The Last Chapter
My friend Annie Ruth Francis passed away recently at the age of 85. She was actually more than a friend- we were both grandmothers to Lena Rose and Noah Paul Francis. Annie had moved from her long-time home in San Antonio shortly before we came to Texas for the same reason: to be closer to our grandchildren. She loved picking Lena up from preschool and often had her stay overnight. Then came Noah. While we cared for him most of the time, she would beg us to leave him with her for the day. They'd play together on the floor, she'd fix his lunch and snacks and teach him to climb up on the bed to be changed. He seemed to tame his wild child tendencies around her and was sweet and loving. Annie was crazy about these long-awaited grandchildren, as well as Alison's son, Booker, her third "grandchild".
Spine surgery and a host of other ailments eventually meant that she was no longer safe behind the wheel, so I became her escort for lots of medical appointments, tests and trips to the hairdresser. Annie loved to have lunch afterwards and we'd discuss the antics of our grandchildren over enchiladas. She'd never let me pay and insisted on pressing a check (which I never cashed) into my hand on each trip. I always told her that since my own mother was gone now, I was happy to do these things for her instead.
Then one day the sad diagnosis of stomach cancer came, explaining weeks of mysterious symptoms. Medical care became hospice care, first in her home with the help of several relatives and then in a nearby nursing home. I'd take her flowers or a slice of homemade banana bread and show her photos of the kids on my phone, which always brought a smile. A stroke mercifully ended her suffering. Annie's funeral at her church of sixty years in San Antonio was filled with the gospel music she loved, such as "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," and an exuberant Baptist sermon with the "call and response" typical of her congregation.
Although Annie and I could not have been more different in personality and background, we happily shared one of life's blessings: the love of our grandchildren. I'll always remember her saying "Come here and give me some sugar" as the kids rushed to her arms. Rest in peace, Annie.
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I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.