In loving memory of Barry Harold Rowan
28 October 1943 - 1 April 2023
Rest in Peace
All of us at Mildmay are deeply saddened by the sudden passing, at the beginning of April, of Barry, long-time Trustee and volunteer chaplain
Barry's funeral on Friday, 20th April 2023, was attended by many of us from Mildmay, and we are proud to reproduce below the eulogy given by our chaplain, Sister Bernie.
In due course, we aim to commemorate Barry more fully in our Staff Stories.
Barry's family have asked that donations in memory of Barry can be made to Mildmay Mission Hospital, for which kindness we thank them.
Sister Bernie's eulogy:
As you know, Barry loved every stick and stone of Mildmay Mission Hospital. Actually, he considered it his second home! His greatest love at Mildmay was chatting with our patients by the chapel door, in their rooms and in the garden. I found him moved to tears many times when he told me of an encounter with someone who inspired him while they conversed. His inner freedom allowed him to open up and share his own story as he had experienced many health challenges throughout a great part of his own life.
As usual, when he arrived at Mildmay, he would bounce in, always smiling, happy to be with us. He would order his tuna sandwich, say hello to everyone in sight, ask along the way if they had seen me anywhere and drink many cups of tea. On his last Friday with us, when he finally found me on the ward, we discussed the tasks for the day. I had been thinking of asking Barry to work with me in the garden. By the way, our garden is a bit mucky and messy at the moment as a conservatory is being built there. Also, a wall at the back is being strengthened or reconstructed. Those of you who know Barry will picture this man of sartorial elegance; his shirts ironed to perfection, his trousers with the creases pressed in the right direction. I asked Barry if we could do something in the garden to ensure the patients had a pleasant bit of the garden to sit in, even while all the activity is happening there. I said, “Barry, let’s go after the chapel service and see how we could tidy up the garden and make it more accessible for our patients. I’ve added some spring bedding plants, but we may have to do a bit more weeding etc.”
“What? Bernie”, Barry exclaimed with horror. “I washed these (cream-coloured) jeans last night; these are my best trainers! As you know, I always like to dress well out of respect for our patients, and this is one of my favourite shirts just ironed this morning”.
I retorted, “For goodness sake, Barry”, or words to that effect, “Let’s go to the ‘Mildmay Boutique’” (which is what I have begun to call the clothes room). “Let’s go and see if we can find you something to change into so that you don’t get dirty”. And, of course, Barry, being Barry, trotted along with me!
Simplicity is a great virtue. To be simple is to live without pretence. It is to be genuine so that others can trust what is said. Barry never aimed to deceive people about himself. In Barry’s life, what we saw is what we got! His actions flowed from his heart, a caring and loving heart. To be able to really trust someone is a wonderful gift.
Barry’s simplicity meant he could focus on what is truly important in life - love, respect, compassion…
As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in The Little Prince, “What is essential is invisible to the eye; it is a matter of the heart.”
So, on Friday, 31st March, I organised a Chaplaincy Day at Mildmay, where we, as a team, would be asked by Geoff, Mildmay’s CEO, to renew our pastoral commitment to Mildmay and induct a couple of new chaplaincy members. We shared our stories, we prayed together, Isobel, our Volunteer Coordinator and Norma, our Finance Director, joined us, and we enjoyed Mildmay’s hospitality, all the while … waiting for Barry to arrive. Numerous phone calls to Barry were left unanswered.
Sadly, early on Saturday morning, the day before Palm Sunday, Karen, Barry’s sister-in-law, phoned me with the devastating news.
Thank you, Barry. Having known you, I am a little more enlightened about the story God is writing in my own life. When preparing for today’s tribute, today’s eulogy for our dear Barry’s funeral, I tried to immerse myself in the many conversations we had over the years.
Strangely enough, I have less recollection of what we said to each other, as words… were the least of it!
Lately, remembering became more elusive to Barry, but his presence with us all these years was powerful, generous, funny ha ha and gentle. This diminishment in his ability to focus in no way diminished his capacity to communicate with us at Mildmay. The many tears that flowed and the shock of the abruptness of our loss illustrate just what he meant to us... means to us.
In Barry’s life, we were gifted with one of God’s beautiful works of art.
Towards the end of his life, Renoir, the artist, was crippled by painful arthritis. So much so that it was very painful for him to paint. One day, a friend came upon him painting and said “Renoir, why do you keep painting when obviously it is causing you so much pain”.
Renoir replied to him, “The pain will go away, my friend, the pain will go away. But the beauty will last forever”.
So, slowly and gradually, a few leaves began to fall from this beautiful tree full of life and of energy, this man of faith that was Barry, until that is, the time of being Barry in this life was transformed into his newness of life hereafter.
Rest in God’s peace for eternity, Barry.
When Geoff recommissioned us in the Mildmay chapel on our Chaplaincy Day, he gave us a scroll, which, as a group (of volunteer chaplains), we placed with Barry as he was laid to rest.
The scroll contains the Great Commission in Mathew’s Gospel: Chapter 28,19-20:
Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”