Where do open hearts go?
Opening tribute to Martha by Carolyn Walton Lynch from Saturday, June 26, 2021, memorial service at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD.
Greetings, all. Thank you for being here.
It makes perfect sense that such a large group would be gathered for a celebration of our dear friend, Martha Thomas.
The community Martha nurtured here is vast and we are still trying to get our heads, and hearts, around the impact of her life and legacy here in the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland, and beyond.
While the world may have lost a great journalist and storyteller, we’re also here today to remember a beloved mother, sister, daughter, aunt, life partner, and friend.
We’re grateful that her legacy lives on in her favorite human, her daughter, Mary, and the scores of people, including me, whose lives were changed, or dreams realized, because of the way she truly listened to and cared about (and often penned) their stories.
Many memories and tributes will be shared over the next hour and beyond, but if you knew Martha as an acquaintance, colleague, or friend, there won’t be many surprises. Martha Jane Thomas was an open heart.
Many of us go through life guarded, avoiding risk, fearing disappointment. Not our Martha. The authentic Martha was always within reach. She was open, vulnerable, and yearned for connection.
She realized that her openness might lead to disappointment; nevertheless, she persisted. Her honesty and integrity informed her life’s ambitions. She became a multi-faceted, resourceful student of life; a voracious reader, always eager to learn new things and share her newfound knowledge. “Martha’s muses” is how she described her infectious curiosity, and, of course, her colorful and insightful thoughts on just about everything. Her gatherings were legendary.
I was instantly attracted to her energy when we met first as neighbors in 2011. I know I’m not alone in my story in how Martha welcomed me into her life as if it was her life’s purpose. For me, as a military brat, I was also perpetually in search of community. We were quite the friend match.
We used to joke about how our birth orders might be responsible for our obsessions with building communities that were open and accepting. As a middle child, Martha’s real-life experience gave credence to poor Jan’s backstory in the Brady Brunch; she often felt misunderstood, underestimated. As the youngest of 6, I was Cindy, the youngest Brady, just wanting to be seen and heard.
So… Where do open hearts go? They go high! Her hunger for fairness and acceptance, while born of her own personal experience, matured into a passion for human rights and advocacy for women and other marginalized populations.
Her desire to find like minds and create and participate in inclusive spaces was the impetus for her exiting a church that was slow to evolve from their segregated past to affiliate with the more progressive and inclusive Brown Memorial Presbyterian. Martha was a woman of faith, but believed firmly that the pursuit of social justice was integral to her service to her God.
I'd like to share a poem by WH Auden (a Robert Burns admirer like Martha) that she treasured and shared widely throughout the recent awakening taking place in our country…
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
We are gathered here today to remember Martha, because of her open heart.
Martha often mused about the “three-legged stool” that she strived for in her young life in New York (and would later use to measure her progress). The three legs were: a great apartment, a great career, and a great love. The legs evolved over the years, sometimes they teetered, but the great love that she passionately sought was certainly present in her life when she transitioned to a new realm: her beloved, Mary, her amazing friends as family, her family surrounding her with Martha peacefully in the middle, and “the one,” Chris Rigaux.
May her memory be a comfort and inspiration to you always.