|Father Colin Stewart
|( Parish Priest at Tomintoul who officiated at the Requiem Mass in the Royal Chapel at Falkland Palace )
I think that Mary must be the most astonishing person I ever met, which, in my line of work, is truly saying something. I hadn't previously met anyone with a history of very serious mental illness, who could and would speak so frankly about his or her experiences. I recall being somewhat taken aback when I read, at Mary's instigation, 'the play'. It's not that I'm particularly easy toshock. It was more, I think, the juxta position of a demure, wheel-chair bound,elderly woman, and some very graphic language and imagery, that astonished me. It didn't upset me, or shock me, or anything like that - it just astonished me. Mary's general recommendation of 'the play' among residents of the sheltered housing complex where she lived, caused a minor sensation, and did little to reassure me that this extraordinary woman might give more than a passing nod to convention. Astonished? I must have led a very sheltered life. I didn't think I had. But when I met Mary, I realised that it was so. In the years I knew Mary, my eyebrows and my lower jaw were seldom very close together. Her painting was another source of astonishment. Frequently, I didn't know whether I liked what I saw, but I always knew, with great clarity, that I was astonished. She very much lived for her painting inrecent years. She was the archetypal 'hands on' artist. I don't think she even owned a brush. Sometimes her fingers were stained with pigment for months at a time. Locals were intrigued - as was I - when she disappeared, occasionally,abroad, to attend some convention or other, where she and her work shared centre-stage. Astonished? We certainly were. And when she travelled, her attitude towards the whole undertaking wasn't at all what you might expect of an elderly person in a wheel chair. I remember once, when she decided to move house, how she hired a ramshackle truck, into which her worldly possessions were loaded, followed by her not inconsiderable self. She passed the journey ontop of a rolled up carpet, I believe. This wasn't a move next door, you understand, but from Scotland to England. It would have killed a lesser individual. Astonished? You could say that. But not surprised, mind you · Mary was just Mary. The residue of her earlier experience of breakdown occasionally surfaced, and her friends could see her struggling with something like darkness. Her normally generous and gloriously eccentric persona would be temporarily replaced by something much less agreeable. We all, I suppose, knew what was happening on those days, and simply hoped that Mary would return soon. She invariably made it back. During one of her especially difficult times, she was trying to get tothe local parish church for a Holy Week service when, just outside the Church,her wheelchair developed a puncture. On top of her general malaise, suddenly and without warning was superimposed a combination of her rage overdrawing-pins not properly stuck into notice boards, and her impotent (though by no means speechless) horror as a well-intentioned (but hopelessly mistaken)local man handled her out of her chair. Without a word, he walked off with the chair to have it repaired at a local garage, leaving Mary stranded, and protesting energetically. This sequence of events produced a Mary so splutteringly furious, that without wishing to seem unkind, I inwardly thanked God for the absence of her wheelchair, and her consequent inability to pursueus with anything other than her words. Astonished? We would have been if we hadstayed around. Dear Mary · At times, as a priest, I was given privileged insights into Mary and her life and her hopes and her fears. It's not giving away any secret, to say that Marymoved me greatly in her life-long struggle for liberation. I was proud that she saw faith in God as a secure datum in her life. Much of the rest of her life was radically insecure. It seemed as if every battle she waged, she eventuallywon. Only some of the battles were too much, too hard - at least, they seemedthat way to an outsider. Mary, however, didn't have the luxury of choosing.Astonished? I hope she is now · by the unfolding and the settling and the healing that she sought so long, and found - a little here, a little there- in the people and places she loved. An unfolding and settling and healing now- happily - complete. "