Faith on Friday: Lord Have Mercy

Worry is for those who do not have faith.—Mother Gavrilla of Greece

I read those words with my morning prayers today and pondered them with my first cup of coffee. There’s a chill in the air and the day promises sunshine and a high of 70. Perfect fall weather. As I stood before my icons saying my prayers, and then reading the Psalter and continuing my prayers for my departed friend Sissy, I began to consider, once again, what prayer is really all about. (It’s just over 20 days into the 40 days during which Orthodox Christians read the Psalter and pray for the newly departed.)

imagesGrowing up Presbyterian and influenced as a teenager by the upbeat and yet narrow vision of Campus Crusade for Christ, I learned to ask God for everything. Good grades. The attention of a certain boy. Help memorizing a piece for my piano recital. Success in cheerleader tryouts. Losing weight. And on the home front, I would ask Him to please help my brother to behave and my mother to quit being so mean to him and me. But I couldn’t reconcile the answers—as often “no” as “yes”—with the God I believed was love.

static1.squarespace.comSomehow in the Orthodox faith I began to learn that prayer wasn’t so much about asking God for things as it was about having a relationship with God. Prayer changes us. It even changes the way we pray. Phrases that appear over and over in Orthodox prayers, like “Lord have mercy,” help prepare my heart to receive God’s mercy in whatever form it comes. Sometimes it comes in the form of a temporal blessing, like the book deal I got for my anthology. Other times it comes in the form of a heart tilled by communication with God so that it can receive new seeds, planted there by God to help my spiritual garden grow.


That’s how I feel today. Ready to receive whatever is next. And yes, my upbeat spirit does have something to do with the fact that I just lost ten pounds (in my quest to lose 33) and I do ask God to help me control my appetite and be faithful to my calorie budget every day. But a heart tuned to God through prayer is also thankful for the difficult times—like the near deadly car wreck I survived in 2013. So many blessings came out of that. It’s not that I believe God caused the wreck or even desired me to suffer. But He drew me closer to His protective love as a result.

I know I’m rambling, so I’ll close. If you’d like to read more about the Orthodox approach to prayer, I recommend the writings of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom: Courage to Pray, Beginning to Pray and Living Prayer.

Writing on Wednesday: Father Quest

WLM HSKLast night I finished reading Harrison Scott Key’s wonderful debut memoir, The World’s Largest Man. I met Harrison at the 2013 Creative Nonfiction Conference in Oxford, Mississippi, where he brought down the house with his reading of an excerpt from his memoir-in-progress. We discovered what we had in common—we both attended Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. Of course I was there about twenty five years earlier than him. (I transferred to Belhaven in 1970 after one year at Ole Miss because I got married and my husband started med school in Jackson.) I could relate to so many things in his memoir that took place mostly in Memphis and Mississippi, the two places I’ve lived all my life.

I’m sure I’m not the first reader to compare Harrison’s writing to Rick Bragg. They both bring their unique brand of humor to a tough subject—fathers who are bigger than life and sometimes abusive. I also thought of Pat Conroy as I read Harrison’s account of both hating and loving his father. My only suggestion, had I been editing the book, would be to change the title to Father Quest. Harrison and I have had opposite experiences with our parents, as he relates this about fathers and mothers:

Why all of human history is so concerned with its fathers, I’ll never know. The mothers are so much nicer. The mothers cook us food and mail us brownies and fold our underwear. A mother quest, that would be nice…. But it seems like so many of us are always coming back to our fathers—who don’t really excel in folding underwear. What they excel in is the Fine Art of Being a Real Sonofabitch. Even the good ones.

My dad was not a sonofabitch. He was a golden boy and a golden man. A hero in the worlds of church, athletics, politics, and business. I worshiped him and was heartbroken to lose him to lung cancer at the age of 68. He was always there for me, teaching me to dance and play bridge and inspiring me to better health by inviting me to get in shape and run the aerobic dance program at his retail sports store in the 1980s. So, I can’t relate to the abuse that Key (and Bragg and Conroy) experienced from their fathers. It’s my mother who has always been the object of my quest.

