There is a singular tree gracing my front yard called a Crepe Myrtle. In the summer it blooms with amazing pink flowers. Unfortunately, these flowers often bloom unevenly, one side full of color, the other side looking sad and empty. Eventually the sad side catches up and the entire tree is peppered with beautiful clusters of these incredible flowers.
Unfortunately, no sooner does it flaunt its colorful hues, the flowers fall and I’m left once again with a normal looking tree. Some Crepe Myrtle’s in the neighborhood are still vibrant, while my tree looks bland and mistreated. I must admit, sometimes I look enviously at the other trees and their long lasting bloom and wish I had them in my yard. I’m happy these neighbors have a great tree, I just wish my tree was too.
My friend Phil was a Crepe Myrtle. He bloomed personally, spiritually, and relationally later in life, and from the outside it may look like he was maturing unevenly, finding undeniable victory one moment and debilitating defeat the next. But the good eventually caught up and Phil found completeness and healing while dosing out a heavy helping of forgiveness. He finally understood his value in Father God. It was so freeing for him. He bloomed, was full of joy, and we celebrated. We frequently shared screenshots of the books we were reading and the revelations we received.
Much like my Crepe Myrtle, it didn’t last long enough. At least not for me, not for us who are still here. Sure, I could look enviously, perhaps jealously, at those who have battled with sickness and were healed, much like I look at my neighbor’s Crepe Myrtle, but that would be unfair to them and to the mercy of Father God.
What will I remember about Phil? He had a certain look when you when you outwitted him. He was always quick with a comeback, so to catch him speechless was priceless. I’ll remember that look. He loved joking with people, and he seemed to have inside jokes with everyone he knew.
I’ll remember how much he loved a good meal. He made the best smoked bacon. One Sunday after church he insisted on buying the most amazing steaks and cooking them for us, complete with sides. He was so generous.
He was a BBQ Connoisseur, perhaps a bit of a BBQ snob. When he first visited us in Charleston I hadn’t yet found a good BBQ joint. I made the mistake of taking him to a bad one, and he reminded me of it frequently. The second time he visited we had Lewis’ BBQ and he finally forgave me.
He was so trustworthy. He had a key to my house and I had a key to his. He was ALWAYS welcome, because to us, he was family. He would clean his pool just so my wife could bring our daughter over to play in the water during a hot Tucson day.
When I left Tucson, he was the last person in the house with me, hauling away bags of trash, helping to clean up. He had just worked another 13 hour day, but he still came. Phil always showed up.
He made me laugh. A lot. I heckled him, mocking his fondness for Captain America. He would, in turn, insist on wearing Captain America shirts to my home and texting me Captain America memes. If my Baltimore Ravens were losing, I was guaranteed to get lampooned by Phil. From anyone else, I may get irritated, but never from Phil. Of course, all I had to do was mention the Cowboys…
Phil was a hard worker. He cared so much about doing things right. This can be a hard trait to come by.
We were in Orlando at the same time a few weeks ago. I texted him to connect, but he was working long hours, as usual, and we weren’t able to make it happen. I texted that I saw his doppelgänger. His response was so Phil. “I’m a snowflake,” he responded. “There is only one of me.” How true that statement was, and probably why this is so hard.
One interesting trait of a Crepe Myrtle is how it sheds its bark. It occurs after the tree has reached full maturity. Phil’s passing, despite hundreds of people praying, fasting, and interceding for healing, is not God’s failure. It’s His grace. It doesn’t tell me Phil was not worth saving, it tells me Phil had completed his journey and there was nothing left for him to do but hear those satisfying words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…Let’s celebrate together!”
Phil was rooted, he grew, he bloomed, and he has now shed his bark, finally at peace with Father God, who he had learned to love so well.
Two things are certain. I’ll miss my friend, and I’ll never look at my Crepe Myrtle the same again.