Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Goodbye Kisses

Friday, October 13, 2006

Goodbye Kisses

Fran, our family friend, who was really more a family member, passed away very early Tuesday morning.

Fran has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Her husband, Paul, who passed away two years ago, played bassoon with my mother in the symphony for years. My parents were very close friends with them and ended up caring for them for the past few years. Paul developed eye problems and then eventually a brain tumor which was discovered after he suddenly developed seizures. Fran developed cancer and was told her time could be short, although she lived much longer than the doctors imagined she would. They never had kids of their own, but they were always part of our family, and I loved them very much.

My last memory of Paul is when I saw his tall but frail form in a hospital bed. I was pregnant with Erik then. Although he looked as handsome as ever, he was hallucinating. What was strange was that he was lucid enough to describe what he saw to us in detail and knew he was dying. He was, as usual, happy to see me and my family. He loved having us talking and laughing around his bed, although he didn't follow the conversation well. It was fascinating and heartbreaking. I remember tentatively reaching out and touching his foot, trying so hard not to cry in front of him, knowing Erik would never meet him. When Paul was cremated, his ashes were placed in an inexpensive container from the mortuary, and he was temporarily stored at my parents' house in the closet in my little brother's old bedroom to wait for Fran before their ashes were scattered together. There is quite obviously so much potential for humor here, but I will keep my jokes on this subject to myself for fear of offending my readers. I can assure you that Paul would have found this situation probably equally amusing. In short, Paul has been a guest at my folks' house now for quite some time, but he will be leaving now, too. I imagine even that will be sad, now that I think about it. He has been a presence there for two years now.

I couldn't bring myself to have yet another last memory of someone I love in their bed dying. I would much rather remember sitting next to Fran in the audience at the symphony listening to her bilious rant about how much she hated the movie The Sound of Music. She made me laugh so hard telling me she would never get that two hours of her life back. She was an unapologetically blunt person, but I discovered that with these particular types of blunt people, although they tell you the truth whether you want to hear it or not, you never have to guess about how they feel about you. That was a good thing in my case. She was so wonderful. She lightened up holidays and family gatherings by loosening us all up with her straight-faced, slightly salty, hilarious stories and jokes and was an absolute joy to be around. My mother's own joke was always, "I wonder what Fran is going to wear tonight?" You see, Fran had a closet full of the exact same outfit: Black pants and white button-down, long-sleeved shirt. No frills. No surprises. Paul was always cuddly with hugs ready for me, no matter how old I got. They were both always obviously happy to see me, even if it had been months since I had seen them last. I remember visiting their house with my parents in recent years and finding myself instantly seated in their comfortable living room with an aquarium-sized glass of champagne over ice, watching their little dogs, Bubba and Squeak, playing close by. It almost felt like an extension of home.

Fran got to meet Erik, and she loved him to pieces. My mother was told by the nurse last weekend that Fran was pretty much "out of it," but when my mother sat at her bedside last Sunday morning before Erik's party, Fran managed to weakly blow the familiar double air kisses we always routinely exchanged and giggled about (MUAH! MUAH!). She actually smiled when she was told it was Erik's birthday and that we would drink champagne in her honor. Hearing this made me break down Sunday, but I was so glad she knew what was happening that day. Bittersweet.

Now that she is gone, there is a gaping hole in my world, like there always is when somebody close to me dies. Even when I know it is coming, there is slap-in-the-face, cold water shock when it happens, and the emotions seem as fresh and new as the first time I ever felt the pain of loss. The emptiness is palpable and so much bigger than I imagined it would be. I'm no good at goodbyes.

Because Paul and Fran wanted to give back to the community, there will be a rehearsal hall for the symphony built in their name at the local college. Hopefully my mother will soon be able to practice her bassoon there. A part of them will always be here in town, and the people who did not know them will see their name on the building. I wish I could tell those people what they missed.


Anonymous Gramma said...

What a ride it was! As they say, you can't choose your family... we were always honored that we were chosen to be such close friends to these wonderful people.. Paul was a JAG officer and they moved in very high places in D.C., Rome, and London. But we always joked that John and Paul were often the only guys wearing plaid shirts at events downtown.
I always have felt that I am a product of the people and events that I've experienced. I am who I am today because of the Willes, and because of my family, and increasingly because of the wonderful women and babies I've met on WS blogs. As you have said so many times in the past time... "Life's great. It's hard, but it's great!"
Muah! Muah!

Love, Mom

7:21 AM  
Blogger Kerry said...

It is so hard to lose someone, moreso now because of Erik you know he will miss out on having them in his life. My thoughts go out for you and your family this week, I know it must be very tough.

Love you -K

11:18 AM  
Blogger Lisa R said...

It sound like Fran and Paul we wonderful people and a blessing to all. You are going to have lots of fun stories to tell Erik as he gets older. I think I'll wear blank pants and a white shirt this week in honor of the way Fran touched your life:)

Love you

11:53 AM  
Blogger Amy K said...

As a supporter of the arts, I love that Fran & Paul left such an amazing legacy...they will continue to touch the lives of many, and be missed, but remembered.

Also, my dear, you are looking pretty super fabulous! Thanks for the mommy & daddy pic.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Lizard Eater said...

Fran sounds like a very cool person. I am envious that I did not get to know her. What a privilege to be her friend -- I'm sorry for your loss.

2:04 PM  

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