Fransie was an artist, a mother, a daughter, a birder. She had a rich laugh and a devious smile. She loved unconditionally and she appreciated things about you that you didn't know anyone else noticed. She could be sweet and innocent and sewing costumes for the high school drama program one minute and flipping you the bird or doing body shots in the corner the next. She was the ageless paradigm all women contain within them, innocence and knowledge and the power to make men kneel all in one broken vessel.
We worked together, and in the misery that environment created, we bonded. We bonded over lunches, walks, Sci-Fi Fridays and an uncountable number of glasses of wine. We bonded over faith and disintegrating marriages. We needed one another, we helped one another, we carried each other when we felt we could no longer go on. We looked past the worst in one another and always sought the best.
Her cancer was found in the spring of '07. Treatment almost killed her - surgery, radiation, and then chemo to which it wasn't discovered until almost too late that she was allergic. When she finally recovered, she told me more than once, "I'm never going through that again. If the cancer comes back I will only request comfort measures." And when it did, she was true to her word. It was her right to choose this, I never questioned it. Suprisingly, the minor chemotherapy and pain control gave her a lot more time than anyone expected. She and her children left New Jersey behind and moved to Texas to be nearer parents. I know she relied greatly on - and was deeply grateful for - their love, care and support these last several years.
I was so surprised to get the email from her mother yesterday. I guess I got used to her ability to exceed our hopes. Just a few days ago she was still forwarding me emails with funny pictures or meaningful words that touched her. While I always knew Fransie was fighting a battle she couldn't possibly win, I hoped for a miracle. We all did.
Whenever we talked, even though I know she had a lot of pain and that her ability to enjoy the things she loved was becoming more and more limited, she would still laugh and still wanted to know how I was doing. The last time we talked, a few weeks ago, I had no idea how near the end she was. She sounded then as she had many times over the last few years. She was tired, but she still had that unique quality in her voice - a little sad, a little funny, a little wry. We talked then, as we often did, of her faith and her firm belief about what happens to us after we die. Even when she got mad at God, even when she couldn't understand why she had to go through all of this, she believed. "I know that my treasure is in heaven," she would often say.
And now she is in the arms of the One she trusted to carry her through.
She leaves behind her daughter, her son, her parents, her son-in-law, her friends - all of whom have been deeply touched and blessed by her love, her laughter and her heart.
Fransie, I know you don't want us to be sad. I know you want us to remember you in the things that you loved - in the wildlife you captured so beautifully in your art, in the birds you loved to watch and name, in the wooded paths and in the shallow ocean pools teeming with life. And so I will.