Phillip Jordan traveled all over this country, from Maine to Alaska, Montana to New Mexico, Seattle to Long Island, and up and down the East Coast. He worked as an executive chef in Glacier National Park, on a dude ranch in Montana, and in many other resorts and restaurants. Fifteen years ago, he came to Albuquerque and never left.
He died on hospice care at the age of 71. Esophageal cancer had spread through his body. His brother Don was with him as he passed peacefully. About 30 residents of Encino Terrace gathered at the apartment building’s chapel to remember Phil in a brief, heartfelt memorial service.
Don spoke to the group, saying, “Phil traveled a lot in his life. He came here to Encino Terrace two years ago and found a home. He really thought a lot of all of you and loved you all. He really fell in love with Albuquerque.”
Phil and Don and their two sisters grew up in Bar Harbor, Maine. Don, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, said Phil introduced him to that state in 1976. Phil had cooked on oil rigs in Alaska. Don, nine years younger than Phil, got to spend some quality time with his brother before he died. “He lived an adventurous life,” said Don. “His greatest experience was when he came here. He was at peace and he made a lot of friendships.”
The residents were invited to share their memories of Phil. He was described as a gentle, kindly man with a golden heart. He was also an artist as well as an excellent chef. Phil started the Sunday afternoon ice cream socials at Encino Terrace. One woman brought a butterfly painting Phil had done for her to display at the memorial service. He was also known for being an excellent Santa Claus at the annual Christmas party. Don found the Santa suit in Phil’s closet.
Phil loved his cat, named Molina. He’d put the cat on a leash and walk it around. A couple who live in the building took Molina and gave that sweet kitty a good home. Phil had two sons, and one son and daughter-in-law had visited him just a few weeks before he died.
“It was so quick and peaceful,” Don said. “He was ready. He’s in a better place.” One of the residents said, “Thank you for being such a loving brother.”
Knowing that he had cancer, Phil had planned ahead for his final arrangements. His body was cremated and will be interred in the cremation garden at Sunset Memorial Park. The epitaph on his marker will read, “I did it my way.”
Ordinarily, I keep a low profile at memorial services. At this one, I was asked to speak, because the Albuquerque Journal had just run a story about me and my 30 Funerals in 30 Days project. After witnessing so many events over the past three and a half weeks, here’s my take:
We gather to remember people who make an impression upon our hearts. There are many different ways to celebrate a life. It’s important for community to come together with those closest to the person who died and take the time to recognize a loss. As long as we remember those we know and love, they never truly die.
Like the butterfly, our spirits evolve from caterpillar, to cocoon, to a winged thing of beauty.