Today we buried Uncle Philip at the Harvey Lawn Cemetery. It would be hard to say where his home was; he moved around a lot. I think he did live in Harvey a short time, at some stage. He died in Bunbury, but that’s mainly because the hospital was there. It often happened that he would get upset at his neighbours and move to a different town. He was probably autistic, and he liked his routines and his own company. Philip loved not horses (as his name means) but dogs, and he didn’t like being around people.
At other funerals, it seems wrong that the person himself is not there. But for Phil, his absence seemed appropriate; he didn’t turn up to social events. I should have appreciated how significant it was the times I saw him at his brothers’ weddings, at his dad’s 70th birthday, at a couple of Christmases. These wouldn’t have been easy appearances for him.
His middle name comes from his grandfather, an architect of some note in Perth who raised his family in a beautiful house on the foreshore at South Perth. I wonder what the architect would have made of his grandson living much of his life as part of the welfare underclass in WA? If the wealthy are not often a single generation from destitution, they can easily be two generations away from it.
All the time I knew him, Phil struggled with his weight. It pains me that my first memory of him was asking him, when I was about five, ‘Why are you fat?’ Dad took me aside and said that was not something you asked someone. I didn’t understand. Philip was a shy, sensitive man, and I hope he forgot or forgave me.
He didn’t want to hear about God. I’m not sure whether that was out of incredulity or a sense that this is not a world with much good news in it. I cannot fathom a God who would, in an afterlife, deepen and perpetuate the miseries of those who have suffered in this life, confirming their despair that life was hopeless. Weren’t Jesus’ great warnings about reversals of fortune? The mighty laid low, not the lowly laid lower?
I think Philip Alexander Winning (1953-2014) should appear somewhere on the internet, if only here, on this blog. He loved his dogs, each of them his companion for a decade or so of his life; their names were Sam, Barney, Pippa, and Toby. A photo of Toby went down into the grave with him. He liked camping with his brother, he liked walking the dog on the beach, and he liked doing his own thing in his own way.