Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Dear Uncle Phil

My uncle Phil died on January 2, two days after he turned 67.  Tuesday was his funeral.  I was very close to my uncle.  He lives just a couple of miles away.  I lived with my aunt and uncle for a couple of years after I graduated from college when I first began teaching.

There was a viewing Monday night and a viewing Tuesday morning.   So many people came to pay their respects and show their love and support for my aunt.

The funeral was beautiful.  My sister played the piano.  My mom said the family prayer.  My uncle David gave the opening prayer.   Then their former home teacher and friend, Perry Gillette spoke.  He spoke about Phil and Elaine and about the good man that Phil was.  He spoke about the gospel of Jesus Christ and read two beautiful scriptures about what happens when we die, Alma 40:11-13 and D&C 137:9.  My uncle was baptized when he was 8, but no one in his family was really very active.  He has never been active.  But he was a good man, and he has made a lot of changes for the better in the 25 years since he and my aunt married.  Brother Gillette did a good job of providing peace and explaining the plan of salvation.  He then spoke directly to Elaine and counseled her to remain close to God, to pray, attend the temple, attend church, and rely on her Father in Heaven.  He promised that Phil would be nearby, watching over her and told her how much Phil loved her.  Because many of those in attendance were not members of the church, I think he did a wonderful job of bearing testimony and explaining what happens after death.

My cousins Tamara, Janiel, Emily, Teresa and  cousin in law Jared did a beautiful musical number of Our Savior's Love.

Then I spoke.  More on that in a minute.

Then their Bishop spoke.  He read a beautiful quote from Elder Scott about how the dead know us better than we know them and how they are near us and aiding us from the other side.  He bore testimony that God lives and that we will see our loved ones again.  We sang "God Be With Us Till We Meet Again" and his daughter in law, Michelle, gave the closing prayer.  Then we had a graveside service.  I will write about that tomorrow.

Elaine asked me to speak about my memories of Phil, particularly his sense of humor.
Here is some of what I shared.

Phil and Elaine enjoyed traveling and taking trips together.   I had the opportunity to travel with them several times.   After my freshman year of college,  we went to Yellowstone together.   At that point in my life, I had only traveled to Arizona, Utah and California.  We all got a kick out of the fact that in one day, we doubled the number of states I had been to...driving through Idaho and then a tiny corner of Wyoming and Montana.  (I am much more well traveled now...having been to 11 other countries and at least 15 states.).  I also had the chance to go to St. George with them a couple of  times.  They loved to go to St. George and see the plays at Tuahacahn each summer.  In fact, in September we decided that next summer our family, Phil and Elaine, my mom and stepdad would all meet in St. George together and see a play and then visit Zion's or Bryce Canyon.   My family may still make the trip, but it won't be the same.

Phil loves his grand kids.  Phil would often tell his grandson Justin that if he'd do this to that, then he'd get "Grandson of the Year Award".  One day, Justin pointed out that he didn't actually get anything for the award.  When Phil said he would get grandson of the year award, Justin replied, "Give it to Tyler."  (Tyler is his cousin that is about his age.). Phil got a real kick out of that and loved to tell people that story.

Phil loved to play cards and games.  He often got together with their dear friends Marv and Nita, Val and Kathy, and Jim and Linda to play games.  We used to play Phase 10 a lot.   That game really aggravates me.  I always seem to get stuck on about phase 5 or 6 for about 6 turns.  Both Phil and Alfredo love to play Phase 10 and find it humorous to see me get so aggravated by a game.

In the past year, I have been so busy with my job, my family, and my calling that I didn't go over to visit as often as I would have liked.  Everytime I would go visit, Phil would tease me, "You never write... you never call."

Phil always read the obituaries. He often joked that he was checking to make sure he wasn't dead yet.  He'd always act relieved that he wasn't there.  But he often found someone he knew...someone he'd worked with or delivered the mail to.  He'd go to the funeral or viewing or send a note to the family.

Phil would joke that we'd all need to wear a hard hat if he was going to church because the roof may cave in.  Yet despite his jokes, he has been at every important event in my wedding reception, my children's blessings and baptisms, even Primary programs and a couple of violin concerts.  He recently went to church to attend his grandson Tyler's mission farewell.  Phil was so pleased that Tyler chose to serve a mission.

Phil and Elaine help keep the family close...both sides of the family...his and hers.   They would invite everyone to their house on holidays and birthdays. 

I asked my children what they loved most or what they remembered most about Phil.   They said that he always made them laugh. He played games with them.  Even when he was first hospitalized, he tried to make them laugh and tried to help them feel better.

I didn't mention this in my talk, but one of the first dates Alfredo and I ever went on was at their house.  I invited a  couple of my college roommates to come with dates and we all made gingerbread houses. 

We love Phil so very much, and we miss him already.

At the end I bore my testimony that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will see Phil again.  We can be reunited with those we love and we can be eternal families.  Jesus Christ lives and He loves us.  He is aware of our pain, and He can carry our burdens for us.  I know I will see Phil again.  I am so thankful for that knowledge.