by Justin Style
On Monday the 12th of August at 1pm we gathered at the Efford Crematorium in Plymouth, England, to pay are final respects and say goodbye to an incredible man. He was my uncle, and I had the privilege of delivering his eulogy and reading out just a few of the many amazing tributes he received from friends, students, colleagues and family. We were joined by a full room of old and new friends of Chester, from all walks of life, many whom had travelled hours to be there, including two young students from Finborough School, as well as an old colleague from his SACS days.
As I stood in front of the congregation I noted how when seeing so many had come to pay their respects, it reminded me of when I was a young boy and I’d been told off by my parents for being naughty. I would go off to my room and sulk, and think to myself how sorry everyone would be if I was no longer around. Maybe I’m a little weird or even a bit morbid for thinking such thoughts, but if Chester ever did, he can rest assured that he had a good turnout for his farewell, and that we are all missing him like crazy.
I have a lot of scattered memories of my uncle Chester, I remember him driving me around Cornwall as a small kid on adventures, and then after years of not seeing him getting to spend some quality time with him as an impressionable seventeen year old visiting Cape Town from the UK. That summer I spent just a couple days with my uncle but I understood that he was a great listener and thoughtful man who clearly had respect from his students, friends and colleagues. I remember his advice as I shared what I wanted to do with my life, my observations of a post apartheid South Africa and dreams that I harbored for the future.
Chester had that wonderful ability not to just listen but clearly give you his full attention by giving advice at the right time and encouraging you in what you felt insecure in. I remember thinking what a great dad this guy would be, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to hear that for years he had been a father figure to many young people with absent fathers.
Chester was an encourager of dreams, reading through his tributes you can hear stories of how he invested in so many young peoples lives. Where others saw a problem child, or a basket case, Chester saw great potential, and many successful members of his school’s alumni credit Chester with having a huge impact on their life’s course.
My impressions of my uncle were echoed in the words of his pupils, colleagues, friends and family. It pleases me to know that his legacy lives on in all of us who have been encouraged by him. So often people just need someone to believe in them, to say ‘You can do it!’, ‘You’ve got what it takes!’. Chester was an optimist, a problem solver not a problem lamenter, a breath of fresh air for us cynical Brits. I just picture him now and in the years to come watching on as his protégés, friends and family tackle life head on with the confidence they gained from Chester.
Hebrews 12:1 in the Bible says
“…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”
I know I’ll remember that when I’m feeling low in confidence, when I’m doubting whether I’m up for the tasks in front of me. Its key people like Chester, my grandfather, and others that went before me that encourage me to keep on.
We all want a good long life, and Chester’s life would seem to be cut short, but he ran a good pace to the end, his life left a legacy.
As one of his ex students remarked: Chester’s “legacy lives on in those fortunate to have been taught by” him.
Of course both he and we wish his journey never finished what seemed so prematurely, and Lord knows we struggle with this, but so many live deep into their old age alone, having lost their once prominent place in society waiting to pass away. It gives me some comfort to know Chester left us surrounded by love and life.
God works in mysterious ways and by Chester’s own admission if there was one silver lining in his battle with illness it was that he got to know his family better. Chester loved being around us, and especially his nieces two infant sons Alex and Joseph.
I found this little note by Chester on his Facebook from some months back: “It has all been one helluva journey! I have learned how much friends and family really mean and how much LOVE they have for me – an amazing, deep and very emotional experience! But what a way to discover this …”
As my mother tells me Chester remarked how he felt peace come over him as he slipped away, he left us with peace: with God, his family and his life.
Its always harder to be the one left behind. My wife and I say that when the other goes away, you see the void they left behind and are constantly reminded of their absence. But we know that where Chester has gone he will not be missing us too much, but rather looking forward to see how are lives progress and of course one day being reunited.
Last of all I’m sure Chester would want me to say that he was hugely appreciative of all of the love, prayer and positive messages he had received from his family and friends around the world. I also know that Chester had a huge respect for the NHS and how they looked after him for the last 3 years, and as an expat myself I think us Brits should be proud of this great institute.
In the words of one his former student “travel well my teacher, we shall meet where your journey ends – in heaven”.
Justin Style (Chester’s nephew)