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My Friend, Phyllis

The year was 1996, we were moving from Rural Minnesota to “City Life”.  I was a bit scared, excited, and nervous.  I was moving into a whole lot of change.  As I have said before, I don’t do change well.  I would be homeschooling and staying at home.  My years teaching AWANA and Sunday School, as well as Kids for Missions at the church I grew up in was over.  The first Sunday at our new church, Edinbrook Church, I met Phyllis Hedberg at the door, she was the Christian Education Director.  I said to Phyllis, “What do I need to do to volunteer here at church?” She smiled and said, “I have been praying for someone like you to come along.”

I started volunteering 2 months before we even moved into our new house and Phyllis was my mentor and very special friend.  She taught me about the difference in teaching and caring for children in a rural setting to a more urban setting.  She introduced me to resources, people, and training.  But the biggest thing she did was be my friend.  We met every week for 17 years, there were of course, times that we missed because of vacations, work, appointments.  But our first appointment on our calendars was Coffee on Thursday mornings.  It didn’t matter where we met, or what time it was as long as both of us were there.  We had our rituals at different places and we would each review our past week, things that were coming up the coming week, and our prayer requests.  We also did many other things together, but this was our MUST.  Phyllis was a big part of our children’s lives even if they didn’t realize it.  She prayed for them every day, I prayed for Phyllis’ children and grandchildren, her and Roger as well every day.

Roger, her husband was also a very special friend and I absolutely loved to just sit and talk and after a while I think Roger came to think of me as another “daughter”.  When he passed away eight years ago it was after  prolonged challenges and Phyllis was just plain tired and at a loss for a while.  She loved her library team at church, her children, grandchildren, and being creative, her life was full, but she no longer had “Rog” to care for.

When Phyllis had a mastectomy, and had to stay home for quite a while we decided we were going to do a “project”.  Being a pastor’s wife most of her life, she was a frugal women.  In the 60’s when their children were young, they had their pictures on slides.  Her children had no pictures from their Christmas’s growing up and that bothered Phyllis.  She went through her slides and pulled out the slides I could make into pictures on my computer and print them.  As soon as she felt ready to start working on it after her surgery we started.  One or two days a week we would work on her Christmas presents to her children.  We had so much fun!  She told me all about so many things in her life as a young pastors wife, working at the Baptist General Conference, Girls Guild.  Each stage of her kids lives, and how grateful she was for the family God gave her.  She hand-wrote the details (she was a very detailed woman) and because we made them together and her children could have Christmas memories now she was so excited to give them to her children that Christmas.  I was thankful for the extra time and we loved being creative together.

We were very special friends of the heart.  She and I talked at least 2 hours a week and after we moved to Nigeria we emailed our prayer requests and how God was working in both of our lives, I still have her last email to me saved and will not be able to delete it ever I think.  Her last words of love and encouragement to me are treasured.  I don’t know if she got to read my last email to her or not as she had a new computer and was trying to learn how to use it. We did not get to have much of a visit last year when we were in the States and so were planning on one this year for a special time together.

Phyllis and I talked about dying a few times.  She did not want to be in pain or a bad testimony and also did not want to lose her mental capacity.  I am thankful that is not the case.  She had a stroke, hit her head on the bathroom floor triggering a brain injury and we are saying our goodbyes to a woman of God who taught me so much in the 20 short years we have known each other.

I know she has looked forward to meeting her Jesus, and I  know the words he will say to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.  I wonder if she will ask all the Bible Characters the questions she wondered about all of these years?  I will have to wait to find out.

Thank you Phyllis for showing me how to live out loud – love, grace, and joy in ALL circumstances.  I love you.

Until we meet again.

P.S. Phyllis met Jesus face to face the early morning of March 4, 2017

29 Responses to My Friend, Phyllis

  1. Tina, such a beautiful tribute. She lived here life well and showed all of us the joy of following Jesus. Her legacy lives on as you minister to women and children in Nigeria. That was her passion, women and children. I had the privilege of being a part of GMG, Girls Missionary Guild, the group Phyllis started when she worked for the Baptist General Conference. That group influenced my heart and life concerning missions. I will miss her.

    • Thank you Lynne, She did live her life well and showed us the joy of following Jesus! Thank you! She will be missed!

  2. Thanks for making me cry during my stats class. Love you Tina, and I miss you so much. Thanks for loving my grandma so well.
    <3 Kellie Jean

  3. I didn’t know Phyllis well, but we had a joyful relationship. Whenever I saw her, I would tell her she was a beautiful woman ( I truly meant it) and she would smile and brush it off but I believe she knew I saw Jesus in her so she didn’t totally dismiss me! Heaven will gain a lovely saint when she enters. Hugs to the Hedberg’s.

  4. Tina I’m so glad that God put Phyllis in your life, and you in hers. You’re loving words about her are a testimony of our Father’s good plan for us to be connected with one another. May the Lord comfort you in the loss of your dear friend and mentor.

    • Thank you, Naomi, That is so true. Dan and I like to use the thought that everyone should have a Barnabas, a Paul, and a Timothy in their lives, someone to mentor, someone to mentor you, and someone to walk beside you. xoxoxo

  5. This is beautiful Tina. Phyllis is such a special lady and has always been generous with her smiles and hugs. We love her dearly and we rejoice with her as she makes her journey to be with Jesus and “Rog” again!

  6. Tina: What a wonderful story of friendship, mentorship and love that grows between friends. I am so sorry for your loss. I know how much she meant to you as I have that relationship with an extraordinary friend too. You blessed her in the best way a friend can, you were there! Lots of love always.

  7. Thank you for the beautiful tribute to a truly beautiful woman. Like so many,I loved Phyllis. She was always loving and kind towards this woman who didn’t always feel welcomed. I’ll miss you Phyllis.

  8. What a beautiful tribute to our beautiful friend, Phyllis! I learned so much about her from your tribute. Thank you for that. I really don’t know her that well, but she and Roger used to sit behind me at church and she always spoke to me and gave me a wonderful hug! I got to looking forward to those hugs and so looked forward to seeing her. She sent me cards during my hospital stays. For someone that I knew so little about, I love her much! She and her family are in my prayers at this very difficult time!

    • Thank you, Joycelyn, she considered encouragement as HER ministry. She did that so well! I will miss her encouragement as well!

  9. This special lady Phyllis is in a better place! I am sorry for your loss my friend Tina. I know that you are hurting and wish that you could be back here to say goodbye to your special mentor. However, she would want you to be where you are and enriching the lives of the people that you are influencing every day. Showing them the love of God just with the things that you do. She taught you very well how to reach out and touch people. Bring another child to Christ in honor of Phyllis. She and our heavenly Father will be smiling from Heaven at that!

  10. Such a moving tribute to a beloved friend, l am so sorry to hear of your loss and heartache. You are well blessed to have known such a kindred soul as she was to have known you. Love to you and her family at this sad time xxxx

    • Thank you, Debbie, those that loved Phyllis will miss her on Earth, but we know the goodbye was more like “see you later”.

  11. Thank you Tina for this tribute to Phyllis. She will be missed by so many. She was such a special lady. Personally Sunday mornings will not be the same without my hug from Phyllis.

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