Desperately Seeking Martha

No, not Stewart.

Today I learned that my friend Martha, one of my college roommates, died.  She was hit by a car in Brooklyn just yesterday, and I don’t know more than that and am not sure I will choose to find out more than that.  It is shocking, of course, when a friend from your youth dies.  She’s too young to go, and by that, I also mean that I’m too young to go.

We lived together in a suite of ten our sophomore year.  With Martha, hilarity ensued, and often.  We roomed together that one year, but not after that, and after college we lost touch.  We reconnected a few years ago at our 25th college reunion, and then on Facebook.  She blogged – “Desperately Seeking Jon Stewart” – and it was smart and funny, just like her.  She had written kind and encouraging things to me about this blog, which pales next to hers.  I was utterly delighted to discover how my college friend had grown into such a magnificent, talented, generous person.

So it’s death again, knocking at the door, IM’ing me at a most inconvenient moment.  Another untimely death at that, and the usual response: messages to other roommates around the country, missing the waste basket as I throw my soggy kleenex away, and  wishing I could take her family some tuna noodle casserole or a Hefty bag of tortilla chips to get them through when the shock wears off.  Grieving is such a patchwork – moments of utter loss, next to moments of the mundane.

I shared the news with my husband, and got about to the rest of the day.  Then dinner, then playing, then a family dance party.  Katy Perry’s “Firework” came on, and I was belted out with the divine Ms. P, and suddenly was so overwhelmed I just put my face in my hands and wept.  Yes, at Katy Perry.

I was taken back to our 15th college reunion, when two of our other roommates, Anne and Emily, and I stood out in the athletic fields watching this incredible firework show accompanied by a live band.  I remember standing there with my two dear friends, both of whom had married and had children, grateful for the blessing all these friends were to me.  As I watched the fireworks, I thought about friends who had died, their lights had burst and delighted and illumined, and then they were gone.  And now Martha is too.

We’ve started sharing memories, of course, to ward off the blow.  That might be the only good way to deal with grief – to tell the stories, the funny ones and the painful ones and the hilariously awkward ones.  For reasons I can’t remember, Martha was on crutches for a while our sophomore year, and one night sang out her lungs (for all her talents, singing was not one of them)  to “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”  One Friday night, as we thoroughly disregarded the law about the drinking age, we were walking along Nassau Street when a case carrying a Resusci-Baby fell out of an ambulance. Let just say that what unfolded was like what would happen if Eloise (the city child who lives at the Plaza) grew up and went to Princeton and found a Resusci-baby after having drunk a bit.  (We did eventually return the baby, much worse for the wear, but I swear there was a smile on its face that hadn’t been there before.  Martha had that effect on people and inanimate objects.)

After college Martha was a producer for the PBS show “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”  None of us who knew Martha was surprised by that.  She won an Emmy for writing for the PBS show “WordWorld.”  We weren’t surprised by that, either.  She married, had kids, wrote, laughed, and made orange juice come out of our noses, we laughed so hard.

So in her memory, I’m turning up the Bonnie Tyler.  And I plan to do something hilarious and outlandish this week.  I’ll keep you posted on that.  I hope it will make someone laugh, if only myself, because a little too much has hit the fan this time.

(Turn around) every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you’re never coming round

(Turn around) every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears

(Turn around) every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by

(Turn around) every now and then I get a little bit terrified and then I see the look in your eyes

(Turn around, bright eyes) Every now and then I fall apart (Turn around, bright eyes)

Every now and then I fall apart And I need you now tonight

and I need you more than ever

And if you only hold me tight

We’ll be holding on forever

And we’ll only be making it right ’cause we’ll never be wrong

Together we can take it to the end of the line

Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (all of the time)

I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark

We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks

I really need you tonight,

forever’s gonna start tonight

Forever’s gonna start tonight

Once upon a time I was falling in love, but now I’m only falling apart

There’s nothing I can do… a total eclipse of the heart

Rest in peace, dear friend.

10 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Martha

  1. I’m just finding out about this now. Beth I’m so sorry for your loss and for the loss of our greater Princeton family and of course for Martha’s family and loved ones. You have written a beautiful tribute here and it speaks so well on behalf of those who she loved and who loved her as well. Adam ❤

  2. Beth, I knew Martha in high school as that same smart, witty, go for broke smiling imp! I also reconnected with her through Facebook and have loved her blog. I am saddened at the loss to her family, to her friends, to myself and to those she had yet to touch. It feels like the lights have gone out and I can’t yet find a flashlight to get back on track. I will miss all she had yet to say and cherish all she has already said. Thanks for the very touching tribute!

  3. Oh Beth, this is such awful news. I went to high school with Martha as well as Princeton, but did not hear the news until just now as I was reading Facebook. Another high school classmate had posted a picture with Martha, but I did not know the context, and just thought it was a nice picture. Oh dear.

  4. I just found this tonight following your other blog. The name Martha is very dear to me and my family so that brought additional attention. She’s the 31/2 year old daughter my wife wrote about in her book “Little ones to Him belong” (a copy’s in the church library). Martha’s life ended too early due to a Wilms Tumor on her liver (the size of her head!)… so your thoughts just brought back a lot of memories this mid June evening.


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