Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

'She'd Want Us to Be Happy' ; Family Celebrates Life of 14-Year-Old Killed in Flood

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

'She'd Want Us to Be Happy' ; Family Celebrates Life of 14-Year-Old Killed in Flood

Article excerpt

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Everyone who stays in Becky Phillips' home wakes up and goes to church on Sunday mornings. It doesn't matter if she has 16 family members crammed into her house, all piled up on air mattresses and sharing couches. She'll sound the alarm early in the morning and wake them all up, and they'll make it to church on time, too.

This Sunday was especially important. The pastor at White Sulphur Baptist Church, Randy Gilliam, had an important message he needed Becky to hear.

"They made it through the flood, he said, holding up a Bible stretched open across his arms and reading from scripture. "It says it, it says it right in here in this book.

She sat in the second row of the church, rocking her 7-year-old son Carter on her lap. Gilliam looked right at her, his sister-in- law, as he said those words. He might have been talking in front of a full congregation that morning, but he was speaking to Becky.

Behind her was practically her entire family, some from South Carolina and some from Tennessee. They all drove in this past weekend to be there for her, her husband and her children.

Though the floods that devastated many communities in West Virginia have long receded, the family is still wading through a flood of emotions.

Becky's daughter is Mykala Phillips, the 14-year-old girl who went missing when their home flooded in late June. She and her brothers tied themselves to their father with whatever extension cords they could find in their home on Mill Hill Drive. When they jumped into the rushing water after their house was knocked off of its foundation, the water broke a cord and sent Mykala surging away from her family.

If you followed Becky all Sunday morning, you might think she was going to a funeral. She wasn't. She has barely even begun to mourn her daughter.

Sure, friends and family might have gathered all together in Bethesda Church to talk about Mykala's life, and sure, there might have been flowers resting on the pulpit in honor of her memory.

But this is no funeral.

If you try to say it is, you'll get an ear full from Carter. And Mykala's father James Phillips. They all want you to know that, no, they did not have her funeral Sunday. They had a celebration of her life.

"My sister-in-law chose that name, Becky Phillips said. "I told them, you all have got to take care of this because I can't. I can't do all 500 things by myself. I was getting pulled in all kinds of different directions and I couldn't do it on my own.

Since search crews never found her body, the family can't seem to find complete closure. For weeks, they held hope alive that the girl would be found somewhere alive.

They all say they won't find that closure until her body is found. Until then, they will take it day by day and celebrate Mykala's life. …

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