......was not a particularly happy one, to say the least. Have we told you around here that 2006 wasn't being a very GOOD year to us? We thought so.
Last week brought another bonk on the head. One of the things that I have done over the past several years is help to take care of an elderly lady in our parish. Fran, by name.
Fran was a character. She was born rich--lived in a big house over in Fort Worth. Went to Hockaday--a school over in Dallas for the rich girls. True now, even truer then.
She married Don, after a whirlwind 4 weeks courship. (She told me once that the boys always liked her because she would kiss on the first date!) He was an up and comer in the insurance business, and kept her in the style to which she was accustomed. Fran buried two babies, one about 8 weeks old, one about a year old. She had three other children, two girls and a boy. Things seemed swell. They had lots of friends, did what they wanted. She told me once that she went to the beauty shop every day to have her hair combed out.
But the idyllic life didn't last. Her oldest daughter died unexpectedly in about 1987 or so. Later that same year, her husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and died within a couple of months. Imagine that. Bury your daughter and your husband in one year.
Fran wasn't a business woman. Someone who was going to "help" her with the insurance agency somehow ended up owning it. And so she was left with little or nothing to get by on.
Fran always said that the Cursillo movement within the Episcopal Church saved her life. It gave her a meaning and a purpose. And it cemented friendships that lasted the rest of her life. She worked for various priests, and worked in the refugee resettlement movement. She was a member of St. Mary's before they converted to Catholicism, and was a happy convert. Her only puzzlement was why it was taking everyone ELSE so long to see the light.
I met Fran when we first came into the Church. She struck me as an odd sort of old woman. She wore clothes that didn't match, drank coffee or iced tea by the bucketsful, had not one shred of vanity, loved bingo, and never, ever, that I could tell, brushed her hair.
But she was a talker. And she was funny.
The parish began helping her about 6 years ago. We moved her into subsidized housing. We began watching over her money. We took her to doctors' appointments. Her son is a good son, but he works for the State department, and is always stationed overseas. Her daughter loves her, but has two boys and a husband who is often out of town. So we gradually did more and more for Fran as time passed.
Fran was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. February 20th to be exact. And I know that--me who never remembers a date--because after sitting in a doctor's office and hearing that Fran had lung cancer in the morning, I dealt with my mother breaking her hip that very night! Needless to say, a day that will live in infamy around here.
Fran, against all belief, decided to try chemotherapy. At 80. With 37% lung function due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. So, for the past several months, I've been taking Fran to chemotherapy. And she seemed to be doing pretty well.
Until last week. Sunday she complained of pain, and we got some pain killers. Monday I found her collapsed on the floor at her apartment, and called the ambulance. We spent the day in the ER, hoping things would get better.
They didn't. Her condition worsened. By Wednesday morning, with her son rushing from Kiev to get to his mom's side, her daughter and I had to tell the doctors to not put her on a respirator. Yeah, things went that bad, that fast. Both the priests she loved came and prayed over her. And I wept my usual big ole buckets of tears, all the while praying that there could be some slight turnaround, all the while knowing that it was not to be.
Fran died Wednesday night at 11 p.m., before her son could get to the hospital. She died with her daughter holding one hand and me holding the other. PapaC was at the foot of the bed. And just like that, between one heartbeat and the next, she was gone.
Her funeral was Saturday, and it was beautiful. Just like she would have wanted. No black vestments--all white. All the smells and bells. "Terry, I want the fanciest funeral a lay person can have." And she got everything we could do.
Fran was sometimes a burden. But most often she was a blessing. She had such a simple outlook on life. She just assumed that we WANTED to take care of her, and in the end, she was right. We did. She was a junk food junkie, and we despaired of her nutrition. But she did live 'til she was 80! She was the least vain person I've ever met, and she and I had long discussions over her clothing when I wanted to get rid of ratty old things. "They cover me up! What more do I need?" I swear, Mother Teresa cared more about what she looked like than Fran did.
But Fran lived in grace. Her life didn't turn out the way she expected, but she rolled with it. I never heard her complain about her circumstances or situation. She never complained about her health, either, taking everything in stride. She shed not ONE, NOT ONE, tear over her own diagnosis.
Someone said after the funeral, "May I be found even one half as faithful as Fran at my own death." And that's the truth.
Rest in peace, Fran. We miss you so much.