THE mother of a Kilraughts man who was one of 16 people who died in the Scottish helicopter disaster had asked her minister to "pray for a miracle" as news of the tragedy first filtered through, it has emerged.
But Rev David Fallows told mourners at the funeral of 30-year-old Brian Barkley at Kilraughts Reformed Presbyterian Church last Thursday Isabel Barkley's hopes were sadly in vain.
Around 200 mourners gathered in Kilraughts including Isabel Barkley, her husband Boyd and Brian's brother Andrew and sister Judith along with Brian's fiancee Anna Jonassen from Denmark.
Brian's remains were laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery.
The family had asked for donations in lieu of flowers to be given to Air & Sea Rescue - a testament to the rescue efforts following the tragedy involving the helicopter which was operating between Aberdeenshire and the North Sea oil platforms.
Rev. Fallows told mourners: "This is, without doubt, the most difficult occasion on which I have had to conduct a funeral service in my three and a half years as minister in Kilraughts.
"The youngest adult I have had to bury up until now was Brian's uncle Hugh, aged 74. Apart from that, there have been four in their eighties and five in their nineties. If you want to live a long life come to Kilraughts, but not today.
"Today, we remember the life of John Brian Hugh Barkley, who died on the 1st of April, aged just 30. Brian had been living away from Kilraughts for some years now, in Aberdeen, where he had worked for Sainsburys, before moving more recently to KCA Deutag, working on oil rigs.
"We all benefit so much from the work of the oil industry in the North Sea, but today we are conscious of the human cost that is entailed in the extraction of oil and gas. We are mindful today also that there are fifteen other grieving families as a result of the sad accident in which Brian died.
"I am greatly handicapped today in conducting this funeral by the fact that Brian and I never crossed paths during my time here. Earlier in life, however, we spent a week together for three summers in a row at a boys' church camp from 1990 - 1992, where I was one of the leaders and Brian one of the campers.
"Even then, however, he was never one of the boys in the squad I was in charge of, and hard though I have tried to remember him from then, I have failed.
"The fact that I can't remember him means that he mustn't have kicked me in any of our football matches or ever been caught by me sneaking down a corridor at midnight for an illegal pillow fight, or anything like that.
"He must have been well behaved - and that is what you might have expected after the good start in life he had here in this quiet part of the country. Here he had a happy childhood and enjoyed being a part of the life of this congregation; especially in the activities organised for those around his age.
"Those who knew Brian have described him to me as being cheerful and friendly, yet at the same time enjoying his privacy. Like most Kilraughts men, he wouldn't have been comfortable in any situation where a fuss was being made and so no doubt would be somewhat shocked to see so many people here today for this service of thanksgiving.
"While I cannot say that I knew Brian directly, I do feel to some extent that I knew him through his parents.
"Many of you will be here today out of a sense of sympathy for Brian's family and for his fiancee Anna. None of us can probably really understand what it has been like for you over these past 23 days. We do know that it has been a time of waiting: waiting in the hope that survivors might be found; waiting to hear if Brian was one of the eight recovered from the sea; waiting for the recovery of the other eight bodies and the wreckage of the helicopter; waiting for the outcome of the investigation; waiting for the bodies to be released by Grampian Police; waiting for the memorial service last Wednesday in Aberdeen; waiting for today's funeral
"Truly this has been an out of the ordinary experience of prolonged waiting and you have conducted yourselves with great dignity and strength. I want to urge all who are here today to be sensitive to what these dear people have been through and are still going through. "This is far from a normal funeral and a normal grief experience. Please bear that in mind. Let your handshakes be gentle; let your words be few; let your prayers be heartfelt.
"In Psalm 147:3 we are told that 'the Lord heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds'. Please pray that even through the experience of today, the Lord will do a little of that work of healing and binding up.
"And now, as Brian would have known would be the case at a funeral service in a Reformed Presbyterian Church, I want to shift the focus away from the one who has died and away from those who miss him most.
It has been, and remains my prayer, that more might come out of this sad event than just the sorrow of grieving. It is my prayer that one day we may be able to detect some sense of purpose in all of this.
"This tragedy is a call to all of us who have been touched by it to think again - to have a change of mind and heart about what we believe and live by. When Isabel phoned me on 1st April to tell me that Brian had been on the helicopter that had gone down, she asked me to pray for a miracle. There was still hope that there were survivors in the water.
I did, but there was no miracle. Neither was there any miracle when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was nailed to the cross at Calvary. There was no miracle for the miracle worker, because it was God's will that His Son should die, so that others who would believe in Him would have eternal life and become God's adopted sons and daughters for ever. God did not spare His own Son. Jesus had to die in order that others could be forgiven.
"The onus therefore is on those of us who remain to make sure that some good comes out of this tragedy. So immersed are we in our own lives that it had to happen to make us think again. One day there will probably be a monument to these 16 men in Aberdeen. I pray there will be more than that. I pray that there will be many living monuments - many people who will look back and say that it was in the aftermath of this tragedy that their lives and their eternal destiny changed forever. Then it can be said that they did not die in vain," said Rev. Fallows.