Elizabeth “Betty” Blough Martin was many things to many people. To me, Betty was my grandmother and a dear friend who continues to inspire me. I have beautiful memories from our Wednesday lunches where we discussed life and shared stories. While we often spoke before my senior year of college, it wasn’t until we repeatedly broke bread that we became friends. She heard both the shallow problems and deep issues I experienced that would significantly shape my perspective about life and how I viewed myself. I will never forget the sight of her loving eyes and open arms always eager to comfort and encourage. I was lucky to know this incredible, loving, eccentric, intelligent, and humble traveler. She passed away July 29th, 2014 only a couple weeks after I returned from Asia for the first time. While I was extremely eager to share these new memories, I would not get the chance. Instead, I was left to make big choices without her advice or encouragement. Thankfully, I knew what she would have told me to do- know what you want to do and go for it. This woman lived an incredible journey filled with travel, adventure, hardship, pain, love and laughter. She chased after the things she loved and never stopped living. She explored the world and allowed experiences to touch her, to change her. On the day we celebrated her life and mourned her departure, the pastor described her better than I ever could. The truth his words contain gave me the encouragement needed to chase after my dreams urgently. Here is a piece of what he wrote. It begins with a description of the church building she helped design and the people sitting in the pews.
“For Betty the church did not start and stop with these four walls. Her faith was not contained in the confines of inanimate structures, but was most alive when it was lived in generous service among humanity. The building and the body of people that meet here are but the starting point for the sowing and nurturing of seeds. The building is a physical body of seeds, that is then made up of spiritual bodies that move about in the world and proclaim the power, mystery, and love of a God whose fullness cannot be captured in words, monuments, or institutions, no matter how big they might be, but who is best understood in the relationships of human interaction, loving care and service, and generosity.
Betty’s depth of understanding God’s desire and dream of what it means to be alive in the world – caring for each other, and serving as a witness to the life she found in God of scripture, experience, and compassion – the God known to her in Jesus. Betty lived a remarkable life – one rooted and grounded firmly in a deep, abiding faith that drove her to live fully, and abundantly, seeking to never stop exploring what was new, seeking to never stop learning, constantly seeking to better understand shared life in this world. She loved to travel, served as a travel agent, visited six of 7 continents, lived in various parts of the world and her life was touched by each place, shaped a bit more, seeds sown across the creation, and in the legacy she leaves with her family. […]
Betty Martin connections were long, deep and rooted in the way she shared of herself, gifts and resources over and over and over again, not living in fear of running out, not living in a model of scarcity, but embracing a life of abundance and when that abundance could be threatened she faced it head on, learned from it, and continued to find a way to live for herself and for others. […]
Betty leaves a tremendous legacy associated with her name, but more importantly in the way she lived. She understood history and its place of value which then teaches and shapes and helps to build the future. She understood that travel and connection made relationships very important. Those relationships were seeds for future growth, seeds of generosity, fortitude, and resolve. Not a “Susie homemaker or domestic goddess” her gifts were in discerning how culture mattered, how ideas, and connections make possible an understanding of wisdom for life… and then she built upon those connections, making a way for life to be found, drawing together, much like this building the image of a vast God connected in human form, found in relationships, and in need of support, care, and a reminder of God’s abundant giving. Whether it was serving to create human service organizations, making sure a church has a shower so that we can give renewed life in being clean, finding and claiming value in her historic self and family ties to this community, country and land, or discovering how life is different in another part of the world she gave of her life and she shared her life abundantly.”
She gave of her life and she shared her life abundantly.
This is what Backpacking 4 Betty is founded upon- giving abundantly out of love. She inspires me to give of myself, all that I am and all that I can be. The name is a reminder of who I want to be and what I want this organization to be; something that is bigger than any individual and created to help as many people as we are able. When she died, I knew that life was not worth living unless it was spent living for something greater than yourself. While I do not believe you should sacrifice your life or be a martyr (you only have one to live!), you should try to live it out passionately and in service to others when you are able. Not going against life, but finding life at every turn and making it better for everyone you encounter. This is who Betty is- my inspiration, my guide, my encouragement, my support, and the woman whom I hope to honor in service to others, for that is what she would have wanted most.