I’m in the process of editing over 50 blog posts about my mother for a collection of essays with the working title, Plaques and Tangles, which is about her decline due to Alzheimer’s. Ironically, the farther she slips away, the easier she is to love. Sure she cooked for me and folded my underwear and all those other things Harrison said about his mom. But she also abused me emotionally and verbally for most of my life. So now as I reflect back, I’m on a bit of a Mother Quest. Maybe there’s a universal pattern here—one of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.

So Liv cover Nov 2015This morning I was browsing the November issue of Southern Living Magazine when I came across a short piece by Harrison in the magazine’s collection of short pieces by authors, artists, and musicians called “Pride of Place.” The subtitle is “Notable Southerners Share Their Most Treasured Spots.” Harrison wrote about a Waffle House restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, which he describes as “a place to rest while I wandered through the wilderness between childhood and adulthood.” I have places like that, also in Jackson. But for me they are sophisticated bars with great décor, good music,  and good martinis. Places that help me forget—if only for an hour—the pain of my mother quest.

Mental Health Monday: One Thing at a Time

I had planned to write more about my mother and Alzheimer’s today, but when I woke up I had something else on my mind. So instead I’ll share an article from The Guardian (October 20) that has some excellent information on dementia and caregiving:

“The Deviousness of Dementia” by Dasha Kiper. Here’s a teaser:

Dementia, of course, has been identified, classified, and even anatomically annotated. And because we’ve labeled the anomaly, describing it as something carved out in the brain, a swerve from the norm, a deterioration of cognitive ability, we believe we understand it. Having lived with a dementia patient for more than a year, I am not sure I agree. I believe that something remains hidden, something we’re not inclined to see, precisely because dementia steers us away from it.

eating-watching-tvAnd now back to what was foremost in my mind this morning: diet and weight loss. I’ve now lost 8½ pounds (towards my goal of losing 33 pounds) and while I’m pleased, I wish it was happening more quickly. I’ve been dieting for almost two months and had hoped to lose 2 pounds/week. But I’m like that about most things in life—I want it NOW. Instead I’m learning some things about myself and this process that I might not have the opportunity to learn if it happened quickly.

One thing I’m learning is to delay instant gratification (I know, that seems obvious, right?) in order to experience a bigger goal. Isn’t this what we do in other areas of life, like spending less money on small things in order to be able to enjoy the larger things—a bigger house, a new car, a wonderful vacation? Which is why I decided to call my plan a “1000-calorie budget” rather than a “diet.” I just don’t like the word, “diet.” And while budgets can be hard to keep, they can also be rewarding.

I just spent a week in Denver visiting kids and grandkids. I was a little worried that I might gain back some of the weight I’ve lost since I wouldn’t be at home where I could more easily control the budget. And I wouldn’t have my elliptical machine, on which I usually burn about 200 calories a day. But thankfully I lost one pound while I was there! How?

I let my kids know about my budget and they were supportive. They never said things like, “Oh, Mom, come on, you can splurge just once.”  So, the evening that my son and daughter-in-law fixed Italian sausage spaghetti for supper, I only ate the chopped salad. And the night we had Kentucky Fried Chicken at my daughter’s house (I LOVE KFC!) I pulled the crust off of a small thigh and skipped the mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. One morning my daughter was picking up breakfast from McDonalds on her way back from dropping Gabby at daycare, and I asked for a sausage and biscuit. Knowing they have 430 calories (!) I only ate half of it. It’s my favorite fast food, so I enjoyed it slowly, savoring each bite as I watched my two-month-old granddaughter sleeping on the couch next to me. Which brings me to another point.

multi taskingMy daughter is working on getting her three-year-old to focus on one thing at a time. For example, if we are playing a table game and she gets up to play with another toy during the game, she is encouraged to leave the toy alone and sits back down. Same thing goes for watching TV while eating, which we all do from time to time. As I watched this lesson she was trying to teach her daughter, I thought about how much more I could enjoy each activity if I focused on the one thing—eating my tiny meal, playing a game, watching a TV show, reading a book. That one thing should be enough to entertain me at the moment, and its enjoyment is increased by the singularity of focus. (I never eat food in front of my computer because I am so hyper-focused at the computer that I would not enjoy the food.)

