yesterday...for a friend of twenty-eight years.
The day I met her she was kneeling on the floor in the library looking for a book. It wasn't there. The system said it should be there and she was determined to find it. By sheer chance I found it and we became friends.
M... was unemployed and she remained officially unemployed but she was also one of the most "employed" people I have ever known. She helped others...and then helped some more. Walk into the shopping centre and M... would be there making a "cuppa" last seemingly forever while she listened to someone, helped someone, encouraged someone, befriended a stranger who needed "a bit of help".
See her in the street? Yes. She walked everywhere and usually with someone. If not, she would be standing there talking to them. She met more people on buses than most people meet everywhere in a life time.
She helped out serving meals to the lost, lonely, homeless and helpless. She sorted out paper work for the intellectually disabled and brain damaged. She read sociology, theology, psychology. She sang in a group. She went walking in the hills and along the beach - and worried about the environment. She liked humour and comic films.
The church was packed. There were people standing at the back. There were wonderful tributes to her from family and friends.
M... was 56 when she died of an inoperable cancer. People said she remained cheerful until the end. It sounded as good as it could be in the circumstances.
Nobody mentioned the fact that M....also suffered from depression and severe doubts about herself. Nobody knew that last year, while she was still well, she booked a trip to a place she had always wanted to see - and then didn't go because, she told me, she wasn't brave enough to go alone.
Yes, there was another side to M... a side that needed the same support that she was so busy giving others. Most people never knew and would never have recognised it. They expected M... to be there for all their lives - not just hers.
The priest gave a short and simple sermon. He started by telling everyone that, one night, M...sent him a text at midnight. She needed to see him there and then. Would he come? He was already, as he put it, "tucked up in a nice, warm bed". Did she really need him? Yes!
He went - and it is clear from what he had to say that he got as much, if not more, from their time together that night. And I will be forever thankful that he went when she asked him because she asked so little of others.