When the clock strikes 1 am, it'll be the one week mark of the worst phone call of my life. Hearing the voice of my friend James tell me that our best friend had past away was the most awful moment of my life. While screaming and repeating her name into the phone, I went into shock. The next 30 minutes from then are vague. So writing this is helping me piece things together.
My tears were coming from a place so deep that my insides shook. I kept thinking, "No, not Franny. Franny was invisible, always there, and couldn't be...." With my whole body shaking a managed to call my friend Michael. He answered and I was just saying, "Do you know, do you know?!" He'd been walking around his campus for a while just praying and mourning over the loss of such a dear friend. I needed to see someone from our group of friends to calm me down. So my roommate drove me to meet him. We sat for 45 minutes lifting up the McLemore's, extended family, and our group.
This group I am speaking of has been constant since middle school. Franny, Abbie, Genie, Hallie, Molly, and myself, along with a handful of boys that have now shown me what men they have grown up to be.
Sitting there with Michael, we decided that I needed to pack up and go home for the week. There was no way I could focus on anything else except being as close to the tangible things that Franny had left behind as I could. At 2:30 am, we drove back to Montevallo, I packed my things, and drove completely numb back to Hoover.
My parents met me in the den and wept as I told them what had happened to "our" Franny. Everyone who ever grew a relationship with Franny came to claim her as theirs because there was only one. She was it. Getting into bed at 3:15 am, sleep was not in my future. I had so much pain due to not only the obvious, but the fact that James wasn't able to get in contact with Genie and Molly. I had to call them, both like sisters to Franny.
Before ever getting into contact with both of them, I started receiving messages on Facebook from women who had seen my post about losing my best friend. Calling them and telling them that it wasn't only my friend, but both of ours, broke them. In the hours to come, many more people were calling in complete shock. Then my phone was beeping as I was talking to a mother and the caller ID read "Molly Byrom". My heart sank. After telling her, I felt her heart breaking. Us girls, like sisters, had lost a part of ourselves. Then telling Genie was another blow. I knew we just wanted to mourn with each other. Being spread out at Auburn and Alabama, and then me here at UM, I just wanted to snap and be with them so we could weep together.
Then Mary Catherine, Franny's childhood best friend and one of the "3 musketeers" consisting of her, myself, and Fran, was calling. At her request I drove to her house and we were able to sit and mourn. The Lord made us both with a need to take care of people in times like this. So we decided to go over to Franny's and ask if we should stay or go, being willing to do anything they said. Before we could get to the door, Mr. McLemore walked out, grabbed us both, and ministered to us by "fathering" us right there. He said please come in. We wanted to know what we could do and thankfully they didn't hold back and said what can you do. I think in my humanness just wanted to fix it. Everything. Go find Franny pulling a prank, and everything would be okay again. Apparently that's not how it works.
I've never needed tangible things in order to cope because I've never been through something like this. I asked if I could go upstairs. With their permission I went and laid on her bed and cried till I felt I couldn't cry anymore, and then more tears came. In her room, she stored all of her old notes from class. Organic Chemistry was like Music 101 to most of us. I ran my hand over her notes as if the more things of hers that I touched would make her become more real to me in that moment. Scanning over 112's, 106's, and more high grades that had never come into contact with my tests were all around. She was a genius, everyone knew that. I sat in that room in took in as much as I could while Mary Catherine and I put together the slide show and playlist for the funeral. All Franny's favorites of course.
The McLemore's told me that some of the men on staff were traveling to Auburn that night to see the "Dawsonites" that were also mourning with the devastating news. Mary Catherine and I tagged along and felt honored that Shelton, Franny younger sister, a senior in high school, wanted to come. So we went. Franny didn't just have acquaintances, she had a relationship with everyone. With that in mind we told Shelton that she was going to get just a taste of how many people not only loved Franny, but through Franny loved her and the rest of the family. When we got there I just wanted to see my girls. Abbie and Hallie were on my mind. You can imagine the mass of Dawson Alum that showed up as the clock struck 9 pm in front of Samford Hall. Seeing each other made us cry, but being together was so comforting. No one was alone in their grief. I saw Hallie first while we were eating. When I hugged her I felt a sense of peace. When we are with each other, I think we all feel that way. It's a safe place and feels like home.
After dinner we walked over to Samford Hall and waited on that mass of people. They came, oh they came. Then I saw Abbie. She was limp and just leaned into me. Her arms were too weak by her grief to wrap them around me; so I just hugged her tighter. Seeing our boys, now men, weep and try and be strong for us was inspiring. Once they saw Shelton they each scooped her up into a hug that would make on-lookers cry. We gathered up to pray and Pearson and James started to lead us; both like brothers to Franny. Their prayers were inspiring and spurred on many other prayers lifting up the McLemore's, friends, and anyone who ever came into contact with Franny's beautiful heart.
