Last night around 11pm I received a phone call from a fellow catechist. He was calling with the horrible news that the husband of our RCIA Coordinator had been killed in a car accident that evening. On his way to a Reflections Meeting for Opus Dei, he had proceded properly through a green light on Highway 132. A big rig travelling at approximately 50 MPH blew through the corresponding red light and hit him. He died at the hospital.
Neil leaves a wife, five children and three grandchildren. He was preceeded in death by his own father, Neil Sr., who was welcomed into the Catholic Church shortly before he left this earth. Neil would never have claimed this (but I will for him) but it was his example to his father that made that man embrace the fullness of the Christian Faith.
We are, of course, in shock. We are all hurting and we are all stunned. We sometimes ask, in very small voices, why such a thing would happen though I will say that most of the people Neil had in his life are faithful Catholics. We might ask why for a minute, but none of us expect an answer because we really don't need one. We trust in Jesus, truly trust in Jesus and when this kind of horror happens in our lives we absorb the blows because we have an underlying belief that no matter what is going on Jesus has the whole thing covered.
This does not mean we are not grieving. This does not mean we aren't worried sick about his children and his grandchildren, that we have forgotten for one minute that there are two little boys still at home and one in college out of state and two young mothers who have lost their first loves....we have not forgotten nor do we minimize the fear and anguish we know his wife of almost 30 years feels right now.
When I give my pitch for my 12 step program and tell the story of finding my husband's body in the bottom of the swimming pool, I make it very clear that what I went through was a tragedy. Yes, it happened 25 years ago but it was still a tragedy and I still miss my husband. What I try to emphasize, however, is that my reaction to that tragedy was NOT normal, that is was over-the-top and self destructive and that is NOT how my Creator intends His beautiful child to react to tragedy.
My Creator expects me to turn to HIM, to run to Him as fast as I can and fling myself into His arms. My Creator expects me to cry out, "O Father I am in pain! Help me!". My Creator expects me to depend and lean upon Him in times like these.
I did not chose to do that back then. I chose to do so now because my sobriety, my sanity and my life depend upon my dependence upon my God.
Stacy, Neil's beautiful and loving wife, will turn to Our Lord because that's what she knows to do. However, the next few months are going to be horribly hard and she is going to need us to be there for her, one day at a time.
I am so very grateful to have had the privilge of knowing Neil Phillips, Jr. I am grateful that God allowed me to work with him, to learn with him and to help teach the Faith with him. I am so grateful that God has given me the opportunity to know a man who daughters declared to the world that they were looking for men 'just like Dad' in order to marry. I am so grateful, and I am so very sad.
Please keep the family in prayer.