I am posting a copy of one of the eulogies delivered at Bridget's funeral mass on April 9, 2013. It was a day filled with beauty—a fitting tribute. We miss her terribly but are comforted in the knowledge that Bridget was loved by so many.
Family members, friends, and colleagues, we have gathered here today to pay tribute to and mourn the loss of our dear Bridget. Father John, I am deeply moved by what you have done for my wife and my family. Bridget was a devout Catholic, whose faith helped her face the unbearable reality of stage IV breast cancer.
Bridget turned a shocking and difficult situation into a tour-de-force of goodwill, honesty, and awareness for a disease that has touched all of us at some point in our lives. She found her calling in her work at Event 360 and Susan G. Komen. And hearing Jeff Shuck speak about Bridget’s accomplishments fills me with great pride. But today, I am simply here to remember her as my wife and best friend.
Bridget and I fell in love shortly after we first met. On our first date, in October of 2004, we sat down to dinner at Sonsie, a fashionable restaurant on Newbury Street in Boston. To the irritation of our waiter, we talked for an hour straight before we even opened our menus. Her eyes glowed with life, and when we looked at each other, I felt vulnerability and excitement reconciled. I reached tentatively across the table for her, and I watched her eyes grow wide as she slid her hand into mine. In the cab-ride home, after a Christmas party, she let it slip that she loved me. I say slip because she grabbed at the words with her hands after saying them, attempting to stuff the words back into her mouth, and then giggled a playful laugh that left me both thrilled and terrified. I knew that my life had just changed in the most incredible way. I drew her close to me, professing the love that I had for her, quietly admiring Bridget for having the courage to speak. As often happened, she was the first to voice the truth.
We walked around Boston together, and I felt like I had bamboozled the world. Me? What was this beautiful, smart, funny woman doing with that ginger-haired Ichabod Crane? Each man who walked past us was a fool for allowing this to happen. I met any set of male eyes with challenge.
Her love and the fact that she loved me and knew me through and through and liked what she saw meant the world to me. She was passionate about building a life together and daring to dream about things like children and growing old together, even though the odds were against this hope.
For all of us here, the past eight years have challenged each moment of our existence. Drastic shifts among hope, triumph, pain, and despair locked us all in an intense union, and the gaps that exist in the spaces between these emotions annealed our love for Bridget. She returned our love by sharing with those of us here today, as well as with those who cared about her around the world, her sojourn of beauty, faith in God, and truth. Much of the last third of Bridget’s life was directed by her fateful relationship with cancer. Although her disease took her away from a traditional course of living, it made her deeply aware of what aspects in her life were still very much a matter of her choice. She gave no dominion to the chaos caused by uncertainty and fear; instead, Bridget held more tightly to what she loved.
Our life together made feel me that I was a complete person. On March 3, 2010, in her first “My Big Girl Pants” blog entry, she shared her relationship between life and cancer, she wrote, “My cancer just won’t quit. The doctors can sometimes be quite grim about my prognosis. But I am living well. I am living fully. I am happy. I am one of the happiest people I know. I just got married in August (Best wedding ever!) and some days I call my husband in the middle of the day to just thank him for the amazing life that we have made together. I created a song that I sing (way off tune!) while cooking dinner about how much I love my little life.” Bridget valued the simple, but essential—the things that are so real they are often hidden by the pace of life or a glamorous veneer.
In his 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, author David Foster Wallace posited, "the real value of a real education, [has] almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time..." This principle is the essence of Bridget's outlook toward a life with cancer.
Bridget was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after she graduated from Boston University in May 2005. Pictures from her graduation day show a woman of stunning beauty with a world of possibility ahead of her. I clearly remember the Friday, just a few weeks after her graduation, that she got the news she had cancer. We had planned to meet at my place after work to celebrate the end of her first full week of employment. It was around 5:00; I had just gotten home from teaching, opened a fresh gluten-free beer, and turned on Bon Jovi until music filled my Boston apartment. When Bridget buzzed the door, I pushed the console button to allow her to enter the building. She rushed through my doorway, her face wet with tears; she slowly dropped her purse and computer bag to the floor. With a confused look on her face, and with a questioning voice, she breathed, “I have cancer.” She buried her face in my shirt and held me as if she would slip off the edge of the earth if she let go.
But in the end, it was me who held on to my wife, my friend, and the purpose of my life.
Married on August 15, 2009, our lives took on an intense and purposeful direction. During Christmas 2011, Bridget and I traveled to Vienna and attended the opera. About this event, she wrote, “As the first strains from the ‘Marriage of Figaro’ began, I started crying quietly. I was overwhelmed by the joy of being alive.” Thereafter we moved from city living to country life. Bridget balanced new passions of French cooking with transforming an aged 18th century farmhouse into the home of our dreams. Daisy, the dog whose pedigree was better than her male master’s, further enriched our lives.
Bridget’s final request was “Please, don’t forget about me.” As her disease progressed, Bridget quickened her pace of living, tirelessly fund-raising while spreading her message concerning breast cancer in young women. Although Bridget lived a life full of love and beauty, the fact is that her work is not done. Bridget did not live to see a cure for breast cancer. We should not forget that fact, and we will not forget Bridget.
At the end of Bridget’s life, she spent her time in the place that she loved more than any other, our home, in the warm embrace of her family. Late each evening of her last three months, she closed the day with a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce. Bridget insisted that I indulge myself, too, and so began the ritual. We would look at each other in bed, clink the bowls together, and gleefully say “cheers!”
These were times of profound love and peace through which Bridget taught me more about humility, faith, and courage than I had learned in my whole life.
I love you, Bridget. And I always will.