my book. It is a letter to my girls.

I hope you will read Laughter, Tears and Braids. It’s been a long time in the making.


(I used our real names in the book versus our Real Full House blog aliases.  It just didn’t feel authentic as the Tanners.)

Dear Bailey, Lucy and Annie T., (DJ, Stephanie and Michelle),

I started writing the week after your mother got sick.  Initially, it was in a journal given to me by a co-worker.  At your uncles’ urging, it turned into a blog, something I’d never heard of at the time.  And now, after years of work, I have completed this book.

I’m not sure if anyone will read it.  I’m not the best writer in the world.  But that’s not what this is about.  I didn’t write it to sell a million copies.  I wrote it for you, I wrote it for Mom, and I wrote it for me.

You see, what your mother and I shared was beautiful.  We loved each other very, very much.  Throughout our 16-year marriage, we developed a connection and partnership I’ve never experienced before.  In many ways, we were one.  She balanced me, and I brought out the best in her.  Our strengths complemented each other.  We filled each other’s voids.  I think that’s why losing her was so difficult.  Without her, I was lost.  It was as if part of me had died too.

About halfway through putting this project together, I sat down and really thought about why I was writing. I wanted to make sure there was meaning in my work. I needed to know that this was more than just a reenactment of our life, a timeline of activities. What I discovered was that the most important goal of this book is to help you better know your mother. I don’t build her up to be perfect. She was not. She had incredible gifts and a few areas she could have improved upon – just like you and me.

You know me.  You understand what I do well and what I don’t.  You love me for the good, and you give me grace for the bad.  It’s important that you know her too.

It is also important to me that you understand what your mother and I had together. We weren’t the perfect couple; we were the perfect couple for us. I hope this book helps you have a picture of our marriage. It was so very good. Maybe it will help you as you move forward in a serious relationship.

At times, I may have let you down during the year or two surrounding Mom’s illness and death. It is important to me that you understand what was going in my mind at that time. I couldn’t be all I should have been for you because I was simply broken – emotionally, physically and spiritually. I think I did okay, but at times I failed. You deserve to know why. You deserve to have a deeper understanding of the depth of my loss.

I’m not sure if others will read this book, but for those who might, I hope they too will take something away.  For those who have experienced tragedy, I want them to see hope. I ached to the depths of my soul, and yet, even in my darkest days, there was happiness to be had – much of it I found in you.

I believe healing comes from within. It is all in how you play the cards you have been dealt. I’m no hero. I think that most people step up in the face of adversity, but maybe this book will help those who aren’t yet able.

Finally, I hope to bring understanding to those who have not yet had to deal with loss. Perhaps a glimpse into our life will give them more understanding, more empathy for those walking through this long, hard journey. Truth be told, it’s not just about death. There is sadness and strife all around, ours is but one example of how hard life can be.

I think this experience has made me appreciate what I have more than I ever did before. It has certainly changed my priorities. I wish I’d learned that sooner. Maybe others will read this and hug their kids a little tighter right now or take their wife out to dinner – tonight. That is my hope.

I don’t think there is a way in words to express my love for the three of you. The pride and joy I feel for you exceeds even my own understanding. Without you, I’m not sure what would have happened to me. You provided me motivation to move forward when it would have been so easy to quit.

Take my words and forge on with life, regardless of the barriers that get put in your way. Reach out to those around you, showing acceptance, love and support, just as others have done for us; and, as you have done for me.

I love you.



“This is a stunningly good book.  Often witty, always poignant, Ham captures the emotional complexity of families facing a terminally illness and the struggle to find hope when all seems lost.  Ham’s honesty about his flaws and stumbles along the way is refreshing and makes his journey more accessible and his triumphs resonate more deeply.”

 Justin M. Yopp, PhD

Single Fathers Due to Cancer Program

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

“In this touching, insightful, and often disarmingly funny memoir, Ham bravely invites us into his family, his wife’s tragic encounter with cancer, and his crisis in faith.  What emerges is a beautifully written love story that reveals on every page his devotion to his wife and daughters as well as his own remarkable growth through adversity.   You will be moved, entertained, and inspired.”

Donald L. Rosenstein, M.D.

