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I have witnessed many beautiful sunrises in my life, but the morning of May 2, the horizon was such an blinding sea of bright pink that it literally stopped me in my tracks.
Exhausted from what was thrown on my plate the day before and already putting together my to-dos of the day, I was speechless at what I saw when I came up the stairs at 5:30 a.m.
After standing on the front step for a few minutes to take in the amazing view, I set about my business. At 6 the phone rang. It was Belinda calling to tell me that my sister Margaret had gained her angel wings shortly after 5.
My heart immediately flooded with an indescribable peace and happiness unlike anything I have felt before. Amid a blaze of pink, I knew I had witnessed my sister’s soul fill with relief and joy at finally being free of the trials she endured here on earth. It had been the most perfect send off. She passed the same way she lived. A beautiful unassuming soul, who never commanded the limelight, but somehow earned it just by being herself.
When people die we search for the words to tell the world what an amazing person they were.
Yet, as I was trying to prepare this eulogy I didn’t feel a pressing need to do so as I feel comforted by the knowledge that her actions spoke greater than any of my words could.
If everyone in this room stood up and said something about Margaret, you would undoubtedly hear that she was smart, she was kind and she was hard-working. She was creative, she was talented and she was dependable. She could plunk out 120 words a minute on the typewriter, without a mistake. She was always well-dressed but she was never fancy. She never spent money on expensive things – unless of course it was the perfect piece that tied everything together. Even then she would debate if there wasn’t some way she could just make it herself.
Growing up I often heard about how good Margaret was at doing things. Although Margaret always scoffed at my stories of her perfection, we both knew the drive for perfection was in our blood. After all, from birth our mother instilled in us that there is no point doing a job unless you do it right.
Our mom worked hard to give us a place that we were proud to call home. I remember her hiding pennies under the doilies to make sure we dusted properly. She was obsessed with making sure everything matched and looked just so and if it did not we always had to figure out some way to make sure it did.
As much as we sometimes hated mom’s perfection, both of us have spent our lives trying to strive for the same level of perfection:
We know the value of hard work and having the persistence to never give up. If you don’t know how to do something, you read up on it and teach yourself until you do;
We know the joy of thinking outside the box, giving old things new life or finding a cheaper way to accomplish something.
And we definitely understood why everything needed to match!
For better or worse I believe these family traits are what united us as sisters. As life goes full circle many of these traits have been passed down to our children and our grandchildren.
A eulogy for my sister would be incomplete without mention of her husband Keith. The dictionary defines soulmate as a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner. My brother-in-law Keith was both of those things to my sister. With those two there was no such thing as better half, because they were always one and were incomplete without the other.
I was so proud to be part of their family. They had their own little empire north of Maple Creek in the Royal Edward District. They had an impressive herd of cattle – Angus and Limousin cross that they built together from the bottom up. Their herd earned them great respect in the cattle world. They were good neighbours and friends, always willing to lend a hand to anybody who needed it.
They were experts at living within their means and Margaret always had her eye on the bottom line. Keith respected and appreciated her so much for that, and even though they talked about low cattle prices and tough times, it was obvious that thanks to Keith’s hard work and Margaret’s keen financial planning they never really knew what rock-bottom was.
Margaret put hundreds of miles on her little Ford Fiesta driving to work at Orr’s Law Office. When she wasn’t working she was out in the corral with Keith, moving cows or tending to her garden or her flowers. The ground was sandy there, but Margaret had a knack for making things grow – especially her columbines and other self-seeding perennials, which brought her great joy, likely because it meant she didn’t have to spend money buying bedding plants at the store.
She was always sewing, knitting, crocheting or doing cross-stitch and she was always doing books for somebody. In income tax season she would work many extra hours, but still be ready for branding by the first Sunday in May. Although Keith put most of the meals on the table, Margaret always did her share by peeling the potatoes in the morning before she left for work. On the weekends in the summer she could be found stewing rhubarb or canning peaches – rhubarb slush was her speciality.
Keith and Margaret were an amazing couple and they were so proud of their daughters Belinda and Michelle. When their two son-in-laws, Sheldon and Shane and my husband Ivan entered the picture, Keith and Margaret embraced them like the sons they never had. When the grandkids came along it was hard to miss the pride they felt. There was always fresh cookies and ice cream when they came to visit, and grandpa and grandma always took time to show them things.
Their eldest grandchild Jordyn says it was decorating cakes with Margaret that inspired her to be a professional baker and the boys loved listening to their grandpa talk about the cattle. It was Margaret who taught Emery how to ride a bike. All of Keith and Margaret’s grandchildren are turning out to be incredible kids and adults. Some would say it is because they had such wonderful grandparents. Not once did any of us hear them fight.
After Keith passed Margaret retired, moved to town and remarried. Her and Merv were active members in their church and she got much enjoyment from the services and the fellowship she shared with their church family.
The last years of her life were difficult, but Margaret dug in and endured them with her same unassuming persistence, which has inspired her granddaughter Codee to become an RN. She rarely complained and she always had a smile for everyone who visited. In many ways her last years, were among the most peaceful in her life. Death can be a horrible thing, or it can be a wonderful thing. Today we find great JOY in knowing that Keith and Margaret are together again. We feel HOPE in knowing that Margaret has been given the chance to live again, to create, to laugh, to quietly make a difference, just the way she did on earth.
The long goodbye is over and the final page has been turned but it won’t be the final chapters that we remember, but rather all the wonderful chapters before.
What a beautiful book my sister has written.
How fitting that my parents named her Margaret – Joy - Hope.
As read by her sister Anne.