It was an immensely moving thanksgiving service for Mark Godson on Saturday 13th May. Marquees were put up on both sides of St Swithun’s Church and were packed out as almost 300 people joined together to give thanks for the life of a remarkable man, loved by so many.
Mark’s granddaughter Iona Strudwick played ‘Amazing Grace’ on her flute and we sang some hymns chosen by Mark and the family: Mine eyes have seen the glory, All things bright and beautiful, Lord of all hopefulness. Jerusalem was played as a recessional.
Catriona Godson Mark’s sister in law read the poem ‘Success’, Iona read ‘American Indian poem’, Mark’s granddaughter Poppy Swarfield read ‘No Matter What’ and Sarah and Emma Godson read ‘We will miss you Dad’. The Bible reading was John 14 read by Mark’s friend Charlie Hue-Williams and the entire congregation prayed the Lord’s Prayer and the Serenity Prayer.
After Catriona’s reading she read out the following short tribute:
Mark was kind enough to say a few words to the boys and I at Antony’s funeral and I would like to take this opportunity to do the same to Jane, Sarah, Emma and Tessa.
This family has been through a terrible time but the love, care and compassion these girls have shown through endless visits to the Marsden and more recently at Mark’s bedside has been second to none. They have been brilliant at keeping us involved and informed, allowing us to visit, feeding us and making sure we are okay without thought for themselves. Mark was truly proud of his family – such a strong team – much supported by their husbands and very capable of guiding the next generation into the future. I, too, am so proud of you all – well done indeed.
Jane Strudwick (Mark’s eldest daughter) then read the following tribute:
Oh where to begin? Mark, Marco, Daddy, Dad, Pops, Grandpa or Papa has been the most amazing son, brother, husband, son-in-law, brother-in-law, father, uncle, father-in-law, grandfather, godfather & friend any of us could have ever wished for. Thank you for joining us here this afternoon, your attendance and the overflowing of St Swithun’s Church is a true testament to a wonderfully kind man, whose generosity knew no bounds. Mark was and will remain, forever in our hearts. We sincerely hope to catch up with you all afterwards at Rivermead for some afternoon tea.
First, I must thank Daddy, our expert wedding planner, for providing the model from which to plan another Rivermead celebration; however, after just two weeks to pull this one together, I cannot think why it took Dad so long to plan each of our weddings! – Dad, we hope you are enjoying your view from the dress circle with Mummy by your side and that you can see how much you mean, to so many people.
Mark was born on 8th February 1943; the eldest of Pat & Dorothy’s three boys. His early childhood was spent at the family home in Milford, Surrey. Dad was educated at Woodcote House and Charterhouse where he made a number of life-long friends. We have relished some time reading his old school reports, from which it is abundantly clear that his preference was to channel his energies on the sports field! Daddy’s love of sport followed him throughout his life; his absolute passion was for cricket. He joined the MCC as a playing member shortly after leaving school. He relished playing cricket at any opportunity, especially if it involved a tour. As a family we spent many a lazy Saturday afternoon watching Daddy play in matches for various teams – we have fond memories of picnics, summer-pudding aka foot-pudding, dachunds on leads (or often not!), Mummy doing a tapestry and us girls playing with a car load of toys taken along to keep us entertained. Mummy learnt how to keep the score, so could often be found in the box – no doubt a great place to find a few hours peace and quiet!
Daddy and Mummy were introduced by Janah Gauge at the Barker’s engagement party – without them, we wouldn’t be here today! Not long after being introduced, Mark asked Caroline out on a date – they went for dinner at the Telecom tower in London – we recently found the certificate marking the occasion! Last month Daddy recounted that it was after this date that he realised he simply couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to Caroline again, soon after and on bended knee, he proposed! They were married on 2nd May 1970 at Kenmore Kirk, on the banks of Loch Tay, near Mummy’s family home – this was the start of a wonderful & loving journey, in which we have all played our part.
Daddy & Mummy spent their first two years living in London – Daddy often having to book in for a bath (or visit friends) if Mummy was in the middle of a big flower-arranging job, as the bath would be full of flowers for days at a time!
45 years ago this month, they made the big move from London to Martyr Worthy and Rivermead became the rock that has been the foundation of the Godson Family ever since. Dad has provided a haven of security for us at Rivermead, while for 21 years he commuted on a daily basis to work in the City. As a family we just love Martyr Worthy, the Itchen Valley and her beautiful walks along our idyllic river. These foundations are strong and will remain so, as we forge the next chapter of our lives, knowing that we have been given the best of everything that anyone could possibly ask for.
Times have not always been straight-forward – Daddy battled with & overcame his alcohol addiction; we were so proud to receive his 36th Birthday card from his AA friends only a few weeks ago: what an amazing achievement! We are eternally grateful to Dad’s family & friends who persuaded him that treatment was the right path to getting him back on the straight and narrow. His strength and determination to overcome alcoholism gave him an over-whelming sense of purpose, which led to him quietly reaching out and supporting others facing similar demons. Wherever he was, every Monday evening he volunteered to be at the end of the AA support line. We frequently forgot the Monday slot and would phone for a blether – realising immediately when he answered that he was on duty – occasionally I would mischieviously respond with “Hi, it’s pissed from Penicuik or muddled from Monchengladbach!”
Dad made some promises all those years ago and he has steadfastly stuck to every single one of them. He promised to listen, try to understand and help other people resolve their worries; he promised to show an interest in other people’s interests before his own, and he promised to make life happy for people.
17 years ago Mummy died, despite losing his soul-mate, Daddy channelled his love and compassion towards family and friends. He has loved his girls and our families enough for two parents. He loved life and exuded goodness; he supported countless people in need.
