When John went off to Leeds, the six years ahead seemed awfully long. However he had to work hard at College just as I was slogging away at the Bank. Not that it was a penance, for I loved my work and seeing so many people every day. I was the more fortunate one still being at home among friends and family. I wrote to him every weekday and sent him poems I had read, most of which expressed undying love. Elizabeth Barret Browning was my favourite at that time. He wrote less frequently and without the poetry!
The students were grouped in ‘tea clubs’ of three or four for fellowship, snacks and conversation, discussions about study and so on. Both John’s tea club friends were older than he was. One was married and had two young children. He was a farmer and had been a reserved occupation farmer throughout the war. He was able to go home some weekends and always came back with a parcel of home-cured bacon rashers which the other two looked forward to with relish! The College menu was the same every week and had few surprises, but they were able to cook in their studies, make tea and socialise. And study, of course!
John was a good student and excelled in some areas of the very full course of study. He was home for the summer vacation and worked with a photography shop owned by a friend. Then at Christmas he had a few days off and was lucky enough to get a job delivering Christmas mail. This was a hectic job and I remember he came to our place for tea one evening and afterwards fell asleep on the settee. My Dad came in to see why he wasn’t away home yet at about 10.30 pm! So we had to waken him up.
When I started writing this post a few weeks ago, our life was jogging along as usual. What a difference as I write now. John has gone to sleep again, but this time there is no waking up. On the morning of Sunday 31st May, I was in the kitchen and I heard him call out as if he had a pain. When I got to him he was lying on the floor and his face was bruised. I couldn’t move him but he was breathing faintly. The 999 Paramedics excelled themselves and were here very quickly. He went into cardiac arrest and they worked on him. My good neighbour came and asked me to go to their house next door while the treatment continued. Anabel and John arrived and we drove to the hospital. By the time we were able to see him, John was breathing unaided and we were hopeful but the Consultant said his brain had been starved of oxygen too long and even if he woke up he would not be as he was before. So we stayed with him once he was in a ward room until just before 9 pm when he gradually stopped breathing. The nurses were so good, keeping us supplied with coffee, tea and water plus sandwiches. If we had had to stay overnight they would have brought us blankets and pillows: so thoughtful. Anabel said we might not have slept but we would have been warm. His death certificate said “probable myocardial infarction”. Sunday 31st May was indeed a life-changing day for all the family.
The day before, John had finished in the morning the last of a 3-part post for his blog, Called and sent. He watched the Scottish Football Cup Final after lunch, then sent the blog to Anabel after which he watched the English Football Cup Final. A perfect day for a lifelong football fan.
John’s funeral was held on Thursday 11th June and, as he had requested, was a celebration of his life rather than mourning his death. He enjoyed a long, happy and fulfilling life, in every aspect upheld by the faith in which he lived.
John Gordon Mitchell was first a son, then a brother. As he grew up he became a friend to many and eventually brother-in-law to four. After he was ordained he became a husband and father of Anabel and Elspeth. In time he became father-in-law to John and Winston, granddaddy of Harriet and Cassie and uncle and great-uncle to the families of his sisters Annie and Elizabeth and of my sister Annabel. He kept regular contact with his sister Elspeth and her husband Ian in Australia.
In his long Ministry the pastoral side was always a major part, as has been shown to us by the many tributes from people whom he had cared for and helped. He will be greatly missed by many, but most of all by the little group of seven who are his close family.