I take it you’re still not speaking…………….
Yes, I know you told me that my imagination of you was moved by a reluctance to accept your death, and I have accepted that. Still I wonder if my imagination was 100% wrong, particularly as the command to move on was issued in your voice. Perhaps I imagined that as well?
Still, I’ll do as I’ve been told, and write about memories rather than imaginations.
It was after I had officiated at the funeral of a teenager, Greig Stewart, who died from a drug overdose, that I suggested we might establish a group for young people involved in using illegal drugs. I was then the parish minister of Douglas housing estate in Dundee, where the drug trade was a big problem. When I said “we” I meant that I would provide institutional support while you provided adult friendship. In this way The Greig Stewart Experience came into being as a registered charity, and you became the inventor of a range of new experiences for young people that might lead them to safer ways of being themselves.
The name Greig Stewart was successful in attracting initial interest from young people, but providing activities that held the group together was entirely your doing. They could tell that you weren’t a conventional church or community youth leader: you were on their side, as someone who had made her own mistakes, and was still coping with her own problems. You had a great and intelligent sympathy for people in trouble, which they sensed without feeling pitied or patronised.
That’s not to say that you didn’t have good professional skills also:
*you learned names quickly and never forgot them
*you were good at persuading people who could unlock resources for group activity to do so
*You could imagine what sorts of activity would appeal to the group from art exhibitions to army assault courses
*when the group misbehaved you accepted public blame on their behalf
*You knew that conversation with members of the group was more valuable than any activity and always seized the opportunity for it.
The group existed for two years, during which young people came to love you, and you them. They had many new experiences which helped them grow, while articulating their hurts, needs, fears and hopes. Out of the thirty odd people involved in the group, one died, but others moved on to new stages of their lives in education or work.
You also were ready to move on.
I have seen many church and community projects in the course of my ministries, but I never seen anything approaching GSE in honesty, risk-taking and love-sharing. I think that I may not have made this clear to you at the time. I hope that you know it now.
Jeanette, Greig Stewart’s mother, appreciated what you were trying to do. She has had so many illnesses I always expect her to have died, yet the other day, there she was at Sainsbury’s, asking warmly for my lovely daughter. You couldn’t help her son, but she was happy to have permitted his name to be used for something special.