Friday, November 14, 2008

Donovan: Goodbye to a lovely lad.

Donovan with Tasha and Amy at the prom.

Today’s assembly is an opportunity for us to say goodbye to Donovan. Because as a school we are a community, the death of one person touches us all and the grief and suffering of Donovan's younger brothers and sisters and his cousins should also touch us. Many of you knew Donovan well and had come through your schooling with him from the earliest days. I am taking the assembly today because I was Donovan's form tutor and taught him for three years for his GCSE RE course. I found him to be a warm and friendly student and it is gratifying for a teacher to be greeted with a smile and a quip on the corridors, to be engaged in friendly banter or to have a student stay back for a quick chat after registration or a lesson.

It is possible that some of you were not aware until he died that Donovan suffered from Diabetes and on your chairs this morning is a simple information sheet highlighting the current campaign of Diabetes U.K. under the heading “The Silent Assassin”. Please do read it carefully. Two Million Britons live with Diabetes and many more remain undiagnosed. The Silent Assassin campaign aims to increase awareness of diabetes with the message ‘diabetes is serious’ – highlighting that diabetes can cause heart disease, stroke, amputation, kidney failure and blindness.

I spent some time on Tuesday talking to the priest who is conducting Donovan’s funeral. I don’t know how many of you have been to a funeral before but It will be a very emotional occasion and possibly quite a distressing one and I would only say to those of you who were planning on going that I’d like you to think very seriously before you decide. I am hoping that this morning will be the opportunity for many of you to feel that you have said an appropriate goodbye.

On Monday in form time you were asked if anyone felt that they wanted to say anything about Donovan this morning, and I recognise that this is a difficult time and some of you may feel too upset to do that. But this isn’t a funeral and I wanted this to be a celebration of Donovan’s life and I wanted to create a safe space for you to express your thoughts and feelings if you wanted to. If you have things written down about Donovan that you don’t feel able to say out loud, as you leave this morning there will be a basket for you to put those thoughts in. There will also be a collection for Diabetes U.K.

Let’s just have a moment’s silence to gather our thoughts.

A poem: Remember Me

To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated.
But to the happy, I am at peace.
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot speak, but I can listen.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon the shore
gazing at the beautiful sea, remember me.
As you look in awe at a mighty forest
and in its grand majesty, remember me.
Remember me in your hearts and
in your thoughts, remember the memories of the
times we laughed, the times we cried.
For if you always think of me
I will never have gone.

Now is the time when those of you who wish can share those memories or just sit quietly. I am going to ask Kayleigh to add a flower to the vase for every memory that is shared.

We’re going to listen to one of Donovan’s favourite tracks now.

Amy has a poem to read: Death is nothing at all

Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped away into the next room.

I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me
In the easy way that you always used.

Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
That it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect,
Without the trace of shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was;
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you, for an interval,
Somewhere very near,
Just around the corner.

All is well.

We’re going to move off now: to Period 1, the common room or if you’re free and wish to stay on here for a while, that’s fine. Before we do Danny, Kayleigh and I are going to read a poem that invites you to light a candle in remembrance of Donovan as you leave:


D: The first candle represents our grief.
The pain of losing you is intense
It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

K: The second candle represents our courage.
To confront our sorrow,
To comfort each other,
To change our lives.

J: This third candle and those that follow, we light in your memory as we say goodbye.
For the times we laughed,
The times we cried,
The times we were angry with each other,
The silly things you did,
The caring and joy you gave us.


I delivered that assembly on Wednesday, and others to different year groups on Thursday and this morning. Many students stayed back for a while to light candles, to talk or to sit quietly. Many were visibly upset.

Today was Donovan's funeral. He was 16. Over thirty pupils from school joined family and other friends for the service at the crematorium. They were a credit to their families and to the school and acted with incredible maturity and sensitivity.

Please pray for Donovan's family, particularly his younger brother Brandon who is also a pupil of mine.

It is strange, but it is only now that I feel emotional.