I recently got on an airplane for the first time in 24 years. I decided that if my friend Phil Valley could face his impending death with such courage and dignity, I could overcome my fear of flying to get to Texas in time to say goodbye to a man I've known longer than my own husband.
It wasn't easy. And yes, it did require a little chemical help, although far less than expected. I considered Amtrak -- my long-distance mode of travel over the past two decades -- but my last trip from New Hampshire to Fort Worth took 59 1/2 hours. My husband and I weren't sure we had that much time.
Although Phil could no longer speak because of his breathing tube, he could mouth words. As ill as he was, he had a twinkle in his eye when he asked: "Five hours vs. 59 1/2 hours -- what do you think now?" We both laughed. I told him he had inspired me and along with the precious gift of his friendship, he had given me the courage to face my fear of flying. I will be eternally grateful for both.
"Phil was a man of unparalleled determination and courage who inspired others beyond their imagined capabilities and faced his own disease with dignity and grace. He loved to tell a good story as much as hearing one; appreciated baseball and a beer as much as fine food and a glass of good wine; and was an intellectually curious man with a brilliant mind and sardonic wit. But most of all, he greatly appreciated his loving family, his friends and the comfort of gentle sunshine on his peaceful patio."Have you ever had to compose an obituary for someone you knew, or write something as difficult?