In Loving Memory of
DANIEL MORRIS PHILLIPS
April 9, 1958 - December 12, 2005
Devoted Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Friend, Professional, Peacemaker
Why does God take the good ones? I wish I knew. I do know that we lose many good ones--great ones. One of these great ones was my friend Danny Phillips, who died on December 12, 2005.
After several years of falling health, Danny survived in his last months of life with weekly dialysis. A kidney transplant seemed the only answer. Danny’s brother Tim was a match and, much to his credit, he agreed to donate a kidney to Danny.
Danny researched to get the best hospital for kidney transplants for himself and his family and found the University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital recommended as one of the best in the nation for kidney transplants. Arrangements were made, and after some frustrating delays because of Danny’s physical condition, Danny, Tim, and family members went to Birmingham for the surgeries.
The surgeries were textbook perfect. Tim’s recovery proceeded on schedule, and Danny’s recovery was going better than expected. Two weeks after the surgery the doctors even let Danny come home for a weekend visit with his family. I had kept close touch and, talking with Danny in Birmingham before complications started, he told me that he had not felt as good in years. I could tell in his voice that he was so happy. We talked about things we were going to do when he got home. It was a great visit! Little did I know that it would be my last time to talk with Danny. Then things took a bad turn.
The final crisis began on December 8. When Danny woke up that Thursday morning, he was in severe pain. Because he had been doing so well, he and Susan, his wife and best friend, were in Birmingham without family or
close friends. After a terrible day of trying to find out what was wrong, Danny went into arrest. After about ten minutes they brought him back. At that time, Susan called for help, and family and close friends rushed to Birmingham. Not knowing just what was going on, we thought this episode might be just a setback--maybe Danny would not be coming home for Christmas as he had hoped. When we arrived in Birmingham, news was slow in coming and was confusing. Understanding little about what was happening, we hoped for the best but deep down we were much concerned. What had gone wrong? What was needed to get Danny well?
Surgery was called for and was pushed forward when Danny’s condition worsened. Things did not go well in surgery or afterward; the doctors would fix one thing and two others would go wrong. We had help from family members and friends who were nurses and who explained in terms we could understand what the doctors were doing and saying. From Friday on, the hospital staff realized the gravity of Danny’s condition and did all they could. It was not enough; too much damage had been done.
Family and friends stood by. We hurt, laughed, cried, prayed, and cried some more, and were extremely hopeful. Being surrounded by family and friends at a time like this is so important. Being with people you love who would do anything for you helps; you know that if the tables were turned they would be there for you. Susan graciously let family and friends spend time with Danny. Many people would have not allowed family members and all of Danny’s close friends to be as involved as Susan did, While Danny was in the surgery intensive care unit, where visitation was limited to 30 minutes every few hours with only two or three visitors at a time, Susan stayed in the room with Danny, and other family members and close friends traded times going in and out. Near the end, the hospital staff graciously allowed us to be with Danny more than the scheduled times. We tried to stay positive as long as possible, but the time came to say “Goodbye.” The time I spent with Danny helped prepare me for what was ahead. It was time for finding closure and peace. I don’t know how I would have been able to get through this time without the opportunity to talk with Danny. I don’t know how I was able to talk with him, say “Goodbye,” and tell him it was okay. The hardest thing in the world is letting someone you love go to the Lord.
At 10:51 a.m., December 12, 2005, Danny, a devoted husband, father, son, brother, friend, professional, and peacemaker went to be with the Lord. We were devastated by the loss. As we shared the uncertainty and then the loss, we learned the importance of being surrounded by loving family and friends. Also we learned the importance of letting the people that we love know that we love them. If we wait, we may not get the chance.
None of us knew going to Birmingham how things were going to turn out. It was four of the worst days of my life. But I am so thankful to have had the opportunity for those four days. Hopefully our lives will be more complete because of those few days, and we can all find some peace to help us with Danny’s death.
In the days since Danny’s death Beth and I have found the grief to be all consuming. We loved Danny so much. Danny had many other friends who are struggling through these days also.
Danny fought a good fight with dignity even before his arrest, asking politely about more medication for his pain. Danny was a Christian and I do not doubt where he is today. Maybe God takes the good ones because he doesn’t want to be surrounded by bad ones. Because Danny, along with others of our family and friends are in heaven, I want more than ever to someday be there.
Family visitation at the funeral home lasted long past the scheduled time until 11:30 p.m. Danny would have been concerned about the people who came and waited so long to speak to his family. He didn’t know he had that many friends. Danny’s funeral was what we refer to as a “good funeral". It celebrated his life. I believe every aspect of the service was what Danny would have wanted from the words spoken, the scripture read, the music played, to the bagpiper walking over the hill at the cemetery playing “Amazing Grace.” Because Danny was a golfer and bagpipes are often played at golf courses to celebrate another day of golf and to close that day of golf, the bagpipes seemed especially appropriate.
