Friday, December 29, 2006


Alice’s Christmas letter said: “I am 92 years old.  I have lived a wonderful life.  And now I am ready to be in the arms of Jesus.”


We read the letter together and sighed.  If only it could be that easy, to make a decision after a wonderful life and then go gently.  Less than two weeks later we sighed again.  Just before Christmas she was gone.  The obituary in the paper said: “Alice is now in the arms of Jesus.”


Think of the changes Alice saw.  Her life began at the start of World War I.  She outlived three husbands.  , raised a family with the first, spent brief time with the second before he was diagnosed with cancer, and married the third after getting reacquainted at her seventieth birthday party.  We got to know her in the widowhood between second and third. 


Alice made a difference in our lives.  We met her shortly after she returned from Scotland, in the time before she was reacquainted with John.  She came alone to Mill Woods United Church, the only senior citizen in a brand new suburban congregation populated largely by people under the age of twelve.  By definition she might have been a grandmother to us all.  This was not the role she chose.  She liked to talk about her travels, and the interesting things she had done as a volunteer.  She liked to tell us about the unexpected arrival of her youngest child.  .  She may have been a grandmother, but she was also a board member for the growing church.  Senior citizen she might bee, but she was still building new things.


Alice was our friend, even though forty years of living separated her age from ours.  We will never forget the summer evening when she was our dinner guest.  David brought a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce and placed it in front of her.  Unfortunately the spaghetti continued on its journey after the plate stopped, remaining airborne until it made itself at home in Alice’s lap.  We were horrified, stunned into uncharacteristic silence.  She responded with grace and good humour.   That was the way she accepted whatever happened to her. 


Her third marriage took her from us, moved her a few miles away, just outside the boundary of our world.  We missed her, saw her only a couple of times in twenty-odd years for brief social how-are-you-we-are-fine conversations. 


Still, Alice did not give us up completely.  Our one reliable link was the annual Christmas letter.  It would have been easy for her to let us go.  Our time together had been only a brief scene in her history.  She must have sent a lot of Christmas letters, given the scope and duration of her life.  We were always pleased to hear from her.  In her final letter she dared to write that she was ready to be with Jesus.  We are privileged to have known her. 


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