Fran Geiger Joslin

I mostly write about how death continues to affect us in life, but I branch out now and then.


The Joy of Sorrow


“I think ten years is the magic number for me,” I told my friend. “I’m good.”

Two days later I cried the “ugly cry.” Ten years of loss overwhelmed me, and I couldn’t contain the emotion.

Truly, on most days I experience more joy than sorrow. Yet suddenly, something hit me about this ten-year mark. It all feels current and emotions resurface:

  • July 4—the last day my first husband, Brian stood on his own two feet at home.
  • July 5—the day he went into the hospital for the last time.
  • July 10—Brian’s last brain surgery and the last family pictures we ever took.
  • July 28—the day he stopped breathing.
  • July 30—the day doctors removed life support; the day I thought my life ended because his life ended.

Somehow, this July feels more unbearable than the last few.

I became a single mom to children aged seventeen, fourteen, and ten In July of 2008. Now? I get phone calls with “adulting” questions. Wow, look how far we’ve come!

Since then I remarried, gained four step-children, set five kids free, helped start a ministry, and wrote two books for widows. I just returned from Tanzania where I handed a bite-sized copy of Widowed: When Death Sucks the Life out of You—in the Swahili language—to thirty widows.

Joy overwhelms me as the realization hits on this ten-year anniversary, that Brian would find satisfaction in knowing his death not only ministers to Americans, but also to Tanzanians. I thank the Lord for giving me strength to endure, strength to find happiness again, and most of all, strength to use my loss as an opportunity to impact others.

In contrast to my newly returned feelings of grief, my heart sings as I pour over pictures from our widows’ conference in Tanzania. Welcoming hugs! Smiles. Tears. Laughter. More food than they could carry home. Personal copies of a book written with them in mind. Thank you hugs. Good bye hugs. Ahh, what blessings!

I could never say Brian’s death qualifies as a positive thing. Death steals our loved ones from us. It sends shock waves throughout our worlds. God made death the final victory for a reason. It breaks us.

But, I would not love widows the way I do had I not walked that path. I would never have written my books had I not experienced the severing of my own marriage through death.

Now, I continue to experience the fact that, although death stole my best friend and sucked the life out of me, God brings beauty out of the pain. I continue to live out the dichotomy of joy and sorrow, which walk hand-in-hand by my side.

Nothing can take away the pain of loss, but strangely, loving on widows brings me great joy, even in my sorrow.


A Hovering Mom?

images.hovering momThe empty nest. What a wonderful thing! Well, until our kids face difficulties and we can’t do one thing about it. Have I mentioned our blended family consists of seven kids between us?

I used to pride myself on the fact that I gave my kids room to breathe. Room to make their own decisions. I didn’t hover like other moms. I somehow believed if I parented correctly (according to my definition, of course), I could confidently expect the desired outcome.

I also used to think the early years with kids surely stacked up as the hardest. I never slept enough. I couldn’t keep the house clean. Someone was always sick. I could usually do something about the mid-night screams, feedings, diaper changes, and teething even though they wore me out, however. If nothing else, I could rock, hold, soothe, and pray over my child.

We, the parents, held a semblance of control in that we made decisions we considered in the best interest of our kids.

Did we cry?


Did we agonize sometimes?


Did we pray?


During the junior high years we fought with the preteens in an effort to help them see the rationale behind important decisions. A frustrating time, indeed, we still held a little bit of control. After all, they depended on us to get where they needed–or wanted–to go. We could turn off the remote, cancel a sleep-over, or take away the Nintendo.

Then came High School. We taught them to drive. We warned them of dangers, and took away keys to the car when necessary. That’s when phones posed a problem. All their friends kept their phones in their rooms overnight. They needed the phone as an alarm, but we took it away as a consequence and found another way to wake them up in the morning. Again, while infuriating, we could hold the kids accountable to some degree–or so we thought.

I prayed for my kids as they grew up. I know I did. I even pled with the Lord to save them from destruction. I prayed for good, healthy, and pure marriages. I begged the Lord for wisdom when I didn’t know what to do next, especially as a single mom.

The empty nest arrived more than a year ago for us. I now pray for my kids more than ever before. They now make their own decisions, feel the consequences of their own choices, and face the challenges of their own lives. We tried to prepare them well. Now they live in the world of “adulting,” where we  can no longer protect, rescue, or dole out consequences.

