23 July 1998
Memoir by Michael Usey
In last Sunday's sermon, I made this point:
How does a wise [person] live in the awareness that tomorrow is promised to no one? I've talked to many people who were at the end of their lives, and the regrets they've expressed more than any others are these two:
1. They regret that they did not do enough for God; and
2. They regret that they did not take time to enjoy the ride more.
It's a matter of taking some things more seriously and other things less seriously; of taking God more seriously and ourselves less seriously. There's a grace in doing what you can and leaving the rest to God ...
While these regrets might be true for most people, I do not think Dot Martin had these regrets; others, sure, but not these. She lived her life with a wise heart, loving God and pouring her life into the people around her. Born in Greensboro, Dot was an only child; her father was a land surveyor for the railroads. He built a house on Tate Street where it meets Lee Street when that was out of the city on the edge of the country.
As a young person, she worked in a cigar factory for a time and for Lorillard, before she started working for Sears. Dot stayed with them for 40 years, working out of the old building that used to be on Lawndale Drive. For most of her life, she was the sole supporter of her family. She was the breadwinner at time when most men were supporting their families and when most women were not working outside the home. At one point she had four generations living in her home: her grandmother, her mother, and her son, Bob. She had a great laugh, one that those closest to her will miss greatly. She loved laughing with her son when he was growing up, and she loved to tickle him. She never spanked him, although there are times in which his wife, Keevie, wishes Dot had. In this she was a modern mother before their was such.
Dot was at all of her son's performances as he started in music, and she came to all she could of her beloved grandchildren, Cate and Kelly, and of other children she treated like her own children or grand children. Those she missed as her health declined she heard on tape or view on video. One of the common elements in most of the older women at College Park is that they had a strength of character that was uncommon for women in that time and culture. Since it's beginning, College Park has been attracting strong women and men as a place to serve both God and people. Dot was a person who was often quiet and in the background, but she was strong in her love and support of all around her. In this Dot led by example. She taught Sunday school here, and she was often out with the older girls eating or bowling or just having a great time. One night she took them ghost hunting at one of the old bridges in town; turning the lights out in the car as she drove to look for ghosts. Dot took an interest in all. She taught several of the girls to drive a straight drive. Her positive outlook on life touched those around her. This was one of the remarkable aspects of Dot: she treated her family like friends and her friends like family.
She met her closest friend, Walt, some 35 years ago right here at College Park. Before her illness, she and Walt frequently made trips to the mountains, often 2-3 weekends a month. One time on a trip to the mountains she saw a statue of a deer standing near the road. "Look at that amazing statue," she had said to her son and Walt. "It's so lifelike." At which point the statue, actually 10-point buck, moved and darted across the road, almost causing an accident. She preferred the mountains to the beach, although she had a number of good memories of going to the beach with girlfriends, including one time that she got so sunburn that some else had to drive back.
I knew her as a woman with a remarkable memory. She had a keen mind; Dot remembered and kept the birthdays for her family for many, many years, even when her mother and grandmother were alive. She listened to my sermons and remembered them. She would often ask me about something I said in sermon two months after I had preached it, or comment on a sermon many weeks after she had heard it. (If the guys at men's breakfast could remember one thing after two days, I would think I was Billy Graham.) She once said to me something that I'll never forget. Dot said, "I listen to your sermon every night as I go to sleep." She meant it as a compliment, I think, but sermon are a well known cure for insomnia. All kidding aside, Dot had very kind things to say to me; in fact I never heard her say anything back about anyone. If she thought it, she kept it to herself. Because of this she was a good friend to many, especially to Walt.
Dot Martin loved life. She loved wearing hats. She loved to cook. She loved to smoke, which she did before she got emphysema. (It was smoking that caused it, in fact.) And she loved Christmas; it was her favorite holiday. The family remembers spending Christmas eve's at her house. Her grandchildren, Cate and Kelly, called her GrandDot (what a great name!); they will remember her love for playing games. She was the only adult who would play Monopoly with them. On Tuesday nights the family would gather at her house and play all sorts of games and cards. Dot loved to play cards. You might say she was a card shark, but never for money. She and her family played Rook, Hearts, Rummy, and Pig, and Spoons. How can you not love someone who loved to play games with her grandchildren? In a time in which people are spending less time with friends and family, she lavished on them both her time and her love.
The writer Annie Dillard wrote this about dying: I think that the dying pray at the last not "Please," but "Thank you," as a guest thanks his host at the door. Dot lived her life with this type of gratitude and grace. When family and friends remember Dot Martin, this is what we will say: that she was loving to all; that she was happy in a difficult time; that she knew how to be a good friend; that she was kind and giving and had a big heart in a world that has too little generosity and kindness. This is the way that the love of God shined through her onto us, her church, her family, her friend. Thanks be to God for the life of Dot Martin. We shall not see the likes of her again anytime soon. We are richer for having known her, and poorer at her passing.