So many words come to mind when I write the words, “human spirit”. The ones I want to talk about tonight are “will, determination, strength” as it was an amazing “human” spirit who once again showed me that through those parts of our spirit we can make some amazing things happen.
That human spirit was Philip Nash, and he died this morning. As far as people go whether they are 11, as he was, or 111, he was as exceptional as they come. As amazing as any spirit I have ever encountered. We first connected because we had something in common, Acute Myeloid Leukemia, but the common-ground was vast and extensive, and I was blessed to experience him on so many levels as I continued my progress back to regaining my health and as he worked so hard to do the same.
I want to talk about will and determination… this year there were over 700 Climbers participating in the RealTime Cancer Climb, all over the place, and there were over 600 on Signal Hill in St. John’s. It was a nice sunny day, a little on the cool side, but nice, and shortly after 6:00 p.m. we left the registration area to begin to tackle the hill. I got to the top in about 15-20 minutes, some tough parts but I kept going, one step at a time. Once at the top we assembled for some smaller group shots, as others continued to finish their Climb, and it was during those minutes when the human spirit showed me yet another thing that will and determination can tackle. The last one up the Hill was Philip, one step at a time, non-stop to the top. Each year the Climb has been a Challenge for me, for some treatment related reason, but I have never tried to tackle it 6 months after Transplant, which is exactly what Philip did in September. Will, determination, I like to call it “grit”, and Philip had a lions share.
I want to talk about strength… facing a Cancer Challenge when you are 22 (now 27) is one thing, facing one when you are 9, 10, and 11 is quite another. At least I have to believe it is, but I can tell you that Philip would be the exception to that rule. Head-on, face first, straight in, not ignoring his fear but being open about it, and still ploughing through. As a Patient who has been to many of the places Philip was, I can tell you that we experience some damn tough spots, places I never thought existed, and when I faced them I did my best to go face first. Philip was my partner in crime, fully completely. I can’t say with any confidence how I would have handled these situations as an 11 year old. I can say that seeing Philip tackle his Challenges head-on gives me this comfort inside that I’m not sure I can explain. I feel blessed to have been able to see and experience such a display of courage and strength.
I have to say that since my diagnosis I have a harder time feeling sad for those older people who die, and I don’t mean that in a dis-respectful way at all, I guess more from the perspective that if I manage to get 70 or 80 years out of this body you won’t be able to dynamite the smile off my face when I die. But when a young person dies it has a different feeling, and I’ve had more than a few friends my age, and younger, die, and it feels different.
I believe that difference comes from our expectations that we are almost entitled to a long life, which we all know isn’t the case. In the past 4 years I have really spent much more time with the idea of “how vs. how long”. By that I mean I really believe that it’s the “how” we live our lives that counts, not “how long” we live them. I know that Philip used his 11 years to the max, he packed more love, flowing in and out of him, more ups and downs than many will ever experience, but what I’m getting at is not so much the amount of things he experienced, but much more they way he experienced them.
A more amazing little guy I have never known, and you can be sure that as I continue to connect with you and continue my work, he’ll be coming with me everywhere I go. Getting to know me, will be getting to know Philip Nash, cause he’s a part of me. And I know he’s a part of so many other lives, and to me that’s what it’s all about.
More to come…
Live life. Love life.