Pensacola, Florida—Hurricane Irma made landfall. Most people are watching raw footage on the corner TV in this breakfast joint.
But not her. She sits at the counter alone. She has sugar-white hair, sharp blue eyes. She’s holding her coffee mug, people-watching.
“Can I sit here?” I ask.
“It’s a free country,” she says.
I shake her hand. Her name is Martha, she’s almost ninety. Her face is angelic. Her laugh is sweet enough to initiate world peace.
“Hope this Hurricane ain’t as bad as they say,” she says. “My grandson’s in Tampa.”
We are instant friends. This is a strong woman, I’m thinking, who knows how to fry chicken using nothing but peanut oil and the King James Bible.
On her breakfast plate: bacon, sausage, eggs, hashbrowns, and enough grease to lubricate the axle of a ‘69 Buick Roadster.
“Bacon’s what keeps me young,” she explains. “Doctors been telling me to quit eating it. What do they know?”
Miss Martha been single for a long time. She lost her husband forty years ago. After he died, she raised three children on her own.
“When he died, all I knew was being a housewife. Had to get me a job’s what I done.” she said. “It was a hard time.”
She says her life began a second time. She found a job, and paid her own way. Hers is a story you’ve heard a thousand times:
Hardworking woman faces adversity, muscles her family through life without getting slaughtered.
Woman ages. She slows down. Her kids talk about her like she’s a saint.
She is a saint, of course. She’s the closest thing to holy you’ll ever see—just like anyone who taught children to fly.
Miss Martha is every woman who’s ever punched a clock. She is every woman who lived on coffee and bad habits, who still found time to make Deviled eggs for the grieving.
She is sacred. And she is among the last of her breed.
“Got me six grandkids,” Miss Martha says. “Seven great grandkids. You know it’s funny. Thought my life was OVER when my husband died. I was wrong. Our family kept getting bigger.”
Miss Martha lives alone, but she’s busy. She visits friends, goes shopping, and she occasionally cooks four-course suppers for her son.
Once per week, she delivers meals to shut-ins with a church group. She sits with the lonely, talks to them, encourages them. A saint.
When we’re finished, I tell my waitress to put Miss Martha’s breakfast on my ticket. I try to keep this a secret, but you can’t slip anything past Miss Martha.
“No way,” Miss Martha says. “I don’t want you paying for my meal. I know how to take care of myself.”
There’s no doubt. So, I give her a hug, and tell her if she doesn’t let me pay, I’m going to kidnap her and make her my grandmother.
Before I leave, she tells me to look her up sometime. Stop for a visit, maybe.
“My name’s Martha Brockington,” she says. “I’m easy to find. There’s only one of me in the phonebook.”
Only one Martha.
And I’ll be damned if I wasn’t lucky enough to hug her neck.
Sheila Clark - September 11, 2017 1:44 pm
A southern woman and sadly we are losing these values such as caring for our neighbors with some deviled eggs or a pound cake. God Bless Martha and all those like her keeping our southern values alive and those trying to teach us southern ladies what Love Thy Neighbor means .
Bobbie - September 11, 2017 1:47 pm
I’d say the “luck” went both ways….
Sarah Hytowitz - September 11, 2017 1:55 pm
I enjoy these blogs so much ! Thank you from a South Georgia Girl!
Lucretia Jones - September 11, 2017 2:01 pm
Thank you, Martha and Sean. Thank you.
Donna J. masmar - September 11, 2017 2:21 pm
Your blog started my day off beautifully– a lesson that I should do more!
teachenglish67 - September 11, 2017 2:36 pm
Those “one of a kind”, “God broke the mold”, “Ain’t nobody like them” people have their own set of rules to live by. Seems those rules are pretty much tried and true and based on “what’s right it right, what’s wrong is wrong”. I like those people…..they’re real, dependable, and honest.
Thank you, Sean for another look-see into the folks of the South……God’s country is what I call it.
Lynda Clemons - September 11, 2017 2:43 pm
Wish I could hug Miss Martha too.
Jack Quanstrum - September 11, 2017 2:55 pm
Wonderfully Beautiful Lady. Magnificent Sean. Just love people like that! Keep those stories coming! Shalom!
Ann - September 11, 2017 3:04 pm
This story made my heart happy! God bless you
Catherine - September 11, 2017 3:12 pm
Janet Lee - September 11, 2017 4:22 pm
Powerful lady! Powerful story! Thank you again!
Cudrow - September 11, 2017 4:40 pm
That’s how we all should live. The Golden Rule will never grow old.
Sheila Allen - September 11, 2017 5:27 pm
If there is a heavenly feeling on earth it must be the feeling one gets when they read what you write about them. Isn’t it everyones dream to have another see clean past the granny beads on our neck and the pit stains on our shirts and dirt under our fingernails, right through to the lump in our throat, the beat of our heart and the salt trails on our cheeks? You have a gift of seeing what is often obscured. You help others see the glory in us all. Thank you.
NovaLee - September 11, 2017 5:41 pm
I’ve saved this and will read it each time my courage flags. Thank you for the gift of meeting Miss Martha!❤
jeannie - September 11, 2017 6:50 pm
They are all around us most likely we just dont take the time to notice.
Maureen Sudlow - September 11, 2017 10:13 pm
I had a mum like that…
Wendy - September 13, 2017 12:23 pm
Thank you for sharing Martha with us. I know a few myself, and every one is a treasure and an inspiration in her own way, just like all the people you introduce us to. I just discovered your writing through a post shared on FB, and I’ve found my new favorite place to be.
Sandra - October 23, 2017 9:04 am
Women like Miss Martha are so special! They take what life throws at them and make it work. They sacrifice and make sure to take care of others in need. They are precious! Thank you for sharing her story with us.
Laura Goslee - October 23, 2017 12:06 pm
She is utterly beautiful. Thank you.
“She is sacred. And she is among the last of her breed”.
Cherished, yes! Loved and precious, yes! In the last of her cohort, yes. But I pray not the last of women who are sacred. It seems life has a way of breaking us into sacred as we walk on. It is only now at 50 i see how darn sacred my grandmothers, who are long since passed, were.
Yes, utterly beautiful.
Jane Burt - October 23, 2017 2:04 pm
Easy to picture in my mind this sinerio as you tell about this true southern lady. Thanks for telling it like it is
Debbie g - May 6, 2021 11:22 am
Thanks for reminding us and why can we all not have some ms Martha and Sean in us Like the saying one random act of kindness at a time Love you Sean and Jamie. And thanks again 😇