Amazing Grace

This week I made an impromptu trip to Los Angeles for a funeral. The wife of my mentor, Bob Martin, unexpectedly passed away in her sleep. Without a second thought, I flew to California to support him and attend the memorial service.

Bob’s wife was a lovely woman named Babette Marie Martin. She raised 3 awesome children and loved Elvis.

Her eulogy was a short letter written by Bob, read aloud to the audience by a friend. Then Amazing Grace began playing, with an accompanying video of Il Dovo performing live at the coliseum in Rome.

Bob is a former Captain of the Los Angeles Police Department, VP of Gavin de Becker & Associates and an internationally known expert on threat assessment and violence prevention. This guy has the talent, knowledge and ability to inspire a crowd to laugh, to cry and to understand humanity a little more – all in the same speech. The fact he opted to share just a few words and feature a single song for his life partner’s final memoriam seemed simple, yet profound.

And so it was.

Because life is just that – a song. It’s a melody that has highs and lows, a perfect harmony when we join our life with another, a bass line that varies between steady and irregular as life quickens and calms, and an occasional guitar solo when it’s our time to take center stage and shine, shine, shine. Sometimes our song is hard rock, other times classical.

But the main thing that guides music is TIME.

For all of us, time is ticking like a metronome’s steady beat. When life is over, we fade into silence. But the band marches on. The music continues. It’s just someone else’s solo…another generation’s song.

As I left the cemetery, I didn’t feel the darkness of death. Somehow, the air felt lighter. Angels were everywhere. Hope abounded.

I was so moved by Bob for knowing his wife so well and loving her so much, that words weren’t necessary to summarize her impact on the world and the family they built together.

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Bob has taught me a lot over the past decade as my mentor. But yesterday he offered me a new lesson, similar to Ms. Angelou’s message.

A life truly lived cannot be adequately eulogized with words.

As a friend and I drove away from the memorial service and merged onto the freeway, we realized our status as legal carpoolers (a big deal for LA folks) and took full advantage of the less trafficked carpool lane. But soon I realized I had to get out of the carpool zone and across several lanes of traffic to catch our next exit.

Quick driving lesson for anyone who gets behind the wheel in LA: This maneuver is NOT legal if there are 2 yellow lines on the pavement. I learned this fun fact via flashing lights in my rearview mirror, and a LAPD officer pulling me over across 5 lanes of traffic to tell me so.

I don’t have good odds when it comes to cops and traffic violations. Historically I have been ticketed to the fullest extent, in 100% of the occurrences I’ve been pulled over. Thinking today would be no different; I gave the officer my driver’s license and car rental information and answered all his questions.

This time I definitely had some pity cards to whip out, including being a crunchy out-of-state Coloradan, visibly pregnant and traveling with another gal even more visibly pregnant than me. (We both stuck out our stomachs as far as possible when he approached the car. Worth a shot, right?)

He asked where we were coming from, and I told him a funeral. The officer took all my documents and went back to his car for a few minutes. I quasi-jokingly told my co-pilot that any cop who gives a ticket to two pregnant women driving home from a cemetery would surely go to hell.

He came back to the car and gave me a warning. Wow, seriously? Awesome! I thought warnings were only given to people who can cry on cue or have really big boobs. (I possess neither.)

Points scored for the LAPD. The officer was so kind, and even gave us directions back to the freeway with a nod and a smile.

Later that evening, I couldn’t help but think the highs and lows of the day were more than just going through the rituals of death and brushes with the law. Yes, there was something else at work.

It was amazing grace.

Grace gives us the freedom to really live, the liberation to help us die, the patience to drive in Los Angeles during rush hour, the empathy to know when someone needs a break and the motivation to leave this world a little better than we found it.

I depart California with a mortal reminder that none of us know when our song will be over.  So live the life you were intended to, and sing your bloody guts out.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Babette Martin and all who loved her.
Published with the permission of Bob Martin.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Elaine

    I came to your post from the Martin’s daughter, Holly’s, Facebook post.

    I know this family pretty well since Bob’s son is one of my husband’s best friends. You spoke of them just right. I so wish that we could have been there to offer them our condolences and hugs in person. It’s so nice that you made the trip to be with them.

    Lovely words and sentiments.

  • Sarah

    amazing. beautiful. honest. inspiring. All the things I’ve come to expect from you, I found in these words. I’m so sorry for Bob’s loss.

  • Erin Weed

    Thanks Sarah, for your kind feedback.

  • Erin Weed

    Elaine, the great thing about love is that it can travel long distances without airplanes! I’m sure the Martin family felt your support from afar. Thanks for commenting.

  • Kyle Morgan

    Erin, thank you for giving Bob this wonderful gift of words and impressions. Being Bob’s sister (five years younger,) has always meant being just a little in awe all the time. He shared the details of the service in a nice long phone call this week, and he told me about your writings, and he was very grateful for your loving support. In reading a few of your posts, I see that you spoke at Ohio State a while back, and if I had known, I would have been there. I work at the Newark campus of OSU, and I’m surprised I didn’t see that you were speaking. I so admire what you do. Thanks again, Kyle

  • NelliRose Farella

    You are an incredible writer. I love all you teach us.

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