Today we gathered together to pay tribute to the life of our brother, Philip Andrew Doty. I wish to share the four lessons his life has taught us, as mentioned in his eulogy. God bless.
Anyone who knew Philip for even a brief span of time came to realize quickly his affinity for books. And, in my reflection my brother’s life, I realized, Phil’s life is a novel worth reading. Not because he has done extraordinary things…he is no superhero; nor has he made great contributions to better the society we live in. Though, he has done wonderful things, to be sure.
What make his life a compelling one are fundamental to any good novel: first, there are lessons the story teaches you about life…about love…about character and the human spirit; and second, when the last page is read and the book is closed, the reader has one or two unanswered questions that will only be answered by time.
Today, I would like to share my Cliff notes view into my brother’s life; a life worthy of celebration. And together, let us allow him be our teacher of some life lessons that will make us smile. I think in understanding this lasting legacy he has given to all of us, it may help us to wait patiently until the unanswered questions that linger on in our thoughts are answered.
Philip Andrew Doty was the fifth born of the Doty clan’s seven kids. He entered the world on October 3, 1964. I remember Philip as a quiet kid, reflective, as though he was always in the middle of working out a problem in his head. He was often lost in thought…and it has happened more than once that his doddling got him into trouble. Imagine my mother going shopping with seven kids in tow, telling us to stay close. She could turn around for a minute and Philip would be gone! It didn’t matter whether we were at a shopping center or amusement park, it happened more than a couple of times, Philip was lost. We’d usually find him after much worry sitting on the counter of lost and found eating an ice cream cone! I’m not even sure he was aware he was lost until someone asked him where his mother was. So comfortable was he with himself.
Part of his wondering off was due to his insatiable curiosity. He liked to know a lot of things. This made him a great companion, easy going, even in his childhood, whether playing street ball, hide and seek, building blocks. He enjoyed being with others; it didn’t matter much what the activity was, whether playing dolls with his sisters, or making purses (I talked him into doing); sports, just sitting in Church with dad entertaining himself with a set of Dad’s car keys – he seemed content to do or play what the other wanted, such was his nature. He had a real gift for making the person, whose company he kept, feel important. I’m sure each of you has specific examples where you have experienced this for yourself, where Philip taught our first life lesson: Enjoy your time with others. He so enjoyed the company of those he loved – friends and family alike.
He was always willing to play the other’s preferred game, or go where they wanted to go. To him, it didn’t matter; what did matter was, to do those things together. And he cherished these memories in his heart.
As Philip grew, he discovered a companion who would be a constant for him – books. Some of my earliest memories of Philip are of him with a book in hand, and, any moment he was not playing, he could be found reading. I’m sure as he grew and had a family of his own, there were discussions about books; in moving, how many boxes of books, where to put them, or store them… His inquisitiveness held no bounds and he would read anything, although he had his favorites, history, military stories, spirituality and language (how many times would we go somewhere, only to see Philip with a French or Spanish pocket dictionary make the trip too!).
His eclectic tendencies toward books were symbolic of his openness toward people. He didn’t mind that people were different, and it was the differences that drew him into other cultures and places. But it was not always that way. He told the story how, in his basic training he had gone along with the thinking of some of the men who talked badly about certain people. He had repeated some of these things in front of our parents and, when my mother confronted him about it:
“All the wisdom of a 19 year old…I think back on that moment as one of the most shameful and regretful things I’ve ever thought or said of another human being. And even more horrifying, did I ever contaminate anyone else with this poison I spread? I pray to God that I never did. The Book of Proverbs, 8:7 states, “My mouth utters truth; wickedness is abhorrent to my lips.” For sure, wickedness was indeed on my lips during that period of my life. I pray it will never find its way there again!”
Philip recalled this event, one that deeply shaped his understanding of who he was, and what he wanted to be. It made a strong impact on his future dealing with people who were different than himself. It is here, he sets the example for our second lesson of life: be slow to judge others, and quick to love them. I remember many occasions where he would greet strangers with much respect, particularly those of other cultural backgrounds.
He had made a choice, which shows his great humility, to embrace others before rejecting them. I have never known Philip, following this brief year or two of his youth, to have anything bad to say about anyone. Although he was soft spoken, whenever a conversation turned to the worse, he would either change the subject, defend the person, or, if this weren’t possible, simply disappear like that small child losing himself in the supermarket. He took to heart the words of Proverbs, not to speak untruths of anyone. Many of us have witnessed this quality about Philip, which is one reason he was much admired by those who knew him.
While Philip was in the Navy, we always enjoyed his moments on leave when he would spend a few weeks at home. My Dad would always introduce Philip during these visits to some of the local women, hoping his son would fall in love with one of them. Susan was working at the Post Office in Nipomo at the time, and, when Philip came home on leave they would spend time together riding horses or visiting local sites. Philip knew he found his helpmate, his life-companion. Philip was a good husband, and accepted gratefully his growing family. He always felt blessed to have two children, Jacob and Lizzy, and was always concerned that they would grow to know right from wrong, and to be protected from a social environment that tries to take away our innocence while still very young. His obituary states his love for his family so well. It reads, “If Philip prefaced a statement with “my son” or “my daughter,” there was an unmistakable air of warmth and pride in his voice. All of us who knew him realized that everything he did, he did for or with his family.” He loved his family more than life itself.
