Ordination to the Sacred Order of Deacons–The Cathedral of the Nativity May 19, 2018

The Diocese of Bethlehem celebrated with great joy the ordination of the Reverend Deacon Kurt Kriztopher Kovalovich and the Reverend Deacon Jennifer Marie Scott to the Sacred Order of Deacons in Christ’s Holy Catholic Church in the Cathedral of the Nativity on Saturday, May 19, 2018. The Right Reverend Sean W. Rowe, was the Celebrant.

We thank you for raising up among us faithful servants for the ministry of your Word and Sacraments. We pray that Kurt and Jennifer may be to us effective examples in word and action, in love and patience, and in holiness of life. Grant that we, with them, may serve you now, and always rejoice in your glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Gaby’s Story

When I arrived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in October of this past year, Gaby Whittier graciously invited me to live with her until I was able to find an apartment. She fed me, brought me to work, and then when I found an apartment on Center Street, she more or less furnished the apartment with everything that I needed to get started.

The most wonderful gift, of course, was my adorable feline friends, Diana and Ross. Gaby was a wonderful story-teller, and was interested in everything. She was gracious, charming, and the very epitome of hospitality and welcome. I quickly discovered that she had a fascinating background. When I asked her a few questions, she shared with me a short paper which she had prepared for a middle school presentation dealing with Peace and Justice issues. This is what she wrote to me when she passed the article along to me.: ‘This is a copy of my story, which I present to local schools in a Peace and Justice Program. It is geared towards pre-teen audiences and written that way. But it is the story.” What a fascinating person Gaby was! So that you, too, may appreciate how amazing she was–truly a gift to me and to  many others–I share her story with you.

Gaby from Lectern

How many of you have Grandparents? Brothers & Sisters?
Aunts & Uncles? Cousins?

I grew up without any of those. It was only me and my parents . . . until they died, and now I’m the only one left of my family.

I was introduced to you as Gaby Whittier . . . but my full name is: Gabriele Carola Louise Karpfen-Whittier. I have spent the last 68 years trying to find out what happened to my family, and it is just in the past few years, since the Internet boom that I have gotten a few shreds of information.

This is the story: –

My parents, Kurt and Theresia, were born and raised in Austria. My father was –
Jewish and my mother, who he met and fell in love with as a teen-ager, was
Catholic (the “State Religion”). They were planning to be married, and were working and saving money to immigrate to Australia.

My father had graduated from college and was an engineer. He had a job in a new technology at the time–installing radios in cars. He was his company’s “sound system” expert.

In 1938 he was sent to a small village to set up a speaker system for Adolph Hitler who was to give a speech. He did that and came back to Vienna a very frightened man. He told his parents, sister, aunts, uncles and cousins that war was coming and they were all in danger. He made arrangements to send his sister and my mother to England where he thought they would be safe.

When his sister and my mother arrived in England they were interred on The Isle of Mann because they were German speaking. But, at least they were out of immediate danger. They did live through the London Blitz and survived. My mother was even an air-raid warden, helping people into shelters when necessary.

Back in Vienna, my father tried to talk his parents into leaving, but they refused, preferring to take their chances in their home.

They lived in an apartment in Vienna. An elderly woman lived several floors above them, with her son, who held a job in the Austrian government. My grandmother would help that woman with her laundry, which had to be hauled down several flights of steps, washed in a public tub and then hauled up (wet) to be hung on lines.

One day, probably in early March of 1938, her son came to my father and told him that the SS were going to round up all the Jews in their neighborhood that afternoon. My father begged his parents to leave with him. When he could wait no longer, he slipped out the back door and fled, on foot, through the Vienna woods and made his way to the Swiss border. Once there, he was arrested for crossing the border illegally and put on a chain gang, building roads through the Swiss Alps. He never saw or heard from his parents, aunts, uncles or cousins again.

Eventually he somehow escaped from the road gang and made his way through Nazi-occupied France and Spain to Lisbon, Portugal. I have no idea how he did that, but must have been extremely lucky or have had help along the way.

You need to know that I didn’t learn any of these facts until I was in my 20’s, and my mother told me. My father never spoke of his experiences at all.

