When I was 19 and at NYU, I wrote a poem called “To My Father, After His Death”.
On Saturday morning, someone who I referred to as my brother and whom I had a connection with that could never be explained in words, passed away in his sleep. He was 48. Steve Bridges was the kindest and the funniest man I had ever known. Besides my own dad Mel, who, to this day if you go to Philadelphia and say the name Melvin Pastiloff people who sigh and say ” Mel was the funniest human being I had ever known. Still. To this day. And he died in 1983.”
My dad was 38 when he died. Steve was 48.
These past few days have been filled with new grief on top of old grief.
Yesterday I taught my Sunday morning class at Equinox, lovingly dubbed “Yoga Church” by the yogis who show up every Sunday. The theme was gratitude. I asked them to pick a person they felt grateful for, alive or passed on. Someone who helped them be who they are today, someone who guided them, who taught them, who loved them.
When the hands came to prayer, as they do so often in my class, the mantra was to be “Thank you __________.” That person’s name being the blank.
Mine was “Thank you Steve”. I told my students all about this funny man who did impersonations of the presidents. My class always has laughter but yesterday I told them I needed more laughter than normal. They delivered.
When I played ” Your Song” by Elton John, everyone sang on cue.
It was truly church. I kept thinking I don’t know how I’ll make it through. I had to turn my back at least 6 times as I wept. I turned back to the class and wiped my tears and saw a roomful of the most connected and alive people I have ever seen.
That’s how I made it through.
Thank you, my tribe. Thank you.
And in getting the following email from someone who had never taken my class before, I realized how powerful and needed yesterday’s class was indeed. How human an experience it was, and how it was not just about sadness and death at all, but life.
“Dear Jen, I mentioned that I had been moved to tears several times. Something happened today that I hope will continue for the rest of my life! The person I chose to be grateful for was actually myself. I spend a lot time judging and criticising myself and I’m trying to change (which is what brought me to yoga today), so I thought I’d try some self love. I think I cried every time we did a sequence on our own to the music. When you asked us to think of that person holding us up, I pictured a few versions of myself dancing around me on my mat and lifting me up at different times. It was so beautiful. I thanked myself for being a mom, wife, daughter, friend, sister, aunt, etc. I found myself calling me all the nicknames I have for everyone else I love. I “hiya’d” and kicked the shit out of that negative voice, diets, and melanoma. I’ve always felt at war with my body and I don’t think I can live another day in that mind set. I feel so blessed to have stumbled into your class today. Your energy and philosophy were exactly what I needed to feel and hear. I felt a shift take place and I am so grateful and so inspired. I feel like I could go on and on here but hopefully I’ll see you on Tuesday and I’ll thank you again in person.”
By now you know the Divine experience ( and I do not use the word Divine lightly here) I shared in Mexico on my last retreat. It was a smaller retreat and we bonded in a spectacular way that continued way past the trip’s finale. We wrote emails to each other starting with ” Dear Fabulous 13″ daily.
Although Steve came with me on the last 3 retreats I hosted, it was in Mexico that I realized how much I loved this man. In my life, I have yet to experience feeling this way about another. It is not romantic or sexual.
After my class yesterday I came home to emails from the Fab 13. They had written letters to Steve after his death. Immediately I thought of my poem I wrote as a teenager to my dad.
I wanted to share those letters with you because in them you will get a glimpse of the love we shared, you will get a glimpse of who Steve Bridges really was, and, trust me on this: even a glimpse of Steve is enough. He was love.
Steve, buddy –
I only knew you for a few days in Mexico.
I spoke to you at length only a few times.
So why is there a hole in my heart?
Is it because I watched you bring light and laughter to our whole Xinalani family?
Or because I saw your gentle soul shine through in little kindnesses?
Or because I watched the joy bubble out of you and all of us around you, our cup truly running over?
Or is it because our new-found family is just that, new-found, and already we have lost a brother?
Yes, all of these.
But also: I regret not talking to you more.
I regret not going for that one last beer.
Most of all, I regret that I will not see you the next time we are in LA, nor have
All those future times and lost conversations.
