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Ira Vinson "Jack" Birdwhistell

Memories of Martha Moffett

Ed: Candid (private?) reflections on his Aunt Martha



            To begin with, Martha’s last month on earth was horrible. For a person who had lived eighty-eight plus years looking perfect (make-up, hair, clothes), feeling pretty well, mobile, capable and in charge at every moment, it was her worst nightmare–but, thank goodness, she didn’t realize any of it. Occasionally visitors found her fairly lucid, but she was generally a shadow of her normal self in every way.

            On the other hand, her funeral was a splendid event. Many people showed up–family, church friends, work friends. . . “Ring the Bells of Heaven” . . . I had told Bro. Mike Hamrick that she was “very smart, very wise, very kind, and very generous.” Mark gave him a list of all the ‘old ones’ Martha had cared for in the last half of her life (more than a dozen). Ben added, “She was a Caregiver long before anyone had invented the word!” and, “Our Martha (unlike Martha of Bethany in Luke 10) wouldn’t have asked for help, she’d have just worked harder!” At the graveside, the sun shone brightly and many dear people came.

            In her younger days, she was a dynamo. She worked decades at the ASCS (Federal farm program) office in Lawrenceburg, assisting her older friend, Lillian Griffey, in administering policies concerning tobacco and other crops in Anderson County. Retiring from there, she worked several more years in the Revenue Department for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

            Martha was in the middle of all family outings, especially fishing expeditions to Salt River involving her cousin from Louisville, Minnie Gibbs, extended family vacations (usually to Gatlinburg), and winter nights spent at UK Wildcat basketball games, in the company of her family and frequently Mildred Goodlett, a local friend and enthusiastic basketball fan.

            At Sand Spring Baptist Church Martha was a pillar–teaching the ‘Primary’ Department about forty years, producing the church bulletins in the days before a church secretary, and helping with seasonal decorations and the quarterly Lord’s Supper preparations.

            After her retirement in the mid-80s, she loved to ‘run around’ with her sisters (Georgie and Kitty), Ida B. Phillips, Belva Moffett, and Mary Lois Hanks. The ‘girls’ frequented Beaumont Inn and a sandwich shop in Harrodsburg, the Tea Room in Perryville, Science Hill in Shelbyville, the Mariott in Lexington, and other assorted classy eating places. Occasionally they would head off for overnight trips to Gatlinburg or Cumberland Falls.

            Martha alone, of this lively group of ladies, remained vigorous, healthy, and mobile–until a month before her death. Her last several years, with no remaining travel companions, she loved to head ‘up the road’ to Harrodsburg to deliver her mending and dry cleaning, to shop for groceries and gasoline, to buy flowers from Daynabrook, and to find some ‘margin’ for herself.

            During the last dozen years, our family, led by Mark, made many midnight runs to Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington with ill family members. These episodes were never really ‘under control’ until Martha arrived the next morning to take charge of the ‘patient care’.

            At home, Martha was a meticulous housekeeper, a doting aunt and great-aunt, an avid reader, a home decorator, a flower enthusiast, a fan of the Gaithers, and an all-around University of Kentucky ‘Super Fan.’ Since fall, 2004, she faithfully made supper for Georgie and me, always apologizing. “I just can’t cook”–but she could. Ben would show up many Tuesday evenings, and we would have lively conversation, especially about the old days. After the dishes were done, she would wait on the couch for her cousin, Jane McKinney, to call from Owensboro, and they would spend at least an hour talking over family news and events of the day.

            In many ways, she was the indispensable family member. . . . We are grateful for her life, and we will all miss her very much.

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