Frank’s family and closest friends waited anxiously for the doctor to emerge. Was this finally the end? A thoroughly anonymous and unremarkable man at the time his cancer was first diagnosed, Frank had become something of a local cult hero, thanks to an overzealous reporter for The Ironville Talk and Times. Being diagnosed with stage-three cancer threw time into Frank’s consciousness. Was this all there was? Was his life as a husband, father, sheet metal worker, poker player and bowler going to vanish, like an ant who lost his way on the edge of the toilet bowl? Was there something more? Something he was meant to accomplish in this world before departing?

Frank chose to talk – something he never did much of. With the help of the local press, he became a spokesperson for time – for the value of time. Frank reminded Ironville of something we all know and most of us work rigorously, if unconsciously, to force out of our thoughts – that our days are numbered. Frank had used his uphill battle with cancer as a pulpit from which to deliver his impassioned sermon to seize the day. Simple folk like to heed the wishes of a dying man, which is a bit odd since the hopeless cries of the suffering seem to go unheard, or worse, ignored. Perhaps our compassion is aroused by the dying because acts of kindness dull the inevitable pain that comes when our armor of imagined immortality is pierced. Whatever the reason, Frank had a moment in which to be heard. He used that moment to tell us all that if there is anything we want to accomplish, now is the time. It was a simple message, anyone could have delivered it. But anyone didn’t. This simple, quiet Joe six-pack of fellow, suddenly transformed into a screaming preacher of possibility was simultaneously shrill and irresistible.

When he was asked to give a guest sermon in the church, he wouldn’t give up the microphone until promises were made – big promises. As a result of that first appearance alone, careers were altered, a homeless shelter was built, marriages were re-embarked upon, age old family rifts were confronted, restitution for thefts were made. And it wasn’t about inspiring platitudes. Frank would get right into the face of the person he felt needed to make a change and wag his weather-beaten finger at them, scream at them, beg them to fix what needed to fixed NOW. The confrontations were sometimes unbearable, and yes – he made his share of enemies. But his perceptions were clear and his instructions hard to ignore. Though some scoffed and walked (rather, ran!) away, many more welled up with emotion and tears, grateful that someone had finally cracked the shell of rationalization, justification, and denial that ego had used to prevent them from doing what their conscience and heart so deeply understood needed to be done.

And once the ball got rolling, it seemed to consume the collective ego of all of Ironville – amends, bold initiatives and loving action were sweeping through the town like wildfire. Not just a repentance of mind, but a peaceful state of love and unity that had never existed before, but somehow felt like a returning to a long ignored, always intended state of affairs. Within a year of Frank’s diagnosis he had had presented in every church, spoken in every school, sat with community leaders, and been consulted by the heads of local industry and philanthropy. The young reporter at the Talk and Times reported on his every move, catalyzing a frenzy of local media coverage that brought Frank’s message into any open heart in Ironville. With some reluctance, Frank agreed to taking up a daily presence in the back of Central Pharmacy. For as many hours as his health would allow, Frank sat a little desk in the back of the pharmacy. People would come for one-on-one consultations that somehow integrated the best parts of therapy, confession and friendship. He became a sage advisor. He never predetermined how long his consultations would last, nor did he make appointments. He’d just sit there – sometimes for 18 hours at a time. Some days the lines would extend out the door and down the block. There were weeks when the line could be seen around the clock. Frank never gave advice exactly. Rather, he would help people see from behind their egos what their essence already knew. The answers always came from the questioners, as it should be.

In the months that followed, Ironville could be seen, heard and felt as a new place. The external signs were easy to measure – unemployment was almost eradicated, poverty abolished, pollution reduced, beauty enhanced. But there was something more. A peace was in the air. Godliness, a holiness had been introduced – rather “released” as Frank would more likely describe it.

And now the final paragraph of the final chapter appeared to be upon Frank, as the surgeon’s skillful hands performed his craft on Frank’s body for the fourth time since this all began. When Dr. Nesor finally came out of the operating room, he looked as if he had seen a ghost. Nothing in medical training and years of experience, he managed to ramble, could explain what he had just seen. There was not a sign of cancer inside Frank. Not the slightest remnant of what his body had been through during the past 14 months. Nothing. He was as healthy as he had ever been in his adult life. There was nothing to do, nothing more to say. He needed only a night’s rest to recover from the surgery and anesthesia. Frank’s cancer had vanished.

The next morning was bright. The combination of warm sun and cool breeze made the sweet melody of the chirping birds all the more enjoyable. Word of the miraculous recovery spread overnight, and throngs waited outside the hospital. He emerged from the front door waving and smiling, eyes on the brimming crowd. I don’t think he ever saw that speeding ambulance coming. RIP, Ironville Frank.
© All material Copyright 2009 by Foxx Falcon