I’m sorry to have to report that Gareth died on Boxing Day – the Feast of Stephen. We are very grateful to the staff of the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, to those at Great Ormond Street Hospital who gave him his heart transplant 9 years ago, and (above all) to the donor and family who gave us all hope and life. Gareth was a chorister at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, sang in the St Cecilia Chorale, worked in the Cathedral Refectory, and was a server – one Saturday he had spent the whole day serving food in the Refectory, had just got home, and I phoned to say that the crucifer for the Ordination hadn’t turned up. He came straight out and carried the cross at the head of the processions – sitting through a service that lasted well over an hour. I can’t say he did it without moaning … .
In Northumberland he was involved in Ponteland (choir, drama and the practical jobs that get dumped on a Vicar’s son), and was employed for a while as a verger at Hexham Abbey. Like all vergers I have ever known, he wasn’t very keen on cleaning – and he was very proud of himself when, in the absence of clergy and congregation, he got Morning Prayer down to 8 minutes. In the snow of winter 2010 he got across to Hexham and got the Abbey open on time every day he was on duty. He was proud of being the guardian of the Saxon shrine in the crypt – and always meant to get to Ripon Cathedral and explore their Saxon crypt. Occasionally I could persuade him to come and explore a Northumberland church with me – but there had to be cheese scones or an ice cream too.
Like his brother Theo (who died four years ago) he will rest in the churchyard at Milbourne. Our churches are not just buildings, they are places where people matter – and where people meet with God. No photos on this blog – but you might like to look at this webpage which shows the Barry chapel at Great Ormond Street. It is an incredible building – do visit if you’re in London – and the chaplains were wonderful. Gareth had had his transplant three days before Christmas 2004. On Christmas Day he was in his air-tight cubicle in the transplant unit, coming round from various nasty drugs, and in a filthy mood. He was pretty horrible to everyone – mum, dad, brother, sister, nurse … . But when the chaplain came he was so polite. Even in his drug-befuddled state he knew you behave in the presence of a dog collar.
Thanks, my Son, for 24 years of life together – a blink of an eye in the life of our churches!
We have set up a memorial fund in memory of Gareth – supporting the British Heart Foundation.
Live Life Then Give Life is a smashing charity working in the field of organ donation. If you haven’t signed up to the organ donor register, please do.