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what’s happening

on Phillip


My friend of fifteen years has died, his life taken by cancer. Everyone who knew Phillip Vanwinkle is writing some tribute or memory or memorial.

I have no idea what to write.

Which is sad since the thing that made us such close friends was our shared love of writing. We were in preaching school together. He stood at my side at my wedding. We were in each other's homes countless times. We both love comic books, we both love to laugh and make others laugh, we both love preaching.

But it was our love of writing that kept us in touch. Hardly a week went by that we didn't talk, at least briefly, usually about some idea we had.

We once spent a week locked in a hotel writing screenplays. He was convinced his idea of a Charlie Chaplin movie was gold. I was convinced my children's movie about Humpty Dumpty's son Chumpty was magic.

Looking back they were both mediocre but the time we spent together—with him in one corner of the room and me in the other, laughing at ourselves, then sharing what we wrote so the other could laugh too—made the time more than worth it.

That was twelve years ago, and even though we never sold anything we kept writing, kept pitching ideas to each other, and kept making ourselves laugh at the nonsense.

Just before he got sick we worked on a story about "a man who goes on a ninja-themed game show and gets recruited by real ninjas in a plot to save the world." That was maybe the fifth story we discussed between ourselves and worked on. Every one of them made us laugh at how silly they were, none of them ever amounted to anything except for an excuse to talk to each other and catch up, talk about our families and our preaching work, etc.

One day every one of those stories will be written. That's what we always said: “One day we'll sell one and then we'll be able to make them all.” Now it's just up to me to finish them for the both of us.

Whenever someone dies it usually takes a while, after the initial sadness and shock of the loss, before you realize just how much of a hole there is in your life. I'm really sad today because my friend has left this world. I won't really realize how sad I am until a week, two weeks, a month goes by, when I get a crazy idea and I think "I should pitch this to Phil; see what he'd do with it." and realize I can't do that any more.

Goodbye to my friend, and so long for now.