Friday, February 23, 2007


“Not once have I thought of heaven or hell when facing my death – I’m going back to Spirit and can’t find anything to fear in that.

“And lately (as war rages and life gets ever more difficult) I’m hearing more and more from people about how they envy my journey and coming departure from the world. And when I think of the paradise we could have on earth, the joys we should be having in living, this envy is maybe the saddest thing of all.”
Jacqueline Memory Paterson, Exit Stage Left, Looking Cool, unpublished manuscript.

The last time I saw Tim Sebastion was in the King Arthur pub in Glastonbury on the evening of Jacqui Paterson’s funeral, some time in April 2004.

Some of you will remember Jacqui Paterson. She was the co-founder of the Glastonbury Order of Druids and the author – under the name Jacqueline Memory Paterson - of Tree Wisdom: The definitive guidebook to the myth, folklore and healing power of Trees. It is a book I would heartily recommend to anyone interested in the literary, spiritual and magical significance of trees. I would recommend it to you anyway, regardless of your interests. It’s a good book, full of fascinating detail.

She died of lung cancer. She was fifty nine years old: the same age as Tim was when he died.

I didn’t know Jacqui all that well. I had been introduced to her during the early stages of her illness, when she was still struggling to come to terms with it, still full of resistance to its pain and its indignities, still vigorous in her refusal to give way to its worst effects. At that stage she had Morphine pills available to her. She was able to take Morphine whenever the pain got too great. Generally, however, she was refusing to take it. Life was too precious to waste in a comatose state. Pain was less important to her than the sense that she had so little time left, and so much to experience and to know.

I think I met her about twice. We talked and laughed and drank tea and I smoked cigarettes and she smoked spliffs and she said she liked my second book, The Last of the Hippies.

I liked Jacqui Paterson very much, though we didn’t know each other really. With some people you just click. I think in another life, under other circumstances, we might have ended up as lovers. She was a very beautiful woman.

I asked her why she had called herself “Memory” and she said she wasn’t really sure. “It just came to me,” she said. “It seemed to convey something. It represents who I am.”

She was writing her second book at the time, an autobiography of her impending death, called Exit Stage Left, Looking Cool. I promised that I would try to finish it for her, if it turned out she didn’t have time.I still have the manuscript, though I’m not sure it will ever be published.

After she died I had the clear sensation that she came to visit me to say her goodbyes.

This was on the night of Tuesday 30th March 2004, I think. Jacqui had died the night before. Someone rang me up to let me know. I was sitting on the settee drinking beer and watching TV. I decided to have a spliff.

Now I don’t usually smoke dope, but I often have a little bit in, in case someone who does pays me a visit; so in deference to Jacqui’s departure (and knowing how much she liked a spliff) I rolled up a big fat one and dedicated it to her.

So that explains it then. It was very strong Moroccan pollen. I was stoned, that’s all.

Nevertheless the sensation was very clear. I felt that she was nestled intimately about seven inches behind my right ear, and that she was whispering kindly thoughts to me, about life, about death, and about the nature of the world. So she came to visit me. Or I started to think about her, and by some strange mechanism of the mind, I allowed those thoughts to be conveyed in her voice. However I put it, the impression was that I had been graced by her presence.

I had the curtains open. Across the road from me at the time there was a small park full of trees. I was thinking about Jacqui and feeling sad at her passing. And then it came to me, this quiet, intimate voice just behind my right ear. “Don’t feel sad,” she said. “Look at the trees. It’s spring. The trees are full of blossom, the earth is bursting with life. This is the time of life. Enjoy this time, for me.”

Well I know you’re not supposed to laugh when a person dies, but I did. I laughed out loud at that, a full, round, hearty belly-laugh full of poignancy and hope, full of memory.

That’s the word: memory. It was the word that Jacqui had chosen to name herself with. And I knew how meaningful it was then, as I looked across at the parkland trees sparkling in the lamplight, as I felt all those intimate stirrings of nature, both in the world and in me, and I knew that this is the great human gift, memory, the thing that we are entrusted with.

And that’s precisely what Jacqui did with her life. She drank in the world with her eyes and her soul and she committed it to her memory and to her heart, forever. And the question now is: is that memory gone because she has gone?

I think not.

The sense of her presence in the room with me told me very clearly to trust the world and to trust our presence in it. To trust ourselves. That we are gifted with memory for a purpose, and that God, or Spirit, or Nature - or however you want to name the Ground from whom we derive our being – experiences the world through us, and that we have a duty, therefore, to ourselves and to our humanity – to all of humanity – to do our best to make it good, and to commit it to memory, because in the end memory does not die.

She was a very earthy woman was Jacqui, a creature of the earth, who took delight in the earth and all its startling forms, in its abundance and its splendour. She loved life. She loved life with a fierce loyalty, like she loved her children. And she told me something else, too, while I was sitting there in my shadowy room, with my note book and pen, late at night. She said, “recognise our own children as all children and all children as our own children.” She said, “there is no justification on the planet – ever! – for killing a child.”

That’s how a very stoned CJ Stone thought that night with memories of Jacqueline Memory Paterson on his mind.

It was the following day before I took down a copy of her book from my shelves, and read the following dedication:

For Becky and Jody
And all the children of the world

1 comment:

Roisin said...

I have been reading the book in question 'on and of' since 2006. I've really started to get into it again and just finished the chapter on ash. Anyway I liked your post, it made me sad and happy! It is a great book. I've just started to make work using the energy and information in Tree Wisdom.
You'll find a small post at

Thanking you for sharing your the message from Jacqi for moving into the future.