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…