Lisbon was teeming with escaping Jews. My father got on one of three ships that were crowded with Jews trying to get to America. When the ships finally got to Ellis Island, the US had closed its borders and they were not allowed to land. One of the captains turned back – I’m sure to certain death. My father was on one of two ships whose captains refused to go back and instead went south to the Caribbean. Trujillo, who was the dictator of the Dominican Republic, allowed the Jews to disembark and gave them a piece of land–jungle, but with a beautiful beach, to settle.

(My father, who was extremely cynical, said that Hitler wanted to get rid of the Jews to “improve the race” and Trujillo welcomed them to “improve the race,” meaning that they were both evil men.)

In any case, there was enough talent and expertise in that group of hard-working people to indeed make a civilized community out of that jungle. They had a doctor on board, my father was an engineer and designed the water purification system, cheese-making factory, and meat production facilities, which are still in operation today. They had farmers, carpenters, etc. And they got help from the US Department of Agriculture to help them procure animals and resources that weren’t available to begin farming.

Daddy said the biggest problem they had was building fences for the cattle. The fence posts would grow into trees quicker than they could be replaced.

At the end of the war in 1945, the JDC (Jewish Distribution Committee) assisted my father in locating my mother in England. He sent for her and she came to the Dominican Republic. They married, and in 1946, I was born.

My mother, who was an excellent cook, ran the Hotel that they had built on the beach. She taught the native women how to cook Viennese dishes. When I was 30 years old, after my mother had died, my father and I went back to that village, and even though the hotel is now gone, replaced by a luxury resort, one of my mother’s signature desserts (a pyramid-shaped Dobosh Torte) was still being served in the area restaurants.

My mother’s family, who were non-Jewish Austrians, were pro-German annexation, believing that Austria should become part of Germany. In other words, they were Nazi’s. I have no idea how they personally felt about Jews, but I do know that at least one of my Uncles was an SS Officer. They disowned my mother when she went to England with my father’s sister. One of my mother’s sisters (out of six brothers and sisters) did seek her out and wrote a few letters to her, so at least she knew that I existed; but we never heard from her after 1955. My mother’s sisters & brothers, and their children have disappeared. I can find no trace of any of them.

After I was born, my parents decided to try to come to the US to give me a chance at a good education and a better life. Getting immigration permits was all but impossible. Finally, in 1951, during the Korean War, we were granted permits because they were looking for engineers. Qualified US citizens were busy fighting in Korea. We became US Citizens in 1956.

When we came to the US, my father got a job with RCA and we moved to their headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Of course we had nothing except the clothes on our back and a few things packed in a suitcase.
We spoke German at home, but could speak both English and Spanish as well. (With heavy accents.)

Integration into the middle of the US in the 1950’s was not easy. We were “strangers” in a very strange land. In addition to his job at RCA, my father started a small television repair business and we lived in the back of a very small store-front in a corner strip mall. I had trouble in school because of the cultural differences; I had difficulties making friends; I was bullied and made fun of because I was “different”.

The first Christmas we lived in that store-front, (when I was six) the little church on the opposite corner, not knowing our back-ground, sent over a Christmas tree and Ornaments. My mother was so pleased and grateful for this gesture of kindness that she wanted to give them something in return. But, she didn’t have anything. My father, who was understandably anti-religion and afraid of people and their motives, would not allow her to get involved. So, instead, she gave “me” to them. By that, I mean that she sent me to church every Sunday (without my father’s knowledge) to somehow convey to them her appreciation of the friendship they offered. She also wanted me to learn all that I could about God and religion – something that I was not going to learn at home – so that I could make up my own mind later in life.

My mother, who only had the equivalent of a fourth grade education, was a very wise and intelligent woman.

When I was 14 years old, and entering the ninth grade, there were no local high schools in my area of the city. All the kids were split up and sent to different schools throughout the city. I was assigned to a school to which I had to take two different city buses. The first day, when I got off the bus, someone pointed at me and said “There’s the Jew”. Believe it or not, I had no idea what they were talking about. That night I asked my father “What is a Jew”, and told him what had happened. My father’s face actually turned white . . . and he didn’t answer me. Within a year, he had closed his TV repair business and we all moved to New Jersey. He was on the run again.

