MONTROSE – Tears, prayers and fond memories flowed freely last week during a memorial service for Garret Carl Middleton, the Montrose High School freshman who died in a farming accident over the Easter weekend.
Several-hundred fellow students, teachers and teammates of the 15-year-old, who batted left-handed for the MHS freshman baseball team, gathered at the Sunset Mesa baseball complex as the last rays of Wednesday sunlight dipped into evening.
Teenagers hugged their parents and all agreed to carry Garret in their hearts always.
Matt Imus, a physical education teacher at Cottonwood and Johnson elementary schools, and Middleton’s coach on the freshman basketball team this past winter, spoke at the service.
After receiving balloons and spilling words of remembrance on dozens of pages of a memorial book, the crowd gathered around a pitching mound, where Imus recalled losing his best friend 27 years ago, while in high school, to a drunk driver.
Imus came away impressed, after four months of coaching Middleton, with the boy’s strong work ethic, bright smile and a hustle for life.
“I know that when I heard on Easter morning about our loss, I knew that heaven gained another angel,” he said, “who could play shortstop.
“That night I explained to my three kids what had happened, and that no matter what we do, no matter how careful we are, we can’t control what happens to us. We can try to be as safe as possible but accidents happen, things outside of our control can change our lives in an instant.
“I sat with them and prayed for Garret and his family and friends, but I also talked with my kids about living. About putting everything you had into something and working hard to achieve goals, about being a good friend, living with a passion and joy.” These goals, Imus said, reflected “just some of the qualities that I saw in Garret.”
Some students cried uncontrollably, others hugged each other and stared blankly at a framed picture of Middleton holding a bat, which was placed on the pitching mound.
“As the days and years pass and the pain and memories fade there will still be times and moments when something happens to you and you will remember Garret and a time you shared together and it will bring pain to you heart, a tear to your eye, but hopefully it will also bring a smile to your face as you remember the young man that has impacted so many of our lives,” Imus said. “Garret is no longer with us in body, but he lives in all of our heart and in all of our memories.
As dusk turned to night those attending held hands and prayed for Garret before releasing hundreds of balloons that took off toward the east. The flickering lights from paper bags decorated by students as tributes guided those attending from the field.
“He was a Cottonwood Eagle, a Centennial (middle school) Brave and a Montrose Indian,” Imus said.
Contributions benefitting the Middleton family can be made at any Montrose Bank location.