I’ve been sitting on a plane reading Tony Fitchett’s poems through a mist of tears – rather as I remember my mother slightly indignant when one of the crew on a flight asked if she was all right. She was reading Birdsong – the passage where the young men write letters to their mothers the evening before the battle.
Tony and Bron live in New Zealand. Tony has just completed a term as a member of the Anglican Communion Standing Committee so I have had the privilege of getting to know him in London and recently in New Zealand. In 1996, Tony and Bron’s son and his girlfriend Rachael were tragically killed in an accident in British Columbia. They were on a two year working and travelling trip – waved off as we too waved off our children on great adventures trusting that somehow they would be looked after and would return mature and ready to settle down to adult responsibilities.
For Marcus and Rachael it was not to be. Tony’s poetry is extraordinary – an exploration of a grieving soul which both mourns and celebrates. I shall return to this – but here are a few short extracts:
I used to think I knew the costs of war –
of youngsters dead,
and families torn with grief.
Perhaps I did, in intellectual ways,
But God! I had no hint
of how it felt
to lose in violent death
a full-blown son.
When Marcus died
and all life’s framework fell apart
the visits of our friends, and even those
who hardly knew us
helped to hold
our heads above the raging flood
of dark despair
that bore us in its flood.
….. And great moral and intellectual courage as he refers to the letters and poems
poems from others’ dark despair
or trite, blaspheming lies
that see God stealing lives
‘because he loves them more’
Whatever words they said, their very fact
gave us support
and answering, in weeks to come
brought therapeutic tears.
Thank you to Tony for allowing me to write – I shall return to this
As well as joy
Elegies for Marcus and Rachael