In the past 48 hours since Michael Philbin was recovered from the Fox River, I have found myself thinking more and more about what Joe Philbin and his family are going through at this moment. It hits very close to home, and can fully relate to the wide range of emotions they have already dealt with, along with the ones which still lay ahead of them.
In an eleven month period, I twice witnessed the effect a loss of a child has on a parent. It is something I wish on no one, and hope it is something I never have to deal with as a parent.
Between April, 2001 and March, 2002, I watched my parents bury two of their children. Both of my brothers were around Michael Philbin's age, one being 22, the other 24. The shock of their loss was accompanied by a feeling of senseless tragedy, an emptiness which would never be replaced, no matter how hard we tried. We were left to try and make sense of their loss, without a reason behind it.
My father lived his life by many stereotypes. One of the ones he prided himself on was men hiding their emotions. A man of few words from as early as I can remember until his own passing, he did not let many people in to see what was behind the tough exterior. He was statuesque in his feelings, and stubborn as stubborn could be.
All this was pushed to the side over the loss of his children. Emotions he had suppressed for years came pouring out of him, and I watched grief take hold of this man in ways that can not be described. A former steel mill worker, Mr. Fix It around the house, my father collapsed into a heap of feelings that could not be suppressed any longer. He had lost a part of himself, twice. The man I had always been told was a duplicate of my grandfather, the stereotype of men hiding their emotions, was beside himself with grief. And there was nothing anybody could do about it.
Joe Philbin is a football coach. He is responsible for helping devise game plans where men will hit other men with such brutal force, they can knock each other unconscious. Pushing men to the point of exhaustion, motivating them by whatever means are necessary, Joe Philbin is a vital cog in the Packers success.
He is also a father who has recently lost a child. Any tough exterior he may display on the football field has been replaced by sadness. The shouting at players replaced with a somber tone. Game planning replaced with visitation arrangements.
While Joe is with his family, the Packers continue to prepare to face the Giants this Sunday. Unfortunately, life does not pause at the passing of a loved one. He is where he needs to be-with his family. His extended Packer family will take care of business on the football field. The Philbins need to take care of life, and life is so much more important than any game.
What I expect will happen is the loss of Michael Philbin will become a motivating factor for the Packers to succeed. A driving force to win for Joe, whether he is with the team or not. A father grieving over the loss of his son, only to have his extended children, his players, pay tribute the best way they can-winning on the field. A small honor, but one that would be special to say the least.
Joe Philbin will hurt. He will hurt for a while. He will be the grieving parent no one should ever have to be. I hope he and his family are able to find peace at some point about the loss of their son. It may take months, it may take years. I can only hope that he is able to do so, and when he does, remembers every second he can of the son he knew far too short.
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