My brother was an incredible person.
When Philly was young, he was a busy body! He loved to ride his bike down the street (never following the direction to stay in the sidewalk), and every summer you could find him on the swing set or in the pool.
From a very young age, Philly immersed himself in all sports, especially football and baseball. He never missed a practice or game, and the grass stains on his knees were a staple in every uniform he owned. I can remember the many times he was standing next to the stove getting ready to mold a new mouth guard. He also enjoyed playing golf and participated in karate lessons during his off seasons. He also took piano lessons when he was young, which may have been against his will.
In additional to playing sports, he loved to be a fan and a spectator. He was fortunate enough to attend a Bills Superbowl game in California, a Buffalo Sabres Stanley Cup Final game, a World Series game, and attend a private event for Jim Kelly's Hall of Fame induction. Needless to say, the love of sports was true and deep.
There were plenty of times that Philly acted like a typical little brother. There was a time when we were in Disney World, staying at the Dixie Landing and we often times were in the resort pool. I can remember an occasion when Philly was waiting on a small bridge for me to slide underneath and he thought it would be funny to drop a pair of goggles on me as I passed by. Needless to say, I was crying and our Italian grandmother (Nana) was waiting for him at the bottom. He played nice after that.
Philly took pride in our Italian heritage. We were surrounded by our immigrant family members who embraced loud dinners, huge gatherings, lots of food, Sunday dinners and regularly attending church. We often spent times acutely listening to conversations where we tried to pick up some Italian words that our elders did not want us to hear.
Philly graduated from North Tonawanda High School and could safely say he enjoyed his high school experience. Philly was either on the football field or following his favorite bands from state to state. He was never looking for a friend, people always gravitated to his infectious smile.
Of all the things he was...one thing that he wasn't was shy. He lived everyday like it was the last. Philly was passionate about his education and was perusing a degree as an RN. He knew how to show compassion and use his charm to make people smile. Philly never walked away from those who needed help, by working at a nursing home or learning the ropes at a hospital. Nothing made him panic.
Philly suffered an unfortunate accident that introduced him to the disease of addiction. Philly was injured and was admitted to a local hospital. He was young and given free range of life altering medication. At that time, opioids were easy to get your hands on. Many types of providers were giving prescriptions, not understanding the severe consequences that this may cause. None of us knew of the consequences that this medication (drug) could create.
After a long and vicious battle, he began living a beautiful life of recovery.
Our family lived recovery with him. He became the son, brother, and uncle that we had all be waiting for. More importantly, who he had been praying for. Philly often explained that addiction was a friend, and this friend would take every part of his mind, body, and soul and would never give anything back in return.
During his recovery, he focused on his education and maintaining his sobriety. He was a leader in the recovery community and would never hide his story. He was a pillar of strength as he rebuilt his life. When Philly moved into sober living, he began to shine. He became the President of the Oxford House and surrounded himself with safe and passionate people who were on the same journey as he was.
While in this stage of his life, he maintained his sobriety by working, attending meetings, and participating in counseling. His life changed when he learned he would be a father to a beautiful little girl who had stolen his heart from the moment she arrived.
As we learn, part of recovery can be relapse. Unfortunately for us, Philly did relapse and the enemy known as "opioid" stole his mind and body.
Philly will not be defined by addiction! What our community should understand is that addiction is a disease.
Philly was a handsome, loving, smart, charismatic, dedicated, passionate human and my very first best friend. I can still feel his scruffy face and hear him say, "Love you, Lee Lee."
This disease stole his body but it will never take away his soul and spirit. He lives on in us every day and will never, ever be forgotten. As he often said, "It is what it is, until it isn't."
Love, Lisa and Family
My brother was an incredible person.