WATERMAN – The hundreds of mourners in attendance all raised their arms together Monday at Indian Creek Middle School.
School was canceled at Indian Creek on Monday so that all students, faculty and others could pay their respects to Michael C. Gaston, a 16-year-old sophomore at Indian Creek who died Nov. 8. The Rev. Phil Chapman, pastor at Village Bible Church’s Indian Creek campus, told the crowd that raising their arms was symbolic of the community effort ahead.
“You are going to need to lift up the Gaston family in the weeks, the months and the years to come,” Chapman said.
Gaston was a middle school state champion in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, and a three-time Junior Olympics qualifier, as well as a gifted musician.
At one end of the gym was his baritone saxophone, a pair of his track shoes and many medals, along with dozens of roses laid upon and flanking his black casket.
Perhaps most important, however, Gaston was a gracious soul beyond compare, according to the friends and family who spoke at the funeral.
Near the middle school entrance were many athletic accolades Gaston earned and pictures of him and friends creating memories.
Chapman admitted he struggled to find answers for the community’s loss.
“There’s too much hate,” he said. “We are to love one another and lift each other up with prayer.”
An online fundraising drive, selling T-shirts with “#RunForMichael” on the front, is underway. The site, at customink.com/fundraising/runformichael, already has sold more than 230 shirts and raised $5,300. The site also includes a logo with a suicide awareness ribbon over Indian Creek High School’s Timberwolves logo.
Gaston is survived by his parents, Nicholas and Jennifer (Davis) Gaston; and six siblings, Drew, 15, Taylor, 13, Cayden,10, Chloe, 9, Addison, 7, and Greyson, 5.
His uncle, Jerry Davis, spoke to the job Nicholas and Jennifer did raising Michael.
“Michael was a gentle giant with a heart of gold,” Davis said. “You two are the most amazing parents a child could ask for, and Michael loved you so much. He was who he was because of you.”
Throughout the words and songs chosen by the family, tears were shed in every row, but friends and family made sure to share stories that brought laughter, and reminded the community of Gaston’s playful spirit. There were stories of riding bikes 10 miles for ice cream, only to find out there already was some at the house, of Gaston cracking an egg over his head, and stories of his bigger-than-life spirit.
Chapman pointed out that it’s appropriate to cry, citing John 11:35, the shortest yet perhaps one of the most powerful verses in the Bible: “Jesus wept.”
“The God of the universe cried,” Chapman said. “Weeping tells the world we’re hurting, and that it’s just too great a loss to keep within.
“Are you feeling burdened by the loss of this beautiful boy?” he later continued. “Jesus says to you, ‘Come. I can help lighten your load. I’m eager to help, but you have to come to me.’ ”