Growing up, my mother and I were not allowed to purchase anything that was German-made. The sight of Volkswagens on the road (and there were many of those “bugs” in the SO’s and 60’s) always brought some negative comment from my father.

My father guarded his privacy carefully. He worked constantly, and had only one or two friends. I can remember only two times in my childhood when my parents had a few people over to play cards. We spent most evenings doing TV repair service calls. My mother and I would wait in the car while my father went into his clients homes to fix their TV’s. I learned my multiplication tables in the car, with my mother drilling me. Weekends were spent in the shop, testing tubes and cleaning out the insides of the TVs to be repaired.

I took piano lessons, and was allowed to ride my bicycle to the teacher’s house. was expected to practice for one hour every day, and, of course, do my homework and earn good grades. When I got old enough to stay home alone on occasion, my companion was our cat, Linda, who my father claimed to dislike intensely.

We did not celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any holidays, but my mother would bake a lovely birthday cake for me every year. I led a very lonely life.

When I was in college, I met my husband (who, unfortunately, drove a VW). My parents disliked him intensely, but I married him anyway. They were right. After 10 years of a very unhappy marriage, we were divorced. Soon after that, my mother died.

My father, who by then was crippled with arthritis, could not live alone. I couldn’t bring myself to allow him to be put in a nursing home, so I moved him to Bethlehem, to live with me. He was again very upset by this, believing that living

in this area was dangerous. He was afraid that many ex-Nazis were hiding in the German community here. (And he was right- a few have been found.) So, he lived out the rest of his life in my house, refusing to associate with my friends or make any for himself.

After he died, I found myself alone. So, I started hosting foreign exchange students, and developed some wonderful relationships with them and their families in England, Russia, France, and even Germany. Taking a student from Germany was a difficult decision for me to make. But, I decided that I had to do something to break the fear of Germans that I had been raised with. I had to try to mend the brokenness that my father handed down to me. And that was the best thing that I could have done. I found a loving, sympathetic German family to befriend and who accepted me with open arms. I met my students Grandfather, who had been a Nazi and badly wounded in the War. We both learned to look at each other as people, not a Jewish descendant and a Nazi. Wounds were healed on both sides.

My father, who was highly educated, was also, like my mother, extremely wise and intelligent. Unfortunately, he was badly scarred by a very, very difficult life, with which he never was able to come to terms. He died at the age of 83, a very unhappy man.

I may not have any family, but I have wonderful friends, and a very fulfilling life . . . and I am grateful to my parents for seeing to it that I had every opportunity in life that they missed.

–Gabriele Whittier
20 November 2013

Gabriele C. Whittier August 31, 1946 -April 29, 2018, R.I.P.

I remember with love and with gratitude, Gabriele C. Whittier, friend and mentor who will be buried this afternoon at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. For the gift of her and for the blessing that she was to many, I give thanks. And above all, for the amazing gift of Diana and Ross! May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your
Servant, Gaby, Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of
your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your
own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy,
into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the
glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

Gaby at Coffee Hour 2Gaby at Coffee HourGaby at GospelGaby at ThanksgivingGaby Charles and EllenGaby from Lectern



A Sermon for the
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 6, 2018  

Preached at
Trinity Episcopal Church
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Transitions are always frightening. Even if they are expected, they still worry us and confuse us, because they open the possibility that something unexpected could happen. We realize that we are no longer in safe and “known” territory. Anything could happen. We quickly come to realize that we are no longer in control. We have to let go of the past and be willing to move into a new future. That can be quite troublesome.

If the transition is unexpected—or, even worse, —unwanted, it can be terrifying! We may find ourselves asking, “Why did this happen?” “How did I wind up here?” “What am I going to do now.” In such a case, we may come to realize that we need to ask others for help. And that can be a hard thing to do—especially if we are accustomed to being independent. In the end, though, we may have no choice.

Occasionally, though, transitions can be wonderful. Rather than leading us into something we do not want, do not like, and would do anything we could to avoid, a transition can—at the best—lead us into something that we realize is perfect for us. They can lead us into something which we could not have even imagined but which is exactly what we needed. It is that kind of a transition which I want to explore with you today.

