Monday, February 8, 2010

In Loving Memory of Paul Herlinger May 1, 1929 - February 2, 2010

Dear Friends,

Today I bring to you the sad news of the death of a man who was a dear friend to all of us. I received news this afternoon that Paul Herlinger, the voice of Whit from 1996-2008 passed away last week. He will be dearly missed by all. As I sit here writing this, I am not even sure what or how I feel. I know I am terribly sad, but I'm also glad that he is no longer ill or in pain. I feel very disjointed. On one hand, I never met him. On the other, I feel like one of my closest friends just died.

I had to stop in the middle of writing this post to scour my room for what is now one of my most treasured possessions - a letter from Paul. I wrote to him two years ago to express my gratitude for all he has done with Odyssey and let him know just how much he influenced my life for the good and for God. To my amazement and joy, he wrote back. It was a sweet yet simple letter typed on what appears to be a typewriter with a handwritten signature at the end. But now this letter means more to me than almost anything else I own. It came from the heart and will forever remind me of my childhood hero.

I know that Paul and Whit were not the same person. I know that Whit is not dead, nor is he real. However, for some reason that I cannot understand, I feel an inexplicable sense of loss and sadness. Whit will never be the same. I will never be able to hear a Paul episode again without experiencing some sense of loss. I'm sure it will fade with time, as it did with Hal Smith, but right now, I'm not sure how. The work that this man did, the character he brought to life, has changed my life so much and strengthened my faith in more ways than I can count.

I remember my excitement while writing my letter to him and getting his address. I remember my joy at finding out I actually got a response! I remember how my hands shook and how I could barely contain myself when I opened and read the letter! I remember seeing him on the video screen at the live show in Colorado. I remember hearing that he was very ill and would no longer be with AIO after that show.

And yet, in all these memories, I never met him in person. My loss, our loss as fans, is nothing compared to those who knew and loved him. So today, I ask you to pray for those at Focus, from AIO, and especially his family and friends who are missing this wonderful man. Pray for their comfort and salvation. Pray for God's love and compassion to be showered on them. Pray for their healing.

Here's to you Paul.

And remember: the best is yet to come.