The Remarkable, Christ-Exalting Life of My Mother7
Doris Tsianina Storms was born on April 12, 1920. She entered into glory on October 3, 2020. Her life spanned more than 100 years, and she lived every minute of it to the glory of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Mom’s early life was unimaginably challenging. In the midst of the Great Depression her parents separated, but never divorced. Her father was a kind and loving man, but an alcoholic. My grandmother had no choice but to put my mother and her three younger siblings (triplets) in an Indian boarding school. Mom was 12. She survived only by playing on the piano the favorite songs of the other students (almost entirely native American Indians). But she cried herself to sleep virtually every night for the next several years, doing what she could to comfort her two younger sisters (Betty and Jane, after whom my sister is named) and her younger brother (Ralph), all of whom preceded her in death.
Her musical talents were remarkable, and God-given. She began playing at a church in Muskogee, Oklahoma, as a young teenager. As recently as a few months ago, before she began to decline, she would sit at a piano and play, her arthritis crippled fingers stretching out almost miraculously as she played hymns from a memory that was fast fading.
After graduating high school in Eufala, Oklahoma, she enrolled at the University of Oklahoma where she put herself through college and earned a bachelor’s degree in piano performance. She lived the majority of her time at OU in the home of Pastor E. F. Hallock, known affectionately as “Preacher Hallock.” He served as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Norman, Oklahoma, for 46 years.
Following graduation from OU she and my dad, Charles Storms, were married and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where she served as pianist at Bellevue Baptist Church from 1943 to 1947. While at Bellevue she also served as one of the administrative assistants (they used to call them secretaries) to Dr. R. G. Lee. She and Charles moved to Shawnee, Oklahoma, in 1947 where she served as the pianist at First Baptist Church from 1947 to 1961. The family then moved to Midland, Texas, where Tsianina (pronounced “Chuh-neena”) substituted on both piano and organ at First Baptist Church and played for various community variety shows and gave numerous programs for many clubs. In 1965 the Storms family moved to Duncan, Oklahoma.
There are probably several hundred men and women today who were taught piano by my mother. A number of them have gone on to have distinguished careers in music and many of those students continued to write or visit her until the end.
My dad went to be with Jesus on July 13, 1983. Mom never married again. As far as she was concerned there was only one man for her. It was inconceivable to her that she could ever give her heart to anyone else. I can’t imagine how any woman could have been more faithful and caring and supportive of her husband than my mom was for my dad. The only person she loved more than him was Jesus.
You simply had to watch and listen to my mom play the piano or the pipe organ to understand that it was more than a talent. It was a gift. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so often tangibly felt when she played, because she believed the truths of the words that each hymn contained and she played not for her own praise but for Christ’s.
While in Duncan mom continued to share her musical gift in many areas, as organist at the First Baptist Church for 20 years, as organist at the First Presbyterian Church for 12 years, as pianist for Duncan Civic Capers for many years, as well as a member and active performer in the Duncan Music Club from 1965 until its dissolution. She was a board member of the Oklahoma Arts Council and played for many programs in Oklahoma and Texas including an annual piano/organ Christmas program in Ardmore with her daughter.
I can’t tell you when she finally retired from playing the piano and organ, for the simple fact that although we celebrated her ministry at a special church service in Duncan, a “retirement” ceremony of sorts, she was repeatedly drawn out of the pew and back on the bench!
How do I articulate how humble and godly and loving and faithful she was? One close friend in Duncan said that if you were to look up the word “Lady” in the dictionary, mom’s picture would be there. She loved me and my sister in ways that I can’t even begin to explain, and prayed for us daily, indeed, hourly. I can still recall when she was about 95 and staying with us in Edmond, that I woke up one night around midnight and heard a voice in the den. I walked in and there she was, with small note cards in her hand, each with a Scripture passage that she spoke out loud repeatedly. She was still memorizing God’s Word right up until the end!
My sister and I are her only children, but she had four grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren, and they all absolutely adored her.
Mom would probably be embarrassed to read what I’ve written here, as she only wanted to honor and praise her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Next to seeing Jesus, she looked forward to her departure and reunion with her husband, my dad, Charles Storms, together with her three siblings and countless friends.
I don’t know if there are pianos in heaven, but if so, whoever was playing just took a seat on the sidelines and yielded the instrument to Tsianina Storms.