I remember the morning of 9th December 1980.
Working as a volunteer houseparent in a Roman Catholic special school for boys with intellectual disability, I was in the kitchen getting boys’ breakfasts ready along with two other volunteers.
The radio brought the news that John Lennon had been shot in New York the previous night.
One of the other volunteers, a man of strong Christian fundamentalist views, looked up and said, ‘was he a Christian?’
‘What do you mean?’ I asked. (I knew perfectly well what he meant).
‘Well,’ he continued. ‘if Cliff Richard was shot dead, I would rejoice because he would have gone straight to heaven.’
I remember biting my lip, and saying nothing. If getting to heaven was about forms of words, then it couldn’t be much of a place to be.
Each year since that morning, the morning of 9th December has brought a recall of that odd conversation.
(The fundamentalist volunteer had remained at the school after I had returned to university from my leave of absence. A strong believer in Old Testament maxims such as ‘spare the rod and spoil the child,’ he would frequently hit the boys with whose care he was charged. Eventually, he punched one boy, who would have struggled to comprehend instructions, and he was dismissed from his post).
The annual remembrance of the death of John Lennon seemed to become more poignant with the release of the 2019 film Yesterday.
In the film, Jack, the lead character, wakes up from a blackout to find the world is exactly as he remembered, except for one thing, The Beatles have disappeared from history. Jack is the only person familiar with their songs. He becomes internationally famous by writing down and performing the songs he remembers, but realizes that the credit should go to the original band members, who are alive and well, but not the famous people they became.
At one point, Jack meets the seventy-nine year old John Lennon, living a quiet and reclusive life beside a beach. While the plot was too thin to sustain a full length film, that single moment made it memorable.
There seemed something joyously happy in the thought that John Lennon had not been shot dead on a New York street, but that he was alive and was well and was living on a shoreline somewhere, passing his years contentedly. The idea that he was fully John Lennon but was able to enjoy a life that had been denied him by fame.