Lynda, RIP

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.





13 thoughts on “Lynda, RIP”

  1. That was beautiful, Susie. Thank you.

    The enormity of it is that time destroys everyone’s relationships. But you always knew Lynda was there, that she would drop whatever for you, and you could just pick up where you left off. God, I miss her.

  2. I had privilege of going to secondary school with Lynda….and boy did she light up a classroom from intellectual sparring with the teachers (Lynda always won!) to disrupting English classes ( a welcome relief for us all ) by telling the teacher she had lost a contact lens ….followed by teacher getting us all to look for said lens ( we all knew Lynda didn’t wear contacts at that time and were delighted to play along as it was better than discussing oxymorons and the like). Your blog perfectly sums up the Lynda we all knew and loved …and I did laugh at the ‘Pisces’ bit …so her. 🙂

      1. Aw did she Susie? I often meant to go over and visit her at Oxford but never got round to it. Great post …she would love it. Snowy x

  3. I’m glad I found your post Susie. I had only known Lynda for two weeks when she saved me from my moment of deepest despair; what a extraordinary and rare thing to be so much to so many people. Lynda made sure I stayed at Mansfield when I was so close to leaving, I’ll always be so grateful that she was there at that moment.

    1. Isabel – I keep hearing similar stories. She really had an amazing capacity to help and support people in need; to know what to say, just to be there and listening at the exact moment she was most needed. So glad she was there for you too.

  4. I came back to read this again today, anf wanted to say thanks again for writing it.

    I was prompted by a friend told me she’d had a small argument with her child about whether the Christmas carol ‘Deck the Halls’ includes the line ‘Curse the Lord with boughs of holly’. He says it does, and that it’s in the third verse, and yes, he agrees, it is unusual that a Christmas carol would have lyrics about cursing the lord but that’s just one of the things that’s ‘very interesting’ about that song.

    Well, it feels a bit odd to share that at length, but it made me think of Lynda, as every devious and excellent reworking of any Christmas favourite forever will. And for me, that’s just one of those ways that she springs to mind, always vividly. And that’s what made me think to visit your wonderful evocation, and enjoy a little of Lynda’s presence. Thanks again.

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