Reflections On The Death Of Phil Harris



Last Tuesday night The Discovery Channel’s reality show, Deadliest Catch, documented the passing of Phil Harris, captain of the Alaskan crab fishing boat, the Cornelia Marie.

He suffered a massive stroke while his crew was offloading his boat in January and died in early February at age 53 while still in the hospital.

With the consent of his family, the reality show kept their cameras rolling throughout his ordeal, right up till the end. ?There were a couple touching scenes with his sons, especially when he told them he loved them.

The Discovery Channel did a tasteful job though it seemed crass to me at first. ?But a couple days before the episode I read these verses:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)

Initially these verses caught me off guard. ?Why is it better to mourn than feast? ?Who likes funerals or intensive care units? ?Why is sorrow better than laughter and how does sadness make the heart glad?

The answer is that we can grow wise by contemplating death – ?the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.?

In our culture, we?re shielded from death.? We shove it to the backs of our minds. ?We?d rather party. But parties don?t make us wise. ?Funerals are opportunities to see that death ?is the end of all mankind? and we who are ?living will take it to heart.?? Intensive care units can remind us of the life to come.

Seeing death should help us contemplate our own death, think about eternity and live wisely.

By ?sadness of face the heart is made glad? when we put our hope in Jesus, not in this world.

I feel sad for Phil?s family. ?But I?m glad they allowed the cameras to keep rolling. ?I?m glad they showed the hospital scenes with all the tubes and machines and his final conversations with his sons.? I hope it helps me grow more wise. ?It reminded me that my own life is a vapor, and someday I?ll be with the Lord.

I don?t want to miss opportunities to glorify Christ, and to tell my wife, children and grandchildren I love them.


  • Ariane says:

    I don't think it's a coincidence that you had this post about Captain Phil Harris. Captain Phil Harris was nicknamed 'my dad' in my circle of family and friends. If you ever saw my dad, you would swear they were twins. To make things a little more strange, my siblings and I are half asian just like Captain Phil's kids were.

    One thing that stood out to me immediately when I stumbled across the show Deadlest Catch was Captain Phil's love for his boys. Sadly, in today's times, there are more absentee fathers than ever before. Captain Phil's love for his kids stood out like a candle in a dark room- his love for them was obvious, it was blatant, it was on purpose.
    And sadly, this was something my siblings and I have never seen from our own dad, so when Captain Phil passed, I was deeply saddened and grieved.

    Immediately, I was reminded that not my dad, nor Captain Phil will ever come close to the loving heavenly Father we have!
    I remember sitting there crying over a dad I have never even met and thinking, 'Does he know Christ as his Savior? Has he trusted in the finished work of the cross for the payment for his sins?'

    This past week I carried a burden of how often I don't witness to people who live right next door to me or people who I go to school with.

    While I may never meet any people I see on tv, I can witness to those who are around me. And that's what I will do.

    My dad might never show his love the way Captain Phil showed his love for his boys, and I can't change that.
    What I can change (by the Lord's help) is my complacent attitude of not witnessing to others as often as I should.

    Thank you for this post!

  • MarkAltrogge says:

    Wow Ariane,

    You have such a great perspective – when our own fathers fail to love us as they should (and I know I have certainly failed many times myself), we have a heavenly Father whose steadfast love never ceases. And rather than dwelling on our own earthly lack, to focus on loving and witnessing to those around us. Thanks for these insightful comments.

  • Jen Altrogge says:

    Great post. I haven't thought about it quite like that. It's helpful to see the wisdom in contemplating death. I'll have to remember that verse.

  • Ben Hastings says:

    Fantastic points, Mark!

    I've been thinking seriously about the cultural view of extend-earthly-life-at-any-cost-imaginable. Certainly, there are blessings to be found in our medical care system, but the utter fixation of prolonging this life is diametrically opposed to Paul's statement to the brethren in Philippi – to live is Christ to die is gain.

  • MarkAltrogge says:

    What a great point, Ben. I hope I can keep growing in my desire to be with Christ.

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