For most of her ninety years, my Aunt Fran devoted herself to the concerns of people who appeared to her to be in need of a kind word, a prayer, a little understanding – or simply good company and conversation along a broad range of topics, from the ups and downs of the Boston Red Sox to the poetry of Seamus Heaney.
For all Aunt Fran meant to me, her life exemplified more; by keeping her focus ever on someone just this side of happy, on someone nearly in despair, on someone lonely or scared, I believe that Aunt Fran’s life is proof that God’s grace underlies the goodness of the universe.
A few years ago, I googled to verify that her father’s middle name was Lionel, since I looking for a rooting interest in the World Cup about to be contested. It was when Lionel Messi was the new Pele, and if he shared a name with my grandfather, I was about to enroll in his fan club!
Not only did a quick web search confirm what I already knew, but I found information about the accidental death of a nineteen year old boy at Herbert Lionel Conlin’s sand and gravel business – on Nov. 12, 1928, the day Fran was born.
I never asked Aunt Fran if she knew about that.
Today, I understand that terrible coincidence to be an indication that her ninety year long life of kindness and joy was the restoration of balance to a universe knocked off-kilter by the tragic death of a nineteen year old boy, in the employ of her father, on the day she was born.
Spoken at her funeral, March 17, 2019, by Dave Read.
p.s. When I said goodbye to Fran, she said, “I’ll see you at my funeral, Dave.”