Director, Comprehensive Cancer Support Program, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

“Laughter Tears and Braids is a phenomenal story of a father’s love. Bursting with hope, compassion, and memories, readers will be touched by this story.  Everyone who has lost a loved one to cancer has something to gain from his inspiring outlook after his wife’s battle with cancer.”

 Peggy G. Carroll, Managing Partner

Patient Alliances, Oncology

“Laugher, Tears and Braid” is more than a widower’s story of love and loss; it is Bruce Ham’s Hero’s Journey from a man who looked to others for guidance, to a man who trusts his instincts and is braving a new normal without his loving wife by his side. Prepare to laugh and cry, sometimes on the same page. After reading this book, you’ll feel you have a new set of friends—the type of friends who’ll help you move in July, change your tire off the interstate’s shoulder and give you a surprise hug.”

Alice Osborn, author of After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects

Leave a comment


  1. *Bear Shannon*

     /  November 13, 2013

    Hi, bro. I lost my wife eight years ago to cancer.

    Peace ~ Bear

  2. Equipping The Saints

     /  January 29, 2014

    I am following your blog; it is very interesting. Please consider following mine..

    Senior Pastor
    Ephesians 4:12
    Equipping The Saints

  3. Equipping The Saints

     /  January 29, 2014

    Thank you very much. Please have a blessed night.

  4. Equipping The Saints

     /  February 3, 2014

    Losses come in differing forms. Still, they are losses. We all know that once we get to Heaven that it will be like nothing that we could ever imagine. That is a great expectant hope for the believer in Christ. Still, when we lose someone in this life, that relationship can never, ever, ever, happen in our lives again. Whenever we shed tears of grief and loss, it is something that should unashamedly and freely happen. Think about this. If, after, we have had a loving relationship with someone, and if they leave this life, and if we don’t feel the pain of loss and grief, then let me say this: “What is life worth!!!!” Life is very precious. It should be valued and protected (see my blog CC 013114). I remember how many years I hated used the term “loss,” as it related to death. But, the word is “spot on!” When you lose something, you can’t get it back. Yes! We will be with our born again loved ones in heaven, but it will be of a relationship that will look nothing like the ones that we have in this life. Hey! I don’t want to appear to be less than “reverential” toward the end times. I just know that death causes pain, and might I say, “unbearable pain.” It is a result of the fall, and was not a part of God’s plan for humanity. Let’s get really serious. Consider the family that suffers the death, the loss, of an infant. What am I supposed to say to them to take away their pain; it won’t happen. I can tell them that I am sorry, and that i care. But, I have no majic wand that will suddenly give the grieving mother, father, siblings, grand parents, and others who may feel that horrific pay, smiley faces that instantly make them ecstatic about life and prevent them from grieving. Yet! Jesus wept, (John 11:35), and He agonized (John 11:33) over the death of His friend Lazarus. We grieve when we suffer the loss of a loved one. And, we grieve when the loss of a friend somehow flows through the air and lands on our shoulders, and in our hearts. I am sure that our blogger friends can easily finish this thought of grief. Blessings, Pastor, Equipping The Saints (please forgive me for any typos; I just didn’t feel like reading thoughts of my own grief again) I love all of you.

  5. Bill Harrison

     /  June 30, 2014

    HI Bruce,

    I knew you from the Downtown YMCA many years ago and I found your blog on WRAL. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your wife. I feel that the blog can help us all to appreciate the small moments in life with our love ones, family memebers and friends in our lifes. You never known when your last minute here on earth will be. I think we all would have done things different in ours and if we knew our time was nearing the end. We would have volunteer more and spent more time with our parents,children close friends instead of worry about that deadline at work.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  July 1, 2014

      A great lesson Lisa’s death has made me learn – although, I don’t always do a great job of remembering to put those other things to the side. At least I’m more aware now.

  6. Stacy Stowe

     /  July 1, 2014


    I am touched by your ability to put words to paper with regard to your experience after only 5 years. I too, am widowed. I lost my husband in a tragic automobile accident 10 years ago. At the time we had a toddler and we were expecting our 2nd child. I always tell people that had it not been for my children, I would not be here today. Our son needed me to provide everything for him, our daughter needed me to give her life. Together, they took my hands and pulled me out of the deepest, darkest, most breathtakingly freezing place I have ever known. I have wanted to write a book about our love story & experience for many years, but every time I try to start, I just cry & I am unable to go any further. GOD bless you for doing what you have done.


