Letter to the editor: Musto

“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” Those words are attributed to Mother Theresa. The idea of ‘small things with great love,’ is one that hits home hard to many of us now when we cross Grove Street to get back and forth to Tatem School. The simple but vital act of coming into the street to stop traffic so we can cross safely was a daily act performed by Eileen Martyn who passed away suddenly on June 6th. I first met her almost three years ago when I first moved to Haddonfield. My son, Liam, began preschool at Tatem just weeks after we moved. I walk almost every day and have even ventured out in snow covered streets and light rain. At that time, my youngest was truly a baby, about seven months old. Each weekday I would drop Liam off, then walk to the corner of Grove and Glover to go to the coffee shop with my baby, who is now three. In other words, Eileen saw my children grow up on a daily basis — something my children’s own grandparents have not witnessed. Eileen was a daily witness to the unfolding of precious babyhood into childhood and young adulthood of my own children and of many others. Moreover, she made a point to know us. How she managed to know us and intimately settle into our lives for the short time we all scurried across the street so as to avoid holding up traffic for more than necessary is in itself a testimony to how cherished she made us all feel. Her love for children just bubbled over. Some people just radiate such care and love for others that any time with them feels like a lifetime with a dear friend; Eileen was one of these souls. She had that lightness of being that felt like a hug. It is also no small matter, for those of us who are familiar with Grove Street, that she placed herself in the middle of that street where so many cars speed by disregarding the rules of the road. With her down-to-earth sense of humor, it was not unlike her to yell something funny out at a vehicle speeding by with something like, “well, aren’t we in a hurry!!.” I told her that we need to have coffee on my porch or dinner some day, but sadly, that opportunity has now passed me by.
We never know in this life when a day with someone who was part of us will be our last day with them here on earth. That is what happened here. I drove Liam to school on Tuesday through a ferocious storm and my heart sank when I saw a pile of loving objects placed by the stop sign where she waited for all of us. Eileen was so vivacious; it didn’t seem conceivable she was gone. I clearly remember seeing her for what I didn’t know would be the very last time I would set my eyes on her happy, shining face — at the conclusion of just last week when I dropped off Liam for school. I have been walking this way now for about three years. As I approached, she walked into the street to prepare the way for us and turned towards Dylan and me with her beaming smile. She looked down at Dylan, shook her head in disbelief, and commented on how big he is getting now. Tucked into those simple words was the recognition by both of us of her part in his daily life. As I crossed, I thought, yes, Dylan has grown from a baby to a little boy before her very eyes.
We don’t know the full extent of how much love small, daily acts contain until that person is no longer here. The absence of Eileen has left a huge hole. Crossing that street is going to be very hard for me and many others for a long time. I never did get that chance to have coffee with her on my porch, which gives me real sorrow. Our beloved crossing guard — surrogate mother, grandmother, friend and daily witness to the common yet miraculous event of the growing of our children has herself crossed over from this short life into the hands of her maker. On Wednesday, I was in the car thinking of her when suddenly a song I rarely hear with the name Eileen in the title came on the radio. It felt like she tapped me on the shoulder. Perhaps she is up there still watching over us after all. We will all miss you terribly Miss Eileen.
Laurel Ann Musto