I took a long-ish blogging break for the month of May, but somewhat sadly the world didn't rest with me. When I started my break the Southern U.S. was just beginning to recover from the string of violent storms that left lives ended or destroyed in multiple states, the most heavily hit being Alabama. The stories of survival that poured out were both heartbreaking and inspiring.
Then, only a few weeks later, another massive tornado hit the modest-sized city of Joplin, MO. They were still adding to the death toll this week, and the damage was catastrophic. I lived in Missouri for 4 years and had visited Joplin many times while traveling back to my home state of Oklahoma. Missouri, like Oklahoma, is a state dominated by rural living. It's not uncommon for your nearest "neighbor" to live several miles away. As such, when something like this happens to one town or city, it feels as though it happens to the entire state. Everyone is your neighbor.
Only days after the Joplin storm another tornado struck, this time in my home state. Tornados aren't infrequent things in Oklahoma. In fact, they are kind of a fixture in the culture there. Every town (no matter the size) has a storm siren, and they have 'tornado drills' in the schools starting in kindergarden. No, if you grow up in Oklahoma a tornado is nothing to get excited about unless it's your house its blowing over. The Oklahoma tornado didn't harm as many people as it hit a small town named Piedmont (yes, I know people who live there as well); however, it held perhaps the saddest story of all.
A pregnant mother huddled in her bathtub with her two young sons, trying desperately to protect them from the storms fury. The father was out of town for work. When the storm had passed, the mother and unborn child were injured but alive. One of the boys was found dead immediately, but the other was missing. After searching through wreckage and debris for two days--the father had of course returned and joined the search--they found the body of the other boy.
The thought of that family losing two of their three children in one freak storm was almost more than I could take. You can't help but question the order of life when you hear stories like these. It's the kind of stuff that happens to people in movies or books, but not in real life. No real person should ever have to endure such tragedy, after all.
I sometimes feel that if we have no more control over things than that, why try at all?
Then I read the story of Bridget Zinn ...
I'm sure some will think Bridget's story in many ways is just as heart-wrenching. A beautiful woman taken long before her time by cancer is surely nothing to celebrate. However, after learning about her all too brief life, I do feel inspired. I think you will too.
Here is the bio from her website:
"I'm a YA writer and fan of all things YA. The types of books I like the best are usually super funny and have a unique perspective on the world – they also tend to be a bit on the girly side although not ALWAYS. Adventure and intrigue can get me too – it's just that a touch of snogging here and there is always a bonus in my mind.
I write the sort of books I like to read: you'll find adventure, unique twists, and definitely a snog here and there. It's quite possible that there's a bit of sneakiness and mischievousness in my stories, but you'll have to read more to find out for sure. All I can tell you is that if you check out my About Me page don't be surprised to discover links to Secret Lairs, Partners In Crime, or Crazy Stunts.
My first novel, POISON, will be published by Disney/Hyperion the Summer of 2012."
Like myself and so many of you who follow this blog, Bridget had big dreams. Her dreams were so big, in fact, that her brain and heart couldn't hold them all so she had to write them down and share them with others. From all the accounts I've read, Bridget was an exceedingly talented writer and a better person. She had a real zest for life and a unique ability to transform that into words.
If you're an author or have author-like ambitions, you'll have immediately noticed that Bridget was not able to see her book published. I say that because I know for most of us seeing our words in print IS the dream, and to come so close and never realize that dream would be the ultimate torment. It is probably breaking some of your hearts right now. I know it did mine for a time ...
Then I read her blog.
I'll confess and hopefully not sound too morbid, I expected to read the accounts of a dying person. My wife is an Oncologist, and I can tell you that cancer is typically not a subtle thing. You know it has you well before it takes you. However, after reading only a few entries, something odd occurred to me: Bridget wasn't dying, she was living.
This was a woman who took each day as a gift, and did her damnedest to make the world her playground. She loved reading and writing down to her bones and wanted to share that love, regardless of the poor hand she'd been dealt. And that's when it hit me. That's when I realized the example Bridget had set for me--for all of us.
Would I write if I had 6 months or 6 days left? Would I write if I knew I might never see it printed? Do I love this enough, does it mean enough, for me to hold onto the ambition in the face unbelievable adversity? You can really put anything in place of the 'writing' and the message is the same: Live your life with passion. Live each moment as if it were your last, and fill your time by chasing your dreams. If you do that, it will be a life well-spent.
I guess in the end Bridget's life gives me hope. Hope that I can view life as being bigger than my anxieties and fears. Hope that I CAN live in the moment and quit worrying about the future. Hope that even when things seem the ugliest, there is still beauty to be found if we search for it.
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." ~ Oscar Wilde
To be clear, I didn't know Bridget, and I'm quite certain I'm the poorer for it. Her husband, Barrett, has setup a beautiful memorial on her blog that I'd encourage you to view at the link posted above. You can also make a donation to a memorial fund established in her honor.