Hope everyone who is trying to lose weight or get healthy in any way will appreciate these simple observations today. Have a great week!

If you’re new to my blog and want to catch up on my posts about my weight-loss budget and journey, here are a few, with tips on the Lose It! iPhone app, exercise, shoes, and more:

“Wiggle Room”

“You Go Girl!”

“Counting Calories Part II”

“Counting Calories”

“A Second Blooming” Finds a Publishing Home!

book dealIn lieu of my usual “Faith on Friday” post, I’d like to share some great news:

I’ve got a book deal! Wait—it’s not for my novel (that’s still being read again by an agent and her staff)—it’s for an anthology I’m editing:

A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We’re Meant to Be

It has found the perfect home at Mercer University Press and its pub date is March, 2017.

A Second Blooming is a collection of 18 new essays and 4 reprints of previously published material by 22 women authors who are all experiencing “second bloomings” in their lives.  The title comes from Agatha Christie:

I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations and suddenly find—at the age of fifty, say—that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study or read about…. It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.

Here are two more inspirational quotes that are fueling the collection:

I have heard it said that there are two times in your life when you stand a chance, in the face of whatever social forces struggle to get you in their grip, of becoming someone new, of creating your own personal universe through the sheer power of imagination and persistence: one is adolescence and the other is middle age. Maybe this is hogwash. Maybe it’s profound truth. I certainly make no claim to know. What I do know is that very near my forty-third birthday, it dawned on me to look at the diaries I began when I was young. (p. 7)—Margaret Sartor, Miss American Pie


I want to be recycled endlessly, and flower again
and yet again unexpectedly, bloom into
a surprising color for an old woman, ripe
with wrinkled youth and vigorous beauty,
with twinkling eyes in deep sockets,
making them wonder
just how I do it.—Victoria Millar

I’m still in the process of negotiating reprint permissions from a couple of publishers, and I’ve only received two of the eighteen new essays to edit, but I can already tell this is going to be a fabulous book. And thanks so much to Marc Jolley at Mercer University Press for believing in this project! At one point when I was choosing between two publishers, Marc said that even if he didn’t get to publish this book he would buy it for his wife because he loved the premise. Stay tuned for updates!

Writing on Wednesday: Back to the Future… and the Past

Back to the Future hoverboard

Back to the Future hoverboard

Today—October 21, 2015—is the date the writers of “Back to the Future II” chose as the day their characters would land in their futuristic travels. Journalists are reporting on how well those writers did in predicting state of the art gadgets and gizmos for 2015. It’s fun to see the things they got right—like giant TV screens and video conferencing. And it’s funny to see the things they predicted that either haven’t been invented (yet) or just don’t need to be—like hoverboards and double neckties.

Since the Back to the Future writers were writing in the late 1980s, no one expected them to be completely accurate with their predictions. But those expectations go up incrementally when the writers are writing about the past. Especially in historic fiction, of course, but even when a novel like Cherry Bomb—my fiction story set mostly in the 1980s—takes the reader to places like a night club in New York City, it’s important to research whether or not a “Cosmopolitan” martini had been made yet. And when Mare, the graffiti writer, wears a “hoodie”…. Were they actually called hoodies back then?

Why does it matter so much in a novel? Because you want to “keep the reader safe,” which means to keep them safely into the story line, believing in the setting, the characters, and their adventures. When the details jump out at the reader—seeming to contradict the setting or the time period—they disrupt the flow of the story.

