Life’s not fair. My family was reminded of this recently when my brother, Phillip Gallson, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 61. He left behind a loving wife, four children, three grandchildren and large extended family who all held him in the highest regard.
Phillip was a pillar of his home, church and community. This was evidenced during his wake by the line that wound from inside Dietrich Funeral Home out to Main Street. Many waited just under two hours to give their condolences to his family. Story after story of his integrity, helpfulness and humility were shared. Countless people told of how he was a mentor, best friend and role model.
I knew Phillip was a partner at a busy public accounting firm and was very involved in Christ the King Parish while also serving on several corporate boards and various community organizations. I was aware of his work with the Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald House and the Tonawanda Rotary. But, to me, he was my older brother who took such good care of my widower father for 14 years.
He calmly helped handle necessary details when my 22-year-old nephew was killed in a car accident seven years ago. He always made sure everyone had a place to go for holiday dinners. He did the taxes for every member of our family. He would regularly call me with some random bit of news just to let me know he was thinking about me.
Phillip was the one who was so interested in what was happening in my life and the lives of my husband and children. He took real pleasure in learning about other family members’ accomplishments, adventures and good news. What I did not realize was that he showed this type of interest and concern for hundreds of other clients, parishioners, community members and friends.
When we lose such a person suddenly, it is natural that we question why this person was taken instead of someone less giving and caring, or someone who hurts rather than helps others. No, it isn’t fair that a fine person like my brother, who will leave an unfillable void in the lives of many, was taken much too soon. At the bottom of Phillip’s funeral program was printed: “Life’s not fair, Phill so often reminided us; but he was the fairest of us all.”
Phillip accepted the challenges of life with an unflappable, uncomplaining nature and spent so much time working to make things fairer for his family, friends, clients, the needy, sick and suffering.
While our family grieves the loss of such a great man, we must move forward through the seeming unfairness of his untimely death and honor his legacy.
Phillip’s life provides us with many fine examples. Put feet to your faith by serving others. Do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like it. Ask questions and be genuinely interested in the people you encounter. Promptly return phone calls. Enjoy others’ accomplishments and happiness; there is no need to compare or be competitive. Be humble, it is so much more attractive than bragging, ego and pride. Be willing to work behind the scenes doing the unglamorous, but necessary, tasks. True wealth is not based on worldly success, prestige or the accumulation of possessions, but is attained by showing interest in and serving others.
And finally, though life’s not fair, we can choose to be. This will be my brother’s legacy.