Miss Frances Graham Player, age 80, holds a special place in my heart. She's a precious friend in our church who had cancer last year and during that trial, realized she did not have a relationship with Jesus. She'd joined the church many years ago, attended faithfully and even worked in ministry. Her fear of death took her safely into the arms of Jesus, from religion to relationship. And she'll tell you so now! She also wanted to be re-baptized to joyfully testify to God's healing, both spiritually and physically.
Her son, Tommy Graham, is a music teacher at a local elementary school. He sings beautifully and also plays trumpet in our praise band.
That same Sunday evening we shared a meal at church so when I spotted Frances I hugged her and said, "Oh Miss Frances, it was such a blessing seeing you get baptized this morning. How did you manage to not even get your hair wet?"
"The preacher does it fast," she laughed. I think hairspray might have been a contributing factor.
Mary Lee Anderson winked and teased, "Kathy, tell her we all saw her leg when her robe floated up, didn't we?"
"Nooooo," I soothed, as Frances grinned. Wanting to stir up my OWN mischief, I whispered, "But when you climbed up the stairs I DID see your underwear through the robe!"
Back at me in a flash, she loudly assured, "No! You did NOT 'cause I wasn't wearing any!"
Now I gotta tell you that was the last thing I expected to hear from this genteel, Southern belle with perfectly coiffed hair. But she was quite serious. I'm seldom speechless but this was one of those startling moments. Mary Lee eventually told me that she was wearing a bathing suit under her robe.
A few minutes later we sat eating together with her son, Tommy, his wife, Sharon, and several church members. Pastor Mike plopped down at our table about that time. "Frances, may I tell them what you just said?"
"Sure. When you're 80 you can say whatever you want and you don't much care what folks think of it!" So I told them. Tommy buried his face in his hands, muffling, "MA-AAAMA!"
Pastor Mike guffawed and his head bowed straight onto the large round table where we all sat. We laughed and enjoyed the meal then Sharon asked her mother-in-law, "Mom, did you remember to take off your hearing aid before you got in the water?"
"Sh-hhh! SHARON, HUSH! Don't tell everyone I wear a hearing aid!" Frances scolded. She was quite serious about that too. "I can't believe you just told everyone!"
Some things are private. Some things are not. I'm learning that age determines those lines of demarcation.
Most Sundays I hug Miss Frances and she laughs and asks, "Are you checking me?"
I run my hand around her waist and chide, "Yes! Somebody needs to!"
* * *
A follow up story came a few weeks later. Frances' son, Tommy, had a sudden heart attack. Doug and I rushed to the hospital as soon as we heard. He'd just come out from bi-pass surgery, still heavily sedated. We talked with his mother, wife and sister until Tommy murmured, "What's all the racket about?"
We circled his bed, holding hands, praying aloud. It reminded me of our regular Sunday morning circle of prayer after rehearsal. He lands in the middle of the praise band and team. As he makes his way out of the middle into the circle, I often tease him, singing, "The cheese stands alone. . ."
This day, however, Tommy was flat on his back but not alone in that hospital room. He never opened his groggy eyes but squeezed my hand, just like Sundays. After we prayed, just before we left, I leaned over and whispered, "Tommy, this is Kathy. I have just one question."
"Aww-riiight. . ." he muttered, his bass voice an octave lower than usual.
"When you arrived at the ER, were you wearing clean underwear?"
He chuckled like a drunk, smiled lopsidedly, eyes still closed and came right back at me, "No-oooo. I wasn't wearing any! Like mother, like son!" His sense of humor was intact, right along with his big heart!
|12.15 UPDATE on Tommy: Cancer took him to heaven, where he now plays trumpet with Gabriel and sings with David. Tommy, we love and miss you still.|
Miss Frances works in our church daycare, The Wee Center. What blessed children to be loved and rocked by her! As you can see, she holds center stage with the staff as well as with me!
Miss Frances is my ideal. I want to be just like her when I turn 80! I guess it all Depends!
Over the hill and gettin' there,