Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May the Fourth Be With You

I got an email from someone I didn’t know telling me that Martin’s memorial service would be on Saturday. Martin? Martin who? But deep down I knew. I just didn’t want to know. I emailed back and said, “I know several people named Martin. Can you give me a last name?” This was a tad disingenuous. Chalk it up to preemptive denial. There are only four Martins in my address book and I can’t remember who three of them are. The fourth Martin? He is unforgettable.

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            Martin Number Four (really Number One) was one of my first friends in college. I was a freshman. He was a sophomore and wrote for the school newspaper. He was 6’7”, cute, funny, sweet, a gifted artist ... Did I mention he was 6’7”? Did I mention he was cute? Okay, you get the idea. I followed him around like a pitiful little puppy.

Marty of course couldn’t see me, at least not that way. To him I was just a kid. I was very fresh off the farm back then. I’d gone to Catholic school and looked it. I think he saw me as someone who needed protecting, and I did. And so we became friends. He was like a big brother to me.

And I couldn’t have asked for a better one. The first time I ever stepped on stage to do stand-up comedy, I invited only two friends to come and see me perform. Marty was one of them. While the other friend would be blunt enough to tell me if I sucked and should stick with my day job, I knew Marty would be the one who’d give me love, support, and the encouragement to follow my dream.

I soon learned that the email came from Martin’s nephew when he replied with the last name I didn’t want to see and still can’t believe. The only words my brain could muster were, “No. Please no.” But the universe is not a deejay and not in the habit of taking requests. Martin died from complications of diabetes. Ironically, he’d had it since childhood but for some reason, I didn’t remember that. I didn’t remember that at all, perhaps because to me Marty was bigger than his disease. It was part of his life, but it didn’t define it, at least not when I knew him.

At the memorial service people were encouraged to share their memories of Marty. Public speaking is hard under the best of circumstances but to do so in the grip of grief is nothing short of extraordinary. But somehow people found the courage and spoke through smiles and tears. What became clear was that his family, coworkers, and friends saw him as a warm, loving, caring human being. He was a man who loved and was loved deeply in return. His loss is keenly felt by many. 

For me, this one burns deep.

Because ever since getting the news I’ve felt guilty. Although Marty and I were on each other’s email lists, we’d fallen out of touch. The rare times we ran into each other there were the usual, “so great to see you … we must have dinner” promises made, but day-to-day life got in the way. We hadn’t seen or spoken to each for a long time. And I’m sure we both took it for granted that at some point we just would. And so Marty’s death is a painful reminder for me that we have to take the time to make the time. For the people that matter in our lives we have to open that email, send that text message, make that phone call, keep that connection because you never know when that won’t be an option.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect memorial service but Marty’s damn sure comes close. It was so good I said to his nephew, “Can you please do mine?” Don’t worry, I don’t have any immediate plans but almost no one ever does.

What was so great about the service? Well, first of all Marty was a sci-fi fan and so it was fitting to have Star Wars and Star Trek music playing softly in the background. It reminded me of my Aunt Barbara’s wake. She’d insisted that upbeat jazz music be played at her service. And it fit her memory so much better than any sad, dirgy organ music. At the moment I’m considering an all-Prince playlist. It’s kinda hard to be sad when you’re bopping your head to Darling Nikki. 

Since Marty had been cremated, his nephew shared with me that Marty’s ashes will be put into a Star Trek urn. For real?!? I’m a die-hard fan and I didn’t know such a thing even existed. And yes, I’m now considering it. But most apropos of all was that Marty’s memorial service was held on May 4, Star Wars Day. If you’ve just furrowed your face in muggle-esque confusion, that’s ok; but if you’ve just smiled and nodded your head appreciatively then May the Fourth be with you too.

Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can subscribe to the blogcast (yes, I made up this word) FREE on iTunes. And, in case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also an amazing stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." Basically, if comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @ VeryFunnyLady.com

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