Sunday, April 29, 2007

Eva Beatrice (Nelson) Francois Obituary

Eva Beatrice (Nelson) Bigelow Francois
Graveside Memorial May 4th, 3:30p.m. Everyone welcome.
Hampden Memorial Gardens 8600 E. Hampden
Wake to follow at the home of Mike Nelson.

Eva's life wisped between Nov 25th, 1942 and Mar 1st, 2007. She died at 64 years old. She married twice.
She gave birth to Alan E. Bigelow, Jr. a paramedic in Pahrump NV and Angela Bigelow Breidenbach, an author in Missoula, MT who also acted as Eva's legal guardian. Both children were from her first marriage to Alan Bigelow, Sr. Her second husband, Richard Francois, has already passed on.

Because of her lifelong struggle with paranoid schizophrenia, I'd like to share with you that thankfully Eva lived, and now others have hope because of the studies on schizophrenic brains. Eva experienced a difficult time with fear caused by the schizophrenia. We are grateful that she is free of that impediment now. We remember her as a loving person.

She had a heart to serve people in nursing homes. She did this through her church activities as a younger woman, and I was told she did this even as a nursing home resident later. The nurses told me that on a daily basis, she would minister to the other residents. She'd make sure they had something to drink or that an aid would help them when needed. She fluttered around the other people taking care of them.

I didn't get to see that much because we picked her up and took her out often. Her favorite place to go was Pizza Hut! She'd call and ask to go out to lunch. I'd offer several suggestions. It was ALWAYS Pizza Hut:-) Then she'd ask if there was time for ice cream.

As long as she was able, she went to her grandchildren's concerts and events. But the last year or so was too difficult. She could no longer see or understand very well. But she still came for family holidays and events at our house. She loved the animals and it helped her to just pet the dogs and cats. She had dogs and cats all her life. She taught us to love animals too. Watch out when you visit, you'll be deluged with dogs, cats, horses...She loved that!

We were told that most mentally ill people, and people in nursing homes, are left by their families to die alone or don't have families any longer. The nurses and staff at mom's nursing home felt like they'd never seen a family surround someone in the process of dying like ours did. I was so surprised! But it created a new opportunity for those nurses to talk to the other families. Maybe it will make a difference for other people too. I hope so.

Her death was not pretty. But sometimes, that's just the way it is. She was afraid to die because of her illness. But her grandchildren stayed with me through the last day. This is important. Very important. These kids ranged from 15-23. They sang to her, helped me fan her, put sponges in her mouth to wet it, and showered compassion on their grandmother. It was terribly hard to watch her struggle. She'd lost her ability to speak so it became a guessing game of how to comfort and meet her needs. She was very agitated those last hours and still the kids stayed. No one would let her die alone in fear.

You need to know that. Why? Because you need to know that she passed on the beauty of caring for others even in her severe mental illness. You need to know that her love for her family was the inherited trait. Her grandchildren stayed through the moaning, the tears, the pain. They stayed because they inherited compassionate hearts. From Eva.

Hospice came the last day. They sent us a harpist. She sang and played. It was an ethereal time.

But Eva's legacy is two-fold. She leaves behind two children, eight grandchildren, and lives that will be touched forever. Will be? Yes. Eva's last gift-the donation of her brain to the Brain Bank will help innumerable people learn about schizophrenia and better treatment.

When you get a chance to talk with us at the funeral, don't be afraid to ask. We're not fragile. We want to openly share. We hope that you will share with us.

Eva's last words were, "I love you, Jesus." A nurse was in the room and verified it. I guess that's important to me too because she hadn't been able to speak coherently for several weeks. I didn't want to be imagining things. In heaven, we'll meet the real Eva, the wonderful lady we never knew, because she believed in the way, the truth, and the life even though crippled by mental illness. She is with the Lord. She is laughing, running, and joyfully singing.

Mom, I look forward to those long chats that we never had down here on earth. But we'll have eternity in heaven to get to know each other and I look forward to that day.

If you'd like more information on the Brain Bank or on Eva's life, please visit more posts on this blog on brain donation, schizophrenia, parents, or visit the brain bank at or by calling 800 brainbank.
Our family would like to suggest financial donations to the Brain Bank rather than flowers.

Eva's official newspaper obituary can be found next week in the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. They also have an online placement at

Thank you so much for spending your time with me while I chat about my mom. There's so much more, but I guess things like that come out over time. There are several other posts about mom, feel free to read them. Also, please feel free to forward this to anyone who you feel might like to read it. I'd love your comments and thoughts.

Thanks for honoring mom's memory with me.

Angela Breidenbach
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