When Your Best Friend Dies

Martha Temple Todd was born December of 4th, 1956, the first child of John Earl and Roberta Bell Temple. Roberta was from Kentucky but she and her husband lived in Florida. Because Uncle Johnny (as I called him) and Aunt Roberta were teachers they had time off from their jobs during the summer months and also two weeks of vacation time at Christmas. At least twice every year their family loaded up the car and traveled to Kentucky. Martha was the second grandchild and I was the first. We became best friends from the moment we met. The only time we didn't get along was when Martha swiped my new doll at Christmas and proceeded to rip its clothes off and mess up its hair.

The trips back and forth to Kentucky continued as the years went by. When we weren't together we wrote each other long detailed letters about such weighty matters as which boy we liked and the best way to get rid of zits. Before we turned sixteen we talked Grandpa Bell into letting us practice drive with his jeep. The jeep was not known for having good brakes, or any brakes, and the only way we knew to stop it was to run it into the barn wall. Luckily we didn't knock the barn down and Grandpa Bell didn't seem to care.

After high school graduation we became roommates at David Lipscomb University. Martha loved college life but I was homesick. Every weekend I would drag Martha back to Kentucky where my mother would wash our dirty laundry and fill us full of home cooked meals and Italian Creme Cake. One weekend Martha decided to stay at Lipscomb while I went home. When I returned Martha said, "I met this boy ... His name is Glenn." And the rest is history.

Martha and Glenn married in 1977 and all the Kentucky cousins and family came to Florida for the wedding. It was late summer and as the newlyweds left their decorated car began to reek of a strange and smelly odor. By the time they had traveled an hour or so down the road they had to pull over to find the source of the smell. The boy cousins, with the assistance of Martha's brother Mike, had hidden an open can of sardines in the car and the summer heat had intensified the smell until it reeked. But being the Christian woman Martha was, she forgave the culprits who placed the sardines there. Glenn still doesn't think it was funny.

The next years of Martha's life were busy with babies and bottles, church, teaching, and homemaking. I had also married and Bill and I began our family. When Martha's three girls and my five children all got together -- chaos often ensued. Martha and her girls loved to play board games and had a whole closet full of assorted games. When the our twin boys were left alone with access to the closet the games, boards, and 100s of individual pieces, all went flying. By the time they finished the room looked like Toys R Us had exploded. But being the Christian woman Martha was, she forgave them.

When Martha was first diagnosed with breast cancer she tackled it with intensity. She gave the phrase "Fight like a girl" new meaning. She was determined she was going to watch her girls grow up, get married and have children. And she did. There was nothing Martha wanted more than to be a Nana. When the first grandchild, Austin, was born she and Glenn could not have been more delighted. Eventually there were eight grandchildren and she opened her arms to every addition to their family,

She fought through multiple sessions of chemo, radiation, mastectomy, medications, and neuropathy. She lost her hair four times and laughed about it. The last time she had to shave her head, she and her youngest grandchild sat together in the tub while Glenn shaved off her hair. She didn't want Braxton, her grandson, to be scared when we saw her with a bald head. Martha's biggest complaint during all the years of her cancer battle was "frustration." "I'm just so frustrated!" she would say because she wanted to feel good enough to spend time with the people she loved doing the things she loved.

This year her body began to show the wear and tear of the treatments and medication but it didn't affect her sweet spirit or her faith. When Martha was undergoing brain radiation she took book marks to the people at the radiation center with her favorite Bible verse printed on them. She'd pass them out and say, "Here's something for you. This is my favorite verse." She may have been receiving brain radiation but she was giving off Christian radiation. You couldn't know Martha and not know Jesus. You couldn't know Martha and not know her faith. You couldn't know Martha and not love her.

Martha told me that she didn't want people to be sad at her funeral. She wanted them to be happy. I told her that there was no way her friends and family could not be sad. That even though they would know where she was going, they would be sad because they would no longer get to see her sweet smile or share their lives with her. Martha thought about this and said, "You're right. I guess it's okay for them to be a little bit sad."

There is no way to get around the sadness I feel after losing her. My heart physically hurts with my loss and for her family. With her passing, those of us who knew and loved her must wrap our arms around each other and try to be as strong as she was. We must give thanks for the privilege and honor of knowing and loving her. We must share our stories of happy times and sweet memories with her grandchildren so that her legacy of love lives on.

The world will keep turning. Life will go on, but I know without a doubt that the sun shines less brightly now than it did when Martha was in this world. And I know that for as long as I live, I will miss her.


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