Since the loss of our darling Mother I have wanted to write about her, but the feelings are too raw and all I can say right now is that grief is a much more confusing process than I had imagined. I thought it was just sadness and gloom but it’s like being bounced around the inside of a pinball machine.
But I have been getting the most remarkable eulogies by email and I want to create a space — under this article — where we can collect up some of this warm and loving material. If we don’t pro-actively collect these tributes they may get lost in the fast flowing currents of modern communication.
If you knew Stephanie, or even just met her once, please would you add a comment below here — an anecdote would be nice, or a memory (even a feeling) as short or as long as you like. My friend Tom Wilson only met her once (in Romania) but he was moved by her interest in his Dad’s unpublished novel. What may seem silly and inane to you might be a real insight to me. It’s all helping me get to know the breadth of my mother’s influence.
It’s really quite remarkable what an impact she had on so many people; to me she was just Mother; I had no idea she transformed so many lives, inspired so many people, was so widely admired — and I don’t think she knew it either as she was very humble.
I want to share with you three messages that I got by email soon after her death. These were the messages that inspired this idea of collecting these tributes
The first one came from Alexander McCall Smith who said “She was one of the most exceptional people I have ever met.”
Then my friend Gardner Molloy wrote to me. Gardner is an artist who carves in stone, lives along the coast from Edinburgh and creates wonderful sculptures for buildings. He’s also a remarkable (but unpublished) writer with an imagination that reminds me of Alasdair Gray. He wrote of an incident I have long since forgotten but it sounds familiar as this is now my approach to cooking:
“I will never forget turning up at society [our house] with you one evening
to find there was no food in the cupboards whatsoever
and her sending you all out to pick armfuls of nettles
and then making a big pot of delicious soup
literally out of nothing
and feeding us all
total earth mother”
My final message offers an insight into her impact on Scottish publishing. The email came from Michael Wigan who used to stay with us when we were kids, and it was only recently that I found out he’s a writer (he wrote a fascinating book about salmon). This is what he sent me:
“She broke the mould in Scottish publishing and I remember well how her innovation, sheer go-and-get-it brio, just swept everyone away in her path. More than a breath of fresh air in rather staid Caledonian publishing, she was a whirlwind. Her charm turned scowling misogynist monosyllabic authors inside out, into grinning schoolboys. I remember everyone did what she wanted, however improbable, without hesitation. Above all, writers were published who would not have been without her, and new reputations made. She galvanised Scotland’s literary culture.”
Now it’s over to you. I would really appreciate it if you could share your most joyous, funny or ridiculous memory of Stephanie. It would be a shame if all this wonderful material, this outpouring of love for an exceptional soul, gets lost among the ceaseless chatter of daily emails.
And remember, you can write as much or as little as you like. Whoever you are, if Stephanie touched you, please leave a note here. It’s all valuable.