Only six months ago Pauline Thomson was sweeping across the waves on a jet-ski raising thousands of pounds in a charity dash through the chilly North Sea.
That she was there at all was something of a surprise: two years earlier she had been given just nine months to live.
But the inspirational minister was adamant it would be business as usual and the thrilling escapade, careering across Peterhead harbour, was merely a reflection of her determination to get on with the job in hand, despite having lung cancer.
Thomson came late to the ministry, so only had the opportunity to serve the congregation of Peterhead Old Parish Church for a handful of years. But she was still putting her heart and soul into the job until the last.
Brought up in Bonnybridge, she had been a bright pupil at Denny High School but opted to go straight into work as a teenager. She headed for the Highlands and the Coylumbridge Hotel at Aviemore where she became head waitress. When colleagues moved to run a restaurant at Balbirnie near Brechin, she joined them, again on waitressing duties.
It was a line of work she had fallen into rather than making a conscious decision to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. And, by the time she was in her mid-20s, she was a mum, working in various shops in Brechin.
But later she began to consider a change of direction and decided to go to university. She studied history at Dundee University while continuing to work, in Woolworths in the evenings, to support herself through her course.
After graduating towards the end of the 1990s she took a job as a carer at Belmont Castle Care Home in Meigle, Perthshire, where she spent about five years.
During that time she was a member of Gardner Memorial Church, Brechin, where she was also an elder, a Sunday School teacher and Guide leader.
As her faith developed, she decided to explore it more deeply and eventually felt called to the ministry and took part in the Church of Scotland’s enquiry and assessment process, spending a year at Brechin Cathedral.
In the summer of 2002, she was accepted as a candidate for the ministry and that September she began a three-year divinity degree at the University of St Andrews where she won a prize for pastoral care.
After graduating, she became a probationer at Old and St Andrew’s Church in Montrose for 15 months before being ordained and inducted at Peterhead’s Old Parish Church at the end of 2006. The charge had been vacant for some time but she was warmly received by the community and quickly began to make a huge difference, particularly through her pastoral care. Hard-working, patient and devoted to people, she would be out visiting day after day.
She first became unwell just a couple of years into her Peterhead ministry and, once cancer was diagnosed, was given only months to live.
But she defied the prognosis, determined to keep on going for as long as she could. Last September, along with a member of her congregations, she raised more than £3,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support with her jet-ski exploit.
At the time she said she was determined to enjoy life and urged others battling cancer not to give up and to keep hope.
Typically, she was still working part-time virtually right until the end.
“I had so much more to do,” she said recently, “and so much more to live for.” Her friend, Rev Linda Stevens, said: “She will be hugely missed for her worship, her care and her love for her people. She really had a heart for people.”
Meanwhile, paying tribute to her selfless nature, friend Elaine Taylor said: “She was truly one of the least selfish people I have ever met and I will miss her for that reason.
“She was always thinking of other people before herself, and right to the end she was planning on raising money for Macmillan Cancer Research.
“She was planning on organising a Scottish dance and I, along with others from the church, am planning to go ahead with this later in the year in memory of Pauline.
“She never complained about being so ill and it was her spirit and her faith in God which kept going despite her failing condition,” she added.
Pauline is survived by her husband, Jim, daughter Sarah, step-children Gary and Moira and three granddaughters.