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Jeannine Ann Eddings Morris grew up in western Kentucky as the oldest daughter of hard-working parents, who both worked at the Merritt Clothing factory. Jeannine was the oldest of 23 grandchildren who proudly belonged to John B. and Celeste Hardeman. John B. was a well-known preacher who traveled all over the South to share the gospel.

Life as a child was as humble as one might expect for the 1940s. Jeannine was the oldest of four children, spanning a 13-year age range. To hear her talk, her childhood and teenage memories consisted of mostly reading every book she could find and taking the younger children, Philip, David, and Jan, to the outhouse when it was freezing outside.

Jeannine said it was her sixth-grade teacher who first recognized how truly smart she was. She felt valued when this teacher spent extra time with her after school, often having to call her parents to pick her up so she wouldn’t walk home alone when the afternoons grew dark. Jeannine knew then that she wanted to become a schoolteacher one day, and this particular year also fueled her dedication to her education. Through hard work and determination, she became the Valedictorian of her class at Sedalia High School in 1957.

With the assistance of her uncle, Pat Hardeman, another well-known preacher at that time, Jeannine spent her first year of college at Florida Christian College. She said she arrived with a duffle bag and two dresses, and it took every bit of that first year to understand how the college system worked. Though she accomplished much in Florida, she soon ran out of money and returned to Mayfield to do clerical work for an attorney to save up for whatever came next.

What came next was David Lipscomb College, which is where she met David Morris. As you can already tell, for us to share her life story, we must also share his as well. The two of them belonged together, and though his time on earth was short, his impact expanded as the years rolled on.

There’s no doubt Jeannine was created to be a minister’s wife. When they were married in January of 1963, she gladly took on various jobs so he could finish his degree. Once he graduated, Jeannine’s friends presented her with a framed certificate that gave her the honor of achieving her PHT, which stood for Putting Hubby Through.

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When Jeanna was born in 1964, David served as the Head Resident of the dorm at Nashville Christian Institute on 24th Avenue in North Nashville. NCI was a preparatory school that trained young African American preachers and was started by one of the true spiritual legends of that era, Marshall Keeble. During the racial divide that was prominent in the early 1960s, David, Jeannine and their newborn daughter served as a fine example of how to bridge that gap as this school building was their home as well.

Once David graduated in June of ’66. He accepted his first full-time preaching role at a small church in Corinth, Mississippi. That next year, Janet was born, and David couldn’t wait to introduce her to the members of his church as he greeted each parishioner at the door with Janet on his arm.

One of David’s first tasks at the church was to create a directory for the Northside Church of Christ: no pictures, just names, addresses, phone numbers, and a welcoming message from their new minister. David and Jeannine lived in the parsonage house across the street from the church. You can find them on page three of that Northside church directory:
Morris, David R.
*Mrs. Jeannine
*Janet Laurel
*Jeanna Louise
3128 Harper Road

David and Jeannine thrived during their brief time together. They served, they loved, and they laughed. They planned and dreamed. Together, they fulfilled his purpose.
And none of it would have been possible without Jeannine.

It’s so interesting to hear about this family of four in a white ranch house with an actual phone number, which means someone could reach them at any time. But for Jeanna and me, this family is not the family we ever got the chance to know. Instead, it’s always been the three of us.

Daddy’s accident happened in November of 1967.

A passenger in the car, he and a preacher friend were making the one-and-a-half hour trip up Hwy 72 from Corinth to Memphis to reach the Harding Graduate School of Religion where David was working toward his Master’s Degree.

Jeannine was working as a teacher’s aide in a kindergarten class when she got the call. She quickly made arrangements for someone to watch us, and by the next day, she came home as a widow at the age of 29. Jeanna had just turned three and I was only six months old.

This isn’t how these stories should go, and we can only share it today because we’ve heard this story through the years. We have no memories of it. We have no recollection of life before the accident. But what we did have was our beautiful, intelligent, diligent, determined mother. And through the next five-and-a-half decades, she proved to be more than enough.

Mom became understandably private and reserved, most likely to save her energy for us. She made tough decisions daily and learned to live by a checklist. On her to-do list, there was no room for complaining or regrets over past decisions. In truth, there was little room for emotions because it didn’t matter how she felt. To her, what mattered was whatever needed to be done next. That was the only way she knew to approach life.

