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Chris Grady: Catch up with friends before it's too late

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This week has been a strange one for me. My first school friend with whom I shared 8 years of boarding school life died last week after 20 years suffering under the weight of HIV and Aids. He lived with it but in the end it got him. So the first three days of the week were spent trying to connect with people I hadn’t seen for 30 years, and some who I had never met who were his contemporaries when he moved to the Savoy Group to work.

On Thursday I drove to Charterhouse Square (avoiding tv trucks filming Poirot) and picked up the retired chaplain from my old school, Christ’s Hospital, who was dressed in his royal finery as befits someone who is currently billed as an Extra Chaplain to the Queen. Good to know she has spares when needed.

We drove to Sevenoaks to the parish church where John had worshiped and volunteered, and met up with his older sisters who I hadn’t seen since I was 12ish. And slowly we met with school colleagues who have travelled different worlds since we last spent time together, and friends of John who I had never met.

John enjoyed the ceremony and splendour of the church, and I first worked with him doing the lighting for church events when we were 11, and then co-company managing a company of 120 in Arthur Koppit’s Indians when we were 14. (Fantastic production with real white stallion set in a circus ring borrowed from Chessington Zoo). 

He also had had time to plan his service precisely. I guess that's one of the few advantages of a long illness!

It was a beautiful event. The chaplain’s eulogy was heartfelt. The parish priests spoke so fondly of John. And the undertaking stage management worked smoothly (apart from the coffin clouting the head of one priest as it was ceremoniously carried forth).

The theatre of funerals is very special. It's just a shame that the gathering is one of mourning, and the audience are too often choked with sadness. But I hope we did him proud.

But my blog-thought for the day is to remember that you don’t have to wait for  a funeral to have a reunion with old friends. And you don’t need to wait until you die to have a party to celebrate your life. Choose a good occasion and get people together. Do it whilst you can enjoy it, before you are put in a box.

Oh and if you want a living eulogy, why not go on LinkedIn and ask people to recommend you. I tried it, and as I think I wrote in a previous blog, I now have enough material from people saying nice things to parcel up for anyone who ever might want to write an Obit for me.

So RIP John Talbot – 1958-2013 (Christ’s Hospital 1969-1976), later Savoy Hotel Group Training Manager. Everyone loved the picture I found of you preparing for the puppet show when we were 11 in aid of the Children’s Society.


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