I’m thankful to have writing buddies who critique my work from time to time, and also excellent editors recommended by the literary agent who is now reading the fourth revision of Cherry Bomb. (Fingers crossed that I’ve finally got it right!) It’s hard to recognize these mistakes in our work sometimes because we are so close to the story and the characters that we can’t see that so-and-so couldn’t have made a call on her cell phone in 1985, for example. When I see those kinds of mistakes in books or movies, they pull me away from the enjoyment of the plot.

I have no plans for writing anything futuristic, but my hands are full trying to get the details right in my fiction, and of course in (nonfiction) essays, where getting them right is essential. I’d love to hear from other writers about how they deal with this important issue. Thanks for reading!

Mental Health Monday: Mom’s Unsung Heroes

Holding Hands with Elderly PatientThis is my 51st post about my mother since I began my blog in 2007. Most of those posts are about HER—her unfortunate decline with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Today’s post is about her caregivers. I rarely write about the good care my mother receives at Lakeland Nursing Home in Jackson, Mississippi, but her nurses and aids and physical therapists and activities directors and social workers really are her unsung heroes.

In the past week alone I’ve received five phone calls from various people who are taking care of her. First a nurse called to let me know the doctor had changed the dose on her psychotropic medicine to help with agitation and sleep. They call and let me know about everything they do for her that involves her treatment.

Next I got a call that Mom had pulled her peg tube out of her stomach (again) and they would send her to the hospital to have it put back in. Of course she has no idea what it is, and although they keep a lot of padding over it, when she can’t sleep or gets agitated she picks at it until she finally pulls it out. I’m amazed that this is only the second time she’s done this in the nearly two years she’s had the feeding tube. So, they call me when she leaves for the hospital, then a nurse at the hospital calls to get my permission for the procedure then they call me when she returns to Lakeland, doing just fine.

The next day I got a call from the activities director. She wanted to ask me which activities I thought meant the most to my mother. She’s way past being able to play bingo or follow a television show, but she still responds to music, so I suggested they be sure and take her into the dining room whenever there’s any music. And on Fridays some people from Covenant Presbyterian Church (the church my parents help start in the 1950s) come and lead the singing and do a little devotional. I’m sure the hymns and words must resonate with her 87-year-old Presbyterian soul. We discussed a few more things that might connect with Mom at this stage of her Alzheimer’s.

So, this is just a big THANK YOU to Mom’s angels at Lakeland. Her unsung heroes.

Faith on Friday: Let us Attend… with Poetry

solace_book_cover_web_sm_1024x1024I’m traveling on Friday so I’m posting a day early, and I’m just going to share two gifts that came my way this week. The first is a book of poetry by Jonathan Jackson. The title is Book of Solace and Madness. Jonathan is not only a poet but also a musician, writer, and actor. And an Orthodox Christian. I loved his book, The Mystery of Art, which I blogged about here:

The Mystery of Art

The Gift of Silence

Caretakers of the Culture

The Joy of the Artist

I haven’t asked Jonathan’s permission to reprint an entire poem from his collection, but I’d like to share just part of one here, from Number 18:

This is my last act of defiance. This is my

sacred rage, my holy madness. This is my

soul’s rebellion—to live in the radiance of your

joy, and swim the insanity of your bliss.

And part of one more, Number 14:

Mother of Beauty, I stand in awe, beside my

shadow of doubt, where honesty and faith

converse as kin. I stand in awe, before the

symphony of your creation.

That awe Jonathan experiences happens when we pay attention, which is something I was reminded of in another gift I received this week.

The second gift came through Father Stephen Freeman’s blog on Thursday, when he wrote about “The Poetry of God.” I’ve always been drawn to the theologians who were also poets. Like St. Isaac the Syrian, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Nikolai Velimirovich, and the contemporary poets Scott Cairns and Mary Karr. They notice things. As Father Stephen says:

The Fathers tell us to “pay attention.” This is true with regard to the heart, but it is also true with regard to the world around us. Attention does not solve the mystery, but it at least acknowledges its presence and gives rise to enough wonder to make understanding possible at some point.