When I met you, I had “Gratitude” written on my arm.
And you had Joy on written on your face.
And if I only sit in my sadness, and feel loss, and regret, and pain,
Then it’s just all about me again.
What kind of Gratitude is that?
If meeting you meant something,
If the hole in my heart means someone wonderful was here, then
I must return to Gratitude
I must look at the shape of that hole and say “Wow!
How lucky am I to have met this guy?
How improbably fortunate!”
Of course I am sad and bewildered
That you have left us so suddenly.
But if that is all I feel then I have missed the point.
I have missed your point, and the point of what we all
Discovered together in Mexico.
All of us are comforted in sadness
And strengthened in Gratitude
By the Fabulous 13
(And so we remain, though we are
Down a good man)
For you helped define us
And you remain in our hearts.
For some reason, it was time for you to go.
I don’t begin to understand, but
I am so very grateful
To be one of your last new friends.
Thank you. Love, Gregg.
Wow… All I can say is that you have profoundly affected my life.
Especially the day after I precariously fell down the stairs backwards. You said to me, “Amy Jo, you are our miracle. You’ve reminded us that life is so precious and it can be over in an instant. Thank you.”
Especially when I stared into your eyes for three amazing minutes during yoga, and what I wrote down afterwards was: Steve= powerful, being, creator of love, confidence, kindness, strong… Power… I felt my power in his: The next day I said to you “ Steve, All I saw was power. It was amazing. I saw no fear.” And you looked at me with those brilliant blues and kindly said “Thank you”.
The entire seven days I spent with you are seven of the most magical, precious, healing days of my life. Thank you for your honest, humble, hilarious, kind presence within them. I will cherish those moments forever.
I’ve had a few very close people in my life pass away and always during and after their death there is a magical doorway that opens to the cosmos, a magical gift of enlightenment. And now in hindsight I can see that that doorway is also open and present before a soul passes, because in Mexico we all shared that light. We all bathed in your departure. Thank you, we have been gifted by your journey.
Love, light, peace, happiness, and god speed my friend. You will be dearly missed.
There are more letters. I will add them in a second post. Please add yours to the bottom in the comment section.
Steve told me that Mexico was the best time of his entire life. I believe in some way he was meant to experience this love and this family we created, before his passing. His greatest wish was to have a child and a family.
I believe he got a taste of that.
I am heartbroken beyond words but looking at the photos and videos makes me laugh with tears in my eyes. Let’s continue to honor the man I knew as my brother.
Now, before you do anything. Before it slips into a cliche again, stop and close your eyes and get present to the fact that life is really precious. That you never know what will happen and that each moment is a gift. Before it turns back into a cliche, get up and go hug the person in the next room. Go tell someone how much you appreciate them. Go let yourself feel, and fall in love, and be vulnerable. Go say YES! Spend a day with someone you want to spend the day with. Laugh out loud, even at a dumb joke. Sing. Dance. For God’s sake, go live your life.
I love you.
I love you Steve Bridges. I do not understand your passing but I understand you taught me things I am still comprehending. You taught me to be joy. And to feel joy. As you did.
You taught me to be ME. The MOST ME.
I will keep you all posted on a memorial. I spent the day with his parents yesterday and I can safely say that seeing his father weep was enough to crack my heart open. We went to church and the minister who knew Steve well got us into a huddle, like we were about to play football, and said a beautiful prayer for Steve, as we all cried and hugged. We stayed for the service which was all about love and being kind to ourselves. This same minister will deliver Steve’s memorial per Tom Bridges request ( I can see why) and as soon as I know details I will pass them on.
For more videos of the beloved Steve Bridges visit his site. He was very well know and highly esteemed. He was the best of the best.
TO MY FATHER, AFTER HIS DEATH (written age 19)I knew that you weren’t really dead.
That if I kept looking, kept driving,
I’d find you.
Didn’t think it would be here though,
that you’d be pumping gas
in Kansas.You still smoke.
I can tell.
The way your shoulders hunch over
gives you away.
