Funeral of Aaron Macauley held

The funeral of Aaron Macauley has taken place at Drumgooland Parish Church this afternoon.

Rev. Michael Davidson described the 10-year-old as someone “who touched so many hearts and lives.”

Below is the minister’s address in full from the funeral. For further coverage see Tuesday’s Leader.

“I had hoped that I would never find myself in a situation like this in the course of my ministry, I had hoped that this was a situation that no member of Drumgooland or Kilkinamurry would ever have to experience in my time here. I had always dreaded the possibility that one day I would be called upon to lead the funeral for a child.

“On Tuesday afternoon just before 5 I was on the BBC news Northern Ireland website when I saw a breaking news headline, 10 year old boy dies in farming accident on the Rathfriland Road, Castlewellan. I felt an instant chill go through me and a sick feeling in my stomach. I could think of only one ten year old boy who lived on a farm on the Rathfriland Road and I desperately hoped and prayed it could not be the case while knowing in my heart of hearts it was. Not long after came a phone call from one of my elders confirming those worst fears. This has been a devastating week for all of us, particularly for Aaron’s family, my heart is broken by the loss of Aaron.

“I have no real answers today as to why this has happened, if you had hoped to hear an answer to that question today you will be disappointed. I believe that while we do not understand at this time why this dreadful thing has happened our God is a God of love and that ultimately one day our loving God will help us to see and understand his reasons and his purposes.

“But in the midst of our loss and sadness we want to summon the strength and the will to give thanks and celebrate Aaron’s life.

“Aaron Macaulay? Where do you start? Where do you end? A young boy, only ten years old and yet one who touched so many hearts and lives including my own.

“I was struck as I have been preparing for today by the similarities between Aaron and a well known figure in the Bible. I have been drawn to the character of David in his younger days. I want to share some of the parallels that I have drawn between these two boys.

“First of all David was the youngest in his family. Jesse had eight sons and David was the last. But David didn’t let that hold him back. Nor did God overlook him for that reason, far from it, David was the one chosen by God for a special calling. While still a boy David was chosen and anointed by God. Aaron may have been the youngest of the Macaulay children but he was never overlooked or unnoticed. Aaron was small but he had a huge personality and I believe he had a special calling and ministry to his family and to all of us who knew him.

“What was Aaron’s special calling? I think it was a ministry of bringing joy to all those who knew him. I said in interviews yesterday paying tribute to Aaron that you could not spend time with Aaron without him bringing a smile to your face or giving you cause to laugh out loud. Many of you have said to me how true that is. He brought great joy to his parents Maurice and Wendy when he born on 14th April 2003. He brought joy to his brothers and sisters, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles throughout his life, he brought joy to us as a congregation here and to the staff and pupils of Drummadonnell Primary School and to all those in the community who knew him.

“I know that these last few days have been days filled with tears and sadness at our loss and yet even in the midst of that in the house I have also heard the sound of laughter and that has been as people shared stories about Aaron. That was Aaron’s ministry - to spread joy. The fact that Aaron was so full of life and so full of fun was all the more special because of what he had come through. As many of you know and remember Aaron had been in a serious accident when he was two. Thanks to the efforts of the staff in the Children’s Hospital in Belfast Aaron’s life was saved. The family remain so thankful to Mr Lewis and his colleagues for their care down through years. Aaron’s life was shaped by that accident. I think because of it he became even more precious to his family and to all of us.

“Aaron grew into a boy who was full of life and full of fun, who lived life to the full. Aaron was a people person, such a sociable boy, he loved to be in company, he loved to be in the middle of things, always wanting to be involved always wanting to contribute, whether that was at home among his family or on the farm, or at Drummadonnell Primary Shcool, or in BB, Scouts, Sunday School, Church, CEF Camp. Aaron was one who seized every day, every opportunity and sought to enjoy it to the full. That is as long as it was something he wanted to do. I remember taking an assembly Drummadonnell one day in the lead up to the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebration. Mr Spiers got up to explain that the school would have a party and a competition, and for that competition they would each design a crown. “Does anyone have any questions?” Aaron’s hand immediately went up and you could see by his face he was less than thrilled. “Yes Aaron,” Mr Spiers asked, and Aaron said in a bored voice, “Do you have to make a crown?” If it had involved tractors or machinery Aaron would have been filled with enthusiasm but the idea of making a crown just didn’t appeal to him.

