I almost don’t know what to say. The same thing happened when my grandmother passed away; I just didn’t see it coming. And hearing that Martin has passed hurts just as bad now as it did back then. What’s worse is, I just visited him last week, just as I had the week before that. I made it a regular effort to go see him. Sadly, I won’t get to enjoy those visits anymore.
It’s strange. I know a lot of people. Really. But there are very, very few people that have impacted me like Martin has. In fact, I can count on just one hand the number of men, who like Martin, were both dear friends and who also served as mentors for me to help me grow as a man myself. Martin is one of them.
Over the years it was an incredible pleasure to get to know him; his wit, intellect, and smile were infectious. One time he had me laughing so hard that I nearly wet myself. He just broke into “tongues” in the middle of a conversation to illustrate how easy it was to speak in “spiritual languages”. As he put it, it just takes a little practice — anyone can do it.
Last week I was pretty busy, but I called Martin after a tornado had lit up Highway 9 just to make sure he was okay, and set up a time, the usual time, just after lunch and before dinner, to swing by and chat. I brought him his favorite soft-drink, opened the cap for him, sat down near the window at the back of his place, and he started the conversation with, “You know James is gay?” “Yep, so I heard.” He smiled. “I can’t say that it surprised me.” I said. He nodded agreeably. “I think a lot of people suspected it.” he said. I smiled.
Then the conversation turned to some recent puzzles he was going to share with some children that had visited. One I hadn’t seen. It was pretty cool. He complained about not having the manual dexterity he did in his youth when he demoed magic tricks, but the arthritis didn’t prevent him from fooling me. I’m glad he did. I appreciated it. I loved learning things from Martin. Every time I left him, I wanted to do more and be more than I was that day; he always inspired me.
I have to say that I did notice that he wasn’t walking as well as he had previously; I could also see that he was struggling more now to get up out of his chair too. At one point I asked him if he was okay and he said, “I’m a bit more feeble these days.” But by all accounts, he seemed just like he always did during every visit; an elderly man suffering from what naturally comes with that age. A little frail, but certainly just as sharp as a tack. I was sure he’d be around for years to come. And so was he.
One of my favorite things about Martin was that he was confident in a very unassuming way. He told me about his responsibilities to edit a series of books for Cambridge, and how he was planning on spending two or three years per volume. That totally made me smile. I mean after all, he was 95 and by my poor math calculations, that meant he had a good decade or more of work left ahead of him before the project was completed. I love that about him. But more importantly, I can say that I really believed he’d be around to do it too. He had me convinced.
I miss him already.