When you push nozzles into canals,
into the backs of cars,
you heave, your shoulders roll.
Your stomach reaches closer to your back,
toward smooth pink scars.
You look smaller,
shirking into yourself like that.
Silently pumping gas, coughing occasionally,
I watch you from the shoulder of I-70
I see you still
Quiet as ash,
The moment you noticed me
But you know I can’t come any closer.
I can’t pull into the station,
~jen pastiloff 1994
Om Namah Shivaya! he was truly a remarkable man!! I had the pleasure to be in his company at retreats with Jennifer and I was awed by his presence and talent. May his soul rest in peace. Steve you will be missed… Om Nama Shivaya. -T.
Thank you Tony.
Wow Jen. Made me cry but more importantly allowed me to feel the love everyone had for Steve. I know when Rachel came home to Georgia from Mexico how in love she was with the Fab 13 and how she spoke of Steve. Her eyes lit up and I know he had left her with something so very special. How I ache for his dear parents who loved him so much. How I know the special person full of love and light came from them. I glad that all of you are sharing with them how much their son was loved and how much he will be missed. What a gift for them in their moment of pain. Yesterday I wrote the words. “Feeling the pain is the other side of feeling the love “- because if you have felt the love from someone you will truly feel the loss and pain when they are gone. But as Karen Salmanson says. Steve left a “ripple” who had touched so many lives and that is a gift to all of you. Rest In Paradise Steve
Love you mom. Thank you.
Jenn, this post touched me deeply. I had a hard time at the Ojai retreat last year and just all year in general. I didn’t laugh much and felt strange feelings at the retreat that I’m still processing. But one of the shining lights that I will always remember is Steve. He had me laughing till my sides hurt and when he wasn’t making me laugh, he listened, he made me feel like I was the only person in the world. His warmth and joy are (not were) powerful vessels of love that he shared with everyone around him. Loved that man even though I only knew him a couple days. So I can only imagine how you feel. Keep your light shining – let Steve shine through. You are a gem and he was too – so you naturally shone together.
This post is so beautiful.
I love you.
Thank you so much for sharing Steve’s incredibly inspiring spirit. Just from your description and the pictures here, his smile and bright, powerful energy are contagious. They will continue to be so through you and through all of his friends and family, who have his light inside you. The “ripple” your mom spoke of has touched me and I will do my part to keep it going by laughing, caring deeply, loving others and loving life.
you are an angel hb
Thanks for sharing Jen. Love you wingy 🙂 Anything, anytime.
Such a beautiful post. Steve was wonderful; I could tell from the couple times I met him. I LOVE YOU!
Wow! That poem is divine. So profound, so magical.
And it seems so powerful that in such a short time you and Steve were able to know and love each other so well, perhaps enough for a lifetime. My heart goes out to you as you try to make sense of this too familiar grief. Xx
thank you Stace
Laughter truly is the best medicine. You were the laugh doctor in Mexico. You brought so much laughter and joy to my life during our week in Mexico. You brought me back to the most basic emotion of joy, something that sometimes can be difficult to have in a crazy life. Every time we spoke you looked deeply into my eyes, you were always present. Every time we spoke during our trip together you made me feel important and special, that I was somebody worthy of great things.
I told you in Mexico that there was something about you. I told you that you were like a magnet and people were drawn to you. It was so true. You had something very special that can’t be bought, learned, or faked. It was a gift you were born with.
You said something to me the day before we left Mexico. You said,
“Rach, did you know you are really funny?” Then you asked me if I was funny at home and you said to me,”I bet you are!” Ever since Mexico I have made it a point to be even funnier and more silly with my kids everyday. They love it. My heart breaks that I won’t get to tell you face to face how you taught me such an important lesson. I will never get the chance to tell you how you reminded me to let loose and laugh more. You have no idea just how much I, more than anybody, needed to realize that again.
