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Rural Missouri Magazine

Mackintyre's church
Following tragedy, a boy’s dream comes true

by Heather Berry
Stacey Garton places a flower beside her son’s headstone. Mackintyre’s Church, located in Lathrop, should be finished this spring. Below: A family photo shows Mackintyre Kindol McDill Garton in December 2007.

It’s 7 a.m., Friday, Sept. 12, 2008. The alarm clock didn’t go off. That revelation sent Stacey Garton bolting out of bed to roust her 9-year-old son, Mackintyre, so he wouldn’t miss the school bus.

Stacey called the office and her husband, Glen, got up and made the coffee.

7:05 a.m. Still no Mackintyre. Stacey checked to make sure he was awake and getting ready. Mackintyre sniffled a bit, so she told him he would probably need to take some medicine.

A few minutes later, Mackintyre stood in the kitchen, still in his PJs.

“Mom, my head really, really hurts . . .”

A former EMT, Stacey asked if he could see.

“No, I can’t see you out of my right eye . . . I think you need to call somebody . . .”

Glen called 911.

“Mom — I can’t breathe . . .”

Seconds later, Glen was on the living room floor performing CPR on their young son while Stacey waited on the porch for what seemed like an eternity for the ambulance to arrive.

7:15 a.m. Young Mackintyre Kindol McDill Garton died of an aneurysm.

Mackintyre’s all-too-brief life is a constant reminder to his family and friends that life is too short.

Today, a brief six months later, the family tries to recover from their loss by fulfilling Mackintyre’s dream.

Before his departure, Mackintyre left the seed of what is to be his legacy — Mackintyre’s Church. It wasn’t until hours later, after sitting with their son’s body at Liberty Hospital the day he died, that the importance of Mackintyre’s dream of a church came to life.

A family photo shows Mackintyre Kindol McDill Garton in December 2007.

Mackintyre had been talking about his desire to build a church on his grandpa’s farm since he was 6 years old. His family was determined to build one.

His grandmother, Nancy McDill, recalls how the two of them would ride their four-wheelers across the creek and up the hill where Mackintyre would stop to point out where his church would sit one day.

Indeed, the desire to build a church isn’t something most 6-year-olds have. The Gartons had attended Holt United Methodist Church all Mackintyre’s life. No one is sure where or when his desire to build a church on the 80-acre McDill farm began. It’s just something he alone talked about almost incessantly.

“I don’t think any of us can pinpoint what made Mackintyre want to build a church,” says Stacey. “It was just one day, ‘We need to build a church.’”

The young boy had what his family calls a magnetic personality. According to his mom, anywhere he went, somebody was drawn to him and he’d make friends.

“Church was no different,” says Stacey. “When we began attending church in Holt, it was full of people in their 60s and 70s. They latched onto him, and he’d sit with a different person nearly every service.”

A budding fiddler and bluegrass music fan, Mackintyre would often sing his favorite song, “Amazing Grace” at church. “There was hardly a dry eye in the house after he sang,” says Stacey.

Days after his death, the family began clearing the land for Mackintyre’s Church. The structure sits up on the hill in the meadow, just past the creek on the property. It is 24 feet by 36 feet in size, has a red metal roof, an old church bell and a sign stating where the pastor should park — all the things Mackintyre had said the rural Lathrop church must have. And it will be there for anyone who needs the solace it offers.

Since Mackintyre left without a chance to inherit his portion of grandparent’s farm, Grandpa Mac McDill says he felt building the church was a perfect memorial project. With the help of friends who’ve donated time, money and materials, the one-room church should be complete this spring.

Stacey and Glen Garton don't know their son's exact reasons for wanting to build a church on the family's property, but it's a wish they're working to fulfill for him.

The Gartons say the church will be non-denominational and available for weddings, funerals, vacation Bible schools, bluegrass jams, family reunions and the like.

“It’s going to be a church for everyone,” says Stacey, a member of Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative.

The family plans to build a playground area as well as a large covered picnic
pavilion.

“Mackintyre would have loved this church,” says his mom, “just like he loved this farm.”

Glen, Mackintyre’s dad, laughs. “Every time we’d go on vacation, after about two days, Mackintyre would say, ‘It’s time to go. I’ve got things to do at home on the farm.’ He just didn’t like being away from home.”

When he wasn’t in school, Mackintyre could usually be found up the road at his grandparent’s house.

“He’d worn a path along the road ditch where he’d ride his four-wheeler up here,” says Nancy. “He was his grandpa’s shadow here on the farm.”

Mac’s eyes well up with tears. “He wanted to be a fireman, policeman, bus driver and a preacher. He just always seemed to have a heart to serve others.”

Mackintyre’s mom says he always worried about other kids — whether or not they had enough of the things they needed.

“He even worried about how he could make a deaf girl he knew hear again. He thought maybe he could make something that would help her hear,” says Stacey, shaking her head in bewilderment. “He genuinely cared about anyone he met.”

Mackintyre turned 9 on Aug. 21, less than a month before he died. When his grandma asked him what he wanted for his birthday, Mackintyre asked for yet another unusual birthday gift — a fireproof, waterproof, combination lockbox.

When asked why, Mackintyre would say, “Well, that’s where you put your most precious things.”

During the weeks before he died, his parents recall Mackintyre putting things in and taking things out of the box, as if he wasn’t quite sure what was most important. The night before he died, Stacey and Glen watched Mackintyre pack his box full of his beloved items one last time.

“He put the shell casings from a funeral where a friend was given a 21-gun salute, family photos, a compass, a barometer, some old keys, a battery powered screwdriver, his wallet and a driver’s license he’d made for himself in case he got stopped while driving the car in our yard,” says Stacey.

Nearly a month after his death, the ashes of Mackintyre Kindol McDill Garton were laid to rest next to a 22-foot-tall wooden cross on the hill, beside the nearly completed church that is now part of his legacy.

“We buried him in his fireproof, waterproof, combination lockbox,” says Stacey, “because that’s where you put your most precious things.”

Brushing away a tear, Stacey looks down at the stone that bears Mackintyre’s name.

“We don’t know exactly why this church was so important to Mackintyre, but he wanted it for a reason,” says Stacey. “It’s here for someone. We hope whoever needs it will find it one day. Until then, we want it to be a place of peace, happiness and joy for everyone. That’s what Mackintyre would want.”

You may contact the Gartons via e-mail at Stacey@mackintyreschurch.com, by calling 816-539-2394 or via the Web site at www.mackintyreschurch.com.

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