I came home. I should have gone to the big gathering of mourners at King's College, but my car had a flat tyre and my goshawk had to be fed. I've been cooking, then, and fretfully checking my mail, and sobbing a little in between. I needed to be quiet, to spend time thinking more on grief, and loss, and love, and as the goshawk-caught pheasant bubbles slowly on the stove in its rich stew of pancetta and chestnuts, I realise I'm not going to be able to eat anything at all. I'm just too sad.
Our Head of Department, Professor Peter Lipton, died on Sunday. He was terribly young. It was terribly sudden. Our department is as close to a family as a university department can be, and we are all in pieces. The funeral was this afternoon. Hundreds of people. Our cars blocked the A14. My own professor had discharged himself from hospital the day after a serious operation, against all advice, and stood there palely with his wife, looking more distinguished than ever with a gold kippah on his crown. A dark, bitterly cold afternoon, with flashes of blue sky pooling, submarine, between rolls of squirrel-coloured winter clouds. And we stood by the open grave, on the rough turf, a great crowd of black coats and suits and wet eyes. I'll never forget the sound of alder leaves rattling in the dry wind as the Kaddish was recited, and the thump of earth on the coffin as people took, one after another, the spade from the heap of cold Cambridgeshire earth. As the last mourners paid their respects, the sun broke, finally, through the cloud, holding the whole scene like a caught breath of poignant, delicate golden light. It was a devastating afternoon.
He was a great, great man. There is an obituary here.