Life, death and a lasting legacy

This week Ann Maguire died. She was a teacher at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds. She was stabbed and murdered by a pupil.

This week Bob Hoskins the Hollywood actor also died; he ‘passed away’ peacefully following pneumonia.

Until now Ann Maguire was unknown beyond Leeds, whereas Bob Hoskins is known world-wide as an award winning Hollywood actor. He starred in Mona Lisa and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

In spite of this, both deaths received front page headlines. One featured because of its shock-factor, the kind of ‘story’ that sells papers; the other headlined, I assume, because Celebrity is popular and must be reported.

As you would expect, responses to the two deaths differ in tone. It’s inevitable, I suppose, that a sudden and brutal death will arouse more emotional responses than the death of someone who has been sick for a while. Shocks evoke louder reactions than events taking a more normal course.

Tributes to Bob Hoskins are only just feeding into the media as I write. The difference in tone is significant though. So far, the celebrity tributes typically lack vigour. Other celebrities are sorry to lose him, sad he’s gone; they’ll miss him because of his film ‘The Long Good Friday’ and say he was a ‘marvellous fellow’ and fun to be with.[i]  However, memories of the teacher are flooding the media with tears, anguish, and grief. It seems Ann Maguire was a teacher who cared as much for her students as she did for her teaching subject. She gave many of her pupils a lifelong impetus to succeed.

Which provokes me with a question: What is the legacy of a life well lived?

Bob Hoskins once told the Guardian, ‘Let’s face it; some of the characters I’ve played you can’t take home to the wife and kids.’ However, they can still enter the homes of countless other kids on DVD; and via the almost inevitable rescheduling of his films on TV, to capitalise on his career. Is this his legacy?

In the same guardian interview he expressed remorse that he’d become an actor rather than someone true to himself. At a time of family grief when all his relatives ‘quite sincerely and openly showed their pain’, he couldn’t; I suppose, because he was in shock himself. He said, ‘But, I can click into acting mode, and you know that you’re bleep acting. You just can’t help going into it, and it’s dishonest. It is really bleeped dishonest. You’re starting to act, not expressing yourself properly. So you close down and then you wind up on the outside. So bleep lonely. People cry and you start doing that and you know it’s a technique; this is bleep. It really struck home.’

Unfortunately I can’t quote Ann Maguire because no-one has published her views. I can only quote those who are writing in her book of remembrance or on cards pinned to memorial flowers. The grandmother, for instance, who blessed her for the care she displayed toward her children, and later toward her grandchildren. And this, from Lucy Potter (class of 2009): ‘RIP Miss Maguire; you always believed in me and took time and effort to make sure I achieved the best I could. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for you. For you (were) such a caring woman who only wanted the best for each and every pupil. Thank you so much for everything. Beautiful lady inside and out. Gone but never forgotten. You will always have a place in my heart.’  Or, the observation that now, when Corpus Christi is thrown into confusion and grief, the one lady they would have counted on to provide comfort is no longer with them. This is Ann Maguire’s legacy.

Paul says: ‘we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world’ 1 Timothy 6:7. So we leave it for others. King Solomon was dubious about this, about leaving everything he’d toiled for to the man who came after him; because, ‘who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled’ Ecclesiastes 2:18.

So what is a lasting legacy? Is it found in achievements or awards or celebrity or accumulation? Or is it found in an enriching impact on others? But, of course, it’s a rhetorical question. The answer is clear.

So, when you go to work tomorrow, whatever your profession, what or who will you be toiling for? What will be the lasting legacy of all your toil?


[i] Independent on  line, 6.40pm, 30.04.14


Dave Winfield

Life, death and a lasting legacy

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