Friday, January 18, 2013

A New Angel

Martha and Mum at Christmas, 2008

Growing up in Martinsville, VA, I had not one mom but two. More or less, anyway. My mom's best friend, Martha Wickliffe, was a constant in our family, always there to keep my brother and I straight when Mum and Dad weren't able, and, in later years, as a dear friend and confidant who always knew just the right thing to say or do whenever life offered up one of its inevitable challenges. Back in 2000 and 2001, When my dad was going through his final trials, Martha and her husband, Dick, were my family's lifeline; I really don't know how any of us, especially my mom, would have sanely made it through that period if Martha and Dick hadn't been there to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support.

Martha has been going through her own terrible trials these past couple of years, and she finally succumbed on this past Tuesday, January 15, 2013. The funeral was today in Martinsville.

Martha and Dick had three young' uns — Gretchen, who is my age; Todd, a couple of years younger; and Scott, five years younger and the same age as my brother. We spent a lot of our youthful years together, making mischief, sometimes getting in trouble (it was all Scott's fault, of course — except for those times it wasn't), playing army, creating mad scientist creations, climbing way too high up any tree we could find, wracking ourselves up playing tackle football sans any form of protection... all that good stuff that kids do. We often tried to keep our parents from discovering the crap we were up to, but they had ways of figuring it out... especially Martha. She always seemed tuned in to our secrets, and if it became necessary to foil us for our own safety, she would do it happily — but in such a way that it was "cool." When the general perception among the adults was that I was misbehaving (clearly this was wrong because I never did any such thing), she wouldn't tell Mum but have a little heart-to-heart with me, which usually made me feel a wee bit ashamed of myself — but not at the expense of my personal dignity. Now, I don't know whether Gretchen, Todd, and Scott got this kind of treatment (I suspect she just whooped them), but I think it's safe to say that her brand of discipline perfectly complemented my folks', who could straighten me out all right, but never so pleasantly as Martha.

As an adult, I maintained a close friendship with Martha, and for so many years, she was there to share her unique brand of wisdom with me, particularly when we were going through my dad's crisis and when my marriage began to crumble. I credit Martha with helping me understand Peg in a way I never could have on my own, which I think truly helped us work through the divorce as amiably as we did.

Martha Wickliffe was a guiding angel in my life, and I know I'll miss her with all my heart. But her influence on me was profound, and that is something that will remain with me till my time comes. In my just over a half-century of existence, I've been privileged to know many shining examples of life and how to live it, and Martha was among the brightest. Rest in peace, my dear friend.
Martha snugger than a bug in a rug.
Christmas 2008: Happy times. Back: Martha and Dick Wickliffe, Mum, Peggy Rainey, old dude.
Front: Mary Clifton, brother Phred


Anonymous said...

A lovely tribute, Mark. Thanks for sharing it.

Unknown said...

What a beautiful memorial and a testimonial of a true friendship..just lovely..