By Ashley Brasington

It seems like every time I pick up the newspaper or scroll through social media the headlines read tragedy and disappointment. But in my little corner of the world, with eyes wide open, I see all the goodness that the human heart still has inside it. You see, we live in Abbeville, Alabama, where times are slower, love is bigger, and God’s favorite season has just opened – football season. The lines on the fields are crisp and white as cotton. The jerseys are not yet pillaged by beastly boys on a mission to stretch the ball into the end zone. And someone we love so much has been waiting with bated breath to witness every moment of it.

Phillip Rayburn watches the Abbeville Christian Academy football game on August 31, 2018.

Phillip Rayburn has lived at Henry County Health & Rehabilitation for several years. He has been a football fan and avid Alabama enthusiast his whole life. Phillip’s room is decorated with football posters, rosters and pom poms. His bed sits in the shadow of the ever-present Alabama “A” in all its crimson-glory script. But listen up, Auburn fans, Phillip’s smile will charm you no matter your loyalty.

As Phillip’s days draw closer to the end than the beginning, he still items on his bucket list. Through Covenant Care Hospice’s “My Wish” program, Phillip’s wish to go to a football game for the first time in many years was granted. “My Wish” allows donors to grant the final wishes to individuals of Covenant Care Hospice. With the help of Henry County Health & Rehab and Pilcher’s Transportation, Phillip was able to attend Abbeville Christian Academy’s football game August 31, 2018.

Those Friday night lights burned bright as Phillip, the Honorary Captain for the game, rolled across the field to witness the coin toss in the sprinkling rain. The football players greeted him with their helmets tucked securely under their arms and gifted him a signed football as a keepsake. Phillip can’t speak many words these days, but the smile that spread across his face as the cheerleaders burst into the air and campaigned for another win was all we needed to witness to know he was having the time of his life. He watched from the sidelines covered in a waterproof blanket and an umbrella held by a caring emergency medical technician. Each time Henry County Health & Rehab Activities Director Joni Smith asked Phillip if he was ready to leave he shook his head “no.” The ACA Generals coach, Ashley Carlisle, was incredibly generous with his time and support of our collective mission to bring Phillip joy.

It was incredible to watch so many different facets of our community rally together and link individuals and causes to strengthen our little town. Phillip was tucked back into his bed with a smile from ear to ear, a new ACA Generals shirt on and an MVP football hugged to his chest. My heart is encouraged. Let your heart be encouraged. Kindness can go a long way into putting life into someone’s final days. After all, it’s always giving season.

Editor’s Note: Ashley Brasington, LMSW, is Director of Social Services and Activities at Henry County Health & Rehabilitation.

  Abbeville Christian Academy football coach Ashley Carlisle presents a football signed by the players to Phillip Rayburn.

Football decorations adorn Phillip Rayburn’s room at Henry County Health & Rehab.