On September 26, 1943, I was born to Laddie and Beulah Thornton as Frances Ann. Over these 75 years I have been blessed by the example of their lives and the lessons they taught me. For over 30 years, they served as pastors in the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. My mother never saw herself as a pastor but as my dad’s wife.
In reality, she was “children’s pastor” and taught children from infants to teenagers. I remember helping her make flannelgraph figures and object lessons. She taught songs with handmade signs and puppets, and pictures cut from magazines. To this day, the children she taught remember Sister Thornton’s class. “Sister Thornton was an inspiration to myself as well as many others. She left big steps for us to follow in,” shares Carolyn Preble, who now pastors with her husband. “She was always faithful, friendly, and supportive of whatever was going on at church,” recalls Jennifer Savage, Carolyn’s daughter.
Interestingly, at the age of 96 and with a diminished memory, she will still sing children’s church songs from memory. It is such a joy to visit her in the memory care facility and sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know…” or quote Bible verses. I can begin to pray with her and hear her say, “Amen” or “Hallelujah.” She may not remember my name or where she is, but she knows the truths of God’s Word. Sometimes I wonder if she has purpose now with her limited state of mind, but I know God has a purpose as long as He gives us breath.
Mother has been a widow for 17 years and has lived in an assisted living home for 12 of those years. In this time, several different caregivers have cared for her and always, without exception, they tell me what a blessing Mother is to them. “In what way is she a blessing?” I ask. “She always has a smile, never complains and thanks us for everything.” Some days she will try to tell me that one of the residents is having a difficult time and she wishes she could help them. At 96, she is still loving people and loving God.
Beulah Thornton is a blessing to me, my sister, Sharon Thompson, and my brother, Tommy Thornton. Our children and her grandchildren are blessed with a strong faith and confidence in God from her life. Her great-grandchildren are recipients of her example. She has now influenced three generations to live as lovers of God and people.
Written by: Frances Pike
Photo Credits: Frances Pike