I met Frances in an internet chat room 16 years ago when I was going to university. What a lot of people may not know is that we met in a chat room that was tied closely to a room that was for depression support. Anyone that knew her in the last years of her life would have no idea that either of us had ever suffered mental illness. If there’s anything that cured our mental illnesses it was our relationship. Frances matured from an angry young teenage girl to the most loving, kindest, generous, beautiful wife that any man could ever want. She had a heart for people and over the last few years of her life once she came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as her saviour, she had a true heart for serving God in any way she could. From day one it was an adventure. The day she moved in with me in October of 2001 she fell down the stairs and we ended up in Stafford hospital being treated for a twisted ankle. Humour was an integral part of our relationship. Much to my dismay, even though I was below her standing on the floor at the time, she insisted on informing people that I had pushed her down the stairs to put her in her place and show her who’s boss.
We married in March of 2002, when we came back to America for the month. We eloped. That was the most adventurous month of my life before this last year anyway. Through all the chaos of her struggling family at the time to them I went from being a crazy internet stalker that was trying to kidnap their eldest daughter to a son that they grew to love and trust.
Over the years we had many trials, and times of joy. We went through the struggle of a miscarriage, and I still say to this day that in my experience losing a child is harder than losing a wife.
I think the greatest thing about our marriage were our “in jokes”. I was her knight in shining lard. Fran always made sure to know that I was her favourite husband. Over the last few months of her life when she was in hospital and attached to an IV pump stand she referred to it as the “other Ben”. I thought in my modesty that this was an honourary title.because she could lean on it and it was doing it’s best to support her in getting better. She saw fit to inform me that the real reason she named it the “other Ben” was because it constantly slowed her down, she had to drag it around everywhere and it made a horrible whining noise. Of course the jokes went both ways.I dubbed her my cancerella. When the chemotherapy made her lose all her hair and she was constantly falling asleep she became my sleeping bauldy. I also claimed that my dishwasher was in for repair because it kept making a terrible moaning noise.
Fran had a real passion for cooking. I will really miss that. She knew how to cater like a real American. When Kingsmead was putting on a bring and share meal the rest of the church catered like they were putting on a tea party, while Fran always catered like she was putting on a banquet. Everyone was always so excited to hear that Fran had made snicker-doodles, not only because they were this exotic American food, but because they were really really good.
It was a learning curve for her though, I recall her desire to make me a birthday cake very early on in our marriage. She made the cake and then attempted decorate it with icing. While I standing next to her in the kitchen I was shocked to find that it had abruptly started raining indoors. However it was only when I noticed that it precipitating delicious pieces of chocolate cake that I realised what was happening.
Fran also had a real passion for children’s ministry. We both desperately wanted children but the Lord never gave us that blessing. It always seemed so incredibly unfair that while all the wives around us were getting pregnant, Fran was getting cancer.
The closest we ever got to having children was having cats. While in an attempt to move to America our first cat Esther stayed here with her parents, when she came back we had Meatball, Nelly and Rascal. She was a self proclaimed crazy cat lady. She said that they were her boys - until they did something wrong, and then they were my boys.
Through her dedicated service at Little Angels a church toddler group she got to be around young children and mothers every week. However it wasn't really until her closest friend Vicky had her first child Alyssa that she came closest to being a mother. Little Alyssa gave her so much joy, and just being able to be around her for the first few months of her life gave her some of the most precious moments she could ever have hoped for. When Fran was devastated with the news that she had terminal prognosis for her leukaemia the first thing she did was buy 21 birthday cards for Alyssa for the first 21 years of her life to make sure that she was able to maintain that connection in some way even after she passed away.
The happiest and strongest years of our marriage were after Fran came to know the Lord. She convinced me it was a good idea for us to go to church, and even though I was a militant atheist I agreed to go with her. We soon ended up at Kingsmead and after a few short months of discipleship and experience with that church I was ready to be saved. It was however not until it came to Fran’s baptism that I became born again. The moment she came up out of the water and I saw the expression of pure joy and excitement from someone that I had known so intimately for many years was the moment I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour.
I thank the Lord for the nearly 13 wonderful years of marriage that we've had. The blessing of having that time is second only to knowing Jesus Christ and I thank God that she was able to help me on my journey to accepting Him.