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Lutzie 43
June 29, 2024

Categories: Philip Lutzenkirchen

A Decade of Carrying the Mission of #43 – Brian Penter

Thank you to our Lutzie 43 Foundation NextGen Board Member and childhood friend of Philip’s, Brian Penter, for authoring this blog post in memory of Philip Lutzenkirchen as we reflect on the ten year anniversary of his passing.

Ten years. It sounds like a long time, but it doesn’t feel like it. I graduated from high school 16 years ago now (gasp!) and that feels like it was just yesterday (my most recurring dream is still that I forgot my shoes for a HS basketball game). On the other hand, ten years is a long time. A decade ago, I hadn’t even met my wife and being a father of two seemed like a lifetime away.

June is a month that signifies ten years since the worst day of many of our lives, when we lost our friend, son, and brother when Philip tragically left us on that terrible morning of June 29, 2014.

From Left to Right: Brad Penter, Philip Lutzenkirchen, and Brian Penter

The pain has subsided some over the years, and it’s been true, at least for me, that time helps heal. I hated hearing people tell me that back then, that time will somehow make things better. I didn’t want it to. I didn’t want the memories of Philip to fade or to somehow become numb to it because some years had passed.

The passing of time has helped though. I still think of Philip frequently. He was like my fourth younger brother. When I think back of memories from my childhood, he’s in most of them – spending most summer days at the Creekside Oaks pool, coordinating ridiculous Halloween costumes, selling junk out of a wagon to our neighbors, hundreds of basketball games together, and many more. The thing I appreciated most about our friendship was that we stayed close as we got older through high school, college and eventually even being roommates in Montgomery in the final phase of his life. I’d like to think we’d still be as close if he was still here today.

It still makes me sad that he’s not. I wish he met my wife and kids. I would’ve loved to see him as “Uncle Phil” to his sister’s kids. I would’ve loved to see him as a dad, because I know he would’ve been great at it. I would’ve loved to see our kids get to know each other and grow up together like we did, with us becoming the weird old guys that our dads were to us.

It’s not fair that he’s missed out on so much living, but as we all know, life isn’t fair. I recently read a book about longevity, and it talked about how our society puts a huge emphasis on the length of life but not necessarily the quality of life. In other words, what’s the point of living to 100 if those years weren’t well spent or if you were miserable for the last 20? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that. I want my life to be measured in quality, not quantity.

Although the length of Philip’s life wasn’t very long, the quality of it was quite high. Philip got to experience some things that most of us could only dream about. He put others first and had a massive impact on many other lives. While I’m sure he’d regret how his life ended, I don’t think he’d have a lot of regrets about how he lived his life. As his final Twitter bio stated, “a life is not important except for the impact it has on others.” He certainly had a big impact on me and many others.

The remarkable thing is the impact that Philip’s life has continued to have in the ten years since he’s left this Earth. Amazing things can spring out of tragedy and that’s been the case with Philip’s death, as it gave birth to the Lutzie 43 Foundation. Now in its tenth year (most nonprofits fail within their first few years), the foundation has done some incredible work. Philip’s dad, Mike, has spoken to tens of thousands of teenagers and adults around the country about living a quality life and avoiding the perils of distracted, impaired and unsafe driving. The foundation has partnered with departments of transportation to promote driver safety and awareness to thousands of drivers. They’ve developed the “43 Lessons to Legacy” curriculum that has been used by coaches and teachers all around the country. Almost half a million dollars of scholarship funds have been awarded to help put quality students through college. Adapted PE students in Cobb County get their own fun and unique field days at multiple schools every year.

Selfishly, I would trade all the good work the foundation’s done in the last decade to bring my friend back. But that’s not how life works. We must all do the most with the gifts God gives each of us in the short time we have. For some, that may be two decades. For others, it may be ten. I hope when it’s time for my number to get called that I’ll get a “job well done” and pat on the back from the big guy upstairs like I’m sure my friend Philip did.  

If you haven’t kept up with the foundation and all the amazing work that’s been done in the last ten years, I’d encourage you to visit lutzie43.org, sign up for the newsletter and follow along on social media. If you want to help contribute to that great work, sign up to run in our 10th annual Road Race upcoming on August 3. Even if you’re not in Marietta, you can participate with us virtually. The foundation would not still be going this strong without all the support from people all over the country. Thank you for helping us keep Philip’s legacy alive for ten years with many more to come.

God Bless,