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My Family Is the Reason I Lived My Life, Creative Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1195

Creative Essay

One spends a lot of time thinking about family during long absences, contemplating the awesome responsibility you owe to the ones you love the most.  Phil Whipkey was someone who had to endure prolonged absences from his family, and I know he could tell you that it’s true what they say:  absence does make the heart grow fonder.

At various points in his life, Phil thought deeply about the close calls he’d had, the times he tempted fate and narrowly escaped an early death.  He often wondered why he was spared when so many have died.  Considering the rich rewards he enjoyed, the blessings of children, of a loving wife and an active life, I can say with absolute certainty that what he firmly believed this to be true: his family is the reason he lived his life.

They are the reason he survived being shot in the back at 13, why he had left the Kobar Towers in Saudi Arabia one week before a terrorist attack killed hundreds, and why he wasn’t killed during three tours in the desert, including a 253-day hitch during Desert Storm.  God saw to it because he had a plan for Phil and his family.  He meant for Phil to be there, to love and care for his beautiful wife Denise and their three children, Philip, Jr., Melissa and Tammy.  They are all fine young adults, great people, andPhil couldn’t have been prouder of them.(And, lest I forget, proud also oftheir “extended family,” their dogs Ripper, Brittany and Gator.)

They say that from pain comes knowledge.  I don’t know if that’s true of everyone. I can’t say that everyone is able to learn the hard lessons that life teaches us. But I can tell you that Phil learned from the pain in his life.  His father left when Phil was two years old – went out

For smokes and was never seen again.  He abandoned Phil and his mother, Karen, in an apartment in Miami.  Phil said he supposed he had his reasons, and he thought a lot about what those reasons might have been during the four yearshe spent serving abroad, far from home.Ultimately, he decided that there’s no valid reason for bailing out on your family. Heknew all along that he had to take the opposite path.

During Phil’s 21 years in the U.S. Air Force, he was stationed in Florida and Alaska.  The Whipkeysmade six trips through Canada during those years, had the time of their lives fishing and diving in Key Largo and enjoyed their time in Valdez, Alaska.  Phil often said he couldn’t have imagined having missed out on all that.

Even the difficult times were a blessing.  Phil and his son were in a boat that broke down near Angel Fish Creek in the Florida Keys.  They were stranded there for two days while rescue teams searched for them. Phil finally got the boat started and they idled in to port as Phil reassured young Philip, who was only six at the time, that they were on a big camping trip.  Phil, Jr., was pretty scared, but I know Phil was grateful to be there, to be dad and to be able to put his son’s fears to rest.

As any parent knows, sometimes it takes more than reassurance to get through to your kids. Admittedly, Phil was tough on his kids.  He had a motto: Hate me until you’re 25, then we’ll talk.  Phil was tough on them because he wanted the best for them, wanted them to make the most of their gifts. And I believe that message made an impact because Phil said he never had to use tough talk.

For Phil, being a good dad meant maintaining a sense of balance, being tough but fair.  When it came to learning those things, learning to be a good father, Phil thanked God he had a great role model in his grandfather, Jim.  Since his father’s departure, there were a couple of step dads, but his grandfather, Jim Beatty, was special.During World War II, Jim landed on the beach at Normandy, survived D-Day and fought his way across Europe.  He was a talented man, having worked as a cartoonist at the Max Fleisher studios in Miami, where the famous Popeye cartoons were made.

As all great men do, he lived according to a simple philosophy, words that would guidePhil through some very difficult times. He said, “Take all that is good and bad and discard the bad.”  I know it sounds simple, but it can be applied so often in life. Phil’s grandfather is the man that meant the most to him, the man who inspired him to become something better.  His example meant the world to a young boy struggling to survive a tough childhood in Miami.

In Miami, Phil discovered very early that life is not fair.  He saw his first dead person when he was only six.  As I mentioned, he was shot in the back and almost didn’t live to see his 14th birthday.  God was watching out for himthrough those early years and gave him the strength and wisdom to choose a different path, one that steered him clear of the “drugs and thugs.”Somehowhe survived those difficult days, met his wife Denise, graduated from Miami High School in 1984 and never looked back.

Phil was grateful to have had the opportunity to serve his country in the Air Force. He said, “Don’t ever forget all of the fine representatives of our military, whose service has made our nation strong.  From grandma’s apple pie to the Red, White and Blue, there’s no greater country in the world.”

He once told me that you can see proof of America’s greatness everywhere.  Phil had a Cuban-American friend in Miami, someone he grew up with, who had come over from Cuba in the Mariel boat lift.  Like Phil, he joined the military, served and has since retired.  As Phil might have said, “It just goes to show: green, white, pink or purple, this is the best place in the world to live.”

I’d like to close by reading some words Phil composed himself, words he wanted to say  to his family and friends:

“Every deployment and every moment I had in life, I thank God for giving me the time.  If my life had ended on any of those trips to the desert, it would have been with the knowledge that I was blessed with such a wonderful family.

“To my family I want to say, don’t feel pity or worry about me.  It was a great life and I was blessed with all the days I got to spend in your company.  I have no regrets, only appreciation for having had the opportunity to live for my beautiful family and be there to see my children grow into strong, young adults.  I am in a great place, alongside all of the family that has gone before me.

“To everyone, please bear in mind that it would make me very happy if, at my wake, you would put on a little Flogging Molly, play some Bob Marley and ice down plenty of “colds.”  Remember me, but don’t mourn.  Celebrate my life. And yours.”

My love to all.

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