We were shocked and very saddened to hear of the unexpected death of a much loved student, Simon McMenamin, on Easter Sunday. We trust him into the hands of the God who overcame death in order that we may all have everlasting life.
Simon had a long association with St Mark’s. He commenced his study in the School of Theology in 2011. He took a number of subjects before having a break from study. During the next few years he worked at Better Music in Canberra, often running into Church History lecturer Michael Gladwin whose musical passion runs a close second to his academic work. Simon came back to St Mark’s with a new enthusiasm for study in 2018. His renewed commitment was matched by excellent academic results. He had begun plans for continuing into post-graduate study with a focus on Church History. I suspect Michael’s influence was behind a comment that Simon’s mother Lorraine Saunders made when she claimed the only thing she and Simon disagreed on was the Oxford comma! Simon was an engaged and thoughtful student, and will be a great loss to our school. It is our intention to ensure that a post-humous degree will be awarded to acknowledge the extent of his study.
Simon had haemophilia and a number of associated health issues. Although we were aware of this, he never once complained of his condition or used it as a means to avoid his study commitments. Those of us who attended his very moving funeral learned more of what he was enduring, and our admiration increased for his courage and passion for life despite the odds he faced. Simon was diagnosed with haemophilia before the age of one, but had a rare condition that meant the usual blood coagulants did not work. So until he was 17 he was restricted from almost all normal activity and regularly hospitalised, then a new treatment was trialled and worked well for him after which he embraced life in all its fullness. According to the testimony of his friends, he often spoke of his experience of the almighty love of God and his faith that began to grow from this time.
At the funeral, Simon’s long-time friend Tanya Crossman spoke of the theological journey that she had shared with him due to her own theological studies and ministry opportunities. She read from one of Simon’s essays on Practical Theology and Mental Health. It was wonderful to hear in Simon’s own (erudite) words how his understanding of the suffering of God in Christ was giving him theological insights to deal with his own mental and physical health challenges.
Very poignantly, we were informed just before Simon’s cremation that his organs were donated to improve the lives of four other individuals. Simon’s mother Lorraine chose the song ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head’ by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to be played over a montage of photographs. The words seemed an apt description of his approach to life:
thing I know
The blues they send to meet me won’t defeat me
It won’t be long ’til happiness steps up to greet me
Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ red
Crying’s not for me
Cause I’m never going to stop the rain by complainin’
Because I’m free
Nothing’s worryin’ me
We trust that now Simon is truly free from pain and fear of the future. A quotation from CS Lewis that was included on the memorial leaflet is a powerful reminder of the love of God:
But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be;
only that it lies across a river.
But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder.
Aslan – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader