Early Sunday morning, one of the best people I know passed away. Martha was first diagnosed with cancer in 1999. She fought it, and it appeared to be gone for a while, but just over two years ago it came back, and this time it stayed to take her at the age of 68.
Martha was like my surrogate mom when I first moved to this country in 1989. Her daughter and my good friend, Paddy, had studied in Ireland for a year, and when I got a green card I decided to come to San Francisco, where Paddy lived, because she was the only person I knew in the United States. Paddy's parents, Ed and Martha, and the rest of the family welcomed me warmly. Martha knew I was far from my own family and always invited me down to the Monterey Peninsula for Thanksgiving and Christmas the first years I was here. Paddy left for the Peace Corps and then lived in Turkey, but her sister Megan moved to San Francisco and we became friends. Through the years I saw Martha regularly. She was always delighted to see me, and she kept all the Christmas cards I sent her and Ed.
She was the heart of the family: a great storyteller, funny, kind, spiritual, deeply interested in other people and cultures. Her family was Irish and Ed and Martha always had a St. Patricks Day party that was the talk of the town.
When I met Eric, she welcomed him into the family too. She traveled to Ireland for our wedding and had such a great time that she talked about it whenever I saw her. Paddy always said she had a better time at our wedding than she did at Paddy's.
When Paddy called to tell me yesterday morning, I drove down to Monterey to say goodbye. the house was full of family. There were some tears, but laughter too, and stories told, and a sense of relief that she was out of pain. Martha was there and I kissed her cheek. That's how I want to go: surrounded by the people I love.
This is the photo in our guest book of Martha and Megan, five years ago this April. Goodbye Martha. You are an inspiration and I will miss you.