Elison Mary Clement MacLean (née Shiel); b. 24/3/1936; d. 29/8/2011
Born of 'salt-of-the-Earth' hill-farming folk, mother was a woman constantly chasing her own talents and ever in support of the talents emerging from her children. She saw the potential of her husband and was the strong woman behind his success.
She could be a hard-taskmaster, but only because she knew what could be achieved and would not allow us to think for a moment that there were shortcuts to meaningful ends. That said, if she could see a fruitful method that was straight and simple, she would be the first to take it. Mother was as practical as she was technical, capable of strong scholarship, she surrendered her own career path for husband and family; as was the way of her generation.
Mother was also an adventurer. Nothing she liked better, I think, than to go on long and punishing hikes, particularly if it involved hills and ravines. I swear, too, that the more inclement the weather, the better she liked it! She could turn her hand to most things, but what emerged in her 40's and stayed with her till the end, was her work with wool. Natural, given her background. Taking a fleece from the sheep, she would see it through to finished garment, experimenting with natural dies and combining other materials. It was her real passion and found her friends and connections the world over. Neither would she leave a thing undone. She was a restless woman who seemed to have an internal dynamo charged by some invisible power source. She was a hard person to keep up with! What wouldn't I give for some of her stamina now?
Mother never lost her thrift. During all our growing years we pretty much lived in home-made clothes - for she was also a fine seamstress. The need to economise was there for so long that even when genuine comfort was available, she never really adapted to it. If there was another in need, however, I never once saw mother hold back. Even if it meant we only had beans on toast, she'd make sure the neighbour had the eggs. With such depth of compassion, she was hard to match. A deep thinker and natural counsellor, she was often the one to whom everyone in the surrounds would come to share their woes. One of her most effective tools was her silence.
Much of this she got from her father, the shepherd sage. Much of it she passed on to her four children.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, mother came through that with flying colours. There were several wonderful years for her. In 2009 another, separate (never fully defined but most likely uterine) cancer came to eat her away. It was aggressive.
Defying all odds, as was her wont, mother survived more than 18 months longer than expected. At the beginning of 2011, when I rang from OZ to say I had applied for the Vedanta course I quipped with her - "you're hanging around to make sure I finally get to India, aren't you?" Her response?
It was the Lord and Gurudev's blessing that things ran so smoothly for me that year, I was able to depart OZ early and spend 7 weeks in Edinburgh prior to coming here. On seeing mother, I knew it would be our last time together. It was clear she did also. It was quality time in which I had the honour, along with my siblings and father, to help in her nursing and cares.
Within four days of my arrival in Mumbai, word came of mother's passing. The battery finally ran out.
We can never, ever repay our parents. We can live life to the very best of our ability and seek to emulate their example, thus honouring their love and investment in us.
I have done mother no justice here. It is a mere verbal snapshot of an incredible human being. In keeping with that, indulge me whilst I share some photographic snapshots also. May I at this point also send up a prayer to all those who work in cancer care from the specialists and doctors, through the wonderful nurses, all the way down to volunteers and even cleaners - in such environments they too require something just a bit more special than the average.
|images all copyright Alexander MacLean|
Over hill and down dale
in drubbing wind and thundering gale
never would you let us fail
Up the side and back again
never mind the nail-hard rain
we're nearly there so do not wane
Lost? what's lost? no such thing
give me the gizmo gadgetry bing
or, if really stuck, the phone we'll ring
|"...so why do they call them BLACKberries?!"|
Look, there's fruit on yonder bramble
says the wifie on their ramble
(father thinks it's a pot luck gamble)
but back home he'll change that frown
when fresh jam's made to go with scone
and in a blink it's all but gone