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A woman who knows all about Ecclesiastes




I know I’m too young but I feel it creeping in sometimes. That time my husband switched us from Windows to an all-Mac world. When I succumbed to putting my beloved books on an e-reader. Every time I get a new phone. When I watch my daughter mastermind her way around anything electronic as if by basic instinct. Until the object freezes or asks her to buy the next game level. Then, Mom gets to figure it all out again.


I have to breathe slowly and coach myself through learning every new electronic gadget. I know they are exciting, earth-shattering inventions.


Aren’t we all so glad we are now accessible 24 hours a day?


And maybe someday they’ll even figure out how to get excellent reception when we’re camping up north or living in the middle of nowhere, as I do.


Almost always, as I reflect on such things, I think of a loved one....


She was 64 when I made my earthly arrival. So much living already lived. My Great-Aunt Marjorie turns 104 today. Born in 1910. And I wonder at how much new she has had to learn in her lifetime.


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven;

Her childhood days were spent on the same property where I spent mine. Generations apart. She had uncles who lived on the exact plot of land where we built our house. Uncles John and Hub. Bachelor moonshiners.


As an adult, she moved to Lamar, Missouri. Where she lived my whole life. Until late in her 90’s, when family decided it was time to move her closer to them. At 99, she reached a point where living on her own had proven too much.


A time to be born and a time to die,

She came second in a family of six. Four girls followed by two boys. The youngest sister died of pneumonia at age four. Marjorie and the youngest son remain. 


Over the years, she has buried a number of loved ones. I remember visiting her at home just after my Allie was born. She spoke of how she spent her days visiting friends in the hospital and nursing homes. Or attending funerals. She didn’t lament this fact. Just talked about it as the way it was.

A time to plant and a time to uproot,

She grew up on a farm. Acreage and animals. But as a young adult, she uprooted. My memories with her are from her retirement years. A small town experience. We’d meet her friends for coffee, attend soup suppers at the local church, visit the birthplace of Harry Truman. Still a slower, simpler life. But one away from the farm.


A time to kill and a time to heal,

You don’t live to 104 by accident. Actually, we probably have little control over living to be 104 at all. She never had children. Many attest this fact alone to her healthy condition. Whatever God’s reasons, here she stands, having arrived at this major accomplishment. Although she has suffered a few falls this past year, the most major illness I remember Aunt Marjorie getting treatment for was cataracts.


A time to tear down and a time to build,

Marjorie was married to Merle for more than half a century. Think how many weddings and births they attended! How much life they experienced. That helps explain why, when we told her about the tear down of my parents’ marriage, she uttered over and over, “This too shall pass.” Somehow, age taught her things about life’s pains and disappointments.


A time to weep and a time to laugh,

I don’t recall Aunt Marjorie ever crying. I know family deaths saddened her but again, learning that “this too shall pass” prepared her for grief. 


But she did laugh. Often she would laugh at me as she watched my competitive streak blossom. I owe much of this competitive streak to Marjorie and her sister, Mildred. Most times, when one visited our family, they both did. And they taught me this little card game, “Spite-and-Malice.”  The game my husband dreads playing with me to this day. Now, Marjorie and Mildred, having had no children, apparently didn’t get the memo about letting kids win a game or two. Whether it was cards or board games such as Aggravation, I earned my victories. They never came easy.


A time to mourn and a time to dance,

One hundred and four years surely offers some times of mourning. I don’t remember a lot of dancing though. Save one time. It was Marjorie and Merle’s 50th wedding anniversary. A big shin-dig at a local hall. I was seven or eight at the time, but I remember this festive event with clarity. They had fancy hors devours on toothpicks swirled with colored saran wrap. My dad let me taste his champagne. Fifty years of marriage is a grand reason to celebrate. And so we danced. 


A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

Many summers, we would make the three-hour drive from my hometown to Lamar, Missouri to spend a long weekend with Aunt Marjorie. I would go with my grandparents or my mom and brothers. Every night we were there, Aunt Marjorie would go on a walk. (Traces of God’s great irony that her last name is Walker.) Anyone was invited to join her. With a crowd or on her own, she was going. We’d walk by rock gardens, flower gardens and neighbors working in the yard. I’d swell with pride, because everyone knew my Aunt Marjorie. 


A time to embrace and a time to refrain,

My people aren’t touchy-feely. I don’t remember lots of hugging from Aunt Marjorie. Or really any family members. Regardless, my aunts somehow always made you feel special. They were aunts to us in every sense of the word. 


A time to search and a time to give up,

My aunts, Marjorie and Mildred, didn’t have any give up in them. If they did, I never saw it. They exhibited strength and confidence. I grew up thinking all women did. They taught me that.


A time to keep and a time to throw away... (italics Ecclesiastes 3:1-6)

Growing up in the Great Depression, Aunt Marjorie definitely leaned toward the “keep” side. Waste made little sense to her. And everything had value.


One hundred and four years old today. And never even heard of Facebook or iPhones or e-readers. Can you imagine? To one of the most beautiful ladies I’ve ever met. Happy happy birthday!


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