Tuesday, September 9, 2014

OF DEATH AND LIFE: Celebrating Veronica Martin on my 56th birthday in symbols and rituals

HONORING VERONICA MARTIN (1926-2014) photo by Hallelujah Truth
Today is September 9th, 2014, my 56th birthday! Two days ago, September 7th, 2014, would have been the 88th birthday of my mother-in-law, Veronica Martin. However, one week ago, she passed away. So today is a sobering day, one on which I would like to reflect on the cycle of life and honor of Veronica.

Her life was rich with symbols so I depend on these photos of symbols to convey some of my feelings. I hope you will understand and look for deeper meaning than I can explain.
TERRE HAUTE, INDIANA (September 2014). Veronica lived blocks away from downtown Terre Haute in the same house for 50 years, a home my husband, Tony Martin, grew up in. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
I met Veronica some eleven years ago in the summer of 2003 when Tony and I traveled there to Terre Haute to announce our engagement.  Well into her 70's, she had almost given up on Tony ever getting married. Therefore, although I was in my mid-forties, this devout and high-spirited woman who stood under five feet tall was welcoming to me, her son's prospective bride. She believed in marriage and was glad that her fifth-born child had finally found love.

I can't remember what we talked about after Tony announced our engagement, but I know she acknowledged the love we had for one another.  Over the ensuing years, we developed a correspondence and Tony and I thoroughly enjoyed her letters. I believe Tony gets some of his writing talent from his mother.
VERONICA MARTIN. Always smiling, ready to laugh, and loved to sing.( photo from wedding photos of Christopher and Kandace Martin, 2009)
Veronica was kind and generous. These words from Stephen Grellet, a prominent Quaker missionary, express who she was to the best of her abilities to give: 

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”--Stephen Grellet

As I tip-toe across my mid-fifties onto the other side of 55, I give pause to think about my life and eventual death. What can I embody from Veronica's life? Surely it is love, laughter, and generosity of spirit. Thank you Veronica. 

In the last thirty or more of Veronica's life, her faith grew, and she dedicated herself to deepening her understanding of Catholicism. It was fitting that her funeral services were held at Saint Joseph University Parish, where she attended mass every day walking there with her son Leonard until her knees no longer allowed her too.
SLIDE SHOW MEMORIAL. Tony and I spent one day making a slide show of Veronica's life. Reflecting on her life through photographs was meaningful, and friends and family stood in front of the memorial slide show mesmerized. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
All of Veronica's five sons attended her funeral. Her daughter, Madonna, was unable to come from her Tennessee home because of health problems. In addition to her sons, three daughter-in-laws, five grandchildren, and one granddaughter-in-law were present. Everyone remarked that the funeral was carried out in a way that would have pleased Veronica very much. We all took a lot of satisfaction in that.
SYMBOLISM OF THE WHITE PALL. All five sons, Tim, Pat, Leonard, Tony, and Vince joined together to cover Veronica's coffin with a white pall or piece of cloth at the beginning of the mass. The pall has significant symbolic value. It represents that all who have been baptized have "clothed themselves" in Christ and will join Him in the resurrection. In other words, the shift in the Catholic funeral mass goes from mourning the death to the hope of a new life.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
AFTER THE MASS. Hallelujah for ritual, for ritual guides us each step of the way when we are in the grips of grief. Once seven of us had lifted Veronica's coffin into the hearse, we stood around outside Saint Joseph's and received condolences from friends. When almost everyone had left, the funeral procession to the cemetery began. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
FROM ST. JOSEPHS THROUGH TERRE HAUTE. Our short journey from the cathedral to the cemetery engaged us in the sweetness of a small town and its patriotism. The American flag seemed to be also a symbol of Veronica's life. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
THE WEIGHT OF LIFE. Before taking Veronica to her resting place in the cemetery beside her husband Richard, we had a beautiful ceremony in the cemetery chapel. We sang "Amazing Grace" and sprinkled Veronica's coffin with baptism water. We appreciated the soft rain outside afterwards.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
SHARING A MEAL. Saint Joseph parishioners prepared a hardy meal for us. As we ate we told stories about Veronica and remembered her quirky firecracker self. It was a good time. This was the window over the buffet table. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
After sharing a meal together and before leaving Saint Josephs, I asked everyone to join me on the cathedral steps for a family photo. As I reflect on this moment now, I am so grateful. Veronica has left us, but she had a rich, full life. Her death brought the Martin family together in a new meaningful way. We connected. We learned more about each other. You might say, we fell in love. 

I have chosen to celebrate Veronica and her passing on my birthday. It feels right to have done so. Thank you for joining me.
THE MARTIN FAMILY.  (photo by family friend)
THE NEXT GENERATION OF MARTINS. What a pleasure to meet such sweet young family members. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS.  At the end of the day, Tony's brother, Pat Martin, who had watched over his mother in her last years of her life, took us to St. Mary-of-the-Woods college campus, where Veronica had been cared for in recent months the senior care facility intended for nuns only. This is a photo of an image of the founder of the oldest Catholic liberal arts university for women in the United States. Theodore Guerin, who was canonized as a Saint in 2006, is known for her advancement of education in Indiana. Veronica saw Sister Theodore's image and coffin every day at mass in the beautiful cathedral there at St. Mary's, where she sat in her wheel chair. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
That's Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me. Share your cycle of life stories and who you are celebrating.


  1. Veronica is smiling and at Peace Ruth, your tribute to her is one of beauty and integrity.Thank you for sharing your life process with us. Love.

    1. Callahan thank you for taking time to read my tribute to my mother-in-law Veronica. It means a lot to me and Tony. Peace. Yes to peace.

  2. I love this piece Aunt Ruth, your words resonate with my own experience. Especially, when you expressed how we were able to come together and fall in love. I hope we will continue the process of growing closer and loving our renewed family. You and I met Grandma Martin the same summer, and I find that to be an serendipitous journey the 3 of us were on together. Her unconditional and all encompassing love was and is still amazing. I feel that although she has left us, she is still wrapping us all up in her love. I am so, so grateful that we were able to get to know each other better. I'm looking forward to watering these seeds with you. - Love Kandace :)

    1. Kandace big love to you right back! Yes to watering these seeds of renewed love that were nurtured by our coming together to say good-bye to Veronica. Thank you for taking the time to write a response to my blog and connect with me. Let's keep doing that.