Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pressing in to the pain

Phil, the consumate butcherYesterday, Linda and I helped bury a friend. Phil Roe died earlier in the week when the Service Fuel Company truck he was driving rolled on the Richardson Highway near Meiers Lake.

We drove to Kenny Lake Saturday morning and arrived before the Celebration of Life began. The Kenny Lake community was hit hard by this death, and turned out en masse. Richard Irwin (our pastor at Anchorage City Church, and a personal friend of Phil's) told us that a number of the businesses in the area closed down so people could be at this meeting. There were perhaps 400 people gathered at the Kenny Lake School gym.

Kenny Lake Community Church and others did an outstanding job of helping the family through this and preparing for these ceremonies. We heard that on Friday night, there was two hours of testimonies about Phil at the "viewing" that had been arranged in his honor.

Over my 55 years I have been to few funerals. That will change as I age; it happens to us all. At this funeral, I came to understand that I needed to "press into the pain." It hurts to lose Phil and it really hurts to see his family's pain. But this is very human, and I am less than God designed me to be if I draw away at this time; both for myself and for them. So, I let myself weep. I let myself hug his family with tenderness.

Linda reading to Felicity and Elon, the two youngest of six brothers and sisters in Phil and Linda's familyAt the grave, we who were Phil's friends had the opportunity to spade dirt onto his coffin. Dozens of men and women came forward and whispered or spoke "good bye" or, as I did "see you later, Phil."

If there is one consolation to Phil's loss, it is that this separation from his family, and from us, his friends, is not eternal. None of us, not Phil, not me, no one is good enough to earn eternity with the Creator of the universe, but it was his gift to all who would truly believe in Jesus, the Christ. There were many tears on Saturday, but Phil's family knows, and we know, that this is not the end.

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