Tag Archives: meaning of life

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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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

At our residence dinner table, the conversation ranged far and wide. Trying to make her point one of the ladies exclaimed, “Well, you know, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Our conversation dissolved into laughter. The attention switched immediately from the subject under discussion, to the saying used.   Continue reading


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Survival Guide for Old Age

The years pile up. Age creeps up slowly, hardly noticed at first. A woman lives in the same home for fifty years. She has a profession and develops it seriously. At home she shares the all-important business of raising a family, keeps the house, does community work, and gardens. Slowly, one by one, all slip away. In the end, it is only she and the house. It becomes imperative now that she make a big change. This is beyond her imagination and she rejects all insistence to do so.

Making a major move is trying at any time. At an advanced age it can be traumatic. Two known constants in life – inevitable change, and resistance to change – are now at loggerheads. More education regarding aging, and the timing and managing of major changes, would be very helpful in many cases. Where can ordinary people get good, reliable information about such a common experience?

When I hear people discussing old age, my mind flips back about seven hundred years to 1310 and a man named Dante Alighieri. His epic poem, “The Divine Comedy”, is revered by literary scholars. My knowledge of it is confined to one line: “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.” This is what Dante inscribed on his word-picture of the grim gates to Hell.   Continue reading


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Seasons’ Greetings – 2013

Vignette #3 of 3

What a nice way to say farewell to a year that is ending: with celebration!  Regardless of our faiths, or lack of any, the year is rendering its last few gasps.  In a very short time, it will be gone.

This is a delightful period!  Phone calls, emails, and unexpected visits come from friends old and new.  Memories surface of times throughout a long life, bringing tears and joy.  Our present life shoe-horns its way into line, claiming a place in the celebratory season. 

This is a valuable, nay, an imperative call.  We must learn to recognize all that is good, hopeful, and precious in life.  If this is our starting point, we will be standing on a firm foundation to view and acknowledge life’s realities.

Remember the nativity scene?  It depicts the joy, love, and wonder surrounding the birth of a baby in a stable.  Couple that with the real background of a cruel and heartless Roman occupation force.  The whole scene changes.

As it was so long ago, so it is now in our modern times.  There is so much to rejoice about, especially if we remember how much remains to be done. 

Let the bells ring in the blessings of this Season for one and all.


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On the Sunny Side of the Street

Preface: Thursday November 28th 

We are entering a wonderful time of the year.  Special days galore surround us: New Year, Christmas, Hanukkah, plus endless family celebrations will be the norm.

In the midst of this happy milieu we all struggle to handle our ongoing daily commitments.  I have a writing due for my creative writing class on each of three closely grouped days – November 28th, December 4th, and December 18th.  Necessity provides the incentive to create a “do-able” solution.  I have decided to present three loosely related vignettes, one on each of the dates mentioned.  The first one is today.  A cautionary note: the dictionary defines a vignette as “A short, graceful, literary sketch.”  I can guarantee only the short part.  The other three elements may, or may not, be achieved!  

On The Sunny Side Of The Street

Age is interesting.  There are few “How to Navigate” or “How to Understand” instructions for this very special portion of life.  Each day brings surprises.  Some are not welcome, some even very difficult, but many are delightful.

Musing about this, on one morning walk, I marvelled at the beauty of the sky.  Clouds battled with sunshine, creating a checkered pattern from horizon to horizon.  My sense of pleasure was intense.  A complete stranger stopped and pointed out to me a flock of crows, engaged in a real battle over one small chunk of bread.  We watched, laughed, visited, and then moved on.   Continue reading


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Plans and Bumps

The first of two installments

The sudden howling of the wind, and the torrential downpour of rain spiced with hail seizes our attention.  Visiting interrupted, the five of us push back our chairs and rush to the window to watch in amazement.

“Was this forecast?” I demand.  Having just arrived in Edmonton, I feel it’s a fair question.  My friends deny any previous knowledge of this wild weather.  Our host hurries into the next room and turns on the radio, TV and computer.  All sources blare forth the same message.

“Tornado Warning!”  Seek shelter immediately.  Do not leave your present location until an ‘All Clear’ is issued.”

My tablemates and I stand at the window, watching the swirling gusts of wind pick up anything loose and fling it aloft.  A child’s jacket, a large cardboard box, and a garden tool all fly by.  We watch with sympathy as a crow, battered by the wild wind, struggles to escape the storm’s grasp.  My mind protests, “This is my vacation.”   Continue reading


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The Wisdom of the Wise

The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of the ages,
may be preserved by quotation.”

Isaac D’israeli, an Englishman who lived from 1766 to 1848, was a respected literary essayist.  His belief, given above, has weathered well.  In 2013 we turn to the online Proverbs of the World and read,

“These sagacious sayings are the distilled wisdom of the ages.  Their lessons are as relevant today, as when first heard hundreds and sometimes thousands of years ago.”

We need help today.  We struggle to accept, enjoy and handle our modern lives, sometimes against overwhelming odds.  We could benefit from the mentoring of experienced guides.  Are the problems we face now so different from those in the past?  Is it possible to tap into ancient wisdom?    Continue reading


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Marjorie’s Manifesto

With apologies to Martin Luther

In 1517 a monk named Martin Luther nailed a document to the church door in Wittenberg.  It was a passionate statement of an alternative vision of what the Christian faith and church practices could and should be.  His action shook his contemporary world, and eventually led to a new and different way of viewing and living faith.

My claim to the right to use the term ‘manifesto’ lies in recently experiencing personal events which have shaken me to the core, and which will lead to major changes in the way I see and lead my life.

On January 10th, 2013 I visited my family doctor, accompanied by my daughter, Lorna Shapiro.  The appointment was made because my family had brought to my attention that I had suffered a major memory lapse.  This unusual event was upsetting for all of us.  How could this happen to me, and what did it mean?   Continue reading


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No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

When one reaches the “aged” phase the temptation is great, and the privilege exists, to revisit life itself – decades and decades of it!  Mankind as far as we now know, is unique among our fellow living creatures, in having a consciousness of self.  We retain memories of the past, anticipate the future, and are acutely aware of our mortality.  With all this come questions: many of them!  Some are profoundly important throughout life, some vary according to our age, and for the most part the answers are elusive.

It fascinates me that these questions, the search for understanding and the efforts to find answers cut across peoples, cultures, and the ages.  Archaeologists now know that even the earliest of primitive people wrestled with much the same questions that plagued more sophisticated societies, and still remain unanswered today:

What is the purpose of life?
What is my role here?
Is there something “out there” that is greater than all else?
Why is there good and evil?
What can I do to make my life worth living?     Continue reading


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