Country mouse remembers a friend

John always said that you learnt more about a man when he was dead than you ever knew about him when he was living. And so it was during the address at John’s own funeral.

He had worked in Jamaica, Uganda and Tanzania building schools and hospitals before returning to England with his wife, Jill. The pair loved the countryside, horses and dogs and became great friends of my parents. We shared our Christmases, our wine and our laughter. But two terrible tragedies struck. The first came when a Hawker Siddeley airplane overshot the runway at Dunsfold in Surrey and collided with a car taking their daughter to school. No one in the vehicle survived. And then, some years later, Jill died instantly when she was thrown from her horse out on hound exercise.

Afterwards, the twinkle never returned to John’s eyes, but, somehow, he bore a burden of grief beyond a measure that could be expected of any man. Somehow, he kept his charm and, somehow, he kept his deep sadness hidden.

The huntsman blew Gone Away as his coffin was lowered next to those of his wife and daughter. John would have liked that-that much I do know.

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