Today I said goodbye to a friend of nearly twenty-three years. When you’ve known someone for twenty-three years, it’s not uncommon to see them at their good points of life, tough points of life and their high points of life. It’s also not uncommon to really get to know the person and sometimes to forget that person has other associates, friends, and family. Today, I said goodbye to one such friend, Rodney Phillips.
I’m not going to try to recap all of Rodney’s life because there isn’t enough time to do that. I will say that he has touched many people. Rodney’s reach was more than apparent at his family visitation when I saw page after page of signatures in the visitation book. It was even more evident as I stood just outside the chapel where standing room only could be found for his funeral today. Rodney had a far reach in life, but rather than recap all of that, the only things I can recap about Rodney is what I directly know about him. Rodney was a son, a husband, a father, a Christian, a hunter, a fisherman, a mason, and he is my friend. Rodney lived the life of a Christian man and a mason until his last day on this earth. So, rather than focus on his birth, experience, and death, I’d like to share with you a couple of stories that sum up who Rodney was and in fact who he still is.
Rodney was a Christian. Rodney not only believed entirely in Christ, but he also had no shame or fear of speaking about God. While speaking is excellent, actions are, and Rodney knew this. Several times, I saw Rodney act in a Christian manner. Recently when some disagreements broke out over a situation we were both involved in, I turned to Rodney because I knew he would have a calming answer. Not to be underestimated, Rodney had the best solution of all. He said of the situation, “Well, all I know is we just need to forgive and let bygones be bygones. We just need to all get along.” He did not preach it; he stated it. That is the type of Christian Rodney is, he wants to forgive, move on, and continue in harmony. While that situation is not yet resolved, I certainly hope those who heard his words, or perhaps those who are reading them now, will remember that Rodney wanted nothing more than peace and harmony and a forgiving atmosphere. I think we can do that, if not for ourselves, then for Rodney.
Rodney is a friend, and real friends are hard to find. Rodney is not only a friend, but he is also a true friend. Rodney was the type of guy that met no strangers and helped anyone at any time. Several years ago I was traveling back from Dallas pulling a trailer when my vehicle broke down. I called “friend” after friend and received no help. I had answers like “I’m already in for the night,” or “I’ve been drinking,” or “I can not come that far right now,” etc. As I went down my list of numbers, I reached Rodney’s.
When I was about to give up, I called Rodney’s number. His response was simple; he said, “I’m on my way. We’ll pull the trailer back first, and then we’ll get my trailer and get your vehicle.” When Rodney arrived, I started to hook up the trailer, and I noticed he was watching and doing little to help hook it up. In fact, Rodney was directing me, something I learned he is very good at doing. He seemed tired, and I assumed that he had just woke up and was maybe still sleepy. When I said, “Rodney, are you okay,” his response shocked me. Rodney said, “Yeah, man, I’m fine. I just had surgery last week, and I’m not supposed to lift anything or do anything stressful. So I’m a little tired.”
As we talked, it turned out this was no minor surgery; in fact, it was major surgery. I was humbled and surprised by Rodney’s actions. Out of all the people I called for help, Rodney, who had just had major surgery a week before, was the only one to come to help me. We hauled the trailer back, picked up his trailer, and pulled the vehicle back. Rodney reluctantly allowed me to put gas in his truck and refused to take any money for helping. Even when Rodney was tired and had more than a good excuse not to help, he never complained and came to help a friend in need. That is what true friendship is and will always be in my mind.
I never got the opportunity to repay Rodney for his brotherly love, his Christian attitude, and his friendship. Through the years, we worked on many projects together and shared many laughs. I always reminded him of the time he came to help me when nobody else could or would, and I always told him, no matter where I was in life, he could still call me from anywhere, and I’d help. When I would say this to Rodney, he would laugh and say, “I know you’d do the same for me.” Well, Rodney, I never got the chance. You’ve gone home to Heaven now. Someday when I get there, I’m going to ask God why he needed you home when you had touched so many lives here on earth. I’m going to ask God why I couldn’t have kept my friend, and the friend to many others, for a little longer here on earth. I know God will have his reasons, and I know they will be good ones. So, in the meantime, Rodney go fishing with those who have gone before you, say hello to your dad for me, do some hunting, and enjoy Heaven. Oh, and if you decide to send a message this way, I want to know how the steaks taste in Heaven and if you’re cooking them.