I believe that Phil’s death was a happy beginning rather than a mournful conclusion.
When I met Philip, he was barely skin and bones, lying on a hospital bed in Sanford. I rode to the small, one story hospital with Hudson, Phil’s grandson, Mrs. F., and my mom. Hudson had already told me the stories about how his granddad was a B-17 pilot in WWII and Korea. Though his Granddad looked thin and sickly, his mind was incredibly sharp. I sat with Hudson next to his Granddad’s bed as he told us a story about flight school and how he was the first trainee to take a solo flight in his class. 86 at the time, the doctors diagnosed him with a staph infection. They didn’t expect him to live, but he fought for his life.
He may have not had the strength to lift himself up, but he fought for his life with superhuman strength. A year and a half later, Hudson told me his Granddad had another staph infection. The doctor gave him 3 options; try to remove the infection from the marrow which wouldn’t guarantee curing him, amputating his leg, or just going home and taking antibiotics. He was adamant in his choice of going home, well aware that it would kill him. He passed on Sunday morning, April 20.
His funeral was that Tuesday, April 22. I went with Mason because we wanted to be there for Hudson, who grew up in Sanford with his Granddad always nearby. At the funeral, Mrs. F. gave a eulogy for her Dad: Hudson’s Granddad. She talked about how he “loved everything Phil does,” ending with a question she asked her Dad a few days before he passed. She asked him what he was thinking about and Hudsons’s Granddad said “I just want to get well enough to go back to church”. “Well Dad”, she said up on the altar, “you are back in church, and you are far better than well”. Those words touched me, and I will always remember the smile on Mrs. F.’s lips as she spoke them.
Six hours after his Granddad was interred, we played a lacrosse game at Ravenscroft. Hudson endured so much, but he came to play nonetheless. Seconds before the game, I pulled Hudson aside and said quietly, “You’re Granddad is well enough to come to your game, Hudson, make him proud; he’s watching.” Hudson nodded and then we went into the huddle. Hudson played one of the best games I’ve ever seen that night, scoring 3 goals. When he took the ball through four defensemen by himself and put it in the net at point blank, I ran over to him, leaned in close, and whispered “He saw that.” When I said that, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I knew that his Granddad was really there, smiling down on us. I will never forget that moment as long as I live.
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