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