The inn where my brother and his family stay is over 80 years old. Some sort of record for an ocean front property. We have vacationed there for the past 10 years. The current owners bought it 11 or 12 years ago and have kept things as they have always been with a few modifications to the menu. Three full meals a day are included in reservations. So a lot of walking is required to at least be the same weight when you arrived as when you leave.

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Miss Frances runs the Inn. And has. Forever.

She manages the kitchen, the staff, the laundry and schedules. It is expected that every guest is at every meal when the bells are rung. If there is any deviation it is expected that Miss Frances know in advance to plan the meal. It is an unspoken discourtesy to do otherwise.

Naturally an early riser, the last couple of summers I have quietly crept down the creaky wooden staircase to the kitchen to help set up the dining room for breakfast, brew coffee, move tables according to additional guests, fill cream, sugar, jams, jellies, syrup. And quietly listen as Miss Frances witnesses to me about her faith. A faith we share, but she brings the Gospel to vibrant life in that pre-dawn kitchen. She holds informal Bible studies with interested staff. And I have always loved hearing her lilting Gullah cadence speaking of her love for Jesus.

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So this year rescue dogs Lily and Lulu accompanied me and we stayed in a nearby cottage. I began my day with the distant roar and hush of the ocean, watching the light emerge in faded color as I walked Lily and Lulu toward the beach. The rising rosy glow still holding a dewy chill in the air. My thoughts drifted to Miss Frances moving slowly about her domain, gently polishing the stainless service before setting places at the tables. Glancing occasionally toward the porch overlooking the awakening day.

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I shared those three meals with my brother and his family during our brief stay, then packed us back in the car for our drive home. My brother texted me a day or so later to let me know this year is Miss Frances’ last, she is retiring.

Sad that I was not a part of this, she leaves a legacy. Her larger-than-life presence being absent will leave a strange void. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I cannot think of anyone who could comparably carry on.

But someone will.

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