Eulogy for Carolyn Gayer Martin
October 19, 2917 – August 30, 2017
I can tell you I took my mother for granted. That was easy for a boy to do you. She was always there, doing all the mom things… driving us to school or practice, feeding us countless meals or snacks, sweet cereals or, sometimes, her thin pancakes. At the mountain cabin she would prepare us hobo dinners: foil pouches with a hamburger patty and vegetables and the potatoes she pre-cooked, topped off with a big dollop of ketchup. We cooked them on the coals of the fire and tore the steaming packages open. I loved those. She knew that.
Looking back, I don’t have big stories about Mom, though I think the big story is a love story of a beautiful young woman from east Texas attending the Baylor University School of Music and a tall, handsome young man, then on the GI bill, back from the war in the pacific. I suspect they were told to wait for marriage until they had graduated. They didn’t wait. That marriage lasted 70 years. That love story still continues.
I mostly have little stories, like how Mom and Marlee Sharp would dig up plants to transplant in our yards, plants that may have been previously owned by municipalities or state of Colorado. From our cabin and back roads we brought home aspens and kinnikinnick and pussy willows.
I remember most years Mom had me spread the manure on the lawn — which seems like such a crazy idea at the time.
I remember dislocating my hip at football practice. Many times we told the story how Daryl Laye, my PE teacher, road with me in the back of the station wagon to the hospital. But it was Mom that drove and took me to all the doctor appointments. So easy for a boy to take her for granted. Always there. And Dad, too.
I remember arguing with Mom one night. She came in the room and turned the sound off the TV. But while arguing, we became distracted by some crazy tv show with crazy cut-out figures and scenes… Monty Python’s Flying Circus. We took a break and turned up the sound. I don’t think we resumed arguing.
Mom would to invite me to hear the symphony. “You can always come to dress rehearsals”, she’d say. When I was senior in high school, I finally did. I was impressed — The soloist could really shred that violin. It was Pinchas Zukerman. I started paying more attention. Years later, I joined Mom and Dad in the Aspen Music Festival tent. As we listen to a composition of Aaron Copland’s, I could sense Mom and I were enthralled at the same passage. We came to it from different angles, but we both loved it. We shared that love of music and of performing.
Little stories. Like so many nights finding Mom up, reading scripture, praying for us, praying for the spouses we’d yet to meet. A story about Thanksgiving at the cabin in Green Mountain Falls, when, sometime after I’d cleaned up the kitchen, I heard an admonishing voice, “Who threw away the turkey with all this meat on it?” Now after Thanksgiving, late at night, you’ll find me pulling the turkey carcass from the big, simmering pot and picking every last bit off the bones.
And all these stories are not just about Mom. They are also about me. I know now, this is how I was raised to be her son. Gently, over time and taking her for granted, though not now.
Last week a friend gave me a poem and painting. She composed the poem after I told her about Mom and her stories and my stories. This is the poem:
Mom, you’ve gone away.
My river into the world.
I wade through memories.
What parts of you remain in me?
What parts drift away with you?
Not long ago, Beth remarked on Mom’s great use of color in her quilting and decorating the home. But it was never quite perfect — perhaps intentionally, Beth said. And that bit of imperfection, she went on, seemed to create a more welcoming, inviting space. Mom did make people feel welcome and attended. It was so hard to keep her from working the kitchen or rising to get us another helping. Even within her dementia in memory care, Mom shined her smile for those who served her, and she smiled at the other patients, asking them questions when she could. That was Mom in her core.
I talked with Millie Carter about how tender my time was with Mom’s still warm body at the hospital, but how difficult it was for Dad and I the next day. Millie told me: “She’s not there. That’s not her. She has a new body and a sharp mind.” And we know Mom has a new body in Christ which we can celebrate. And I also know how the Son of Man became flesh, had a mother, wept at the death of his friend. We will grieve and we will rejoice. Mom, you leave a great hole in ourselves… and precede us in the great hope.