Today a dear family will celebrate the life of and lay to rest a great man of God, husband, father, grandfather, mentor and friend to countless people, Jeff Francis.
I smiled as I thought about my introduction to the Francis family Thursday morning when I liked Jeff's post about their 31st wedding anniversary that day and said a prayer of thanks for them then, when I returned to the ship that night, I cried as I read the news of his death.
In January of 1998 my parents and my brother drove me down to Chattanooga, TN where I was to start as a student at Tennessee Temple University. I got there about a week before school started so I couldn't move into the dorm and my family left me at the Welcome Center, a kind of campus guest lodging place. One day, while I was down in the lobby hanging out with the attendants, a police officer who was also head of security came in and told me that I shouldn't stay there anymore but I should go to his house. He told me his house was like a zoo with all his kids and I would fit right in. I wasn't sure what to say or do but Lisa and Jackie told me I should take him up on it and a little while later his wife came and picked me up. I stayed in their home until school started, played with their kids, was put to work, and was dubbed "Miss Company" (because Critter couldn't remember my name).
That was the beginning of my becoming a member of the Francis family as so many others had before and so many others have since. Their "family" is huge. When Glenn and I married the Francis family became honorary in-laws to Glenn and when Caleb was born the Francis family were his honorary grandparents and cousins/ uncles and aunt for his first year of life while we lived in Chattanooga. I can't even begin to tell you how thankful I am for the investment they took in my life. I learned about so much about marriage, service, hospitality, parenting, homeschooling, loving God, having fun, investing in the lives of others, and so much more in the classroom of their home, the church, and watching their whole family live life in and around Chattanooga. I am eternally grateful for the impact they have all had on my life.
Over the years I have gotten many quick emails from Jeff, "Hey, Miss Company, how's it going?," "Hey, Miss Company, did you see the pics of Kristen's kids that i just posted?," etc. We haven't been able to get back to Chattanooga since January of 2002 but Jeff and Gail have been two people on my list of people that I really want my kids to meet someday. As I reminded my kids about the wonderful Francis family I told them that I still really want them to meet Miss Gail here on earth but they will have to wait until heaven to meet Mr. Jeff.
I'm sorry I can't be there to help celebrate Jeff's life but my heart and my prayers are with Gail, the kids, and grandkids today and in the difficult days, weeks, months to come. I have 4 more people to pray for when I miss my dad. “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’ Num 6:24-26