His daughter played and the congregation quietly wept

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The Independent Online
His daughter played and the congregation quietly wept

as her cello solo filled the giant space of Westminster cathedral.

For 19-year-old Myfanwy Lawrence it was the final farewell to her father, Philip, who was stabbed last month defending a pupil at his west London school.

Unity, her 13-year-old, sister, barely visible from behind the lectern, addressed a prayer for forgiveness to the packed congregation of more than 2,000 people - from royalty to fresh-faced adolescents in school blazers.

For the family of Mr Lawrence, it was the final farewell. For the nation, the memorial service yesterday was a last chance to pay tribute to a hero.

Unity's own prayer read: "May we find the strength to overcome anger with love ... please help us to pray for my daddy, Philip ... we pray for those who miss him so very, very much.".

The service, led by Cardinal Basil Hume, the Archbishop of Westminster, was a poignant mixture of private recollection and public accolade. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, and the Duchess of Kent, were among those who came to pay their respects.

The life of Mr Lawrence, 48, was summed up by his fellow pupils at Ampleforth, his friends from Cambridge University where he studied English, and the pupils he inspired through his teaching career.

One former pupil described the impact Mr Lawrence made on the first day he taught them. "He bounded into our class, produced a daffodil, crushed it, let the petals fall to the ground and asked the shocked class to write about it."

Many smiled with recognition as Patrick Topp, a former colleague, recalled Mr Lawrence's bow-ties and flamboyant waistcoats. He transformed St George's and brought back pride and enthusiasm to the Roman Catholic School. But it was the image of Mr Lawrence's appetite for life from a university friend that finally moved many in the Cathedral to tears. "The memories came flooding back ... in particular, a hair-raising drive to Chichester in the middle of the night, just because it would be nice to see the dawn rise over the sea."

Mr Lawrence's widow, Frances, who was beside him when he died in hospital after emergency surgery, was also accompanied by their son, Lucien, 8, and their eldest daughter,Marouska, 21.

Speaking in a clear voice, Mrs Lawrence read St Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians: "If I have the gift of faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all," she said.

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