A life well-lived and a special Southern friendship
In between writing blog posts I sometimes wonder: why write the next one? I mean, who really is interested in hearing my thoughts, my happenings, my dreams.
But then something new and extraordinary happens and whether you read it or not, I just have to put it on paper.
A few days ago I attended the funeral of a great man. A new friend who I’d barely got to know.
But as I sat in church listening to his grown sons and grandson speak, I felt blessed beyond measure for the short time I got to meet and know Dr. Sidney Clarke Phillips Jr., M.D., 91 years old of Mobile, Alabama.
Where do I start? Not even a year ago, the Mobile newspaper ran a story on my adventure of pursuing my Bucket List #67, to restore a Southern home. It happened to be read by a long-time Mobile resident of 92 years who – without a computer – went out of her way to find and contact me to let me know that her best friend, Myrtle May “Myrt” Morgan Hartman of California was born and raised in the home I had bought and was restoring at 257 Rapier Avenue.
Long story short, I felt a connection to Miss Katherine and everything about her, including her dear little brother, who I called Dr. Sid. Through our budding friendship, I discovered Miss Katherine along with her brother were celebrated war heroes – each having starred in the Ken Burn’s documentary “The War”.
And later, HBO’s The Pacific, produced by Tom Hanks, used Dr. Sid and his sister and family as the real life inspiration for his storyline. You see, Dr. Sid was one of the few remaining living WWII veterans of the Marine Corp, along with having many other life accomplishments.
But oddly I first fell in love with them before finding out their notoriety. Unlike many others, to me their public personas just made for great stories. Like hearing Miss Katherine share about her personal time spent with Tom Hanks and her telling him she wasn’t impressed with the movie Forrest Gump!
And so began my few encounters with Dr. Sid, visiting him when I was in Mobile on Fridays as he sat around a smoking incinerator with his weekly “Lunch Bunch” of fellow veterans on his farm in Theodore, Alabama.
My last visit with Dr. Sid happened a few weeks ago, visiting him as he sat in his La-Z-Boy, too weak to be outside with his friends, slowly succumbing to the cancer that ravaged his body.
I was excited to introduce him to my sister and my daughter who were with me. And as before, he did not disappoint. He humoured us with his stories of meeting Eleanor Roosevelt and other retellings of days gone by.
To say he could make me laugh is an understatement.
His gift of storytelling and wit always made for a wonderful time.
I like to claim I may be the last one for whom he autographed his book “You’ll be Sor-ree!”. He wrote within it a reference to a Bible text II Timothy 1:7, which reads:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”.
This must’ve been his verse because there it was – written on the front of his funeral service bulletin.
Why do I tell you all this? Good question.
A few reasons I think. First, I mourn with and for his beloved sister, his best friend, Miss Katherine, my Southern Mama. No longer will her phone ring in the morning and hear her brother say: “Well, I came down for breakfast today!” – meaning it’s a good day, I’m alive.
Second, with Veteran’s day approaching, or Remembrance Day for us in Canada, thanks to Dr. Sid and Miss Katherine’s friendship, I have a new and deep appreciation for those who fought for their countries to protect our freedom and fight against evil forces. Meeting a real life war hero has spun a deep appreciation within me for these brave men and women.
As Dr. Sid has said, thousands did what he did, but for some reason he was chosen to be celebrated as a symbol of all war heroes – to quote him “I am the most documented nobody in America”.
Humility, humour and a hunger to serve people.
Dr. Sid, you are not a nobody. You are an inspiration to live life to its fullest, filled with a heart to serve.
Thank you God for the divine privilege of meeting Dr. Sid and my dear friend, Miss Katherine.
Life is good. Live it well. Celebrate a friendship.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sid and Miss. Katherine late last year. We talked about all kinds of things, but the start to the interview makes me smile every time I watch it. To me, it’s how I will always think of Dr. Sid.
You can watch the clip here:
For more on the life of the Dr. Sid, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidney_Phillips
And share your own hero encounters in the comments below.