50 years ago this week, my best friend at school was killed in a car accident. She was 8 years old. It was the summer holidays and I was staying with my town Granny at the time. She saw something about the accident in the local papers but didn’t mention it to me as she wasn’t sure that I would know who was killed.
I remember it was the evening of the Sunday when I got home that my mother finally told me about the accident. I was sat on the toilet and she stood the other side of the door and said to me that I wouldn’t be seeing my friend anymore. I asked her if my friend had moved house (friends often moved without notice as far as I was concerned). When she said that my friend hadn’t moved, there was a pause while she waited for me to realize what had happened. I think you can imagine how upset I was.
As it happens my country Granny was there (probably having brought my two sisters home from her house the same day). My granddad had been run over and killed by a car a few years before, it can’t have been easy for her.
She simply told me not to cry as my friend was up with Jesus. That’s all that I needed to comfort me and I still have the picture in my mind of a boat sailing through the stars with my friend sitting in it and Jesus standing at the head of the boat.
Over the years I’ve often wondered what my friend would have been like – would we still have been friends? When my youngest sister married in our village church, I was one of her bridesmaids and I took one of the flowers I was carrying and left it on her grave. Not long after that I saw her surviving twin brother and told him that I’d left a flower for her; he was so pleased that I still thought of her.
I used to think that my mother was a coward for the way she gave me the news. Now that I have three children of my own, I realize how difficult it must have been for her. I’ve always been grateful to my country Granny for knowing exactly the right words to comfort me.
The first morning back at school made me realize that the news wasn’t just mine. When the teacher walked into the classroom, one of the boys put up his hand and proclaimed “Sir D…… is dead!”