(In my August column, Honouring our Christian departed and mourners alike, I wrote of conducting a committal service for a friend and teacher, Marjorie Gibson, who lived her gospel values in evident ways for those who gathered to remember her. In this column, I revisit what might be called “Marjorie’s maxims” to share some of those values with you.)
In their quest to live the Good News as followers of Jesus, some early Christians used a formula we discover in Matthew 7:7-8—“Ask and it shall be given to you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”
I learned some important life lessons, not unlike these biblical principles, from Marjorie over the years. They might be summarized as follows:
Follow the truth wherever it leads.
Adjust to the new normal.
Stay true to the good path you are on.
Share that path with others you care about.
Be ready for whatever lies ahead.
It is OK not to have all the answers.
Reflecting on these poignant pointers, I realized just how much the witness and teaching of Jesus had come to be reflected in Marjorie’s life through almost 10 decades. If the gospel is to have meaning for us, we too need mentors like her to model the Good News.
Marjorie was born in the Danish Lutheran rural community of Standard, just east of Calgary. Her visionary parents encouraged her to graduate from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, during the 1940s. She honed and applied the faith values of her tradition to the academic, family, career-building and senior years that occupied her life as partner to Sheldon, mother of four children and teacher in many situations.
Truth was imparted to her through her baptism as a Christian and the faith of her parents, as she applied and grew that truth through many experiences. She was constantly adjusting to the “new normal”—all through her life—and grew wise in her ability to reflect on her experience. Marjorie was an activist and got things done, but she also spent much time reading, talking and meditating.
Often, she was enticed to venture onto new paths of insight, but always those discoveries had to integrate with the truth she had come to know. Her faith was personal, but it was also formed in the company of others with whom she journeyed. An independent thinker, she strove to relate engagingly with companions along the way.
Right until the end, Marjorie was in the process of preparation for what lay ahead. “What happens after I die?” she would ask. “Is there a place called heaven or is that merely a human construct?” Always brutally honest with herself and others, she worked hard to balance inherited faith with new insights. “Whatever lies ahead for me,” she would say, “I am ready.”
Marjorie found that life’s new questions never stopped. Ageing for her did not mean a reduction in the options presented for consideration. To the end, she did not need to have all the answers; she was amazingly flexible, yet content with her lot in life.
Marjorie was never hesitant to ask, search, find and live with what she discovered. Through it all, she was a profoundly caring, engaging individual. What an amazing witness to gospel values she was!