Mind you, we have seven great kids, but I sometimes grieve over choices made, knowing natural consequences will come even though I made every effort to warn and protect. Like it or not, I must learn to live with their choices.  I must face the lessons God wants to teach them as well as me.

My biggest challenge this past year–the year of the empty nest? Will I trust God with the stories He allows in the lives of my children, or will I insist on writing them my own way?

I now believe we earn the “non-hovering mom” title when we no longer expect rights to the outcome, but we love our kids well as they navigate life on their own.


Sweet Reunion

FirstRidetoSchoo_LockhartslIn September of 1968 I stood at the top of our little air strip holding my tiny suitcase full of clothes, and waited. The small MAF Cessna airplane made bi-weekly trips in to our village area in the mountains, bringing with it mail and supplies. This time, at age six, I joined two of my older sisters in saying good bye to my parents, boarded the airplane, and travelled the two-hour flight to the coast of Irian Jaya (now Papua), Indonesia.

The destination? Missionary kid (MK) boarding school. We arrived at school along with approximately one hundred other kids, all of whom had also just said goodbye to their parents.

As first graders, we each received a bunk bed, a tiny closet, a bunch of roommates (most of whom we’d never met), and outdoor bathrooms and showers where deadly snakes were known to visit and shed their skins. Most of the children cried themselves to sleep at night, unaware of the tears flowing in other beds around the room.

Boarding School.dorm up hill_cropped

First through Third grade dorm “Up the hill.”

Our dorm parents seemed nice enough at first, considering they parented way too many lonely children. Over time, different forms of child abuse surfaced that left scars and long-term emotional wounds. Lost in a maze of confusion, we found our own ways to survive.


“Sanna,” Linda, Anne, “Franny”

During the next eight years, this group of strangers became family. We did life together 24/7, which included meals in the dining hall, school and church activities, playing soccer in the rain, and standing in line for routine immunizations. We traded boyfriends and stole each other’s candy. We jump roped, roller-skated, and played jacks on the front porch of the “big dorm.” We sat all in a row at the nurse’s office soaking every imaginable wound. Every six weeks we hopped onto the back of a huge flatbed truck and rode an hour into town to shop and sun burn at the beach.


Back row: Steve G, John Mark,  Linda, Jenine, Randy, “Pickle”; Front row: “Sanna,” Franny,” Denise, Karen, Johan

Although my own family left the mission field and returned to the U.S. before my sixth grade year, most of our class graduated together in 1976 after the eighth grade—Forty years ago.

In 1976 the majority of classmates dispersed to different schools or countries, losing touch over time. We all went on, scratching our way through life, wondering why we never quite fit in. The term “Third Culture Kid” (TCK) became the new label and, over time, I learned to embrace it.

Yes, I’m different. I think a little differently than the average American. I don’t run from bugs. I don’t freak out over expiration dates. I can flex when things don’t go according to plan—usually. And a missing ingredient in a recipe? Just replace it with something else. No big deal (most food items arrived months after we ordered them from Australia). I also experienced the privilege of traveling the world as a child.

When the internet and then Facebook came into our lives, many of us reconnected, sharing pictures of kids and grandkids, happy to find each other again. One day someone decided we needed a reunion. Suddenly a Facebook group popped up and I wondered if anyone else worked for a living. Conversations erupted as if time stood still.

After more than a year of talking about it, a group of us met in Florida over the fourth of July weekend—2016. Forty years since 1976.

We reunited with hugs all around, not quite knowing what to expect. Immediately the conversations and connections began. Just a few feet into the restaurant one of the guys leaned over to me and sheepishly asked, “Fran, do you remember me?”

Do I remember him? I only talked about him for the last 40 years and gave him credit for the fact that I met and married two men in Texas! Steve never knew that when he came back to school in the fifth grade with the greatest accent I’d ever heard, I determined right then to someday go to Texas. I wanted to sound just like him!

Over the next few days, we talked about our experiences in boarding school and shared our stories of what happened to us since 1976. One admitted to crying himself to sleep every night at school. Another jumped in, “You did too?” Forty-eight years went by before anyone knew they weren’t alone in crying themselves to sleep. Sadly, some endured more pain than others, but we all found a way to overcome, and our attendance at the reunion proved it. wp-1468630492848.jpg

We sat with rapt attention as each took their turn telling their amazing and yet painful stories. We listened, asked questions, and then prayed over each classmate and his/her spouse. On our prayer board we listed and prayed for those who chose not to make this trip.

