On Friday 8 June I attended the funeral service for Joe McTaggart and the memorial service for Daniel, his son. It was an experience that will be with me for a very long time.
The Barvas Church of Scotland was full and some of the 600 or so who attended were unable to get inside the church.
The service was solemnly led by Rev Bobby Smith who reminded everyone that we were there to celebrate the grace of God and an exceptional christian life. Rev Tommy Macneil made the first prayer and the scripture reading from Psalm 116 was undertaken by Rev Andrew Coghill who also assisted with the precenting.
Joe’s elder brother gave a short history of Joe’s life and read from 2 Samuel 1 with particular focus from verse 23 onwards:
“Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.
How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan,thou wast slain in thine high places.
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!”
Joe’s wife then spoke movingly about her experience and particularly how God graciously helped her when she had to identify her husband’s body.
The hospital was busy and the policeman kindly took her for a time to the quiet of a room in the Police Station where the Lord spoke to her through Psalm 116.
That was the very Psalm being considered at the prayer meeting in Barvas that same night where those gathered were praying for Susan and the family.
“ I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:
I said in my haste, All men are liars.
What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the LORD'S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.”
Joe’s son Mungo also spoke movingly of his father and brother and read out what Joe’s grandson David had lovingly written about his uncle and best friend Daniel.
At the graveside in Bragar two of Joe’s daughters played the bagpipes as their father’s body was led to rest. The centre of all that happened was that Joe and Daniel were ‘with the Lord’ through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and their faith in Him.
In the weeks following Joe’s funeral on each occasion that I went with my sons to Borve on the west-side of the island we went to the shore and walked along the waterline with the desire that God would bring a measure of closure to the case and a degree of relief to the family by the sea yielding up the youngster’s body so that he could be buried with his father.
Coming off the ferry in Ullapool as we went on holiday on Friday 22 June we heard on the radio that Daniel’s body had been found in the sea at Arnol. It was a cause of thankfulness to God but of course for the family it meant another funeral.