The Eulogy for Lucille Joyce Martin

14
Aug

The Eulogy for Lucille Joyce Martin

Lucille Joyce Martin was born on April 29, 1945 – the first-born child of Antoinette and George.  They lived on Oak Street in Passaic.  Lucille’s younger brother Tom came along a couple of years afterwards.

Lucille’s father George served first in the merchant marines as a lieutenant commander and later worked commercially as an international tug boat captain.  George’s work would sometimes take him away from home for as long as two or three years, which must have been tough on the family.  Lucille’s father was described as happy go lucky, and his return home was the cause for great celebration.  Lucille’s mother Antoinette worked in a middle school cafeteria. The family moved to Hasbrouck Heights where Lucille attended public school.  Along the way Lucille learned to play the organ and the accordion as a child.

After graduating high school, Lucille attended Beautician School and became certified, but later switched to nursing, studying to become an LPN, eventually working in the operating room at Hackensack Hospital.

Through a mutual friend Lucille was introduced to Bill, the man who would become her husband.  Bill had recently been discharged from the army having served during the Vietnam era.  Bill was the youngest of nine children, having lost his father when he was just two years old and his mother when he was approaching his teens, the result being Bill was raised largely by his older sisters.

Bill and Lucille – or Lu as she was more commonly known were married in July of 1966.   Lu was 21 at the time.

Lu worked as a nurse until the babies began coming, after which she was a stay-at-home mom. Bill worked two jobs to support his family – all kinds of jobs.  He was a truck driver, fixed medical equipment, installed doors and worked for a glass company.  At his night job Bill worked as a cook.

Once the babies started coming, they came in quick succession:  Ryan was born first in 1969, followed by Chris in 1971, then Eric in 1972, after which came Dana in 1974 and Marc in 1977 – five children in eight years.  It must have been overwhelming at times to raise so many kids.

Fortunately, Lu was very close to her parents and they lived nearby and provided a lot of support.  Her father George made a special connection to Ryan, his first-born grandchild.  Ryan remembers fondly a trip to Florida his grandfather took him and his mother on when Ryan was only four to visit Disney.  It involved flying on a plane – Lu’s first experience which she found terrifying, a fact his grandfather found amusing.

As a pilot with his own small plane, Lu’s Dad loved flying.  On numerous occasions when Ryan was young his grandfather would stop by the house to pick him up for an outing. His mother would make her father promise that he would NOT take her son up in the airplane, but of course he would, because after all, the day was so beautiful and how could they not go up in the plane? Ryan loved it.

Sadly, however Lu’s beloved Dad died suddenly of a heart attack just one week before the birth of Marc, his last grandchild.

Lu had all she could handle raising five children.  It was truly a full house.  The roof of the attic was extended on their house to make a bedroom for the four boys – each with their own bunk bed.  Dana, the only girl had her own bedroom.

The four boys in particular will readily acknowledge that at times they could drive their mother up a wall.  There was a pool out back of the house, and on a couple of occasions Lu would look out the kitchen window to see her LP record collection descending in flight from the boy’s bedroom above — the boys taking delight in flipping the LPs out their window to see if they could get them to land in the pool.

Ryan remembers one time his mother was working in the kitchen with her head inside the dishwasher.  Impatient to get something above her, Ryan managed to dislodge some object that plummeted down to hit his mother in the head, which led to the look of death on her face that sent Ryan running for safety.

There are other sorts of memories as well – Lu wandering about the house for instance playing her accordion, for instance.

Lu showed her love by her actions and in her own words, truly loved being a mother.

She was a good cook, and lovingly prepared more meals than can be counter for her family.  On Sunday morning, Bill – whose night time job was as a cook – would give his wife a break and prepare breakfast for the family.

The family never had a lot of money, but Lu made certain that on Christmas morning her kids were sure to find plenty of presents under the tree.

From early on in his life, Eric’s health was a place Lu’s love got focused.  Initially the fact that Eric would often lose his balance caught her attention, and then the seizures began coming. At age 5 Eric was diagnosed as having epilepsy, but the doctors didn’t seem to be able to offer much insight to his condition or relief from his symptoms.  Though not full grand mal seizures, they came frequently — a little zap of Eric’s brain during which he wouldn’t lose consciousness but he would grimace and clutch his arm.  These little zaps to Eric’s brain sometimes occurred as many as a hundred times in a day. It severely disrupted Eric’s school life.  Over time, getting effective medical treatment for her son became Lu’s central concern. She was constantly taking Eric to doctor’s appointments, many of which were all the way down in Philadelphia at the Children’s Hospital there.  Often Eric would need to stay overnight in the hospital.  Sometimes his mom would stay with him.

In 1979 when Eric was 7, Lu moved the family to Stone Mountain, Georgia specifically to be closer to a hospital there that specialized in epilepsy.