We didn’t even realize we missed each other, but the bond of doing life together in childhood remained, as if twins separated at birth. We laughed, cried, prayed, sang, ate meals, and canoed together. We sat by the lake in the dark reminiscing about the long nights of anticipation when we could finally fly back home to see our parents during school breaks.


Steve R, Linda, Denise, Jenine, “Sanna,” “Franny,” Steve G

We found much healing together in the sweetest reunion any of us could imagine, and this time we didn’t want to say goodbye.

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Beauty out of Ashes: Our Midlife Love Story, Part 11

When “Yes” Became “No.”

empty bench

New love embodied sweetness, but the lingering effects of death added bitterness to the taste. I named it “fallout.” It made me sad, and sometimes angry. I despised the inability to bask completely in our joy.

When we dated and married the first time, the feelings of others weren’t a real issue. Death didn’t tag along and knock us off our feet. This time our decisions affected seven innocently grieving children, and we often found ourselves confused by the pain that shadowed us.

Don’t misunderstand. I cared deeply about the kids and their feelings. The ravages of death simply made everything more complicated.

One of my kids expressed conflicting emotions:

It’s not like what I think or feel will affect whether or not you date or marry.

Howard says he doesn’t want to take Dad’s place, but he is taking dad’s place. When you hire someone in another person’s place they replace that person.  He replaces dad as your husband if he marries you.

I don’t want a new family or a new dad.

I am happy for you.

I don’t want to be the reason why you aren’t happy or that you wouldn’t remarry.

Understandably, another one of the kids began to explode with anxiety. Fear took over, and worries about how this union might affect self confidence, comparrisons between families and kids, expecatations, and relationships.

Howard and I decided to cancel the wedding date until things calmed down. We promised the kids we wouldn’t marry until we received seven “yeses.” Although all seven agreed at first, a couple of them retracted their “yes,” some more than once.

All but unconsolable, I broke down and wept. Grief and pain had defined us for so long. Happiness now seemed within reach, but our kids couldn’t handle the risks.

I am so tired of being alone, going to bed alone, saying goodbye and goodnight. I just want to be together with Howard after having suffered such enormous loss and misery. I feel like someone snatched my dreams from me.  I can’t bear the thought of putting off the wedding for just one more day!

We spent time listening to the concerns of the children, and talking through them–one kid at a time. They expressed real, valid uncertainties. We tried to honestly answer their questions and discuss how to alleviate apprehensions. Just when one came to grips with the situation, another one freaked out turning yet another “yes” into “no.”

Back to square one.

We’ve seen the Lord work miracle after miracle. He can certainly handle this, but it sure doesn’t feel very good right now!



Happy Valentine’s Day?


Asked to write a story about my husband and me, I consider the topic a difficult one on this day. Like any other holiday, Valentine’s Day draws many emotions for me. I could brag about the love I share with Howard and tell our crazy love story, but my gut throws me in another direction.

I feel the gamut of emotions on Valentine’s Day. I feel grief because my dad died on February 14. This celebratory day exists as a death anniversary for me. I also feel sad because my first husband spends this holiday—and every other day—in heaven instead of here with me.

I feel joy and thankfulness, however, over the fact that the Lord granted me a new husband who loves me dearly. I find myself immensely blessed, and usually by the end of the day (after wrangling with all of the other emotions), I can turn my attention to the gift of Howard and enjoy time with him.

Don’t you love how our society picks a day and names it for something in order to spur our economy, yet with seemingly no thought given to the emotions it provokes in millions?

Many singles often sense pressure to jump into a relationship—sometimes any relationship—to avoid the pain of being alone on the day someone else decided they should celebrate love. They feel left out on this day our culture tells us to bask in the joys of love, and failure becomes the tag line.

Widows and widowers suffer enormous loss and find themselves reeling yet again, silently screaming for equilibrium, and begging the day to end.

Still others rejoice over their love, celebrate it voraciously, and post it all over Facebook for the world to see.

We all enjoy a good love story, but many avoid the topic when it comes to Valentine’s Day. I know people who stay far away from social media altogether on this Day. It seems to them like a competition. Who loves whom more?

My son tells me he wants a woman who understands his love for her 365 days a year. He thinks it’s ridiculous to set aside one day a year to declare your love for each other. Love should shine all year long. What a brilliant child!

