Sunday, January 25, 2009

Celebrating the Life of Phil Rush--A Life Well Lived!

Yesterday, a Memorial Mass and Celebration were held for Phil Rush. The Mass was at St. Mary's in downtown Phoenix and the Celebration of his life was held at his daughter, Bridget's (and PT's) home after the mass. Everything was beautiful!

A few weeks before Phil died, Pat asked me if I would speak at his service. I was touched and honored to be able to do this. Here is the eulogy that I delivered at St. Mary's yesterday.

Kahlil Gibran, who wrote the Prophet said, “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” This quote is so fitting to describe how we feel about Philip Alvin Rush who gave so many of us so much delight.

And Phil was delightful to be around! Through the years, I have always enjoyed being around him for so many reasons. After Pat and Phil moved back to Phoenix when he retired, I really got to know him. I am so glad that I had this opportunity. I know that my life has been enriched by knowing this delightful man!

Through the years we got together as a family for many occasions. Perhaps my most favorite came when Yaya would have “our generation” over for dinner. Phil loved to hear my stories about some of the crazy things that happened at school. I found that truly amazing since I am sure his experiences in working for the Central Intelligence Agency had to have been unbelievable, but yet he wanted to hear about the funny things that happen in an elementary school. As a matter of fact, I have told that over and over again to colleagues—can you imagine a CIA agent thinks my stories are unbelievable??

Last week, we had two crazy things happen at school at the end of the day. When I got home, I thought about how these would have definitely been a call to Phil. That was on Monday, a few hours before he died. I know that I will always think about Phil and remember him whenever something happens that I know I need to find the humor in. I will have a laugh, drink a beer, and make toast to Phil and be thankful that I had him in my life.

For many years all of us, Tony and Yaya, Pat and Phil, Cecilia and Jay, and sometimes Marion and Ron, and I went to dinner on New Year’s Eve. That was something I always looked forward to doing. Phil often wrote a letter or note cards about different funny things about each of us or events that were happening. I always looked forward to hearing his humorous perspective.

He also wrote from the heart. I remember the letter that he wrote to Teresa when my mother died and how much it meant to us. He had such great things to say about our family and my mom in particular.

I have often wondered what it was like for Phil to marry into the Scott Family. Phil was an only child. It is hard to imagine going from being an only child to our family and a holiday, a reunion or any of the gatherings that take place that are never small!! He didn’t have a lot to say at these gathering, as he stood back with his beer in hand. However he was able to observe and support the true meaning of family which I believe our family personifies.

Phil and Pat are blessed with five wonderful children, Shawna, Matt, Bridget, Paul, and Michael. In addition, Shannon, P.T. and Beth were so loving and gentle with him these past several months and gave so much support to the Rush Family. And Tom was so supportive of Shawna being in Arizona with her family. Over the past several months, I have watched them as they have cared for Phil and for their mom. Their devotion was incredible. What a tribute to the kind of father he was to them!! I don’t think there is any better measure of character than what they have shown these last several months.

My daughter, Kerri, had a special bond with Phil. She wrote on my blog several months ago something that I hope he knew that she felt. She said and I quote, “I feel like Phil has been a definite father figure to me and I don’t know how to approach my feelings on this. I am so sad about losing him, but I also know that by knowing him I have gained so much. I want to thank Phil for pushing me to be who I am, although I feel that it was an unconscious push, he did it none the less and really showed me that life is really about what you do for others to make them who they are, rather than living life and being who you are. To lose Phil is like losing a dad. As I have grown older, Phil showed me what it means to be a true contributor to the human race, rather than to just be someone who stands by and accepts things for what they are.” I thank Phil for being such a strong influence in her life in his quiet way. I know that he also touched the lives of his nieces and nephews and the many cousins that comprise our family.

And Pat, I can’t even begin to imagine what you have been through these past many months. As Marion wrote on my blog, “Both Pat and Phil are an inspiration to me. They are truly my heroes. I have learned a lot by watching the love between them during this time.” The hard part for you will be the months and the years ahead when life goes on. Alice Walker asks, “Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister.” You are blessed with Yaya, Marion, Cecilia, Teresa Ann, and Judy and I, and we will all be here with you and for you! And our wonderful Aunt Teresa who has been such a support to all of our family, and I know how much Pat appreciated having this support during that last week.

