A Message from the Founder
A bit about Susan, my 64 year old mother and Chris, my 27 year old little brother…
I have been extremely blessed to have Christopher James Phillips as my little brother. After graduating from Dayton High School in Springfield, NJ, where he spent his time running track and enjoying the theater experience, Chris took classes at Union County College and worked at Bill’s Army and Navy for a short time until becoming a Springfield First Aid Squad volunteer. His volunteering experience motivated him to become a full time EMT with Atlantic Health. This experience lead him to pursue a nursing degree at Trinitas Nursing School where he met his longtime girlfriend Michelle. While in school he was working as a patient care technician at Overlook Hospital. For part of this time he lived in New Brunswick with friends where took in an adorable cat off the streets he named Haze.
Chris was as lovable and as fabulous as a little brother can get. We had the epitome of a little brother / big sister relationship. He would ask my for advice and I would give it to him…. ALL the time…. even when perhaps he didn’t know he needed any advice.
Chris and I shared many adventures together… rock climbing, skiing, riding roller coasters and going to the beach. I’ve been to more concerts with him than anyone else…. Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, O.A.R…… and we enjoyed rooting for the Devils and the Giants together, highlighted when we went to the Stanley Cup Finals and the Big Blue’s ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heros. Many of my memories are family ones; beach vacations, NASCAR races and countless dinners with my Chris, and my father and mother; who were happily married for nearly 39 years.
My mother, Susan Jane VanVranken Phillips, graciously cooked most of those dinners for us. She did just about everything and anything for Chris and I. She was as proud and loving as a mother could be and I was fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with her. Among the many, many lessons she taught me one is the appreciation of museums. We shared mother-daughter trips to museums in NYC often, even more frequently then our mother-daughter mani/pedi outings.
In recent years our mother-daughter relationship developed a new layer and we became best friends. I had always shared any and everything with her and as I matured she began to confide in me as well. Throughout this time, I learned from my mother that all she ever wanted to do was be a good mom and that everything else came second. She stayed home with Chris and I, sacrificing money and a career to devote her time to us for 10 years. Once we were old enough she went back to work and became a Senior Pharmacy Technician at Walgreens Pharmacy in Short Hills for nearly 25 years.
Her definition of being a good mother was raising her kids to become whomever they wanted to be. By being a single woman in the 1960s living in Vienna, taking flying lessons in the early 70’s, going on adventures to Alaska and America’s National Parks with my father, Frank Phillips, and at the age of 63 taking up yoga, she certainly led by example by being whomever she wanted to be….
True to her word, she supported us in any and all of our endeavors. My mom always used to say, “You never know if you like something until you try it.” This I learned when for some reason, I was telling her I didn’t like the Opera. She looked at me and asked if I had ever been to the Opera. I said “no.” She then said, “Well until you go to the Opera, you can’t say you don’t like it.” She then said, ”I on the other hand, went to the Opera when I was living in Vienna, and I CAN say that I don’t like it.”My brother and I both heeded this advice. I went to the opera and to my surprise enjoyed it! I am sure my mother was thrilled when my brother took her advice to try something in order to find out if he liked it….. when he decided to jump out of an airplane.
Chris managed to live life to the fullest and developed the mantra “Life is good.” I believe that he dedicated his life to helping others so they could feel that “Life is good” as well since he was forever encouraging people to join him on all of his adventures. And I believe that my mother’s generous spirit taking us to deliver Meals on Wheels when we were kids, was a big part of the reason he was dedicated to helping others.
At this time, I would like you to take a moment and think of something that you’ve always wanted to do that scares you or that you weren’t quite sure that you’d like. Write down that thing that you just thought of.
There is a story behind what I wrote down. When I was 26, my brother started teasing me about being over the hill and couldn’t wait until I turned 30 so that he could tease me even more. Around the same age, he decided that he really liked sky diving and kept encouraging me to go with him. So I told him I would for my 30th birthday since it just seemed so far away. I am 32 and much to my brother’s chagrin I have yet to go skydiving. Please take this paper with you and when you do whatever it is that you wrote down, please share that moment with my mother and brother by remembering them. Please allow their lives to inspire you to try something you’re not sure you’ll like and to appreciate the fact that life is good.
Thanks for reading,