Friday, May 27, 2011

The loss of Bridget Zinn, cancer, and sadness

For Bridget's 33rd birthday, I gave her this Lord of the Rings action figure. I told her Eowyn reminded me of her - beautiful, strong, courageous. I often imagined Bridget, battling the big, ugly monster cancer with her sword, fighting so very hard, but always with a smile on her face.

Ask anyone what they loved about Bridget and you will probably hear many wonderful things. However, all will say her bright and sunny outlook on life, even in the midst of horrible, difficult, painful stuff. Truly, that bright and sunny outlook rarely wavered.

I want to share with you something she wrote on her blog back in 2010. I remembered this post, went looking for it, and found it. You can find the entire thing HERE.

Bridget wrote, "I'm lucky that my 'neutral' is happy. It makes everything a whole lot easier and I realize that a lot of people have to work to get there. I don't know if I was born that way or if it was a product of reading too many Zen Buddhism books at a young age -- I remember being so blown away by the Eternal Now, but then thinking, hey, if it's always now, I don't have to wait until later to be happy. Because there is no later. It's always Now, so unless circumstances overwhelm me otherwise, I'm just going to to always choose to be happy Now."

So you can understand why those of us who knew Bridget are reeling after her death on Wednesday, from complications due to colon cancer. We are going to miss this bright and sunny young woman SO very much.

And many of us are reeling AGAIN. Because of cancer. Again.

Talk about putting things in perspective.

Get a bad review? At least it's not cancer.

When your son drops your laptop and breaks it? At least it's not cancer.

Frustrated you're not losing a few pounds along with the inches when you're working out so hard? You are healthy and alive and thank God you do not have cancer.

In December, my friend Lisa and I got together for coffee, just a week or two before she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At the time, they thought she had developed pancreatitis. She was getting used to the idea of a life of on-and-off pain, of having to be careful about the kinds of things she ate and drank. I commiserated with her, imagining a life of avoiding certain foods I loved, like chocolate and other things, and most of all, feeling so bad for her that she had to figure out how to live and work and write around the pain.

She looked at me and said, "At least it's not cancer."

And that's the thing. It can change on a dime. All of it. Any of it. For you, for me, for anyone. All we have is now. And so we think, I better make the most of it.

It's hard though, isn't it? When the sadness is so overwhelming at times.

In a note Oprah wrote on Facebook yesterday, she talked about a passage from Mark Nepo's Book of Awakening. The passage is called "Being Sad."

"The best thing for being sad, replied Merlin, is to learn something. ~ T.H. White

The idea here is not to divert the sadness, but to give it a context from life other than what is making you sad. Just as ginger can lose its bitterness when baked in bread, sadness can be leavened by other life. When feeling the sharpness of being sad or hurt, it helps to take new things in. This pours the water of life on the fire of the heart. So when exhausted from expressing all that hurt, listen to music you've never heard, or ask someone to tell you an old story from before your birth, or take a drive down a road near a ridge you've always meant to look out from. Look with your sad eyes on things new to you that will give you something to do with your sadness. Your sadness is the paint. You must find a canvas."

So that is what I am doing. Looking for the canvas.

For those of us who write, certainly, the pages we write on will be our canvas at times. It is a good place for all of that emotion.

Bridget, of all people, wouldn't want us to be sad for long. After all, she'd be the first to tell you she had a good life, even it was much too short. She was loved and she was happy.

In fact, I think it's safe to say, she would want us to be happy *now.* I'll try, Bridget. For you, I'll try.


  1. This is a lovely post. Bridget does sound like a lovely woman. I'm sad to not have the privilege of knowing her. But I believe I'll follow the advice of Merlin in the passage you shared and learn something. Thank you so much for sharing Bridget with us today. I feel like through you, I got to know her just a tiny bit. :-)

  2. I seriously teared up at the part where she said: "At least it's not cancer." ::heartclench::
    I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. And she seemed to be such a lovely person. :')
    That was a touching post, Lisa.


  3. Lisa, this is beautiful. I had heard of Bridget when an auction site was listed for her a few years back. It is actually part of the reason the ALL 4 ALABAMA Tornado Relief Auction was an idea of mine in the first place!
    People wrote of her zest, her neverending smiles and how she had such a beautiful soul. I immediately wanted to participate - the signed books were wonderful but to also know that you were in some way helping someone else; even just a little...well it touched my heartstrings. I have seen many posts in the last 24hours dedicated to her loveliness and it saddens me deeply that she is gone. I feel like I got to know her a bit through it all and I wish I could have told her that she touched so many lives even without knowing it...

    Thank you for this post. For the reminder of living in the NOW. We must push forward and live for those lost, those hurting and for ourselves.


    The Southern Princess - Visit My Kingdom Anytime

    ALL 4 ALABAMA Tornado Relief Auctions

  4. Hugs, Lisa. A beautiful post remembering two amazing ladies.

  5. I *barely* knew Bridget but I was SO sad to hear the news of her death. It makes my heart so heavy.

  6. I didn't know Bridget personally, but knew of her. Like with Lisa, it's a tragedy. But as always, Lisa, you have honored her short life with your gracious words. You are a treasure.

  7. I don't even know what to say anymore, not that I ever did. But cancer is horrible and exhausting, for the patient and for the loved ones, who can only watch helplessly.

    My sorrow about all this, and about my dad, is exhausting. But I will take a page from Bridget's book, and be happy. Now.

    Love to you.

  8. So beautifully stated, Lisa. We lost a womderful friend.

  9. Thank you for your post. I just learned of Bridget's death today. I only knew of her through her husband, who is my web designer, but I know she touched a lot of lives

  10. This is a beautiful post, Lisa. Much love to you. XO, Laini

  11. I just stumbled across your blog today. And I am sitting here at the keyboard in tears.

    Your words really resonate with anyone who has had cancer in any part of there lives either for themself or with someone they care about. You have written with compassion and thoughtfulness. I am sad for your losses and at the same time joyful for you that you have had the honor of having good friends in your life.

    I look forward to reading your old posts and keeping up with your new ones.

  12. Beautifully said, Lisa. Thank you.

  13. Beautiful post, Lisa. I've been away and didn't realize until today that Bridget had passed. You certainly put everything into perspective.