Honoring a life well-lived

By Joanne Peterson | Mar 13, 2014

I’ve been out of town three weekends in a row, and think it would be a good idea to stay home for a while. First I had a timeshare getaway in Port Townsend with a friend. The next weekend my grandchildren entertained me in West Seattle, where we ate rainy-day picnics on a plastic tablecloth on the living room floor. This past weekend, I drove to Wenatchee for the memorial service for a friend of many years.

It was midnight Friday before I finally decided, for sure, to make the Saturday trip to Wenatchee. Avalanche warnings were in effect as I pondered the trip. I’ve been over Stevens Pass probably 50 times in winter weather, but I seldom—if ever—was alone on those trips.

After changing my mind several times (Go? Not go? Go?), I loaded the car with a backpack of clothing and other necessities, just in case I decided to spend the night. On the back seat I stacked a blanket and a warm coat. Adding boots, bottled water, a couple of extra books and a flashlight in case I had to await rescue in some dire mountainous situation, I headed over Stevens Pass.

As I drove, I thought about my friend Marj Thompson, who died peacefully at 87 and whose memorial service I would be attending at Celebration Lutheran Church in East Wenatchee.

Affectionate, hard-working, good-humored, honest and reliable, Marj enriched the lives of her family, friends and members of her church.  She enjoyed politics, sports on TV, gardening, and family dinners. She looked forward to annual summer drives with brother Cecil and sister-in-law Doris to visit Scobey, Montana, where Marj, Cecil and their siblings grew up.

A founding member of Celebration Lutheran in East Wenatchee, Marj centered her life on her church. She was usually the first one in the building on Sunday mornings and the last one to leave.

Whether starting the coffee, preparing communion or counting the offering, she was a steady presence. (She often wore blue jeans, as many of us did in the early years of Celebration Lutheran).

Arriving at the church Saturday afternoon, I sat in my car for a while, watching people enter the building, thinking about Marj and about the years a small number of people worked to develop a Lutheran church in East Wenatchee. What good years shared with Marj!

The church evolved from a concept to a community, from worship in members’ houses to meeting in a funeral home (!) and then in an old feed store (!) and finally – prior to construction of a building – in a Seventh Day Adventist church.

Throughout the process, Marj was our great encourager, steadfast in her conviction that the worshipping community called Celebration would build a church in East Wenatchee. Her dream came true.

Saturday afternoon, stepping out of my car, I paused for a look west toward the familiar snow-capped hills beyond the Columbia River. I took a deep breath and walked toward the church doors. I half expected Marj to be an usher.

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