August sunshine warmed my shoulders as I walked toward my condo shuffling bills and ads from my mailbox. I paused when I saw a hand-addressed envelope. A real letter!

I did not recognize the large script and my eyes shifted to the return address. It’s from Jeannie! Why would she write to me?”


The high school classmate I had always admired had not been part of my loose-knit girlfriend circle. But, I had watched her. Smiling and laughing, Jeannie enjoyed life and had lots of friends.

Later, through attending our every-five-year class reunions, I had slowly gotten to know Jeannie better. Since I had taken a photo of her husband and others in line for our 2005 reunion buffet, they were mentioned in my book, An Accidental Pilgrimage.

In preparing to publish, I had asked their permission to use their names and his photo. Contacting them brought us closer.

Remembering this, I nodded. Jeannie used Facebook a lot. I followed playful photos of her and her family.

Last year, she saw her doctor for bronchitis that wouldn’t clear up. E-mail from Goshen girlfriends whispered Jeannie had “trouble.” 

Before long, Jeannie announced to Facebook friends she had stage four lung cancer. Without treatment, her prognosis was several months of life. Jeannie wrote, “I want to see my granddaughter’s wedding. I have decided to do chemo.”

Reading the message in Gainesville, Florida, I took a deep breath and prayed for the brave lady.

Thinking of her often, off and on I sent cheerful cards. After a difficult siege of treatment, Jeannie was well enough to attend that wedding. Photos of smiling Jeannie appeared on Facebook.

Jeannie was in remission. Beyond her grief at losing her hair, for a while I didn’t hear much about her.

Not for long. When I arrived in Goshen this May, my girlfriends told me Jeannie’s cancer had returned. She had prayed about the situation and decided not to undergo more treatment.

I had invited her to a gathering of “the ‘62 girls” shortly after I arrived. She had said, “If I have a good day, I’ll come. It’s hard to know how each one will be.”

That morning, she e-mailed me she didn’t feel good. We wrote her notes on a card. Dropping it in the mail, I thought, I’d better go see Jeannie while she’s still well enough for visitors.

Classmate Charlene also wanted to visit. We paid a call on one of our friend’s good days.

The morning was sunny. Tanned and slender, Jennie met us outside her back door wearing white slacks, sandals and a tangerine v-neck t-shirt. Her lipstick matched her top. Stylish, she looked like herself. Her laughter was the same spontaneous bubble.

But after about an hour’s visit, Jeannie’s eyes were tired and her gait, unsteady.

What courage!

A month later, I received the letter. In it, she thanked me for cards I had sent and told of a recent vacation with her family. She added, “Time to get back into a routine here at home. For some reason, it is so hard for me to wake up and get going in the morning.”

Three weeks later, she was gone.

In my hometown, one attends funeral home “viewings.” Again, Charlene and I went to see Jeannie. One last visit.

The casket stood open at the back of the flower-decked room. Jeannie’s daughter came to us standing in line and said, “There’s no formal line. Please visit with family in various areas of the room.”

Charlene and I waited, wanting to speak to Jeannie’s husband, Walt. He and other family stood well in front of where Jeannie lay.

While Charlene talked to Jeannie’s daughter, I spoke condolences to Walt and stepped back to the coffin to say goodbye to Jeannie.

Alone I gazed on my classmate. Jeannie wore a white flowered dress topped with a tangerine sweater. She was still suntanned. Her nails wore red polish, as if she were attending a special occasion. She didn’t wear her dark-rimmed glasses. Instead, she held them –folded in her hands as if she had just laid down for a nap.

As I said prayers of good-bye to my valiant classmate, I thought of the letter she had sent. She spent her precious time saying “goodbye” to me!


Sweet Jeannie.

God bless her soul!

Frances Fritzie

Frances Fritzie

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