Freya was born on the 12 February 1990. Helen, her 3 year old sister, was expecting a play mate like her friends at nursery. What we brought back from the hospital slept, ate and was disappointingly inert and inarticulate. Asked if she liked the new baby, Helen announced: “I don’t want a sister, I want a guinea pig.”
I am glad you laughed. Freya loved laughter.
Freya needed to share her experiences to fully enjoy them. That’s why she was such wonderful company. And why she revelled in humour because it is quintessentially social.
She loved having many friends from many different backgrounds and we are glad that you are here today, in Freya’s words, “to remember, celebrate and say good bye.”
Fortunately in the intervening 20 years Helen lost interest in guinea pigs while her sisterhood with Freya grew in depth, kindness, and love until it became the most important sustaining relationship in Freya’s life. She said just knowing Helen was in the house with her made her feel safe.
Freya’s first, lifelong and closest friend was Grace. They met in their pushchairs when their parents were dropping off their elder siblings at school. They entered Windmill School together, and their deep friendship survived their departure to different schools, cemented by a shared love of Tolkein.
Windmill taught Freya to read and write, but not to spell, and in those blessed years her written words had a strange phonetic beauty. Once, when Freya had retired to her room in a huff, we found a hand written note on her bedroom door telling us to: “Buggr Ov”.
Her love of stories began at Windmill and broadened and deepened through the rest of her life. Freya came to treasure the comic novels of Woodehouse, Austen and Terry Pratchett, and was enchanted by the fantasy worlds of Neil Gaiman and Tolkein.
Poetry became increasingly important to her: she loved Catullus, Horace, Virgil, Beowulf, Eliot and many others. Poetry’s ability to fuse passion and beauty with complex, literally inexpressible, thoughts spoke to her soul.
At 9 Freya moved to the Rye St Anthony Roman Catholic school and investigated Catholicism with her usual rigour and intensity.
One day after school we asked:
“What did you do today Freya?”
“The teacher asked us what we wanted to pray for.”
“What did you say?”
“I said for our lord Jesus and the way he suffered for us.”
“Oh. What did the other girls pray for?”
“It was for hamsters mostly.”
It was around this time that Freya got her first radio and a life-long addiction began. A bottomless well of conversation, comedy and drama, the radio became her constant companion. Sometimes she would listen into the night and we would find notes suggesting programs we might like to listen to outside our bedroom door when we woke in the morning.
Late one night recently I heard her groan and went to investigate. Fumbling for the remote control she said sleepily: “I must remember wishing the radio on doesn’t work yet.”
Freya joined Headington School from Rye at the age of 12 and shortly afterwards we were invited to a parents evening. Having no idea who her new teachers were, we asked her for a list. Even at this distance in time it is so libellous I cannot read it.
We arrived at the first teacher incautiously brandishing the paper.
“Oh good Freya has given you some questions, may I see?”
“No!” Because you are: A sadist and the devil’s minion.
We spent the rest of the evening with the paper close to our chest.
Freya’s love for music began to blossom. As in all aspects of her life, her tastes were eclectic, showing a disregard for fashion or genre, and caring only for what was good, from Pachebel, through Nina Simone, to The Kinks and Joanna Newsom.
Freya would quote lyrics: “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” “You get what you give.” She was a sharp critic and knew that this was not great poetry, but she treasured these fragments because they expressed her deep belief in our shared humanity.
When Freya succumbed to one of the lung collapses that eventually led to her transplant she was cooped in a hospital room for days. At last she felt well enough to take a trip through the hospital in her wheelchair. Rather than retrace her steps she asked to be taken back to her room outside the hospital, from the main entrance of the JR to the children’s wing. The sky was black, the wind blew and the heavens opened. Freya refused to turn back. I loomed over her trying to protect her from the wet and set off downhill at a run, while she cackled with glee at the touch of wind and rain on her skin, the reckless speed of the wheelchair, and the thought of me getting terribly wet.
Freya was adamant that she did not want to be remembered as a sick kid. She was so much more. At a cost of personal effort that most of us cannot imagine, she did everything to ensure that her illness did not define her. Life was about exploring and having fun, not being ill.
She said: “I hate people who sit quietly in the corner and who don’t join in. I want to join in.”
At Headington School Freya had the good fortune to meet Natasha, a soulmate, who shared her profound love for music, tea and Latin poetry and who was a loving and steadfast friend.
We’d thought that Freya with her curiosity about the natural world and analytic mind might become a scientist, but she announced she wanted to study classics. She began by admiring Catullus who wrote remarkably filthy poetry, but her decision was confirmed in the sixth form when she read Virgil, and was spellbound by his command of language.
The solace of the last year of Freya’s life was her boyfriend Joe. Although they had a deep respect for each other’s intelligence, the classicist and the medical student would happily spar for hours. But their arguments were underpinned by warmth and love: once when Joe was in full flow explaining in detail and at length an abstruse point in Dungeons and Dragons, Freya shushed him into silence. She cupped her palm to the crown of his head and said: “What about the medicine? Where is it going to go if you remember all that?”
In December of last year Freya went for an interview to read classics at St John’s Cambridge. Her need to be somewhere her hunger for knowledge could be satisfied engulfed her. But she was in two minds about the interview because of her poor health.
She had the most wonderful time, debating classics, genetics, philosophy, art and photography with her intellectual equals, and left Cambridge on a high. St John’s wrote that they had been astounded by her, and offered her an unconditional place. Her disappointed second choice said that they would have taken her to read natural science let alone classics.
In public Freya made little of her achievement, but we know that she was privately delighted. The life of the mind meant everything to her.
This service has been made from the life of that mind, from texts and songs that were uniquely important to her. Some she simply found surpassingly beautiful, others encapsulate her heartfelt beliefs: the remainder reflect her life.
In the words that she wrote about this funeral:
“On the day I’d like anyone who wants to have the time to read or play something that they feel they want to share.”
“I would like music. An over-abundance of music. It is my joy and artistic motivation: it helps me feel all I want to feel and is my comfort and refuge.”