Thursday, August 20, 2015

One Year Later: Bridget

One year ago, around dinner time, I was sitting in the hospital cafeteria when I got a call from my sobbing mom: Bridget, a cousin of mine, had died.

Bridget was one of my most favorite cousins (first cousin once removed) - really, she was everyone's most favorite! A bubbly, lively, loving cousin who I've adored my whole life. She always made me feel loved. People felt the presence of Bridget.

I was waiting to give Will his dinner; I was with Grace, and Will was late meeting us - his patient was taking longer than expected. The phone call didn't feel real. I sat there, mustering composure. My concentration was  broken only by a classmate-friend of Will's, who stopped by Grace and me to say hi before his ER shift started. All of the sudden, my eyes filled up with tears and I frantically apologized, saying that I just got a call saying a family member had died, and would he give Will his dinner?

I called home and my Dad booked me on a flight so Grace and I could go home for the funeral. There was no doubt in my mind: I would be there.

First solo flight!

Being part of a very large extended family is funny. We love each other so much, but most only see each other at major holidays. I got to see second cousins I hadn't seen since a few Christmases earlier (married life means I wasn't in town for the cousins party) - it was wonderful to catch up. Was the occasion bittersweet? Of course. Still, we're there when it counts, right? Waiting before the funeral mass in the room with our huge family was beautiful - seeing so many cousins, aunt and uncles, and my grandparents. Family is a beautiful thing.

I do not like those sayings about how friends can be more family than actual family members, or something like that. It's still a comparison - like, but not the same. Friends you can pick, keep in touch, and foster a relationship with for as long as you desire. You're born into your family - and even if/when you're apart, your relationship can never be wholly severed. For better and worse, family is family is family.

I love my family, and I know how lucky I am in that capacity. Even living 10+ hours from my family, I'm reminded of them: I fixed my Aunt Kim's breakfast casserole recipe this week; my grandfather's watercolor hangs above our fireplace mantle; crucifixes from Will's grandfather hang around our house; Will's sister painted Grace's dresser; pictures my little cousins colored for Grace are displayed by her toys; two paintings from Bridget's home now hang in our front hall.

I love Bridget so much, and I will miss her every day. I grieve the memories we'll never make, and I cherish the ones we have. She is so very dear to me, and I ask that you think of her today.

Here is the written form of her eulogy, given by her sister Trish. I hope it shows you all what a truly unique individual she was, and how even the happiest-looking can mask their pain.


Dear Everyone who loved Bridget, This is Trish. I can't tell you how much all your thoughts, prayers and photographs have meant to my parents, our family and Todd. Right now we are just trying to deal with losing our "Bird". For those of you that couldn't make her service (we know you were there in spirit), here is her eulogy: Bridget’s nephews, my sons, Nick and Luke have a book – Heaven. It is a story about angels coming to call a dog to heaven. The little girl and the dog have a chance to discuss heaven before he goes with the angels.

The little girl’s heaven includes endless rollercoasters, mountains of chocolate and no bedtime.
The dog’s heaven is filled with fire hydrants, “whiffy things” and lots of BONES!

Bridget’s heaven may include “whiffy things” – but only because she has LOTS of non-allergic dogs by her side. And, her dog, Gypsy, is leading the pack.

Bridget’s heaven has an endless garden that never needs weeding. It’s filled with flowers that are always in bloom and the most beautiful tomatoes, herbs, peppers and English cucumbers you have ever seen. The avocados are always ripe.

In Bridget’s heaven the cars are always clean. Laundry is always folded for you. And, every angel has a label maker, wears purple sparkly socks (like Donny and Marie) and yellow smiley faces are everywhere.

Her cloud is definitely the neatest on the block – and the prettiest. It is perfect. Beyond perfect. Every inch of her cloud is carefully considered and beautiful. (She should have been the designer in the family. She had a talent for it and loved working with Doug and Lisa, at Greiwe, years ago).

(But, Dad, I bet she is already starting her list of projects to do with you someday)

She will have a giant dining table – big enough to fit her entire family. It will have fondue pots with an everlasting flame and will be set with the prettiest china and crystal.

I’m guessing the clouds in heaven don’t have walls - to hang her pictures of the people she loved – but that clouds have windows so she can see us. She has two BIG picture windows to see Mom and Dad and Kris.

Super special windows so she can always see my Nick and Luke. And, our niece Rigley and nephews Ian, Ryan and Aiden.

Aunt Missie and Uncle Dick. Aunt Madge and Uncle Eddie. Aunt Liz and Uncle Tom. Aunt Kay and Uncle Bob. Uncle Paul. (I know she is already hanging out with Aunt Nancy. She really loved her)
Rick. Jenny. Greg. Liz. Doug. Missie. Kathy. Marianne. Barbie. Gigi. Eddie. Annie. Lisa. Beth. Susan.

And her favorite cousin and best friend Micki, Lynn, Kathy, Lisa, Jessica, Chris, Janet, Russell, Bill and all her friends. And, Matt.

And, Todd. I have no doubt she will be prepping her kitchen in heaven for the day when she and Todd can make dinner together again - with vegetables from her garden while they sip a creative cocktail or two. They loved cooking together.

In Bridget’s heaven the sun is always shining and the beaches are always open. Considering how she could ROCK a bikini on earth, I can just imagine how beautiful she looks in her bikini with wings.
Bridget LOVED to sky dive and hang glide. Her nickname was “Bird” and she loved being a bird. She did it whenever she could. Maybe her love of flying and all that time in the air was just practice for when she received her angel wings this week. (But, hopefully, as an angel she won’t have to worry about landing in piles of cow whiffy things like what happened last year in Puerto Rico.)

There have been many times in my life I have felt certain angels with me – especially Nanny, Dan Kohnen, Melissa’s mom and recently Caroline’s mom. I know Bridget will be there too – and hope you can sense when she will be there with YOU. Because, she will.

She is.

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