This is the real Eulogy that I wrote for you and read out at your funeral.
Several people said it was good and captured your character. Someone said that they could see people nodding at some of the things I said.
I can only hope you would have approved, my darling. I worried a little that it was too personal and revealing in part (I did cut out a lot of what I had originally written about your feelings about work and retirement, and about the time in hospital, and how much I had hoped that you would get better and come home).
* * *
My poor, dear John has been taken from us. Unexpectedly and prematurely.
He left home one weekday morning as usual, and had a heart attack on the street nearby. He was taken to hospital, where he spent eight and a half weeks in intensive care, before passing away. Unfortunately he never regained consciousness; so there was never any conversation between us or goodbye.
We hope that he didn’t suffer too much, physically or mentally.
I was saying to John over the last few years, ‘we’ve had such a long stable period, you’d better prepare yourself for something happening – the boiler will go, or the washing machine will break down.’
And now here we are, with this worst possible thing having happened.
* * *
John William C- was born on the Isle of Wight in 1955 and brought up in Cowes, with his dear brother David. Sadly both his parents died early and he remained upset by their loss all through his life. He spent some time living with the B- family, with whom he has always kept in touch, and then went to university in London, where he studied History. He returned to Cowes briefly but moved away again for work, and so spent most of his life living and working in Croydon.
He watched his niece and nephews grow up, and we relatively recently attended Amy’s wedding. He was lucky to have made good friends at school and university, and always very much enjoyed their company.
* * *
I met John in 1985 when he was 29 and I was 23. He proposed to me in a shelter on Cowes seafront, a place we have often returned to, and we got married in August 1988.
We stayed together for 29 years and had celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. We went to Venice on our honeymoon and returned for our 25th wedding anniversary in 2013.
John was very much my soulmate. We had so much in common, sharing similar opinions and interests, and being on the same wavelength about things.
We had amassed a huge shared history and remained very close.
John was always very loving and kind towards me, and we were living happily together – a situation I had hoped to continue into old age.
* * *
John used to say that he would never be bored, he had so many intellectual and other interests, he could always find something to do and enjoy.
Above all, John was a very intelligent and deep thinking person. As well as history, he was interested in art, architecture, literature, poetry, film, music, current affairs, the sciences, and so much more. Even as a child he had a special interest in Lord Nelson, and Naval History. He was also an expert on the Wars of the Roses. He was increasingly into Art History and Modern Art, and had a huge collection of books about Art. He was a Friend of the Royal Academy and Tate Modern, and was often going to obscure art exhibitions.
He couldn’t read music or play an instrument, but his knowledge of classical music was extremely good. He could almost infallibly recognise a composer from just a short excerpt of music, even if he didn’t know the piece. Not many people would be able to tell you which Beethoven or Mahler symphony you were listening to, or which Wagner opera, or Mozart aria – but John probably could.
He also had a vast general knowledge. He used to watch Mastermind and University Challenge. I would sometimes note down his scores, and he would regularly get around 40% of all questions on University Challenge right.
John was also quite political. He championed fairness and equality, and wanted the world to be a better place.
I used to say to him, ‘I’m not a big enough audience for you’. He was a person who actually had a lot of meaningful things to say, and I wish he had written more of his opinions and insights down, for the world to share. The world has missed out, without doubt.
But as well as being intellectual and philosophical, John was also very down to earth and could discuss virtually any topic with anyone. He enjoyed watching football and was a Chelsea fan all his life. He also watched Formula One, American Football, all the key horseraces, and every year followed the Tour de France cycle race. When he could he watched the yachting and powerboat racing off Cowes.
John also loved nature and the countryside. Some years ago, he set out to walk the Pennine Way – not all in one go, but over several years and several visits. It was a period we often thought back to. I was so proud of the way he would never get lost and always turn up on time, appearing across some isolated field, happy to be enjoying the beautiful scenery and remote atmosphere. It was a great achievement and a happy moment when he finished it.
As people have commented recently, luckily John also enjoyed many nice holidays during our time together. I’m glad that in the last few years we went on two fantastic cruises – the first in the Caribbean, the second in the Eastern Mediterranean (he always loved the Greek islands). Our most recent holiday was a relaxing one in a quiet hotel in Menorca, where John had a chance to rest and sunbathe by the pool and on the beach.
* * *
Several people have spoken to me about John’s great sense of humour, perhaps the thing many people will remember him most for.
He had a particular gift of finding the humour in things as they went along – coming in with a witty comment in response to something someone said. On a day to day basis, he would make me laugh all the time, and I believe over the years he had gained a reputation for being both clever and funny.
And for one more thing – his kindness and compassion.
Anyone who got to know John (and I knew him better than anyone) would realise that at heart he was kind and caring – a very sensitive, emotional, compassionate and sentimental person.
We had sometimes found ourselves walking in cemeteries – in this one, and various other country churchyards we came across, and John would look around and read the inscriptions and be moved to tears on others’ behalf.
I have received many lovely sympathy cards, and these are some of the words people have used to describe John: kind-hearted, thoughtful, non-judgemental, generous, having integrity, sincerity and a caring attitude, a tower of strength, a wonderful man with a warm sense of humour, such a good man, a good friend, a great man, a great soul.
I knew all that, but it’s nice to hear that other people knew it as well. I only hope John realised how well-regarded he was by many people.
* * *
The worst thing about what has happened is that John had hoped to take an early retirement option very soon.
He was saying recently that after so many years of work, he wanted to have some time to himself, where there were no pressures or commitments, and he could spend time doing what he really wanted to do – particularly to be creative and realise some of his art ideas, of which he had many.
I’m so, so regretful that poor John didn’t get a few years, or even a few months, to have his days to himself – not to have to go to work, but just to relax and live, and maybe to paint, to be an artist like he’d always wanted.
(I didn’t read out the next two paragraphs.)
Such a dreadful, dreadful shame that he worked diligently all those years, and never got the free time to himself that he wanted so much.
All through the horrible two months he was in hospital I was saying (though I don’t believe he heard me), John you won’t have to go back to work, I’ve got your retirement all planned out for you. You are the most important thing in my life, and I’ll look after you. You’ll slowly recover and I’ll visit you in hospital every day. We’ll talk about what’s happened, plan your homecoming, discuss our changed future. I was saying – when you get home, you won’t have to do anything except – exist. You can spend all your days resting and getting better, reading your books, listening to music and watching DVDs. I really wanted that to happen, wanted to see him recuperating and having lots and lots of calm, peaceful, happy days.
* * *
John sometimes used to refer to the quote ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans’.
Unfortunately, death can also happen to you while you’re making other plans.
* * *
Dear sweet darling John, I will so miss your kindness and compassion and support and understanding towards me. Your daily companionship, your vast knowledge, your good humour, your gentle soul.
You were a towering presence in my life, and I’m sorry that I can’t tell you any more how much you meant to me, and how very special and precious you were to me.
Without you, I’m just half a conversation.
Thank you for giving me 29 years of your life. It was a privilege to have shared my life with you, and been loved by you for so long.
I hope you were happy and enjoyed life – I think you did.
I will always remember you with such fondness and sorrow.
I love you John; and will love you forever.
Please rest in peace.