The funeral service for 18-year-old Seth Alexander Fairchild of Patterson was held Tuesday evening, Jan. 13, to a standing room only crowd inside of First Baptist Church off of South Del Puerto Avenue, honoring the impactful life of a young man who touched many people in his short time here on Earth through his will to focus on others rather than himself, and his full acceptance of Jesus Christ.
Seth Fairchild, who would have celebrated his 19th birthday in March, lost his two-and-a-half year battle with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer that can affect young adults, and died at his home on Saturday, Jan. 10, but not before living his life to the fullest.
Seth was an avid outdoorsman, an Eagle Scout who loved backpacking, hunting, fishing, long-distance shooting and big, lifted trucks. He completed his first 50-mile backpacking trip up California’s Lost Coast with Boy Scout Troop 533 when he was only 11, and went on to complete many other backpacking trips, including another 50-miler in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
He graduated from Patterson High School in May of 2014 and had been accepted into Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., where he had planned to study mechanical engineering.
Boy Scouts from Patterson Troop 81 presented the colors before the service while the sound of bagpipes could be heard from outside of the church’s front doors. The piper eventually entered the church, playing the tune to the well-known hymn "Just as I Am" by Charlotte Elliott, before the scouts led the congregation in the pledge of allegiance.
Seth’s father Robert Fairchild was first to speak on his son’s behalf.
"Seth asked when we were talking about his memorial service to talk for him, and I didn’t know if I could do it. But I’m happy to talk to the many faces that knew him," Robert Fairchild said.
"He asked me to give one clear message, and that is to take nothing for granted. Life is precious and can be taken at any moment," Robert Fairchild said, informing the crowd of his son’s first prayer every morning, ‘Thank you for letting me wake up today.’ "
His father went on to explain how Seth’s first 50-mile backpacking trip through the Lost Coast was one of the defining moments of his life. Trip packs were down to 37 pounds and hiking had to be timed with the tides, forcing him to have to wake up at 2 a.m. in order to keep on schedule.
"That gave him the courage. Whatever he set his mind to, he could do," Robert Fairchild said.
"He knew he had it," he said in reference to his son’s cancer. "He had this challenge. He was more worried about us, his friends, than about himself, because Seth had accepted Jesus Christ and he knew where he was going. He said he wasn’t scared. Despite the survival rates, he never accepted his fate and focused on others, rather than himself," Robert Fairchild told the congregation.
Despite a surgically-implanted femur, Seth Fairchild continued to participate in the PHS marching band, playing the tuba, and continued to compete even when he had to be pushed onto the field in a wheelchair.
He learned to fly fish last year at the Eagle Mount Big Sky Kids camp in Montana, where he caught a lot of rainbow trout. He hunted two bucks and five squirrels, which he proudly ate, and even spent a weekend with Preston Roberts of the History Channel series Mountain Men. Preston had heard about Seth when he was in Montana and showed him how to make a knife in his shop, eventually letting Seth make his own knife.
Robert Fairchild went on to list some of his son’s other hunting accomplishments, including a mule deer he shot Oct. 29, 2014, and a 600-pound, 6-by-5 bull elk he shot Oct. 25.
"I have never been prouder than the shot he did on that Elk from 369 yards," Robert Fairchild said to the congregation while holding back tears.
"He never once complained, even while he kneeled down on his prosthetic leg, and with tumors in his back," the father explained.
"Mostly he prayed, not so much for himself, but for his friends. He prayed that they cherish their lives and that they may know the same Lord," Robert Fairchild said.
Local Scoutmaster Ken Buehner spoke of Seth’s accomplishments later adding that Seth’s Eagle Scout status was earned for some concrete improvements he made at the Mt. View Church in Crows Landing.
Seth’s grandfather, Pastor Joseph Walter Hutchinson Sr. of Traphill, N.C., was the last to speak on Seth’s behalf during Tuesday’s service.
"Seth affected more people from the West Coast to the East Coast than more people I will ever know," Hutchinson told the crowd.
"I don’t know how many people that say they have been saved because of this man. So many people that had been cold and out of touch with God started serving him like they used to."
"He said that if anyone in his family could have cancer, he was glad it was him. How could anybody say that?" Hutchinson said. He paused before adding, "God works in mysterious ways."
Hutchinson went on: "I talk to you today, because Seth cared about you, he wanted to see people saved and with him in the city of God. He steered his course and kept the faith."
At this time, Hutchinson asked those in attendance of the service if they too wanted to be saved and devote their life to Jesus so that they may one day see Seth again in heaven.
Close to 30 teenage and young adult friends of Seth’s one-by-one came up to stand by the casket of their friend, evoking a strong, spiritual response from the rest of the crowd in attendance.
"This man did not die in vain," Hutchinson said of his grandson as he witnessed so many of Seth’s friends devoting their lives to the Christian faith, after which he suggested to them to find a church, find a pastor and get baptized.
Elias Funez can be reached at 209-892-6187 ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org.