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What I Learned from an Older Friend

January 18, 2021

Another Way for week of January 8, 2021

What I Learned from an Older Friend

I was blessed to develop a friendship later in life with a dear woman named Martha Stoops.

I first met Martha after the funeral of her daughter-in-law, Liz. My daughter Tanya was very close friends with Liz’s daughter, Edie. They had been friends through middle school. Liz died in late fall their freshman year of high school. At that time we only knew the family as fellow band parents. I’ll never forget the band’s piercing rendition of “Amazing Grace” playing out over the gravestones that chill day.

On the last day of 2020, my friend Martha was reunited not only with her husband who died three years ago, but her daughter-in-law, sister, and many who Martha took care of over the years. She was a LPN in nursing homes and hospitals. Later, she cared for elderly persons in her home. When she told me of her experiences she would say, “You come to understand that dying is just a part of life” and dismissed it as that. So I wasn’t surprised when her son Edward repeated his mother’s mantra when he called to let me know she had gone on: “Mom always said, ‘Well death is just a part of life.’”

We had great times together and that’s what I want to remember. We sat with them at football games when the girls (her granddaughter) were in high school and later at college games. We all went on a band trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We’d go out for dessert after games and invited each other for Christmas parties and birthdays.

Martha Stoops, left, enjoying a laugh with my mother, right, at our daughter Tanya’s wedding almost 10 years ago.

She gave me lots of good and welcome advice. About marriage. And children, and letting things roll off your shoulders. By example, she also taught me when to stay out of arguments. When a group of 12 of us traveled together to Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York City, we had trouble keeping together. Finally, late in the evening, my husband and I took off on our own, and said we’d take a bus back to our motel in New Jersey just west of NYC. Martha’s husband was distraught that we wouldn’t find our way back. We almost didn’t, but that’s another story. Elmer Sr. blessed us out for not adequately communicating and causing them much stress. Wisely, Martha kept out of that tiff.    

The trip I’m always glad we took was to their earlier stomping grounds in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They loved the old-timey amusement park there, Kennywood, and said we had to go. We finally made the trip with them in 2011. We had a wonderful time, like kids. It wasn’t too many years after that their health started failing.

Perhaps it was unusual to have such a good friend who was almost 20 years older. She taught me about aging. When I would call to set up a time for getting together, nailing down a date or time, she would ask her husband to get on the phone so she wouldn’t forget the details. Eventually I asked her about that over dinner—whether she was afraid of not remembering. “Yes,” she told me, and I lamented what we both had suspected to be true. I loved her honesty and openness, even though her beautiful mind was beginning to fail her. Most times our conversation would flow like normal but if asked about a specific detail of a recent event or about the family, she’d gloss over or laugh off an answer, because she couldn’t remember. After she moved into a nursing home when her husband could no longer care for her because of his own health issues, she couldn’t open her eyes. Sometimes I would get a few brief words out of her—and when my husband also visited, she clasped his hand tightly. She gave me many creative keepsakes over the years, some she made herself, and a ribbon bookmark she ordered for attendees at their “surprise” 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

The pastor who officiated at the brief graveside service, Peggy Packard, said Martha took special joy in the verse from John 11: 5, “Now Jesus loved Martha.” The verse of course add that Jesus also loved Mary her sister and their brother Lazarus. But my Martha felt blessed seeing the words “Jesus loved Martha” in the Bible. The same is true for all of us. Insert your own name there. Of course, Jesus later scolded Martha for being too concerned with fixing food and straightening the house when he visited.

Martha, Martha: rest in peace. Enter into the joy of our Lord.


What have you learned from an older person? Someone you loved and respected but was a year, or many years older than you?


In many countries of the world, the wisdom and lives and examples of elders are highly honored. How can we do better in North America?

Send comments or stories and perhaps I’ll share in a future column. Send to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Jesus loved Martha, and so did you! How lovely to reminisce, recalling trips and other connections with this lovely woman. She is someone I’m sure I’d have enjoyed knowing as well. Her advice is so practical and wise: Let things roll off your shoulders and stay out of arguments. I try to do both to keep unnecessary stress out of my life. Who needs it!

    My experience of friendship lately has worked in reverse. I now am the older person, according to the latest census, identified as elderly, though I don’t have that mindset. In the blog world, I have friendships with writers who are young enough to be my children or grandchildren. Case in point: Tomorrow my blog showcases an author with a debut memoir in her early forties. When we met in person last year, I didn’t feel the slightest generational gap. Age seems more elastic online than in face-to-face encounters, especially during this last year.

    Great post, Melodie. I hope Martha’s family will read this kind tribute. 🙂

  2. Yes, I did love Martha. And I consider you a friend who seems about my age–except for grandkids being a bit older! Martha had a strong personality and presence and many friends. She lived in cities or near cities most of her life (D.C./Alexandria and Pittsburgh) but I think she enjoyed her twilight years out in the country near some mountains with flowers and some raised bed gardens and lots of fresh air. Her faith was strong and she loved having angels in her home and many other keepsakes. Thanks for commenting, Marian.

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