“Martha, Jeremy, and myself spent the afternoon laughing with Owen.”
When Martha was in the room on Christmas Eve with our family, she was one who could light up a room. Pretty, conversational, easy-to-smile. Even though there is evidence of a tough childhood and perhaps not the best track record in love, to me, she was always someone in whose company I usually found myself enjoying.
Much like my sister’s family in Florida, Martha lived a very reclusive life during the COVID-19 World into which we all were thrown. Even avoided seeing close family. Always a mask-wearing type. Florida has been among the toughest states in mandates. Martha followed them religiously.
Being a grandma is great. My sister Diana just became one for the first time. It wasn’t your normal first grandbaby times. It was COVID World. You couldn’t be at the hospital for the much-anticipated delivery or the post-delivery euphoria. A cell phone photo will never replace the smell of a newborn or the absolute love at first hug of a grandchild.
That photo, though, was all my sister and brother-in-law Lennie had to tear at the heartstrings for almost three months. Lennie’s mom Martha surely did not want to risk anything that would endanger the newest family member. New first-time parents Chad and Tori had to lay down tough love rules. No in-person visits. We parents know how protective and cautious all of us are of the first one.
At least we live in the modern world of cell phone video and such exchanges probably caused cell phones to be charged more than once daily. There was the little angel Owen. The whole darned bunch of them in Florida, including Uncle Jeremy, will tell you he is the most beautiful and precious thing ever to be sent home from a maternity ward.
Three months is a long time. Loving and aching arms and love unfulfilled finally allowed for a one-time brief in-person visit. Great grandma Martha, new grandmother Diana and Uncle Jeremy met with Chad and Tori for some time with Owen.
Diana recalls, “It was such a perfect Hallmark Day. She even rocked him to get him down for a nap. My boys and Martha got the guitars out to play music and sing.” I will add at this time that Martha was a damn fine singer who even recorded a couple of CDs. Some moments in time are forever frozen in time, loaded with precious memories.
That very evening new father Chad fell tired and sickly, which lasted all weekend. Monday, he tested positive for the coronavirus. The following Thursday it was confirmed. The following Tuesday Martha was feeling tired and had no appetite.
Nine days later Diana and Lennie talked with Martha late that afternoon. She was a bit worn out, but assured them she was seemingly feeling like she was getting better. My sister even joked with her mother-in-law as they were likely to do, “Don’t worry Martha. Only the good die young so you and I are going to be okay.” The conversation ended with a laugh.
The next phone call just a couple of much-too-short hours later and Martha was on her way to the hospital after being found collapsed in her condo. Martha didn’t make it to the hospital.
The only family member who could attend Martha’s funeral service was grandson Chad. The rest are either feeling the effects of COVID or are in quarantine.
If my column ended here it would be enough of a kick in the gut. Within hours of his mom being buried, Lennie, who is being treated for cancer, finally succumbed to a hospital visit. Against the doctor’s wishes he wanted to go home. Days later he was back. While talking to a family member about his mom he went into atrial fabulation. Weak and with low oxygen levels, he spent a few days this time before being released just this past week. His son Chad credits the somewhat controversial combination of Plasma and Remdesivr for Lennie’s improvement.
My sister Diana has been sick while trying to care for her husband.
They had spent months in almost total isolation, even staying away from their beloved church family.
When I spoke with them about telling their story, mostly Diana and Lennie wanted people to know about Martha Maddux, a lady so special and full of life. She loved her daily swim, could tell you first-hand what skydiving feels like, and loved the wind blowing across herself on the back of a Harley.
My sister laughed and said what woman in her 80s loved to sleep on the ground in a tent camping with her grandsons? She was a regular on weekend family boating trips on the Florida lakes. Some friends of my sister were talking about Martha recently and a couple of them guessed her to be in her late 50. She always acted and looked 20 years younger than she was.
For my sister, the former Diana Dodd of Jeffersonville, and her husband Lennie (a member of the JHS track team that was the very first JHS state champion) the story is still unfolding. Both are still in stages of COVID recovery.
One afternoon filled with love frozen in time. A few weeks filled with tragic consequences and heartbreak and, well, Martha’s life celebrated. Someday Owen will see the treasured photo.