I will never forget you, your smile and blue eyes that pierced my soul. You will be loved forever.
you are funny sister. love you
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. *Kahlil Gibran
so strange Jennifer, I’ve never met either you nor your friend, Steve. yet it is precisely this sort of truly wholehearted sharing of connection & feelings which somehow attracted me originally to your blog … & those of your friends & family.
sometimes i read some of the things you & your friends write & i wonder why it’s taken me so long to get that which i see & feel here. then you show me. you and your friends demonstrate the answer. it moves me. it moves to such a degree that the answer comes in one word. an answer which seems so obvious.
James. everything you write makes me cry. You are so powerful with words. Big hearted fool you are xoxo love u
As I am reading this post…I am feeling tears pour out of my eyes. The way you express your thoughts into words onto paper is so beautiful and honest. I am sad. I feel for you. I do. I do not understand death and why certain people go earlier than others. I want to believe that their soul has accomplished what it was here to do in this lifetime. Believing that, is the only thing that keeps me going, otherwise it does not make sense to me at all. Every single human that I know that has died at an early age was a “special person.” Someone who had deeply effected others around them.
I only met Steve for a couple of days, but what I remember most was his piercing eyes, his kind smile, and his ability to ask and answer. I also remember thinking…I love that someone so funny can turn off and be so real and genuine when they are not performing. That is not usual.
I just want to remind you that the first day I met you, you spoke of him. You spoke of how much you loved him and how funny he was, how talented he was…and how excited you were that he was coming to Ojai. He knew how much you deeply cared about him.
I hope you can smile and know that you shared your love, heart, soul and wisdom with him.
I am still in shock about not getting to hear you bring the joy of laughter to the people around you again, as well as to myself. I think back on that retreat and it was a time in my life when I was kinda depressed/feeling sorry for myself I guess. Its was a blessing to have you there to remind all of us the importance laughing again. I will never forget the time I was able to share with you in Ojai during Jen’s yoga retreat. My only explanation for your loss is that God couldn’t wait to have you closer to Him to bring joy to the heavens. Thank you for having such a positive and uplifting impact on my life and those around you. While you may not be here today, you will continue to bring tears of joy to people who were blessed to have known you. Thank you, Steve, for bringing joy into our lives.
Wow. This is amazing. I love that you honored yourself and your connection to him by dedicating your yoga practice to him. I am new to your blog (and too far away to practice yoga with you), but I can sense that the community you have is a powerful, compassionate, loving one. What a gift he was to you and others and what a gift you have given him with these letters and heartfelt words. Thank you for sharing.
Steve Steve Steve. I wish I would have seen you one more time. It has been a few months. I am in shock that you are no longer with us on this planet BUT I know the memory of you will remain. I met you last July and our friendship developed shortly after. There were wonderful conversations after yoga classes over wine or freshly squeezed juice. There was a moment I won’t forget in September when we GAZED at the stars trying to be quiet on the yoga retreat, while we were floating in the pool. You said to me how grateful you were for those stars and how magical of a moment it was right then. I have to admit I always had this tiny crush on you, you attractive man I admired you. Great advice and wonderful humor. Every time I saw you walk into a class I would be stoked to know we were going to hang out after and share stories. I also thank you for carrying my keyboard and my equipment after I sang…such a great roady.
All those moments are so precious and I am so grateful to have known you. YOu were an artist like me and spoke a language few of us know.
When I heard the news last weekend, I went into some shock. I cried, still am. BUT I know in my heart that you had lived a VERY fulfilling life and I knew I might have been robbed some extra magical time with you BUT I don’t feel like you skipped a freakin beat man. Seriously. YOU were so enlightened and infectious, and you knew your stuff. I hope I am half as happy as you are when I pass.
So in the end…..I feel like I won the lottery and I am so honored to have gotten to know your soul before you stepped off this glorious stage.
As I continue this journey as an artist, I will never forget the FUNNY, BEAUTIFUL MAN STEVE BRIDGES.
Cheers to your life, and may we see each other again.