“He was very grateful for everything he was given. He was thankful for each and every meal that was made for him. Although he didn’t get everything he asked for. Some years ago the family were on holiday and visited Frankfurt Zoo, Aaron gazed in wonder at the sight of an animal he had never seen before. It was a hippopotamus. He turned to Maurice and said, “Dad buy me one of them.”

“Aaron was very loving, considerate and caring, conscious of the needs of others. Back at the school sports day there was a long distance race for the P6 boys. One of Aaron’s friends who was leading the race suddenly tripped and fell and while most of the other boys ran on Aaron stopped to help his friend to his feet and off the track. He got a round of applause from the gathered spectators and then he remembered there was still a race to be finished and off he went. On Tuesday morning Jack wasn’t too well and so Aaron went out to Matthew and said Jack is sick so I’m here to give you a hand. Loving, kind, considerate, helpful that was Aaron.

“Aaron may have been young but he had a special calling and a special ministry, he spread joy and he was one who sought to enjoy life to the full.

“The David we are first introduced to in the Bible was the youngest in his family but even as a boy he showed great courage and strength. As the youngest it was his job to look after the sheep and do errands for his father. He showed his bravery in how he fought off and killed a lion and a bear that had attacked the sheep, he showed it in how he was the only one in all Israel with courage to fight the Philistine giant Goliath. Aaron too had faced great adversity and had to face and overcome giants in his own life. The accident he suffered left him with scars, his arm while saved was damaged and it necessitated surgery and skin grafts at regular intervals. He showed his strength and bravery every day. He never complained about his arm although he was probably more troubled by it than anybody knew and he would often grow tired in the afternoon at school. On each occasion he was faced with further surgery he dealt with it with great calmness and bravery. I remember before his last skin graft going to see him up in hospital in Belfast and he was playing computer games, he stopped when I came in, there was no hint of fear or concern about what was to come when he saw me he simply stopped what he was doing and sat back and like someone who was 30 or 40 years older smiled and said to me, “So Michael how’s everything up at the church?” He was a boy with a strong spirit who showed great courage and bravery.

“David from a young boy had a gift and love of music. He was chosen to play the harp for king Saul and he wrote so many of the Psalms that are so special and precious to us even today. Like David Aaron had a love of music, unlike David Aaron loved Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. He loved listening to music on his I-pod. Hazel helped teach him the Michael Jackson moon walk for Drumadonnell’s Got Talent. He loved to sing. Not everyone appreciated or enjoyed his singing especially the large black man who found himself sitting in front of Aaron on the bus leaving Disneyland Paris a few years ago. That man was obviously already having a bad day but he didn’t know it was about to get worse as Aaron lunched into an enthusiastic and full throated rendition of “Bob the Builder, can he fix it?” while energetically kicking the chair in front of him. The man put up with it for as long as he could before turning around and saying “Who is responsible for the minding of this child?” Maurice duly informed the man that would be him to which the man said, “Would you mind getting him to shut his mouth.”

“Aaron enjoyed singing in church. The children had learned a new song this year in Sunday School and sang it on Children’s Day, it began, “a naggy mum, a grumpy dad, a brother who’s a pain.” Aaron enjoyed singing it but he had to adapt it to suit his own circumstances and so when he sang it became, “A naggy mum, a grumpy dad, two brothers who are pains.” Yet while he may have sang that he didn’t really believe it because we know he loved and looked up to both his brothers. He was a boy who loved music

“The biblical character of David was known for his direct straight talking even as a boy. When he heard the challenge of Goliath and saw his brothers and the other Israelite soldiers cowering in fear he said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

“Aaron could talk to anyone, getting him stopped was the problem. Matthew once asked him do you ever stop talking? to which Aaron quick as a flash replied, sure I stop talking when I’m sleeping. Aaron could talk to anyone, it was a real gift. He could get down to the level of a two year old and up the level of a 90 year old. He could go anywhere, sit down with anyone and become the centre of attention and the centre of the conversation. Aaron would give it to you straight. He didn’t sugar coat the truth and he said what was on his mind and because he was Aaron he could often get away with it. His grandmother Nan could tell many stories of the things he said to her. I remember her telling me how one day he had said to her, “Granny you’re getting so old I’m going to have to start writing everything down for you or you’ll forget it.

