Remembering a life

July 12 was the worst day of my life.

The morning of July 11th my mom went in for an exploratory abdominal surgery, and never woke up. While under aesthetic, unknown to anyone, an aneurysm burst. It was realized that something was wrong, and she was taken in for a CAT scan, where she stopped breathing while in the machine. They got her hooked to a ventilator and discovered that there was bleeding around her brain. The hospital than began the search for an open bed in a hospital with a neurosurgeon, and once one was located, she was airlifted down. During transit he condition deteriorated drastically. Her eyes were 'blown out,' a new CAT scan showed multiple aneurysms hemorrhaging throughout the brain, and they determined that the blood pressure in her brain pan was higher than the blood pressure in her body.  She had passed the point of no return. We sat with her through the night. In the early hours of July 12th, she slipped into brain death and was taken off life support. My stepfather and I sat with her as she faded away.

There is no way for me encapsulate what my mother meant to me.

Today, August 24th, we said good bye again, remembering her life with some of those who's lives she touched.  We filled the Memorial Hall at the Munson Memorial Library, because where else could we really honor my mother, but at a library?


This was my tribute to my mother:

I probably don’t have to introduce myself. After all, I am my mother’s daughter. My whole life I’ve known I resemble her, someone who knows one of us, even just in passing, always ends up identifying the other. When I was a college freshmen, my mom came up for Parent's Weekend. I was a single face in classes of a hundred or more, but my professors knew immediately who she was. I look just like her.

You know what? That’s always been just fine by me.

And why not?

Martina is largely responsible for who I am today. She did her part to raise an inquisitive, creative, stubborn, active, and independent child. I was sometimes perhaps a bit too creative, and with the flawed logic of a child. Once when I was maybe six, she told me to not tape anything to the wall. I ran out of thumb tacks, and, well, glue wasn't tape, so that should be alright wouldn't it? Then my mom encountered a hysterically upset child who had just realized that while glue was not tape... it was not a good idea. I assume the scraps of glue and pink paper are no longer on the wall only because someone else owns that house now and they must have painted over it. She taught me the importance of responsibility and doing the right thing, even if it wasn’t always comfortable. She knew I was a rational being, that I just needed all the pieces to understand. It means a lot to a child to be treated with respect, and it mattered a lot to me that I live up to her expectations and trust.

If you want to know where I got the habit of reading during meals… or at any other time when I’m not otherwise occupied, it’s all my mom.  She shared her love of books with me, and it took deep root. We shared books, introduced each other to new authors, and got into contention over who actually owned a prized book (she was more direct, while I was sneakier and would integrate them into my collections until that’s where they were expected to be). My mom loved books and libraries, which makes it perhaps fitting that I ended up becoming a librarian. She supported me in whatever I did, even if it was a complete academic shift from engineering to library science. That I ultimately could go in and renew her books, and remind her that that they were overdue was just an added benefit. However, I’ve never met someone happier to pay her overdue fines than my mom – she knew the funds were being put to a cause she supported.

I knew my mom was the best kind of troublemaker. One who put her life into making the world a better place, doing what she could to enable people to live happy, healthy, lives. I knew she was an activist, and agitator, perhaps sometimes a bit like the terriers she loved – passionate, dedicated, and stubborn. What I didn’t realize until the past month or so, was quite how profound her efforts were. She was always my mom, doing what she believed in. She would point out things she had achieved, like the “honk for assistance” stickers on gas pumps, or tell stories about butting head with town governments or landlords that would go out of their way to not rent their accessible apartments to those who needed them.
We might think of our parents as our heroes, but we don't tend to think of them terms as other people's heroes as well.

In the past month it’s come home quite how many lives she touched, the connections she made throughout the state on an individual and governmental level. I learned that she chose activism over law school, about decades spent as a political activist, and about how much more she was than “just” my mom. It’s a bit humbling. My mom means the world to me, and what she did means the world to so many others. I’m not ready to say goodbye, and I don’t think I ever will be. And you know what, that's OK. She was an amazing woman, and I hope I can live up to the example she set.


I was one of a number of people who spoke of my mom's life.  Her sister, a co-worker, friends, and her husband spoke as well.  Sharing our memories of the incredible person she was.  I hope my words touched those present, and I tried to speak well.  The words above aren't quite what I said, I wrote my memorial ahead of time, and then added to it as I spoke.  I've tried to recreate it accurately. I spoke of her as my mother, but she was so much more.  Her work saved lives.

My mom was a passionate reader and a passionate disabilities rights advocate.  To commemorate her life, we have established the Martina Carroll Accessible Book Fund at the Jones Library in Amherst. They will be accepting donations towards the purchase of media in alternative formats such as audio books, large print materials and digital assitive technologies.  If you wish to help us support accessibility for all patrons of the Amherst libraries we would love your contribution to her legacy.

Click here to download a PDF of the donation form

Jones Library, Inc.
43 Amity Street
Amherst, MA 01002

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