    • Danny Tanner

       /  July 1, 2014

      It is tough – and I think it never fully goes away. But, there is joy beyond loss – in kids, friends, family. Write that book – if for no one else, your kids!

  7. I found your blog tonight and through clicking, I discovered you guys live in Raleigh! We’re an hour away. I never expected that. I am so touched by your story and I am already enjoying reading it so much. I can only imagine how proud your wife is of you at what an incredible job you’ve done with your girls in her absence. Great job, Danny Tanner. 🙂

    • Danny Tanner

       /  July 27, 2014

      I think she may be proud and also rolling her eyes!

  8. Anne

     /  July 25, 2014

    I found your blog through a recent WRAL story online. I have just finished reading from the beginning. I am very glad that you are keeping Lisa’s memory alive and well with your girls. They have such good memories and stories to treasure.

    My mother died when I was 5 years old, after a 6-month fight with breast cancer (1967). My brother was 13 (she died on his birthday) and my sister was 11. As you might imagine from that era, Dad was a bit disengaged when it came to raising kids. He remarried within 6 months, to a woman who became the only mother I knew. They were married 34 years until her death in 2002. But unfortunately, most references to my Mom were buried away. It wasn’t strictly said that we didn’t talk about her, but we didn’t. Pictures were put away, conversations were non-existent. As an adult now, there are so many things I wish I knew, but they’re gone forever (Dad died last year.) My brother and sister don’t remember many details.

    No matter what path your future takes, please always keep Lisa’s memory alive and up-front in your girls’ minds. You seem to be doing such a great job as a dadmom. I look forward to continuing to read your adventures.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  July 27, 2014

      wow – that is great advice for me and everyone else going through these tough situations. thanks for letting me know how important keeping that memory is for the kids. i so want them to know who lisa was – and who she was to me.

  9. Cheryl

     /  October 1, 2014

    I read your book today taking breaks when needed. It is a beautiful tribute to your wife and something your girls will treasure always! Thank you! I’m wishing you luck with three girls and I’m hoping you have mastered the braid!!! Lastly I loved reading about your wife’s obsession with Disney planning, the color coded schedules, parade look out spots etc as that is me . I am hoping you take your girls back there and create some new memories – maybe even throw in a color coded schedule in memory of Lisa!

    • Danny Tanner

       /  October 1, 2014

      A friend of mine went this week – she and Lisa were buds. I think she did it justice. We have gone back and had a good time, but I swear, it’s just not the same.

  10. I like your blog ,because I have lost my mother true cancer,we must stand up,and fight cancer together.

  11. Sean

     /  October 7, 2015

    I got the chance to see you speak at our staff development day for the YMCA on October 6th. You brought up many thoughts of what my family and I went through when my dad passed from cancer 3 years ago. I just want to say that your time with us was very enlightening and very peaceful. You really helped me realize what I have been missing in my life and really put things in perspective. Thank you so much for taking time to come speak to us. Your words were VERY entertaining at times and very straight to the heart!

    Thank you!

    • Danny Tanner

       /  October 8, 2015

      Sean – I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I do a lot of speaking, and it is nice to know that on occasion it strikes a cord with someone. Keep on pushing man!

  12. Z Wills

     /  May 18, 2016

    A friend shared your blog with me & just reading your letter to your girls & one entry, feels like you are inside my head, verbalizing exactly how I feel, but never able to explain so that others know just how beyond terrible losing a spouse is. It’s only been a few months since my husband passed & I’m still in the “putting one foot in front of the other stage.” Next Monday would be our 18th anniversary.
    Thanks for sharing your story & your wit.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  May 22, 2016

      You will get through it, but it is a tough road. Once my grief counselor told me that it would be five years before I felt fully normal again. I’m not sure that it took quite that long – and I’m actually not 100% sure you ever feel fully normal again. However, the past six years for me have gone by quickly when looking back. Hang on – you’ll get there. It will just take time.

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