In retirement, Daddy’s life has been defined by volunteering and socialising. Daddy thrived in all the organisations he was part of – they gave him great love, friendship & support – he was a volunteer at Winchester Cathedral helping in the kitchen with the lunches, a “listening ear” for the girls of Godolphin School, a reliable member of the Witness Service team at Winchester Crown Court for 15 years and more recently a volunteer driver for Alresford surgery. “Muscles Mark” was a regular at Perins gym in Alresford where his early morning sessions helped keep him fit and trim especially after his most recent surgery, even if occasionally the vocal chords received more exercise than the biceps! Dad was one of the few men in the Pilates group where he was affectionately known as the “Lion of the Pride”. Dad’s gym sessions were very much part of his daily constitution and we firmly believe kept his big heart beating so strongly right to the end!
Mark was one of those people who lights up a room. He was; caring, strong, modest, brave, genuine, had a wicked sense of humour and he was very very kind. Dad was a member of three local clubs: the ’43 club – an annual birthday celebration with his local girl-friends; the CAMEO group (come and meet each-other) and the ROMEO group (Randy old men eating out). As you can see Dad’s social life whether it revolved around the church, gym, golf course, local pubs, restaurants, theatre or cinema was an important part of his belonging and he just loved sharing special times with each and every one of his wonderful friends.
Central to Mark’s life has been the importance of family – he would quite literally travel the world, with Toblerone in hand, to share experiences with us and our families; visiting Tessa in Australia, Emma in South Africa and myself wherever the Army sent us. He also adored being able to pop over to Somerset to watch a school play, match or the spectacular Christmas Carol Services at Wells Cathedral. His love of sport brought him close to his sons-in-law & grandchildren with frequent analysis of golf, football, rugby or cricket statistics, as well as travelling to watch his grandchildren play in matches – often warmly wrapped on the touch line, cheering on a team whether it be netball, rounders, hockey, rugby or cricket. Trips to Cheltenham involved wonderful mystery walks up onto the Downs with Emma and Daddy loved visiting Walthamstow to be at home with Tessa and her family.
Together we are steadfast in the strength of our faith and the knowledge that Daddy is now reunited with our Darling Mother, Caroline & his wonderful, witty brothers, Anthony and Richard – no doubt they will all be having a right old hoot!
Mark Godson is so many things to so many different people, he really is the sum of all the parts: Church Warden & key holder; Village Hall treasurer; tennis partner; golf buddy; shepherd, poulterer, car park provider, supporter; helper; listener, confidant, friend and mentor.
Dad you are simply amazing, always at the end of the phone or WhatsApp and ready to welcome everyone back to Rivermead. Your love for life shines brightly and remains an inspiring example to us all. You faced life with, clear eyes, an open heart and passed on hard won wisdom. You are greatly loved by so many and will be sorely missed, but thank you for leaving so many wonderful memories.
I would like to finish with these reflections that we found in Dad’s files – they sum up his character perfectly:
“The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving … “
What mark will I leave behind? …
How will anyone ever know I’ve been here? …
What sign will tell the future traveller that I existed? …
Shall I carve it on a door? …”I am here! …Today I exist” …
… I believe the deepest impression is made in those moments when I can say: …
I care, …
I love”. …
Revd. Alex Pease gave the following address:
I don’t think we can do without Mark in this community. The truth is that we need him.
There are a few people in life who we meet who make a real difference to almost all those around them and Mark was one of these.
We need his example; we need his humour; we need his encouragement.
I went to see Mark a few days before his death. He was looking out from his bedroom window at the beautiful Hampshire countryside. He said ‘I have had a wonderful life’.
But those who know him know that that life has not been easy….
He said to me that he had given to God the timing of his death, ‘its his will not mine’ he told me. His only concern was for his daughters and their families that his death should be as easy for them as it could be in the circumstances. And, as we know, God granted that prayer as he passed away gently one evening without any fuss.
Mark was a remarkable man. Mark was a committed Christian. Not in a tiresome way but in a humorous modest and loving way. And I believe that much of his ability to turn around the huge challenges in his life, so that they could be a blessing to others, stemmed from his faith in Jesus.
He moved during his life from being a victim of the successive events of life’s journey,
good and bad, to being a victor over them.
Everyone will know of his work with AA but most recently – in November he helped lead, with Elaine Labram, the Bereavement Journey, a course we have been running in the Parish for those who have experienced unfair early bereavement, using his own experience of that particular sadness to help others.
His work with victim support at the Winchester courts is also well known, but surely there are not many people who determinedly watch East Enders every week only so that he had a topic of conversation with the victims he was supporting. Greater love has no man than that…..
I have a sense that Mark understood what Jesus is saying in the passage we have just read from John’s gospel. Jesus’ walk to Gethsemane and his arrest happens immediately afterwards this passage. Jesus in John 14 is preparing his disciples for their experience of bereavement – of his own death and the anguish of dislocation and despair that will follow for them, and is also preparing them for their own deaths…. How are they to live? How are they to die? Without Jesus guiding them?
Jesus says in the passage Charlie has just read ‘Don’t worry’; ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’ In other words: It’s all going to be fine because, I, Jesus am going ahead of you. There is room for you all. And Jesus continues, ‘and you know the way to the place that I am going’.
And wonderful Thomas, who may doubt, but is no fool, says very reasonably as we might say: ‘Lord we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way?’
Jesus simply replies: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life
Jesus says the way to live our lives today and the way to cross this final barrier of death; the way to die, is to trust in Jesus and follow the way he has set for us.
I believe that Mark understood this.
He just ‘got it’.
But what does ‘trusting in Jesus mean?’
We can only trust someone that we know. And getting to know Jesus is undoubtedly life’s most important task and its greatest privilege.
If we want to get to know the way the truth and the life as Mark did….then the time to start is now…..