The grief which consumed us has not ended. I miss Danny’s laugh (and what a laugh it was), his sense of humor, his leadership, his humility, his southern grace, his true love for his three girls and the rest of his family, his politeness, his gentleness, his listening ability, and his friendship.
One of my favorite movies is “Dances with Wolves.” It ends with the Indian, Wind-in-His-Hair, sitting atop his horse on top of a high peak, hollering to his friend Dances-with-Wolves, “I am Wind-in-His-Hair, do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?” Many days now I would like to holler the same thing to Danny.
Our community will miss Danny’s involvement in many endeavors. Most of all he will be missed by his family and many friends. Susan, Margaret Goodwyn, Mary August, Jeanette, Jesse, Tim, Andy, other family members, and friends, God bless us all!
FROM BETH AND BOB
Through the 21 years since we began Seasons we have refrained from eulogizing--with a few exceptions: Don’s sister Mildred Burttschell, stepmother/grandmother “Miss Emma” Waller, Patsy’s cousin Juanita Crowson, Patsy’s friend Jerri Oliphant, Bob’s grandmother Sally Kate “Mama Sally” Rosson, and household employee/friend Edna McGhee. Our newsletters are dedicated to all those we serve [We did not provide funeral services for all of those very special people], and we hesitate to single out any individual. To us, each death is important; each funeral is special. Each of us is God’s child. Each person has his/her own history and loved ones, and we are not entitled to be judgemental. Often, because of relationships, age, or circumstances, we are especially touched, but we try to maintain a professional rather than an emotional outlook, with respect and compassion for every family we serve.
In this newsletter we have made another exception. Danny Phillips was so special to us that we have taken this personal privilege. Our experience of being with Danny as he faced death and with his family and close friends as we all hoped and prayed for his survival, mourned his death, memorialized him, and laid him to rest was more moving to us than we could have imagined. Along with his family and his many friends we were heartbroken, and we still hurt. Those of you who have dealt with the death of one close to you know what I mean. Though we work every day with the bereaved, we saw things from a different perspective this time, and we have a renewed sense of how other families and friends feel. Our awareness of personal suffering was deepened. We learned more about love, friendship, and sharing the grief. We have resolved to try even harder to be dedicated to compassionate and helpful service to each family that we serve. I believe we will be better funeral directors because of this.
We feel privileged that for 27 years families have trusted Waller Funeral Home to help them with the funerals of their loved ones. That trust is so special to us. We have made great friendships with many of you just because of a funeral. Thank you for your friendship and patronage through the years.
A BOOK SUGGESTION
Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart: How to Relate to Those Who Are Suffering
by Kenneth C. Haugk, Ph.D.
This book discusses the problem each of us faces from time of knowing what to say and what to do to help people hurting from one of a long list of causes: death of a loved one, physical disability, job loss, caregiver burnout, infertility, birth of a special needs child, miscarriage, divorce, natural disaster, trouble with the law, hospitalization, life-threatening illness, parenting struggles, spiritual crisis, unwanted pregnancy, depression, empty nest.
The author, Dr. Kenneth C. Haugk, a pastor, clinical psychologist, and author of many books, is the founder and Executive Director of Stephen Ministries in St. Louis, Missouri, which is the publisher of this book. During his wife’s 41-month struggle with ovarian cancer leading to her death, Dr. Haugk and his wife were reminded again and again that relating to those who are suffering is a challenge. People were both helpful and hurtful as they related to his wife and him during this crisis.
In order to help alleviate some of the pain by heading off the hurtful and promoting the helpful, Dr. Haugk assembled a research team to investigate through individual interviews, focus groups, and surveys the many facets of relating to those who are suffering. A total of 4,252 individuals participated in this research by sharing their very personal experiences with pain and suffering. The following major challenges were reported, in order of frequency:
1. Knowing what to say to a hurting person
2. Understanding, empathizing with, or validating someone’s struggles
3. Talking too much, listening too little
4. Having a “fix-it” mentality
5. Feeling discomfort in the face of someone’s pain
6. Focusing on self rather than the hurting person
7. Wanting people to “get over it”
8. Avoiding painful subjects
9. Avoiding hurting persons
10. Giving advice, being too directive
11. Minimizing the significance of the pain or suffering
12. Being judgmental
13. Wanting to hear only the positive
14. Responding with cliches, platitudes, or pat phrases
15. Identifying too closely with the other’s pain
16. Feeling helpless
17. Handling the anger of those who are suffering
18. Knowing what would be intrusive or welcomed
19. Getting people to open up
According to Dr. Haugk, the items on this list are interrelated and as you overcome one area of challenge, other areas will be positively affected.
