Tony Farnfield (1967-2014)

FARNFIELD ANTHONY KENNETH (Tony) Passed away suddenly on 25th November 2014, aged 47 years. He will be greatly missed by his wife Paula, parents Brian & Maureen, both families, many friends and colleagues. A service in celebration of Tony's life to be held at Reading Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin on Wednesday 17th December at 2.00pm followed by a private committal. No flowers, but donations, if desired, to Round Table Children’s Wish, 857 Wimborne Road, Bournemouth BH9 2BQ or via www.rtcw.org. All enquires to AB Walker & Son Ltd. Tel: 0118 9573650

Tony and I met at school. He was always so much taller than me… than all of us, really.

He introduced me to Stevie Wonder and all kinds of obscure funk music, most of which would be both extremely amusing and quite unplayable here. We shared a love of Minis: although mine tended to rust away and his wrapped around lampposts (he claimed he was avoiding a cat!). We played Basketball together, and formed with a few others an unoffical school team because the authorities didn’t want reprobates like us representing them. I looked up to Tony, and not just because of his height advantage.

There would never be any question of who would be my Best Man. Who else would I trust, who else would, I knew be there for me; he drove us both down to Seaford in Sussex for my wedding on the hottest day of the year in a cramped TR7 with the heating full on (because it was broken and stuck on). The combination of such a tall man in such a cramped and hot car will never leave me: the sauna courtesy of shocking British Leyland engineering ensured that I fitted snugly in my morning suit!

Tony was Godfather to my eldest Son, Liam. His attitude to buying gifts for Liam was “what would I want?” and this ensured that Tony’s was always the coolest, fasted, loudest, most raucous, most loved thing on the table, usually brought down to us in some flash open-topped convertible pose-mobile. His favourite party trick for my kids was when he put a TV-themes CD in the stereo and (clearly with practised timing) set the automatic roof to open to the Thunderbirds theme!

We both separately joined Table in our own parts of the world (Seaford and Newhaven 837 in my case), and whenever passing, a Table meeting was always on the cards, or somehow a Brewery Tour conjured up out of nowhere. We even saw the new Millennium in together.

When Tony suffered his major and life-changing road accident, there was no doubt in my mind where I had to be, and I broke all kinds of traffic regulations to get across the country to be at his bedside. If ever I am asked (and strangely enough, I am often asked) about whether prayer works, I point to Tony Farnfield. Over the space of first hours and then weeks and then months, Tony went from extremely critically ill, to probably permanently damaged, to probably permanently dehabilitated to fully restored and returned to us: a tribute to both the hard work and skill of a whole variety of healthcare professionals and the power of prayer: a whole host of people holding Tony before God and a living proof of the combination of hard work from himself, and the love, prayer and support of those who surrounded him then, and even now gather to support all those who grieve over the tragically untimely loss of Tony now.

Tony often afterwards spoke to me of that accident as a spiritually life-changing incident and was the foundation of his life as a man of faith. Tony was always very supportive of me in my priestly vocation and accompanied me at theological college in Yorkshire through the journey of Holy Week, even though with his bean-counter’s hat on, he proudly declared by Easter Day “I’ve done 76 episodes of Church this Holy Week, I can now take the rest of the year off”.

Several times a week, Tony remains before me, as I take Holy Communion around my own parish, using the set he gifted me at Ordination. On it is a tag which bears the Scripture 2 Corinthian 1:3-4

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

There are no simple or facile words which can be offered in the face of this tragic loss, no mantra which blithely papers over the reality of the hole that is left in the lives of many family, friends, Tablers, and work colleagues. However, the promise of Christ – known and personally experienced by Tony, looks beyond the frame of our lives and into an eternal promise. God comforts us in our troubles and promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death is (although we never speak of it) a reality for all of us, a part of life, even when that life is cut tragically short as in Tony’s case before he had had nearly enough fun.

What we are left with are memories. In my case, getting onto 40 years of happy memories. In those memories, in the love and – yes – in the prayer of those who remain here on earth, Tony remains with us. I will never be able to shake off the memory of his appalling taste in shoes; nor his habit of changing his car more frequently than his socks; nor can I ever forget his love and care and concern for me and then for my family.

My oldest friend, now gathered into the loving and restoring arms of God, remains here in my prayers, and in my memories; and in the memories of all of us gathered here today. So as God comforts Tony, ripped from us, may we too know of the comfort God offers us all.

Rest eternal grant unto him O Lord
and let light perpetual shine upon him

My he rest in peace
and rise in Glory