Editor’s note: One year ago today, Fran, an 89-year-old friend of Sarah Monson, the worship arts pastor at New Day Covenant Church in Rochester, Minnesota, passed away while in hospice care.
Shortly before Fran’s death, Monson posted an interview with Fran on her blog, “The Worthy People Project,” which is dedicated to telling “the stories of everyday people so every person can know their worth.” This is an edited version of that post.
“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all…” (Ecclesiastes 11:8)
Sometimes a friendship defies convention, or, at least, makes one wonder if convention is for suckers.
Fran is an 89-year-old friend of mine who I met nearly a decade ago when she moved to Rochester to be close to her daughter, Pat, who I worked with at the time. Fran speaks wisdom into my life for no other reason other than she cares. She isn’t family, but she sees something good in me that I don’t see myself.
Fran is dying now and in hospice.
When I visited her recently at Pat’s house, where she is staying, an aide let me in and led me to the family room. Fran was cozied up in a recliner buried under a blanket, with her iPad resting in her lap. She greeted me with a smile. We exchanged our pleasantries and settled in for our visit. I needed her to speak into my life one last time.
“Fran, can I ask you some questions that might be a little tough?” I asked.
“Try me,” she dared.
“How are you feeling these days?”
“I feel fine. I just can’t die.” At that, we both laughed.
“Well, it’s true,” she added.
“So, you don’t mind talking about death, then?”
“Oh, heaven’s no. When Pat brought me here, I don’t think she had any idea that I was gonna be here this long. I was supposed to be gone a long time ago.”
“How does it feel to wait to die?”
“I wish it would hurry up and happen.”
“So, you have a peace about it?”
“Yeah,” she said softly. “What God wants, God will do. He’s just not listening to me. I tell him to take me home, but He just sticks his tongue out at me.”
“What are you glad to have done in life?”
“Live!” She laughed at that, her answer more sarcastic than profound.
“I did what came along. I’m most thankful that I was able to see every one of my grandchildren within the first week of their lives and was able to help after they were born. I wouldn’t have done anything different.”
I don’t expect anything specific. Whatever it is, I’m ready for it.
“What advice would you give me? A woman in middle life, with kids and work…”
“Oh, heavens. I don’t have any advice other than to enjoy life. I’ve lived, really, an enjoyable life. Walt (her husband) and I lived all over the country and in each place, we were able to establish good friendships with great people. I think I’ve lost all of them by now.
One of the most enjoyable times in my life was living close to Pat’s school when she was attending Westminster Choir College. She and her friends would come over and have dinner or swim. I always told them they had to buy their dinner by singing or playing the piano or whatever their specialty was. That was lots of fun.”
I wasn’t ready to switch back to weightier matters so I asked what she was reading on her iPad.
“Right now, I’m reading trash, or maybe a better word would be fluff,” she said with an air of dismissal.
“Hey, who cares, right?” I joked. “Life’s pretty short at this point, so read whatever you’d like.”
Fran laughed, “Yeah. Have you heard of Rita Mae Brown? Sneaky Pie Brown is her cat. It’s, as I say, fluff, but I have read some good books, too. I’m a big (Jennifer) Chiaverini fan. I’ve read three or four of hers. It’s a good distraction.”
Without skipping a beat, Fran asked, “So, what else can I enlighten you on?”
It was her way of keeping me from avoiding the serious questions. So I asked her, “What do you think death will be like, and what do you think awaits you?”
Her answer was decisive. “I don’t expect anything specific. Whatever it is, I’m ready for it. You know, I don’t know that I believe that I’m gonna see my husband again. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Of course, I don’t know what that life will be like, but I don’t expect it to just resume where we left off. What is…is what is.”
“For me,” I told her, “fear would be an obstacle. You don’t seem to carry an ounce of fear with you.”
“No! What’s to fear?”
“The unknown, perhaps?”
“Well, all you have to do is accept whatever will be.”
I had to pause for a moment and take in what Fran said. It wasn’t what she said exactly, but the fact that there sat a frail and feeble woman, unable to stand on her own, who was facing death – nay welcoming death – with astounding grace, dignity, and strength and without a lick of fear.
Maybe that’s because she has lived a good life. A quiet life dedicated to family and friends. A simple life of faith dedicated to others. A life that, after she passes, won’t be marked with a grand parade, but there will be those who will miss her dearly and whose ripples of love will be felt for years. Heaven will throw a party, for sure.
Oh, if we could all be so lucky.