Two best friends who both celebrate their 100th birthdays this year and who first met at church in Cayman in 1951, were reunited last week after 13 years.
“God sent me a blessing today, it’s a privilege just to hold my friend’s hand … it must be my birthday,” said 99-year-old Marguerite Rankine, who turns 100 in October.
“I love you,” said Elna Mae Hastings, who turned 100 in May, as she hugged her friend after making a surprise visit to Cayman from the United States.
The two “church sisters,” along with Ms. Hastings’s family, met Thursday at Ms. Rankine’s home in Jennifer Drive, Snug Harbour, and spent hours chatting, hugging and catching up. The pair last spent time together when Ms. Rankine visited her friend in Florida in 2004, the year when Hurricane Ivan hit the Cayman Islands.
“I can’t believe that I am seeing my friend again,” said Ms. Rankine.
“Marguerite, I have loved you all these years and I have treasured every letter from you,” said Ms. Hastings, as she held her friend’s hand.
“You read all my letters, Elna?” Ms. Rankine asked. “I always wrote … letters and you liked to read them. I didn’t like when I got a letter and they told me you was sick or you had gone to some other place … but you was OK,” said Ms. Rankine.
Ms. Hastings and her husband Raymond, both missionaries, came to the Cayman Islands in 1951 to teach at Triple C School and were heavily involved with the church. The couple lived in Cayman until 1954. Mr. Hastings passed away two years ago.
Ms. Hastings and Ms. Rankine met at the Church of God Chapel in George Town in 1951 as 34-year-olds. That Sunday morning in church, Ms. Rankine said, she knew there was a special bond.
“She was preaching that Sunday morning at church and when she finished, all the people went up to hug her but I didn’t just hug her, I told her she belonged to us and she was coming back to us. She laughed, but I meant it and she did come back,” Ms. Rankine said.
“I wouldn’t call it preaching, I would just call it speaking,” Ms. Hastings interrupted with a laugh, “I am not a preacher.”
“She would sing and teach and preach,” continued Ms. Rankine, ignoring her friend’s comment with a smile.
“She would visit the sick people and sometimes I would go with her to show her the houses. She would sing and pray and talk. We did most things together … she liked everything I liked … we liked going to the beach, swimming and going fishing … my son showed me how to bait the line and throw it out. I showed her,” Ms. Rankine said with a laugh.
Ms. Hastings said she walked the beach looking for shells to display on shelves.
“I am feeling very contented to be with Marguerite again … I love the Cayman Islands, and every chance we get, we come to the islands,” said Ms. Hastings. She noted that the island has changed a lot but the charm she fell in love with many years ago remains.
“Church is what we loved; there was nowhere else to go in Cayman those days,” said Ms. Rankine.
Years ago, Ms. Rankine and her son Antonio Hawkins lived with the Hastings family, helping to take care of their three children, Colleen, Walt and Warren.
“She was like another mother to me,” said Ms. Hastings’s daughter Colleen. “For years, Marguerite would travel to Florida to spend summers and attend conventions with the family, when she was in better health. I remember during Hurricane Ivan her being very concerned about what was happening in Cayman. We were thankful she was there with us.”
Secret to longevity
Ms. Rankine said, “I feel good. The Lord has helped me to live long enough to meet with the Hastings again, and here I am now with some of them. Some of them have gone, but some are still here. I am happy.”
Ms. Rankine was born in East End but grew up in George Town.
She tells people she is still an East Ender and her love of that district has never waned. Her mother did the cooking for people in the community and she followed suit.
“I baked my own birthday cake,” she said. Ms. Rankine claims “work, work and more work,” is her secret to long life. Ms. Hastings said her longevity secret is her relationship with the Lord.
“I lived a clean life. Never smoked or drank, and the Lord has guided my life so I didn’t go into wild ways. I became a Christian from the age of 12 in the Church of God in Bald Knob, Arkansas,” said Ms. Hastings. At the end of their visit, the longtime friends promised to visit each other as often as times permits, and then they shared a goodbye hug.