The problem with looking at the fifty days following the Resurrection of Our Lord in the Christian Scriptures is that we know the end of the story. As a result, we can too quickly jump to the end and fail to appreciate what it took to get there.

As a group, the closest disciples of Jesus found themselves in a state of shock at the Passion and Crucifixion. Despite the fact that Jesus had warned them (in fact repeatedly) that things were not going to turn out the way that they hoped, they just did not understand—or were not able to believe what he was saying. Perhaps they hoped that he was wrong. Or, perhaps it was just inconceivable that someone they loved so deeply would have such horrible things happen. Confused and frightened, they ran away and abandoned their friend.

It is interesting to me that they, at least, had the sense to come together as a group—and so they were found in that upper room where they had celebrated the Passover—that amazing Last Supper—together. I suspect that their conversations were sad ones. They must have been overcome by guilt and shame. They were terrified. After all, they had abandoned everything to become disciples. Somehow it had all gone horribly wrong. What if the authorities came looking for them next? It is so often the case in such a setting that in fear and insecurity people lash out at each other and sometimes say things which they later regret.

The knowledge of the Resurrection does not seem to have changed things for them to any great degree. While they rejoiced to see the Risen Lord, they remain in hiding. They appear to have revisited the safe places that they knew in Galilee—the “safe” and “known” places where they lived and worked before they knew Jesus—those places where they had travelled with him. But, eventually, they found their way back to Jerusalem.

Once again, Jesus invited them to a time of transition. He warned them that he would be going away—and this time for good. He comforted them with the promise that he would send them help—a “Comforter,” a “Paraclete,” an “Advocate.” It does not appear that this made any sense to them. As before, they were unable to take this message in—or to believe it. Surely Jesus was mistaken! They were so traumatized by the events of Holy Week that they could not imagine life without the Lord.

But then, the unexpected happened. Jesus was true to his word and left them. He ascended to His Father and they were forced into another transition—and this, perhaps the most difficult. Huddled and afraid in that upper Room with the doors locked for fear that any number of enemies would find them and do them harm, they had no other choice but to pray. In those nine days—the first novena—they prayed that the promises of Jesus—incredible as they seem—would come true for them.

On that fiftieth day after the Resurrection—on that day of Pentecost in which they remembered and celebrated God giving the Law on Mount Sinai—fifty days after the Exodus from Egypt—the unexpected happened! Jesus’ promise that he would send them help and comfort was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit descended upon them in a most dramatic way. Flames of fire appeared (reminding them of the God’s self-revelation to Moses in the burning bush), they experienced God’s presence in a mighty wind (reminding them of creation when the “breath of God” breathed upon the waters—and of God’s paradoxical self-revelation to Elijah in the cave, when he was fleeing for his life from Ahab and Jezebel) and then they realized that a new reality had emerged. In the gift of speaking in other languages, they realized that the curse of Babel had been removed and reversed. God found a way to make “one blood and one race of all humanity.” The divisions which had previously seemed insurmountable had now been healed.

The transformation in the disciples—the Apostles—was shocking. They unlocked the door and ran out in the street. They began to preach the Good News of Jesus—for the first time—to anyone and everyone. They were no longer afraid of the Roman authorities, they were no longer afraid of the High Priest or Sanhedrin. Debilitating fear was now a foreign concept to them. That is not to say that they would never be afraid again, I imagine that they were. What they learned, though, is that the promise of Jesus that “perfect love casts out fear” was true! What they learned was to trust. The became convinced that God loved them: totally, absolutely, and unconditionally. God chose them to bless them and to lead them into what was best for them.

The Acts of the Apostles tells us the story of what happened after Pentecost. There were constant and unexpected surprises—but happy ones, “The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.” Wow—this “Good News,” this “Gospel,” was for everyone.

In reflecting on the unfolding of God’s plan, the Apostles finally understood Jesus’ teaching about the nature of love. They realized that he had simplified those “ten words” given on Mount Sinai— “thou shall” and “thou shall not”—to one word. Love! He had taken those ten commandments and synthesized them into a new commandmentLove! Remember that the word “commandment” mitzvah is not only a concept but also an action.

