The Homecoming of My Daddy
By Douglas Winston Phillips
April 26, 2013
He was the most courageous and principled statesman of his generation, and a larger-than-life figure who inspired hundreds of thousands. But to me, he was my father — the daddy who loved me, motivated me, encouraged me, and showed me a universe of kindness. He was the man who put the Bible in my hand and told me to believe every word; the man who required that I do things “right,” the man who showed me the world, and the man who taught me the meaning of holy vision.
On April 20, the Lord Jesus Christ called my Daddy, Howard J. Phillips, into eternity at 3:50 p.m. (EDT). Now free from the reminder of the Adamic curse in two of its most wretched and dehumanizing manifestations (Alzheimer’s and FLD), Dad has no more need of his former earthly husk. His immortal soul is free. The cloud has been lifted and the shackles have been loosed. Once again, Dad has eyes to see and ears to hear, though for the present, they are of a spiritual nature as he awaits the resurrection of the body.
This week, there are many significant articles being written on the life of my father. From the New York Times, to the Washington Post, to various conservative and Christian news outlets, my father is rightly being remembered as the man who defined, for his generation, courageous, principled leadership in defense of biblical and constitutional priorities for civil government and public policy.
He is remembered as the only man to be twice elected Student Council President of Harvard, and as the Nixon appointee and unflappable Acting Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) who sought to shut down a radical, liberal government agency most responsible for advancing the cause of baby killing. He is remembered as one of the founders and intellects behind the Moral Majority and what has been described by detractors as “The Religious Right.” He is remembered as one of the most uncompromising and articulate warriors who tirelessly fought for the life of the unborn, as an opponent of Communism and Marxism in all of its forms, as one of the men behind the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and as a great defender of the national security interests of the United States.
Of course, Dad is also being remembered as a three-time candidate for President of the United States, and founder of the Conservative Caucus, the United States Taxpayer’s Alliance, and the Constitution Party, and one of the founders of the Council on National Policy. He is remembered as a bulldog in defense of the biblical family, and the man who could not be bought by compromising Republicans or threatened by liberals, and who treated all public policy-makers and politicians alike — regardless of party or personal background — as individuals who were accountable to the same objective standard.
How I Remember Dad
This is how many of you know my father. He was all of these things — unflappable, relentless, principled, and courageous. But to me, he was first a man who embodied a simple child-like faith in the sovereign God and His perfect revelation, the Holy Bible. He was the most humble, confident man I ever met. He thought little of himself, but much of the message upon which he dedicated his life. Dad was a man who modeled kindness and a generosity of spirit that I have not seen equaled. And Dad was a true father — the type you read about in the Bible. One who walked with me “in the way,” constantly discipling me, sharing his life and wisdom with me, and letting me always know — in word, deed, and physical affection — that he deeply loved me and believed in me.
Honoring Dad This Monday
This Monday, I will be joining my family as we honor our father and bury him. God willing, I will be publishing an article on the meaning of the life of Howard Phillips to be released at the time of my father’s memorial service and burial. It would mean a great deal to me if you would read it.
For now, I want to share my last personal moments with Dad.
The Bible has much to say about the final moments in a man’s life. This was my experience.
Before my father’s death, I was able to spend the better part of a full day pouring out my heart to him. I spent hours going year by year — from year one and almost to the present — thanking him for what he did for me in each year. It was amazing what God brought to my remembrance. But it reminded me of what an ungrateful wretch I am for not having remembered all my father had done sooner — for truly I could have gone on for weeks and not begun to touch even just the highlights of my father’s sacrificial life for me.
I gathered my children around the bed with Dad, and our last song to him was “Nearer My God to Thee.” I cannot describe to you how that experience affected me or what it meant to me deep, deep in my soul.
I made sure that each of my eight children had time alone with Dad. As they would walk into the room, I would grab them, look them in the eye, and prepare them for a final goodbye. Because Dad was incapable of giving a patriarchal blessing at the time of his death, I used the private time of each child with my father to speak to them about the finality of this moment and the hope of Heaven. I then took my father’s hand and placed it on each child, and I spoke the words of blessing that I believe my father would have spoken had he been able to do so. Beall recorded them so they would never forget.
Then I spent my final time alone with Dad. I spoke to him of the beauty of Heaven and of all his friends he would soon be talking with, from Moses to Abraham to his spiritual father, Dr. R.J. Rushdoony.
Daddy’s last words spoken to me on this earth were, “I love you.”
As much as you love your father, it is impossible to appreciate the strength of the bond until it is severed. There is no preparing for it or for the feeling of being cut loose from one’s moorings and being cast adrift without such a rock in your life. It is impossibly hard.
Daddy, I loved you to the depths of my being. You were the greatest man I knew and the inspiration for my life. It will always be one of the life-defining honors to have been your son. Right now, I just want to be fourteen again standing by your side, proudly watching you slay dragons. I miss you terribly.
President, Vision Forum Ministries
Memorial Service in Honor of Howard J. Phillips
Those of you who desire to honor my father’s life are welcome to join us for his public Memorial Service, to be held in the Smith Center of McLean Bible Church, 8925 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA, on Monday, April 29, at 11:00 a.m.