The Reverend Catherine Ann Hepburn died peacefully at her home in the West Mearns Parish Manse on Saturday, March 7, after a long illness.
She will be missed throughout the communities she served and beyond.
She was inducted to the West Mearns Parish, comprising the villages of Auchenblae, Drumlithie, Fettercairn and Fordoun, and including Edzell Woods, in 2000 where she soon came to love the people and the countryside of the West Mearns.
Although brought up - and serving in - the Church of Scotland, Catherine’s outlook was ecumenical and she would take opportunities to attend services in other denominations, even attending a Greek Orthodox service when on holiday.
Her compassion and concern for others gave her a feminist outlook, believing that all, regardless of gender, race or orientation are equally God’s children and due equal dignity and respect.
When diagnosed with multiple cancers, late in 2013, she determined to continue her life’s work, ministering for as long as she could and take part in as much of the community life as possible.
She eventually took sick-leave in late January 2014 and started on a gruelling journey through hip surgery, radiography and chemotherapy.
By autumn last year, Catherine opted for “quality of life” over “extension of life”. Despite these difficulties, she appeared at functions in the parish whenever possible, including the Auchenblae Gardens open weekend, coffee mornings and church services now being led by the Rev Douglas Lamb as locum minister.
Despite being somewhat disorganised and following a just-in-time philosophy, she played her full part in the work of the wider church, being a member of the Church and Nation committee, various roles in presbytery and a member of the Iona Community. She was also interim moderator for Mearns Coastal, prior to Colin Dempster’s arrival.
It was in her final months that she made the greatest impact on those who visited her. Knowing she was dying, she remained cheerful, steadfast in her faith, and more concerned about others than herself.
During this time, the communities rallied together to look after Catherine, providing meals, dog walking and transport to clinics and Ninewells Hospital. Her final outing was to the opening day of the fishing season at Balmakewan where she, as had become her custom, prayed.
Catherine’s funeral was held at Fettercairn Kirk last Friday afternoon, and, reflecting her life, was ecumenical, featured beautiful music and involved people from throughout her life.