My lovely friend Becca Wyatt died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage three days before Christmas.  She was my age exactly, 54, tall and straight-backed, with thick dark hair, a long stride, a fierce intelligence and a big smile.

Our first meeting was in my kitchen. She was meant to be interviewing me for PR about the Carnegie Medal, but I ended up asking her as many questions as she asked me. I suppose if I’d been English I might have learned everything I needed to know from her accent and wonderful posture, but I didn’t, and she told me about her childhood — the sort I’d only read about in books — full of tragedy and secrets and things that went wrong because nobody ever spoke of them. Becca answered all my impertinent questions gravely, or with a small smile.  If anyone on earth was less capable of self-pity I have yet to meet them.

She was about to marry George and she was nervous, not sure she believed in happy marriages.  Is he kind? I asked. Does he love you? Does he make you laugh?  Yes, she nodded. OK, I said, you’ll be happy. And they were.

Every few weeks Becca e-mailed me pictures of George riding Harry — his pride and joy — a big gleaming ex-racehorse that they had rescued by driving through the night with a horsebox to Ireland.  The three of them radiated happiness — George on his beautiful horse, staring into the lens held by his beautiful wife.

I went to stay with Becca and George in Sussex the night before my first (and only) hunt — she had sorted me out a horse with the world’s loveliest canter, but I was still terrified — of the pace (fast) the conditions (deep mud and rain) and the fences (too big).When we all met on the top of the Downs for the blessing of the hounds, Becca grinned at me.  Here, she said, and handed me not a small glass of Port, but the entire bottle.  This will help, she said, and it did.

Becca loved the Carnegie Medal.  She loved books, was a writer herself. I pestered her more or less constantly each year — What do you like? Who’s going to win?  She was never indiscreet enough to answer the latter question, but she always answered the former and we always agreed.

We had plans to meet in January, after the holidays.

This morning, I’m sitting staring out at a glittering lake in Maine from my sister’s beautiful house.  It’s Christmas morning and we’ve opened our presents and the boys are playing hockey on the ice below.

The sun is shining and I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

7

13 thoughts on “Christmas

  1. bookwitch 6 years ago

    Very sorry to hear about this. She sounds great.

  2. Susan S. 6 years ago

    Wonderful tribute, full of love.

  3. Tim Bowler 6 years ago

    Meg, I only just picked this up. I didn’t know Rebecca had died and I’m so sorry. She was, as you say, a lovely person. Deep, complex, witty, kind, dignified, and yes, devoted to the Carnegie and to books. I first met her at the Carnegie Ceremony in 1998 and we joked about both having back problems, and each Carnegie year thereafter when I met her, we’d have a mutual joke about spinal columns, osteopaths etc. I didn’t get to know her as well as you but even the brief moments I had with her were enough to reveal a very special, very compassionate person. I’m really sorry that she’s died, especially at such a young age and having recently married, and I can understand how it must have coloured your Christmas. It’s now coloured mine as well.

  4. Claire 6 years ago

    So sorry for your loss, Meg. She sounds like a wonderful person.

  5. Kathryn Evans 6 years ago

    I’m so sorry Meg, my mother-in-law died the day before Christmas eve after a shockingly short illness. She drove me batty, I was terrified of looking after her in her old age, but I wasn’t ready for this. I miss her, she haunts my dreams. It’s Ok to be sad, it’s normal for them to fill our heads, it’s how we hold onto them. Thinking of you x

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      And you, too. xxx

  6. Tamzin 6 years ago

    She does sound lovely. I’m so sorry for your loss. xo

  7. kokorako 6 years ago

    How horrible and sad for you Meg. Only think of the good times with her and don’t stand near the abyss. When friends die far too young it’s a reminder to live every day as if it is our last – and watching your nephews in Maine playing ice hockey sounds a joy. Thinking of you. Nicola

  8. Bazza 6 years ago

    Meg, this lovely tribute was the last thing you could do for her and you did it beautifully.
    Have a great New Year with best wishes from Bazza of ‘To Discover Ice’

  9. Fi 6 years ago

    Hi Meg
    Thanks for this – Becca was my friend and colleague and it’s great to see something about her on the Web – you have inspired me to restart my blog so that I can do likewise. Thanks again and warm wishes.

  10. anne 6 years ago

    Dear Meg
    You captured Becca’s spirit in your tribute, thank you. Like everyone, I was shocked and so sad to hear about Becca before Christmas. We met about 14 years ago when we worked on a campaign together and became work colleagues for some of that time, and friends for all of it, both also sharing a love of dogs! Earlier this summer we promised ourselves a proper catch up which we didn’t manage in the end, but it was great to see her so very happy and settled with George, he too is a special person. I regret the missed opportunities to meet up, mostly because work pressures always got in the way. I am truly going to get my priorities straight from now on, I am afraid I always think “there will be time later/after this deadline”.. There is a memorial service for Becca planned later this month in Sussex, I can give you the details.
    kind regards
    Anne

  11. Sharon Clews 6 years ago

    Meg,

    I too knew Becca as friend and colleague, in fact I challenge many people who knew her not to have the same relationships, she was just too kind a soul to limit herself like that. I now have a post-it note stuck on my wall which simply says Becca, to remind me of life, love, happiness and that little smile you spoke of; nevermind the wonderful hearty, head-thrown back laugh. What a treat to be reminded of her in this way, you have put it so beautifully, thank you. I am sorry for your loss, for it is indeed a tragic one. Sharon

  12. Meg 6 years ago

    Thanks to all who responded and especially all who knew Becca. Everyone who knew her will continue to feel a terrible absence….

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