Grace's Service of Remembrance, Sunday 19th April 2009



* Joanna Wright's tribute to Grace

Joanna started her tribute to Grace by reading a letter written to her by Grace.

“Dear Mrs Wright, thank you for taking the time and the effort to write to me, your letter did not only make me feel very welcome, but it reassured me about the small worries that I had.  In your letter you wrote that you thought that I would make the most of every opportunity and I can tell you I will try my absolute hardest.  You also wrote that you had confidence that I will give and gain a great deal at St Edwards; I share as much confidence as you do.  I am looking forward so much to the new experiences and opportunities.  Avenue is going to be a great place to be.  I can’t wait” 

The only anxiety Grace could think of was how she would make friends.  She need not have been anxious.  Her popularity was immense.

Once Grace had arrived, I learned that life for her and with her was never dull.  She burst with life and had a vibrant personality.  She arrived as a Shell looking older and more sophisticated than many of her peers, mature and self confident.  Proud of her Dragon roots she was equally sensitive about the need to include others and make new friends.

Grace’s love for life meant that she packed more into her seventeen years than many are able to.  She was a great girl.  Naturally gregarious, immensely popular, she was unstoppable living life to the full and with such intensity that emotions were largely unfiltered and spontaneous. 

She had an appetite for life that drove her.  Sometimes this meant that she would get herself in trouble.  She was often late for callovers or registration and many times she would whiz in through the door, giving a cursory glance at the clock and then produce her well rehearsed apology which was as unconvincing as it was charming. 

Grace laughed easily and loved deeply. She made no secret of her love for her family.  She was adored and this was clear to us here at school.  What struck me particularly was the respect that she held for her parents and her brothers.  Rather specially for a teenage girl, Grace was very close to her mother.  Other girls would say Grace adores her mother.  She was clear about the value of her family life and its strong foundations.  She was secure in her base and this gave her confidence to say on many occasions, “It’s alright Mrs Wright, my mum knows”.  One of my last conversations with Grace was about the values that her family held and the inherent privileges and advantages she had because she belonged to such a strong family unit.

Her great capacity for love inspired love in many.  As a friend and girlfriend, she enjoyed long and meaningful relationships.  She experienced love; the pleasure and the pain of loving and being loved. 

Grace had a real strength of character and mind.  She had a determination to succeed at the things that she wanted to do.  She had not time to do things that she did not want to do.  Grace was sometimes in trouble because she would not have completed her work.  She even missed the recent House shout that she had prepared because she was doing her Biology coursework.  She had a remarkable attitude to her work where she appeared not to mind whether she had done it or not.  I know that other girls in house used to envy Grace’s boldness.  It was her straightforward honest which meant that she could accept the consequences of her decision.  She could not lie.  She had chosen to spend her time doing something else.  In the light of the shortness of her life, I am glad that she made her choices so boldly and that she was at ease with those choices. 

Her leadership potential was clear.  This came to fruition in her last year when she excelled in her role as Head Sacristan.  She always attended chapel and would compliment Rev Wright on sermons when she saw him in house later.  Grace had a faith which was steady and sure.  She was unafraid to attend compline or to like chapel.  She shared her family’s Christian faith.

Grace was genuinely beautiful both inside and outside.  The girls used to speak about Grace’s enviable beauty.  She was and would have been beautiful at any age in her life.  She was stunning with her striking bone structure, perfect smile and eye-catching loveliness.  Photos of her as a toddler showed those of us who did not know her at that time was eye catchingly beautiful right through her life.  In my time as HM, we had several visits of photographers for the prospectus.  I asked Grace and Lara to take these photographers round the school.  It is no surprise that they featured in those photos and some of them are on the website.  Grace fulfilled her duty with great enthusiasm and had customized her uniform for the occasion. 

Grace always had a strong sense of fairness and unfairness. She would express her options clearly, she did not mind if someone did not agree or even if no-one agreed.  She was sure enough of herself to stand up for the underdog, to promote the unpopular teacher of unfit pop star. In arguments she combined a childlike innocence with a childish tenacity.  She seems to love an argument and could disagree forcefully but with absolutely no malice.  She could have a heated disagreement with someone, showing away at them.  But the lovely thing about her was that she recovered very quickly, moving on, never bearing a grudge.  Within a few moments, she would smile away and cheerfully say “Well they do have a point you know” and she was baffled by people who liked to sulk.

For someone who could feel her point of view so intensely, she was generous in her forgiveness.  As her HM, I had to be forgiven quite often, because I often got it wrong for Grace.  Rules and she did not always concur and I represented those rules and sanctions.  She sometimes found things petty and annoying; though I could agree with her privately, I could not do so publicly.  I was easy to read her mood as her walk expressed her happiness or not.  On one occasion at the end of the fifth form, I knew she was unhappy and I didn’t want her to go to bed without speaking to her so I saw her to apologise to her.  She was generous in her forgiveness. 

