Living and Dying for the Lord
Beatrice Guillan Keyan Moore
January 14, 1916 – August 31, 2019
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25: 31-46
For a hundred and three plus years, Beatrice Guillan Keyan Moore graced the world, the lives of her family and her expansive family of friends, and, for these past ten years, the members of this parish with her care, compassion, and love. She most certainly touched all our hearts. To say that she will be sorely missed by many can only be an understatement.
Bea was devoted to her parents, Ruben and Armenoughy, and her brother, Rupen; faithful to her two husbands, Greg and Father John; always there for her friends; and committed to the well-being and vitality of her church family. Having outlived all but a few of her family members, this faith community was very much a family for her in the last years of her life. While she never had children of her own, having had two miscarriages, she took the greatest joy and delight in the children of her friends and the children in this parish. They were as her own children and grandchildren.
To the very end Bea always wanted to know what was going in people’s lives. She would always ask, “How ya doin?” “What’s your day like?” Her interest in and concern for others not only extended to those with whom she had a history but also to those whose story she had only recently had come to know.
For example, a few weeks before she died Bea asked again about Lucia and her two children, whom she met only once, after Lucia’s husband and the children’s father was deported in June.
Bea drew people to herself and did this to the very end. The doctor and the staff at the Baptist Home remarked again and again about the number of visitors who came to see her during her last days.
Bea’s story began years before her birth. Her family fled Armenia in advance of the genocide, which began in earnest in April 1915. In that holocaust 1.5 million Armenians were rounded up, deported from Turkey or exterminated. Many were crucified.
Bea often mentioned that while this gruesome experience was part of her family’s history, when they came to the States they counted Turks among their friends, even though many of their Armenian compatriots would not go there. An open heart, an open door, and a table that welcomed all were hallmarks of Bea’s way of being in the world. In this way, in her personal life, she bore witness to the church, which at its best, is a sacrament of God’s all-forgiving and all-nourishing and all-embracing love.
Continuing her family’s practice of gracious hospitality, Bea took great pleasure in serving dinner to as many guests as she could gather for a meal. Up until a few years ago, and already in her late 90’s, she would host a dinner for 10 to 12 people and she did so with apparent ease and maybe a little help from Herbie and Vinnie.
One of the regrets to which she gave voice in the week before her death was that she was not able to have more of the parish up to her home for a meal. It really irked her that her advancing disability kept her from continuing her practice of gracious hospitality and also from being able to roll up her sleeves and pitch in both at the church and at the Klyne Esopus Museum as she had done in years past. Bea’s embrace of her diminishment was always a real struggle for her. She fought it to the very end and I believe her resistance to it was a significant factor in the length of her years.
But there was also another factor. In the weeks before her death Bea would ask me again and again, “Why can’t I die.” I tried to explain to her that while her spirit was ready, her body was still very strong. Her response, “Damn that yogurt.”
Bea remained sharp and alert in her thinking until the very end. She never had more than a high school education, as her parents did not support her doing so, but she pursued learning and remained open to change. She was an avid reader. Ed would bring her books and she devoured them. By educating herself she kept herself from getting stuck in any way of thinking that might have served her at an earlier stage in her life.
Bea also remained young in spirit and current in her interests. In the present moment, her outrage at the cruelty that cages children, separates families, and destroys innocent lives was palpable, as it certainly must be for any disciple of Jesus.
Yes, she was deeply disturbed by the outright cruelty and gross inhumanity of the present hour that for her must certainly have carried echoes of the holocaust of her own people.
Though Bea grew up in a sea of unchallenged white privilege, while at school in Kingston, she made friends with the children of color and long before a new norm was socially embraced, she repudiated the then socially acceptable covert and voiced racism of many of her peers. When it came to basic human decency and the requirements of respect for the dignity of every human being Bea knew no ambivalence. In this she evidenced a strength of character that challenged many in the social circle of her life.
The gospel chosen for this liturgy speaks of the rhythm that animated Bea’s life. Today she certainly is sharing the company of the sheep of whom Jesus speaks, as she lived her life with a concern that the hungry be fed, the naked be clothed, the thirsty be given drink, the homeless be sheltered and the stranger be welcomed.
These concerns informed the dance that was her life.
Bea struggled with the life of faith. Somewhere along the line she latched onto the untenable premise that if God is good there should be no pain or loss in life. She was obviously not alone in dealing with this conundrum. It remains an unanswered question for all and a disqualifying issue for many.
The reality that all life is a gift, both in its joys and in its sorrows and in what we gain and what we loose remained elusive for Bea to the very end. She could appreciate the gift brought by life’s joys as being a reflection of God’s gracious love. But she was not able to get her head around the gift brought by life’s sorrows, as being the grist for personal transformation, even though her own suffering served her own transformation into being the more deeply human and more thoroughly compassionate person that she was.
Sadly, Bea could only understand pain as punishment and in her last hours asked again and again about what she had done to deserve what, for her, was a prolonged and painful march toward death.
And so while she died grateful to God for His many gifts, she also died ready to confront Him for His failure to produce pain-destroying miracles on her demand schedule.
We can be sure that at this very moment, the God who loves us while we are still in our mother’s womb and love us as we are at each step of our journey home to Him, is enfolding her with all His love and that she is finally appreciating the foolishness of her unrealistic expectations and maybe finally understanding the purpose of the whole package that is human life.
As we are here today to remember Bea, to celebrate her life in its strength and in its frailty, to support each other in our grief and to bid Bea fond farewell, we are also here to affirm and celebrate our faith that in death life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal within the divine mystery that is the eternal loving of the Father and the Son and the Spirit.
We affirm and celebrate our faith and trust in Jesus who said, “I am Resurrection and I am Life. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though she die. And everyone who has life, and has committed herself to me in faith, shall not die for ever.” We take the Lord at His word and find our peace in His blessed assurance.
We affirm and celebrate our faith that in a world that is increasingly death phobic we will not live our lives in fear and go to those self-protecting dark places where fear of death will always take us, but rather will live our lives as risen people, even before we die, that we might be those bearers of light that we are called to be as disciples of Jesus.
Most of us will not know the length of years that Bea enjoyed, but each of us can certainly grow to love in a way that bears witness to the truth of eternal life. Yes, my woolly brothers and sisters and would-be fellow sheep, there are hungry people to be fed, naked people to be clothed, thirsty people in need of drink, homeless people in need of shelter and strangers who now more than ever need to be welcomed and protected.
We can live and die for ourselves or we can live and die for the Lord. But what the Lord requires and asks of us has always been and remains transparently clear.
Let us pray. Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Bea. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.
The Rev. Frank J. Alagna
September 7, 2019