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  • Writer's pictureAlice Wyatt

A Martin Hug

A hug from Martin was memorable. Sometimes, sore ribs would have you remembering it for days. Rumor has it that an elderly woman suffered a cracked rib from a loving encounter with Martin.  I also hear she forgave him and that he was very sorry and tried to be more gentle, but the rest of us can attest that he mostly forgot. 

Martin gave what one would call Bear Hugs, though he was anything but bear-like. Very tall, yes. Crane your neck to talk, face in the middle of his chest during a hug, tall, but not burly. Think Gumby with Albert Einstein hair. All limbs and grey mane and smile. A smile like the moon. Wide, full of big square teeth with the most endearing gap. A light beaming down on you. He would see you coming, hold out his arms, repeat your name like a rhyme, calling you into his embrace. 

He loved names. Understood their importance and savored their taste on his tongue. "Alice Louise," he repeated upon asking. "Alice - Hebrew origin, Noble or Joy. In the Greek, Truth. Ah, yes. I can see it fits you just right. And Louise - the feminine form of Louis, a renowned warrior." He threw back his head in delight and laughed. "You are a renowned warrior of the truth, my dear! Oh, how delightful!" Then he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me so tight I couldn't breathe, and my toes almost came off the ground. So, of course, I fell in love right then and there. 

His hugs were mostly reserved for women, a testament to their willingness to endure the grab-and-squeeze. My friend Brian, in touch with his feminine side, would allow a Martin hug when they crossed paths on the street. He would pound on Martin's back in a manly fashion, only to find himself hanging limp, just like the rest of us.  

His wife, Mary, a picture of patience, stood by his side as he embraced people with zeal and then proceeded to talk about anything and listen to everything for as long as she would let him. His catchphrase was, “Now, isn’t that interesting?” He was speaking from his heart; everyone and everything WAS interesting to him. 

Martin died last month after a cancer diagnosis earlier in the year. He spent his last couple of days calling family and friends, telling them he loved them, telling them he was okay, telling them to take care of Mary. The room where his memorial service was held was filled to overflowing. People kept squeezing in the door, whispering “excuse me” as they wove their way through the crowd, finding a place to stand against the back wall. 

Martin was memorialized by born-again Christians, Buddhists, atheists, Sikhs, recovering Catholics, Jews, and a whole lot of us who are dancing in between the spiritual identifier raindrops. The sentiment was the same. Martin embodied God in a way that changed every single person he met. While there was great sadness, there was a common acknowledgment that who Martin was, his gifts to the world: love, acceptance, curiosity, generosity, and joy, live on in each of us. 

I will miss him. 

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May 28

An uplifting and beautiful tribute Alice. He sounds like he was a wonderful man. I would absolutely have enjoyed and endured one of his hugs!

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