An odd memory from this time: there were ducks around the house the family rented, and Lu developed a special fondness for one particular duck — a brown one – and would allow it to waddle into the home, in spite of the occasional mess it would make.  She had a special love for animals. There were always pets of some kind in the home when the kids were growing up.

In the latter part of her life, Lu would take delight in her two Mini Dobermans: “Skutch” and “LuLu”, the latter named after herself – her “mini-me” if you will.

The family lived for a time in Atlanta, but after two years of life in Georgia they  moved back to New Jersey to be closer to family – first to Paramus for six months, followed by Hasbrouck Heights.

It wasn’t until Eric was 13 that a more detailed diagnosis was provided in regard to his condition, a result of Lu’s insistence that her son be one of the first people to undergo an MRI. Medications helped lessen the frequency of the seizures, but they persisted on into Eric’s adult life.

Lu was a strong-willed woman, and sometimes she and her husband Bill would argue loudly, commonly over financial matters.  In 1984 Lu made Bill move out of the house, and by 1985 they were divorced.  Nonetheless, Bill stayed close by, living at various locations, continuing to support the family and staying as involved as possible in his children’s lives when he wasn’t working.

Sunday was often a time for family outings.  Bill loved to fish and he would take the family for picnics at various lakes in Northern New Jersey, often in the company of Bill’s extended family.  Apparently, Lu and Bill’s love for one another endured at some level deep down, because after four years without explanation they were remarried in 1989.

Unfortunately, Bill died just two years later in 1991 of a massive heart attack.  Lu and the kids were all devastated.  Marc was only 14, and Dana 17.  It was a hard, hard time.  Lu took a job at Kmart to help support the family.

Lu received support and encouragement from her adult children, as well as from her mother with whom she would talk every day on the phone. Lu was grateful that her mother continued to be a part of her life up until she died unexpectedly in 2002 at the age of 91.  She was taken to the hospital with abdominal pains on an emergency basis.  The whole family gathered around as she was wheeled into surgery – a surgery Lu’s mom didn’t survive.  Another hard grief to bear.

Lu had hoped to one day travel, but she never really got a chance to much of that.  Her son Ryan’s work took him to exotic places and she appreciated the post cards Ryan would send her from his travels.

After Ryan, Chris and Ryan had moved out of the home, Lu did have opportunity over the years to experience different parts of the country as — accompanied by Marc and Dana — she spent time living in New Hampshire and Florida and back to New Jersey before ultimately ending up in North Carolina in 2020.

Through the years, Lu received joy each time a grandchild entered her world, and there were several:  Dan and Michelle, Mike and Scott, Matthew and Chris, Joshua and Andrea.

And later, she took delight with the arrival of each of her great grandchildren:  Nathan, Keith, John and Joseph.

Though the family always knew they were loved by Lu, as she grew older she would talk more openly of that love – the centerpiece of her life.

Lu’s life revolved around family.  Her favorite times were when the family would gather to celebrate holidays or weddings.

Lu’s last three years of life were very difficult as the health of her body steadily declined.  She suffered from diabetes and kidney failure, which led her to be put on dialysis.  She had COPD, which required her being on oxygen.   Eventually she lost the ability to walk.

A year ago, medical professionals declared that in their assessment Lu was nearing death, but her strong will kicked in and she bounced back.  Nonetheless, she spent the past year largely bed bound, and in and out of hospitals.

In January Lu came down with COVID, which given all her pre-existing conditions you would have thought would have been fatal, but remarkably she beat COVID and strangely afterwards no longer suffered from COPD.  She did, however come down with pneumonia. She spent five weeks altogether between hospitals and rehabs.  “I’m not ready to die,” she would pronounce.  Her distinctive sense of humor endured throughout.  Lu got a little confused about what time of year it was, stating that she was looking forward to Christmas.  The family knew she was feeling better when she would say with characteristic determination, “I want to go home.”

It isn’t easy being a family, but in the past year the family pulled together to do what they could for their mom in her great time of need.  Living with their mother, Dana and Marc were the primary caretakers, along with grandsons Michael and Scott.  Ryan – drawing from his experience and knowledge from working in healthcare — took responsibility from New Jersey for decisions regarding their mom’s medical treatment, making several trips to North Carolina.  On one of those trips Ryan and his wife Laurie brought two of Lu’s great grandchildren along to lift her spirits.  Chris also made a trip to North Carolina to visit their mom.  Eric frequently made the hour-and-fifteen minute drive to visit his mom at her home, and when the Covid restrictions lifted, to sit by her bedside when she was in the hospital.

Lu made her last trip to the hospital in early July.  She entered Hospice on a Monday.  Eric stayed at her bedside for 24 hours keeping her company straight through to Tuesday morning.  Anticipating her death, the family began making arrangements to gather at her bedside.  She departed this world at 5 p.m. with Ryan at her side.   The rest of the family gathered together in her room that evening to say their final goodbyes.

With her long struggle finally over, Lu departed this world feeling loved.