In the Divine Liturgy there are places where the deacon turns to the congregation and says, “Let us attend!” Pay attention, because something mystical is about to happen. The Gospel is going to be read. The Holy Spirit is going to descend on the Gifts. And if we listen and watch and touch and smell and feel, we just might have an encounter with the living God.

Writing on Wednesday: Front and Back Matter

guide-to-the-foreword-preface-and-introduction-4-638I’m putting together an anthology (watch for news about our publishing home soon!) with twenty-two contributing authors, and one of my tasks is to get in touch with the well-known woman I want to invite to write something for the front of the book. I say write “something” because I got called out in a group email with the contributors for misspelling this part of the book.

I spelled it “Forward.”

Embarrassing, since I’m the editor of the essay collection. But then it gets worse. Once I made the correction—changing the “a” to an “o”—I continued to err by leaving off the “e.”

This time I spelled it “Forword.”

Which I thought was one of the options for its spelling, but I’ve learned since that it’s really not an option. *hangs head*

Finally I spelled it correctly: “Foreword.”

In researching the correct spelling, I came across an article that does a great job of defining the parts of a book that come in the front and back of the main text.  The author, Pat McNees, explains first why these parts of the book should be in a certain order (which is interesting) and then clearly defines the difference between a preface, foreword, and introduction. Since I’m inviting someone else to write the Foreword, and as editor I’ll be writing the Introduction, I was hoping to get some clarity on these parts of the book. McNees quotes Words into Type:

A preface or foreword deals with the genesis, purpose, limitations, and scope of the book and may include acknowledgments of indebtedness; an introduction deals with the subject of the book, supplementing and introducing the text and indicating a point of view to be adopted by the reader. The introduction usually forms a part of the text; the preface does not.

So, here’s my dilemma: I was planning on doing some of what is defined here as the purpose of the preface or foreword within my introduction. I definitely plan to write about the genesis and purpose of the book, and then to go on from there to deal with the subject matter, mentioning the organization of the essays and so forth. Would this be wrong? Where could I go to see good examples?



I’ve had essays published in three anthologies—Circling Faith, The Shoe Burnin’, and Dumped—so I went to those books and read the introductions by the editors of each, and the foreword that was included in only one of them. I was relieved to learn that all three introductions—including the one in the book that also has a foreword—dealt with all the elements I plan to include in mine. Also of interest was the fact that two of the anthologies followed the above guideline that said that the introduction usually forms a part of the text. The page numbers prior to the introduction are small Roman numerals and the book’s pagination begins with the introduction. But in one of the three anthologies the introduction has small Roman numerals and the pagination for the text begins with the first chapter. But those are details my publisher will take care of. For me, the main thing is to understand clearly what my goals are when I write the introduction. I found these purposes from the Washington Biography Group helpful: (also in McNees’ article)

• To talk about how you came to write the book, especially if that will help draw the reader into the book.
• To sell the book to the potential reader/​buyer (lure them, hook them, make them want to read more).

• To answer the question: why this book? why now? why this person? why by this author?
• To talk about how you got the information — what your main sources were (and how they differ from other books on the subject, if this is book #189 on the Kennedys, for example)
• To provide a framework for what’s to follow — the hooks on which to hang the pegs of story details
• To provide, in brief, your main argument or point of view about the subject.

I’m going to consider each of these suggestions as I write the introduction. Meanwhile I’m having a great time reading and editing the essays as they arrive in my inbox, and I’m learning a lot about the publishing world as I continue to seek reprint permissions for the four essays that were previously published.  I really like the director of the press and will make an announcement once we finish working out the details of the contract. Stay tuned!

