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“For me, the Valedictory Service was a blur, and I don’t even remember the exact date! I had been flustered with revision and the intermingling of extended goodbyes to my friends, right up until my final exam on June 17: the elongated sadness I felt at the prospect of not seeing some of my friends again, and leaving my beautiful Chester, had left me with a sense of ‘heartburn.’ My feelings were better expressed in my observations after the Chapel Service in 1985, which I took part in as a member of the College Choral Society:

One of the College lecturers read out a speech about goodbye. She said that it was a final word and was adamant that it should not be. She then went on to explain its real meaning of ‘God be with you. All the while I was watching the faces of the third and fourth years and it really frightened me to think that next year I would be sitting in their place with my own thoughts of leaving Chester…”

“When I got back to my digs later that day, I wrote this poem:

Goodbye is such a final word-
It brings to a standstill all thoughts of leaving
Because it is so hard to say.
We pretend we haven’t heard
The Last Farewell that marks the end of day,
And scars us for life.
To say goodbye, actually say it
Is to admit that part of our lives is over:
Whether good or bad, something dies.
Our life seeps away bit by bit,
As we go about our leave-taking with goodbyes
To friends we won’t see again.
Should we instead say
“God be with you” to tell our thoughts?
But doesn’t that claim
We hope he will be there each day
Because we can’t be? It is the same
And still burns in our hearts.

“This photo was taken in the canteen area after our Valedictory Service in 1986. In the 1980s, in the formal dining room and canteen. The image features Melek Muharrem, who graduated with a BEd - she was awarded the Ellan Vannin Prize for Education at the 1986 Valedictory Service. Melek was diagnosed with cancer shortly after starting her first teaching job in Chester, sadly she died in November 1988, aged 24.

“Friends are one of the most important things in life, with them you share, commiserate, comfort and have fun. You disagree, you make up, and they can shake up your life and turn you upside down and inside out! In a close-knit institution, friends become your ‘family’, and 35 years on since graduating, I am lucky enough to still be in contact with 17 of mine. And through volunteering at the University since moving here in 2014, I have made alumni friends from other years, such is the power and spirit of Chester.

“I can only imagine what these past 14 months have been like for those graduating in 2020 and 2021. Not only virtual lectures, being deprived of family visits and social activities, but the added loss of family members and friends to Covid and other illnesses, and the sadness of not being able to say a proper goodbye. University life is a rite of passage, shared by family and friends supporting students, and memories of that experience can and should last a lifetime: even the down moments, for they too create the rich tapestry which shapes your future life.

“2020-2021 will stand as a testament to faith, endurance and hope. You are rightly proud of what you achieved. 

“And if it didn’t ‘burn in your hearts’ then it wasn’t worth the effort. ‘God be with you’ and keep that flame going in all your future endeavours.”

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