In the early hours of this morning (as I write) I had a dream. In it I was to meet an unknown relative from another country at the grave of a lady I knew in childhood as Aunt Marjory, in order to pay our respects. However, to my surprise, as I approached the location I saw that a good number of my relatives, who knew Marjory much better than I, had arrived before me to do likewise and honour this quiet humble lady who died in 1965. In the light of my current train of thinking on this Blog, when waking from the dream, I remembered that this lady too had been one who was known in older Highland Presbyterian circles as having access to the ‘Secret of the Lord’.
Now it may simply have been a dream .. and I lay no emphasis on it – but it was certainly enough to prompt me to write this short article in her memory and to acknowledge her humility, simple faith and deep spirituality.
Given that I was only 11 years of age at the time of her death unfortunately I do not recall much detail about her. My last memories of her were in the home of her brother Charles at Dalmagarry Farm where she was living shortly before her death.
Marjory was in fact a first cousin of my mother (Isabella McQueen). Marjory was born in 1914 and remained single throughout her life. As I have indicated she had the gift, at times, of seeing into the future and could often tell beforehand if a death was imminent in the community. It is my distinct memory that my own parents were dismissive of such things – why I do not know – but children do not normally question such matters – even if they are of interest which, I must confess, at the time, they were not. How I wish today I had paid more attention!
I might have known no more than what I have already related, scant as it is, but at a family reunion a few years ago another relative recounted a story about Marjory which revealed something of the realm in which she lived. Later I asked her if she would be willing to record the story and I am grateful to her for having done so. This is what she wrote –
‘When I was eight years old, my Auntie Marjory came to my home in Aberdeen to help my mother and granny in nursing my grandad in his last days. My maternal grandparents lived with us. Three years before, my grandad had suffered a stroke which severely affected his mobility. He was cared for at home for all of that time, and was mostly bed-bound. The living-room in the house had a very large, rectangular alcove – a bit like the box-bed area in old houses – and Grandad’s bed was there so that he remained at the centre of family life.
Latterly, he became increasingly frail and his health deteriorated. When it was clear that he was terminally ill Auntie Marjory, who was untrained but a born nurse, and a very practical person, came to stay to help with his care. Grandad got to the stage where he was drifting into unconsciousness for much of the time.
Our meals were taken in the kitchen, a single-storey, fairly long room, leading off the living-room, at the back of the house. One day, at lunch (called dinner in those days!) the family sat at the table, quietly eating our meal. Auntie Marjory was sitting at one end of the table and I was next to her in the first chair on the long side. I became aware that I could hear singing and that it appeared to come from overhead; it was as though a window had opened in the roof and I lifted my head to see, to listen. I saw nothing, but I heard the most beautiful, glorious singing which was moving upwards, and the abiding feeling was that it was a song of pure joy. As I listened I saw that Auntie Marjory was watching me; she said, quietly, “Do you hear them?” I said “Yes” and, with that, it was as though the window closed and I heard no more. Auntie Marjory just gave a little nod and we both carried on with our meal. It had lasted just a few seconds. Two days after, my grandad died. His was the first death I had any connection with, I was sad, but I knew where he had gone, there is no doubt.’
Part of an obituary, which appeared in a local paper at the time of Marjory’s death read –
‘She (Marjory) was the eldest daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Andrew MacQueen, whose forebears could be traced back as natives of the Strath (Strathdearn) for hundreds of years. She excelled in the arts of homecraft and loved helping others. Nothing was too much of a bother for her. She loved children and they loved her. She had inherited her mother’s gentleness, courtesy and smile, and her help was often called on when sympathy, affection and skilled nursing were required, and readily given; in fact she worthily upheld the Dalmagarry traditions.’
Marjory died of cancer in 1965 aged just 53.
‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them.’
Revelation 14:13 (NRSV)