Phil is a friend of ours along with his devoted, loving wife, Kelly. We have known them for some time now. We lost track of them for awhile when they moved, but by and by they moved back, not far away where Phil grew up. Phil and Kelly are the kind of people who would give you the shirt off their backs if they could (and even if they really could not).
I especially remember the times Phil and I would get together for coffee and chat. We would talk about faith and everyday things as well. Phil would tell me that he always enjoyed it immensely, that it was a highlight for him. Well that was Phil in part I think, he was gracious. But I also think somehow the Lord was at work in our fellowship to draw us both nearer to him. I saw the times as meeting with a good friend and as very ordinary as far as what faith I shared. That reminds me how God can use the ordinary, even the broken, just as the Lord used the five loaves and two small fishes to feed a multitude.
Phil was diagnosed with cancer, which was held at bay for some time, but finally did its destructive work.
Deb and I bought the film Ragamuffin, which gives one angle of Rich Mullins’ life. I could identify well with that film myself in some ways, and Deb in her own way as well. It occurred to me that Phil and Kelly might identify with it also, and that we needed to get together with them anyhow. So we bought them a copy. And they did.
Soon afterwards the cancer was diagnosed as having spread with a limited time to live. Phil committed himself to fight through and did so to the end. He wanted to experience as much of life as possible, and in the end he was able to fulfill something of all his last wishes except the very last.
For a time, I called him up most every day, usually in the evening. We would chat a bit, I might read him some scripture, and pray. One time he prayed himself, a heartfelt prayer to God, at least mostly as I remember it about the needs of others. Even during his great need, Phil would be occupied with concern for others, especially for his wife, Kelly. Even for me.
I remember our last visit together. Phil could barely walk. At one point apparently for no reason he said, “Praise God.” It was a hard, trying time. The sad day has arrived, and yet it’s a happy day as well. Happy because we know he is at a place that is “better by far,” with Jesus. Sad because we’ll miss him.
I look forward to seeing him again, all well and active in doing whatever it is he will be about. Together with all of us in Jesus in the eternal life of the new creation in the kingdom to come.