“Helen’s boyfriend Josh had to get used to Aaron’s up front way of speaking, “What are you doing here again? Why are you here so much? Are you going to marry our Helen?” In church on a Sunday he was legendary. His would always be one of the first if not the first to put up his hand when I would ask the boys and girls questions. The hand would be up now he might give you the right answer or he might decide to go for a laugh and say something outrageous. I would often know by the expression on his face which it was going to be. If you saw the grin and the twinkle in the eye you knew he was going for the laugh. The sensible voice in my head would say ask someone else but there was another part of me that just had to know what he was going to say. A few months ago I held up a picture of Linda and myself from our wedding 15 years ago. Do you recognise these people I said? Do you see any differences or changes. Aaron’s hand went up, “Linda looks still looks the same but you’ve aged badly. Aaron was direct and plain spoken and we loved him for it.

“The David we meet in the Bible was someone who came to faith in God at a young age and that faith was the centre and cornerstone of his life. We don’t know how David came to faith but it seems parents were good Israelites who took their covenant obligations seriously and so they would have instructed young David in the ways of the one true God, passing onto David the knowledge of God’s law, the stories of God’s dealings with his people. David had come to trust in that God personally so he could write, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.” That is the faith Aaron had come to share.

“Aaron was baptised here on 21st September 2003 the year before I came to this congregation. Maurice and Wendy have faithfully kept their promise to see that Aaron along with all their children were brought up in the church and in the ways of God. From the very first night in Drumgooland Linda and I both noticed the couple who were there with their five children including a very young Aaron. He was surrounded by Christian influence and example in his home. God has been at work in the lives of this family over many years and it has been a joy to witness that. He has drawn not only Wendy and Maurice to saving faith in Jesus Christ but also their children. Aaron had come to share that faith, the faith that he had been taught and shown from earliest days.

“Last week Aaron was at a Child Evangelism Fellowship camp in the CEF centre in Kilkeel, it is a camp led by one of our elders here Clyde Cromie, Helen was also at that camp as a leader. Aaron had loved every minute of it, he had thoroughly enjoyed it. During that week God had clearly spoken to Aaron and as a result he committed his life to the Lord Jesus as his saviour and declared his desire to serve and follow him as his Lord. He was full of joy in his faith, he shared with it the rest of the camp. Helen had a great conversation with him on the way home about that faith. As Hazel says he was buzzing with it when he got home. He was excited about the prospect of heaven. Little did any of us know how things would unfold just a few short days later.

“The family were finally all back together again at the weekend. They shared their last family meal together on Monday evening and Wendy prayed with the family and prayed for the children and prayed for each one in the knowledge that their future was in God’s hands. I know Wendy and Maurice still believe that. They believe as I do in a sovereign and providential God and that this was Aaron’s time to be called home.

“On Tuesday afternoon everyone did what they could and the family are very grateful to the paramedics, the police helicopter crew, the doctors and nurses at Craigavon for all their efforts. The family are so touched and grateful to their wider family and to their friends and the whole community who have rallied around in love and support and shared mourning. On Tuesday night there must have been 40 people in the yard and in the house all doing whatever they could to help. Throughout Wednesday and Thursday it has seen the same and here today we have this huge congregation and huge crowd sharing in this service. They want to thank all those who have been and are praying for them.

“It is the knowledge of that personal faith that Aaron had that gives his family and gives to all of us who share that faith real hope and peace even in the midst of our loss and grief. For as those who are trusting in the gospel we know as the apostle Paul says, “we do not grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.” We have hope in the one who said, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even though he dies.” So we know that Aaron today is at home with the Lord which is better by far. We will miss him, and his family will miss him most of all. But he would come back now even if he could. He is now in God’s presence with Jesus his great high priest, he is dressed in white as part of that royal priesthood that the New Testament speaks of.

“How will we cope? Ultimately it is our faith that will see us through each new day. In many ways we will never get over what has happened. But we have to try and learn to live with it and we do that by taking one day at a time and looking to God for his grace and his comfort and his strength. We will cope by holding onto the belief that God is love. You can’t get more simple or powerful help than that. He isn’t a vague power who doesn’t care but a suffering God who carries our sorrows. And he will never leave you on your own to cope with this by yourselves. He is always there beside you, within you, speaking to you even through this tragedy – waiting to comfort and strengthen you. You can help the family by continuing to be there for them in the coming weeks and months, they are going to need some time alone as a family but they are also going to need your on going prayers and presence.

“Finally we will cope by keeping our eyes fixed firmly on the gospel of Jesus Christ, on Aaron’s faith and the hope and the peace that gives us even in the midst of our grief and pain at this time of separation.

“Not everyone share will share that faith, many of you will not understand it. Yet the wonder of the Christian message is that it is so simple that even youngest children can understand and embrace it while at the same time it is so profound that you can spend the rest of your life exploring it and coming to an even deeper appreciation of its depth and its richness.

