Linda stood up next. “Marjatta was a great believer in the power of nature. I remember shortly after I lost Roger, she took me to her allotment. We were planting potatoes and I had my back to her. Then I turned around and she was gone. I called her name and, when she answered, I saw that she was lying on her back between the beds. It turned out that, as she’d dug in her fork, it had somehow sprung back and she’d landed on the ground. ‘I’ve never seen the world from this angle,’ she said to me. ‘It’s very interesting.’ So, I lay down next to her and we both watched the world above us, and laughed and laughed.”
There must have been nearly 120 of us squeezed into the Quaker Meeting House yesterday morning for Marjatta’s funeral, and at Linda’s ministry we all smiled, imagining this elegant, elderly Finnish lady lying among the vegetables.
I recalled the time an elderly Friend at the Meeting was having some health problems. She had taken to hoarding newspapers. Eventually, her flat was completely filled with copies of the Guardian. The free press is good for you, but not in that quantity. You couldn’t get into her bathroom or either of the bedrooms. The only space left was between her armchair and her books. It was not a surprise that the Friend was having problems keeping herself and her clothes clean, as all washing facilities were besieged by newsprint.
Our Friend had no family and had devoted her life to the teaching and study of classics. Eventually, some of the Elders and Overseers of the Meeting decided to take action: like it or not, this Friend needed to be cared for somewhere while her flat was cleared and – as it turned out – fumigated to get rid of the rats.
Marjatta volunteered to take her in. We had a large car at the time, to accommodate GrannieBorders’s wheelchair, so I gave a hand with the move. I recalled Linda and I helping our Friend up the garden path with her small case of dirty clothes and a large bag of books. We were greeted at the door by Marjatta; a twinkle, as always, in those blue eyes.
Our Friend was agitated. “How am I going to carry on with my study of medieval Spanish?” she wailed.
“How interesting!” said Marjatta. “This is going to be an adventure.”
Marjatta’s granddaughter remembered her Gran’s excitement at joining Facebook at the age of 88. Others talked about how enthusiastically Marjatta had encouraged them to pursue their talents for painting and music; had provided a listening ear in times of crisis; had loved to learn. Again and again, the words ‘interesting’ and ‘adventure’ echoed through the Meeting House.
Marjatta had an unshakeable belief that we have a spirit which continues after death. The biggest laugh of the funeral came when Michael spoke about receiving a message to tell him that Marjatta had gone. “My immediate thought,” he said, “was ‘they don’t know Marjatta very well’.”
Whatever one’s thoughts about the afterlife, Marjatta’s ability to turn the vicissitudes of this life into an awfully big adventure was an inspiration. They’re a feisty lot, these elderly Quakers, “walking cheerfully over the world,” as George Fox puts it.