[Jesus speaks to his disciples:] I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. (John 14:18)
We lost a beautiful friend this week, a dear friend to many, including me. She was a respected Elder, and a deeply dedicated and committed priest of the church, and, most of all, a faithful disciple of her brother and ours, the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Canon Dr. Phyllis Keeper, daughter, sibling, woman, wife, mother, grandmother, Elder, priest, friend to multitudes, child of the Creator, and beloved sister in Christ, died on Thursday afternoon, the 22nd of May in the Year of Our Lord 2014. Phyllis is dead. Long live Phyllis! Her baptismal covenant is fulfilled, she is whole and alive in Christ forever, whose love sustained her through all her life.
A wake will be held Tuesday evening, the 27th of May, at Neil Bardal Funeral Centre, 3030 Notre Dame Avenue, Winnipeg, on the south side of Brookside Cemetery.
Her funeral service will be held here at St. John’s Cathedral on Wednesday, 28 May, at 11 a.m. There will be a light lunch served afterward in the John West Hall, and all are welcome. Interment at Brookside will follow.
I was privileged, indeed honoured, to know her for a short time. I really met and got to know her at all just three years ago, at my first Anglican Clergy Study Days, and, as it happened, the last one she would attend. That’s where the above photo was taken.
It was my joy in the years since to work with her closely on several things, which often included giving her rides here and there. That was a special time for me, as we were able to talk together, and she shared wonderfully with me of her life and faith. In meetings she didn’t usually say a great deal, but when she spoke everyone listened, carefully.
Many will miss her. My own heart is heavy, but I rejoice that her suffering here is done, that her life is eternally new in her Lord Jesus, whom she loved so much, knowing of his great love for her and for all.
Now we pray especially for Joe, her cherished husband of 55 years, her children, their children, her whole family, all of whom she loved, and for all the families she cared so deeply about and for and journeyed with, for all who loved her, for an abundance of friends.
She understood that God is love. She had cause to be bitter and angry, if anyone did, but she never surrendered to the orphanhood, the dark loneliness, of bitterness and anger. She was not perfect, of course, and was the first to admit that, but she was also very modest, very humble, soft-spoken, a beautiful person, a beautiful spirit. In the community of the Diocese we will miss her. In the Anglican Church of Canada we will miss her. Her family will miss her. I will certainly miss my older sister in Christ, my friend Phyllis Keeper. She was a beautiful person.
Yes, we mourn, as we must, to do her honour, to honour our love for her, and her love for all. But we do not grieve as they grieve who have no hope. Even at the grave we celebrate her faith in a loving Creator, whose faithfulness is beyond our wildest imaginings, and we give thanks for her lifelong trust in Jesus her elder brother, Our Saviour and Lord in whom she trusted through every circumstance of life and into death. She knew she was not an orphan; she knew she belonged, that she was loved, and she shared that love with every fibre of her being.
We’ll miss you, Phyllis. But for your life we say,
Thanks be to God!