Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Bill Archer

November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving can cause melancholy memories that produce great joy

— — I loved listening to my mother-in-law, Marjorie Louise Cozart, offer the Thanksgiving prayer at our table. Silently, I always believed that a person who was as pious and good as she was would have a direct connection with the Almighty. Openly, when she said “Amen,” I usually joked that we would have to put the rolls back in the oven to reheat, because she prayed such a long prayer that the rolls had probably cooled off.

She knew I was teasing her, because I always did. She understood me and I understood her. We came from totally different backgrounds, but she and I were as close as two people could be. I think my religious tolerance surprised her a little, but I know that the depth of her faith introduced me to an entirely new level of understanding. My friends all know that I often shared the fact that I was thankful that God blessed me to have placed Marge in my life. I still am.

The reason that I joked about the dinner rolls getting cold was because Marge mentioned all of our family members, the poor and oppressed people of foreign lands in turmoil, our political leaders, religious leaders and military in her prayers. Growing up, my typical dinner prayer was John 3:16, and I learned to say it so fast that my lips started smacking before I took a single bite of the turkey and dressing. During the past quarter century of listening to Marge’s heartfelt Thanksgiving prayers, I learned a lot about praying.

There are many faiths in many cultures, but to me, some form of prayer, meditation or chant is a universal element of each faith. As I see it, prayer doesn’t get you anything ... It gets you everything. A silent reflection in a solitary dark place or a prayer shouted into the wind of a high mountain top all bring results. I’ve learned from my mother-in-law that God can hear a prayer spoken in the softest whisper or yelled louder than a thunder clap.

Marge’s prayers were soft, but never so soft that I couldn’t hear every word. She prayed for children who she had never met and for friends who had passed on to another life. She sometimes acted surprised when I asked her to offer the blessing, especially if it was in my home, but she never hesitated and she never failed to give praise to God, the Giver of all life and the Grantor of all blessings.

I’ve been asked to offer blessings at many gatherings — some with hundreds of people in attendance. For many years I used to think myself unworthy to engage in an open conversation with my Lord and master, and ask him to bless the food I was about to eat and to bless the food that those attending the gathering were about to partake in. I know in my heart that my life has not been without sin and I know that God has forgiven me. The thing that helped me most in public gatherings was to channel my inner Marjorie Cozart, and to follow her example in prayer.

It is better to have at least a few moments to prepare to pray, although I have been called on to pray out of the blue and those prayers usually start: “Who? Me? Please bow your heads with me in prayer. Heavenly Father ...” I believe that one of the most important things I learned from Marge was that there is no need to hurry through a prayer. All things, great and small, can benefit from a word of prayer.

I know there are many families who, for one reason or another, might not be able to gather together this week to share in a few moments of thanksgiving. Lord knows that as a newsman, truck driver and all of the experiences that God has blessed me to enjoy, I have not always been able to be home for religious or secular holidays. But I know I have benefited from the prayers others have lifted on my behalf, and I know I benefit from those prayers today.

Marge passed on to her reward on Jan. 10, and not a single day has gone by without me thinking of her in some way. What a joy it was for me to have known her and to know that she and I were friends. I truly miss her, but each memory I have brings me enough joy and happiness to chase away the pain and sorrow of loss.

I remember Marge in countless ways. Her humility in all things made me glad to be numbered among her friends and her boundless strength to face challenges few have had to endure still amazes me. But most of all, I remember her in prayer. She knew the Scriptures, to be sure, but the strength of her prayers rested in their unfettered sincerity. I think that’s the memory I’ll share this Thanksgiving.

Bill Archer is senior editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at

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