Fran’s Prayers

In her blindness — living at her childrens’ homes and later at Sunny Acres, a nursing home in western Massachusetts — Frances spent a lot of time in her room, listening to her Talking Book machine, which delivered audio news from Newsweek, book reviews, commentary, and Biblical recitations.

She would sit quietly on her bed or in her rocking chair, holding her clipboard on her lap, a blank piece of paper clamped to it, with two parallel metal rids clipped to the side, which she could slide down the clipboard, line by line, to guide her pen across the line between the two rods.

On her clipboard Fran would write letters to her children and grandchildren, sometimes comment on a book review or the news. But often, she would write down helpful adages or paraphrase Biblical passages. Sometimes she had just heard them on the Talking Book again. Other times, she recalled them from memory. On many pages she rewrote the passages two or three times – as if, in the act of writing, she helped her mind to hold on, remember the words that were comforting her in her dark, often lonely world. I imagine in the act of writing and rewriting she was also offering to herself a kind of Church service, a sermon in the silence of her room.

When she was done writing, Fran would fold the page neatly and store it in a plastic bag she kept by her bed; there are 35 folded pages in her bag, some of which are transcribed here. Sometimes she would ask someone to read one, or some, of the pages to her and that reader would occasionally write in a word to help translate for future companions who would read to her.


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