|The funeral of Thurrock’s Bar’N’Bus driver Mike Cave took place on Tuesday 2 March.
The service took place at Grays Baptist Church and was followed by burial at Stanford-le-Hope Cemetery.
Colin Baker, pastor at Grays Baptist Church, where Mike and his fiancee Agnes attended, led the service, which included a number of emotional tributes which celebrated Mike’s life and work in the Thurrock community. Many were present from the local Kenyan community, with whom Mike had a wonderful rapport and mutual respect.
The church was almost full and all four of Mike’s brothers – John, Derek, Graeme and Chris – were there, along with Mike’s two sons, Richard and Simon, and other relatives. Mike considered Agnes’s sons Owen and Kevin to be his step-sons (Kevin is in Kenya).
Pastor Karanja led a tribute on behalf of the Kenyan church, and a group of children read sections of a moving poem together. Mike was described as being a ‘good muzungu’, which is Swahili for ‘white man’. This, of course, brought much laughter, and said so much about Mike’s acceptance by the Kenyans as one of their own.
Agnes’s tribute was read out for her. Most touchingly, she referred to the Valentine’s Day cards they had given each other on the day Mike collapsed.
Bar’N’Bus were represented by Operations Manager Stuart Christian; West Thurrock Team Leader Ray Barnard; West Thurrock Team Members Malcolm Mackinnon, Rev Michelle Reynolds and Danny Sedano; and Thurrock Teams’ Coordinator Tim Harrold.
Tim was asked to make a brief tribute. This came not long after the congregation had sung ‘Cha Kutumaini Sina’ – the Kenyan contingent full of vibrant praise, the Brits stuttering along behind them. Tim began his tribute by pointing out that Mike would’ve found that slight discordance highly amusing! He went on to make the comparison with the Apostle Paul’s attitude to the tribulations that came his way – to consider it pure joy to be persecuted for the gospel of Jesus Christ – and Mike’s own attitude to driving the bus in the face of riots, rock throwing and spitting: he’d shrug his shoulders, smile whimsically, and get on with it. Mike once said, “If we don’t get the message out to these kids, who will?” This coming from a man who in the early days of his involvement with Bar’N’Bus just sat to one side and read a book! Tim described Mike as a ‘rough diamond geezer’, and his legacy as, ‘Don’t think you can’t do a thing – you probably can’.
Carol North, who runs the regular and very successful jumble sales at the church, gave her tribute. Mike was a regular practical helper with this anointed ministry which not only sees hundreds of pounds raised for charity but also brings townsfolk into the church at what has become a meeting place for many, with refreshments served.
Among other tributes was one from his older brother, a teacher in Australia, where Mike had visited twice and had become part of the local community there. One of his other brothers told the story of how Mike, when they were kids, had attached one of the other brother’s model airplane to the clothes line and sent it shooting down the line – only to explode at the other end. He’d put a firework in it!
Colin spoke emphatically concerning the necessity for all to consider the free gift of eternal life offered by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection.
At the end of the service, prayers were led by Pastor Karanja for the family members, and there was a traditional vote of thanks led by Pastor Josephine from the Kenyan church in London that Mike and Agnes also had links with.
At the burial in Stanford-le-Hope the sun shone gently through the bare cherry trees. Birds chirped in the fresh mid-morning, early spring air. It was still and peaceful. Colin led the mourners in prayer.
The coffin bearing Mike’s body was laid into the grave, and each family member was invited by Pastor Karanja to throw a shovel of dirt into the hole, according to Kenyan tradition. This was followed by friends and colleagues.
After this, the Kenyan men, along with the council gravediggers, shovelled the rest of the mound of damp heavy earth into the grave. As they did, the Kenyan ladies began to softly sing in Swahili and English a series of songs that filled the air with the gentle presence of God, mourning with those who mourn, and bringing the hope of a sure resurrection. If you closed your eyes, it was as if this little corner of England would be forever Africa. Mike was being truly honoured by the Kenyans: Here lies a good muzungu.
Once completely covered, family members place their flowers on the grave, and each of the Kenyan ladies present took a single rose and ‘planted’ them along both sides of the mound.
Colin closed in prayer, and gradually everyone moved back to their cars, and back to the church in Grays for refreshments.
Michael Brian Cave