Sunday, July 22, Marie Epling went to be with the Lord at age 93. She was born in South Dakota and lived a full life with three different yet complementary eras. The first era was as a farmer’s daughter where she learned the rhythms and renewal of God’s seasons and the miracle of growth and regeneration. Her father and mother were Danish. Martin Larsen was born in Stenstrup, Denmark and immigrated to South Dakota where he met Marie’s mother Nora Dahlerup. Just as the Dahlerups are a royal family in Denmark, Nora was a princess in his eyes.
Together they built a farm, then lost it to the depression and dustbowl. Undaunted, they rebuilt in Minnesota where they raised Marie and her siblings, John Larsen a farmer, Hazel Haldin, a radio personality, and Leila Larsen, a devoted teacher.
Marie went on to Southern State Normal School in Springfield SD where she earned a teaching degree. She first taught on the Rosebud Lakota Sioux reservation then later at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. But first she met and fell in love with a young Army Air Corps, flying, radio operator named Raymond Epling. His southern charm and flamboyant athleticism, (they met after a golden gloves boxing match he won) were the perfect balance for her quiet strength and devotion to duty. After Ray returned from flying in the south pacific during World War II, they were wedded and began an 18-year adventure that would include 18 moves, 15 cities, 12 states, and 10 Air Force Bases.
Along the way they built a family of seven – Mom, Dad, and five children. Michael was born in Minnesota, David in New Mexico, Barry in California, Gerald in Virginia, and a beautiful bonus, Joyce in Winters, California.
After the 18-year adventure, Raymond retired from the Air Force and started a career teaching in the town of Winters, California. For 50 years Marie worked side by side with Ray as they served their family, church, community and school. The six words her children believe best describe her are: quiet, enduring, self-sacrificing, loving, serving, and devoted. She truly embodied “The Paradoxical Commandments” penned by Kent M. Keith and quoted by Mother Theresa.
In the last years of her life, when asked about dying, she said she looked forward to going to heaven; but, she just didn’t look forward to starting the trip. Her start was rough but mercifully short. In her last two weeks she had what the doctors called hallucinations. Probably they were. However, perhaps she was getting a review of her life and a glimpse of heaven. Three that stand out are:
1. She looked up from the bed and said “Let’s go upstairs.” Why? She continued, “The auction is over and it’s time to go upstairs.” What auction, she was asked. “The livestock auction.” She replied, somewhat indignantly.
Livestock auctions were the culmination of a season’s work, a time to reap the reward for a year’s work raising animals. And an exciting time for a young girl with her father, anticipating the joys of spending some of their earnings on long-awaited treats.
2. She sat up in bed and began to gather her sheets. I asked what she was doing. “These need to be washed. I am going to gather them and clean them.” All her life she had gathered and cleaned for her family, her friends and her church. We never had a lot of money, so she took us all frequently to the church to gather things, clean them, vacuum and give what we could give, without money, to our Lord and to our congregation. I think God was thanking her for her good stewardship.
3. Toward the end she raised her hand and said. “Let’s go upstairs.” She was asked her what was upstairs. “The kitchen”, she replied. “What does it look like?” “Oh it is beautiful. The cabinets are mahogany; and, it is only part of the house. There are beautiful rooms downstairs too.” She never had mahogany cabinets here on earth.
Marie is survived by five children and their spouses: Michael & Julie Epling (CA), David & Sue Epling (CA), Barry & Christie Epling (NV), Gerald & Valeria Epling (OK), Joyce & Dmitri Churikov (Marseille France): by seven grandchildren, Nancy & Adam Hampson (CA), Daniel Epling (CA), Britta Epling (NV), Ilsa Epling (MI), Jeremy Epling (TX), Jennifer Epling (TX), and Elizaveta (Leeza) Churikov (Marseille France); and by one sister, Leila Larsen (MN).
She was preceded in death by her husband of 59 years, Raymond Epling, and her husband of two years James Frederick Ransdell, as well as her brother John Christian Larsen and her sister Hazel Mae Haldin.
Marie will be laid to rest with her Husband Ray at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, 5810 Midway Road, Dixon, CA 95620, Thursday, August 16, 2018, 10:30 AM.
There will be a Celebration of Life with reception following on Saturday, August 18, 2018, 10:00 AM, at Lincoln Hills Community Church, 950 East Joiner Parkway, Lincoln, CA 95648.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Heritage Oaks Memorial Chapel, 6920 Destiny Drive, Rocklin CA 95677 (916) 791-2273 www.heritageoaksmemorialchapel.com.]]>