Jesus invites his followers to be people who love. We are to love God, we are to love each other. We are to show that love in service to anyone in need. We are to live lives of transition in which there is room for God’s plan to unfold and flower.

The Gospel According to Saint John makes this perfectly clear to us. We are truly and most fully God’s children—and God’s Church—when we love. Jesus is clear: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” When we love, we will experience the power of the Spirit in our lives and in our community. We will experience the hopeful victory offered by the Resurrection.

A final thought, this coming Thursday, we will remember the Ascension of Our Lord. In the nine days which follow— and which lead us into Pentecost,— we are invited to join in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. May the Spirit fall upon us again—individually, and collectively— so that we too will be fearless disciples and that through our love and service, God will transform the face of the world.

The death of Janice Marie Storie Cook Davis

My mother, Janice Marie Storie Cook Davis died on Saturday, April 28th and was buried on Monday, April 30th at the Beech Mountain Baptist Church Cemetery.

Janice Davis3_0001

June 15, 1939 – April 28, 2018

My sisters, Deborah Ann Nobles and Jacqueline Irene Miller thank all who reached out to us in love.

Here is the bulletin from the Funeral: Janice M. Davis Funeral 04-30-18 (PDF)

Here is a .pdf of the Eulogy: Eulogy for Momma 04-30-18 (PDF)

And here is the text of the Eulogy:

Among my earliest memories of Momma, are times when I heard her sing. She loved music and it was so much a part of her everyday life. But, because she was a person of great faith, I remember clearly the many times that I heard her sing hymns. As a child, I was astonished that she knew so many songs—and that she could remember all the verses. Some of the hymns had five or six verses, and I can never remember her faltering or hesitating. She sang every Sunday in the choir at Beech Mountain Missionary Church. And her amazing alto voice blended so purely and in such haunting harmony with the women who surrounded her—family members all: Aunt Erlene, Aunt Vania, Cousins Ada Jones, Lucille Moore and Elizabeth Nunley. Whenever I happen upon one of those songs, I am reminded of those wonderful times, and of Momma’s joy in praising God through song.

The one thing in her life which was closest to her heart was family. Growing up, as she did, in difficult times, she learned early on the importance of depending on—and of loving and supporting her sisters and brothers. Anyone who knew them would say that they were an especially loving and devoted family. They genuinely enjoyed spending time together, and it always seemed to me that they had a way of reconnecting at just where they left off. Even if they were not always able to see each other as often as they wished, almost all of them were able to reunite each year for Mother’s Day—and to celebrate Mammaw Storie’s birthday. It was a day that all of us looked forward to. On one level it was chaotic—a yard full of children running, playing and yelling—after all, we were 23 grandchildren. All having the time of their life. Those Stories were such incredible cooks—I can not imagine where they ever found the time to cook all that food. The tables almost groaned from the weight of those plates, bowls and platters. And the desserts. Just thinking about them causes me to feel that I have put on weight. What a litany of beautiful names-the Sisters: Beulah, Louise, Vert, Ivalee, Jewel, Carol and Nellie Pearl—the Brothers: Charles, Jack and Chester. Just repeating them fills my heart with joy. For one magic afternoon each spring, they were reunited. The memory of that special day lasted throughout the long year until they were together again. They laughed and told stories of childhood long past. They shared their struggles and sorrows and the small victories which they experienced while apart. Clearly, they loved each other and truly were there for each other.

Momma was a person who loved deeply—and she was a person who was deeply loved. I have often thought that it was the reality of this love which enabled Momma to make it through so many difficult moments in her life. By any criteria, she had a challenging life. Grandpa Storie did when she was a very young child. Mammaw Storie struggled to provide for her family. They all had to pitch in, and at times barely made ends meet. They worked hard. I remember Momma telling stories of working for others, hoeing tobacco, picking beans and Galax. They farmed and raised everything they could to feed the family. That work ethic—which began early in Momma’s life—stayed with her as long as her health permitted. I remember her working long days at school or later in the factory, coming home and cooking supper and then working on the farm or in the garden. She planted, harvested, cooked and canned. Many a cold winter evening we enjoyed the soup that she had canned with Mammaw Cook.

