Today we attended a memorial service for the father of my dear neighbor and friend.
Phillip was 89 – he died last Thursday, and with his death the world is a poorer place, though he left behind a rich legacy of music, family, food, passions, and friends. He was many things: a composer, music educator, musician, writer, chef, transcendentalist, mycologist, botanist, horseman, collector of Americana, father to two exceptional children. I think that scratches the surface. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, an event that soured him forever on all things military.
Four years ago, on the occasion of his 85th birthday, I wrote this poem for him:
Unseasonably warm April afternoon
Pot-luck with the neighbors
I go inside for a moment to refill the bowl.
From the yard the laughter rises;
An accordion plays.
Phillip is home from Florida.
It is as if he has brought the warmth with him.
In the book of his life
He keeps writing chapters.
The sacred and profane harps of angels and humanity
President Lincoln Lilacs?
Only Phillip would know that there is such a thing.
He shares the secrets of the garden,
the estate sale.
It is as if he brings the warmth with him.
On Thursday, we were hosts to the English Department dinner, saying farewell to a colleague who is retiring. We had a fire outside in the fire-dish-thingy, everyone gathered around it, speaking of Andy our colleague – he thanked us. As the talking quieted, I began to sing –
Tell me why the stars do shine, tell me why the ivy twines….
I sang both verses – I had no idea why I needed to sing. No one joined me. Someone asked another member of the department why I was singing. Was I drunk?
When I began to clean up after the guests were gone, I noticed the message that Phillip had died. Phillip was gone. I had to repeat it a few times. Phillip was gone. Why did I suddenly need to sing? I have no idea, really.
I guess the song was for Phillip, to sing him across on his journey to whatever is next.
Image by alex_ford