He wrote about an event that happened, not long after he was diagnosed. He was trying to reconcile why God would allow this; not that he was not willing to be subjected to disease, but that he feared not being able to be there to help his children become strong adults. He happened to tune into a radio station that wasn’t his regular one. A father was being interviewed; whose five-year-old daughter had the same diagnosis as Philip:
“I came across a channel, which I had never listened to before, and they were speaking with the father of a five year old girl…The newscaster asked the man how a father deals with a terminally ill child, and he responded that it’s indescribable, and that he would give anything to trade places with is daughter. I thought to myself that I could not imagine what this poor father lives with every day, and that I was with him in that I would happily take on a disease like this to spare my wife or kids.”
Philip’s love for his family was that way. He loved deeply, and did all he thought best to protect what he loved most. This our third lesson of life from Philip – a lesson of sacrificial love. To love at all costs. I am certain that you, Susan, Jacob and Lizzy, know how much Philip, as a husband and father loved you. I also know that one of his deepest prayers, was that God will finish the work he allowed Philip to begin. To protect and care for you, and love you even more than Philip could do himself.
Philip wrote in his reflection about the little girl and her father that was willing to changes places, that he was ‘willing to take this bullet for the team.’ This is the greatest love that can only be outdone by the sacrificial love of God himself who let his only begotten Son – Jesus – die on the Cross for us.
This brings us to the last of Philip’s lessons for us, one that can only be known and fulfilled completely between him and God, but it is worth exploring for us, who might be going through the same struggle. The struggle to understand the role of faith and God.
Phil thought a lot about God throughout his life. He wrote of his fond memories of going to church as a child, his love of the songs and ritual. He intuitively knew there was a Creative Force active in his life, and tried in many ways to make sense of what it was. He was baptized and raised Catholic, and in his teenage years, like so many do, he wondered away from the religion of his youth, not rejecting God, but uncertain of the expression that resonated in him. In his travels while serving our Country – which he loved dearly – he encountered many cultures and religions. In Japan, he was introduced to Buddhism; in Turkey he learned about Islam. And, he reasoned that there were a lot of similarities between the major religions of the world. Something kept him from embracing any of them fully. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in God – he most surely did.
A turning point for him was his time stationed in Turkey. He had the opportunity to study the Bible and to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He of course, being a lover of history enjoyed the pilgrimage immensely due to the historical significance alone. He accepted anew Jesus as his Lord and Savior in the waters of the Jordan. It lead to his study the Old Testament, reasoning:
“I really felt connected to this Man (Jesus), and wanted to know more about what he thought and taught. Maybe I should look back at what Jesus taught in the Old Testament, rather than focus on the texts many decades to thousands of years after the Messiah’s time on earth.”
When he and Susan returned to the States, and Philip was at the Monterrey language academy, he began to study more in earnest the Hebrew Scriptures and the people of Israel. He took a class, the “Introduction to Judaism”, and Philip shared:
“At this point I was still sitting on the post, unsure of whether this man named Jesus was the Son of God…for a religious Jew, the Hebrew Scriptures that he believed and trusted his faith in God…for us Christians, and the concept of Heaven and Hell, redemption, and the fight for our eternal souls, it seemed much more than just studying what we know of the New Testament. There had to be so much more involved. So, I continued to search.”
He was drawn to Judaism. He enjoyed the service, the music, the lessons. He liked the familiarity of “breaking bread and wine at the conclusion of Friday night services…Very enjoyable and spiritual time for me.”
He found his home in Judaism, and saw himself “a Jew in heart if not by Jewish law.” He concludes his search for faith, reasoning, “…above all, I believe absolutely in our Creator, who made the entire universe, and all of the laws of nature that our Creator established. I have complete faith in His wisdom, His reasoning of life and death, and that I do not know…or can even remotely conceive what God really has planned. I know that we all live and die, and that death is nothing to fear. And that only our Creator knows when that time comes.”
One of his favorite books was this one (an interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament). He had a large print edition that he read regularly, and this smaller copy. When I last saw Philip, he handed this Bible to me and pointed to the index card, saying, “This is the most important part of the whole scriptures for me.” When I opened to the page, it was marked Job 42:1-6, which comes near the end of Job’s trials. It reads:
Job said in reply to the Lord, “I know that you can do everything. that nothing you propose is impossible for You. Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge? Indeed, I spoke without understanding of things beyond me, which I did not know. Hear now, and I will speak; I will ask, and You will inform me. I had heard You with my ears, But now I see You with my eyes; therefore, I recant and relent, being but dust and ashes.”
This is our fourth lesson of life: Philip, in the midst of his suffering, his losing ‘everything’, handed all of it back to God, in trust. He understood that the Creator – God – is a God of Mercy. In his own confusion of faith, his struggle to reconcile Christianity with Judaism, he still believed that this too, God in his greatness will understand.
If he was standing with us here now, Philip would be able to teach us so much about the journey each of us must make to discover the Truth of God according to our capacity. He had no doubt that God would be waiting for him at the end. This is our final lesson of life – to be like Philip, and search out the meaning of our own relationship with our Creator.
Philip, our Son, brother, husband, father, coworker, our friend. We thank God that we were honored to share this first volume of your life; that by knowing you, we have become better human beings, and may we always honor your memory by following your example, until that Glorious day when we will again embrace and laugh, with no more pain; only perfect happiness and love.
May you rest in God, my brother, may his unending light shine upon you. May you rest in peace. Amen.