Tag Archives: aging

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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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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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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“Do you need help?”

His voice rings out, jarring me out of my concentration.  The path is steep, and my walker’s basket loaded.  I cling to the railing with one hand and my walker with the other, picking my way toward the pathway below.

“Hang on, I’m coming.”

The young man is not waiting for a reply from me.  He parks his bike and is sprinting up the path.  Sizing up the situation, he decides what to do.   Continue reading


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Happy — Content

The same, different, or similar?

A family group is touring our seniors’ residence: a middle-aged couple, and an elderly lady, the mother of one of them. Escorting our visitors is a staff member, the Community Relations Manager. She is leading them around, pointing out the many lovely areas we enjoy. The middle-aged couple is delighted with what they see. Their older relative looks troubled.

As I pass them, I nod and say, “Good morning.” To my surprise, the old woman turns and says, “Do you live here?”

“Yes, I’m a resident.”

“How long have you lived here?”

“Almost four years.”

“Do you like it?”

“Certainly, I’m very content.”

“But are you happy?” she says urgently.

Seeing that we are at cross-purposes, I use her terminology and reply, “Yes, I’m very happy here. It’s my home.” and walk on.    Continue reading


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Life Is A Noun: Living Is A Verb!

From the earliest known ancestors, mankind has wondered why they were on Earth, and if there was a purpose for life. My sympathy goes to these forebears. I, too, have tried to understand how best to manage my life: It seemed always to be changing course. Was I missing cues? Despite a full and satisfactory life the thought would sometimes arise, “Is there a purpose I have not yet understood or satisfied?”

I have lived a long life, and one of the lessons learned, one of the insights gained over that life may be of use to others: I don’t ask questions about the purpose of life, or why I’m here, anymore. I think I know.

One of my metaphors for life is that of a pot boiling on the stove. Occasionally I stir the contents. It’s my life, I’m responsible for what is simmering there. Sometimes I add to the contents, sometimes I pick out and discard items, as life and my needs alter.

As the end approaches, I make fewer and fewer changes. The broth is clear, I can see right to the bottom. The simmering of the pot of life has boiled away all but a small amount of what once was there. What remains are little nuggets of clarity—little gems, if you will, that life has saved for my comfort and support in my latter years. Coming vignettes will present more of the gems I treasure; this offers the first one.

“Listen – Understand – Act”

It sounds simple, but is easier said than done. Yet when I do manage to implement this motto, I am more use to those around me, and closer to fulfilling my life purpose.

Especially at my age, often the only actions required of me are to listen and to understand! Sometimes, though, I can do more. Life is good, and my purpose includes appreciating it, savouring it, and giving something to every day that is waiting for me, in the pile of days at the end of my road.


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From the Past to the Future

I am now aged. Although my accumulation of years is obvious, what is not as apparent is the inner changes that are taking place. My interests, abilities, and expectations are all undergoing revision. I feel an urgent need to define the new me: Time is running out! Is there anything now that I can be a part of and that could be of value to present and future generations? What must I do? What am I able to do? What do I want to do?

Taking the easy route, I decide that what I want to do is apt to be what I can do best. The answer, then, is easy, too: I will be a custodian of family history, of the stories that reflect both the everyday lives and the dreams of people I have known and loved. Recording those stories will be the invaluable ingredient.

For centuries, the history of a family or a people was passed down in the only way possible: orally. Person to person, generation by generation, the precious stories were told, memorized, and passed on. Now, I can take my pick of recording methods, using one or all: books and pictures, videos, and computers.

But it is all storytelling, and the old oral tradition can still be a part of it. Whenever my family gathers, in the midst of the laughter and fun, I will “remember when,” sharing the stories I know. Passed on with love, these memories will be part of what binds the family together, today and tomorrow.


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