Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Alastair McCrae

My summer was dominated by last weeks of life of my dear father-in-law Alastair McCrae. We spent three weeks driving around Scotland with him in July. This photo was taken at the Piping Centre in Borreraig on the Isle of Skye. On subsequent days we had a picnic in Elgol and stopped at the Talisker distillery for a wee dram. In Scotland, Alastair saw his older sister and celebrated his eightieth birthday with his twin brother Ewan at a great party in Perth.

We returned to England at the end of July and Alastair made the decision that he wanted to die at home. The doctors and nurses were excellent at providing what was needed, and everybody who wanted to see him got that opportunity in August. Alastair died peacefully on September 1 with his wife and daughter at his side.

The memorial service was held September 10 and Alastair had prepared some words and selected music. He wrote,
“I’ve had a wonderful life and it’s due to the many people who have contributed to it. The pieces of music today recall their generosity, love, and kindness to me. I’ve asked that they be played to mark my gratitude”.

For his eightieth birthday, I presented a gift of two bound pages. Alastair opened the wrapping and saw the first one that said: To Alastair. He thought that was a kind of card. He turned it over and saw the title page to my next book EYES ON THE GOAL. Then he realized that To Alastair was the dedication. "My dear fellow," he said as tears came to his eyes. "What a wonderful gift."

Wherever Alastair went, whatever he did, whomever he met, he brought joy and a sense wonder. We are all the richer for that.
Thank you, Alastair, for all your gifts.


Edie said...

What a beautiful tribute to Alistair! And it's so wonderful that he saw the dedication in your newest book. I'm glad you could cherish your time with him, as it's obvious he did with you and all your family.

Christy said...

This is very dear, John. Many years ago, when I was an art director at Four Winds Press, I worked on a collection of poems, collected by Naomi Shihab Nye. The title of the book is THIS SAME SKY. Shall we instead say "SKYE?" Here is a poem I particularly liked for times like these:


A tree
has been felled

Its leaves
are still alive
its fruits
are still ripening
and birds
are still on its branches

A tree
has been felled

Klara Koettner-Benigni

Stephanie said...

What a lovely gift, I'm sure it meant so much.

john said...

Thank you, three. Christy, Naomi is a pal and I love the poem by Klara Koettner-Benigni. A tree has been felled is right.

betsy woods said...

I love his name.

Lauren said...

John, I am finally returning to our Potato blog and reading this post brought tears to my eyes. The sharing of music in gratitude is so loving. Thank you for this.

David LaRochelle said...

I'm so glad that Alistair got to see your dedication, John. From all I've heard about him he sounded like an incredible man.

Alice said...

Hello John,
My husband, Castle Freeman, and I had the privilege of knowing Alastair for a very short time at the end of his life. We met him and Cynthia quite by accident at a cafeteria table at the British Museum and struck up a conversation, which resulted in a lively correspondence and a day with them in the Hertfordshire countryside the next year. Alastair was generously hospitable and pleasant, conversant in so many subjects, and blessed with that rarest of qualities: making whoever he was talking to you feel like the most interesting person in the world. He told us proudly of all your accomplishments. What a dear man. We shall miss our new friend and send you all our sympathy.

Alice and Castle Freeman, Vermont USA drim@sover.net