This week a friend died - he was Ed Garton and I miss him. I met Ed when he came on an Alpha course I volunteered at, and I remember his loud exuberant laugh during the meals as he shared stories with his group and his intense concentration during the talks and earnest questions as he searched for answers.
I vividly remember him committing his life to God in a quiet understated way and helping him choose a brand new bible. That bible was the first of many Ed bought and then gave away – people around Kerith and probably around the world have a bible that Ed bought, we are lucky to be one of those families.
Ed was baptised 8 years ago and the preacher Ben Davies asking the question “Who is Ed Garton?” and using Ed’s testimony as the basis of his whole preach much to Ed’s bemusement. I remember Ed gulping down water as he read that testimony, this ordinary 40 year old with no airs and graces just telling like it were, and the tears of joy I cried as he shared that journey with us.
Since then Ed has been a constant part of Kerith Life – he gave his time as he served in the car parking team, you could not miss him in his Hi Vis Jacket, huge smile, always a cheery greeting. Ed was larger than life, always took you up in the lift of life with an encouraging word. He told me I was special, he told me I’d done well, he’d tell me he loved me and my family. I don’t accept compliments as well as I should and he would often make me stand there until I admitted I believed I was good and had done well. Then I’d get an Ed hug – a both arms big bear “give us a hug” Ed hug.
Ed also took part in mission trips to Poland, Uganda, Serenje and I have heard numerous stories of how he gave of himself on these trips, both to the people he was there to serve and those he travelled with. On a recent trip to Serenje he popped into Kerith and stood rearranging his case to fit in his last minute purchase of a bubble machine, taking out stuff he wanted to fit in what he thought others needed.
I had the privilege to be part of the drama team with Ed, he was outstanding in his commitment to do the absolute best that he could be – in Word on the Street his part was not huge, but I remember his lines better than I do my own, for wherever I went I would find him rehearsing – “We are the Kings...WE are the Kings, We ARE the kings....” the emphasis on each word being tried to find the best one, asking advice, listening to advice, taking advice” even planning which arm he would raise to ensure that his Ma would get the best view of him when she came to watch.
In the recent production of The Vigil, he again gave all of himself; he encouraged others, learned his lines, followed direction and sought to improve at every opportunity. During one performance we had an impromptu photo session backstage – I hate having my picture taken, I avoid it but he implored with me and I could not resist and so the picture was taken – It is far from flattering of me but I am happy to share it because it captured the essence of that moment so perfectly and I will always be able to hear Ed’s laugh when I look at it.
In recent months I saw another side to Ed as he handled his Ma’s cancer diagnosis and her death just last month. To say he adored his mother would be an understatement; he absolutely loved her to bits and was beside himself with joy at her baptism in June. I was blessed to be able to stand with Brenda as Ed read her testimony – he read her words and then added some of his own – I leaned into her and said how proud she must be of him and she looked at me and said “I am, but he goes on sometimes and I want to get in the water......”. True words – he did go on, but with passion about his family, his God, his friends, his gratitude....it was worth listening to.
At Brenda’s funeral earlier this month Ed’s love for her, his dad and his sisters was completely exposed – he always wore is heart on his sleeve and this day was no exception, all families have difficult times and Ed’s had more than their fair share, but they all stood united and Ed led them well. Brenda Garton had taught me that whatever your children do or don’t do you just love them and love them and keep on loving them, and she loved them well and Ed honoured that in an amazing way. He spoke with passion, he sang (in a voice no one knew he had, talk about pulling it out of the bag when you need it!), and I cried not with sadness, but with pride – I was bursting with pride that my friend was doing such an awesome job.
In the days following he continued to serve, to encourage, to bless, despite his own sorrow, he continued to worship, to pray, to share, to give away, to laugh, to love with the huge soft gentle heart that God blessed him with, until that heart could give no more.
Ed was one of life’s givers; he shared all that he had –
- his time; as he served not to please people but to honour God,
- his money; not boastfully but quietly blessing others with opportunities
- his wisdom; not his opinion but wise words rooted in God
- his encouragement; loudly and intently not to draw attention to himself but to ensure that others were recognised
- his God – most importantly he shared the gospel with everyone who would listen. His heart ached for the lost and the least and he sowed seed everywhere he went and there will be some major harvest as a result of his desire that all would know his God.
Now I fleet between tears as I miss him, and laughter as I recall the many many many funny moments, sorrow when I remember his family and the huge loss that they feel and then joy when I think of him up in Heaven giving the Big Man an Ed hug.
Ed was an ordinary man who chose an extraordinary path - and I for one am blessed to have walked alongside him. Miss you lovely....