Picture of mother and two young daughters, old sepia photo We moved to Nashville in 1970 where Mom took on her first teaching job with Metro Public Schools. Mission accomplished and her dream was finally fulfilled though it looked very different than she expected. She took us to church, read to us nightly, and allowed us to help her grade papers and prepare for school the next day.

She fought many battles only the three of us could see, including Jeanna’s serious bicycle accident that included an ambulance ride and a five-day stay in the hospital. Mom faced constant struggles, including transportation issues to get the three of us wherever we needed to be, a next-door neighbor with a drinking problem and slurred speech who often tried to force his way into our apartment, that dreaded last week at the end of each month before it was time to go to the grocery, phone calls from bill collectors, and even testifying in court about the cute little neighbor boy who grew up to steal her car right out of her driveway.

Nothing came easy, but if we were unsafe, we never knew it. Looking back, God protected us in many ways, long before we knew we needed it. Through the years, we found ways to have fun and laughed often. Not once did we feel sorry for ourselves, and Jeanna and I were constantly inspired by the example Mom set for us.

Needless to say, we made it. And none of it would have been possible without her. Never has there been someone more dependable or who loved her family more fiercely. When she became a grandmother, it didn’t take long for our kids to figure out that all they had to do was walk by her with a slight shiver. Soon, she’d present them with three or four new jacket options to cover all possible weather conditions.

Once she retired, she went on to make each grandchild a quilt. One for Crystal, Andrew, Malloree, and Leah. Her love and handiwork are stitched so carefully into every inch of each quilt. Mom wanted them to have something meaningful that would last long past her years.

Mom had a car accident of her own almost 10 years ago. She was temporarily paralyzed by it and lost the use of her arms, but with a procedure that can only be described as a miracle, a neurosurgeon rebuilt the top of her spine with metal and fused it all together. This accident changed everything about her life, including her ability to drive and her daily comfort level, but it did give her another decade to prove how tough she truly was.

The great-grandchildren came a few years later. Lukas, Walker, Logan, and Charlotte. Mom was thrilled, and guess what? Each one of them received a quilt as well. Each project took much longer by this time in her life, and her neck ached with every move she made. But she wanted the babies to have something meaningful from her that would last long past her years.

In one of our last conversations, she mentioned how much she looked forward to helping her only great-granddaughter, Charlotte, learn her colors. Her family was honestly all Mom ever thought about.

At church, she was best known for being the quiet lady in the fourth row. Always present and accounted for but also kind of mysterious. Please forgive us for keeping her to ourselves. She felt it was her number one mission to take care of the people God had given her. And she did that so very well. She was remarkable, and now you know the rest of her story.

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In Proverbs 31:29 it says this: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” That verse perfectly describes our mother. What she accomplished truly surpasses all others. I’m reminded of the marriage vows we take during weddings . . . To have and to hold from this day forward. For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. To love and to cherish. Till death do us part.

But our mother took it much, much further. She loved. She cherished. In sickness and in health. For better and worse. But she continued to honor our father long past the time death parted them. She honored him with every decision and action for the next 55 years, to be exact. In this way, like it says in the Proverb, she truly surpassed them all.

Elderly woman with two grown daughters, black-and-white photo A week before we lost her, Mom asked about her funeral. She wanted to know specific details and even approved her new dress. These details must have been on her final checklist.

Jeanna and I have spent our entire lives asking God about Heaven, and this is the image he offered to two little girls who once begged for answers. In John 14:2, Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us. Not a generic, hope-you-like-it kind of place. But a personal, peaceful place designed specifically for each one of us. Today, we like to think Mom and Dad are on a quiet street up in Heaven, a lot like 3128 Harper Road. Nothing flashy. Just a nice home–personal, quiet, and predictable.
We’re so thankful they are finally together again.

We’ve got their phone number if you need it, but let’s give them some time to get caught up. It’s taken quite a while for us to finish their story.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Janet Morris Grimes

Janet Morris Grimes may not have realized she was a writer at the time, but her earliest childhood memories were spent creating fairy-tale stories of a father she never knew. That desire to connect with the mysterious man in a treasured photograph gave her a deep appreciation for the endless possibilities of a healing and everlasting story.

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