Last June “our generation” had dinner together. After dinner we all sat around and talked about so many things. Phil was in such great spirits. He talked about his and Pat’s courtship and when they got married. He spoke of his fondness and respect for Pat’s parents, Matt and Gyp. He also spoke about Glennie and the comfort and care she brought to Matt after Gyp died.

Last night I read some of the cards and letters that the Rush Family have received from friends who knew Phil back in Virginia when he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (shhhh, don’t tell anybody.) There was a reoccurring theme in all of the notes and that theme was Phil’s integrity. This common thread was such integral part of who Phil was, both professionally and personally. I would like to quote some of what was written about this wonderful man. One friend wrote, “I remember their father as the best of gentlemen, a friend and colleague that I am glad I had and that I won’t forget.” Another wrote that “Phil was such a principled man, he served our country proudly—a true patriot. At the same time he was fun, we never knew anyone who got a bigger charge out of children. How fortunate you are to be his children.” Shawna, Matt, Bridget, Paul, and Michael, I know you know this. He was so proud of each one of you.

Bill Cosby says that through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it. Those of you who knew Phil, know that he could bring a smile to your face and laughter to your heart.

I would like to share a few things that Phil shared with us when we had dinner last spring. He told about the hospice nurse asking him if he needed any medication. Once a person goes on hospice, all of the medication is taken care of by hospice. Well, Phil told her that he needed some new medication. He asked her to please have some Viagra brought to him. I am sure that was definitely not what the nurse expected!

Cecilia told about the hospice nurse asking him what he had for breakfast and he responded with spaghetti. She then asked what he had for lunch and he said that he had cheese and ketchup. The nurse said she was amazed that his stomach could tolerate any of this. We also talked about how Pat had asked the hospice nurse when he first went on hospice about morphine and wasn’t morphine addictive???

I love quotes, poems, and literature and often use them in my writing and speaking. My favorite children’s book is The Last Dance by Carmen Agra Deedy. This book speaks about the unlimited power of love and family. I think that is why I personally like it so much. In the story, the grandfather tells his grandson that every human has the right to three things:

To Dance: The great thing in life is not so much to dance well, but whether one is willing to dance at all.

To Sing: Even if you sing off-key. The crow has as much right to a voice as the nightingale

To Tell Stories: Those we love are never really gone

as long as their stories are told.

Phil’s stories will live on his children and his grandchildren, Jonathan, Danielle, Christopher, Patrick, Moira, and Rory who he loved so dearly. We also, must continue to tell Phil’s stories for the children so that they can remember their wonderful grandfather and for ourselves, so that we can always have Phil as part of our lives.

So Pat, thank you for sharing this wonderful man with all of us. I would like to conclude with an Irish Blessing for you and for the family.

May you see God's Light in the path ahead

When the road you walk is dark.

May you always hear

Even in your hour of sorrow,

The gentle singing of the lark.

When times are hard may hardness

Never turn your heart to stone,

May you always remember

When the shadows fall--

You do not walk alone.

4 remarks:

Susie of Arabia said...

Hi Cheela -
Again, I am so sorry for your family's loss of this wonderful human being. You have such a gift for story telling and this tribute is right up there. I wish I could have known him...

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Sheila! They couldn't have asked anyone more perfect than you to give this wonderful eulogy. It was very touching and I enjoyed reading it.
Love & hugs,

velvet brick said...

What a beautiful tribute your made to Phil, Sheila. I know it was a comfort to Pat and all of the family to have you give that yesterday. Something tells me that Phil will still be around to chuckle and shake his head when those crazy things happen at school, as they do. He'll just have a different seat, is all. But he'll be there. Thank you for sharing Phil with all of us...may blessings be with Pat, his children and all of the Scott family.

Anonymous said...

This is late in coming Sheila, but your eulogy was beautiful. Here it is March and someone just recently told me how beautiful the Mass and euglogy were.

Thank you Sheila, you are a special cousin.