When she married Daddy, she really did gain another family. Throughout the rest of their lives, Poppa and Mammaw welcomed Momma into their family—not as a daughter-in-law, but as their daughter. And so, her family expanded. She gained a new sister, Joanne and two brothers, Bryant and Gary.

Momma loved to read—and in those few free moments she had, she loved to lay on a quilt in the sun. Towards the end of the school year, she asked Jackie, Debbie and I to pick out a book. During the course of the summer, we four lay on the quilt with her and she read to us. I have often thought that her love of reading and her willingness to share that with us was the key difference which transformed the three of us into inquiring young minds. Certainly, it changed my life completely.

Momma was an amazing cook! She made so many incredible things—but I especially remember her incomparable desserts. Strawberry shortcake, banana pudding, gingerbread cake. My personal favorite was an amazing raspberry cake with vanilla pudding and meringue. Of course, the recipe required two cups of raspberries. As it happened, our cousin Loy Trivette had a raspberry bush. Poor Loy, she probably wondered why she never had any raspberries. Or else, generous and loving person that she was, she probably knew and didn’t care.

Momma had one friend though, to whom she was especially close. She was a confidante and companion. She was full of life and energy. This was her sister Ivalee. I doubt that Momma ever had anyone closer in her whole life. Aunt Lee was far more than an aunt to us. She was our friend and like a second mother to us. After her death and Momma’s divorce, Momma found a greater love in Uncle Ed. They were blessed to spend many happy years together. Those years were a source of new hope for Momma, and of healing for her. To her great delight, her family extended again and now she had new sons and daughters: Chuck, Sharon, Steve, Mike and Sam. She was blessed to have wonderful grandchildren: Eric, Jonathan, Kevin, Daniel and Mandy, Jamie and Jeri, Trevor, Amber, Tabby and Adam, Gavin and Meghan. And in this wider family, Jackie, Debbie and I found another Father in Uncle Ed.

Perhaps the single greatest source of hope and strength that Momma knew was the love of her Mother. Foy Ethel Jones Storie was an incredible woman. To this day, I think that she was, perhaps, the most amazing person I have ever known. She was truly full of love and compassion. I never knew anyone who did not like her. Kind as she was, she could be fierce, when her children or grandchildren were in need. Of all her children, Momma and Aunt Lee—so much alike—were often in need of her love and support. She gave it without hesitation, without even pausing to think what anyone else would do or say. She loved them and stood up for them through thick and thin. How many times, over the years, she took Momma in and cared for her when Momma had no place else to go. Momma told me that the death of her Mother had been one of the most difficult moments of her entire life. And yet, I told her that for Mammaw it was the most amazing gift. After a long and often happy life, Mammaw died peacefully with Momma holding her hand.

It would be impossible to acknowledge everyone who loved and supported Momma throughout her life. Each of you made a difference for her. And there are so many others who are not with her today who loved and cared for her. But there were a few people who made a huge difference.

Jackie loved and cared for Momma during perhaps the darkest hours of her life. Momma was alone, confused and vulnerable. Her life seemed to be falling apart. There were hurts, wounds, disappointments and frustrations. Jackie took her to work every day—day in and day out—for years. She worked the farm and gardened with Momma. She made sure that Momma had everything that she needed. Momma would not have made it without the love and help that Jackie gave her. Jackie was an incredible gift and blessing to her.

Uncle Ed was the greatest surprise and blessing of Momma’s life. Together they built a life together which I believe was good and fulfilling for both of them. They enjoyed many happy years together. And their home was always open to all of us. They continued the amazing welcome and generosity of that home—a home that had welcomed generations of family and friends since it was built by Grandpa Marion and Grandma Julia. But thanks to them it was a home at which Stories and Davises and Cooks were equally welcome. It was not only their home, it was our home too.

