There are many people who have passed through my life. Some of them I can barely remember, while others have made a lasting impact on me. Francis is someone who I will never be able to forget. Instead of just trying to tell you about Francis, I'll share with you my journal entry from September 12th 2001 (yes, the day after the infamous Sept. 11 and I was living in Ghana, West Africa at the time).
Francis is dead! I am still reeling from yesterday's news coverage of the attacks on the United States-and just like that he dies!
He was only 57 years old.
Francis was a unique individual...when I met him 3 and a half years ago he was certainly full of pride. He was soo full of pride no one could stand being around him. His family had told him they didn't want anything more to do with him--he would drink all his money away and yet would never listen to advice.
I met him in front of the Dome house and he showed me his leg. There was an ulcer that had almost gone through to the bone. I took him to see a specialist and he said Francis had to go on immediate antibiotics and we had to clean the wound daily. If we could get it to stop progressing, then we could have a skin graft done.
Twice a day I dressed the wound. Francis asked to move into the church, he explained that where he was living was far and it was difficult to travel back and forth. Francis moved in and the cleaning began.
The crater on his leg oozed infectious agents. I sterilized, cleaned and dressed the wound and when it was time to do it again I couldn't tell that anything had been done! The specialist spoke of possibly having to amputate the leg....he said no alcohol should be consumed, as the sugar content in the strong drink would cause the infection to continue.....Francis was so stubborn....I would catch him drinking and scold him. Many was the time I threw up my hands and said "Forget it, Francis I will NOT help you anymore...NO MORE do you hear me!?"
Somehow all would be forgiven and back to cleaning the wound we would go. Amazingly enough with alot of prayer and tender loving care...the wound was healed. In the process of the cleaning of the wound...Francis' heart began to change.
Unconditional love washed over him and began sterilizing his inner wounds....mercy and grace cleaned up alot of the filth that had settled into his inner being...compassion dressed up the oozing sores of hurt and rejection...before I knew it, Francis had changed.
He called me 'mama' even though I am 17 years his junior. When I returned from Singapore just a few weeks ago, he threw his arms around me and said "I missed you so much! Please don't go for that long again" I had only been gone for two weeks, I was surprised that Francis would be so expressive, he was usually so staid. Everyone noticed the change in Francis. Friends were commenting on how different he was. He had a joy radiating from his face. Now he will be standing face to face with the One who gave him that new lease on life... the One who changed a man who everyone had given up on...a man who just over 3 and a half years ago had no apparent hope....a man who went from being rejected to being respected and honored. If he had died three and a half years ago, no one would have even given him a second thought....he had no who cared about him.
What a difference today....when I stood over his lifeless body there were many who gathered around me talking of how they would miss Francis. He is gone, but the memory of him will linger on.
*Francis impacted so many people's lives- His family refused to have a funeral for him because they said no one would come. They had never given the 'new' Francis a chance to get to know them. We held Francis' funeral and more than 300 people came for it. His family members who were there could not believe their eyes. After one of the tributes given to Francis, one of Francis' sisters turned to me and said, "I never knew this Francis they are talking about, I wish I had."