Today I had one of those messages on my answer phone where you are asked to call someone back and you know it can only be for one reason. Rachel had died after struggling with cancer for three years.
I wrestled long and hard about posting - was it too crass, too insensitive, too soon? Should I use her photo - even though I got it from the web, publicly accessible, available for anyone who typed her name into a Google search?
Eventually I decided to, and I apologise for any who are offended or affonted by this decision. While at college, a conversation about tutors evoked the comment from a Methodist student "Everyone loves Rachel." Perhaps now the world should be told?
Rachel was my personal tutor in my first year of training for ministry. A vital role, supporting people through the bizzare process of adapting to college and church life after holding responsible positions in secular professions. Meeting with Rachel was always pleasurable, usually fun, and at times a much needed refuge from college or church life. Rachel never made you feel small or silly, she never contradicted your views, yet enabled you to see others too. The one-to-one support and encouragement of students was Rachel's forte, and many benefited from her gentle, loving tutoring.
But Rachel was no plaster saint, she had a mischievous sense of fun and an enviable ability to take off accents. With a passion for justice and equality, Rachel inspired similar qualities in many of her students - at the same time as making some of us feel far better about our own housekeeping skills! A lover of cats and gardens, deeply in love with Africa, a competent pianist, Rachel was a woman of many parts.
The last three years have seen twists and turns in Rachel's health - yet, publicly anyway, she remained cheerful and positive always wanting to hear our news, to encourage us in our ministries, to support us in our doubts and fears.
The only thing Rachel ever nagged me about - and even at that, nagging is far too strong a word - was doing a research degree. My protests that I already had over 20 letters after my name and really didn't need another set would not shift her sense that it wasn't just for me that I should do this, but for other women. Always the gentle feminist, Rachel was not going to allow me the selfishness of saying I had done enough. There is a small sadness that I never got to tell her she'd finally won, and that I did intend, finally, to enrol on a research programme, but maybe, in her way, she knew.
Rachel will be sadly missed by those of us who knew her. Our lives have been enriched by her. Some college tutors were known as great teachers, some as fearsome minds, some even as a bit odd, but everbody loved Rachel. That, I think is as good an epitaph as anyone might hope for.
And so we let her go to the embrace of God, in quiet gratitude and certain hope.