A loving story: Late spouse sends blessing
In the last days of his life, 56-year-old Murphy Bridges could not communicate with his family because of the ravages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
But after he died July 29, 2015, his wife, Lisa, said her husband has communicated with her in a way she never expected.
“I love animals. There’s no doubt I would have a zoo,” Lisa Bridges said. “After my last dog, I waited 10 years for another one. Murphy didn’t like little yippy dogs, but I wanted a small dog – not too little and not too big. Every once in a while I’d ask [Murphy], but the answer was always ‘no.’” Until the day Murphy was laid to rest. Before Murphy became totally incapacitated, he communicated through a device called Tobii Dynavox – or Tobii for short – a computer that allowed him to form words by looking at certain letters and then choosing the word he wanted.
“Murphy passed away on Wednesday, and Thursday I got a text from my friend Toni showing me a picture of this cute little dog,” Bridges said. “Toni asked if I was interested because the family was looking for a home for it.”
All of Bridges’ family and friends knew she wanted a dog. She had even made a list of everything she wanted in a pet and planned to adopt one after some time passed. This little dog met all the criteria.
“I didn’t think I was quite ready for a dog yet, so I told her I couldn’t afford that dog because it was pure bred, and I wasn’t going to pay for a dog when there are so many that need to be adopted,” she said. “Her response was that it was a free dog that belonged to a young woman who was going to college.”
While Bridges was trying to think of a way to get out of this “free” dog, there was a network of text messaging among several people who knew about this particular dog.
“My last question was, ‘What’s the dog’s name?’” she said.
The answer was, “Toby.” “That’s when it hit me. That was the name of Murphy’s communication device,” Bridges said. “I knew right then that he was meant for me, and I said, ‘I’ll take him.’” She believes with her whole heart that Murphy was trying to tell her something at that moment.
“If that dog was named anything else, it wouldn’t have meant as much,” Bridges said. “Knowing that the Tobii was how Murphy communicated with us, and this dog just fell in my lap … and he was everything I wanted in a dog.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Bridges’ mother-in-law, Eugenia Bridges, is related to Tobias Brashear, a captain in the Revolutionary War.
“Murphy sent me that dog; I have no doubt,” Bridges said. “He knew how much I wanted a dog, and Toby has given me so much comfort because he loves me unconditionally.”
Eugenia Bridges has said her daughter-in-law is a caregiver, and after caring for an ill husband for two years, he was suddenly gone, and Bridges needed purpose in her life.
“I have to take care of Toby now,” Bridges said. “I have to walk him, feed him. It’s a job. If the dog had been named George, it wouldn’t have meant anything. Nobody is going to convince me that that baby wasn’t meant for me.”
Murphy was buried Aug. 1, and that day Toby came to live with Bridges.
“If I could convey anything, it would be to tell people that prayers are answered,” she said “Nobody can convince me there’s no God. I prayed for Murphy. I made a list of everything I wanted in a husband. God answered my prayers.”
And she doesn’t believe in coincidences. “I prayed for a friend who would be just like me, and then I reconnected with an old friend of mine – Toni – who lived right around the corner,” she continued. “She and her husband were so much support for me while Murphy was sick.”
And, of course, she prayed for a little dog that would fill a void in her life.
“No, God didn’t heal Murphy … in this life. But I know he’s healed now,” Bridges said. “And I know he’s still with me, and I know he’s glad I have another Toby in my life to help heal the pain of losing him.”
It will be a long, hard road, but with the comfort of wonderful memories of Murphy, help from God, her family and friends and, of course, Toby, Bridges is ready to set out on the next chapter of her life.
For more information about the Gleason Team that provided the Bridges family with Tobii Dynavox, visit www.teamgleason.org.