She had the kind of beauty that did not need make up even though she had a great liking for it.  There was a time in the fourth form when she because too orange in her make-up.  I knew that I was being pretty ineffectual in making Grace any less orange and we were having daily run-0ins about it, so I sent her to Mr James.  The agreement was that she would go every day for a week, reporting to him.  I felt happy that I had shared the responsibility and stress and Grace did not seem too distressed.  At the end of the week, she came to thank me because she had got to know Mrs Nye and Mr James and she felt that they were so lovely.  She wanted me to know that she was grateful and she had had such quality time with them. 

Grace was a superb guide and ambassador for the school and parents who were shown around by Grace invariably praised her for being such a great girl.  Effortlessly confident, utterly charming and vibrant.  She sparkled with enthusiasm, intelligence and interest. 

Grace had the ability to make great friendships across the Houses and the years.  Many people feel that they are Grace’s beset friends which is so understandable when we think of her loyalty and generosity of spirit.  She saw the best in people. 

I was her HM for four years and I was proud of how she grew up.  I knew that Sixth form suited her well and the house was a base for her.  Happy to talk to anyone she had friends throughout the house.  She loved all the house functions, the picnic in the summer, the cream tea in the garden, barbecues and silly games, chatting on the blue sofas.  Grace loved food and the girls talk about going to Hong Kong House where Grace said that she was a on a diet so she wouldn’t order anything and then she ate everyone else’s.  She grew a strong sense of identity with the houses and gave it her all when she was leading it. 

One of our last conversations was about the house.  It was late a night.  She came out of her room to fetch some water and she stopped to talk.  I can picture the moment clearly.  She said, I just wanted you to know that I like your choice of Head of House.  Lara is absolutely the right person.  I thanked her.  She then said that she would help Lara and she would do all she could to support the House and the new HMs.  She was very valuable to the house.  I know that she was true to her word in her support and her engagement with the members of the House.  She invested time and energy into supporting her peers and the HM. I knew that this was particularly admirable when she had so many friends in other Houses.

She was, as we know, a keen and talented sportswoman, playing the first for hockey and netball.  She won the most improved hockey player award at the recent dinner.  She loved the teamwork and had a healthy respect for her hockey coach.  When I think of her, I capture her in mid flight on the netball court but equally I see her at ease in her stillness just before bed time, curled up, book in hand surrounded by her ordered bedroom decorations.

Her charisma helped her in her role as Sports Prefect, she persuaded the athletically challenged to run in the house steeplechase with the words of a great leader – I’m not going to make you all do it but thank you to those who are running and if you are running do your best.  She had a natural aversion to red nose row, even though she had been a promising rower in the Shells and yet she rowed vigorously for the house.  She helped prepare the house shout and uncannily predicted that the house would win.  At times she could be impatient and feisty.  She would block out what she did not want to know.  She played the harp beautifully, was a great artist and loved her speech and drama with Aggie.

Grace was utterly without malice; she would not have wilfully or wittingly inflict pain on anyone.  She was determinedly optimistic about bad things not happening to her.

I re-read Grace’s letter on Friday after her funeral. I feel profound sadness that she who was so young and so lovely has been taken from her family and friends too soon.  I have thought about what she wrote and wondered whether Grace’s time here at St Edward's has been all that she had wanted it to be.  We want to have more time with her but we know we cannot. 

If there is one thing we can do, then it is to learn from the circumstances of her death to protect ourselves and your families from this present pain.  We can learn and be inspired by Grace’s life.  She lived life to the full; she did not waste time fretting, she spent time loving, forgiving and living, but she has left us too quickly, to soon and her death leaves us with a rollercoaster of emotions.  We all have own memories of her and we feel pain – own sense  of loss as well as the pain of seeing Grace’s family and closest friends suffer.  It is unbelievable that someone so full of life can have left so early. 

At her funeral, Rev Kerr spoke of the place that Grace has gone to ahead of us.  Grace’s Christian faith means that she and her family who share her faith believe that Christ Jesus has kept his promise.  He has prepared a place for her.  He will be our comfort even though we presently walk in the valley of the shadow of death.

I refer to her letter again “At the end of Teddies I would like to say I have achieved lots of things.  I don’t know what exactly at the moment, when I am at Teddies hopefully I will find out’  Her hope was that she would give much to the school.  We know that she has.  My prayer is that we will see that what she gave to this school is not lost and it does not stop here.  She should always be remembered as full of vitality, love and integrity even when we have all grown older.  We should take inspiration from her loveliness, her loving nature and her faith.

One of the things she said that she wanted to do was to help others for example and make life better, particularly for children.  Can we do it for her?