This feels strange, but when I have too large feelings I write, because it helps sort them through, and reading facebook memories has helped deal with today, so I sort of think this is ok to share. Even though she’d hate it and it is full of cliches and barely touches the beginning of all there is to say. Sorry.
I’m steamrollered by the news that Lynda Patterson has passed away.
I know I’m not the only one. Lynda was the beating heart of Mansfield College for over a decade. She was that implausible being that eulogies get written about: the ones that everyone loved, a friend to all, wise and kind. Special. But she actually was. And she was 40 years old, and the thought of her being due a eulogy is almost unbearable.
She was something else to so many others: her friends in Dromore, her rebuilt life in New Zealand as Dean of Christchurch Cathedral. We never spoke much about her faith; as with all friendships, especially university ones, there are vast portions of people’s lives you never get to see. But I watched from afar: beaming at her occasional posts online, awed by the construction of that cardboard phoenix, quietly thrilled on her behalf that she had found a new home, and respectful of that choice. I hadn’t spoken to her in years. I planned to catch up, next time she was here. One day, maybe I’d be in New Zealand, and I’d pop round. One day, of course, she’d move back. In years to come, we’d be weird old ladies together.
You think you have time.
I am infuriated with how easy it is to put her into past tense. She’s that friend I knew way back when. The one I’ll see later.
But now there are memories only. They’re bloody good ones, though. Lynda was a riot, a candle to gather round. I remember meeting her for the first time – in the Mansfield foyer, perched on the table swinging her legs with a beanie cap on her head, narrowing her eyes and smiling and shouting,’Pisces?’ at me as I walked into Oxford’s scary hallowed halls for the first time. (She was right. She usually was.) Giddy anticipation, waiting to see The Phantom Menace in Belfast, trying to read each other’s minds in a pub to fill the time. Hours upon hours in Browns, the KA, that tea rooms on Holywell Street, the plodge, PL, talking bollocks the way you can at university – only it was Lynda, so it wasn’t bollocks, it was theosophy and Shakespeare’s histories and impressions of eminent High Tablers. God, she was funny. And clever. I met a lot of clever people at Oxford but she could’ve washed the floor with the lot without even trying, if she’d ever wanted to. I met a lot of clever people at Oxford but few of them were as generous with it.
She was a tutor and Junior Dean too. It was a lot, that job, doing it as whole-heartedly as she did. She was the person I went to at my moment of deepest despair. She was that for a lot of people. Sometimes we fled beloved/suffocating Mansfield together: Cromer in November with the wind knocking us off our feet, just to be away; to Cape Wrath lighthouse, so she could feel as if she was at the edge, the furthest point. She longed for mountains, escape. Eventually, she grabbed it – and, as far as I can see, became that same person to a new community. Maybe who we are is who we are, geography be damned.
I do a similar job to her Junior Dean role now in a boarding school. Today I realise how much of how I conduct myself is drawn from trying to mirror her: that compassionate authority. She was a stupendously good mate but she taught me so much too. I’m going to cling onto that, I think.
Rest in peace, Lynda.