Stonyhurst 50th Anniversary Cross-Country Weekend 2016
I was invited to attend this ocassion in order to present the newly named Trophy to the winner and to say a few words about Chris.
I didn’t meet anyone else at all until the Saturday morning at breakfast in the Bayley Arms where I was staying for 2 nights courtesy of Stonyhurst College. Edward Sutherland and his brother Andrew and a number of others including Hugh Dickinson, the race organiser and the man who suggested that the Trophy be renamed the Christopher Newton-Carter Trophy.
The race was due to start at 1:30pm so to kill time I drove to Clitheroe just to see it. What a lovely town. Bigger than you first think but full of small independent shops of all kinds. Not a familiar high street chain in sight! Also a thriving marketplace.
I returned to the college in plenty of time and Andrew Sutherland took some time to show me around the main building. It is vast inside and Andrews knowledge of the place and all things in it knew no bounds. He was a mine of information! We just got back in time for the start and I snapped off a few pics which you can see below.
The day was cold and following the race we all adjourned to the new refectory for a welcome hot drink. Whilst the organisers identified the winners from the various age groups and the overall winner I spoke to Father Michael O’Halloran, who knew Chris and others I had not met before. Various prizes were awarded and before presenting the Cup to the overall winner which contrary to previous years, turned out to be Stonyhurst, I said a few words about Chris.
The Black Tie dinner was a lot of fun. Further speeches were made (not by me), and I was presented with 2 Stonyhurst Plaques and a large photograph of Chris with the running team back in 1967 or thereabouts. They really treated me like a celebrity and I felt honoured. I also felt that I was part of this “extended family”. I shall never forget it.
When I was a boy, about 14 or 15 I fell in love with a girl I met on holiday in Lido di Pomposa, a place in Italy we used to go to for summer holidays. When after 3 weeks it came time to leave, I felt my whole new world was coming apart, that this wonderful delicate, powerful, selfless desire had to abruptly end. I was devastated. On the journey back I cried and cried, sobbing with emptiness and defeat.
We sat in the back of the car as the distance between me and my love grew impossibly vast. Then I felt Chris’s hand as he took mine. He entwined his fingers into mine and held me fast. I looked at him through red glazed eyes and he just gave me a wry smile, that closed lip smile of his that simply said, “it’s ok, you’ll be ok”
I think families are like rare collections of stamps. They stay side by side, joined by perforations. And when the time comes for brothers and sons. sisters and daughters to part, as it inevitably does, they carefully separate along the perforations and the rough edge they leave turns smooth over time, as the little wound heals painlessly and smoothes over. But it is not always so.
The day the world trade centre went down it was like Chris was being torn away, suddenly, recklessly. Not carefully along the perforations, but ripped across flesh and bone just the other side of the perforations, and like the severed limb that still feels present, he is still there, his attachment to me even stronger having been torn away.
I guess over time that rough edge of the stamp will smooth off, but never in the same way as the perforations do. The ragged edge will always be there to remind me of him.
Where I live the night sky is sometimes breathtaking. I stand at the gate and gaze up to the stars and I still talk to Chris as if he was there.
I have read that a spirit, particularly when leaving its body un-naturally or early, wanders close to those people and places it loved in its life on earth, staying around for as long as it takes to detach. Something inside me tells me that Chris is long gone now, I hope to some golden warm place of love and light and friendship. And I look up at those stars and think maybe You are one of those bright lights up there Chris, shining down to tell me that all is well!
When they unearthed Chris’s forearm, there was some final peace in the knowledge that he had been found; what was left of him. You know that state of light slumber in the small hours of the morning when you’re hovering between thinking and dreaming. For some time afterwards, in those small hours, I would think and dream of taking Chris’s hand in mine, just like he did for me when leaving Pomposa, squeezing it and telling him, “you’re ok, you’re going to be ok”. From time to time that torn edge makes itself felt and I turn and see Chris one more time, whole and complete and the love for him that is always there awakens again and fills the empty space like the stars in the night sky.
There are moments in my life that I will always remember, not because they were important, but because you were there.