Judy Martell and the gifts she left us

I could write that I “lost a friend” recently. But Judy isn’t gone.

She’s not alive, this is true. But she’s with me and all the people she connected with in ways small and large. I see her in the sky and in the earth, when the flowers bloom and when those blossoms fade and decay. Judy soaked up everything in the natural world, through thoughts, writing and actions.

Here’s part of what she wrote to me two days before she died, surrounded by her family. “I sleep outside on a cot in a screen room — it’s beautiful.  I will leave from there, looking at the stars and with my palm in the grass.”

I imagined her there, in her little house in Durham, N.C., with her hand pressing the grass, feeling the earth. It made me think of the times, while hiking or walking, I would stop to touch moss or lichen and maybe a lovely piece of bark or a satiny blossom. I understand that need to feel, to caress.

Few people I’ve encountered embrace humanism and nature the way Judy did, even while battling cancer. Few people I’ve encountered are OK with saying, I don’t believe in God. I worship what is here and now, in front of me and natural. Beauty everywhere. Amen.

I was reading some emails Judy sent me over the past few years, since I moved from Durham to the Netherlands. She was the person in Durham I kept in closest touch with. In the course of relating some interpersonal stories, she called someone “batsy,” which is the most negative I’ve ever heard her talk about another person (politics excluded). That’s as low as Judy goes. I love that.

I was planning to stay in Judy’s spare room in August, though we knew that was becoming unlikelier by the week. Instead I’ll drive by her little house, I suppose cleared out by then, and see where she physically left this life. I’ll meet with a friend of hers I’ve never met and hear details about the gathering for Judy that I missed in July.

Judy’s death did not make me appreciate her more. I’ve been filled with appreciation for her specialness for a long time. What her death did was allow me to ponder how I can instill more Judy-ness into my life. I could say this is to honor Judy, but it’s really for me, to allow myself to be closer to the way I want to be. That’s Judy’s gift – the ultimate in paying it forward – inspiring those of us she touched to look into ourselves, to feel the grass, whatever that might mean to us.

With gratitude and love, my dear friend.



8 Responses to “Judy Martell and the gifts she left us”

  1. Amy Walsh Says:

    Condolences for your loss, Diane, and joy for all that you gained through your friendship with what sounds like a wonderful person. To Judy.

  2. didaniel Says:

    Thanks, Amy. Sweet of you to say. She was a rare bird for sure. She wasn’t on FB, so her friends couldn’t mourn collectively online. I had to do something!

  3. Bob Moore Says:

    What a wonderful reflection on the glory of life and nature, “I sleep outside on a cot in a screen room — it’s beautiful. I will leave from there, looking at the stars and with my palm in the grass,” and what a beautiful tribute.

    • didaniel Says:

      Thanks, Bob. Perhaps you knew Judy? I still miss her and will always appreciate the gifts she left us!

      • Worthy52ob Moore Says:

        She was in my graduating class at Durham High (which I attended my junior and senior years), and we met at her place with some good school friends to cook pizzas in the outdoor oven in the fall of 2013 during a high school reunion. Love her approach to spirituality and life and death. Was not aware of her illness.

      • didaniel Says:

        Judy lived and died as a fierce and loving humanist. She’s a role model for me.

  4. Milo Pyne Says:

    yes a kind and fabulous person -left us too soon

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