“Dr. Karl Barth, was arguably the most influential Protestant theologian of the twentieth century. He went to the United States in 1961 and gave a lecture at Princeton Seminary. Afterwards Barth took questions. A reporter from the New York Times asked the eminent theologian: “Dr. Barth, can you tell us the theological concept that has had the most profound influence on your thinking?” And the man who had written a 10 volume systematic theology that took up over 10,000 pages thought for a moment and then replied: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

I wonder sometimes do we make things more complicated than they need to be. Sometimes as adults we fail to grasp what children can see and accept much more easily. Jesus put great emphasis on children and loved them.

“The qualities they possess, that Aaron possessed, their trust, their innocence, their straightforwardness and their love were close to his heart. When the disciples tried to turn the children away Jesus was indignant, he wouldn’t hear of it. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”

“It is important to remember that children always have many things to teach us adults. In their lives and sometimes in their deaths thy can say great things.

“I tell you the truth anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” What does that mean? Does it mean that if we don’t come to Jesus when we are children it is too late? No it doesn’t mean that. Nor is it about being childish. It is about being childlike. It is reminding us of those qualities children possess, that trusting nature, that dependence on others. One of the reasons why adults often find it harder to enter the kingdom of God is because of our pride, our arrogance or our stubborness. In our arrogance we maybe say there is no God. In our pride we say we don’t need God, Christianity is simply a crutch for the weak, it is something for children not for adults or for real men.

“We like to think we are strong and self sufficient and then sickness or tragedy causes our world to collapse and we discover we are not as strong as we thought we were. In our pride and stubborness we think we can make our own way into heaven, we can save ourselves through our own efforts. Our pride and arrogance doesn’t want to accept there is nothing we can do, doesn’t want to accept that Jesus did all that needed doing to save us through his death and resurrection. When it comes to salvation there is nothing we can do it has all been done. All that is needed is for us in childlike faith put our trust in Jesus and the work he has already accomplished on our behalf. T

“o gratefully accept like a little child the great gift he has offered to us. That is what Aaron did. Why do we have to make things more complicated than they really are? Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so. If we come to Jesus in simple faith acknowledging our need, acknowledging our sin, acknowledging that Jesus is the only one who can save us from that sin and if we invite him into our hearts to be our saviour and our Lord then we become his children and he becomes our Father.

“We don’t need make things more complicated than they need to be. As one of Aaron’s friends has said, “Aaron is in heaven, his arm is better and he has got his toe back again.” That captures the essence of it. On Tuesday evening Aaron’s soul went to glory to be with the Lord and when Jesus comes again he will bring with him Aaron and all those others who have gone before all those who have died in Christ and the dead in Christ will be raised first. Aaron will receive his resurrection body where his arm and his toe like the rest of his body will be made new and on that day God declares he will make everything new, there will be no more death or mourning or sorrow or pain for the old order of things will have passed away. God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

If you don’t believe that, if you think this is wishful thinking, if you think it is simply fairy tales for children then afterwards please feel free to share with me what you have in the face of this tragedy that gives better hope.

“Friends the last time I stood in this pulpit was on July 14 before I went on holidays. I said at that time that we do not know what lies ahead, I said it could be the last time I stood in this pulpit, it could the last time that some of you would sit in these pews. I never for one minute imagined that Aaron would be one who would not be here when I came back.

“What this tragedy brings home to us once again is that do not know what a day will bring forth. That is why it is vital we respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ today, we cannot afford to put it off, life is fragile, it can end at any time, we do not know when we will be called from this scene of time and find ourselves standing before God. So we need to make sure we are ready. We need to make sure we do not cling to false hopes or pride and stubbornness that somehow it will be alright and we can make it on our own efforts and merits. We need to come to Jesus with that simple dependent childlike faith and acknowledge that only he can save us and ask him to do it.

“I will miss Aaron but I believe I will see him again when we are gathered together before the throne of God on that day when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and make everything new. I look forward to that day. So do Maurice and Wendy and his brothers and sisters and others in the family. What about you? Even if you struggle to believe this don’t you wish you could?

“Friends if you want to know more, if you are still struggling to understand the gospel and how to respond to it let me recommend this little booklet, Just Grace. It will explain the gospel message very simply but effectively and take you through the steps you needs to take to know Jesus as your saviour as Aaron did. It is small and will easily fit in your pocket or into your bag and there are plenty of them at the tables at the doors.”