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Ken’s Mom

February 5, 2019

Ken Carter recently lost his mom. He is a Bishop in our denomination, a prolific writer, and an online friend. It is with his graciously expressed permission that I share this with you here. As always, the highlights are mine to save you time if you’re in a hurry, but also as always, you owe it to yourself to savor the entire piece. — 

Frieda Ensminger Moye
(April 1, 1939-January 28, 2019)
A family witness by Ken Carter, taken from John 14. 18-19, 25-27, and given on January 30, 2019 at Mount Zion Church in Columbus, Georgia.

My mother gave birth to me when she was a teenager. She graduated from high school in June and I was born in August. I am aware that my life was made possible because of her sacrifices, and I imagine the postponement of many of her dreams. She provided for us, she protected us, she loved us, she was the one who held our families together. As I look out across this sanctuary there are many women who have held our families together.

My mother was many things. She was a loyal and encouraging friend. She was a constant caregiver. She was dedicated to this church, Mount Zion. She brought us here as children even when we did not want to be here. We were here on the first Sunday morning when we worshipped in this space, the new church.

She was creative and artistic. I remember the pride I felt when our family would be at the Pritchett’s Fish Camp, waiting for a table, and my mother’s mural was hanging in the waiting area, I remembered her painting it, and I wanted to go up to the strangers around us and say, “my mother painted that mural!” She was gifted.

My mother had two extraordinary parents, Bill and Bernice, Gran-Gran and Nannie. I know the difference between parents, who discipline, and the grandparents, who are all about unconditional love. But there was a lot of both of them in my mother. She gave that love to her two families, in succession. She attended to the everyday needs and activities of Jeremy. They loved the Springer Opera House, where they volunteered and attended plays. Jeremy probably knows all of the plays they have performed over the last ten years!

She was an educator. And she was an excellent teacher. She was the kind of teacher you hope and pray for in your child’s experience. She was named the teacher of the year in the Muscogee County School District, the first to be given that honor. I remember in the summer she took classes to get better at her profession. She earned degrees from Auburn and Columbus State. And I also remember overhearing her, in the evening, calling parents and the message would be something like this: “I am calling to let you know that Johnny is failing my class and we have a test tomorrow and I hope he can study because we want him to pass!”

Over the years I would give my mother copies of books I had written and she would read them. Once I was asked to write notes for a Study Bible. These are the words that are printed on the bottom of a page, that explain a verse or place a verse in context with another verse or in relation to a doctrine. When we saw each other I gave her a copy and she had a quizzical look on her face, as if to say, on the one hand, “I am proud of you”, and on the other, “you are the boy and teenager I watched grow up and you are writing in a Bible?”

I explained to her that the words in study Bibles are not the Bible. They are written by ordinary people. And that is who we were and are. We are ordinary people, saints and sinners. We have the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels, the apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians, to show that the power belongs to God and not to us.

Being in this sanctuary reminds me of the generations of our family, and worshipping here, and sitting between my mother and my grandfather in worship and how good that felt. My grandfather would bring paper to write on, because it would be bad stewardship to draw on the envelopes, and so he and I would draw animals.

A story about my grandfather. He was a Quaker, and that meant he was a conscientious objector during World War II. I remember seeing him read the Quaker pamphlets. Several years ago I had an injury and during the rehab my mother sent me a box of letters and postcards her parents and grandparents had sent to each other.

In one of them, my great-grandfather, Grampa, was writing to the head of the Quaker church in Philadelphia. It was a one page letter but he was in essence asking one question: Can my son be a Quaker if there are no Quaker churches around him?

The Quaker official wrote back, again the response was about one page, and the basic response was “yes, he can”. And then he said, “if you will give me his address I will stop by and visit him on my way to Florida.” Gran-Gran was a person of peace. For him that meant working in the shipyards of Mobile during the war as his form of service.

It is the same peace we want and need today. It is the same peace I wanted and needed when I walked down aisle of this church and accepted Christ, and was baptized.

It is the same peace I believe my mother received when she took her last breath on Monday morning. Her physical body had reached its limit. But there was and is God’s peace, a peace that passes human understanding. He is our peace, Paul writes of Jesus in Ephesians, and this is our blessed assurance.

My mother searched for this peace, and we all do. It was there at her kitchen table, where she sat and created art and prepared meals and counted out everyone’s medicine and wrote letters and read the Bible that was still there yesterday, to the right of where she sat.

And by faith we believe she has gone to the place that Jesus has prepared for her (John 14), and us. We loved her, and it was a gift to be able to say that to her again over the last week, and to thank her and to be with her on the passage to the other side of the river.

I believe that my mother is at peace. A memorial service is to bear witness to her acts of love and friendship, and it is for us, it is for the living. We grieve, the New Testament says in 1 Thessalonians, but not as those who have no hope. We grieve, and that is related to everything you have ever read about grief—it is anger and depression and denial and bargaining. We grieve. But not as those who have no hope. We believe in the resurrection. And in some mysterious way there is also something of her that lives in her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If you look closely you can see it. It is a tree of life. In the father’s house there are many mansions, or dwelling places. There is room for all of us.

We thank God for Frieda Bennett Ensminger Moye, and for all of the goodness that passed from her life into our lives, and into the life of this community, and into the minds and hearts of the children she taught, and into relationships with the friends she encouraged, and with the families she held together, and for what she meant and means to each of us. We thank God, and we seek the peace of God on this day. Amen.

Maybe you’re like me and wish you could have met her. But after reading this, in a way we have. 

And by the grace of God, we’re better because we have. 

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