Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category


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I still remember getting a phone call from Mr. Holt in 1985 when I was a senior in high school. He and his wife Fran helped moderate my church youth group and they wanted to speak with me after the next Sunday meeting.   I was afraid I did something wrong (I suppose that is the default setting of Catholic guilt at play), but to my surprise they asked me if I would co-lead the next retreat weekend that March. This was quite involved, and part of my job was to deliver a talk to the entire group of 60 or so high school age peers on my spirituality and the challenges therein as a 17-year old the the mid-80’s. Fran would be my coach for preparing the talk. 

We took a liking to each other immediately in the process. She was very empathetic, and when she told me something it was presupposed that I’d understand. I knew she was a teacher, but our interactions she made me feel almost as if I were a peer and not a pupil. When you are 17 there aren’t many 38 year olds who bestow that kind of dignity on you. She was no phony about it either.  I remember her changing hats on a dime when her daughter played a song on the radio she didn’t approve of- she got right back with me, but before she did, she said “I’m a mom too, you know.” Pretty authentic. She was that way about everything, and in the assistance with my talk, she’d share things about her that were beyond superficial to illustrate a point. She was the first person I ever knew who, to impact another, would share herself in such a penetrating way. She expected the same from me. Those talk preparation sessions were work.  

The retreat went very well (I could write another few posts about it, actually), and I left for college in August. There weren’t email or cell phones back then, and I wasn’t good at letter writing. But when I did come home I’d see the Holts on occasion and even if it had been months (and in some cases, years) we’d always pick up where we left off. And pick up we did- the Fran and Charlie were the extraordinary sort of people you’d make time to see when you were in town or on semester break because you wanted to see them, period. 

You might have someone you know like this; you aren’t best friends, but somehow you have unspoken peace of mind that they are in your world. That was Fran Holt. She never lost that simpatico with me, and she enjoyed the news of my life,  career, marriage and children as much as I enjoyed hearing that her youngest son Charlie would attend my alma mater, Villanova. She and Charlie were there when I had to bury my older brother. Your true friends are there for the big laughs and the big cries and those all too few welcome times in between. Our paths didn’t cross enough. 

I don’t know when I got that email telling me of the pancreatic cancer, but it doesn’t matter. I followed her updates and forwarded them to others who knew and cared. The last update was April 30th, less than a month ago, and it was a rough one. I heard last week that Hospice was involved, and as I was about to have a breakfast meeting this morning  with a new associate, my brother called to give me the news that we had lost her. 

I’ve said this about my late brother Paul, and the same goes for Fran Holt- God takes his best work back early. One of the principles of the Antioch weekends the Holts ran  was the idea that we wear masks, and if we took our mask off  we’d see something good. We didn’t need a mask. That is true, but I’d put it a little differently: it is OK for me to have a mask, but it isn’t OK for my mask to have me.  

I sure needed mine going into that meeting this morning. 

Fran Holt

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