Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In Memory of an Eternal Optimist

I feel like I’ve lost a friend.

I had never actually met her, never shook her hand or shared a conversation with her. We were never in the same room, or really even in the same part of the country, to my knowledge. And yet I feel as if I’d known her all my life.

Her name was Bridget Zinn. She was a fellow children’s writer who I heard about through a literary agency I’ve been following on Facebook. When they released an excited message about signing this bright new talent, I checked out her website and started following her blog.

I instantly loved her.

Every post bubbled with enthusiasm, joy, energy, playfulness. She posted wacky videos about her obsessive love of shoes and cake. She seemed exactly the kind of person I’d want in my own writing group, in my own circle of friends.

And yet the entire time, through all the upbeat, perky posts, Bridget was fighting the battle of her life against cancer.

She learned of her stage IV colon cancer only two years ago at the age of 31. She had no risk factors – none. She was a young, fit, healthy vegetarian. She married her longtime boyfriend in her hospital bed.

I followed Bridget’s blog for inspiration. Knowing that she could face something so frightening with such optimism helped me push the little day-to-day stuff aside. If she could battle cancer with a smile, then heck, I could deal with a little herniated disk and a 3-year-old temper tantrum. I clicked on her site daily for that jolt of happiness, and to keep up with news on her fight. She didn’t post daily, but it didn’t matter. I’d scroll through the archives of cat pictures, posts about her adorable home in Oregon, and descriptions of amazing celebrations with friends. All good stuff. All uplifting.

Then I visited the site yesterday after being offline all Memorial Day weekend. I saw the title “Celebrating Bridget.” I knew instantly it was over. And I felt a remarkable sense of loss.

I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to “get to know her.” Her ever-present brightness and bliss have taught me that life is beautiful regardless of our circumstances, and that we shouldn’t wait for perfect conditions to live life to the fullest. Here’s a quote from her November 13th blog post:

“I know I’m lucky that my ‘neutral’ is happy. It makes everything in life 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 always choose to be happy Now.”

I know Bridget will be missed by many, many friends and family. She will certainly be missed by me.

Some lovely tributes to Bridget have been posted online by author Lisa Schroeder, literary agent Michael Sterns, and the Deo Writer blog.

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