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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Last Friday, my Uncle Phil peacefully lost his battle with cancer. Today, my family and Phil’s many friends laid him to rest.

Phil worked for the fire brigade for thirty years, and each fire station paid tribute to him today by flying their flag at half-mast. As I passed our local station this morning and later saw his colleagues form a guard of honour after the service, I held my head up high because I was so proud to be Phil Lewis’ niece, and proud to be a member of our family.

I had the privilege of making a speech at his funeral, and as most readers of this blog are my friends and family, I want to share what I said as a tribute to him.

When I think of Phil, his cheeky grin immediately comes to mind. At a serious occasion like today, I wouldn’t be able to look at him because inevitably he would be grinning away to ease the awkward situation, and I know I would crack up laughing. He was just one of those blokes who could instantly lighten the mood.

The Lewis kids always marveled at the myth and the legend that is Phil Lewis. There are far too many funny Phil stories to tell right now, so we hope that you will share some of your stories about him with us later. One of the great things about Phil was that he was a bit of a man of mystery. Just look at his long list of nicknames, truly a reflection of how Phil meant many things to many people.

Despite being such a popular bloke, Phil also liked to be by himself - It’s a Lewis thing. He loved reading The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings, and when our family was lucky enough to get an empty cinema to watch The Two Towers, we all sat at least thirty seats apart so that it felt like each of us were there by ourselves - a very Lewis moment indeed. Phil also loved to go running alone, and was never without his drink bottle filled with his secret sports medicine, a recipe that he will take with him. Though just between you and me, I’m pretty sure the secret ingredient was white wine.

I have great memories of driving to Sydney with my Dad and Phil, always searching for that elusive empty BBQ and grappling with the big questions in life, like “When is it okay to crack the first stubby?” and “Would Albury be too early?” Phil loved those trips to visit Bob and Marilyn, and was content with nothing more than sitting out on the deck with his brothers listening to the cricket or watching the footy, VB always in hand.

Phil once jokingly referred to himself as “Big Hearted Phil’, and this has been often repeated by the Lewis kids as a joke. But it’s not a joke. It’s true. Phil would always help you out if you needed him - just look at his huge list of unofficial job titles and it’s clear that he was always there to lend a hand.

What is so inspiring about Phil is the way he really lived his life the way he wanted to. He never missed an opportunity to have fun or to have a few beers. He seemed to be at every sporting event in Melbourne, and loved a free ticket to anywhere – he even went to see the Guggenheim exhibit at the art gallery - or the Google-heim as he called it. Phil also never missed a chance to go on a holiday with his mates and could always fit in a game of golf during the week.

My Dad Steve played golf with Phil for 25 years. Not just once or twice a month – the brothers played constantly, rain, hail or shine. If you rang either of their mobiles in even the most atrocious weather imaginable, it was guaranteed that they were out on the fairway at Bacchus Marsh or Melton, often unable to hear you through the howling wind and pouring rain. When I talked to Dad yesterday and asked him if he wanted to add to my speech, he asked me how he could put 50 years into words. I think that those words themselves are enough to understand how Dad is feeling.

Our family is so proud of Phil who fought so hard to stay with us. To see his mates show such compassion and love for him was overwhelming, and to see the strength and tenderness with which his family cared for him brings me the comfort that makes a sad day like today bearable.

Last week, we didn’t just lose a member of the family. We lost a great mate. Over the last six months my sister Amy and I spent a lot of time alone with Uncle Phil, and he truly became our friend.

Philly, you were the best. We will never forget your cheeky smile, and the world is a little quieter now without your infectious laugh.

Monday, May 19, 2008

It's just another day, for you and me, in paradise...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Saturday morning graph