ANDY THOMAS: Thanks for the Life Of a Good Friend
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I am responding to a favorite hymn of mine that made its way through the synapses of my sometimes fallow brain. It took me several hours to remember the words, but as they came to me I allowed as how it was a very fitting piece for Thanksgiving.
The words for the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth" were written in 1864 by Folliot S. Pierpoint and are especially poignant this year, for me anyway. For those unfamiliar with it, the hymn thanks God for earth's beauty and its skies, each hour, tree and flower, sun, moon and stars.
It praises God for the "joy of ear and eye, the heart and brain's delight -- linking sense to sound and sight."
But the most pertinent stanza relates to thanks "for the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child, friends on earth, and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild."
These words make me think that Mr. Pierpoint was just like us -- old! Because at our age don't we often think how lucky we are for the earth, friends, family et al.? So often I hear people say how fortunate they are to be "on the right side of the turf."
In my Oct. 25 column, I mentioned going to the Philadelphia area to say goodbye to my wife's best friend, Francie, who was sick with cancer. She was in the hospital there and was to live with her daughter when she was strong enough to do so. She never made it. Francie died Nov. 12 after 68 days of mental and physical anguish.
She was a schoolteacher in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and the mother of five children, two of whom are our godchildren. Divorced, she lived with her three favorite pals: Tam, Bob, Duffy, golden retrievers. Her Web site included the retrievers (as in retrieving knowledge). It still exists at http://home.gwi.net/brhs/.
My wife and Francie first met in Medfield, Mass., at a Newcomers' function. They started the Republican women's club there. The club had a small fundraising circus with a real elephant present. Francie and my wife were responsible for cleaning up after the elephant. This bonded them forever as they nearly fell over laughing at their chore.
Later, when Francie sought her master's degree at Simmons, my wife baby-sat for her obstreperous offspring. The discipline required a militant figurehead, resulting in the nickname "Sarge One" for my wife. Sarge Two was obviously Francie.
Francie was a very smart lady and became a Web guru, teaching techniques to students in Maine and Maryland. Both her Internet and "live" students loved her. She was in charge of the grand march at Boothbay's high school graduation.
Her design and production of her youngest son's wedding video was a masterpiece.
My wife telephoned her two days before she died, which was her 63rd birthday. Her body was shutting down as it seemed each day to emit a new physical problem, the last being arrhythmia. Cancer in the spine, brain, stomach and colon was rampant.
Francie was a chain smoker when she was not in the classroom, and this is what took her life. She admitted, after learning of her cancer, that it was her choice to continue smoking those Carlton 100 cigarettes. She also loved Johnny Walker Red and appreciated a nightcap with Galliano.
When we visited her in the hospital Oct. 21, she was craving a cigarette. We presented her with two bottles of Johnny Walker Red, which she was never able to enjoy.
She had her black belt in shopping, and her closet was always stuffed with colorful outfits and shoes that were worn only once. Talbots was her second home.
When she and her husband moved from Medfield, we also moved -- to Needham. They then moved to Mountain Lakes, N.J., and we followed them to Ridgewood, N.J. Then we parted, as we went to London and they to New Hampshire.
It was then that they began a weekly telephone call every Monday evening about 5:30 p.m. They traded news of the week and family updates. I always said that these conversations were in "duplex," that is, they could both talk and listen at the same time. A nice tradition that will be sorely missed.
Her children are soliciting ideas about "Francie's Fancies," things she particularly liked. These will be fondly remembered at her memorial service in Boothbay Dec. 9. She had a sense of humor until the end. One of her distant sons, struggling to make it before she passed, finally made it and leaned down to hear his mom whisper, "What took you so long?"
Francie was known for her love of teaching, Neil Diamond, books (she and my wife were voracious readers and traded large boxes of books every time they met), the ocean, her dogs, her kids and grandkids, her computer, UFOs (unidentified freezer objects), pants instead of dresses, lobster, entertaining, wallpapering ceilings, the Republican Party, decorating, new recipes and many other things.
We are thankful for the life of this person, Francie, and the "joy of human love" and "friends above."
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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