The first four chapters of this book are devoted to understanding suffering including a consideration of the biblical basis, the need for assistance, the people involved, and the resources available. The remaining chapters give specific suggestions about what is helpful and what is detrimental in helping suffering people. Common mistakes in trying to help are discussed. When is relating your own personal experience helpful? Should you write or telephone? Is a store-bought card okay? Etc.
Phrases to avoid include: “I know how you feel,” “It’s for the best,” “Keep a stiff upperlip,” “At least “ “You should/shouldn’t “ “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” “It’s God’s will.”
Trying to cheer people up may sound like a good thing, but more often than not it makes people who are hurting feel even worse. They may feel obligated to appear cheerful but the cheerful appearance is neither genuine nor lasting.
Practical help can be valuable in times of suffering. Participants listed the most helpful offers of help they received in this order: (1) providing or preparing meals, (2) caring for children, (3) doing household chores, (4) providing transportation, (5) shopping or running errands, (6) caring for pets and other animals, (7) making phone calls, (8) staying with an ill family member so the primary caregiver can attend to other business.
Dr. Haugk stresses the importance of following up. People are often surrounded by others wanting to help during the initial time of crisis but not many people stick around to help in the long run. Dr. Haugk says, “Following up provides the support a hurting person needs, plus it acknowledges the fact that suffering can last a long time.”
“Simple and profound acts of genuine concern and compassion make a great difference in the lives of those who are suffering and in the lives of those who care for them.” If you have ever been puzzled about what to do or what to say to someone who is hurting, this book offers many helpful suggestions.
This book is available in some Christian bookstores or more information can be obtained by contacting Stephen Ministries, 2045 Innerbelt Business Center Drive, St. Louis, MO 63114-5765
A LOOK AT MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT GRIEF
“When it comes to bereavement, there is a wide variety of misconceptions that serve only to hinder and handicap people dealing with bereavement,” says Victor M. Parachin, in beginning his discussion of some of the myths and facts about grief in the January 2006 issue of The Director, official publication of the National Funeral Directors Association. We are reprinting with permission portions of this article.
Myth: Real men don’t cry.
Fact: After his beloved son died in a climbing accident, Nicholas Wolterstorff found himself in tears and embarrassed by his display of emotion. Later, in his book, Lament For a Son, Wolterstorff reflected on his experience with grieving and wrote: “Our culture says men must be strong and that the strength of a man in sorrow is to be seen in his tearless face. Tears are for women. Tears are signs of weakness and women are permitted to be weak. But must we always mask our suffering? I mean, may we not sometimes allow people to see and enter it? May men not do this?”
Of course, tears are not a sign of weakness. And, of course, tears are not for women only. Yet, the myth persists that real men do not cry, even if they experience the devastating loss of a child.
Myth: Funeral services are expensive and a waste of time.
Fact: Funeral services need not be expensive and they are extremely therapeutic. They create space for the expression of emotions and the receiving of support. In her book Grief, Death and Dying, clinical psychologist Therese Rando, Ph.D., cites the following benefits of having a funeral service:
-Funerals confirm and reinforce the reality of the death.
-Funerals facilitate the acknowledgment and expression of feelings over loss.
-Funerals offer survivors a tool for addressing their feelings.
-Funerals promote recollection about the deceased.
-Funerals aid mourners in beginning to accommodate the changed relationship between themselves and the deceased’s loved one.
-Funerals allow input from the community that, in turn, serves as a
living memorial and helps grievers develop an integrated image of the deceased.
Myth: After one year, the grieving process is pretty much over.
Fact: Very few people adjust to loss in one year. The majority take from three to five years and, for some, even longer.
Myth: Grief eases over time in a constantly decreasing way.
Fact: The grief recovery process is never a straight line. It is often a case of making progress and then regressing briefly. Some describe the process as “taking two steps forward and one step backward.”
Myth: All people grieve in the same way.
Fact: Grieving styles vary from person to person. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people are openly expressive about their pain while others prefer a more private approach, confiding in a few carefully chosen confidants. Many people cry; others do not. Some people feel the worst of grief in the first six months or so while others report a deepening of grief after the first year has passed.
Myth: Bereavement support groups do not help and are depressing.
Fact: Those who participate report just the opposite; that grief support groups are very helpful, and rather than depressing, they actually generate hope. Harold Ivan Smith, a leading authority on bereavement issues, says: “A support group is a healthy, safe place for you who are grieving to bring yourselves, your stories, your anger, and your bewilderment, and to know that it’s just likely that others will have been there and recognize in your story parts of their story. And it is possible that something in your story will encourage another griever in the group.’’
