Our celebration of Phyl’s life

On Saturday, October 4, 2020, my family and I passed the urn holding Phyl’s ashes around and then placed it in the ground. We dropped flowers around the urn and said goodbye to her physical form but we hold her spirit in our minds and hearts.

Phyl (and my) grave site in Wildwood Cemetery on October 4, 2020 – Phyl made the lovely blue urn herself.

Phyl and I had decided upon Wildwood Cemetery many years earlier as it is a beautiful location and right across the street from the school where Phyl worked for 10 years.

We invited 50 of our closest friends and family members who lived in New England or New York to join us. The state COVID regulations restricted outdoor events to no more than 50 and anyone from outside of our region had to quarantine for two weeks, so were prevented from joining us. While we were sad that we had to put limits on participation, we wanted to try to provide an environment where people were safe.

We laughed and cried together as family and friends spoke about what Phyl meant to them. Here is a video of the speakers.

The “Deck Sisters” visited with Phyl regularly when she could no longer leave home. Here is the text of their reading titled “Soul Sisters”.

Sherri spoke about the love the Deck Sisters felt for Phyl

After the planned speakers, participants were invited to share their thoughts. The next video shares thoughts from more friends and family.

We laughed together and we cried some more.

NOTE: a third video will be added soon with short clips from friends and family who could not attend the Celebration but wanted to tell our grandchildren what they would like them to know about their GG.

A friend mounted the mermaid we have on our back deck at the grave site during the Celebration.

It was a beautiful day, full of love, joy and sadness. Thanks to everyone who was able to join us to commemorate Phyl’s life and love. Grieving together is more healing than grieving alone. We miss her terribly.

The ALS Association of Massachusetts held its annual fundraising event on the same day as our Celebration. Phyl was dedicated to raising money for the Association to pay for research and patient care, and we benefited personally from equipment loans from the ALS Association.

Phyl had been the second highest fundraiser in Western Massachusetts for the past two years and the keynote speaker at the 2019 Walk-a-Thon. Thanks to our friends and families generous support, Phyl’s team, Phyl-in-Tropics was not only the top fundraiser in Western Massachusetts this year but in the entire state, raising over $20,000.

Phyl would be delighted and so proud of her team! Our family recognized her work by wearing our 2020 “Walk to Defeat ALS” tee-shirts and gathering on our deck prior to the Celebration of her life.

We hope to be able to hold our own Phyl-in-Tropics Team Walk-a-Thon at Look Park in Northampton, MA on June 13, 2021. If it is COVID safe by that time, we hope everyone can join us to walk around the park, remember Phyl, and celebrate her life together once again! And we’ll hopefully raise a few bucks for ALS research and patient care at that time. We have rented the same large pavilion as in the past, but this time it will be just for Phyl-in-Tropics.

Please hold this date and join us – Sunday, June 13, 2021!

Here we are at the 2019 ALS Walk-a-Thon with Phyl!

I have come to understand in the short time she has been gone that love does not end with death. Love is stronger than death. I was Phyl’s fulltime caregiver for 3 years while she progressively lost her ability to walk, use her arms and hands, talk and eat, and eventually to breathe. Being her caregiver was the greatest privilege of my life.

While I am no longer her caregiver, I am committed to taking care of our home, her gardens, our family and her memory. I ask you to join me in continuing to celebrate her life by talking about Phyl, watching our video, laughing and crying with me and my family. Grieving together is more healing than grieving alone. Please call us or visit when it is safe. We need you!

And remember her smile…..

Thank you for your love and support…..

John Gerber

October 9, 2020

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