Raise a Roman Candle

On November 6, 1996, Phoebe Cecelia Finley entered our world. Forgive the cliche — but the world as we knew it would never be the same. On November 6, 2014, Christopher Allen Hill left our world. Likewise, the world as we knew it would never be the same.

Hours before his death, my little brother joked via text with my daughter about his birthday gift for her. She asked him for a company credit card. He told his wife Kim that Phoebe was joking but deep down he thought she just might be serious. This familiar banter between the two of them gave my brother a stronger sense of belonging to us and gave my daughter a deeper connection to the uncle who was so much more than just my little brother. His last post on social media that night was a picture of a package addressed to her. No credit card. But a turquoise Nike pull-over he had chosen for his niece, the golfer.

How gracious of God to choose Phoebe, shortly before she turned 18, to receive the gift of that final, funny conversation between Chris and our family. How gracious of God to give Chris, shortly before He would give him his last breath, a reminder of how much he was loved by this niece of his who shared his passion for sports and his often irreverent sense of humor.

I know Christopher would have hated that he died on Phoebe’s 18th birthday. He would have wanted November 6th to always be about celebrating her life, not mourning the end of his. So, although all of our celebrations will forever be colored by his absence, I choose to celebrate Phoebe today and, in doing so, celebrate him.

My brother loved fireworks more than anyone I have ever known. As a kid, he would spend all his birthday money to fill a brown paper sack from the nearest fireworks stand with M80s, bottle rockets, and Roman candles. As an adult, his Fourth of July displays were legendary. And Phoebe is a sort of firework for those of us who love her: you never quite know what you are going to get until the fuse is lit — and then you sit back and enjoy the show.

Join me and raise a Roman candle to them both.

Happy 19th Pheebs. Christopher, you should see her shine.

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