Elisabeth Strillacci: Remembering an incredibly bright soul

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 12, 2023

By Elisabeth Strillacci
For the Salisbury Post

I’m pretty good at rolling with the punches as they come, even when I don’t like them, but this week, I and many others have taken a blow that I know a lot of us are struggling with.

Thirty-four years is not a long enough life, not for most of us anyway.

This week, a dear friend and until recently, a co-worker, passed away unexpectedly after a bout with the flu went sideways.

Brittany Nicole Montaigne was just 34, and she and her husband, Brandon, have been married since 2018. The life they wanted, fought for, included children, and after many hopeful moments, their daughter Trinity was born.

And Brandon and Trinity were the lights of Britt’s life.

She was the classifieds director at the Salisbury Post with me, though she had a lot more time in than I did, and she is from my hometown of Lexington. Our paths and histories are far more connected than I initially realized when I met her.

Over time, I grew to know and love her gentle demeanor that hid a delightful sense of humor, and I admired the focus she put on her family. With bright eyes and long brown hair, she could light a room when she walked in. Her quiet confidence always made me feel any problem was surmountable.

She told me once that she often worried about dying young because both of her parents had, but then she would put it aside and carry on.

She and Brandon were, are, the best of friends, and they share a love all of us would be so lucky to have.

She was always interested in how we could better connect with the community we covered, how we could improve our commitment to local coverage. I cannot count the number of messages, thoughts and ideas she forwarded to me that turned into great stories.

There were health challenges along her way, but she always faced them with strength and perseverance and I, like most of us, let her convince me it was never any cause for real concern.

But this past weekend, it appears she developed double pneumonia and it was so fast and so strong that even her young body and determined heart could not fend it off.

When the news came Tuesday afternoon that she was gone, I thought my heart would stop. It just seemed so impossible. As a group, my former coworkers came together to mourn, to remember, and to support one another. And I watched a massive outpouring come for Brandon and Trinity and their family. It has been humbling and comforting to see how many people knew and loved Brittany.

Again and again the messages talked about how Britt had lifted others up, been the light and the hope for others, and now they wanted to be that for her. Prayers have been unceasing, even as they shifted from prayers she would recover to prayers for her husband and child.

All of that is comforting, and reassuring, that we can still come together in love and support when one or more of us needs it.

But I also confess, I am angry at the universe. It’s just not fair. She should be home with her little girl, and walking through the office with her big smile and quiet step.

Don’t tell me this is God’s will. God does not decide to let a 34-year-old young mother die. I firmly believe God set us in motion and gave us all the skills we needed to survive, and then he stepped back and let us do what we do.

But I do believe this much — I believe that God, and all the angels in Britt’s life, surrounded that hospital bed, holding her hands and filling the room with light, and when the moment came they took away any fear, and showed her the way home.

I know she will forever be the angel watching over her sweet girl and beloved husband. I know the world is a little dimmer now, that there is a hole where she should be that will never be filled. But I am grateful there is no pain, no suffering for her, and I am adding my voice to those that are praying for peace, for grace, for easing of the pain for her family.

You made a difference, Brittany, and you left an amazing legacy. Godspeed my dear friend, until we meet again.

Elisabeth Strillacci is former editor of the Salisbury Post.