Yesterday, a friend brought a group of her friends together. Friends who hadn't seen each other in years. Friends who loved her and thought of her often. Friends who knew they had once been touched by an angel. Back when my 10-year old was still a toddler, I used to meet a group of homeschooling moms at a park in my neighborhood. I wasn't yet homeschooling, but it was my intention, so my friend, Jenna invited me to hang out with them to get to know some other families that had made that choice and to maybe get some encouragement.
That's where I met Bridge.
Like everyone else, I was immediately taken in by her comforting demeanor and Lord did I love her accent. Bridgette had the best mid-western accent. I used to ask her to say random words just so I could hear how they sounded in Minnesotan. It always made me giggle, to which she would graciously roll her eyes at me. But what I loved the most about her was that she was so open and honest.
I lived in an area that didn't really like raw. I wanted to be open, honest, transparent, and raw, but I knew it wasn't really acceptable where I lived. Or anywhere, really. I kept stuffing my words and feelings, trying to fit in, wanting to burst. One day, Bridgette brought that up. She was struggling with being her honest self. She talked about how when she was growing up, if you had feelings, you felt those feelings and you could yell about them or cry about them or just FEEL them. I looked at her face and I felt like I was looking at my heart. YES!! Someone else that wants to live out loud! Soon enough, stuffing my words and feelings came to a crazy and well-documented end. I'm not sure what happened in Bridgette's life, but it seemed like she stopped trying not to hide her feelings, too.
A friend that I hadn't seen in too long shared a story this morning that I had forgotten until I read her tribute. One day, Bridgette had gone downstairs to find that her kids had gotten into the baking flour and spilled some on the ground. Rather than freaking out (like I probably would have), she dumped the rest of the bag out on the floor and proceeded to make flour angels on the floor with her kids.
Her husband talked about a guy that she had met at the park just before she passed away. They would shoot hoops together after her runs. Little by little, she got to know this guy. Most of us would stay away from the lone stranger in the park. Not Bridge. Bridge was more concerned that he didn't have any family or friends in the area. "What'll happen if you get hurt? Who will know where to go visit you?" She was sincerely concerned about this. So she gave this guy their contact info. "Keep this in your wallet so that if anything happens to you, whoever is with you will know that someone cares about you."
Who does that?
Who makes flour angels with her kids? Who befriends a broken stranger at a park? Who speaks truth and honest in a real and raw way to her friends?
Bridgette. That's who.
Bridgette was the girl that would find the need and fill it. She would make a bee-line to the person at the party that was all alone and be their friend. She had an instinct for that. A heart for helping. And oh, how she loved her children and her husband and God with all of her heart and soul. Listening to the stories that everyone told brought tears and laughter. I've never known anyone like her. I don't know that I ever will again. But I do know that I want to be more like her.
Whenever I feel fearful about feeling my feelings, in life and in my writing, I see her face that day... those big brown eyes glistening with tears of frustration, almost pleading for permission to just FEEL. I hear her voice and that cute Minnesotan accent. And I think, Yes, Bridge, we should feel our feelings! We can be real and honest and raw and there are friends that will accept us just the way we are!!
I struggled with writing the title to this post. I don't want to say goodbye. I want to keep talking about Bridge in the present tense, just like we were talking about her at her service yesterday. Like she's still here. Still among us. Smiling. Present in our everyday. Because she is. She left behind a legacy of love.
Bridgette was a bright star in our worlds.
We all got to share the warm glow of her light.
And none of us will ever be the same.