I recently heard a message in church about being known. The speaker suggested we are known by our stories. It’s something I hadn’t thought about in those terms, but it’s so true the way we get to know one another is by sharing our history. Sometimes it’s only in part as with an acquaintance, other times in greater depth as with a close friend. Then there’s the intimate history when another person is an integral part of our story, such as a spouse.
As I reflected on the message I was saddened to think how Mom has lost her stories. She can no longer remember the stories of her life, her faith, her family. It is up to those she will leave behind to preserve and to pass on her history.
Olive Frances Frizzell graduated from high school in Charlotte, NC, went to Mars Hill College for a couple years and then on to Medical College of Virginia–or MCV as it was known then–to pursue her nursing degree. Shortly before she graduated, she had an internship in public health nursing for several months. She was assigned to the Health Department in West Point, VA where my father, William Leo Jackson, known as Bill, was a sanitarian. When she walked into the office for the first time, my father called her “Miss Frizzle.” She quickly corrected his pronunciation and just about as quickly became infatuated with the handsome, young sanitarian.
One of the stories Mom liked to tell about their budding romance was a time Dad was taking her on his rounds and they stopped for lunch. When Dad wasn’t looking, Mom dumped salt in his tea. I never heard Dad’s side of the story, but Mom always smiled mischievously when she described how she tried to get his attention. They had a whirlwind courtship–meeting in April, getting engaged in August, and marrying in November.
Mom became a stay-at-home mother once I was born. The next baby, a son, arrived when I was only 14 months old. I think Mom must have had her hands full with the two of us, but from the way she always told it, she was very happy and enjoyed motherhood. She had a miscarriage when my brother and I were still toddlers. My brother and I had come down with the mumps and Mom caught it, too. She was about 3 months along when she lost that baby at home. The youngest of their children, another son, was born when I was 7 years old. Amazingly, my brothers share the same birthday, 6 years apart. Many years later, Mom confided in me the youngest was a surprise, but one she was overjoyed to receive.
Mom became a Christian when she was child. She grew up in a Baptist church and probably had the usual conversion experience of Baptist-raised children. If she ever told me the details of her salvation, I don’t remember. But what I do remember is when she began to pine for more of God in her life. Going to church, teaching a Sunday school class, reading her Bible was not enough any more. She was longing for an intimacy and closeness to her Savior she had yet to experience. She took the Bible at face value and asked for more of His Holy Spirit. She was not denied. Suddenly, when I was 15 all Mom could talk about was Jesus.
Our family went to church every Sunday. We sometimes had family devotions. All of us believed, but each of us thought Mom was taking this a little too far. She started a Bible study in our home. New friends appeared who were just as hungry as she was for more of Jesus. She wanted to pray about everything. We secretly called her a “Jesus nut” and hoped she would get back to normal in short order. But it was not to be. Mom had been tampered with, and her faith and prayer life took on a vibrancy and power that impacted family and friends alike. It was her example that taught me about the power of a mother’s prayers.
My favorite memory of her renewed and empowered relationship with God was seeing for myself a remarkable answer to prayer. Mom had a large mole on her face. It was probably at least 1/2 inch in diameter. She was not a vain person and it didn’t particularly bother her, but it seemed to bother other people, especially children. So she began to pray, without telling anyone else, that God would remove that mole.
One night at the dinner table I noticed a difference in the shape of her mole. It was no longer round, but was in the shape of a cross. I pointed it out to the rest of the family and we all concurred that Mom had a cross on her face. She then told us how she had been praying God would remove the mole. Over the next couple weeks her mole got smaller and smaller until it disappeared altogether. That episode made a huge impression on me. When I became a believer 4 years later as a sophomore in college, it gave me faith to pray some outrageous prayers of my own.
The summer before my sophomore year of college, I was in a faith crisis. I had a summer job and every morning Mom would come upstairs when I woke up and pray with me before I even got out of bed. I remember one morning telling her I didn’t want to hear about God anymore. She didn’t react in the slightest to my declaration, but I am confident she redoubled her prayer efforts on my behalf. It was less than 2 months later, that I committed my life to Christ. I discovered the letter I wrote to her about my encounter with Christ when we moved her in with us. She had kept it all these years.
Mom was a prayer warrior and a faith sharer. She prayed all of us into the kingdom–my father included. Her faith legacy includes not only her husband and children, but as her faith carried forward in her offspring, my husband was saved, grandchildren were saved, and countless others have come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior as the result of her witness and intercession on their behalf.
I look forward to the day when it will be revealed how many lives she impacted for the kingdom. My mother, a quiet, unassuming woman with a faith as big as a mountain has a crown of jewels waiting for her. It will be a sight to behold.
My mother set a beautiful example for me as a godly woman in all her roles: wife, mother, friend. I am blessed beyond measure to have been able to call her not only my mother, but also one of my closest confidants. What a good listener she has always been. She rarely gave me advice, but the few times she did, I listened. The wisdom she imparted carried a weight all the more forceful for it’s infrequency. After I left home there were many women, often younger, many times single, who came into Mom’s life. She was a friend and mother to them–offering a listening ear, Godly wisdom, but most of all love and a commitment to pray for those who called her friend.
The image I will always carry of my mother is one of her smiling lovingly, an aura of peace and joy emanating from her. She made me and others who knew her want to be around her. She was known for her love for family and friend alike. She knew how to pray and taught me how to approach the throne of God as I listened to her when we prayed together. I thank God everyday for blessing me with such a mother. And how thankful I am, that I will not have to say good-bye to her when she departs this earth. I know I will see her again.