Leaving was hard, but we were all weary. Knowing Mary Catherine and I had to head back the next day to do things made us really pray for sleep, not only for ourselves, but everyone being hit with this tragedy. Hitting my pillow at midnight was the ending of 40 hours straight of no sleep. The Lord was sustaining all of us. Bright and early we headed to Auburn to do some of the "must-dos". First, finding Franny's car and bringing it back to the apartment. Second, we had to go and pack up some of her belongings the the McLemore's needed for the funeral. Walking into her room hit me like a brick wall. She had to be here. Her closest was full of everything that reminded me of Franny. From the infinity scarf that she had stolen from me the year before in dirty Santa, to the shirt she wore to my birthday party. It was all there. Her Ecuador bracelets, pictures of the girls, and her countless school books. She had to be there. In that moment I realized that she is in heaven where nothing that we build up here matters. She is basking in the Lords presence, and all of this stuff that reminded us of Franny was left here.
Last we had to head to the police station to pick up the things that were found with her. That just didn't seem real. It couldn't be. After that we went to see the flag being flown in her honor by Samford Hall and headed home. I cried almost the whole ride back. Going through her bible and the notes she had made about loving Jesus reaffirmed my spirit about where her home was now.
Us girls had been messaging and had planned to all spend the night at Molly's the night before the funeral so we could be together to mourn, but also to share laughs about memories through pictures and stories. Erin Carroll joined us. She has always been our counselor for everything. Growing up in Dawson we claimed her early on and never let go. She housed us for multiple trips to Auburn, led us through dark times of struggled, rejoiced with us at our best, and stuck with us through everything. She came to share stories, comfort us, but also lead us in one of the most spirit filled prayers I've ever witnessed.
Our heads hit the pillow at 12:30 am and once again we prayed for rest because we had a big day ahead of us. Getting to the church the next morning and watching the guys roll her in was a moment that is slowed in my mind. I didn't hold back my tears, and I didn't have to because those guys were my brothers. Walking into the sanctuary was amazing. The whole front covered in flowers, but the key colors were the best; orange and blue. Franny's passion and love for Auburn was so evident. We had brought Auburn to Dawson. When I saw her, I touched her. I didn't think I would even want to, but in that moment I wanted to be a near to her as I could. Walking with my girls through that line was comforting. While we stood and watched the countless photos of us all with Fran, we cried. Her favorite songs played over the speakers. Her presence was there.
Getting up to the front where the McLemore's were, they continued to minister to us. Loving on us and comforting us because they didn't underestimate the relationship we all had with her because they were witnesses to it. Sleepovers, cookouts, birthday parties, and random stops by proved our mutually love; Franny's with us and our individual and group relationship with her.
At 12 pm Chapel Choir alum headed to the choir room to practice "Draw Me Nearer", Franny's favorite Chapel Choir song. Knowing we were all going to need to Lord for strength, I'm pretty sure everyone in the room shot up a prayer asking for grace. As we walked in the whole sanctuary was packed. Our grade laid a purple rose on her now closed casket. The 5 of us girls were placed on the front row all together. We were all so drained, but the Lord was going to come through for all of us. Mr. Bonovitch spoke of Franny's favorite verses marked in her bible. When he got to Proverbs 17:17 he turned to the choir and said, "A friend loves at ALL times." Franny was a great example of that. She never failed at loving her friends. It came time to sing and once again I repeated the words, "Jesus, strength." He gave it. It sounded beautiful. Right when the sound builds, I felt my heart smile and cry at the same time. The moment when I opened my mouth to sing the best verse of all, I wept. "There are depths of love that I can not know till I cross the narrow sea. There are heights of joy that I may not reach till I rest in peace with Thee." When they rolled her away I didn't have words. I just grabbed the hands of Hallie and Molly and cried with them as we watched our best friend leave the sanctuary.
In the days that have followed, our group has been constantly checking on each other. Franny would have wanted this to make us all realize how precious our friendships with one another are. So we aren't going to let her down.
Some may think that writing this was pointless or disturbing to relive. But for me it's another step of coping. I never want to forget any detail because this situation has brought me to a place of God's love and comfort that I've never experienced. Franny is finally resting in the arms of her Savior and in heaven. She and I had talked about the craving that we both had for our Daddy. Her's has always been there. Mine began in Alaska, and she was so excited when I started craving it. Just God's presence was so pleasing to us. Now she is free of worry, earthly matters, and she is getting to witness the already 2 salvation's because of her life. She was a blessing to everyone she came into contact with. I'm looking forward to seeing her one day. Genie, Hallie, Abbie, Molly, and myself will one day not only be finally with our Savior, but we will be with Franny, our best friend.
You will be missed.