I've had these words formulating in my mind for weeks since Philip's day of going home to Jesus, so I think I'll write them here.
Because of God's grace, we had the privilege of living in Madison, New Jersey for several years and attend church with Phillip and his beautiful family. It was a season of pain and joy and perseverance for Phillip. As an onlooker, I watched him struggle with who he was and how to live that out in a way that honored God. He was a gifted writer, a seminary graduate, a Christian whose waters ran deep....he had so much to offer. During that season, God chose to allow him lots of time to be at home with his family and to serve in his church.
He came to NJ to be with his dying father, moving his wife and five children from Texas. I always admired this selfless act of love and was inspired as I watched him and Ginger walk through the emotions of both of his parents dying within 2 weeks of each other. Every time I stopped by their home, Phillip was either landscaping the yard or remodeling part of the old home he inherited from his father. I wonder how much God was rearranging inside of Phillip as he worked tirelessly to improve his physical surroundings.
Our time in NJ was also a season of pain and joy and perseverance. In our five years there, our church experienced much spiritual turmoil. We had two pastors who quit under stressful circumstances, one whose wife died during his interim service to us, and as we were leaving, a new pastor was just beginning. Meanwhile, Mark (my husband) was on staff and doing all he could to manage all the transition and pain and chaos. He found himself struggling with who he was and what his calling was. Phillip proved to be a faithful friend to Mark. I know that Phillip's voice of courage drew Mark closer to Jesus. He also provided a few good belly laughs along the way. God sure did gift that man with a unique way of lifting others' spirits around him.
Not long after we moved to Wisconsin from NJ, God moved the Hillery's to VA to purchase and operate their own farm. I regret that I never got to see Phillip in this setting, but I imagine he was in his element. His home-going is bittersweet. It is painful for me to think of Ginger and Thomas and Patrick and Maggie and Rose and Nora on the farm without him, but I know God is surrounding them with people who love them and providing everything they need. I rejoice that our good friend, Phillip, is no longer in pain and is worshipping Jesus day and night, as we all long to one day do. I am grateful for the time on this earth that He allowed our paths to cross.