I have to put aside my work today to say goodbye in my own way to a man who has just left us, and left behind a big beautiful and beloved family, one of whom is a friend who should have been in my life longer but there you go, it’s never too late.
After a lifetime of chaos and travelling and changes and feeling like a throttle in a box, after a year of what I would safely define mostly horror in the Philippines, I landed in Mr Leech’s Sir James Henderson School, a fifteen year old going on 16. The school at the time was in Viale Lombardia, in Milan.
Meeting him for the first time I knew I had arrived in some sort of bubble of awesome (a definition I have stolen from a good friend when she talks about Cambridge) that would keep all the nasty outside. He was funny, a true gentleman, a very handsome fella, and completely secure and confident that I would be happy in that school.
My dad, who would then disappear once more from my life, was reassured I would be fine there.
And I was. I met my first most important friends there, I actually thrived academically studying things I really enjoyed, and the headmaster was not the guy you had to fear, or, worse, a non-entity that sat behind a desk in an office you would never enter. He was the spirit of the school, and that spirit healed and protected me, giving me the boost I would need to steer my life back on track every time I stumbled off it.
There were many brilliant teachers in that school, and I felt sure they were all “vetted” by Mr Leech. When he walked about, it was always with a smile, and if it wasn’t, there was a frown of concentration and you knew he was thinking about something that needed putting to right, and you could be sure he would put it to right, and everything would float perfectly again.
I loved Mr Leech, he was completely brilliant, we all said it, we all agreed on it (yes even us, rebel troublesome conflicted teenagers). He was the coolest dad figure to us all: true, we had to go back out into the nasty at the end of the day, but we knew we would leave it behind again the next day.
Mr Leech understandably had his own, real family. I only knew one of his offspring, the one who was in class with me, and whom I was curious about. She has her father’s spirit, and I can see it now as she is kind and thoughtful with those who send her messages of condolences, when she could shout herself off into silence. Added to his own wonderful heritage, she has her own light of inner and outer beauty, one that was funny and clumsy and ever so sweet back in our teenage days, but is now strong and the epitome of Grace.
It’s good and not surprising to know Mr Leech spent his past few months being a gentleman till the very end. I cannot even begin to fully comprehend how his family must be feeling. Although we’ve been there, we know what losing your parent is, Mr Leech is a loss to us all, as well as to his family.
Would that there were more like him in this world, I have met but very, very few. I can only be grateful that he crossed my path for two lovely years, that he was around in this world, and that he left behind such awesomeness in his family.