Mental Health Monday: Plaques and Tangles, Part II

Silhouette of woman holding her head(Photo: Getty Images )

Silhouette of woman holding her head(Photo: Getty Images )

Since last Monday’s post, “Plaques and Tangles,” I’ve had many opportunities to continue my focus on Alzheimer’s—not only my mother’s, but my friend Sissy’s (see last Friday’s post “Memory Eternal”) and also the possibility that this will be my fate. Sissy was only 73 when she died last week. That’s about the age my mother was when her cognitive impairment began to increase enough that I started taking care of her finances and we began considering assisted living. I am so thankful that Sissy was spared the years of decline my mother—now eighty-seven—is still experiencing.

A dear friend who is completely alert in her eighties encouraged me to quit dwelling on it so much, that I could “think myself sick.” There’s wisdom in her words, I know, but it’s really hard not to think about this. Especially with regular visits to my mother in the nursing home, and now as I work on editing those 50 blog posts and turning them into essays for a potential book.

One reader left this comment on last Monday’s post: (This is only part of her comment.)

As someone with a family history, I understand your fears. It’s certainly entirely possible that the phone conversation slipped your mind due to fatigue, pain, busy-ness, distractions, etc. Obviously, your fear is that it is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s, which is a valid concern. Do you have access to a gerontologist or other specialist who could do a screening? (I suggest a specialist because in my family’s experience primary care doctors often miss early signs.) If the screening results show nothing, it can set your mind at ease. If there are early signs, you can begin treatment to slow progression so that you can continue your three(!) book projects.

imagesYou know, I never had my mother screened for Alzheimer’s. I just saw it happening and dealt with each stage as it progressed. Well, she was “screened” by her internal medicine physician early on, but she always passed those simple memory tests. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office while this was going on and thinking, “But you don’t see how diminished her functioning is outside of this room.” So, I do know that if I decide to be screened, I’ll go to a specialist who will do more than ask me who the President is and what street I live on and to count backwards from ten.

NMSPlogocolorI’ll be 65 next March, so I’ve been receiving lots of information about Medicare. And I just read this article on NPR, “Medicare Pays for Alzheimer’s Screening, But Do You Want to Know?” One argument FOR early screening is to establish a baseline for comparison. But there’s so much that’s unknown at this point. November 1-7 is actually National Memory Screening Week, an initiative of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. There are actually two sites in the Memphis area offering free screening that week. But I haven’t looked into how extensive the tests are. Not sure if I’m going to or not. Stay tuned, and thanks always for reading and commenting.

Faith on Friday: Memory Eternal

Sissy on a boat in Greece, October 2007

Sissy on a boat in Greece, October 2007

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’ve heard this expression before, so you know what’s coming. In the Orthodox tradition, we say, “Memory Eternal,” when someone dies. And we sing it at the funeral services and later when we offer memorial prayers for the dead. I first embraced the grief of loss in 1998, when my father died that July, and then two months later when I lost my twenty-year-old Goddaughter, Mary Allison Callaway. The first decade of the century brought more losses—several elderly friends, my mother-in-law, aunt, uncle, brother, and father-in-law. 2010 brought the loss of another precious young (29) woman in our church, Esther Elliott Longa.  And now grief has visited in a new way.

Sissy and the icon she wrote at my first workshop at St. John Orthodox Church in Memphis

Sissy and the icon she wrote at my first workshop at St. John Orthodox Church in Memphis

At 3:50 p.m. this past Wednesday, my dear friend Sissy Yerger passed away. She was taken to the hospital the night before when an aneurysm burst in her head and she went into a coma. Death is never easy, but it’s especially hard when there’s no time for goodbyes. It’s hard not to wish for one more time to tell them how much you love them, although Sissy and I always exchanged a kiss of peace (on the lips) and expressed our special friendship with words and embraces. I have so many wonderful memories of our times together—from the early years of our friendship back in the 1970s in Jackson, Mississippi, to the memorable pilgrimage we shared to Greece in 2007 with our husbands, both Orthodox priests. (Sissy and I even went swimming in the Aegean Sea while visiting Patmos.) From the night I spent in her hospital room when she had surgery a decade or so ago, to her visit to me in my hospital bed following my car wreck in 2013. Sissy was a participant at the first icon workshop I led at St. John. We could finish each other’s sentences. She was a wonderful place to land when I am having dark nights of the soul. She was my soul sister and I already miss her deeply.