As the years progressed, both Momma and Uncle Ed aged and began to experience the frailties which so often accompany the advancing of years. Once again they were blessed with amazing love and support. Jackie, Debbie and I all lived far away. And so it was that Uncle Ed’s children loved and cared for Momma and Uncle Ed as they began a slow decline. Each of those children cared for them in their own way and made sure that they were safe and that all their needs were met. Although Momma was blessed to have so many amazing nephews and nieces, she always felt close to Aunt Ivalee’s children. And when they became her own children, she loved them even more. Chuck and Dena, though, saw them every day. Their wise counsel, willingness to help, and friendship enabled Momma and Uncle Ed to remain independent as long as possible. Without them, their final years together would have been impossible. What an incredible gift and blessing they were—to both Momma and to Uncle Ed.

In the final part of her life, Momma was blessed with the most special gift of Debbie and Ardle. Even before Uncle Ed’s death, they did something which transformed the house and made it for Momma, finally, her home. They renovated the kitchen. As the sign in it read, it was “Jan’s kitchen.” For Momma, this was huge. It was no longer her parent’s home, or Ed and Lee’s home. It now felt like her home. She was so proud of that kitchen. What an incredible thing!

When Uncle Ed died, something in Momma died. She was in quite poor health and simply unable to survive independently. She was really not even able to take care of Sallie. Debbie and Ardle literally put their lives on hold to have Momma come live with them. None of us could have known that we would lose Ardle so quickly or so unexpectedly. This was a huge sacrifice for them. They gave up what might have been the happiest and most enjoyable years of their lives together because they believed it was the right thing to do. Quite honestly, I think that Momma only lived these last few years because of them. She had given up years ago.

The Carolina Senior Care Center was a huge blessing for Momma. When Debbie first asked Momma to go there, she was virtually bed-ridden, and she flat out refused. Thankfully, when she finally did agree to go, she loved it. In July, I went with her, and she was so excited to introduce me to her friends and to the amazing people who cared for her every day. She loved riding the van and was excited to have me see how easy it was for them to lift her wheelchair up and in. You know me, I have photos to prove it. But, they reawakened an interest in life for her. I can not imagine how many bags of clothes and of goodies that she brought home over the years. She was constantly exchanging things with them and it brought her such happiness.

Momma also had a very close relationship with Aunt Jewel—after all, she was her sister, twice! In those years when we lived in Winston-Salem, they were often together and enjoyed the time they lived so close. After Momma moved to Thomasville, though, they became even closer. Aunt Jewel was so faithful to call Momma. Each evening after she returned from the Senior Care Center, the first thing that happened was that they talked and caught up on the day. Aunt Jewel’s number was one of the only ones that Momma remembered close to the end. Aunt Jewel and Uncle Bryant did many things with Momma and Debbie—and those meals and times together were truly rays of hope at a very difficult time. What a blessing and gift Uncle Bryant and Aunt Jewel were to Momma.

It was not easy to care for Momma in her final years. I know that I could never have cared for her in the amazing way that Debbie and Ardle did. As her health worsened and the dementia began, she became confused, demanding and irritable. She was in constant pain. Especially this last year, I was so worried—not only for Momma but for Debbie. Let me say this, Debbie is a hero to me. She is truly a woman of God. If ever there was anyone who honored that commandment to love and to honor her parents, It is she. Like that woman we heard about in the reading from Proverbs today—Debbie is a woman of valor. What an incredible gift and blessing she was to Momma.

Just before her death, I had a fascinating conversation with Aunt Vert. She told me that she knew she would soon die and that she was ready. She said that she had a full life and was ready to go. She had taken care of all her remaining responsibilities and obligations and felt sure that she would die in peace. She then said something that I will never forget: “I have come to a point in my life in which I realize that more people whom I love and are important to me now are dead than are alive.” She went on to share her conviction that she believed them to be in heaven. She concluded by saying that she awaited a reunion with them with joy. I believe that this is true of Momma as well.

My last memory of Momma is from the night before I left to return to New York this past summer. After she went to bed, for some time I heard the music coming from her room. In her final years, the Gaither Homecoming videos constantly played. And that night I suspect that she listened to that lovely and hopeful hymn,

“On the resurrection morning
When all the dead in Christ shall rise
I’ll have a new body
Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life
Sown in weakness, raised in power
Ready to live in Paradise
I’ll have a new body
Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life.”

May you rest in peace Momma and rise in God’s glory with a new body and a new joyful life in God’s eternal kingdom. And may you join your restored voice with all your loved ones in that heavenly choir.