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I Know

I Know

I know.

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 Any tough exterior he may display on the football field has been replaced by sadness.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.

I know.




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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (22) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

foundinidaho's picture

Well done, John. Not as close as you to a situation like this, but I have some idea of how this eats at people. The Philbins are strong people, but my heart goes out to them. Nothing will ever be the same. Ever.

JohnRehor's picture

Thanks Idaho.

Things will never be the same. The important thing is that the time they had with Michael is cherished, and memories remain strong in their hearts for the rest of their days.

Jane Bauer's picture

Excellent John. The pain is so deep because as a parent, you feel like should be able to protect your children from anything. In Sept. 2003, I had a miscarriage and in February 2004, my 34 yr. old stepdaughter was killed in a car accident. So sorry for the loss of your brothers. You never really get over it. You just learn how to deal with it.

JohnRehor's picture

"You never really get over it. You just learn how to deal with it."

So true. So very true.

Ceallaigh's picture

I am hopeful that Joes's other 53 sons are going to be there to love and support his family and him through this horrible ordeal.

JohnRehor's picture

I have no doubt that the pain Joe is dealing with will burn inside all of the players, acting as a driving force for them throughout the playoffs. They will honor Joe, the best way they can-winning on the football field.

Calvin Hughes's picture

beautifully written.. one of the better things ive read in a long time.. god bless to all

JohnRehor's picture

Thanks very much for reading, and the kind words. Means a great deal to me.

Chris Carnall's picture


Thank you so much for sharing this - how very hard for you all. As Jane said, we don't get over it, we just find ways of coping.

Prayers for the Philbin family, and for all who are grieving untimely loss.

JohnRehor's picture

Thanks for reading Chris.

Hopefully they are able to cope. Sometimes coping can be just as difficult if not more than the loss of the loved one.

baboons's picture

[I have no words]

JohnRehor's picture

I see words, you typed them :)

Thank you very much for reading

Carol Tumas's picture

Thank you for sharing and expressing thoughts that so many of us feel. I have never met Joe or Michael, but I want to give the whole family a hug, I want to run over with a casserole...I have witnessed the loss of a child and, you are right, you just learn to cope and "deal with it" each in his/her own way. My thoughts and prayers continue for the entire Philbin family.

JohnRehor's picture

Thanks Carol.

It's funny you mentioned bringing over a casserole-one of the things I remember most was the ridiculous amount of food we had in the fridge in the days following. The gesture from friends was unexpected, and was appreciated beyond belief.

Sunnie's picture

John that was beautiful. Thank you. I am sorry for your losses. Reading about your dad and his emotional toughness reminded me of my Army boys. They (and for a long time myself) had the emotion of a rock. Nothing phased us, we have seen a variety of things that I know with what I did I wouldn't wish on anyone and I know they wouldn't wish what they saw overseas on their worst enemies. We would laugh about things that most people wouldn't... but then we would lose a friend. I would see the biggest hardest guys break down. A friend of mine was a Green Beret, the feeling I got seeing those guys cry was something I will never be able to explain. Seeing the biggest fall is guy wrenching

JohnRehor's picture

Thanks Sunnie.

It is always comforting to see the strongest struggle with grief. Watching my father deal with the loss of his children allowed me to see him less as a man, and more like a dad, saddled with emotions like everyone else. It took something like this to break through to him, but it was better than his being unable to express for his entire life.

tippet523's picture

Wow. Strong Piece and well written. Lost my Brother in law in 1998 at age 46 to Cancer and my Mother In Law is still not over it today. Not Close.

That said the extended grieving is hard on the kids that are still around.

Nothing fun about this situation.

Well Done

JohnRehor's picture

Thank you.

It is amazing how many people have said they have had a similar situation to the one Joe Philbin (or even me) have dealt with. Its kind of like therapy to talk about it, with the Packers connection to it.

Tommyboy's picture

Father of two here. Since my oldest was born, I can't even watch a movie if I know a child is seriously injured or killed. I just can't take it. Frankly, I don't know why I read your article because I knew what it would be about. I've been avoiding as much press about the Philbin family as I can because I don't want to think about it.

In any case, I'm glad I read your article. The way you describe your father illustrates how a loss like this means more. It means So. Much. More. Thanks for sharing, John.

JohnRehor's picture

No, thank you for reading. I hope you never have to experience loss like this. It is beyond description. Even my feeble efforts don't do justice

@erica_g's picture

Thanks for sharing John. It's interesting how hearing about one loss really ends up hitting a nerve and/or so many emotions due to a loss in almost every person. I lost a close friend this year right before his wife (also a close friend) gave birth to their first child. And now I've seen the effects the loss has had on his wife and his son, who he never got to meet (both of whom I actually now live with) and his parents who live in another state... it's definitely something that constantly "burns inside me" (as you mentioned in a comment above). So really, thanks for sharing. Sometimes it's hard to do just that.

JohnRehor's picture

Thanks Erica.

I like to think of the "burning" as their memory flickering away forever. When the person first passes, the fire burns, because the pain is so intense, simply coping is a struggle.

As time goes on though, the fire starts to diminish, because life does move on. You never forget about the person, you do more remembering than grieving. That is the memory of them flickering inside. Always there, but the pain is not as intense as it once was.

Very sorry to hear about your friend. Thank you for reading.

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