Back page of our Psalter

Back page of our Psalter

Yesterday I began the tradition of reading the Psalter for 40 days following someone’s death. It’s been a few years since I’ve followed this tradition, and I can already tell it will be a great blessing. One reads several Psalms each day, followed by the reading of a prayer for the departed. It’s not only a meaningful way to remember the departed loved one, but also to keep one’s own death in mind, while offering up praises, prayers and mourning through the Psalms.

Sissy and me with Lucy, our hostess on the island of Leros, Greece, October 2007. Lucy fell in love with Sissy. Who hasn't?

Sissy and me with Lucy, our hostess on the island of Leros, Greece, October 2007. Lucy fell in love with Sissy. Who hasn’t?

This afternoon my husband and I will drive down to Clinton, Mississippi, for Sissy’s visitation and Funeral Service. We’ll spend the night and tomorrow morning we’ll attend the Divine Liturgy, burial service at the cemetery, and the mercy meal back at the church fellowship hall. I know that we will be only two among many who loved Sissy greatly. Memory eternal, my dear friend and sister in Christ. And much love to Father Paul, and their precious daughters, Wisdom, Mary Lawrence and Margaret.

The following is Sissy’s obituary, for those who would like to know more about this wonderful woman. We share a wedding anniversary with Father Paul and Sissy (June 13) and I had forgotten until I read this that they were married only six weeks after they first met, in April of 1971. Old school. Young hearts.

Matushka Katherine (Evelyn Roane “Sissy”) Gooch Yerger – of Clinton, Mississippi, 73, fell asleep in the Lord unexpectedly on Wednesday, October 7. Visitation will be held at 5 p.m. and the funeral service at 6 p.m. Friday, October 9. The Divine Liturgy will be served at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 10, with burial and Mercy Meal following, all at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, 414 E. College St., Clinton. Burial will be in the Clinton Cemetery  next  to the Church.

Matushka Sissy leaves her husband, Father Paul Yerger of Clinton, three daughters, Wisdom Yerger and Mary Yerger of Jackson and Mrs. Margaret Elliott of Memphis, son-in-law Michael Elliott of Memphis, two grandsons, James Rucks Elliott and Paul Hite Elliott of Memphis,  two brothers, John H. Gooch, III, of Savannah, GA, and Dr. William R. Gooch of Kingston, NY, three sisters, Elizabeth Gooch Dearsley of Richmond, VA, Frances Gooch Saval of Petersburg, VA, Rebecca Gooch of Middlebury, VT, and many nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her parents, John Hite Gooch, Jr.,  and Elizabeth Cave Gooch, stepmother Ann Humphrey Bintliff Gooch, and a sister, Mary Jane Gooch.

She was born in Houston, TX, April 22, 1942, and grew up mainly in Texarkana, AR, and Richmond, VA. She attended St. James  Day School in Texarkana and Thomas Jefferson High School and Westhampton College in Richmond.  In Richmond she worked for A.H. Robins pharmaceutical company and Virginia Commonwealth University. In April, 1971, she met her husband, then the Episcopal clergyman Norval Yerger of McComb, Mississippi, and they were married six weeks later.

In 1977 the Yergers embraced Orthodox Christianity and settled in Jackson where her husband, now Father Paul, became the first pastor of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, which relocated to Clinton in 1980. At Holy Resurrection she was the first choir director, bookstore manager, janitor, and everything in between. For many years she invited every visitor and single person at the Saturday evening Vespers service to her home for dinner, which contributed greatly to the growth of the church.  In Jackson she worked as Communications Director for United Way and Copy Editor for Godwin Group advertising agency.  In her youth she enjoyed sailing, horseback riding, golf, tennis, and jogging.  She loved the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA, and visited there many times.

Memorial gifts may be made to Holy Resurrection Church.

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