This photograph from the website is a picture of the class Iattended in 2017. My husband ofthirty-seven and a half years had died the previous March, and the thought ofstaying in the house packing up the detritus of our lives together was anordeal I was not prepared to face. So, Iran away to Oxford with the ESU.
My husband and I had been to Colchester and Chelmsford,Canterbury and London while he was still living, and had talked about goingback, but his heart problems prevented our making that trip. I had come out of retirement when thehospital bills started to grow like mushrooms after a bad rain, and wasteaching English at a nearby high school. I was always seeking ways to inspire and motivate my students with therealization that while many things change, people do not. Literature holds a time-machine of humanexperience, sorrow, joy, romance and jealousy, trials and overcoming thosetrials. Oxford was perfect.
From our dorm rooms, we went to breakfast each morning,sharing camaraderie before beginning our classes. I met other widows who assured me that withtime, things would be better. We heardscholars of Austen, Shakespeare, and the people working on the newest editionof the OED. We took walking tours andsaw the execution spot of Ridley and Latimer, toured the Magdalen CollegeLibrary, The Worcester College Library, the Bodleian, and the observationgalleries in the Weston. I held in myhands an illustrated journal from an English pilot interred in a Japanese POWcamp, a Medieval illuminated missal, a letter from Mohandas Gandhi – ephemerathat may not last the centuries, but that affirmed a growing assurance thatother people have experienced the joy of long and happy committedrelationships, grieved the deaths of loved ones, and persevered in the processof moving on in a life still worth living. I visited The Bird and Baby (The Eagle and Child) pub where the Inklingsmet and shared their stories – Williams and Tolkien, Chatterton and Sayers, andClive Staples Lewis, who also knew something about grief and living throughit. Since 1096, Oxford University hasendeavored to teach people something about the varying aspects of life. At the end of Psalm 27, Oxford’s signaturePsalm, the speaker says, “Be courageous and let your heart be strong. Wait forthe Lord.” In my time of trying hard to be strong and wait, my Oxford trip withthe ESU was a godsend.