Family thankful for support after daughter’s diagnosis

Herald file photo Jacob Wiegand
Mary France of Jasper folded boxes while she helped out at Mad Batter in Jasper in October 2017. The then-20-year-old France was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer that August.


JASPER — After two years battling stage 4 colorectal cancer, Jasper resident Mary France died in her bed earlier this month. She was 22.

In the months that followed Mary’s diagnosis in 2017, the community rallied around the Frances, holding several fundraisers to help Mary’s parents — David and Karen France of Jasper — pay for their daughter’s medical costs. The community support continued after Mary passed, with a handful of donations — including one from the Jasper Dairy Queen, Mary’s favorite post-treatment stop — to help the Frances cover Mary’s funeral costs.

Karen said she and David are grateful for everyone’s support of their family.

“There were a lot of people that helped her with fundraisers for her,” Karen said.

Mary passed away on Aug. 2, five minutes after her mother and father said their goodbyes.

“We told her she didn’t have to fight anymore,” Karen said.

Mary’s diagnosis surprised her family. Although Mary had shown signs of autism all her life, Karen couldn’t recall her daughter ever being sick. In fact, the family only found out about Mary’s cancer because they were seeking an autism diagnosis.

Even after the diagnosis, Karen recalled, Mary stayed in high spirits, and she did her best to remain active. Prior to the diagnosis, Mary attended classes at AIM Academy, a transition program for young adults with intellectual disabilities in Dubois and Pike counties, and worked at Mad Batter in Jasper. After her diagnosis, Mary continued coming to Mad Batter to help out as often as she could. She and Karen also often visited Dairy Queen.

And wherever Mary went, a smile and a stuffed bunny she got when she was 4 years old went with her.

“She always had a smile on her face,” Karen said. “She never really complained.”

After Mary died, Karen said, that same stuffed bunny stayed with Mary, making the trip to Simple Cremation in Evansville. There, her ashes were placed in an urn shaped like a white bunny that Mary picked out herself.

“I didn’t know what to [inscribe] on it,” Karen said. “I just said, ‘Put Mary Kathleen France, one with God,’ because she’s one with God now.”

In the weeks since Mary’s death, Karen has leaned on her faith. The day Mary passed, several comforting quotes came up on Karen’s Facebook feed. One said, “I’ll hold you in my heart until I hold you in heaven.”

“I think that was God sending me a message,” Karen said.

Karen also picked up a couple of devotionals that she’s been reading.

The last memory Karen has of Mary is a good-night kiss the night before she died.

Although it was difficult to watch Mary’s health deteriorating, especially in the two weeks prior to her death, Karen is glad she and David decided to keep Mary at home. It allowed both of them the chance to say goodbye.

The knowledge that Mary didn’t die alone has been a comfort to Karen, as has knowing her daughter is finally free of pain.

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