Today marks what would have been the ninety-sixth birthday of Eber S. Martin. He is one of the sweetest and wisest men to have ever lived, in my humble opinion. Eber lived life well, always saw the good (especially in people), and had an incredibly witty and punny sense of humor. He was an honest, God-loving man of integrity with a deep faith and a love of classical music. In his later life he faced blindness caused by macular degeneration with great courage never allowing it to dampen his spirits or change his positive outlook on life. I had the privilege and honor of calling him Grandpa because I married Eber’s oldest grandson.
Eber lead a relatively normal life similar to those of his generation. He grew up in a loving Christian home, married a wonderful and spunky woman and raised a family with her, and in his twilight years retired to travel with her. He expected to have a quiet, uneventful life in his golden years, but God works in mysterious ways. God wasn’t done with him yet. In his later years, Eber was inspired to write volumes and volumes of poetry. Some are humorous, others pay tribute to people he knew or life events, still more show how he bravely accepted his diagnosis of macular degeneration as well as the inevitability of aging, but a great number of his poems are praise and thanksgiving to the loving God he served. Eber’s poetry is filled with timeless truth and wisdom that is as relevant today as when he wrote the vast majority starting around the year of 1995. Below is just one of many of the wonderful things he composed:
It Is Good…..God Called It So
How could God be so remiss
To put us in a world like this?
This world is evil, of little worth,
We’ve heard this said about the earth.
Why put us in this evil place,
Did this show lack of grace?
This we endure, it is our curse,
We think that nothing could be worse.
Are His motives then suspect?
Such thoughts we quickly should reject
If we remember as we should.
He formed the world, then called it good.
Goodness we should contemplate,
It shows His care and love so great;
Sunrise and sunset, sky so bright,
He gives us light, for he is Light.
He gives us such joys to bless our days,
We should respond with love and praise;
Created things we now applaud
And worship the Creator God.
When time shall end, He’ll show us more,
Still greater things He holds in store;
Then we will finally understand
This is what he always planned.
How did Eber know the world would look so hopeless just three short years after his death? Christians are being exterminated in Iraq and other places, children are being gunned down in schools, women are being forced into sex trafficking, millions are being displaced or fleeing the violence in their homelands, and the threats of terror and violence are making people afraid to go about their daily lives. It is probably human nature to question the why of it all and want God to explain and answer why he would allow such atrocities to happen. We must put the blame for it all on SOMEONE.
It occurs to me that my generation is probably not the first generation to say the world has become a cold and hopeless place, how will humanity survive, what possible future can my child have in a world like this? We are seeing a lot of evil right now all around, but the generation before us dealt with the Cold War, Vietnam and segregation, and the one before that with World War II, and the one before that with the Great Depression, and the one before that with World War I, and the one before that with the Spanish-American War, and the one before that with the Reformation period and the one before that the Civil War — I could keep listing, going on and on, backward over the decades to list the tragedies and travesties that have been plaguing humanity since time began, not just here in the United States but across the globe.
Eber’s message here is so very vital and important! God created good and isn’t responsible for the horrors we are seeing in the world. The Evil one and the fallen race of man are the perpetrators, but God the Creator gives us daily reminders of hope and showers us with blessings to help us to live with joy. We must choose to see and remember the good and trust our heavenly father. There is an old hymn that Eber may have been thinking about when he wrote the poem above that says we will understand it better by and by, meaning that someday we will meet our Father in Heaven, and he will help us to see the why’s we are wondering about in the here and now.
On the beautiful fall day of September 20, 2011 we received a call, and with a very sad and heavy heart I made this post on Facebook:
today we lost a gentle soul who always had a kind word to say to everyone he met. he lived a simple life, happy in the knowledge that he had raised his family well, which was all the success he needed. a gentleman who aged with dignity and grace. even when his sight and hearing failed him almost completely he faced it bravely and put on a cheerful face. he has gone home to be with the lord and rejoined the love of his life. he will be greatly missed by all. we love you grandpa eber!
There is a very special place in my heart where Eber’s memory lives on. He welcomed me into his family with open arms, accepted me as I am, helped me to become more comfortable in my own skin, and helped me find my way to Midway where I have been blessed with a wonderful and supportive church family. He listened to my doubts and troubles and answered my questions about what being a Mennonite meant and what they believed. Our family was blessed to be able to attend church and worship with him for the last years of his life. Eber was present when my husband and I were baptised together and was the first one to stand to affirm us as members of the church, despite the fact that he was wheel chair bound (many thanks to the thoughtful person that was sitting next to him during the baptism that helped him stay steady on his feet). I will never again in this life hear his wonderful deep chuckle, or hear him tell stories that begin with “Weeeelllllll” or tell about how he “ooched” too far, or that he spent the afternoon “sunning and making an ash out of himself”, but I know we will see him again someday.
Until then, I will continue to treasure the legacy he left us — his wonderful and insightful poetry.