So, what do we do with this date on the calendar? If you know me at all, you understand my penchant for authenticity. I encourage people to embrace the truth. Feel whatever you feel and respond accordingly—on any day of the year—as long as you manage your emotions without hurting others.

If Valentine’s Day strikes you with pain:

  • Avoid social media, find some trusted friends to hang out with, or hide altogether.
  • Throw your own “singles” party or watch a sad movie—whatever helps you survive.
  • I give you permission to bask in the sadness for a day.
  • Try not to despise those who celebrate love, however. Hang on for February 15, which arrives as a brand new day without all the messy strings attached.

If you find yourself blessed with love, celebrate it! Gush over it. Tell him or her how much they mean to you. Go out to dinner if you can find room at a local restaurant. Enjoy the romance. Participate and revel in your relationship, thanking God for His marvelous gift—unless, of course, you choose to celebrate it 365 days a year instead.

But, please, consider the feelings of others. We can express Christlike love to others by choosing to celebrate our own romantic love privately.

Remember the “Love Chapter?”


  •  is patient
  • is kind
  • does not envy
  • does not boast
  • is not proud
  • does not dishonor others
  • is not self-seeking
  • is not easily angered
  • keeps no record of wrongs
  • does not delight in evil
  • rejoices with the truth
  • always protects
  • always trusts
  • always hopes
  • always perseveres.

 Love never fails.

Bottom line? However you decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day, as long as your actions fall into the categories above by putting other people’s needs above your own, you choose well.

Ponder this: What emotions spring from you on Valentine’s Day?

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God Uses Sinners Like Me

Bible_CoffeeCup3I feel the need for a refresher course on scripture so I decided I would read through the entire Bible this year.

It’s  January 16 and I’ve only made it to the reading scheduled for January 9. Already behind!

I find myself amazed, however, as I read again from the beginning. I definitely need this refresher as it’s been a long time since I started in Genesis. I know these stories, but they come alive again as I read with fresh new eyes.

God promised Abram he would give him more descendants than the stars he could count in the sky. God continually reminded Abram of this promise over the course of about 25 years.  While it looks like Abram believes and trusts God’s promises when he receives them, he doesn’t do a good job of waiting as the years tick by.

Abram actually offers his wife twice to other men in order to save his own skin. What kind of loving, “godly” husband does that? Honestly, I don’t think I would easily trust my husband again after he offered me twice to someone else, especially when he selfishly does it for his own protection. Shouldn’t our husbands love us enough to fight for and protect us?

Gen 15-16 appear to indicate that almost immediately after hearing God’s promise of a son for at least the fourth time, he takes matters into his own hands, producing a son by Sarai’s maidservant–seeminly without giving thought to God’s direct promise.

He didn’t remain faithful to God. Nor did he remain faithful to his wife–either by protecting her from others or by trusting God’s timing in giving them a son.

Man, if God sent angels with a message or spoke to me directly about a promise, I think I would get it! I like to think I would know to trust God and hang on, knowing he means business and I can trust him. After all, I heard it striaight from him.

Angels haven’t come to my home, nor has God given me any direct messages outside of scripture. I know God’s goodness, grace, and faithfulness from life experience, though. Why, then, do I catch myself questioning God’s ways and his timing when things don’t go my way?

I fight with him in my prayers and feelings about his timing, his protection of my children, why he doesn’t step in before it’s too late from my perspective. I don’t want to wait 25 years for the answer to my prayers. I want God to rescue and fix the situation now.

I guess I’m not any different from Abraham. God did come through for him, but he had to wait a long time. During the wait, God proved himself faithful over and over again even though Abraham failed over and over again.

God rescued Sarai from the men to whom Abram offered her. God listened to Abraham’s plea to save at least ten godly people in Sodom and Gomorrah. God blessed Abraham with riches and wealth, and instead of promising a son once and then staying silent, he continually reminded Abram/Abraham of his intentions.

Encouragement grips my heart by the fact that, although Abraham found it tough to wait on God and his timing, God still came through. Abraham’s sin didn’t change God’s faithfulness, nor did it alter God’s plan.

Abraham’s trust in God seems to follow mine. It ebbs and flows.

But God remains faithful to his promises no matter where our faith travels.

God will accomplish his purpose for my life whether or not I like the path he chooses. And, although at times I find it difficutlt to trust his plan, God still uses even me.