Phyllis Tickle was an icon of the Christian literary community. A humble, sweet woman who wrote powerful literary pieces about American faith and spirituality, she has died of lung cancer at the age of 81. Friends and fans are mourning her death.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. She Raised Six Children And Had a Long, Happy Marriage
Tickle married Sam in 1955 when she was 21; he was a childhood friend and medical student at the time. Dr. Tickle was a pulmonologist and they had a long and happy life together. Sam died after a long illness in January. They had seven children, one whom died two weeks after he was born. Tickle was a teacher, professor, and a dean before she became a writer. She was the founding editor of the religion department of Publishers Weekly and is known for being a leading voice in what was eventually called the emergence movement.
A heart-felt documentary called Phyllis (shown below), was created by director Greg Fromholz and co-producer Joseph von Meding. It captures amazing stories about Phyllis and Sam’s marriage, along with his battle with dementia:
2. She Loved Her Simple Life on a Farm
Tickle and her family lived on a farm just north of Memphis, Tennessee, Religion News reported. They had moved there in 1977 and she lived there until her death. It’s a 20-acre working farm that they call “The Farm in Lucy.” The farm is featured in many of her works. She said that when they first moved to the farm in 1977, her children hated it, but now they all love the country life.
3. She Faced Her Cancer Diagnosis With Courage and Humor, Without Fear After a Near-Death Experience
Tickle first knew something was wrong with her health on the day her husband passed away, Religion News reported. She was sick and had a terrible cough. In April, she was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer that had spread to her spine. She was told she had four to six months to live. But she was never afraid of death. In an interview with Religion News, she said:
I am no more afraid of dying than I am of, I don’t know, drinking this coffee…”
She said she wasn’t grateful for the diagnosis, but she wasn’t unhappy about it either. Death was simply a career change, she explained. This peace came from her Christian faith and a near-death experience she had many years ago. At 21, she died after being given a medicine to prevent a miscarriage. In the hospital room, she could recall floating above her body and seeing her husband beating on her and screaming for the nurses. She said she went down a tunnel then, covered in grass, and saw the light and felt incredible peace and unity. She told Religion News:
The voice, which was fortunately speaking in English … said, ‘Do you want to come?’ And I heard myself saying, ‘No, I want to go back and have his baby,’
She said that at the time her husband, a medical doctor, told her not to share the story with too many people. But a few experiences of his own softened him to the experience over the years.
4. Her Literary Works Changed Many People’s Lives
Tickle’s literary works have changed lives and the landscape of Christian literature. She’s written essays on faith and life, including a series called “The Divine Hours” about fixed-day prayer. A 2008 book that is hailed as her landmark work, called “The Great Emergence,” described a new Christianity that’s utilizing elements of its past into an exciting future, Religion News reported. She’s written about history, sociology, sensibility, deep spirituality, and everything in between.
5. Many Fans And Friends Are Mourning Her Death
Her death is mourned by fans and friends alike. Here are just a few comments left in memory of her: