Chris was a founder advisor on the Mountain Way Team. His loss has shaken all of us to the core but, in turn, redoubled our efforts to further establish the work we do and to help more guests take their first step on our programme.
See below for Andy’s write up of Chris Monk’s funeral:
It feels odd and slightly disrespectful to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: Chris Monk’s funeral and subsequent Celebration were brilliant. I’ve thought carefully about that word – Brilliant – and it is right to use it. It was simply a brilliant day. A large crowd assembled in the sunshine at the East Devon Crematorium. They came from all over. All were smart; some were in uniform, the ladies all looked lovely and beautifully turned out. It was, for me and others, a sort of Corps reunion, with a cross-section of Chris’s life including some very senior officers who could have been excused from attending due to high responsibilities. It was a mark of how much Chris meant to us all.
Chris’s body was brought in by six pallbearers, commanded by a Royal Marine Corporal in full Blues and assisted by another RM Corporal in Blues. His plain wooden casket was draped with the Regimental flag of the Royal Marines and the Cornish flag. On top stood a pair of his running shoes and a rugby ball. They placed Chris in an impeccably well-drilled and precise manner that befitted an old soldier being laid to rest.
Inside, even the standing room was taken up as the minister officiated in a very gentle and comforting manner. His words were spot on and set exactly the right tone. Lynn gave a wonderfully evocative and brave speech that completely encapsulated what Chris was and especially what he meant to her. This was followed by Chris’s daughter Emily who also touched everyone’s hearts by again, very bravely, sharing with us her memories of her dad and many exquisite snapshots of their special relationship. These two wonderful speeches not only allowed many tears to flow but generated a sense of pure love that palpably filled the chapel. Queen’s “Don’t stop me now” was followed by Alexandra Burke’s haunting rendition of “Halleluja”. Both struck a deep chord in us. A Royal Marine bugler blew “The Last Post” as we all stood to attention.
As we left, the congregation filed slowly past the casket and taking one of many coloured pens wrote a final message to Chris on the coffin. There were some cracking comments and the mix of colours produced a magical effect, which for me was an unexpected and wonderful last chance to talk to Chris. I simply wrote:
“Nice one Monkers! Love from The Mountain Way XXXXX”.
The Celebration took place in the Redwing pub in Lympstone village. It was Lynn and Chris’s local and was packed to the gunwhales. After an hour of drinking, pasty munching, back slapping, raucous laughter, hugging, and more tears, the speeches began. Seven people from different walks of Chris’s life spoke eloquently, hilariously, movingly, and finally in complete harmony with all that knew him. Time and again the same words were repeated: sincerity, genuineness, truly caring, wonderfully inspiring, irreplaceable, much loved and admired.
The Mountain Way was given the pride of place with the final speech and then we conducted an auction of some of Chris’s items that raised just over £3000, one friend donating £1000 for a climbing chock and another giving over £800 for a few juggling balls!! It was that kind of day.
Much later the entire pub engaged in the sort of dancing only seen in Royal Marine officer’s messes after midnight, to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, and much much later the diehards, which included Lynn and Emily, took part in a spoofing competition, which resulted in one awesome Royal Marine Lieutenant Colonel necking a high combat boot-full of richly noxious fluids in real style.
Monkers would have loved it.
Yes, it was a brilliant day. And thanks to Chris and Lynn’s legacy we can now take our next PTSD guest out to France, where I am confident we will turn his life about. It was exactly what everyone wanted. Chris knew how to turn disaster and tragedy into triumph. He truly lived his life, every day, according to his high principles and simple humanity.
We promise to live up to them in fond and everlasting memory of our dearest friend: Chris Monk.