Finale - Mary Barnes

It is now November 2000 and I am now 77 years old. Owing to osteo-arthritis of my spine I am now dependent upon a self-propelled wheelchair when not laying on my bed.

I have a walking stick which is always with me and using it enables me to stand.

Otherwise I am in good physical and mental health and live in sheltered housing in the Highlands of Scotland.

Belinda, the young mother of Callum aged 6 and Gemma aged 2, comes to me once a week to clean the bungalow. I live in a village where my friend Jean, an excellent cook, also lives. I lunch with her every Monday. As for getting about, my wheelchair folds up and so I can travel by bus and train and plane. If I have special help I then hear the phrase 'that's you sorted'. I fortnightly attend the old folks' club, known locally as 'Darby and Joan'.

The scenery is mostly beautiful and I still have all my senses and, although I often think I am dying, especially when passing the local grave yard, I enjoy life and hope for a peaceful death. My sister, Ruth, is still alive with her family in South Africa. My parents died there, my brother died in London and my younger sister Dorothy died in Australia. They all were cremated. Not for me cremation. I want to be buried, and be, like a tree, to disintegrate into the earth. I note with satisfaction when passing the village grave yard that there is plenty of space for me.

Here most people call each other by their christian names and everyone knows everyone. The Catholic Church is at one end of the village and the Kirk (Church of Scotland) is at the other. There is a grass square in the middle with lime and sycamore trees and a post office with a general store and a bank. It is a pleasant place with Charlie, a very able mechanic in his work place of broken vehicles and mud, at hand to mend my punctures. This is an area of sheep and whisky, although the sheep and the whisky have not being enough to maintain the economy.

I want, for the moment, to briefly return, to the time before Tomintoul and after this book first appeared in England. First there was the exciting publicity of the launch of this book with the party in Claude Gill's Bookshop near Marble Arch in London. I remember at this party I was wearing a patchwork skirt I had made. I had bare feet - quite gypsy like, and Joe had on a big coloured robe. It was quite a circus! Then the enormous press here and abroad and the giving of many talks and all the travel that involved, especially in the States and Europe. A strange cause of celebrity

Kingsley Hall was an intense heaven and the black depth of hell. All that we had packed inside ourselves was there thrown into the open. But we survived. Ronnie, Dr R D Laing, who died in 1989, was the initial founder of it all and was the ultimate victim of his own genius.

As a Christian I am asked first to adore and worship God and secondly to love my neighbour. I love myself but am not too sure about my neighbour. It varies as to who my neighbour is at any particular time. I stress in confession and 'for the good I have omitted to do'. Life is very trying and I trust when we have tried enough God gives us a break and relieves us of further effort.

That's death - may it come peacefully to me, meanwhile, I pray 'Oh God, may I float as a Gull on the waves of your love'. God is as remote as the furthest star and closer than my own hand. I am part of an eternal whole that is as clay in the hand of God. My dear friend Ruth has just come by and given me a hug. Human flesh, short of sanctity is made to feel the flesh, until the flesh dies. The force of gravity one day will no longer hold my life to Earth but let it go to soar to realms of ever lasting light.

Just now my feet are on the earth and life, not decay, is the music of my being. It is time for lunch, so good bye and Bless you, whoever and wherever you are, for reading and pray for Joe, as well as for me.

November 2000