Now, We Remember Marjorie

In mid-April, Mom learned that her remaining time
was likely measured in weeks, not months.
She met this news head-on: with acceptance, humour,
and just a tinge of impatience to be getting on with it.
She celebrated her 95th birthday on May 29.
On June 10, Mom died as she wished:
at home, with family around her.
– Isabel Gibson

Marjorie’s Life

Born near Standard on 29 May 1922 to Nels William Thompson (Niels Wilhelm Thomsen) and Belle Thompson (née Bamford),  Marjorie grew up on the farm, picking up strong ties to her Danish heritage along with a smattering of Danish, an abiding interest in farming, and a deep love of the prairies.

After graduating from Crescent Heights High School in Calgary, she studied Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Alberta, avoided classes in mathematics and French to the extent possible, and worked summers on the farm.  Graduating with a BA and a Gold Medal in May 1943, she worked as a social worker at the Provincial Guidance Clinic, a mental health clinic, until her marriage in May 1945 to Sheldon Gibson, another U of A graduate.

She and Sheldon moved frequently in the next seven years, as Sheldon’s work with Imperial Oil took them to small towns across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.  In 1952 they moved into a new home in Edmonton and joined Metropolitan United’s Young Couples Club, a group that became the wacky Coffee Crowd, lifelong committed friends.

Marjorie managed the household and began what would be an enduring commitment to adult education in Biblical scholarship, and to volunteer community service.  She founded Operation Friendship, an outreach program to seniors in Edmonton’s Boyle Street area, as well as a host-family program for international students at SAIT, after they moved to Calgary.

When Sheldon retired, he and Marjorie kept busy:

  • Travelling extensively, much of it in search of genealogical information about both their families as well as various Elder Hostel adventures
  • Participating in Canadian Club
  • Volunteering as drivers for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics
  • Attending CPO concerts, study groups at St. David’s United, and Esso Annuitant hikes and wine appreciation evenings
  • Enjoying their grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and wide circle of fabulous friends

Inheriting the family farm in 1975, she was an active member of a successful and satisfying farming partnership with old friends until 2008, when she sold the farm to her partners.

Sheldon died in December 2010; Marjorie moved to Vancouver in January 2012 to be close to family and to enjoy the flowers and the showers.  In her 90s, she started this blog and joined the Creative Writing Class at her seniors’ residence, making new friends and gaining much enjoyment from both.  She also found a new church home at Canadian Memorial United Church.

7 June 2017

Who Was Marjorie?

At home, church, and community organizations, people found in Marjorie a willing, empathetic, and yet sensible listener.  She enjoyed all kinds of people and was on friendly, first-name terms with almost everyone with whom she came into contact.

Her teaching success came from her talents for organizing and presenting material and for infecting others with her enthusiasm.

Her lifelong tendency to spoonerisms complemented a tendency to misquote poetry.

She couldn’t keep a telephone number in her head to save her life, but she made public speaking look easy.

When she took up serious amateur photography in her fifties, she exhibited an artistic eye and a complete inability to dispose of any photograph, ever.

Spelling was not her forte, but she loved writing and self-published a thoroughly researched 400-page book about her grandmother’s family and descendants: “Grandma Was a Davis.”

Her sense of family was not restricted to blood relationships: children of international students she and Sheldon befriended considered them to be their Canadian grandparents.

She loved classical music, books of all kinds, Bridge, Lake O’Hara, peaty Scotch, red wines with a good finish, and the first crocuses to appear in the spring.



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Night Has Fallen

There is a saying, “The little bird sings in the dark, welcoming the dawn he knows will come.”

By itself it doesn’t make sense.  Consider it a metaphor that opens a door.  It is not really about birds but people, so many interpretations are possible.  From where I stand, mid-way in my nineties, the end of a long journey approaches.  As surely as a bird knows morning will come, I know death is my destination.    Continue reading


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Autumn Leaves

The older I get the more I harken back to years long past.  The joys and sorrows, lessons learned and questions which always linger, all are behind the view I take of today and my expectations for the days left.  And so I do what I have never done before – present an article written in 2013 for readers to consider once more.   After three and a half years my views remain unchanged.  I can express them no better.

What’s going on?  A yellow leaf floats gently by, guided by a light breeze.  It can’t be . . . fall already?  Summer has been so short.  A gust of air, and I watch another leaf fall.  This one lands on my head.  Lifting it down, I marvel at its fall dress.  A bit of green is still showing, but the rest is streaked with orange, yellow, and brown.  It flaunts its beauty unapologetically, as if to say “Look at me, see what wonders change can bring.”  Continue reading


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The Wild Duck Club of Amica at Arbutus Manor

The year is moving on toward mid-summer.  The ducks that flew away last fall returned this past spring as regular as a clock.  Fascinating thing, this business of instincts.  With people, in many things it drives our lives, rather than the careful thought we imagine.  Our ducks arrive because something drives them to leave their winter quarters and come north.  Once here they attend to business.  Pairing off, they assume the roles of drake and female.  In due time their eggs become baby ducklings.  Those who survive the onslaught of crows grow rapidly towards adulthood.   Continue reading


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Glimpses of Life’s Secrets

A Vignette Encounter With One Such Event

An ordinary start to an ordinary day.  Yawns and sighs as the breakfast seekers drop into their usual places.

