23 Mar 2009

Jade Goody and Nicko Henderson

This weekend in our village in the country we buried Nicko Henderson – Sir Nicholas Henderson, formerly HM ambassador to Warsaw, Bonn, Paris and Washington.

The little Saxon church – one of only 20 buildings in the hamlet in which we each had homes – seats perhaps 45 people. We got more than a hundred in.

Sir Nicholas and Lady Henderson, May 1979

We celebrated his life, gazed upon the coffin, wedged beneath the tiny chancel arch, and sang Praise My Soul the King of Heaven.

Anthony Eden’s widow was there, flanked by the Marquis of Salisbury’s widow and Lord Carrington. Henderson grandchildren played violin duets. The little nave heaved with jasmine and daffodils, hellebores around the pulpit.

In the grassy graveyard beneath the beech trees and the ewe, the sexton had dug a hole to unite him with the wife he lost five years ago. In the noon sun, with ancient gravestones leaning and clumps of daffodils and primroses full blown, we buried him. He was 89 and had lived a full life.

Yesterday morning the radio told me Jade Goody had died. She was 27, the victim of a cruel and savage illness, the child of our strange encounter with the technological revolution in which we are living.

Jade Goody

Where Nicko Henderson had sat with Stalin at Potsdam in 1945, Jade Goody had, until so few years before her untimely death, lived a life blessed with very little.

Now they are both no more – neither of them present, each a testament to who we are and how we got here. And where do we go from here?

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6 reader comments

  1. Britt_W says:

    Yes, it does make you wonder about life and what we make of it while we are on this planet.

    I always wonder why it is some people’s deaths are more talked about than others in the media. Each person is so special and there is such a multi-faceted way of looking at him/her. People are parents, children, lovers, ‘bits on the side’, employees, bosses, motorists, tax payers, heroes, music lovers, naturists… all sorts. There is good and bad in everyone.

    Whoever they are, Pope or plumber, diplomat or dinner lady, other people’s deaths make you think about how short life is and that we must live life to the full. Now!

  2. Simon Gardner says:

    I remain staggered and bemused by the coverage of the (admittedly tragic) death of Jade Goody.

    I cannot understand why it is a story but perhaps I don’t read the right newspapers.

    1. Chris Merry says:

      Perhaps a giant effigy of the late Jade Goody could replace the suggested white horse of Kent to welcome visitors to the country. She would, I think, be rather more representative of the UK at the moment than the horse. And there have been calls for a statue of her reported on the radio news this morning.

  3. Jeffrey Lam says:

    Not just actual death, but the mere possiblity of the death of someone (if they are close enough to you, I guess) is enough to make you take stock and reflect on what is really important in life.

  4. Briantist says:

    Just lost a really good school friend and ex-business partner to cancer. He was three weeks older than me, just had his 40th birthday.

    It certainly makes you think. Of all my friends he was the never-smoker. Leaving a wife and two young boys too and working so hard in his career is impossible to actually believe.

    Somehow Jade just seems inconsequential to me, I’m sorry. I never met her and she never did anything that touched my heart.

    It has taken me a month to get over the actual news of Paul’s death. Whilst I celebrate his life and memory, I have been truly devastated.

    For the life of me, I can’t understand why people in the public want to use Jade Goody as a “Diana from the wrong side of the tracks” to revel in self-induced media misery, it seems a poor use for our collective precious lives.

  5. David (who helped you carry in the cheese) says:

    Thank you for your fine description of a memorable occasion and an unforgettable man.

    By the way, was that really a ewe, or perhaps a springtime lamb? How Nicko would have teased…

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