To set this up: Phil Sorensen was killed in a texting and driving accident in July of 2012. Phil was more than just a friend to me. He was more than just a friend to lots of people. He was more than a son, brother, nephew, and uncle. Phil was incredibly special. This was never intended for anyone other than a very select group of people. I was asked to write a letter to the judge in February of last year. The letter was intended to show my relationship with Phil and how his death impacted me. This has not been “proof read” or “edited” This is exactly how I wrote it a year ago. I’m posting this for 2 reasons. I’d like to keep Phil’s memory alive. I’d also like to bring awareness to the dangers of texting and driving
To whom it may concern,
It was a Thursday morning around 7:30 am when I received a phone call from David VandenHull. I had told him he had woke me up as I didn’t have to work till late that day. The following conversation is one that I’ll never forget. He said “You haven’t heard yet, have you?” My response was simple: “No” David than informed me that Phil had been in a serious accident and the outcome was looking bleak.
I first met Phil in November of 2003. We were both salesman at Ultimate Electronics in Sioux Falls SD. I had moved to Sioux Falls from Watertown and didn’t know anyone. I was immediately drawn to Phil. A tall individual with blonde spiky hair. Seemed like a nice enough guy from first glance. I introduced myself to him and little did I know I had a best friend for life.
We were in our mid 20’s when Phil and I first meant. Needless to say, Phil and I had our fair amount of fun, and ignorance together. At the core of that was a special bond between brothers. When Phil moved to Montana is when our friendship really tightened. I had moved my family to Montana a few years earlier and had a pretty good idea what Phil was going through. He felt alone. He felt lost all the way out there without family and friends. We spent countless hours on the phone reminiscing about past times together. Phil wasn’t just a friend to me, he was my brother.
Phil had this uncanny ability to make you laugh. To make you smile. Regardless of your mood that day, Phil would turn it into an eventful day. As I sit here and type this, I struggle to keep the tears off my face. Tonight isn’t the first time I’ve cried since Phil was stolen from us. It certainly won’t be the last. To this day I think of Phil often. Sometimes I wake up at 3 or 4am with thoughts of Phil. I struggle to get back to sleep. I reach for my left wrist where my “Remember P.L.S” bracelet loosely hangs off my wrist. When I’m alone with my thoughts is when I think of him the most. Those nights when I’m awoke for whatever reason, I say my prayers. I let Phil know I’m ok. I let him know he doesn’t have to check in on me. I tell him to concentrate on his sister, who he loved dearly. I tell him to look after his niece. I tell him I love him and miss him.
That Thursday morning after getting off the phone with David, is a day that is thrusted in my memory for ever. After countless hours of phone calls and updates I made the decision to skip work and head to Sioux Falls. I didn’t make it on time to say goodbye to my brother. Something I surely regret.
I’m blessed enough to be married to a wonderful woman for the last 12 years. She use to constantly yell(in a good, healthy way of course) at me about texting, or reading on my phone while I’m driving. She hasn’t had to do that since that Thursday morning. I see constant reminders of the dangers of texting and driving. All of them remind me of my brother Phil. All of them remind me of the heartbreak countless people have had to endure since this unnecessary loss. I miss my brother. I miss my friend. I miss Phil.
When Mr. Sorenson called me tonight and asked me to do this I didn’t know where to start and finish. I’m usually pretty fluent with words. It saddens me deeply doing this. It’s yet another reminder of the loss we’ve all gone through. I want to laugh with him one more time. I want to hug him one more time. I want to see him one more time.
Before I left for Sioux Falls that morning to see my brother I sent him a series of texts. In closing I’d like to share those texts with you including dates and time. For what it’s worth, when I sent these texts it was incredibly difficult for me. This may be even harder.
July 26th 2012, 8:18 AM
“I know you won’t see this for a while but I want you to know that we are all praying for you. You are a strong person and can fight through this. We’ve known each other for a long time Phil and I’ll be praying for you brother. God bless.”
July 26th 2012, 8:44 AM
“Hang tight friend. I’m coming to see you tomorrow. My family and I will be praying for you”
July 26th, 2012, 1:46 PM
“RIP Phil. Love you brother”
July 27th, 2012, 9:39 AM
“I didn’t get a chance to see you yesterday and say goodbye. Guess this will be my final goodbye to you. I’ll always have our memories. You hold a special place in my heart. Your one of the most amazing individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling my friend. I’m proud to have known you. Thank you for being my friend for almost 10 years. We were always there for each other and I know your looking down on me now. I love you like a brother Phil. I’m so incredibly sorry this happened to you. Your life was taken far too short. But please know it wasn’t for nothing. You’ve given life to people by donating your organs. You’ve also given life by making people realize that life is too short to be making silly decisions. In my book that makes you a hero. I miss you man. We all do. Although you may be gone, you’ll never be forgotten. Love you brother. Rip friend. God bless you Phil”
I was asked to write a letter about my relationship with Phil. How his death has affected me. How do you do that? How do you word such things? No words I can type here will ever measure up to Phil the friend. Phil the brother. Phil the uncle. Phil the son. I’m a better man today for knowing Phil. I’m a better father today because of him. I’m a better husband because of him. No words can describe his impact on me. As I sit next to my sleeping wife as I fight back tears typing this, I’m reminded of something Phil said to me many years back. I can’t quote him because I don’t remember exactly word for word. He told me that he was jealous of me. He was jealous because he didn’t have a wife or kids. He didn’t admit that to a lot of people but he did to me. Phil never got that chance.
I’ve never written a letter like this before. I’m finding it more difficult the longer it goes. Tears are all but dried up. I think there is only one fitting way to end such a letter. I miss my friend. I miss my brother. I miss Phil. Although your gone, you’ll never be forgotten. I love you man