Belfast Telegraph

Tears and smiles at funeral of Northern Ireland barman Christian Grey

Family members walk behind the coffin of Christian Grey following his funeral service in Ballymena
Family members walk behind the coffin of Christian Grey following his funeral service in Ballymena
Family members walk behind the coffin of Christian Grey following his funeral service in Ballymena
Christian Grey
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A young Co Antrim man who took his own life had an infectious personality and was loved by so many, mourners at his funeral heard.

There was a mixture of tears and laughter as the family and friends of Christian Gary Crawford (Grey) gathered for an emotional service of thanksgiving in his home town of Ballymena yesterday.

It came just a day after what would have been his 30th birthday.

The popular barman at Galgorm Resort and Spa died on Monday after he went missing from the Tobernaveen mental health centre in Antrim.

His death came just hours after a posting about his mental health struggles on social media. The former Ballymena Academy and Cambridge House pupil, who changed his name via deed poll from Gary Crawford in 2012, said he had been receiving treatment for bipolar disorder for the last seven months.

Family members walk behind the coffin of Christian Grey following his funeral service in Ballymena

Christian's mother Joanne Murphy said she believed her son would still be alive if his younger brother Ryan had not died from an accidental drug overdose in 2015.

Those gathered for the service in Alan Francey's Funeral Church heard Martin McNeely, minister of Ballykeel Presbyterian Church, pay tribute to a young man who was a complex character and who ultimately died of a broken heart having never fully recovered from the sudden death of his brother.

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Painting a picture of a much-loved, street-smart, funny and humorous young man, Mr McNeely said despair had never strayed too far from Christian's mind.

Christian Grey

"He was a very confident, professional person, incredibly sharp and caring and compassionate. He left school with three A-levels but work in hospitality called to him," he said.

"He could be cheeky, an infectious personality, and that's why he was loved by so many.

Christian Grey behind the bar at the Galgorm Resort in 2014

"There's no doubting he was a drama queen, a lover of music from techno dance to slushy ballads. There were so many positives about Christian and it's critically important we remember those positives of his life today."

Mr McNeely said Christian had organised the service for his brother Ryan four years ago.

"But that was only part of his story," he added. "It's well documented how he struggled mentally. He was a frequent visitor to psychiatric care, but even there he had such a sensitivity to other people's pain, such concern and ability to mix with others from all walks of life. He was a friend to everybody.

"He was a complex mix. He processed life in a different way.

"How you think is connected to how to feel. Christian died ultimately of a broken heart and we are left here to pick up the pieces today."

Mr McNeely described Christian as a man who had always wrestled for answers to the big questions in life, over identity, sexuality and spirituality.

"Christian, however we knew him, had a genuine hunger to try and work the big stuff out," he added. "He would read the Bible, spiritual books. He asked the deep questions.

"But in the middle of it all he knew great despair. He had an extreme character. Most of us are not on that same bandwidth.

"We ask ourselves what do we do in the face of such pain?

"When it comes to the death of young men under the age of 30, the problem seems too big for us and we feel like giving up.

"But that's not the attitude to have. Jesus dealt with people one at a time.

"There were many people Jesus didn't heal, many people he didn't fix.

"It doesn't matter the scale of the problem, we must fight despair and there is a path that can heal hearts and heal heads.

"We must focus on young people of our time. We must talk with them, we must listen to their voices and encourage our young people to do the small things well over a long time."

In a fitting final tribute to a "cheeky, loving and compassionate" young man, Christian's coffin was carried from the service to the sound of dance music.

Janet Jackson's song Together Again, also played in memory of his brother Ryan, saw the tears of family and friends stemmed briefly to make way for smiles of remembrance.

If you or anyone close to you is affected by any issues in this article, contact the Samaritans free on 116 123 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000

Belfast Telegraph


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