Myth: The sooner you get over a loss, the better off you are.
Fact: There is no quick fix for grief. It cannot be rushed and moves on its own timetable. Attempting to rush the process limits healing and learning.
Myth: Children need to be protected from death and grief.
Fact: It is impossible to “protect” children from this painful reality. Children need to receive two things, however: (1) age-appropriate answers to their questions; and (2) supportive adults to guide them through the grief
Myth: “This was God’s will.”
Fact: That type of statement is both confusing and angering to grievers because it conflicts with the belief that God is kind, loving, and compassionate. It is better never to make the statement, “This was God’s will.” A much more helpful response is simply to acknowledge that we do not know why tragedies take place.
Consider the experience of a woman whose husband died suddenly from a heart attack while they were on vacation. Upon returning home, she was greeted by her pastor. “Don’t talk to me about God,” she said. “I’m furious with Him.”
The pastor simply embraced the woman and held her, saying, “I don’t understand why this happened.”
Later she told friends: “By responding to me that way, I knew that I could trust my minister with my feelings. I felt he understood me.”
Myth: It is important to be strong and control your feelings.
Fact: Expressing feelings helps release grief. Being too rigid emotionally inhibits grief recovery.
Myth: You never get over grief; it is something to be permanently tolerated.
Fact: Every day, people recover from their losses. It does take time and work, but you can and must get through the grieving process. Rabbi Earl Grollman, a highly respected bereavement authority, says: “No matter how great your pain, there is hope and help for the future. As your sense of humor returns and you find yourself laughing, you’re feeling better. As you begin to make major decisions about your life, you’re getting better still. When you are able to take out the mementos of your beloved and smile through your tears at memories of happiness together, you’re much improved. And when you learn that no one can bring back your loved one, that it’s your job to pick up and go on living, then you’ll know you are truly growing and recovering yourself.”
Victor M. Parachin is an ordained minister, bereavement educator, and the author of 10 book, several of which deal with grief recovery issues. He also writes a monthly newsletter, “HOPE.” Our thanks to the author and to National Funeral Directors Association for permission for this reprint (which is a portion of a longer article).
We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from November 11, 2005 through February 6, 2006.
Mrs. Mabel Adams Stone / November 11, 2005
Mrs. Flora Ayles Sledge / November 11, 2005
Mrs. Fay McLarty Kisner / November 15, 2005
Mrs. Gene Alberstett Keye / November 16, 2005
Mrs. Sarah Martindale Wilson / November 17, 2005
Mr. Michael Eugene Upchurch / November 18, 2005
Miss Kayla Sue Mize / November 18, 2005
Robert Carlton Yancy / November 21, 2005
Mrs. Margaret Neidenbach Warren / November 22, 2005
Mr. Forest Eugene Tatum / November 30, 2005
Mr. James Floyd Piotrowski / December 3, 2005
Miss Justin Marie Groner / December 7, 2005
Mr. James Roselle Moore, Sr / December 7, 2005
Mr. Billy Mack Wardlaw / December 8, 2005
Zoe Lund Kreutz / December 9 2005
Mrs. Mary Deaton Brewer / December 9, 2005
Mr. Daniel Morris Phillips / December 12, 2005
Mrs. Ruth Johnston Cooper / December 17, 2005
Mrs. Marie Franks Pierce / December 20, 2005
Mrs. Ruth Huckaby Holmes / December 28, 2005
Miss Amy Louise Scott / January 1, 2006
Mrs. Mable Clair Robuck Crouch / January 4, 2006
Mrs. Helen Lucille Wilson / January 4, 2006
Mrs. Julie Ann Jones / January 5, 2006
Mrs. Beryl Jordan Morgan / January 12, 2006
Mrs. Daisy Cummings McDaniel / January 12, 2006
Sarah Elizabeth McClellan / January 16, 2006
Mrs. Toxie Lee Odum Culkin / January 22, 2006
Mrs. Audrey Shields Price / January 22, 2006
Mr. William Afton Davis / January 23, 2006
Ryan Randall Mize / January 26, 2006
Mr. Bruce E. Mize, Sr / January 27, 2006
Mr. Lowell Russell Hill / January 29, 2006
Mrs. Frances Lauderdale Pruitt / January 30, 2006
Mr. Danny Allan Condrey / January 30, 2006
Mr. Everett Joseph Barlow/ February 1, 2006
Mrs. Betty Ann Britt / February 2, 2006
Mrs. Camille Hardeman Guy / February 3, 2006
Mrs. Ann Kimzey Metts / February 6, 2006