Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Byron Martin

Bobcaygeon’s lost some of its elders this week before Christmas. Three men (skipping out on the last-minute Christmas rush) all in their early nineties. Norm Kimble, Elwyn Ingram, and Byron Martin grew up together in a time when horses, men and women drew heavy loads while the daylight shone. And on winter nights - when no streetlights kept the town busy and awake, they turned to lamplight, to the good book, and to song and stories shared with neighbours close.  

Byron Martin, good and faithful servant of GOD, taught Sunday school at Christ Church Anglican and took care of the Bobcaygeon arena for decades. He watched over the young boys becoming men with a kind but discerning eye that nothing much escaped. Ready always to give a word’s lesson; a nudge or an elbow to keep a wandering boy or girl on the straight and narrow path.

He watched them grow and go. Off to city jobs, off to war, off to become parents and grandparents and to weave their own stories into the fabric of this place, this country, this world.

I didn’t make it to his funeral like I did to those other two gentleman’s. I heard though, how they placed a rose over the chair in the back corner where he always perched listening for the life-giving words of gospel challenge and love.

And I heard how, after the funeral, after the prayers and tributes, how the family followed the hearse over to the arena one last time. By the time all the well-wishers and mourners and jokers had left the church hall it was dusk. All the arena lights were on and the front doors wide open.

As the family watched from the parking lot - the top floor lounge lights shut off. Then, as if an old man was making his way down to the next level, there was a long pause before the first bank of rink lights went down. Another pause. Then another bank shut down. Another pause. And the third bank of lights darkened the rink.

Have you ever sat in an empty sanctuary with all the lights out? My son and I did that last night. David is especially sensitive to the spirit’s presence and I enjoyed watching him soak up the love, the emotion, the heartspent songs that still circle round in that room…  

Well, in an arena the air might get a bit blue, stirred up by the passions of battle and fun. But still, that place holds holy and sacred vibes in its walls and high ceiling. Children becoming youths. Youths becoming young adults – learning from wins and losses - from a leader’s sacrifice laid down and a loser's chin-up. Learning from the dirty tricks and the hard calls and the fellowship of just being together no matter what happens.

It was Byron’s sanctuary. He watched over it the way any parson would lovingly tend to a church in his care. Byron told me of his love of the Lord one night in his retirement cottage on the shores of Sturgeon Lake. He fed me a dish of Kawartha Dairy vanilla ice cream with – what else – Martin’s maple syrup poured generously on top. (initiating me into the best of the sweetest tastes this life has to offer – I think of Byron every time I enjoy it). He told me of his love of the church and his love of that arena – how he felt that he’d been honoured to have been entrusted with such a special calling.

His family watched as the last of the lights went down in the arena foyer and the doors were shut and locked tight as Byron’s tired-out body one last time headed home. Home to his reward. Home to the arms of his departed wife, parents, grandparents, siblings, and scores of friends ready and waiting to welcome him into the next great game.


Young people can be very idealistic; many think they can change the world. They are beautiful in their desires and their capacity to take risks. This gives them the inspiration and the impetus to do something. Of course, there is an aspect of illusion in their desires, but without them they would do nothing; indeed, nobody else would do anything either!
- Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home,p.96

photo "Yearning" by Richard Choe


Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing. Are you going to give a copy to the Martin family?

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, you brought tears to my eyes this morning. When I think of that Arena in my hometown, where I spent many nights of my childhood, he is a memory attached.
The people of Bobcaygeon will always hold special memories of this community hero. Thank you for sharing this.
Christa Ormiston (Ferguson)