Most of you are aware by now that my mother, Loyce Frazier, died January 21 after 97.5 years on this planet. As my sister and others noted, she was something of a southern belle, though she was born seventh of twelve children in the bayou country of southern Louisiana. She grew up poor, during the depression, but I doubt the family ever really thought of themselves as poor. They were resourceful, raised their own food, and anchored their country Baptist Church. Eleven of the twelve siblings lived to be twenty one and seven lived into their nineties. The last remaining sibling is her baby sister, my 85-year-old Aunt Kathey.
So you can see that on my mother’s side, I come from hardy stock (my father’s as well). My sister called the Young family rambunctious and hard-working. I think that’s right. We reminisced with cousins about how my mother and her six sisters would get in a room at family reunions and “whoop it up,” remembering the stories of their growing up together. I have delicious memories of the groaning board (literally planks laid out on saw horses) when the family gathered at my grandparents’ house for those summer reunions. Chicken, ham, beef, casseroles, salads and oh! the desserts. My taste buds still tingle at the thought of it all.
They were a thoroughly Baptist clan, most of them active in one Baptist church or another. I remember a Sunday evening when my grandfather was asked to pray at the evening service. With joy and pride at his large family gathered round, Brother Young prayed for a full fifteen minutes while his embarrassed family squirmed, eyes half-closed, wondering how any prayer could go on that long. As a child, my mother was baptized in the creek and she struck out on a road she walked to the end of her days. Eighteen years old, fresh out of high school, she met my father at Dry Creek, the Louisiana Southern Baptist Encampment. They were married fewer than 6 months later. She always maintained that God called her to be a pastor’s wife and she was never happier than when inhabiting that role. She was noted for her Christmas pageant, teaching toddlers, entertaining, missions work, wardrobe, especially the hats and fruitcake.
From Kansas to California to Idaho, she worked alongside my father for 28 years, while raising four children, until his untimely death at age 47. To say that event turned her world upside down is an understatement. She lived nine years as a widow, finishing her college education and trying to find her way. In 1972, she met Dr. Robert Frazier and after a whirlwind six week courtship they were married in 1973. For more than 30 years they were active church members, supporting various missions, including Habitat for Humanity, which Dr. Bob initiated in Boise, ID, traveling, and entertaining.
The last years of her life she had to cope with physical limitations. She was largely homebound, though she did resolutely go to the “beauty parlor” every Friday and continued to attend the “women’s meetings” at First Baptist Church. As far as I can tell, her faith was stretched on more than one occasion but never broke. She outlived two husbands, two children, a grandson, ten siblings and many of her friends and still she loved life, believed that everything was in God’s hands, as it should be, and was ready to join her loved ones in a “better place.”
At the funeral, I shared the following thoughts:
I wanted us to sing “It Is Well with My Soul” this afternoon because I think it is a good commentary on my mother’s long and complex life. After losing his four daughters in a tragedy, Horatio Spafford, penned these unforgettable words, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’” What wisdom, wisdom that I think Loyce Frazier lived and breathed at some unfathomable depth. In the joy of each new day and in the darkest hour, in her deepest despair, her faith was unshaken. In the words of another old song, she would affirm, in the deep simplicity of her childhood faith, stretched out over a life time. “I know who holds the future and I know who holds my hand.”
In the introduction to her book Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Darkness is shorthand for anything that scares me – either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out. If I had my way, I would eliminate everything from chronic back pain to the fear of the devil from my life and the lives of those I love. At least I think I would. The problem is this: when, despite all my best efforts, the lights have gone off in my life, plunging me into the kind of darkness that turns my knees to water, I have not died. The monsters have not dragged me out of bed and taken me back to their lair. Instead, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really is only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” I don’t know if my mother would affirm this totally, but she certainly lived it. She knew how to walk in the dark, she had to, and she knew how to walk in the light when she was blessed to.
If she were here, she would tell us that she knew there would be a place for her among God’s many rooms as she also knew that all her loved ones who had gone on before would be there to greet her. She would tell you that she was in a better place where God wipes away all tears and there reigns a peace that passes all human understanding. So whether or not it fits neatly into my more sophisticated theology, whenever The Choral Project sang “Bright Morning Stars” and we would ask “Where are our dear mothers?” and the music would climax with the jubilant affirmation, “They have gone to heaven shouting,” one figure filled the frame of my mind’s eye, my mother, Loyce Ann Young Mixon Frazier – gone to heaven shouting. And friends, at that moment I would feel that “Day” – God’s new and undeniable day – was “breaking in my soul.” May Mother’s witness lead all who knew and loved her to such faith and affirmation. Amen.
Thank you, my church family, for thoughts and prayers, for cards and calls, and for the beautiful flowers you sent for the service. I am blessed to walk with you in the darkness and the light. Thanks be to God.