It was with great sadness that we recently learned that our Honorary Member and Almoner, Michèle Burrell had lost her battle with cancer and had died. Michèle was a much loved and respected member of the Company, and as PM John Burrell’s wife she had, in effect, been carrying out the duty of being our Almoner for many years.
In honour of her immense contribution to, and honorary membership of, the Company, the Court stood in silence for a minute at their meeting on 12 February 2020.
The last Company event that Michèle attended was the Master’s Weekend in Cambridge when it was announced that she had been given Honorary Membership of the Company, and could thus really BE our Almoner rather than working through John.
Like many of our Officers, Michèle worked tirelessly for the Company, dealing with all the things that fall to the Almoner to do with understanding, sympathy and compassion. She will be greatly missed.
John and Michèle’s daughters, Alicia and Alexandra, are Freemen of the Company, and are regularly seen at our events.
A memorial service for Michèle was held on Friday, 6th March in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Silchester. It was attended by many members of the Company including the Gallant Clerk, Past Masters, Wardens and others, and the Church was packed with Michèle’s friends who wanted, with Past Master John, to celebrate her life, her enormous impact on the local community and her unstinting work for Breast Cancer Care. The Company members wished , in particular, to celebrate her support of the Company (she was our Almoner for many years).
During the service the congregation learned that she had, some twenty years previously, suffered from breast cancer and had thereafter been a tireless supporter for breast cancer charities and the service sheet included several photographs of John and Michèle some of which are reproduced here.
One of the readings that was given was a poem by David Harkins, which was read by Michèle’s cousin, and is probably most fitting at this sad time:
“You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.“
Let us do just that.