Francis Joseph O’Meara. My friend. Figuratively, my brother.
Frank was born on April 2, 1969. I always joked with him about his birth date being a day after April Fool’s Day, and that he was the “fallout” from it, left over foolishness, as it were. He would laugh every time I made that crack. There was no one like Frank.
Last year, Frank was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most aggressive tumors that originates in the brain. Frank spent the next year and a half fighting this tumor, and embracing everything in his life that he loved. Today, the fight has come to an end as Frank’s wife Melissa informed us that he passed away peacefully.
Cancer truly does suck.
Frank was the greatest guy there was. Anyone who got to know Frank would agree with me. He was always thinking about other people. In fact, he would think about others, many times, to the detriment of himself. I remember when my friend Darin and I were planning on going down to see Frank who was in the University of Iowa Hospital at the time and we were texting with Mel to make sure Frank was up for visitors. Frank said it was fine for us to come if we wanted to drive through the sloppy and rainy weather. He didn’t want to put us out. We went, of course, but it was an example of how Frank, who had every right to be selfish during this painful time, facing this terrible cancer, was still more concerned about us than himself. Maybe Frank did not understand that we had come to see him more for ourselves than for him.
Now, my first memory of Frank was not a positive one. I had accidentally run over one of my little kittens while I was on my bicycle. I was in seventh grade, and it was very upsetting and it was tough on me. However, the word got back to school, and it became something that people teased me about. I can remember Frank sitting at a table in the school library (the same school where I now work), laughing about it with two other students. Ironically, I have no idea who the other two were, but I remembered it was Frank. I didn’t trust Frank for a while because of that. That changed though. Big time.
Frank became one of my closest, dearest friends. Along with Darin, the three of us had a special bond that could not be broken apart by distance or time. We certainly did not see each other near as much as we would have liked, with Frank living in Lone Tree and Darin and me in Maquoketa. Our lives got busy. Our jobs and our families took more and more time from us, but when we would be together, we would still feel that connection.
We really piled on Frank unmercifully. We teased him about so many things, and he always took it with such dignity and good humor. I certainly wouldn’t have been as good natured about it as Frank was. From his old stars and stripes shirt to the stuff we did while role playing, Frank was the lightning rod.
When Frank was being the dungeon master and we were playing Dungeons and Dragons, we had a running joke that we would always go north. No matter what, we said that we would “go north” and it irritated Frank on more than one occasion. There was even one time when Frank had said that he had had enough and was going to leave. He stood up and was ready to storm from Darin’s father’s basement, where we played. It took Darin to, quite literally, tackle Frank to keep him from leaving. Eventually, Frank joined in on the gag, and we continued to “go north” from then on.
Then there was the time when I was running a Champions game and I called Frank up and told him that I had a cool idea and I was wondering if he would be interested in doing it, but he had to tell me yes before I told him what it was. Frank, of course, said yes. I knew he would. I set him up as a traitor inside the RP group. I gave Frank a mission to accomplish and if he killed the other two (Darin and Marc) characters, then all the better. Frank did a great job, though the failed roll (Frank was very unlucky when it came to dice rolls) kept him from killing either of the characters. Frank’s character did escape though. The shock of Darin and Marc on Frank’s betrayal was awesome, but Frank had to face the consequences later as it took a while for any of Frank’s characters to be trusted again. Again, Frank handled that with the utmost class and respect. He always did.
Then there was the infamous “Frankie did it.” Unfortunately, I missed this event, since I lived out on a farm miles from Maquoketa. I missed a lot of the stuff that happened. This was at Darin’s father’s house. Our friend Rick had picked up a magnifying glass and had determined that it was made of plastic. “It had to be plastic” Rick had said. And before you knew it, Rick was dropping the glass. Well, it wasn’t plastic. And it broke. “Frankie did it” became the rallying cry, even though everyone knew that Frankie didn’t do it. The more outlandish the “Frankie did it” was, the better. Heck, once, even Darin’s father Lyle got into the act. Lyle had dropped a dish and broke it, and when Darin came in to see him, Lyle said “Frankie did it” …and Frankie wasn’t even there.
Frank was our go to guy for technical issues. If we needed to know something about the computer or the video game console or anything tech, we called Frank. In fact, Frank helped me big time. My first book, Pete and Devin, may never have come to fruition without Frank. I had typed the book up and had the only copy on an old floppy disc, but it had been damaged and I couldn’t get it to pull up. So, of course, I recruited Frank as my savior. He was able to save the copy of he book, putting it on a much more reliable disc. Frank had only one request and that was to have the book dedicated to him. I gladly did so, listing the help in the acknowledgement section at the beginning of Pete and Devin. He was a life saver.
Then, there was the spring break trip to Atlanta. I used to bring this up all the time, but it had become something that Frank was tired of hearing about and he was becoming irritated by it. Out of respect, I told Frank that I would stop telling that story, no matter how funny it was, and I think I, for the most part, have kept that promise. So I will not go into it here either.
Frank met Melissa and their lives were changed. Frank became a surrogate father to Mel’s two boys, Mike and Kyle, and he showed them so much love and caring. He couldn’t have loved those boys any more had they been his own. Mike recently married a young woman who already had a couple of children, and I know that Mike will be able to look back on Frank and know how to be a father to those kids. He had a great role model.
And Mel. She was Frank’s soulmate. They were so perfect for one another, and I was proud to stand up as a groomsman at their wedding. I know these last few weeks have been horrible for Mel, as she had to deal with her friend and her love’s final days. When we visited, you could see the weight on her shoulders and I am sure that she will look back on this time as some of the worst of her life. But all I can think is that I am so grateful to her. For her strength and for her determination and for her love. I am so grateful that Frank had her during these last days of his life. I hate to think what might have happened to Frank had this wonderful woman had not been in the picture. No matter what happened, Frank knew that he would not be alone. He knew that he was loved. I am so sorry for the pain and the suffering that you had to go through Melissa, but I cannot thank you enough for going through it. You are an angel.
I don’t know if there is any sort of afterlife, but if there is, Frank will have a place there. He was one of the gentlest, kindest men I have ever had the great pleasure of knowing. I have always been better at writing my feelings than expressing them verbally (hence this writing), but I did have the chance to tell Frank that I loved him. This world will be a lesser place now that Frank is no longer a part of it. I will hold my dear memories of Frank close to my heart for as long as I get to remain in this land of the living, and I will take comfort in the knowledge that I was a richer person from having him as my friend.
Rest in peace, my brother. I love you.