“Good morning all.”

“Looks like it’s going to rain all day.”

“The news says the surf is really pounding the sea wall down by the inlet.”

And that does it!  Something triggers in my mind and I am gone, lost in memories – great memories!    Continue reading


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Anna’s Story – Instalment 2

The world changes – always!  When Anna returns to Vancouver after the wonderful year she spent in Shetland Islands, she is not the same little girl.  A year older and much more understanding about her parents’ love for their childhood home, she still is glad to be back with her friends and familiar surroundings.

It is a troubling time for our old world.  On September 1st 1939, World War II starts.  Well trained and obedient, Hitler’s troops sweep across Europe.  In 1940 alone these countries fall to them: Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Jersey/Guernsey (British islands in the ocean channel between Europe and England), and Norway.  Soon, almost all of Europe is under Hitler’s command.  Continue reading


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Anna’s Story

Long, long ago a little girl is listening to her parents.  “We start tomorrow on a long trip, Anna.  It will take us home to the Shetland Islands.  Your grandparents want to see you.  They don’t have any other grandchildren.”

“Why not, Mummy?  I have friends with grandparents, and they have lots of grandchildren.  And why do you call that place home?  Vancouver is home!”

Mrs. Malcolmson sighs.  “Be patient, child.  We’ll explain it all to you as we travel.”

The trip begins, and long it was.  Anna has a lot of time to ask her questions.  A long train ride and much to see, with questions to match. shetlands-1

“What’s that?  Why are there trees here?”

“It’s different today, where have the trees gone?”

“This is a tiny town, do the kids have a school?””

“What’s an island?  How did Shetland get into the ocean?”

“Will we get there tonight?”

Whenever Anna falls asleep, her patient parents heave a sigh of relief and doze off themselves.

The days and weeks roll by, a continent traversed and an ocean covered.  Their ship reaches land.  Ferries take over along the shallow coastal waters.  Finally, after a long night’s travel, the trip is over.

“Anna, wake up, we’re here.  I see your grandparents on the dock.”  The sleepy little girl slowly opens her eyes, “The ferry has stopped, Mummy.  Where are we?”

And so the year’s visit begins.  Anna’s world expands – loving grandparents and other family members everywhere.  The language is strange, English words mixed with an unfamiliar Scandinavian dialect.  The countryside is different from any she has ever seen before.  Even the food surprises her.  It is plain and cooked with no frills; milk, eggs, potatoes, fish, and something her relatives called “reested mutton”.  She sees no fruit trees at all.


When the time comes for the Malcomsons to leave, Anna cries.  Her Daddy hugs her and says, “Don’t cry, dear, you’ll be back some day, I promise you.  It’s been your home for only a year, but the pull to return will always be there.”

Time proves him right.  Anna revisits the Shetland Islands four times after that first experience.  Something calls her back to the Islands of her forebears, a sense of being at home.  Her life has been enriched by an enduring feeling of belonging.


Installment 1 of “Anna’s Story”.  Join us for further glimpses.



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The Lasting Effect of Experience

“In this beloved residence the opportunity to make friends is there for the taking.”

Does that look familiar?  Probably.  Those are the words with which I started my last essay, but contrary opinions were expressed by some of my friends who found their entry to residential living difficult.  Most of us are here of our own accord.  Most of us have gone through the wrenching business of closing down a home, and deciding what to take and what to discard.  Several, like me, have moved from one city to another.  Despite our similarities, our reactions to the move are different.  Why?   Continue reading


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A New Life

In this beloved residence the opportunity to make friends is there for the taking. Together we form not only a place to live, but a community – a special one. The majority of us are old. Instinctively I reach out to others.

As the years lived increase, the years left to me decrease. I cherish my friends, reach out to my acquaintances, and lean on both as I travel the path ahead. To borrow from the old Maxwell House coffee ad that their brew was “Good to the last drop”, I have a different claim. Life is capable of being “Good to the last day.”

Let my New Life thrive!


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“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December,” proclaimed Sir James Matthew Barrie sometime in the early 1900s.  Born in 1860 he lived a full thoughtful life, with his share of sorrow and success.  His saying naturally resonates with me: At 94, I can smell those roses!  With open arms, I welcome home the memories triggered by the scent.

Life has no set formula.  We live our lives differently, and we age differently.  One of the common experiences is realizing that age steals many of the abilities and interests once enjoyed.  The good news is that the problems I encounter as the years pass are manageable.  The joys I experience continue to accumulate.  Now deep into my December, as countless wonderful memories drift in, I pick my roses, contentedly.


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