Frances’s Light

While looking for something in my small writing desk early this morning, I came across a beautiful card someone had sent and which offered blessings for my new home. Obviously I had received it the past spring. Having forgotten the sender, I opened it with curiosity, and it was as if a light came out of the card. I swear this was so.


Emotion washed over me as I re-read the short message written in an elderly, shaky hand. She wrote to tell me how much she had enjoyed my book, and that she was glad I was once again back in the eastern part of our country. Such a dear thing to say. Somehow she had understood my need to be closer to what seemed my roots. I pressed the card to my chest, thinking of Frances and feeling quite odd to think that she was gone. She died two weeks ago, just after the turn of the New Year.

I first met Frances, who lived near Winston-Salem, when she felt prompted to send me a card, after reading a short story of mine that had appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer. She explained that she was a distant cousin on my mother’s side of the family.

To understand how this thrilled me, you must understand that tracing the family lineage is both a necessary and favored Southern pastime. One of the first things to come up when two Southerners meet is: “Who are your people?”  Thus, my mother and I were fascinated to figure out and repeat that Frances was the daughter of my mother’s mother’s mother’s sister. And if that statement is not confusing enough, somehow, too, she was a double relation, as, if I’m thinking correctly, Frances’s father was my great-grandfather’s brother. Or maybe her grandfather was…oh, well, it is tangled, as are most families.

Over the years, I received many more cards from Frances—at Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, or sometimes just a card to say, “Thinking of you.” Her messages where short, and never a word about herself. I had the sweet experience of meeting her only once, when I got out to North Carolina for a book festival. I always meant to get back to see her, but somehow time slipped away with things intervening. And now the opportunity is gone.

I pause and take up the card again, wondering at what’s going around inside me.

Frances is one of those people for me, one who displayed kindness and grace and cheerfulness, and that is what remains for me as a bright light in memory to light my own path.

There comes the whisper: Who will send me cards now?

And the answer: Frances showed me, and the many others to whom she sent cards. We must send the cards now, to pass on the light.



7 thoughts on “Frances’s Light

  1. Curtiss Ann,
    What a beautiful tribute to my mother, and all the saints in our lives who have gone before us! I am so glad we have had the opportunity to get to meet one another, and I am grateful for the family ties that bind us close in spirit. Mother loved you and your writings. Thank you for the gift that you were to her.

    Betty Ashby
    Clemmons, NC


  2. That is a sweet story, CurtissAnn. I am thinking of an elderly relative in particular who will be delighted to receive a card.


  3. It’s a beautiful post and I loved reading it. I think it’s fun to trace family. But what I love most about reading it is you sharing Miss Frances with us. She must be really a dear. To meet someone like her I believe is a blessing. And it shows . . .how you wrote about her 🙂



  4. I am so sorry for your loss, Curtiss Ann. How ironic that you came across Francis’ card so shortly after her passing. And as Denise put so well, a card that has been written has that ‘physical connection’ that nothing else has. And now you have something tangible from Frances that you can remember her better by.



  5. I was thinking of you tonight as I drove home along the two lane highway from Golden to Boulder. Desolate and dark, with Open Space grassland on either side. It reminds me of how I picture the scene in Lost Highways when Rainey thinks she has run over Harry Furneaux. 😉

    Anyway, I also thought how I really needed to drop you a line.

    I’m sorry for your loss. As our elder family members pass on, it can start to feel lonely. I treasure the birthday, Valentine and anniversary cards I have received from my parents and aunt. Yet I am so terrible about sending cards myself. Every year I say I will do better, but I don’t. I do remember to call, but it isn’t the same. A card that they have touched and written on is something that physically connects us to them, even after they are gone.


  6. It is amazing how we are “drawn” to something, isn’t it? It reassures me that there is a higher voice guiding me at all times.
    I had to laugh when I read how we Southerners, especially in smaller towns just have to know who “your people” are. It used to annoy me how anytime my mama heard a familiar last name, she’d ask “now are you related to the Armstrongs from Rankin?” How ironic life is, I’m now the one asking that question; my mama is in heaven laughing at me, I just know it!


    • Oh, honey, you describe it perfectly! I lived a great distance from my family for much of my life, so I found it fascinating when I would go home, and experience the ‘lineage recounting’. But mother in her youth felt as you did in yours. Gee, maybe we are related. 🙂


      Sent from my iPhone


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