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Mr. Phillip Reese, Moravian Academy, Parent

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

Hello everyone. My name is Phillip Reese, my son is Aidan who is a junior at Moravian and my daughter is Sadie who is in 8th grade at Swain, and we are friends of the family. I am incredibly humbled to be standing here in front of you today with the opportunity to share my thoughts, a reflection, as it was put to me, about this moment in time. A time where words fail most of us. It is clear that people have struggled with moments like this when you consider the fact that there are words to describe those that have survived loved ones – orphan…widow… - but there is not a word to describe a parent who has survived their child.

So, I wasn’t sure what to share. What I could offer. What you all might want to or need to hear.

So I thought I’d research, use the words of people who know more. Quotes about the loss of a life so young. Like when Elizabeth Edwards said:

“If you know someone that has lost a child, you might be afraid to mention the child’s name because you think it might make them sad…might remind them that they had died. But they will never forget that. What you are reminding them of is that they lived. And that is a great gift.”

Or find quotes about grieving like when Earl Grollman, author of “Straight Talk about Death for Teenagers” wrote:

“Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity. It is the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

But the quotes of others didn’t feel personal enough. So then I thought I’d research Hindu beliefs and traditions and be able to share with you what Arnav and his family believe. Like the fact that life and death are both part of what they call “maya” – a grand illusion – and that when a soul dies it gets born in to a new body. This cycle of death and rebirth is called samsara, it is part of a long process where ultimately the soul will learn all it needs and will realize its true nature and be at peace in heaven. I came across this Hindu writing…

“Our soul never dies; only the physical body dies. We neither fear death nor look forward to it…but revere it as a most exalted experience. Life, death and the afterlife are part of our path to perfect oneness with God.”

But not being Hindu, I didn’t feel that that was my place. So then I thought I might share what the Krishna family has meant to me. How they’ve enriched my life. In part by exposing me and my family to various Hindu ceremonies, like Holi and Dewali and the beautiful prayer service for Arnav. Or how they’ve impacted me personally and made me a better person like the fact that Nitin has such commitment and conviction he made events like white water rafting and paint ball happen with several dozen people signed up. Like how Sunita is so caring and welcoming, that every time I stop at their house, she welcomes me in and makes me Chai. Even when I show up to their home for the boy’s birthday party… a full day early. And how Dhruv embodies these traits - Nitin’s conviction in his intense commitment to cycling, as well as Sunita’s care, in that he is always so appreciative of our time together and always made sure that Aidan’s little sister Sadie was included in whatever the boys were doing.

But that felt too self-involved. So I came to the conclusion that I should just honor Arnav and the beautiful and inspiring life he lived. It’s not easy to leave a legacy in 16 short years, but he certainly did. In addition to the indelible mark he left on all of us, I am confident his message of Relentless Positivity will persevere long after all of us. Relentless Positivity doesn’t mean permanently and exclusively happy. It is ok to be sad, angry, frustrated, heart-broken or lost. It is ok to doubt, to be afraid, to yell, to cry and to despair. It is more than ok to do all this while on the path of Relentless Positivity. We just need to push through and we need to look out for each other. Be strong when others need you, and do not hesitate to reach out and ask for help when you’re the one that needs the support.

For me personally, I will cherish Arnav’s ability to connect with people that made you feel like you were on the same level. He made me feel like we were friends. I shared a story this weekend about how I was playing on our PlayStation one night (yes I play video games too) and when I saw that he was trying to connect with our account, I didn’t want him to think that my kids were ignoring him, so I quick connected and let him know that it was in fact me playing, and Aidan and Sadie were not home. I then asked him how he was feeling and he shared about the latest doctors’ visits, physical therapy sessions (which we even had the chance to rehab together following a knee surgery I had) and treatment plans. And then after a brief lull where I assumed we would say goodbye, Arnav asked “so what game should we play?”

And it was because of this connection that this past week, of course I wanted to ensure that both Aidan and Sadie got a few more moments with him, but also for myself. I wanted to get the chance to stand in gratitude with him, and not to say goodbye, but to say “until next time”.

So I hope you will forgive this, at times impersonal, at times presumptuous, at times self-absorbed but hopefully overall worthy tribute to a wonderful young man, who passed on too early (at least too early for all of us) and to his amazing brother and tremendous mother and father.

To Nitin and Sunita, I say Thank You. Thank you for sharing these gifts of your boys with the world and thank you for allowing us all to participate in this Celebration of Arnav’s life

To Dhurv, I say we stand with you. You are not alone.

And to Arnav, I say Godspeed. Namaste. And Until Next Time. Because there will certainly be a next time.

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