GREENVILLE — Emily Bright saw the world from a slightly off-kilter perspective. She liked giving voice to the zany things she wondered about, things that other people probably never thought about. If they did, they probably never voiced them aloud.
Once, she and some friends were at the hospital during her first chemotherapy treatment. Eyes closed, she mused: "What if bees made cheese instead of honey?"
Afterward, she didn't remember her comment.
"But she said she would have said that anyhow because it's cool to think about," said her friend Amy Barefoot. "Her sense of humor was constantly going."
Emily Dupree Bright died in January, nine years after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was 32.
Bright was born in Greenville in 1975. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a business degree, then stuck around and took a job with Jennings & Co., a local ad agency. They wanted someone with at least a year of experience, but Bright, with her trademark charm, managed to gloss over that requirement. She started on the business side but soon switched to the creative department. She later moved to Raleigh and worked as a copywriter at the Stone Agency. She penned copy for print ads, radio spots, billboards and television ads.
Finding just the right words and arranging them in just the right order, in just the right tone, gave her a thrill, said her mother, Judy Bright.
"This is what I was meant to do," she told her mother after she changed roles at work.
Not long after graduation, during a routine checkup, a doctor discovered a mass on both ovaries that had the potential to become malignant. She had her ovaries removed in 1999 and thought the worst was past. Then, in 2005, cancer surfaced. A hysterectomy followed, and numerous bouts of chemotherapy.
Raucous chemo parties
Bright attracted friends like a bare bulb attracts a flurry of moths.
So each chemo treatment drew a bevy of friends to the rectangular hospital room with its reclining chairs and patients bundled in blankets to ward off the goose bumps that often accompanied the infusions.
They would laugh, and their laughter was loud, which may have been why they were sometimes ushered into a private side room. They dubbed it the "VIP party chemo room."
Her knack for humor, heavy on the one-liners, never dulled.
"A lot of times what makes something funny is if it's true, and she could get to that in short order," said her friend Ann Parrent.
Like the time a co-worker was arguing his point loudly several cubicles away. Bright shot Parrent an e-mail message. Its header: "You know he's very important."
One night, Bright's colleagues worked feverishly to finish a project. She was done with her part, but she stuck around anyway, offering moral support and random witticisms.
She was on the floor, resting against a cubicle, when she asked, "How come Winnie the Pooh doesn't wear any pants? There he is every day, running around the Hundred Acre Wood, drunk on honey with no pants!"
"I was laughing so hard I had to RUN AWAY," Parrent wrote on a memorial Web site, www.emilybright.com. "I'm laughing now."
Working to the end
Despite her close friendships in the area, Bright decided at the end of 2006 to move back to Greenville. Her father had died unexpectedly, and she wanted to be close to her mother and her sister, who was expecting her first child. She found work as a copywriter in the marketing department at Pitt County Memorial Hospital. Even as she grew sicker, she continued to work. It wasn't so much that work diverted her mind from what was happening to her body. It was more the idea that people get up each day and go to work. She didn't think of herself as dying. If she had, she figured that would equate to losing the battle.
In September, when she could no longer go in to the office, the office came to her. She worked writing copy until the week before she died.
Bright was an entertainer, a karaoke aficionado, a boundless source of fizzy one-liners. Another person might have organized a bachelorette party at a restaurant; Bright decided that Cara Ragusa and all their friends would go roller skating to celebrate Ragusa's impending nuptials.
Bright was the glue that held many friendships together. With her gone, her friends have to work harder to not let their friendships fade away.
So this month, some of those friends decided to go skating. You could almost see Bright, skates laced up, zipping around beneath the disco ball.
Emily Bright is survived by her mother, sister and nephew.
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