Every once in awhile a spiritual teacher crosses our life path, a person of other – worldly depth and wisdom; such was our friend Bridget. Some were fortunate enough to know her for a lifetime. We knew her for only a year but in that year, in that nanosecond on the continuum of eternity, she gave us a graduate degree’s worth of knowledge about what the Bible refers to as, “Fighting the good fight.” You see, Bridget lived with Crohn’s disease; it was one of the worst cases I have ever seen or read about and her life mission was to make sure no one suffered as she had at the hands of medical practitioners who failed to understand the nuances of this disease. She had to live with the results of their misinformation and ignorance. Bridget died on the eve of her 29th birthday, her 4 year old beloved daughter, Bailey, husband, Jeff, and her mother at her side. She passed only moments after she and Anthony had been having fun texting each other about the strange dreams hard core medication often provides.
On the day we met her, Bridget was holding court in her hospital room, her devoted mother and aunt at her side; a nurse was adjusting the myriad of pouches and tubes comprising her IV cocktail so that everything would course smoothly into the port near her clavicle. Physically, she looked tired and beat, like a prize fighter limp on his stool in the corner of the ring between rounds. But when she looked up and smiled at us the room was transformed. In that moment she welcomed us not only into her corner of the ring, she welcomed us without question or judgment, especially Anthony, into her heart. He never let go of the emotional life line she gave him that day; it was how he learned to fight his battle with Crohn’s. Life school began that day – Bridget the teacher, Anthony her student. They became fast BFFs, soul mates, fellow fighters with others in her life in the battle to educate doctors, nurses, anyone, about this mercurial, mysterious disease that attacks young bodies. She was our poster child yet 5 star general, the face and strong voice of the Crohn’s disease battle in Indiana.
Bridget would have been so happy to see all those who came from around the country to pay her tribute, to acknowledge what she had accomplished in 28 short years. The funeral home was packed, not a single open spot in the parking lot remained; from small children to community leaders, the Crazy Crohnies to the healthy; they came by the hundreds all afternoon and into the night – and they all bore the same message– that despite being in a battle for her life, Bridget always had a smile that lit up the room, that she never gave up hope, that she fought the good fight. Because Bridget led the charge, a cure for this hideous and often invisible disease is one step closer to reality.
Today, as winter winds blow and snow swirls in the brutal cold, we will gather to lay our Bridget to her well deserved rest knowing her earthly body is but a shell and that in heaven, the port and the unrelenting pain is gone; that her weight is normal, and that on her 29th birthday she danced in heaven with her God.