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Cancer

Killed by cancer.

Killed by cancer.

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Today would have been my friend Bridget's 30th birthday. Bridget was a team member of mine at Event 360. She died several months ago, and I was honored to deliver a eulogy at her funeral.

I have thought about Bridget a lot these last two months because I have been asked to speak about her often. At her funeral, at several conferences, and most recently at the Komen Leadership Conference a few weeks ago. I wanted to share a short experience.

During my presentation, I said something to the effect of “Like my mother, Bridget was killed by cancer.” Through the bright stage lights I could see the first few rows of the audience. Everyone stiffened when I said the word “killed.” I wasn’t going to make much of it but I saw that I had made everyone in the audience uncomfortable, so I paused for a moment.

I said, I use the word “killed” deliberately. I believe language is powerful; that language dictates our actions, and our actions shape the world. When we say someone “died of cancer” we are basically admitting that “dying of cancer” is an acceptable, normal state of affairs. We are saying, in essence, “people die for many reasons, and cancer is one of them.”

I disagree to the core of my soul. Cancer kills people. No one should die of it. If we harnessed enough of our money and technology and talent, we could make it preventable. I do not accept the worldview that it is a natural form of demise, and neither should you, because it isn’t true. 

Thank you Bridget, and thanks Mom, and thanks to my family friend Nick, and thanks to everyone out there who made the ultimate sacrifice to help the rest of us get our priorities in order. Bridget, more than anything, is a reminder to me of the work we have to do. And why it is worth doing.

 

Eulogy for Bridget

Eulogy for Bridget

Bridget Spence, a long-time Event 360 team member and committed soldier in the war against cancer, lost her fight late last week. I was incredibly humbled to be ask to speak at her funeral. Several of you have asked that I post my words. Here they are.

I'm humbled to address you on behalf of the hundreds of team members who worked with Bridget and the thousands of participants who were changed by their relationship with her. 

Danny told us that he thought we might have a unique perspective to offer the family. But we'd venture to guess that we knew the same person that you did. Take the humor and kindness and strength and sass you knew and put it in an event fundraising firm. That was how Bridget lived. She was real. Authentic. She was the same person to us as she was to you, and we mean that as the deepest compliment. 

But we’re sure you’d appreciate more detail than that. So we want to share three main thoughts.

The first is that although Bridget died of cancer, and dedicated her professional life to fighting cancer in all its forms, that is not how she was defined by us nor how we will remember her. Nor will she be remembered for her volunteer work with Susan G. Komen or Dana-Farber.

She will be remembered as a friend with an infectious laugh and a warm, easy way. She will be remembered as a thoughtful speaker and a brilliant writer. She will be remembered as someone willing to challenge her managers and her peers. That is, as a leader. She will be remembered, as Event 360’s Teri Yoder has said, as a wise soul. And we will forever be grateful, as Event 360's Molly Fast has said, that for someone who was given so little time, she chose to spend so much of that time with us. 

The second thing we'd like to share is not what we know about Bridget, but what knowing Bridget has taught us about all of you.

We say in our family that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, so we know Dottie that you are loving and kind, the way Bridget was. We know Billy was caring and committed. We know you both possess a deep reservoir of strength. 

Danny, Patrick, and John, we know you helped shape the person Bridget became, and we know she shaped you. Maybe more than you would have liked! So we know you three are energetic and driven the way that Bridget was. We know you are strong and passionate.

We know Bridget wouldn't have chosen to marry someone who wasn't exceptional in every fiber of his being. And so Alex, we know you are warm and patient, imbued with quiet confidence and resolute fearlessness. 

Finally, as most of you know, Bridget worked primarily on our 3-Day project, a three-day, sixty mile walk that raises money for breast cancer. Some of you have probably participated in the event yourselves. Knowing Bridget, most of you were probably approached to donate to her at some point. 

Like many things in life, walking sixty miles is a lot harder than it sounds. And when you are walking the event there comes a point – usually in the middle of the second day, when your bones are starting to creak, and your feet are fighting back at you, and you realize that you still have more than halfway to go – that you are faced with your biggest obstacle: Your own willpower. 

And at that point, you have a conversation with yourself – about why you didn't make more time to train; about how ashamed you'd really feel if you stopped; about what you'd say to your donors if you quit and took the bus to camp.

And then, you have a choice. You have to decide if you're going to get up and start moving again.

The most important thing we can share about Bridget is that throughout our time with her, Bridget never stopped walking. 

Bridget, you made it to the end of the day. You finished your route; you fought the good fight; you kept the faith. 

Now, the rest of us have a choice. How can we know the way? We can hear you telling us to get up and start walking again. We'll meet you at camp. 

San Francisco 3-Day

A wonderful weekend last week with friends raising money for the fight against cancer on the San Francisco Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. Pictures here.

Your Part Matters

Hello friends, I hope this finds you well.

Will you make a donation to support me in the fight against cancer?

Wait! Before you leave the page, or put off a decision until later, allow me to take two minutes of your time to tell you what I’m doing, and why.

I’m walking this October in the San Francisco Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. It is a three day, sixty mile walk through the rather significant hills of the Bay Area. I’m doing it with thousands of others to help raise millions of dollars for the fight against cancer. I’ve started my training and I’m walking daily hoping that the dunes of Michiana are at least a decent representation of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

You probably know that the fight against cancer has been both a personal and professional passion of mine for years. In 1999, my mother died of cancer. It was a pivotal event in my life, there’s no doubt about it. Her death left my family with lots of questions and a drive to help find a cure. 

For over ten years I’ve dedicated my business and my life to achieving that goal. My company has helped produced dozens and dozens of events that have raised hundreds millions of dollars for the fight against cancer.

But this past fall, the fight became intimate for me again when my father was unexpectedly killed. His untimely death brought back all of the questions, the anger, and the uncertainty I felt over a decade ago. None of us think we need a reminder about the fragility of life. And yet, when I received such a reminder, I realized how naïve I had grown. 

We live in a world that increasingly feels to move without regard to our actions. We are told the economy is beyond us; that conflict will continue regardless of our motives; that in our future is an emptying world. It is easy to simply stay put, to let the world revolve and take us with it, to decide that our part doesn’t matter.

My father’s death was a reminder that our part DOES matter. Perhaps if enough of us just realized that our efforts make a difference, we’d see a difference being made. Perhaps if enough of us started moving the right way, we’d be able to take the world in the direction we want it to go.

My participation in the Komen 3-Day for the Cure is one way of getting myself moving. The event raises critical funds in the fight against breast cancer funds that are used not only for care of the sick, but for research that is absolutely needed to prevent more men and women from losing their lives to cancer. 

It is simply not acceptable to me that my children think of my mother as an abstract concept. They have no memories of hugs, or smells of oatmeal cookies, of the scent of her perfume. It is neither acceptable to me that my four-year-old daughter, nearly every night, says as I put her to sleep, “Wouldn’t it be great if there were no heaven, so no one would leave us?” These are not the thoughts my parents would have wanted for their grandchildren. 

My hope is that my participation in this event will also impact my children’s memories of their grandparents. My hope is that my children will someday say, “my grandparents inspired my dad to make a difference.”

I hope you will support me by clicking the link at the top left and donating an amount commensurate to the journey I’m making. I promise I’ll keep you updated on every mile, every dollar, and every blister that brings us closer to the world we all want to create.

In any case, thank you. I know it is not easy to read these fundraising letters. I know we all get too many of them and that makes them hard for me to write, too. 

But I’ve learned that it is easier to write a fundraising letter than it is to write a eulogy. 

Thank you. Your part matters.

Best wishes,

Jeff