It was your eyes (those gorgeous baby blues) that made me sit up and pay attention the instant I met you. Those eyes that sparkled and shone out brightly like a perfect California summer day. They were so vital, alive, joyful and spoke to me of things I needed to hear and more importantly wanted to. Those eyes demanded that I pay attention, and I did and I will and I am fortunate that you deemed to cast them in my direction. Thank you – Jo xx
Interesting and touching
[…] In case you didn’t read my earlier posts, my dear friend Steve Bridges died suddenly in his sleep last Saturday morning. Click here to read about him and see photos and videos. […]
[…] In case you haven’t read my earlier posts, my dear friend, the comedian and impersonator, Steve Bridges died suddenly in his sleep last Saturday morning before we were meant to meet. Click here to read a tribute to him and to see photos and videos. […]
Thank you for this blog. This is Steve’s youngest brother Jonathon. I’m not sure what to say other than thank you for your truly personal account of the time you spent with Steve. His passing caught our entire family off guard, especially my mother and father and pages such as this will help us all smile and try to honor his spirit in lieu of fester in regret and self pity. Thanks for being there in LA with my mother and father as well. I have my regrets and I’m devastated by his passing but I’m trying to figure out how he’d want me to feel. This is a whole new gambit of emotions I’m not use to feeling but to know he was truly happy makes me smile while I cry and thank you for that.
I remember being 5 or 6 years old constantly pestering him to do various impressions. I made him, actually forced him, to do “Rockey” (Silvester Stallone) over 1,000 times one summer. He’d visit us during summer and take me and my sister on long drives narrating the whole way in different characters, a sort of comedian tour guide around town. The only person to actually make me pee my pants. Most of my memories are of him joking around but most of all he was a caring, kind and gentle human being and it’s defiantly heart warming to see others notice that – I even told him once he was “too good of a person”, if there is such a thing. Even though we grew apart over the last few years I truly looked up to him as an inspiration, I still do.
What I learned from him I’m going to attempt to emulate and I have A LOT of work to do – I’m going to work on my best “Steve Bridges” impersonation over the coming years, to live with a little more kindness and compassion everyday.
Thank you Jen for being there to witness his life.
Thank you so much for commenting. This brought tears to my eyes. Although I am still reeling from this loss, the week or so I have spent with your family has been amazing. I have seen so much healing and love and yes, pain. It has been a gift to be with them. I am not sure how you found my blog but the fact that you did does not surprise me at all. There was a need for you to read it and for me to be standing with your family when I got your comment.
It sounds like you are on your way to doing the best damn Steve Bridges impersonation ever! I am too.
I can only do my best, but he indeed inspired me to be a better person.
Listening to all the stories today about your brother reminded me that yes, there is good in the world.
There is kindness.
There is pure love.
Yes, he died but we shall continue to try and imitate him.
I hope you and I cross paths.
You touched me today.
Thank you for taking the time and thank you for being you.
your sister by default
This is Jen’s sister Rachel. I was in Mexico with Steve in the month before he passed. Your words brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful tribute to your brother, who was truly a great person. I think his passing has opened all of our eyes to what it really means to live for the now. My heart is with your family right now during this rough time.
Jonathon. I know today was a difficult day for you. I am so happy that the love my daughter had for your brother as well as the others had for him will be very comforting to you. Just the fact that you can open up and share your feelings is the first step in healing. That these things have helped you do that Jen said your family means a lot to her and all this is because of Steve. He brought a lot of love and light into a lot of lives. Blessings to all of you. With love. Barbara
[…] course it felt fitting being that it was the memorial for my dear friend Steve Bridges. Of course that felt […]
[…] course it felt fitting being that it was the memorial for my dear friend Steve Bridges. Of course that felt […]
Reblogged this on The Manifest-Station and commented:
One year ago today my beloved friend and soul brother Steve Bridges passed away. I wanted to share this from last year. Still here in Santa Fe where I came for Ronan’s memorial… Never take anything or anyone for granted…
Oh Jen…. You light up my heart. Be strong. You wiil never know the ” why”…..xo
Thinking of Steve today:)
[…] is one year since my beloved Steve Bridges died. I came to Santa Fe on Thursday for Ronan’s memorial. I have been to Santa Fe a few times […]